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In May, four Democratic senators wrote a letter to the Office of Government Ethics probing the Trump administration's supposed "retroactive" waiver exempting Steve Bannon, poster child for White House dysfunction, from certain federal ethics rules. OGE director Walter Shaub had previously dismissed the notion of a "retroactive" ethics waiver; now the office has issued its formal response.

Short version: No, retroactive waivers for ethics violations that have already occurred are still not a thing.

As discussed above, two legal authorities require Mr. Bannon to recuse from certain matters involving his former employer, Breitbart News Network. Paragraph 6 of the ethics pledge under Executive Order 13770 requires him to recuse from particular matters involving specific parties in which this former employer is a party or represents a party. The order also requires him to recuse from any meeting or other communication with his former employer relating to the performance of his official duties, unless the communication applies to a particular matter of general applicability and participation in the meeting (or other event) is open to all interested parties. Mr. Bannon can be excused from these requirements under paragraph 6 if he receives a written waiver, which will become effective when it is signed and not on an earlier date.

So does Mr. Bannon have such a waiver? No. No, he does not. Because the "waiver" the White House presented to nullify ethics claims wasn't even signed.

The waiver is problematic because it is unsigned and undated, and it purports to have “retroactive” effect. These deficiencies are inconsistent with the language of Executive Order 13770. As discussed earlier, the order expressly provides that a waiver is effective only after it has been signed: “A waiver shall take effect when the certification is signed by the President or his designee.” More importantly, the putative retroactivity is inconsistent with the very concept of a waiver, which is to take decisions regarding the appropriateness of an employee’s participation in covered matters out of the employee’s hands. By engaging in a prohibited matter at a time when the appointee does not possess a waiver, the appointee violates the rule. Although the White House may later decide that such a violation does not warrant disciplinary action, the subsequent issuance of a waiver would not change the fact that a violation occurred.

Having the Office of Government Ethics have to patiently explain to a new administration that they cannot violate federal ethics rules and then issue a "retroactive" waiver immunizing themselves from whatever they just did has a rather Alice in Wonderland feel to it, but hang on: the "retroactive waiver" for past sins wasn't just undated—it wasn't even signed?

We have to ask, at this point: Does the purported president even know this waiver was printed out? Is he aware that he theoretically immunized Steve Bannon from ethics violations—or did Steve Bannon just print out a letter supposedly saying so without Donald's knowledge?

In any other administration, the thought that staffers would print out unsigned, undated waivers and ship them off to federal departments to defend themselves from allegations of federal ethics breaches would seem ludicrous. But in this White House? With these staffers? It's entirely possible. It's maybe even more likely than that the letter was unsigned by the president because Steve Bannon never even bothered showing it to him.

In The News / Crystal Griner & David Bailey, Capitol Police Heroes
« on: June 15, 2017, 12:17:22 pm »
Instead of remembering the shooter’s name, let’s remember the names of the Capitol Police heroes who saved so many lives on June 14 at the congressional baseball practice.

Crystal Griner.

David Bailey.

The two police officers’ quick-thinking instinct to confront – and shoot – the gunman was credited with preventing a potential bloodbath of many of the nation’s political elite. Senators. Congressmen. Their staffers. All had gathered – along with children – to practice baseball for an eventual game to benefit charity.

“Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre,” U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., said to MSNBC.

James T. Hodgkinson, a disgruntled former home inspector from Illinois, a man bearing many political grudges, toward Donald Trump, toward Republicans in Congress, showed up toting a rifle. He may not have counted on Griner and Bailey – two armed security officers – being present at such a theoretically open and soft target.

He asked whether Republicans or Democrats were playing. When he learned Republicans were playing, he opened fire apparently indiscriminately, shooting multiple people and sending people scrambling for their lives. That’s when Griner and Bailey sprang into action.

(In the below photo, Bailey is supporting the North Carolina Central University basketball team. They went to the NCAA tournament last year. Bailey graduated from NCCU in 2007, the school confirmed.)

Griner and Bailey were at the game guarding Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, who is the House Whip. Because Scalise is a member of House Leadership, he is entitled to round-the-clock protection from Capitol police that all lawmakers do not automatically get.

Both Griner and Bailey, according to numerous eyewitness reports, shot the gunman before he could do more damage, both being injured as a result. Griner was shot, but is recovering in the hospital, where she and her wife, Tiffany, were given a bouquet of white flowers by President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, according to a White House pool report. Scalise, too, is recovering in the hospital but is in critical condition.

Three others were wounded: Bailey and Zack Barth, a congressional staffer, who do not have life-threatening wounds, and lobbyist Matt Mika, whose wounds are considered serious. All five of those wounded:

Politician after politician, from House Speaker Paul Ryan to Donald Trump, praised the heroics of the two Capitol police officers, without whom there might have been an even greater national tragedy.

Griner is a former standout high school and college athlete. She played basketball at Hood College in Maryland. She studied biology before turning to law enforcement, and in school, she was a gifted academic as well as a multi-sport athlete. She was remembered by one former college classmate as a ferocious competitor. She drew on all those talents on June 14.

Bailey has been working as a United States Capitol Police Officer for over nine years. His LinkedIn page says that as a Capitol Officer, he is “responsible for the protection of Members of Congress, Officers of Congress, and their families as expanded by statute to the entire United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia.” As part of his job, Bailey also prevents, detects, and investigates criminal acts and enforces traffic regulations. His page reveals that he was an administrator at the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Falls Church, Virginia, from 2005 to 2008. Bailey, as with Griner, is 32.

An evangelical leader who once said that Obama paved the way for the Antichrist now says it’s time to stop the “demonization of public officials.”

However, he doesn’t believe those previous comments against Obama constitute “demonization.”

