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January 2020 - Week 1


We cover issues of the week from some of the most recognized sources, but always from a PURPLE perspective. And we invite discussion of the same sort.

On each murrayTALK episode, our host Willam (Bill) Murray will express his Opinion of some of the top issues of the week. There'll be no shortage of topics ..

We promise stimulating and thought-provoking presentations, and we'll seek additional ways for the audience to contribute .. perhaps via Facebook and Twitter if we can figure out how to do it.

For now we'll use the OPEN MIKE discussion forum and the panelists who call the show. Call in number: 516 / 531-9782

Stay tuned for more on this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Washington Post


Most of us are bad at apologizing. The pope just showed us how it's done.

By Ruth Marcus

Is there a better illustration of the frayed state of our collective nerves than the fact that the pope slapped a woman's hand? Is there a better example of how we should deal with our inevitable imperfections than the pope's swift and un-caveated apology?

Watch the video of the pontiff outside St. Peter's Basilica on New Year's Eve and you can understand both how the woman forgot herself and why the pope reacted so strongly. He is walking down the rope line, stopping to shake hands with the cheering throng: an elderly nun in her black habit, children in their winter hats, a girl on her father's shoulders who lifts her arms in triumph after the pope reaches over the crowd to touch her hand.

The woman crosses herself and folds her hands, as if in prayer, as the pope draws closer. She stares intently, but he has begun to turn away. She reaches out and grabs him, with one hand, then another. She yanks him backward and will not let go. The pope slaps her hand — once, and then again. He turns away, glowering.

“Frankly, the pope kind of lost it,” Catholic writer John Allen Jr. told CNN.

Really, haven't we all? “Love makes us patient,” the pope said the next day, veering from his scripted homily. “So many times we lose our patience. Me too, and I apologize for yesterday's bad example.”

At the dawn of a new decade, we live in a world on edge, understandably so. Every politician, every monarch, every pontiff who ventures onto a rope line understands that risks lurk — crazy people intent on doing harm, but also overzealous, overexcited fans. And those are just the uncertainties you can imagine.

Pope Francis knows this as well as anyone. He made the decision to dispense, when possible, with the bulletproof Popemobile — a “sardine can,” he called it — that would have kept him walled off from his flock. Yet there have been other moments when overexuberant fans tested papal composure. On a trip to Mexico in 2016, a fan grabbed the pope's robe, causing him to stumble onto a child in a wheelchair. “No seas egoista,” the pope shouted at the fan. “Don't be selfish.”

You don't have to be a celebrity to identify with this reaction. If love makes us patient, as the pope advised, love also has its limits. Sometimes there are too many grabby hands, too many voices clamoring for our attention, too many demands on our time. These moments may be fleeting — the children grow, the nest empties — but in the instant, it is enough to make you shout about selfishness.

And there is another unsettling layer at work: the omnipresence of danger. It lurks in St. Peter's Square, but it can emerge, we have been made painfully aware, during Communion at a church in a small Texas town or a Hanukkah party at the home of an Orthodox rabbi in suburban New York, at a California high school or on a bridge in London. No place is safe; no sanctuary is truly a refuge. The resulting anxiety erodes patience.

Grace helps restore it. The pope's apology came quickly and without condition. Rather than explaining himself or suggesting that responsibility was shared, which it surely was, his statement was powerful in its simplicity: “I apologize for yesterday's bad example.”

It is tempting to fantasize about such words emanating from the mouth — or the Twitter feed — of a spouse, a sibling, maybe a colleague, perhaps even A Certain Person living on Pennsylvania Avenue. But the truth is that apologies, sincere and unmediated, do not come easily to most of us. Certainly not to me.

“I apologize for yesterday's bad example.” Those are not bad words to mark the dawn of an anxious new decade or to keep in mind as we make our imperfect way forward.


Los Angeles Times


A Besieged Embassy and the Echoes of History

After two days of clashes with American security forces, supporters of a pro-Iranian militia have withdrawn from the huge U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after the militia called off the siege. Authorities reported that core areas were not penetrated and there were no injuries among diplomatic personnel or U.S. forces guarding the facility.

Still, the incident is reverberating. U.S.-Iran tensions remain high and could spill over into further violence. The Pentagon is sending hundreds of additional troops to the Middle East. And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is delaying a trip to Ukraine and four other countries.

The attack and its echoes of previous violence directed at U.S. embassies, as well as the Trump administration's reaction, are worrisome to some former diplomats. They noted how quickly the events became politicized in the U.S., with President Trump boasting that the then-ongoing siege was the “anti-Benghazi.”


Los Angeles Times

A Major Escalation With Iran

Concerns about a broader conflict in the Middle East are running high after the Pentagon announced that President Trump had ordered a U.S. airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Suleimani , the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, in Baghdad.

Suleimani was considered one of the most powerful figures in the region, responsible for spreading Iran's influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, often through violence. The U.S. blamed him for approving a siege of the American Embassy in Baghdad this week, and the Pentagon said Suleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

In ordering Suleimani's killing, Trump has taken one of the biggest gambles of his presidency. To heighten the political risk, Trump appears to have acted without advance consultation with Congress, and in the hours immediately afterward, he merely tweeted an image of the U.S. flag rather than make a public statement. The State Department urged U.S. citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” as Iran has vowed “harsh retaliation.”

As he enters the last year of his term, Trump has seen his attempts to use diplomatic pressure and financial incentives in hotspots like Iran and North Korea yield few results. But few observers had predicted such a radical shift with Tehran.


Wall Street Journal

Tensions Rise in the Middle East after U.S. Killing of Iranian Military Leader

By Matt Murray, Editor in Chief

The decision by President Trump on Thursday to order a missile strike in Iraq that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani marks a dramatic turn in the conflict between the U.S. and Iran. The death of Gen. Soleimani, a powerful Iranian military and political leader, raised tensions with that nation and inside Iraq, upset markets and scrambled the status quo in the region and on the presidential campaign trail in the U.S.

Gen. Soleimani was commander of Iran's Quds military group, the one responsible for foreign operations, especially the development of Shiite militant grouops in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. He was the driving force behind Iran's shadow wars in the region, long considered a top U.S. foe. American officials held him responsible for the deaths of many U.S. and allied soldiers. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the attack, which also killed a senior Iraqi militia leader, calling for an emergency session to reconsider U.S. troop deployments in Iraq.

President Trump said the intent was not regime change, but to prevent an imminent attack. But the U.S. and its allies are braced for retaliatory action by Iran's leadership, who swore "hard revenge" in the wake of the strike. Here's a look at the ripples from the U.S. strike, what it means and what could lie ahead.

President Trump's decision to order an airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani reverberated through the Middle East, as Tehran vowed revenge and Mr. Trump said, “We did not take action to start a war.”

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a “hard revenge awaits criminals.”

  • Iran's allies in Iraq pressed to expel U.S. troops.

  • The U.S. said it would deploy 3,500 more troops to the region.
Wall Street Journal

More Conflict is Inevitable; War With Iran Isn't

By Gerald F. Seib, Executive Washington Editor

After this week's dramatic spike in tensions between Iran and the U.S., further conflict now is inevitable, and terrorism outbreaks have become far more likely. That doesn't mean, however, that an actual war is inevitable

A flashpoint was almost inevitable. In analyzing where things go from here, though, it is important to look at the broader goals each side has been pursuing—and the red lines they have been observing.

The Balancing Act in the Middle East Just Got Tougher

Iraq and Lebanon have succeeded so far in juggling relations with Washington and Tehran, but the death of the Quds Force leader changes the equation, writes Yaroslav Trofimov.

Reaction to U.S. Strike Falls Along Party Lines

A number of Republicans praised the move as a just response to Iranian aggression, while some Democrats questioned whether it represented a dangerous escalation and argued Congress should have been notified ahead of time.

  • On the campaign trail, the airstrikes elevated the issue of America's standing around the globe, giving Democrats an opening to accuse Mr. Trump of undercutting alliances—and to distance themselves from polling leader Mr. Biden over his past role in deepening U.S. involvement in the Middle East.


Iran fired ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases where US troops are housed. No casualties have been reported, but the attack has made Iran's message clear: It will not be bested in this perilous conflict with the US. After the attacks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran did not "seek escalation or war" and claimed the attacks were a proportional response to a series of US actions beginning with an airstrike last week that killed a top Iranian general. President Trump tweeted on the ballistic missile attacks, saying last night, "All is well!" However, precautions are being taken to avoid further disaster: Major airlines are diverting flights away from Iranian airspace, and the US Embassy in Jordan has asked personnel to stay home and maintain a low profile.



Trump says 'Iran appears to be standing down' following its retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops

By Nicole Gaouette, Hamdi Alkhshali, Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr and Tamara Qiblawi

(CNN) President Donald Trump, facing the gravest test of his presidency, signaled a de-escalation of tensions with Iran Wednesday in the wake of Iran's retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops.

"Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world," Trump said, striking a somber tone during his White House statement. An early warning system worked well and no American or Iraqi lives were lost, Trump said.

Trump appeared to be positioning the US to de-escalate, but offered very little room for Iran to maneuver, essentially sticking to a maximalist approach and demanding that any de-escalation happen on US terms.

Reading carefully from teleprompters, Trump announced that his administration would once again slap Iran with more sanctions and demanded that US allies leave the nuclear deal so a new pact can be negotiated.

The President's remarks set out no basic change from an administration strategy that has sharply ratcheted up tensions over the last year, putting the region on edge and bringing the US and Iran to the brink of war in the first days of the new year.

"The United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime," Trump said, noting his administration is continuing to review other options to respond to the Iranian missile strike on Tuesday.


Wall Street Journal


After Iran fired missiles at two military bases used by U.S. forces, there were signs of a possible pause in the cycle of attack and retaliation. But the events have scrambled the 2020 presidential campaign.

Attack, Retaliation and ... a Pause?

Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles at two military bases used by U.S. forces in Iraq in an audacious predawn attack, the Pentagon said, as long-simmering tensions erupted into fiery explosions and fears of all-out war after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general.

Should President Trump choose to escalate further, he has many options for retaliation. But in the immediate aftermath, both Tehran and Washington seemed to signal a possible pause in the weeks-long cycle. There were no confirmed reports of U.S. casualties. And there was no immediate U.S. military response or statement from Trump — only a tweet that he would address the nation Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in targeting Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the U.S. has given Iran what it reveres: a martyr. His killing elevated him to a centuries-old pantheon at once both state propaganda and a vivid reminder of how deep national devotion and the piety of Islam inspire the country.

War, Peace and the Campaign Trail

Suleimani's killing and Iran's quick retaliation have scrambled the 2020 presidential campaign, thrusting issues of war and peace to the center of a contest that so far has been dominated by domestic issues.

Even before Iran's strikes, the rising tensions had brought Democrats' disagreements about the U.S. role in the world into sharp relief, particularly those between its front-runners — former Vice President Joe Biden, who's had a hand in decades of U.S. foreign policy, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an anti-interventionist critic of those policies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has echoed Sanders.

And the president's targeting of Suleimani crystallized what Americans love or hate about Trump: It was the kind of impulsive show of force that fans embrace as tough-guy swagger but critics fear as his dangerously erratic, even unhinged, behavior.

More Politics

— Republicans leaders say they have the votes to approve impeachment trial rules without Democratic support, spurning for now former national security advisor John Bolton's offer to testify and all but guaranteeing a combative, partisan Senate trial.

— Federal prosecutors say Michael Flynn, one of Trump's earlier national security advisors, deserves up to six months behind bars, reversing their earlier leniency request on the basis that he had “retreated from his acceptance of responsibility.”

— Rep. Duncan Hunter says he will officially resign Monday, nearly six weeks after the California Republican pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misusing campaign funds.


New York Times

Harvey Weinstein criminal trial

As one trial stalls, another begins: The former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's criminal trial starts Monday, more than two years after allegations against him set off an international reckoning.

Mr. Weinstein is accused of forcing oral sex on a film production assistant and raping another woman. Mr. Weinstein had claimed his sexual encounters were consensual. He is not expected to testify.

The trial will most likely stretch more than two months, and begins with about two weeks of jury selection. Two thousand summonses were issued in the hopes of getting 500 potential jurors.

Our reporters who broke the original story shed new light on the investigation process and preview what to expect in the coming weeks:

New York Times

Weinstein Heads to Trial 2 Years After Claims Against Him Fueled #MeToo

By Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor and Jan Ransom

Since the Harvey Weinstein story broke more than two years ago, everything about it has been outsize: the scope of the allegations of sexual harassment and assault, stretching back decades; the number of his accusers, who total more than 80; and the global scale of the reckoning their stories have inspired.

Now, as the Hollywood producer's criminal trial begins Monday in Manhattan, the outcome already is anticipated as a verdict on much more than one man's alleged wrongdoing.

Many supporters of the #MeToo movement that Mr. Weinstein's accusers helped ignite are looking to see whether the legal system can deliver justice for victims. Lawyers for Mr. Weinstein, who lost his company, his reputation and his marriage, are arguing that the case is proof that #MeToo has gone too far. At the courthouse, media from around the world, demonstrators outside and spectators in packed galleries will be watching.

But for all the expectations about the high-profile trial, the jurors will be hearing a narrow legal case, with an already-fraught back story and a highly unpredictable result.

While prosecutors intend to call several female witnesses to show a pattern of misconduct, the charges rest largely on two women. Mr. Weinstein is accused of forcing oral sex on a film production assistant and raping another woman, who is still anonymous, her story not publicly known. Most of the other allegations against Mr. Weinstein dated too far back to be prosecuted, fell outside New York's jurisdiction or involved abusive behavior that was not criminal. Other accusers were unwilling to participate, convinced the personal toll would be too great.

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Wall Street Journal


Kansas City, Mo., Sues Gun Manufacturer, Alleging Trafficking

Suit focuses on Jimenez Arms, Inc., a maker of inexpensive handguns

By Ben Kesling

ansas City, Mo., has sued a gun manufacturer and several weapons dealers, accusing them of illegally trafficking in firearms, the first such move by a major U.S. city in a decade.

“A city is filing a suit for the first time in 10 years against the gun industry,” Mayor Quinton Lucas, a Democrat, said at a press conference Tuesday, noting that most such suits target individuals rather than manufacturers.

The suit focuses on Jimenez Arms, Inc., a manufacturer of inexpensive handguns based in Henderson, Nev., with most models easily concealable. A motto, “manufacturer of affordable firearms,” is laser-engraved on pistols that appear on the Jimenez Arms website.

Jimenez Arms didn't respond to a request for comment.

The suit alleges that Jimenez Arms sent dozens of guns at wholesale prices to James Samuels, a former Kansas City, Mo., firefighter, who wasn't a licensed gun dealer and who sold those firearms to other people.

The suit alleges that Jimenez Arms knew Mr. Samuels wasn't a licensed dealer. A handful of local dealers were also named, allegedly for selling Mr. Samuels weapons, which he, in turn, sold to others. Mr. Samuels is among those sued by the city.

The suit alleges that, from 2013 to 2018, Mr. Samuels trafficked at least 77 firearms, including 57 Jimenez Arms guns.

Mr. Samuels was federally charged in 2018 in Missouri for violations of federal gun laws, including dealing in firearms without a license. He is in federal custody at the Leavenworth Detention Center, awaiting trial. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Mr. Samuels has pleaded not guilty to the 2018 charges, said his lawyer, John Picerno. Mr. Picerno said he hadn't seen the suit that was filed.

Mr. Samuels allegedly worked with another defendant in the suit to make straw purchases of weapons. Iesha Boles has pleaded guilty to previous charges related to the matter, is awaiting sentencing and couldn't be reached for comment.

“Jimenez Arms and the gun dealer defendants chose to sell numerous guns to an individual who they knew was openly engaged in unlicensed gun dealing,” the suit alleges.

One defendant, Herb Butzbach of Mission Ready Firearms, said he “didn't know anything about it” when asked for comment on the lawsuit.

“I don't know anything about what you are talking about,” said Charles Rice of CR Sales Firearms, also a defendant in the suit, “To my knowledge I was not involved in a lawsuit on that.”

The other defendants couldn't be reached for comment on the matter.

In 2006, New York City sued a number of dealers after a sting operation that crossed state lines. The suit alleged that some dealers from across the U.S. were negligent in sales of weapons that eventually made their way to New York City and were used in shootings. Some of the dealers reached a settlement with the city, while others went out of business.

The sweeping lawsuit was part of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to crack down on illicit gun sales.

Mr. Bloomberg, who is now seeking the Democratic nomination for president, didn't respond to a request for comment.

The legal action was taken by the city of Kansas City, Mo., and Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. Mr. Bloomberg provides significant funding for Everytown for Gun Safety.




Wall Street Journal


Brazil's Vale vowed "never again." Then another dam collapsed.

In November 2015, an earthen wall holding back mining waste collapsed, sending a giant wave of mud toward the town of Mariana, Brazil, that killed 19 people. Vale, which co-owned the mine, vowed to improve safety at dozens of other dams .  Yet three years later, it happened again—and it was worse. The collapse of Vale's mine-waste dam at the beginning of 2019 in Brumadinho killed 270 people.

Vale called the collapse an unforeseen accident. Contractors, employees, lawmakers and investigators interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, as well as prosecutorial and police documents the Journal reviewed, tell a different story: one of negligence, coverup and a compliant state.