Dallas-based pastor Robert Jeffress made the request via Twitter after hearing about the gunman who opened fire on several Republican lawmakers Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia.

Jeffress, who preached a sermon for Trump before his inauguration, elaborated on the statement in a blog post:

The incident also highlights the fact that the unrelenting demonization of our legitimately elected political leaders could lead to tragedy, and I refer particularly to the mainstream media, our universities, and to Hollywood. Now is the time to tone it all down, embrace real tolerance, report objectively and stop provoking our nation to conflict.
Jeffress’ suggestion to not demonize elected officials sounds well and good, but it could be argued that he did just that in his 2014 book, “Perfect Ending,” in which he made a connection between the Antichrist and Obama’s support of LGBT rights:

For the first time in history a president of our country has openly proposed altering one of society’s (not to mention God’s) most fundamental laws: that marriage should be between a man and a woman. While I am not suggesting that President Obama is the Antichrist, the fact that he was able to propose such a sweeping change in God’s law and still win reelection by a comfortable margin illustrates how a future world leader will be able to oppose God’s laws without any repercussions.
Jeffress also linked Obama to the Antichrist in a 2012 sermon, but he insisted he wasn’t claiming that Obama is the Antichrist or not a Christian.

“But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist,” he said.

Although saying a president is setting up the world for the Antichrist might seem like an obvious attempt at demonization, Jeffress doesn’t agree.

“I was clear that Obama was not the Antichrist, and that I continue to pray for him,” he told HuffPost. “There was no call for violence or a belief that he was an illegitimate candidate. I believe God put him in office.”

Jeffress also said he isn’t asking people to stop criticizing politicians they disagree with.

“I believe in the First Amendment,” he said. “But we shouldn’t associate it with violence.”

Feel The Funk / Chamillionaire Wants to Be a Chabillionaire
« on: June 15, 2017, 12:11:05 pm »
The 35-year-old gave up rap in order to become a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. We visited him to see how it was working out.

It’s a sunny afternoon in Santa Monica, and the Houston rapper Chamillionaire is making himself comfortable in an airy conference room where piles of money are routinely doled out and negotiated over. We’re on the fourth floor of the temporary offices for Upfront Ventures, an investment firm valued at $280 million. If you look outside you can see palm trees poking up in the distance and the blue spread of the Pacific Ocean beyond that. Cham’s sitting in a swivel chair, resting his elbows on a frosted-glass table, angling forward as he explains to me the difference of being “rich” vs. being “wealthy.”

“I walked around the music industry for a bunch of years, right? I saw a lot of rich people. I didn’t see wealthy,” he tells me. “I got into the tech industry, I see wealthy every day. The Snapchat CEO is 24 years old and a billionaire. How many billionaires do I have to walk around the music industry to find? I’m in Silicon Valley, I’m in L.A., I’m in Santa Monica, and I’m seeing billionaires all over the place. And they’re young. That’s not in the music industry.”

Right now, the 35-year-old born Hakeem Seriki is rich. But he’s aiming to get wealthy. That’s what brought him to Upfront Ventures. Since March he’s been heading here every week—alongside his producer Nsilo Reddick—to serve as the firm’s new “Entrepreneur in Residence.” In the world of venture capitalism, an “EIR” is a relatively loose, informal and temporary position—basically an opportunity for an entrepreneur to work with an investment team and get some capitalist know-how as they plot out their next project. In Cham’s case, he says he doesn’t have specific office hours; he’s free to come and go as he pleases. Mostly he just sits in on meetings and takes notes as leaders of various companies and start-ups come in to this very conference room we’re sitting in to pitch their ideas to Upfront’s partners—with the hopes of walking away with a term sheet promising anywhere from $1 to $10 million in seed money.

The experience has been quite an educational one for the 35-year-old big name of the mid-00s Houston rap explosion, who’s otherwise known as King Koopa. Though he declines to name who’s been coming in, Cham says visitors include scientists, Ivy League graduates, people who have brilliant ideas and “people who are just winging it.” Essentially it’s a grab bag of people touting projects Upfront might be interested in getting a piece of—something that could prove to be a total flop, or could just as well end up as the next Uber or Snapchat.

“There are people that are doing things that I would’ve never even thought possible,” says Cham, who’s giving his first interview about the EIR since it was announced in February. “To be in the midst of that is just amazing to me. Coming up as a rap artist, man, I come from a world where people couldn’t just walk into a room and just get all this money. You had to be a rapper or a basketball player and you had to be exceptionally great at that.”

So, uh, why exactly is Chamillionaire chilling with VCs these days? The answer is simple—money. Also, power, influence and equity. He’s dunzo with the traditional workings of the music industry. In recent years he’s seen the tech world swoop in and take major chunks of the pie with companies like Apple and Spotify, and now he wants his cut. Yep, Chamillionaire has seen the road to becoming a Chabillionaire, and it’s paved in tech dollars.

“Your Facebook page you’re posting all on—how much money are they making off your page? Do you know?” he says. He’s looking understated but fresh in a black hoodie, chunky diamond earrings and long gold chain. “Most people don’t know, or don’t care to know. I’m one of the people that kinda wants to know.”

Cham has always been a business-minded fellow, but he’s come a long way over the years. He got his start on legendary Houston label Swishahouse in the 1990s, roving from city to city, record store to record store, and selling mixtapes out of his Ford Excursion. He eventually left Swishahouse and in 2002 he got on the national rap radar with he and Paul Wall’s Get Ya Mind Correct, a loving ode to candy paint, swangers, romance and $$$$$. But he really made it big when he signed to Universal and dropped his 2005 major label debut, The Sound of Revenge. In it Cham showed off his melodic hooks and crisp, agile rapping style, and also his taste for ambition, bringing in violins and other live instruments to fill out the album’s bombastic production.

And then of course there’s “Ridin’,” the album’s hit single, which bagged Cham a Grammy, broke ringtone-sales records and blew up across the globe with its anthemic message against police harassment. The song feels as resonant as ever amidst all of the police brutality and their unjust killings in the news today, and hammering the unjustness of it all home is the fact that Cham was never riding dirty in the first place—he doesn’t even drink or smoke.

“That song wasn’t even about me, honestly. I put myself in the shoes of other people. I was thinking about all the things that people have said, and why hasn’t nobody said this?” he says. “Even if you’re doing nothing, you could be a college student, whatever, and the police officer’s just looking like they think you’re doing something wrong. And it’s like, ‘Where’s the theme song for this?’”

He’s been quieter on the musical front in more recent years. He cut his ties with Universal in 2011, sick of being kept in the dark about important decisions related to his music. Since then his output has been limited to lower-profile EPs and mixtapes, and he seems to be in no rush to drop his long-awaited third album, Poison. That doesn’t mean he’s been slacking, though. He wants to make a music video for each of the album’s songs, and in 2011 he even flew to Baghdad to film one, collecting footage of gold toilets and man-made lakes in Camp Victory, the Saddam-era palace-turned-U.S. military base that has since been turned over to the Iraqi government.

“I got to drive a tank,” he says. He isn’t wearing his glittery grill of years past and shows off his pearly whites when he flashes a grin. “It was super intense.”

These days makes music mostly for himself and to keep his rhymes sharp, as he focuses more of his time to studying tech and venture capital. His interest began in the late-’00s when he started going to tech conferences, and after meeting a partner at Upfront Ventures in 2009, he moved into doing advising for start-ups and making investments. So far it seems to have done him well. Last year, one of the companies he gave money to, the online video network Maker Studios, was acquired by Disney for $500 million—with a promise of another $450 million if the company makes financial advances. He declined to say how much of a cut he made, but he says he expects to make way more money doing this than he did as a rapper.

At Upfront Ventures, he’s been paying close attention to how the partners deliberate over pitches and decide whom to invest in. There’s no set deadline for how long his residency will last, but they’re usually about six months, and by the end he hopes to have developed a winning pitch and get the financing to launch a start-up of his own.

“I don’t want to be the guy that’s sitting here, calling somebody and telling them their dream,” he says, explaining that he wants to do more than just advising and investing. “I want to be in the seat of the founder.”

He doesn’t have a solid plan yet, and there’s no guarantee that whatever he does come up will equal big success. A week after our interview, Jay Z’s own startup, the “artist owned” Tidal service, saw a devastating drop in popularity, falling off the top-700 iPhone app download charts.

But Cham is optimistic. In addition to sitting in on pitch meetings, he’s been having meetings of his own, telling friends about venture capital and entrepreneurship. He wants to spread the word that artists no longer have to bend the knee to major labels. With the right investments and ideas, they can claim ownership for themselves.

“When I was in Iraq, I was like, ‘OK, rap got me here.’ I’ll always keep that in my mind and realize that rap is what got me into this venture capital firm. Rap got me out of the hood. Rap got me out of Houston and helped me to see the world,” Chamillionaire says, sitting in the Upfront Ventures pitch room. “But now that I’ve seen the world and I see so much, I’m just on this mission to let everybody else know—especially my peers in the music industry—about what’s happening over here.”

She keeps it real! Rising star.

Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, was cut off by Republican senators on Tuesday as she questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the latest high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in its investigation into Russian election interference.

Ms. Harris, a former prosecutor, employs a rapid-fire questioning pace more commonly seen in courtrooms — a style that at times has her interrupting witnesses, which is frowned upon in the Senate, where decorum is still prized. But the moments were notable as the second time in a week that Ms. Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent and is the only minority woman on the committee, was interrupted by two male colleagues during a hearing.

Last Wednesday, Ms. Harris was interrupted by Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the committee, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, as she tried to question the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein. On Tuesday, the two again interjected as she questioned Mr. Sessions over his role as campaign surrogate for President Trump and contact with Russian officials.

“I’m not able to be rushed this fast,” a visibly flustered Mr. Sessions said to Ms. Harris at one point. “It makes me nervous.”

When Ms. Harris then pressed Mr. Sessions on a Justice Department policy he cited as his rationale for not answering questions, Mr. McCain spoke up.

“Chairman,” Mr. McCain said, “the witness should be allowed to answer the question.”

Mr. Burr responded: “Senators will allow the chair to control the hearing. Senator Harris, let him answer.”

Several observers saw a case of sexism, and some suggested possible racial undertones.

Supporters of Ms. Harris compared the episode to the exchange last week, when Mr. Burr and Mr. McCain admonished her for not affording Mr. Rosenstein the time to answer a question.

Ms. Harris was asking whether Mr. Rosenstein would give unlimited authority to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed in May to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, when Mr. Burr and Mr. McCain interjected.

“The chair is going to exercise the right to allow the witnesses to answer the question, and the committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy — which has not been extended all the way across — extend the courtesy for questions to get answered,” Mr. Burr said at the time.

Asked to comment on Tuesday’s exchanges, a spokesman for Ms. Harris pointed to her Twitter account: “It’s unacceptable that Sessions — the top law enforcement official in the country — cannot name his legal basis for evading questions,” she wrote.

Democratic senators and left-leaning supporters have pounced on the opportunity to argue against these high-drama exchanges, often turning them into Twitter gold.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, endured the spotlight in February when she was cut off by a Republican: “Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being ‘courteous’ enough is just unbelievable,” Ms. Warren tweeted last Wednesday. “Keep fighting, Kamala! #NeverthelessShePersisted”


Nevadans will find out this week whether their state will become the first in the country to allow anyone to buy into Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor and disabled.