A spokesman for Vale said the company was never aware of any critical or imminent risk to the Brumadinho dam. He denied that staff members were encouraged to cut costs on safety or that employees or contractors faced retaliation. The spokesman said Vale employees responsible for informing the regulator about the dam understood that they had complied with Brazilian law.

When we first visited the site of the collapse almost a year ago, it was chaos. Television crews crowded the narrow streets, helicopters tore through the sky every few minutes, dangling body bags below. Confusion and despair consumed the small community. One man set his house on fire after an apparent breakdown. But as the months went by, reporters stopped coming. Rescue workers went home. The survivors were left alone with their grief.

For the victims' families, and the understaffed investigators battling to bring them justice, the next few months will be crucial. Prosecutors are expected to file their first criminal charges early this year. No one went to jail after Vale's 2015 collapse. Will history repeat itself?




Ukrainian Boeing plane crashes in Iran after takeoff, killing 176 on board

By Artemis Moshtaghian, Joshua Berlinger and Jack Guy

(CNN) Investigators were scrambling Wednesday to determine the cause of a crash that killed all 176 people on a Ukrainian plane, shortly after it took off from Tehran's international airport.

Iranian state media earlier blamed technical issues on the crash and Ukraine ruled out rocket attacks, but officials in both countries have since walked back their statements and are now refusing to speculate on the cause.

Questions are swirling over the timing of the incident, which came just hours after Iran fired a number of missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops.

Eighty-two Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians died onboard flight PS752, according to a tweet from Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko. There were also 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three British nationals among the victims, he said.

The Boeing 737 jet operated by Ukraine International Airlines took off early Wednesday en route to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, carrying 167 passengers and nine crew before crashing between the cities of Parand and Shahriar. Witnesses described seeing a fireball in the sky and images of the wreckage show charred parts of the plane strewn over a field.

The plane's captain has been identified as Volodymyr Gaponenko, an experienced pilot with 11,600 hours flying on Boeing 737 aircraft under his belt. The instructor pilot was Oleksiy Naumkin, also experienced with 12,000 hours on the aircraft.

Ukraine International Airlines president, Yevhenii Dykhne, said, "It is impossible that there were mistakes by the crew." At a press conference in Kiev, he said Tehran airport was "not a simple airport" and the pilots required several years of training to use it.

Iran refuses to work with US

The fatal crash comes as hostilities between Tehran and Washington soar. Iran fired rockets at the Iraqi bases in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iran's top commander, Qasem Soleimani, on Iraqi soil last week.

It is not known if these events have any link at all to the plane crash but political tensions appear to be surfacing in the investigation.

Searchers have found the plane's black boxes -- a cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, which could offer crucial evidence about what happened to the plane leading up to the crash, the Tehran prosecutor told Iranian state media.

But Iranian officials do not plan to share information garnered from them with the plane's manufacturer, US company Boeing, as is usual in crash investigations.

Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Authority, told Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency that the US would not be involved at any stage of the investigation. "We will not give the black box to the manufacturer or America," he said.

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Washington Post


Bernie Sanders campaign announces a massive cash haul of $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019

By Michelle Lee and Sean Sullivan

Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019 for his White House bid, his campaign said Thursday — a massive sum fueled by his online fundraising machine that may send a financial jolt throughout the Democratic race.

Sanders raised more than $96 million in 2019 alone, and his fourth-quarter total is one of the biggest quarterly hauls reported by a presidential candidate at this point in the campaign.

The fourth-quarter total was one of the clearest signs yet of the momentum Sanders has picked up in recent months.

He has been drawing large and enthusiastic crowds at campaign events, including more than 14,000 at a rally with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in southern California last month, according to the campaign's estimate. And he sits at or near the top of recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states on the nominating calendar.

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Trump campaign says $46 million fundraising quarter bolstered by impeachment

By John Wagner

Trump's reelection campaign announced Thursday that it raised $46 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, a total that campaign officials said was bolstered by donations that accelerated during the impeachment proceedings led by House Democrats.

“President Trump's unprecedented fundraising is testament to his wide grassroots support and his stellar record of achievement on behalf of the American people,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Democrats and the media have been in a sham impeachment frenzy and the President's campaign only got bigger and stronger with our best fundraising quarter this cycle.”

The campaign said the figure it released Thursday includes only funds raised by Trump's campaign committee and not those raised by the Republican National Committee or any authorized joint fundraising committees.

The figure eclipsed those released by Thursday by some Democratic candidates, though it is typical for a sitting president to outraise challengers from the other party at this point in the cycle.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he raised $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019 for his White House bid, while former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg said he raised $24.7 million and business executive Andrew Yang said he raised $16.5 million during the stretch.

Candidates have until Jan. 31 to file fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission, but those with impressive figures typically share their totals soon after a quarter ends.

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Washinton Post

Trump and the RNC raised almost half a billion dollars last year — and still had nearly $200 million heading into 2020

By Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee

President Trump's political operation headed into 2020 with nearly $200 million on hand, according to party officials, giving him a financial war chest that vastly outstrips the resources of his Democratic opponents weeks before primary voting begins.

Trump's reelection campaign, the Republican Party and two joint fundraising committees together raised a record $154 million in the final three months of the year, party officials told The Washington Post, a massive haul they said was fueled by backlash to the House impeachment of the president.

Of that, more than $72 million was collected by the Republican National Committee, driven in part by big checks from wealthy donors — a sign of how much of the moneyed class that shunned Trump in 2016 is now embracing him.

Small donors also continued to give to the party and to Trump's reelection campaign, which pulled in $46 million, far outpacing leading Democrats vying for their party's nomination. Among them, the biggest fundraiser last quarter was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) , who raised $34.5 million.

AD Super PACs and mega-donors: How much money can you really give a campaign? The Washington Post's Michelle Ye Hee Lee explains how wealthy donors can give unlimited sums to support their favorite politicians, despite donation caps. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Since the impeachment inquiry began in September, the president's campaign and RNC gained 600,000 new donors, officials said.

In all, Trump and the RNC together scooped up a staggering $463 million in 2019, party officials said. In comparison, then-President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party raised roughly $220 million in 2011, the year before his reelection.

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Los Angeles Times


Port Pollution

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach make up the nation's busiest seaport, which handles roughly 40% of U.S. imports and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it comes at the cost of people's health because of diesel-powered trucks, ships, locomotives and cargo-handling equipment. Indeed, ships are poised to become the region's largest source of smog-causing pollutants by 2023.

While air quality officials say they want to reduce ships' emissions, people living nearby are concerned not enough is being done.




Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong Protests:  Hundreds of thousands of protesters began the new year on the streets. The demonstration ended with hundreds of arrests and scuffles with police.

Israeli Politics:  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked lawmakers to grant him immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.

Boeing Strategy:  The plane maker is increasingly committed to transferring more control of aircraft from pilots to computers after two crashes exposed flaws in an automated system on its 737 MAX.

Vaping Regulations:  The FDA plans to ban the sale of fruity flavors in cartridge-based e-cigarettes, but the restriction won't apply to tank vaping systems often found at vape shops.

Australia Fires:  At least 17 people have died in fires as a heat wave exacerbated multiple out-of-control blazes. Fire seasons in different parts of the world are growing longer and overlapping more, straining the global network of firefighting resources.

North Korea:  In a seven-hour speech, leader Kim Jong Un  threatened a return to nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

Taiwan Helicopter Crash:  An air-force helicopter crash killed Taiwan's top military commander and seven other people on Thursday.



India announced plans for a third lunar mission, months after its last one crash landed on the moon. (BBC News)


New York Times

The FAA is investigating unexplained and unidentified swarms of drones seen flying in formation over western Nebraska and eastern Colorado. (New York Times)


Los Angeles Times

Civic Educationa

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. , whose new year will include presiding at a Senate impeachment trial of the president as well as leading the Supreme Court, has called for more focus on civic education at a time “when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale.”

Most Powerful Under the Sun

Trump has routinely criticized renewable energy (“windmill noise cancer,” anyone?), but his Interior Department appointees have shepherded several large projects. Coming soon: Federal officials plan to approve a massive solar farm with energy storage in the desert outside Las Vegas, paving the way for a $1-billion project that would generate more power than any solar facility now operating in the U.S. But the fact the project will be on federal land is not sitting well with some environmental groups.




Uber and Hyundai team up to put flying taxis in the sky

By Matt McFarland

Washington, DC (CNN) -- Uber and Hyundai unveiled a flying taxi that may eventually transform your ridesharing trips.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Monday, the two companies revealed a model of a four-seat, electric flying vehicle that they said you'll be able to summon for a ride through Uber's app someday. The first actual prototype will be ready in 2023, according to a Hyundai spokesperson. A human pilot will fly the air taxi until the companies finalize software to autonomously control it, the company said.