Earlier this month, Nevada's legislature, where Democrats hold the majority, passed a "Medicaid-for-all" bill, and it's now on Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval's desk awaiting his signature or veto. If he does not act by Friday, it will automatically become law.

State lawmakers hope the proposal will give Nevadans a cheaper health insurance option as premiums for individual health insurance rise. The move comes as Republicans in the U.S. Congress are working to roll back the expansion of Medicaid that happened under President Barack Obama.

"With the uncertainty and mixed messages coming from our current federal administration in regard to health care and health care accessibility, there is an absolute need for states to become more reliant on providing insurance options to its citizens," said Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, who sponsored the bill.

Under the proposal, Medicaid coverage would be offered alongside commercial insurance on Nevada's state-run health exchange starting in 2019. Sprinkle says he's not sure what the coverage would cost. The state would conduct an analysis of the Medicaid program to determine the size of premiums.

They would likely be lower than traditional insurance premiums, because Medicaid reimburses doctors less than most insurance plans and also pays lower prices for prescription drugs.

"If the expansion goes away, I really think this is going to be a viable option for those who lose coverage," Sprinkle says. He estimates about 300,000 Nevadans may enroll.

He says that if the Republican health care bill becomes law, people could use the tax credits in the bill to buy into Medicaid. And if it doesn't, they could still use their tax credits and subsidies from the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to buy in.

To be able to sell policies on the exchange, Nevada would have to get approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the form of a waiver. Sprinkle says he has had discussions with CMS officials who were open to the idea.

CMS administrator Seema Verma has said she wants to allow states to experiment with their Medicaid programs and make it easier for them to get waivers.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting turned chaotic in Phoenix this week over a resolution that condemned white supremacy and the alt-right. On Tuesday, leaders initially declined to consider the proposal submitted by a prominent black pastor in Texas, Dwight McKissic, and only changed course after a significant backlash. On Wednesday afternoon, the body passed a revised statement against the alt-right. But the drama over the resolution revealed deep tension lines within a denomination that was explicitly founded to support slavery.

A few weeks before the meeting was slated to start, McKissic published his draft resolution on a popular Southern Baptist blog called SBC Voices. The language was strong and pointed.

It affirmed that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.” It identified this “toxic menace” as white nationalism and the alt-right, and urged the denomination to oppose its “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.” It claimed that the origin of white supremacy in Christian communities is a once-popular theory known as the “curse of Ham,” which taught that “God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos” and was used as justification for slavery and segregation. The resolution called on the denomination to denounce nationalism and “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

Submitting the proposal was just the first step, though. Every resolution up for consideration has to pass through a committee, which chooses whether or not proposals will be heard by the full meeting body. And the resolutions committee decided not to move McKissic’s proposal forward.

“We were very aware that on this issue, feelings rightly run high regarding alt-right ideology,” said Barrett Duke, the head of the resolutions committee, in an interview on Wednesday morning. “We share those feelings … We just weren’t certain we could craft a resolution that would enable us to measure our strong convictions with the grace of love, which we’re also commended by Jesus to incorporate.” The resolutions committee did not reach out to McKissic ahead of the meeting to work on a revised version of the resolution, Duke said.

Southern Baptist leaders sat through a long series of meetings on Tuesday afternoon. They affirmed a number of standard proposals about their beliefs and practices, and even approved a resolution calling for moral character in public officials—a nearly exact replica of a resolution passed during the Clinton years at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The not-so-veiled jab at President Trump went through quietly, despite conflicts in the denomination over the election. The peace was short-lived, though: Chaos soon broke out over McKissic’s resolution.

If the resolutions committee decides not to hear a proposal, delegates can introduce a motion for reconsideration from the floor. Late on Tuesday afternoon, McKissic went to the mic and moved for additional time to be allotted for the resolution to be heard. Standing among a chatting body of tired pastors, many of whom were already checked out for the day and didn’t realize what was happening, his motion failed—once again, the resolution would not be heard.

All hell broke loose. “The amount of work left to do in ‘evangelical’ (who knows that means any more?) church is staggering,” tweeted Thabiti Anyabwile, a black Southern Baptist pastor who was not at the meeting. “Here’s the largest failing publicly.” He went on:

We must be clear: We live in a time when equivocating on these matters furthers the sin of racism even to violence and death. ...

Any “church” that cannot denounce white supremacy without hesitancy and equivocation is a dead, Jesus denying assembly. No 2 ways about it. …

I’m done. With this Twitter spiel. With “evangelicalism.” With all the racist and indifferent nonsense that passes as “Christian.”

Jackie Hill Perry, a black artist and teacher who has frequently spoken at Southern Baptist events, tweeted that “the decision made at #SBC17 to not denounce white supremacy is hurtful.” Trillia Newbell, a black staffer at the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Commission in Washington, replied, “I’m seriously in tears. What’s going on?!”

“I certainly understand that hurt and anger, because to most people, this would be a no-brainer,” said McKissic in an interview on Wednesday. “Several of the resolutions they endorsed yesterday were just carte blanche things Southern Baptists believe. And so, it becomes a mystery how you can so easily affirm standard beliefs about other things, but we get to white supremacy … and all of a sudden, we’ve got a problem here.”

Meanwhile, alt-right figure Richard Spencer tweeted his support.


About time.

Five Michigan officials, including the head of the state health department, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the crisis over lead poisoning in drinking water in Flint.

The charges are related to the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore, one of a dozen Flint residents who contracted Legionnaires’ disease and died after the city’s water source was changed to save money.

“This is a case where there’s been a wilful disregard of just using ordinary due diligence,” said Todd Flood, special prosecutor for the office of the Michigan attorney general, which is leading the investigation. “I have come to see there are two types of people in this world – those that give a damn, and those that don’t.”

Attorney general Bill Schuette presented the charges as a turning point in the investigation into water contamination in Flint, which has continued for more than a year. He said investigators would now focus on trying 17 officials who face criminal charges.

Flint’s drinking water was tainted with lead and legionella bacteria, investigators said, after a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s water source from the city of Detroit to the Flint river, without taking proper precautions against pipe corrosion.

The change resulted in a legionella outbreak between 2014 and 2015. Roughly 100 people became ill and 12 are believed to have died. Top health officials in the state knew about the outbreak for months, investigators said, but did nothing to warn the public.

“People in Flint have died as a result of the decisions made with those charged to protect the health and safety of those individuals,” said Schuette. “It’s about restoring accountability and trust to the families of Flint.”

Skidmore was described as a “family man” with three sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He worked at General Motors’ Fisher body plant for 37 years.

Republican governor Rick Snyder has not been charged, despite the alleged involvement of his cabinet in suppressing information. Schuette said his team had attempted to interview the governor, without success.

“I know a question I will get today is: ‘Why aren’t you charging Governor Snyder?’” said Schuette. “And I’ve met with some who say I’ve been too hard on the Snyder administration. Well, so be it.”

Seventeen people have been charged in total. The head of the state health department, Nick Lyon, was charged on Wednesdaywith involuntary manslaughter for failing to warn the public about the legionella outbreak. The top medical official, Dr Eden Wells, was charged with misconduct in office for allegedly threatening to withhold funding for a research project after researchers started looking into the legionella outbreak.

Schuette’s office also added manslaughter to charges faced by four people: Michigan department of environment regional supervisor Stephen Busch; state head of drinking water Liane Shekter-Smith; Howard Croft, a former director of public works for Flint; and the emergency manager who ordered the water switch, Darnell Earley.

Lyon and Wells will remain at the state department of health while they await trial. In a statement, Snyder said Lyon was “a strong leader” and added that he and Dr Wells were “instrumental in Flint’s recovery”. The governor also criticized the delay faced by other state officials waiting to go to trial. “This is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.”

“These charges reflect the deaths that occurred,” said Schuette. “I owe that to the citizens of Flint … the moms and dads who wanted to give their kids a cool drink of water [yesterday] – it was 90F – but they didn’t because they were fearful of the water.”

As part of a settlement, a judge recently ordered Michigan to set aside $97m to replace lead lines in Flint, as the city attempts to rebuild. As Schuette noted: “Many families still drink, cook and bathe only with bottled water.”

"Some motherf--kers are always trying to ice-skate uphill."

No one could deliver that line like Wesley Snipes' Blade, the human-vampire hybrid who headlined three movies based on the Marvel Comics character who first appeared in The Tomb of Dracula in 1973. The first film was released in 1998, and unlike most in its genre, Blade had both style and substance. It was a combination that audiences responded to, making it Marvel's first theatrical success. Unfortunately, the film doesn't always get the credit it deserves. Most people thank X-Men (2000) or Spider-Man (2002) for kickstarting the current wave of superhero films, but it was Blade that laid the groundwork and helped rebuild the genre after some fatal blows.
In 1997, comic-book movies were being read their last rites. With the exception of Men in Black, they were box-office bombs, critically panned or both. In that year alone we saw the release of Batman and Robin, Steel and Spawn. Batman and Robin made money ($238.2 million worldwide) but was so embarrassingly bad that Warner Bros. put the franchise on hold for eight years. Meanwhile, Steel and Spawn were financial flops that failed to make an impact.

During this "killing season," a group of producers including Michael De Luca and Peter Frankfurt were already shooting Blade. Most people in their position would have been terrified. If Batman, the biggest superhero at the time, was being shunned, how would Blade survive? Also, two comic-book movies with African-American leads had already proven to be box-office poison. Blade was coming to the plate with two strikes against it. How could it avoid the fate of its predecessors?

First and foremost, Blade wasn't a flash-in-the-pan pitch. According to Frankfurt, the film was originally conceived in 1992 after he wrapped production on the urban drama Juice (which famously starred Tupac Shakur). "I said to Marvel before I called New Line, 'Don't you have any African-American heroes? Any characters that we can make a movie?' They responded with, 'Yeah, we've got Blade. It's kind of a midlevel character. He had a couple of comics that he was on the cover, but mostly he's a secondary character. He's kind of cool. He likes jazz.'"

Blade was everything De Luca and Frankfort were looking for. De Luca had an option on it for New Line, and they'd found the perfect writer for it in David S. Goyer. Everything was starting to fall into place. But their small comic-book movie slowly turned into a blockbuster. "We knew that it was going to be way too expensive," Frankfurt recalled. "So when I handed in the script to Mike I said, 'You might be upset about this, OK? This is not gonna be a $3 million movie like Juice. But if you don't like it, we can always take stuff out.' He takes it for the weekend and calls back on Monday and goes, 'I love it! It's insane.'"

That type of enthusiasm and trust is what made Blade such a creative triumph. At the end of the day, they just wanted to make a good comic-book movie. After seeing how intense the material was, their goal was to cast a black action superstar, someone who could really embody the role. There was only one name that stuck out: Wesley Snipes. Like everyone else, Snipes was invested in the film's quality. Not only was he the star, but he was also a producer and fight choreographer. If there's one thing Snipes loves more than acting, it's probably martial arts. Blade allowed him to dabble in both.