Hyundai is the latest big company to announce that it's developing a flying taxi for trips around cities and suburbs. Boeing's flying car prototype made its first autonomous flight in 2019 at a small airport outside Washington D.C. Google co-founder Larry Page has invested in several smaller startups, including Kitty Hawk and Opener, which are developing flying car technologies.

In October, Hyundai appointed Jaiwon Shin, a longtime NASA administrator, to lead its newly created air taxi division. Hyundai's partner in the venture, Uber , has said it expects to have an air taxi network in 2023. Uber already has partnerships with the helicopter manufacturer Bell and the Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer . But experts say the estimate is aggressive.

"It's going to be a while," said William Crossley, a Purdue University professor who researches aerospace design. "If things go well, it's certainly plausible in the next 10 years."

There are plenty of tough hurdles ahead. Software to safely fly air taxis must be developed. The industry will have to determine the right vehicle design. Batteries powering air taxis will need to deliver better range than currently available. And companies will have to prove that air taxi rides can be a viable business.

Sanjiv Singh, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and CEO of Near Earth Autonomy, a startup developing software for air taxis, doesn't expect they will be viable until they're flying autonomously. It's expensive to pay a human pilot, he said, and companies can become more profitable if they can cram another passenger into the air taxi instead.

On top of those challenges, the Federal Aviation Administration will need to certify the vehicles, a process that could take years.

Hyundai and Uber have not yet completed a test flight of the new vehicle.

In the meantime, Uber is offering human-piloted helicopter rides in Manhattan.

Singh, who worked on self-driving cars before shifting to air taxis, says that autonomous flying vehicles are easier to develop in some respects. "When flying, just stay away from everything," Singh said. "You don't have to figure out if that's a tumbleweed or a suitcase in the street."




The New Yorker

SCIENCE - The Elements

The Histories Hidden in the Periodic Table

From poisoned monks and nuclear bombs to the “transfermium wars,” mapping the atomic world hasn't been easy.

By Neima Jahromi

The story of the fifteenth element began in Hamburg, in 1669. The unsuccessful glassblower and alchemist Hennig Brandt was trying to find the philosopher's stone, a mythical substance that could turn base metals into gold. Instead, he distilled something new. It was foamy and, depending on the preparation, yellow or black. He called it “cold fire,” because it glowed in the dark. Interested parties took a look; some felt that they were in the presence of a miracle. “If anyone had rubbed himself all over with it,” one observer noted, “his whole figure would have shone, as once did that of Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai.” Robert Boyle, the father of modern chemistry, put some on his hand and noted how “mild and innocent” it seemed. Another scientist saw particles in it twinkling “like little stars.”

At first, no one could figure out what the Prometheus of Hamburg had stolen. After one of Brandt's confidants provided a hint—the main ingredient was “somewhat that belong'd to the Body of Man”—Boyle deduced that he and his peers had been smearing themselves with processed urine. As the Cambridge chemist Peter Wothers explains in his new history of the elements, “Antimony, Gold, and Jupiter's Wolf” (Oxford), Brandt's recipe called for a ton of urine. It was left out in buckets long enough to attract maggots, then distilled in hot furnaces, creating a hundred and twenty grams of “cold fire.” Brandt believed that, if he could collect enough of this substance, he might be able to create the philosopher's stone. In 1678, the Duke of Saxony asked him to collect a hundred tons of urine from a garrison of soldiers and render it into what Boyle and others soon started to call phosphorus—Latin for “light-bearer.”

The soapy phosphorus that Brandt cooked up was a curiosity. But, in England, Boyle began producing it in a purer, more solid form, which turned out to be highly flammable. Another scientist toying with Boyle's phosphorus found that, “if the Privy Parts be therewith rubb'd, they will be inflamed and burning for a good while after.” Boyle, for his part, wondered whether it could be harnessed as a starter for gunpowder. (His assistant, the apothecary Ambrose Godfrey, set his head on fire and burned “two or three great holes in his breeches” while investigating the substance.) The phosphorus industry grew throughout the eighteenth century, in part because physicians wrongly believed that it had medicinal value. In the eighteen-hundreds, match producers found that wood splints tipped with phosphorus were less dangerous than their sulfur-coated predecessors; not long afterward, the discovery that electric furnaces could extract phosphorus from ore at a large scale led to the development of explosives. In the Second World War, in what Wothers calls “a tragic twist of fate,” Hamburg, Brandt's home town, was destroyed by Allied bombers dropping phosphorus munitions.

Wothers finds many such twists in the stories hidden behind the squares of the periodic table. Antimony (element No. 51) is a lustrous mineral; four thousand years ago, people carved vases out of it, and it appears in cosmetic regimes described in the Old Testament. According to an account given by the seventeenth-century apothecary and alchemist Pierre Pomet (offered up by Wothers as possibly apocryphal), antimony got its name from the story of a German monk who fed it to his fellow-brethren. The monk had given some to a few pigs, who vomited at first but then grew healthy and fat. Unfortunately, every monk who ingested it died. “This therefore was the reason of this Mineral being call'd Antimony,” Pomet wrote, “as being destructive of the Monks.” (In a less fatal episode, a nineteenth-century doctor and his friends consumed fifteen milligrams of tellurium each: they had garlic breath for eight months.)

The names of the elements have long been a source of contention and incomprehension. Hydrogen, Wothers points out, is Greek for “water-former,” while oxygen is Greek for “acid-former”; in fact, it's hydrogen that bonds together with other elements to make acids and oxygen that bonds hydrogen to make water. “Aluminium,” Charles Dickens wrote, in 1856, is “a fossilized part of Latin speech, about as suited to the mouths of the populace as an ichthyosauros cutlet or a dinornis marrow-bone.” (It has its root in the Latin for “bitter salt,” after the clay from which the once-precious metal was derived; Dickens's suggestions—“loam-silver” and “glebe-gold”—weren't much better.) The French chemist Marguerite Perey, a protégée of Marie Curie, discovered an element of her own, in 1939. She wanted to call it “catium,” to honor the particle's strong attraction to cathodes, devices used to send electricity through a chemical substance; Curie's daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, worried that English speakers would associate the element with house cats. Perey, being French, decided to call it francium instead.

Many historians date the invention of the periodic table to the publication, a hundred and fifty years ago, of a textbook by the Russian chemist Dmitri I. Mendeleev. But Eric Scerri, the author of “The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance” (Oxford) and a philosopher of chemistry at U.C.L.A.—he studies the history of questions such as “What is an element, really?”—bristles at the notion that Mendeleev revolutionized science when he brought chemical periodicity into clear relief. Periodicity—the idea that larger atoms chime with smaller atoms in a regular way, like notes on a keyboard—didn't emerge as a bolt from the blue, Scerri argues. It came into focus through the work of a host of scientists; as it did so, ideas that by then were long disdained, such as alchemy, turned out to be right in some respects, and essentially wrong ideas, such as the irreducibility of the elements, turned out to be productive ways of thinking, anyway. Some of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century chemists who began to notice patterns among certain elements were actually retracing the paths of ancient Greek atomists such as Democritus and Leucippus, who, in the fifth century B.C., had argued that invisible and indivisible particles made up everything we could see and touch. The atomists believed that those particles were myriad in shape and size, and that their perceptible properties came from the structures they formed when they hooked together.


The table's ability to adapt has helped it endure. In the twentieth century, scientists realized that periodicity wasn't determined by atomic weight; instead, what mattered was the number of protons that each atom contained in its nucleus. But this discovery didn't break the table, either; after a few reshufflings, it became more accurate. Over the past century and a half, our ideas about the universe have changed drastically. But the basic format of the periodic table has endured.

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Wall Street Journal



Sensor-embedded, always-connected, high-performance clothing already exists in the military, medicine and sports. Next, it's coming to the workplace.

Temperature-regulating technology could one day eliminate the need for that extra office sweater. The sleeve of your shirt, suit jacket or dress will glow, blink or vibrate with meeting alerts. Interactive clothes that light up or change color based on your mood could signal when you need to work undisturbed. And lab-grown or vegan materials, touted as more environmentally friendly, will start to replace wool and cotton, radically changing the men's and women's business suit and dress-shirt industries. 

This week, the WSJ's Ray A. Smith reports on what's next for work wear—the first in a series of articles exploring the Future of Work. Stay tuned for more online next week, and pick up a copy of our special section appearing in the Jan. 10 newspaper. 

What do you think? Would any of this futuristic fashion improve your work life? Why or why not?


Dust off the Crystal Ball. When it comes to technology, don't expect 2020 to be any mellower than the past year. Here, a look at the tech—and tech business developments—that could change your life in the next 12 months.


"Paging Dr. Google..."  The search giant's health research unit said it has developed an artificial-intelligence system that can match or outperform radiologists at detecting breast cancer—but humans still beat the machines in some cases.

5G Coming?

Not-so-Quick Fix. Ultrafast 5G wireless launched in South Korea this past year, promising to help power a future of autonomous cars, virtual reality and telesurgery. For many users, the service has not lived up to the hype.

2020 Rules

Recent tech regulations have focused on data protection and privacy. In the new year, expect policy makers to turn their attention to artificial intelligence.

Elsewhere in the Future

The new brain-computer interfaces, no surgery required (Wired)

Japan's devoted community of robot-dog owners (Buzzfeed News)

'Zero-click' shopping, 150-year lifespans and more predictions for the next decade in tech (Vanity Fair)


New York Times


What your phone will do next

The Times has been reporting on how your smartphone can cost you privacy.

Most recently, our Opinion desk published “One Nation, Tracked,” an investigation into the location data industry that shows how companies profit from quietly collecting the precise movements of smartphone users.

But there's a new vulnerability coming.

Apple is including a chip in its iPhone 11s that will enable ultra wideband wireless communication with other phones and smart devices. More phone makers, like Samsung, appear ready to launch their own UWB. (The chips are already in N.F.L. players' shoulder pads, to gather metrics and inform computer-animated replays.)

It's a short-range technology that promises a host of conveniences: unlocking your car or front door as you approach and relocking when you exit, increasing the speed of phone-to-phone transfers, and more.

But it could also let observers track your location even more precisely. In stores, retailers could “see” where you paused in the aisle, and deduce what you were tempted by but didn't buy.

If past experience is a guide, law enforcement could also draw on the data.





The American Kennel Club announced two new dog breeds: the barbet and dogo Argentino

By Leah Asmelash, CNN

(CNN) This decade is off to a paws-itive start, with the recognition of two new dog breeds by the American Kennel Club.

The AKC, the world's largest purebred dog registry, announced Tuesday that the barbet and dogo Argentino are joining the list of its recognized breeds. The barbet (pronounced "bar-BAY") is a water dog from France and joins the "sporting" group, according to the AKC. It's a smart and friendly dog with, most importantly, a soft, curly coat perfect for maximum petting and snuggling. "The Barbet is loyal and loves to be near its owners," wrote the AKC online.

The dogo Argentino is a slightly different vibe. A hunting dog developed in Argentina, hence its name, the dog was originally developed to hunt large animals such as boars and mountain lions, according to the AKC. It's classified in the "working" group. "Dogos are confident, courageous, loyal and affectionate with their family," the AKC says of the breed. But, the organization warns, they aren't for the new dog owner because of their "strong guarding instincts" and territorial tendencies. Described as "powerful and athletic," the breed is perfect for the exercise-holics among us, as they require lots of daily exercise and interaction with people. They also require a bit of maintenance -- their short, white coat needs a weekly brushing, the AKC says. For a breed to be recognized by the AKC, there must be a minimum of 300 to 400 dogs from the breed in at least 20 states, the group writes. There must also be an established breed club, consisting of owners and breeders, behind the dog.

The dog breed can then be eligible to compete in the Miscellaneous Class, where dogs typically spend upwards of three years. From there, the breed can get recognized officially, which means it's eligible to participate in AKC events and affiliated clubs. With the addition of the barbet and dogo Argentino, the AKC has 195 recognized breeds.



Nearly two dozen llamas are missing from an exotic animal farm in California

By Faith Karimi

(CNN) About two dozen llamas are missing from an exotic animal farm in Southern California, and investigators believe it's a break-in.

The incident happened early Monday at the 14-acre private facility in Perris, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department told CNN affiliate KMIR. "We received a call about 6:30 a.m. regarding numerous llamas and emus walking on Orange," Deputy Robyn Flores said in a statement to the affiliate. "During the investigation, it was learned that a lock on the fence had been cut, which allowed the animals to leave the property." Deputies and animal control officers gathered the fleeing animals but not all were accounted for. Investigators determined between 20-30 llamas were ferried away from the facility, authorities said.

The facility has been under fire on social media by animal rights activists who alleged abuse and neglect of the llamas and other animals, KMIR reported.

The Riverside County Animal Services Department said it inspected the farm several times following the accusations but found no evidence of animal abuse. "We have actually had full cooperation from the custodians, they've allowed us to do a walk through and they see plenty of food," said John Welsh, a spokesman for the Riverside County Animal Services Department. "We have never walked across an animal that's abused or neglected, certainly not emaciated, we deal with this type of stuff all of the time and the animals seem to be of good weight."




Genetically enhanced 'mighty mice' just made it safely back from the International Space Station
They were part of a health experiment. And they've been to space?! These mice have some stories to tell.

(CNN) Genetically enhanced "mighty mice" that were part of a heath experiment on the International Space Station have successfully returned to Earth. The mice splashed down in a SpaceX Dragon capsule on Tuesday morning in the Pacific Ocean.

The mice, provided by the nonprofit Jackson Laboratory in Maine, were genetically manipulated for muscle growth in an experiment to better understand how zero gravity affects the human body. During long-term spaceflight missions on the space station, astronauts have experienced muscle and bone loss. Although the astronauts exercise every day to mitigate this, experiments like this can help scientists understand how the loss occurs and better ways to manage it.

These mice are just one of many groups of rodents that have flown on the space station over the years in the name of research./

The mice began their stay on the space station after docking on December 8.

The experiment was called Rodent Research-19 and it was used to study both myostation and activin, which are the molecular signaling pathways that can influence muscle degradation, according to NASA. Researchers believe these pathways could be targets to prevent muscle and bone loss during missions and help with recovery efforts once astronauts return to Earth.

As is usually the case with space station experiments, the findings could also help develop therapies for those dealing with muscle and bone loss due to various conditions on Earth. This includes muscular dystrophy, osteoporosis and diseases that cause muscle wasting like cancer, heart disease, sepsis and AIDS.

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New York Times


100 Years Ago, the Booziest January Suddenly Dried Up

In 1920, Prohibition went into effect, but America partied on.

By Jennifer Harlan

As the sun rose this morning on a new year, bleary-eyed people across the United States poured out their half-drunk champagne bottles, gathered up their empty beer cans and turned to Twitter to share their resolution with the world.

Dry January has begun.

For those experimenting with temporary sobriety, there is pride in abstention. These droughts are self-imposed and finite — and come with social media bragging rights. But the last time we entered a decade known as the '20s, Americans were staring down the barrel of a government-mandated dry spell, with no end in sight. For those who partook of the hard stuff, this first dry January was greeted not with determination and #goals but with denial and despair.

Prohibition is most closely associated with the 1920s, but its seeds were planted a century earlier, when the national temperance movement began decrying alcohol as the root cause of societal evils including laziness, promiscuity and poverty. Eliminate the drink, they said, and Americans will be a happier, healthier and more prosperous people.

The movement gained traction around the turn of the century, in large part thanks to women's groups who saw temperance as a way to combat domestic violence. On Jan. 16, 1919 — more than a year before women could vote nationwide — the teetotalers achieved their ultimate goal: The Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors” anywhere within the United States, was ratified.

The country had one year to prepare.

“Nobody believed it would happen,” David Wondrich, the cocktail historian, said. “Prohibition was a small-town, rural movement, and people in the cities resented it. They really thought until the very end that there was going to be a way out of it, and then, suddenly, it became clear there wasn't.”

In October 1919, over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act — more commonly known as the Volstead Act, for its mustachioed champion, Representative Andrew Volstead of Minnesota — to provide for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment. The law was set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1920.

While the amendment specifically forbid purchasing or transporting alcohol, it said nothing about drinking alcohol you already had in your home. Boozehounds quickly seized upon this loophole. As businesses hustled to offload their soon-to-be illegal inventory, there was a mad dash for hooch.

“Fair ladies sat in limousines behind alluring barricades of cases; business men in runabouts had cases on their knees,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. “On every face was stamped that extraordinary and inexplicable expression of triumph mingled with apprehension which the possession of an irreplaceable treasure in a predicament of extraordinary peril is wont to imbue.”

It was impossible to buy enough liquor to last a lifetime, but people tried, said Daniel Okrent, the author of “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.” In Hollywood, he said, “Mary Pickford's mom bought the contents of an entire liquor store.”

What businesses couldn't sell off in bulk, they splashed out at parties, beginning with a particularly raucous New Year's Eve and continuing right up until the last midnight, 16 days later.

“Every big cafe in New York City was having a party,” Mr. Wondrich, the historian, said of the night of Jan. 16. “There were so many corks popping, it sounded like artillery fire.” Some of the restaurants even held mock funerals marking the death of alcohol.

Prohibition approached like “the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse,” The New York Herald reported. “But, oh, how New York City's Great Glittering Way did drink and feast before he came! And even after he had arrived and kicked the sides of his nag and made his way over the city, there was mirth enough and song enough and mockery enough to make him tremble in his dull, black boots.”

Eventually the mirth ebbed, the champagne ran dry and Americans were left to stagger home into a new age.