They spent years looking for the right director and found him in the most unlikely candidate. "We'd seen this movie Death Machine, by this young guy named Steve Norrington. It was amazing. It was made for no money. It didn't make a whole lot of sense narratively, but just the energy of it and the craft of it was really impressive," Frankfurt explained. "It had this kind of crazy velocity. It had some really fabulous action beats in it. So I met him, and he was like P.T. Barnum in a room ... Lynn Harris was the executive shepherding at New Line, and she met him and was like, 'I like this guy. He's crazy, but he could be great.' I got him in a lunch with Wesley, Wesley's like, 'OK.' And then that was it."

After five years and multiple meetings, they finally got Blade into production. But it happened to be at a time when the comic-book genre was imploding. Frankfurt took note of the grim landscape. "I was concerned," he said. "Mike De Luca produced both Steel and Spawn, but he wasn't concerned. He just said, 'Make the best movie you can.' The wonderful thing about working with New Line is that they gave you plenty of rope. You could completely screw it up, or you could make something great. But they weren't going to interfere."

These days, a studio keeping their distance sounds like a foreign concept. But their faith paid off when De Luca saw the first cut of Blade. The producer had a visceral reaction, which turned out to be a good sign. "He was sitting behind me in the screening room, and he had his feet up on the back of my chair. I could feel him kicking and pushing. He was totally into it. The lights came up and he was like, 'Oh my God. This movie is like triple NC-17. We might have to pull it back in a few places, but it's f--king awesome. Just keep doing what you're doing.'"

Blade was released Aug. 21, 1998, and no one expected it to be a hit. It happened to open a week after one of the most hailed films of all time. "The movie came out the second weekend of Saving Private Ryan. And it opened at number one. It knocked Private Ryan off number one. Everybody was like, 'What? Are you kidding?'" Frankfurt exclaimed, "Everybody was shocked, like, 'What is this movie that knocked Private Ryan off?!' And then it held its second weekend, which was unheard of for an urban movie. Usually they just flame out like a horror movie does. Other people were like, 'Oh, it's a horror movie.' Everybody was trying to figure out what it was."

Blade was a game changer. It was only the second Marvel-based film to receive a wide theatrical release (behind Howard the Duck), and it earned more than $131 million worldwide. Even though Marvel didn't have much to do with the production, they can't ignore what it accomplished. "I think they as well as most acknowledge that it was the first movie that kind of presented a comic-book hero in a fresh way. It made people, especially young people, pay attention and say, 'Oh wow, this could actually be cool. This could actually be something that I'd want to watch.'"

Was Blade perfect? No. But it was a solid entry in the genre, and it helped revive the lucrative industry you see today. It's ironic that the film is Marvel's unsung hero. Like Blade himself, it doesn't get the most shine, but it still thrives, even in the shadows.

When reproductive endocrinologist John Zhang introduced a new in vitro fertilization technique at a medical conference in China in 1997, the audience responded with snickers and modest applause. “[They] told me my head was in the clouds,” Zhang recalls.

Twenty years later, Zhang, 53, made headlines when his team announced the delivery of the world’s first “three-person” baby using a version of the procedure known as mitochondrial replacement therapy, similar to the method that he had discussed in 1997. The infant carries DNA not only from his mother and father but also from a female donor. The procedure spared the baby from inheriting a deadly neurological disorder from his mother, stemming from a genetic mutation in the cells’ “energy factories,” or mitochondria. One day, MRT could prevent a number of mitochondrial diseases, or treat infertility more broadly by boosting an egg’s chances of leading to a pregnancy.

But the technique also raises thorny ethical questions due to Zhang’s bypassing the oversight that typically regulates research on human subjects at American hospitals and universities. Since MRT isn’t approved in the United States, Zhang’s team carried out the procedure in Mexico. In addition, the safety of the procedure has been called into question, in part because MRT transfers some of the mother’s mutation-harboring mitochondria — mutation levels that could increase over time.

If proved safe and effective, MRT could prevent a host of incurable, often fatal diseases resulting from mutations in the DNA. Affecting 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S., mitochondrial diseases can cause impaired growth, seizures, deafness and other serious health problems. To understand how MRT works, Zhang says, think of a mother’s egg as a nucleus, or yolk — housing the vast majority of her DNA — surrounded by the egg white, which contains mitochondria. MRT plucks the yolk from the mother’s egg and transfers it to a donor egg whose yolk has been removed, leaving only the white. The result: an egg combining nuclear DNA from the birth mother and healthy mitochondrial DNA from the donor, to be fertilized with the father’s sperm.

Some scientists refer to Zhang as “a maverick,” says Martin Johnson, professor emeritus of reproductive sciences at the University of Cambridge, who co-authored the editorial accompanying Zhang’s paper. Zhang’s pioneering work on MRT has spurred other efforts to create “three-person” babies and, says Johnson, helped encourage the U.K. to approve MRT, the only country to do so.

Still wearing his doctor’s coat after rushing from the clinic, Zhang Skypes from his chic, all-white Manhattan office, not far from where he lives with his wife and three children. His responses would seem brusque, even boastful, if not for his impish smile and goofy dad humor. He grew up in Hangzhou, China, “a very pretty city that produces silk, tea and smart people,” he jokes. Seeing hopeful couples visit his mother’s fertility clinic year after year, Zhang felt called to the same profession. After graduating from Zhejiang University School of Medicine, he earned a Ph.D. in IVF from the University of Cambridge in 1991.

Shortly before starting a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at New York University, Zhang gave his infamous talk in China. In the audience was embryologist Hui Liu, who was sufficiently impressed that he left the Chinese Academy of Sciences to collaborate with Zhang. At Sun Yat-sen University, they conducted the first human trial of pronuclear transfer, a form of MRT in which both the mother’s and donor’s eggs are fertilized with the father’s sperm before swapping out their nuclei. Although their client became pregnant, her twins didn’t live to term.