“The last day has come and gone — the inevitable hour,” The Chronicle wrote in its eulogy for booze. “At midnight all that was lawful about the spirit that cheereth and the red, red wine passed out of existence.” The New York Times took a cheekier approach with its front page headline: “John Barleycorn Died Peacefully at the Toll of 12.”

The nation was officially bone dry. But unofficially, wet spots were everywhere, if you knew how to look.

Bootlegging operations popped up almost immediately, leading government enforcers in a yearslong game of Whack-a-Mole. And flower shops, parking garages and basement apartments were repurposed into illicit watering holes, better known as speakeasies.

Like most things, though, one's ability to drink came down to means, according to Mr. Wondrich. If you could afford to go to fancy places, you could get the same beverages as before — only instead of 15 cents, they would now set you back a dollar. Drinking culture flourished, in spite of its being verboten. Classic cocktails like the sidecar, the bee's knees and the French 75 all made their debut during Prohibition, Mr. Wondrich said.

There were those who tried to adapt to the dry age. Many breweries found other ways to make use of their equipment: Pabst went into cheese, Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch into ice cream and Coors, in clay-rich Colorado, invested in ceramics.

As for the saloons, some experimented with juices and nonalcoholic mixed drinks. There were a few successes — one boozeless cocktail created during Prohibition is known today in its spiked form as the Bloody Mary — but for the most part, the concoctions were disappointing facsimiles that “just made you sad,” Mr. Wondrich said.

“Just trying to mimic spirits and classic cocktails is a recipe for failure,” explained Julia Bainbridge, the author of the forthcoming nonalcoholic cocktail recipe book, “Good Drinks.” Instead of trying to replicate the specific flavor of a negroni, you should “consider what a negroni feels like,” she added.

“It's that tension between salty and sour and sweet and bitter that pleases the human palate,” she said. “And that experience can be delivered without alcohol, with the same level of complexity, but you have to put a lot of labor into it. Basically, if you want to get something that's not just a tiki-derivative sugar bomb, you're going to have to cook.”

Prohibition officially ended with the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933. By then, however, the legal change was mostly a formality.

“There were breweries on the West Side of Manhattan making 200,000 gallons of beer a week,” Mr. Wondrich said. “The scale of industry was so insane that the law became a joke.”

Nowadays, there are bars in every big city that style themselves as Prohibition-era speakeasies, and the age's spirit has proved enduring.

“It's that notion of doing something that's against the law but not evil,” Mr. Okrent, the author, said. “There's fun in defying authority.”

In the past 15 years, there has also been a revival of the cocktail boom that characterized Prohibition — this time with increasingly complex and delicious options for non-drinkers, too.

After all, life is too short for bad drinks. That goes whether you're partaking of booze or abstaining from it — for a month, for life or even just for the night.




Rolling Stone Magazine


Will Furries Ever Go Mainstream?

At Midwest FurFest, people donning human-sized animal costumes came together for an inclusive, uplifting convention. But will their community ever be widely accepted? And is that even what they want?


“In Photoshoot 6, we'll have everyone who wears scales on the outside,” the announcer drones over a microphone, as dozens of six-foot alligators, snakes, lizards, and other assorted reptiles scramble to pose for a group photo. Some take a final sip from their water bottles, a friend or partner patiently holding their jaws wide open for them; others extricate themselves from hugs with cats or rabbits or birds. I have seen  Planet Earth  enough times to know that in the animal kingdom, such creatures would be considered prey; but here, in the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Grand Ballroom, neither natural law nor David Attenborough's narration applies.

“If you identify as a species that hasn't been called yet, not to worry,” the announcer adds before calling up otters, then wildcats and sabers. On the floor, about three dozen foxes lie on top of each other in a “fur pile,” orange-and-white limbs and bellies knotted together on the ground.

Such public displays of interspecies affection are the currency of MidWest FurFest, an annual convention in Rosemont, Illinois, just a few minutes outside Chicago. Midwest FurFest, or MFF for short, is in its 20th year and offers a wide range of events, including informational panels, photo shoots, talent performances, and a breakdancing competition. It is one of the world's largest conventions aimed at furries, a highly stigmatized, oft-misunderstood subculture comprised of people who have an affinity for anthropomorphized animals.

The mainstream media has historically painted furries as sex-crazed, socially maladjusted freaks who enjoy rubbing up against each other in giant bunny costumes. This is essentially false. Like most subcultures, the furry fandom is a largely internet-driven phenomenon, providing a label for a preexisting feeling that has always lived, dormant and unnamed, inside a select number of people. While there is a contingent of furries who do derive sexual pleasure from the subculture, the fanbase is much more broad than that.

Maybe you really liked drawing wolves during eighth-grade homeroom. Maybe you've always felt an inexplicable affinity with Tony the Tiger. Maybe you've long thought it would be rad to buy a $10,000 curvy hippo costume and enter a breakdancing competition. If you fall into any of these categories, then furries are your kind of people, and FurFest the place to unleash the human-sized sergal (a fictional rabbit/shark/wolf amalgam) within. As the voiceover to an intro presentation for FurFest sonorously boomed over a dubstep beat, “You know you are more than a human…now you are the beast that slept inside your mind.”

MFF is widely touted as the biggest furry con in the world, and its attendance has increased exponentially in recent years: While the con only saw about 1,000 attendees in 2005, it reported more than 10,900 guests in 2018, and Matt Berger, media relations lead for MFF, estimates that 12,000 were in attendance this year. That's in part due to the increasing number of younger children and their families who are gravitating to furry culture — during my time at Midwest FurFest, I saw children as young as seven attending dance competitions and meet-and-greets accompanied by their parents, having stumbled on the fandom via YouTube or TikTok.

In so keeping with its increasingly family-friendly image, the fandom has become intent on promoting itself as a beacon of acceptance and inclusivity, and MFF is no exception. As a fox named Tiller told me upon check-in, “everyone here is welcome — except Nazis.” This message was particularly salient this year, after far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous made some highly public threats last September to gate-crash the convention. (Despite his posting a photo from check-in on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, Berger and MFF attendees said that as far as they know, he did not make good on his threat.)

There were no Nazis at FurFest, as far as I could tell, but there was a lot of hugging and dancing and body odor and potential copyright infringement claims (including multiple not-so-thinly veiled renderings of characters from the Nickelodeon series Paw Patrol ). The people I spoke with ranged widely in terms of age, education level, and socioeconomic background: there were investment bankers, video retail salespeople, graduate students, animators, software engineers, marketing specialists, veterinary techs, and airline pilots (who, I was told by more than one person, are overrepresented in the fandom, possibly having been inspired by the bear Baloo in the 1990s cartoon series  Talespin ). Far from the mainstream depiction of the fandom as a sex-crazed monolith, the furries I met really only had a handful of traits in common: they were largely white, LGBTQ, and almost without exception, friendly and sincere, nearly to a fault.

At its most fundamental level, the concept of anthropomorphized creatures has its tentacles deep in history, further back than furry cons or anime or even a certain relentlessly chipper, shirtless cartoon mouse. One of the oldest known works of art, the Paleolithic Löwenmensch sculpture, depicts a human with the head of a lion; the ancient Egyptians also worshipped half-man, half-animal deities; and Aesop's fables features a panoply of animal characters imbued with human traits, from cunning to pride to sloth (the three-toed version of which derives its name from the term for laziness).

In this sense, furries are “both one of the oldest fandoms and a relatively modern one as well,” says Alex Tang, an artist and designer who is also currently working on a book about the history of convention culture. But the furry fandom as we know it has its roots in the early-to-mid 1980s, when a group of sci-fi con attendees who bonded over anthropomorphic animals organized room parties devoted to their mutual interest before splintering off to form their own event.

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Los Angeles Times


Officials say that violent crime in Los Angeles declined for the second consecutive year in 2019, but that gang-related homicides and crime related to homelessness remain persistent trouble spots.



Los Angeles - local

LAPD & LA County Sheriff -- How are they doing?

We'll explore how listeners feel about their local law enforcement agencies. How safe do they feel? How good is the local quality of life in their home town and what can be done to make things better?

We'll continue this discussion tonight ..


from web site - MAIN ARTICLES

DHS and FEMA - Preparedness Newsletter

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This Digest is provided by FEMA to highlight community preparedness and resilience resources, an important part of FEMA's mission to help people before, during, and after disasters. We're building a culture of preparedness together..

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About FEMA
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Prepare. Plan.
Stay Informed.
This INFOGRAM is distributed weekly to provide members of the Emergency Services Sector with information concerning the protection of their critical infrastructures.

Antibiotic-resistant infections are up but deaths are down

Hospital Surge Evaluation Tool

Ways to help people with autism during emergency situations

Webinar: Catch Them Before They Fall - Preventing Suicide

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and more ..
LAPPL Law Enforcement News
Los Angeles
Police Protective
Daily Local & Regional NewsWatch - 2019 Archives

The LA Police Protective League, the union that represents the rank-and-file LAPD officers, presents a weekday digest of local news, which often includes the union's perspective.

The material is often from local and national newspapers as well as other sources.

It constitutes but a small percentage of the information available daily to the community policing and neighborhood activist public.

But most of the material includes issues of some interest to the Los Angeles community-policing community.


Law Enforcement News - Tue - 1/07/20

Failures of George Gascon's San Francisco Tenure Draw National Attention
San Francisco police Lt. Tracy McCray says the city's prosecutors are to blame for rising crime and disorder in the city. "They make the decision whether [criminal cases] will get charged or not and most of the time, it's like 'Nope, not charged. Nope, not charged,'" McCray said during an exclusive interview with "Tucker Carlson Tonight."
Fox News

Fallen Ohio Officer Honored For Line-Of-Duty Death 87 Years Ago
Oakwood officer Claude McCormick will be honored as a fallen police officer 87 years after an accident in the line of duty that led to his death in 1933. His death is the only line-of-duty death in Oakwood history, according to the Oakwood FOP Lodge 107, which researched McCormick's passing. “We also realized that he was never recognized for dying in the line of duty, but now he will be added to the national memorial,” officer Greg Ortel told the Dayton Daily News. McCormick is scheduled to have his name added to the National Fallen Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 13, thanks to members of the lodge, who discovered the oversight last year. “As we speak, they are likely etching his name on the memorial,” Ortel said, as he shared information on the research that led to the overdue honor being bestowed upon McCormick.
Dayton Daily News

LAPD Investigating Deadly Shooting In Pico-Union
Los Angeles police are on scene of a deadly shooting that occurred Monday night in the Pico-Union area. A Hispanic man in his 40s was pronounced dead at the scene, LAPD said. The shooting happened at about 7:30 p.m. near Olympic Boulevard and Alvarado Street. The victim has not been identified. No suspect information was immediately available. The immediate streets leading up to the crime scene are closed off. No further details were immediately known. The investigation is ongoing.
FOX 11

Homicide Investigation Underway After Man Found Dead In Atwater Village
A homicide investigation is underway after a man was found dead in Atwater Village early Monday, officials said. Los Angeles Police Department officers responded to the 4200 block of Chevy Chase Drive about 7:25 a.m. and found the victim. He was described as being between 50 and 60 years old and appeared to be the victim of an assault, police said. It is unclear how the man died, but police told KTLA that the incident is being investigated as a homicide. The scene, near train tracks, was cordoned off as detectives tried to piece together what happened, video from the scene showed. No further details about the incident have been released.

Bay Area Car Burglars Travel Down The Coast To Snatch Belongings From Los Angeles Tourists, Police Say
The thefts began multiplying in the last year: Crooks smashed windows or entered unlocked doors to swipe luggage, shopping bags and other valuables from cars parked at tourist destinations across Los Angeles' Westside. As investigators chased leads, they noticed striking similarities in the heists: The suspects were Bay Area gang members traveling in rental cars to Southern California to commit crimes against unsuspecting tourists at shopping centers, museums and other high-traffic areas. Scouring parking lots and garages for out-of-state license plates and scoping out windshields for bar codes indicating a rental car was their MO. Now, detectives from police agencies in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are scrambling to stem a new, audacious crime wave in which hard-to-track out-of-towners are preying on vulnerable sightseers at some of the nation's top tourist destinations.
Los Angeles Times

Barricaded Suspect Taken Into Custody In Mid-Wilshire
An hours-long standoff in the Mid-Wilshire area came to an end Monday with the arrest of a person who had barricaded himself inside a residence, and no injuries were reported. Police responded to the area for unknown reasons around 9:30 a.m., and one person was taken into custody and another barricaded himself in the home in the 1000 block of Cloverdale Avenue, LAPD Officer Drake Madison said. A SWAT team was summoned to the scene and set up a perimeter that stretched from Olympic Boulevard to Edgewood Place, between La Brea and Cochran avenues, according to the LAPD. The suspect was taken into custody around mid-afternoon, according to Sgt. Patrick Welsh of the Los Angeles Police Department's Wilshire Division.

LAPD Releases Video Of Road Rage Attack That Severely Injured Man
Police Monday released video of a road rage attack on a motorist in Van Nuys in hopes that the public can help identify three men involved in the beating, which left the victim severely injured. The victim was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Woodman Avenue last Wednesday around 9:30 p.m. when the suspects pulled up behind him in a black Jeep, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The man behind the wheel of the Jeep had been driving erratically, police said. Both drivers pulled to the curb and the occupants exited their vehicles, at which point the Jeep's driver punched the victim in the head, knocking him unconscious and causing him to fall to the ground, the LAPD reported. The suspects jumped back in the Jeep, which was last seen heading south on Woodman Avenue from Victory Boulevard, police said.

Airbnb Removes 28 Homes Identified By LAPD As ‘Chronic Party Houses'
Airbnb says they have taken down more than two dozen listings identified by the LAPD as “chronic party houses” in the Hollywood Hills. All upcoming reservations for the 28 listings identified by Airbnb were canceled. Some of the properties were removed from Airbnb based on the issues identified and shared by the LAPD, while others will be subject to suspension and have to be recertified as being in good standing with the city of Los Angeles. The Hollywood Hills properties that were banned from the home-sharing service were not identified, but Airbnb says some of the properties have generated citations and cease-and-desist orders. Not every home on the list provided by the LAPD were Airbnb listings, according to the company.

Harvey Weinstein Charged With Rape, Other Sex Crimes In LA
Harvey Weinstein was charged Monday on new sex crime charges in Los Angeles, just as his trial on separate rape and sexual assault charges in New York was poised to get underway, prosecutors announced Monday. The disgraced movie mogul was charged with one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced. He is set to be arraigned at a later date, and prosecutors recommended $5 million bail. "We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," Lacey said in a statement.

Ex-Doctor Sentenced In L.A. To Two Years For Health Care Fraud
A two-year prison sentence was handed down Monday for a former physician from Encino who engaged in health care fraud and illegally prescribed controlled substances. Kain Kumar, 56, was also ordered to pay more than $1 million in fines, forfeiture and restitution, and to serve three years on supervised release following his time in custody. U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ordered Kumar to surrender to U.S. marshals at the end of the day to begin serving his sentence. The defendant has already surrendered his medical license, defense attorney David Willingham told the court. Kumar pleaded guilty in April to fraudulently billing Medicare for services not rendered and prescribing the opiate painkiller hydrocodone for no legitimate purpose.

Local Government News

Herb Wesson Secures A Contested Democratic Party Endorsement In Race For L.A. Supervisor
City Council member Herb Wesson has received the backing of the L.A. County Democratic Party in his campaign to win a hotly contested seat on the Board of Supervisors. Again. On Sunday, party officials tossed out a challenge to its original endorsement last month, saying Wesson's opponent, former L.A. City Council member Jan Perry “did not meet the burden of proof” required to rescind the decision. “Our job is to keep the party transparent, accountable and operating,” party Chair Mark Gonzalez said in a statement. “I'm proud of our team for working with integrity and providing the committee and campaigns with all the necessary information to conclude this process.” Wesson won the endorsement the first time on Dec. 10 with 114 votes. Perry got 26 votes, and state Sen. Holly Mitchell, who also is vying for the 2nd District seat, got 44 votes, narrowly giving Wesson the 60% required for a victory.
Los Angeles Times


Law Enforcement News - Mon - 1/06/20

Louisiana Man Gets Life Sentence For Police Officer's Death
A Louisiana man found guilty of murder in the shooting death of a police officer will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Grover Cannon was formally sentenced Thursday in Caddo District Court, news outlets reported. Cannon was convicted of first-degree murder in November for the 2015 shooting death of Shreveport police Officer Thomas LaValley. Cannon could have been sentenced to death, but the jury did not agree on the death penalty, according to news outlets. Therefore, the sentence automatically defaulted to life in prison.
Associated Press

Record Number Of LEOs Died By Suicide In 2019
A record number of current or former law enforcement officers died by suicide in 2019, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that works to reduce the stigma around mental health issues in law enforcement. According to figures announced by Blue H.E.L.P. on Thursday, 228 current or former officers died by suicide, compared with 172 in 2018. About 90% of those officers were male and approximately 25% were veterans with at least 20 years of service. "I'm really hoping that 2020 will be the year this turns around," Karen Solomon, Blue H.E.L.P.'s founder, told ABC News. "I'd love to see suicide prevention receive the same efforts we put forth for traditional line-of-duty deaths." New York had the highest number of deaths by suicide at 27, followed by California at 23. Among those 27 deaths in New York, 10 were NYPD officers.  