Meanwhile, Zhang was gearing up to open New Hope Fertility Center in Manhattan. After being ridiculed by the scientific community, he explains, “Nobody wanted to hire me, so I had to figure out how to make a living.” His charismatic personality appealed to patients, and it didn’t hurt that the clinic attracted celebrity clients who spread the word, says a New Hope spokesperson. (Last year, Forbes listed New Hope as the second-busiest clinic in the country.)

In 2011, a Jordanian couple sought Zhang’s help. They had given birth to two children, both of whom died of a syndrome that can cause nervous system abnormalities. Genetic testing revealed the mother carried the disease in her mitochondrial DNA. Pronuclear transfer would destroy two embryos, which went against the couple’s Muslim faith, so Zhang turned to another form of MRT, called spindle nuclear transfer, which bypasses the sticky ethics of discarding parts of fertilized eggs. After the procedure showed promising results in mice, Zhang and his team treated the couple, conducting the transfer in New York and implanting the embryo in Guadalajara. The couple gave birth to a son in April 2016.

Most mitochondrial researchers justify MRT as a means for women carrying mitochondrial diseases to deliver healthy children, writes Lisa Ikemoto, who teaches bioethics at the UC Davis School of Law, in an email to OZY. But using mitochondrial replacement to improve fertility rather than to prevent disease, “changes the issues,” she notes — there’s insufficient evidence that it’s the safest or most effective way to become a parent.

Ikemoto also worries that Zhang’s work might spur other U.S. scientists to conduct research that circumvents federal regulations. In December 2015, Congress passed a statute banning the Food and Drug Administration from considering applications for research on humans involving a human embryo with a heritable genetic modification. “It was basically done at the end of the year in the middle of the night,” with little public consultation, says Josephine Johnston, director of research at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute. “It’s an example of Congress trying to prevent a type of scientific research.”

Zhang welcomes the debate as “healthy,” but he’d rather identify MRT’s risks than avoid them altogether. “If this technology is possible, we must perfect it and use it to save lives,” he says. And he’s begun exploring the use of MRT for “egg rejuvenation” — improving egg quality in older women, for example — despite criticism from Ikemoto and others who think it’s too early to expand the technique’s use. “I always go against the stream,” Zhang says. Those waves have already rippled through the medical community; where they’ll break remains to be seen.

Appearing as a guest on Meet the Press, MSNBC host joy Reid shot down a Wall Street Journal columnist who claimed she saw nothing wrong with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s attempt to set up a backchannel communication link between the White House and the Kremlin.

According to columnist Kimberly Strassel, the fact that there are concerns about Kushner’s actions is nonsense.

“I think we are having a discussion that is absolutely divorced from reality,” Strassel began. “Let me set the scene for you — it’s 2008, we’re having an election, and candidate Obama, he’s not even president-elect, sends William Miller over to Iran and establish a backchannel and let the Iranians know, should he win the election, they’ll have friendlier terms. This is a private citizen going to a foreign country with a sworn enemy of the United States. Is that bad judgment? Is that a bad thing that happened?”

Reid jumped in to “set the scene” for Strassel about Kushner by explaining the “key difference.”

“In October, months before this latest meeting, and it was one of 18 separate contacts that we now know of between the Trump campaign and Russia, our primary adversary in the world, the collective judgment of the 17 intelligence agencies was that Russia had been taking active measures in our election,” Reid began.

“So in December the now-president-elect decides he’s going to name Jim Mattis as our Secretary of Defense but he doesn’t open a backchannel,” Reid continued. “He sends his real estate developer son-in-law, or the real estate developer son-in-law decides to open a backchannel — and it isn’t a backchannel. You don’t go to the adversary country and say, ‘Let’s set something up inside of your secure facility, we’ll set it up in your secure facility,’ which even takes them aback. Then if it’s a channel about opening up negotiations in terms of something about foreign policy, why are they also backchanneling with a bank, a Kremlin-connected Russian bank?”

“We don’t know the answer to any of those questions,” Strassel protested.

Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes jumped in to tell Strassel, “You have to follow the money, you have to follow the lies, attempts to derail this investigation.”

“We don’t have any of that information,” Strassel demurred.

“The reality is that Jared Kushner and the Trump administration apparently trusted the Russians more than the intelligence community,” Sykes shot back. “How can this not be suspicious?”

Strassel attempted to blame the Obama administration, saying they couldn’t be trusted, only to have Reid step back in.

“In December the election was over,” Reid lectured. “In this country we have a continuity of government. We hand over peacefully power from one party to another. Are you telling me the now-elected Trump administration didn’t trust John Brennan, that the straight arrow guys in the intelligence community were going to now work to undermine them? Are they now seeing them as a dissidents? That has never happened in the history of the United States.”

Watch the video below via MSNBC:

Vox Populi / Donald Trump: The Gateway Degenerate
« on: May 31, 2017, 05:20:34 am »
Last week, when voters in Montana elected Greg Gianforte to fill the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, even after he was recorded in a physical altercation with a reporter, many Americans — like me — were left to look on in astonished bewilderment.

There was an audio recording of the altercation. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, says Gianforte body-slammed him while he was simply doing his job, asking questions on the eve of the election. Gianforte’s camp issued a bogus statement basically blaming Jacobs for the incident, but that statement was not at all backed up by the audio.

There were witnesses. A Fox News crew was there, and as Fox’s Alicia Acuna wrote of the altercation:

“Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ ”

She added: “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

In a statement, the local sheriff’s department “determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault.” Gianforte has to appear in court June 7 to answer the charge.