Police Involved In OIS With 22-Year-Old Man In Montecito Heights
No one was injured or wounded during an officer-involved shooting Sunday morning in Montecito Heights, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. About 12:15 a.m., officers stopped to talk to a 22-year-old man at the corner of Griffin Avenue and East Avenue 43. The man ran north on Griffin and after a brief foot pursuit, an officer-involved shooting occurred, the LAPD reported. The man was taken into custody and no officers were injured. A firearm was recovered by officers. The man's identity was not immediately disclosed.

Homeless Man Arrested In Fatal Stabbing At Downtown L.A. Restaurant
A homeless man suspected of stabbing to death a fellow diner at a downtown Los Angeles Mexican restaurant on New Year's Day has been arrested, police said. A civilian called police around 4 p.m., after learning about the crime, to report seeing the suspect inside the downtown Central Library, located at 630 W. 5th Street, police said. Officers quickly responded and took the suspect, identified as Devan Lampkin, 49, into custody without incident, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Lampkin was wanted for the stabbing death of Homer Garcia, 56, after the two got into an argument inside Margarita's Place, located at 103 E. 7th, about 8:35 a.m. Wednesday, police said. Relatives said Garcia was an avid musician. Surveillance video from inside the restaurant released by police showed the attack, then Lampkin calmly pick up his belongings off the counter and walk away.
Los Angeles Times

2 Children Injured After Hit-and-Run Driver Crashes Into Backyard In South LA, Police Say
Two children were injured in the Central Alameda neighborhood of South Los Angeles Friday afternoon after a hit-and-run driver crashed through a fence and into a yard, police said. The crash happened at 48th Street and Ascot Avenue at about 2:20 p.m., according to Los Angeles police. The children were taken to a hospital with minor injuries. The children's grandmother says she was sitting on the porch and the kids were playing in the yard when a driver in a black pickup truck plowed into their property. The grandmother went on to say that after the crash, she didn't see her 2-year-old grandson on the ground at first because he's so little, but she then spotted him under some metal and pulled him out. She says her grandson is OK and that people rushed after the driver and caught him. Police arrested the driver on suspicion of DUI.

Video: Man Wounded In Shooting At Northridge Yard House Restaurant

A man was wounded after fight escalated into gunfire at a Yard House restaurant in Northridge on Sunday night, according to authorities and witnesses. The shooting took place about 8:10 p.m. at the business at 9301 Tampa Ave., Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Fire Department officials said. Two men became involved in a fight when one of them pulled a gun and opened fire, Officer Orris of the LAPD's Operations Center said. A 26-year-old man suffered a wound to his abdomen and was hospitalized in stable condition, he said. The gunman, described as a man between 25 and 30 years old, fled the scene before police arrived, Orris said. Investigators suspected the fight may have been gang related.

2 Injured In Separate Shootings Within 1/2 Mile Of Each Other In Westlake District: LAPD

Two people were injured in separate shootings that happened within a half-mile of each other early Saturday in the Westlake District of Central Los Angeles, officials said. The Los Angeles Police Department first received a call about an assault with a deadly weapon at 12:52 a.m. at Seventh Street and Rampart Boulevard, an agency spokesperson told KTLA. Officers and the Los Angeles Fire Department descended on the scene at Silver Platter, a bar just a few blocks away from MacArthur Park. According to LAPD, two people became involved in a heated conversation when one of them pulled out a gun and fired at the other. The victim, a man in his early 30s, was taken to the hospital in critical condition, police said. The shooter fled and was last seen heading west on Seventh Street toward Hoover Street, officials said. LAPD described him as a Hispanic man in his late 30s who has tattoos on his neck. He was wearing a white shirt and white pants, according to investigators.

LAPD Working To Determine If Homeless Community Was Target In Suspicious Device Investigation
Los Angeles police are working to determine if the homeless community was targeted after several objects resembling explosive devices were discovered on and near a construction site for a new housing facility in Venice. Authorities are asking the public for help identifying anyone who may have been involved in placing these suspicious devices at the scene, witnessed suspicious activity, or have any video evidence that may help investigators. The first objects were found in the area of Sunset Avenue and Main Street at about 5:30 p.m. Jan. 2. Through the course of the investigation, more suspicious devices were located in the vicinity, LAPD says. All of the objects were found on and near the construction site of a new Bridge Home facility leading authorities to believe the suspect or suspects responsible for leaving the suspicious devices there may have possibly been targeting the new housing project or the homeless community. All of the objects were deemed safe and removed from the area. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to call the LAPD's Major Crimes Division at 213-486-7280.
FOX 11

Sherman Oaks Man Arrested, Accused Of Killing His 2 Kids' Mother In Front Of Them On New Year's Eve
A Sherman Oaks man who allegedly gunned down the mother of their two children in front of them and wounded her father shortly after midnight New Year's Day in Compton was behind bars on Thursday. Eduardo Ubiarco, 37, was arrested Wednesday afternoon in connection with the shooting that occurred at 12:38 a.m. that day in the 2200 block of West 154th Street, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The woman died at a hospital. Her father remained in critical condition with gunshot wounds to his upper body, sheriff's officials said. The couple's two children were not injured. Ubiarco was being held in lieu of $1 million bail. A possible motive for the shooting had not been released, and the weapon had not been found, sheriff's officials said.
Los Angeles Daily News

2020 Will Be A Big Year For The Gun Issue
There are plenty of reasons to believe that 2020 is poised to be pivotal for the issue of gun violence. Yes, there's that looming election, and all the policymaking power it puts up for grabs. But between now and November, plenty of other storylines will also unspool. From the Supreme Court, we'll get a decision with a wide range of possible implications for state and local gun regulations. Red flag laws are gaining acceptance at the state level, but they could face increasing resistance from far-right extremists. Researchers probing the causes of and possible cures for shootings will welcome an infusion of government funding, even as they lobby for more robust spending. To begin to get a sense of how it all may play out, we asked 13 experts on the policy, politics, and science of gun violence to size up the year to come. 
The Trace

Public Safety News

Woman Found Dead Inside Burned-Out Garage In South Los Angeles
A deadly structure fire in South Los Angeles claimed the life of a 58-year-old woman. The fire erupted just before 2 a.m. Sunday on 42nd Street and Broadway Avenue. The woman appeared to be staying in the vacant garage. When firefighters arrived, the garage was engulfed in flames. After crews extinguished the blaze, they located the body of a woman inside. The location of the fire had sold a few months ago and was expected to be torn down, according to area residents. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. “We're still working with LAPD, our partners at LAPD and the Arson-Counter Terrorism Unit, to investigate any witnesses who may know her, how long she may be staying here, cause at this point, we are not real sure of how long she may have been here,” said Capt. Cody Weireter of the LAFD.

Unconscious Woman Pulled From Burning Home In L.A.'s Exposition Park
A woman was hospitalized in serious condition after she was overcome by smoke in a burning home in Exposition Park and then rescued and resuscitated by firefighters on Friday night, officials said. The fire was first reported shortly before 9:30 p.m. at a single-story duplex in the 2000 block of Browning Boulevard, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey. “Despite the presence of an apparently functional smoke alarm within the premises, the adult female occupant collapsed unconscious within the heavily smoke-charged residential duplex prior to LAFD arrival and was rescued by Firefighters, who commenced an aggressive resuscitation effort,” Humphrey said in a written statement. The woman's condition was initially described as critical, but later upgraded to serious. No other injuries were reported, Humphrey said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

Local Government News

L.A. To Curb Developer Donations, But Some Fear Corporate Contributions Could Mask Source Of Giving
Real estate developers pushing to get new projects approved at Los Angeles City Hall will be banned, under a new law, from giving campaign contributions to the council members vetting their projects. But Los Angeles leaders have held off on another change that critics say is needed: Barring donors from giving through limited liability companies and other business entities that can make it difficult to tell who is donating. Doing so, they argue, would prevent prohibited donors from using LLCs to camouflage their campaign contributions. Banned donors are not legally permitted to give through such entities, but it could be tougher for the city and watchdogs to detect them. Los Angeles allows political donors to give not only as individuals, but also through companies and other groups. But some corporate entities don't have to publicly reveal who owns them, leaving it unclear to the public who is giving the money. In some cases, donors have funneled money through such companies to evade restrictions on campaign contributions.
Los Angeles Times

Metro Announces Street Restoration Project For Little Tokyo, Arts District; Detours Planned
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin an eight-month street restoration project in the area of the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station next week, affecting traffic through Aug. 31. The work is part of the Regional Connector Transit Project, a 1.9-mile underground light-rail extension that will connect the A Line (Blue), the E Line (Expo) and the L Line (Gold) in downtown Los Angeles and will include three new stations at First Street/Central Avenue, Second Street/Broadway and Second Place/Hope Street. Metro officials said the rail line is expected to serve 88,000 riders daily, including 17,000 new riders, and save commuters up to 20 minutes by eliminating the need to transfer between the rail lines. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.
Los Angeles Daily News
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