Continue reading the main story

Charles M. Blow
Politics, public opinion and social justice.
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Eric Pierson 1 day ago
Robert Coane 1 day ago
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And yet, as The New York Times reported, “Voters here shrugged off the episode and handed Republicans a convincing victory.”

Three of the largest daily papers in Montana were aghast and withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte. But Republicans in Congress didn’t possess that courage of conviction. Their collective response essentially amounted to, “Eh.”

Other notably notorious Republicans went further. Babbling Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center wrote on Twitter:

“Jacobs is an obnoxious, dishonest first class jerk. I’m not surprised he got smacked.”

Interestingly enough, Bozell commented on Fox about Donald Trump’s hostile relationship to the media, saying: “What Donald Trump is saying is, ‘If you hit me unfairly, I’m going to knock your teeth out.’ And that’s what he’s been doing.”

This rhetoric is overheated, violent and dangerous.

The detestable radio host Laura Ingraham wrote in a couple of Twitter posts:

“Politicians always need to keep their cool. But what would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man?”

And: “Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?”

Outrageous. Assault is not a game. It’s not a joke. It’s criminal. Any moral person would know better than to treat it so cavalierly. A moral person wouldn’t make a joke; that person would take a stand.

But Republicans in the age of Trump have sadly moved away from morality as a viable concept.

Yes, Gianforte’s assault is a glaring display of toxic masculinity in an environment made particularly toxic by the man in the White House and his media bullying. But more telling and more ominous is the degree to which Republicans no longer seem to care, and their increasing ability to compartmentalize and justify.

This is all an outgrowth of Trump’s degradation of common decency. Trump was the gateway candidate. When Republicans allowed themselves to accept and support him in spite of his glaring flaws and his life lived in opposition to the values they once professed and insisted upon, they moved themselves into another moral realm in which literally nothing was beyond the pale.

Read more

Vox Populi / Trump’s Energy, Low and Dirty
« on: May 31, 2017, 05:19:43 am »
Donald Trump has two false beliefs about energy, one personal, one political. And the latter may send the world on a path to disaster.

On the personal side, Trump reportedly disdains exercise of any kind except golf. He believes that raising a sweat depletes the finite reserves of precious bodily fluids, I mean energy, that a person is born with, and should therefore be avoided.

Many years of acting on this belief may or may not explain the weird and embarrassing scene at the G-7 summit in Taormina, in which six of the advanced world’s leaders strolled together a few hundred yards through the historic city, but Trump followed behind, driven in an electric golf cart.

More consequential, however, is Trump’s false belief that lifting environmental restrictions — ending the supposed “war on coal” — will bring back the days when the coal-mining industry employed hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Americans.

Continue reading the main story

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How do we know that this belief is false? For one thing, coal employment began falling long before anyone was talking much about the environment, let alone global warming. In fact, coal jobs fell by two-thirds between 1948 and 1970, the year the Environmental Protection Agency was founded. This happened despite rising, not falling, coal production, mainly reflecting the replacement of old-fashioned pick-and-shovel mining with strip-mining and mountaintop removal, which require many fewer workers.

It’s true that in the past few years coal production has finally begun to fall, in part due to environmental rules. Mainly, however, coal is fading because of progress in other technologies. As one analyst put it last week, coal “doesn’t really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock,” given the rapidly falling costs of cleaner energy sources like natural gas, wind and solar power.

Who was that analyst? Gary Cohn, chairman of the National Economic Council — that is, Trump’s own chief economist. One wonders, however, whether he’s expressed those views — which pretty much represent the consensus among energy experts — to the president.

There was a time, not that long ago, when advocating clean energy was widely considered an impractical, counterculture sort of thing. Hippies on communes might talk about peace, love and solar energy; practical people knew that prosperity was all about digging stuff up and burning it. These days, however, those who take energy policy seriously see a future that belongs largely to renewables — and definitely not a future in which we keep burning lots of coal, let alone employ a lot of people digging it up.

But that’s not what voters from what used to be coal country want to hear. They enthusiastically backed Trump, who promised to bring those coal jobs back, even though his real agenda would punish those voters with savage cuts in programs they depend on. And Trump cares a lot more about public adulation than he does about serious policy advice.

Which brings me back to Trump’s European trip, which was remarkable not for what Trump did but for what he didn’t do.

First, in Brussels, he declined to endorse NATO’s Article 5, which says that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all. In effect, he repudiated the central plank of America’s most important alliance. Why, it was almost as if he’s more interested in appeasing Vladimir Putin than he is in defending democracy.

Then, in Taormina, he was the only leader who refused to endorse the Paris climate accord, a global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions that may be our last good chance to avoid catastrophic climate change. Why?

At this point, claims that trying to limit emissions would cause vast economic harm have lost all credibility: The same technological progress in alternative energy that is marginalizing coal would make the transition to a low-emissions economy far cheaper than anyone imagined a few years ago.

True, such a transition would accelerate the decline in coal. And that’s a reason to provide aid and new kinds of jobs for coal miners.

But Trump isn’t offering coal country real help, just a fantasy about turning back the clock. This fantasy won’t last for long: In a couple of years it will be obvious, whatever he does, that the coal jobs aren’t coming back. But the fantasy won’t even last that long if he goes along with the Paris accord.

So am I suggesting that the world’s most powerful leader might put the whole planet’s future at risk so that he can keep telling politically convenient lies, which will soon be exposed in any case? Yes. If you find this implausible, you must not have been reading the news the past few months.

Now, maybe Trump won’t really pull the plug on Paris; or maybe he’ll be gone from the scene before the damage is irreversible. But there’s a real possibility that last week was a pivotal moment in human history, the moment when an irresponsible leader sent the whole world careening off to hell in a golf cart.

This August marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of comic book artist, writer and editor Jack “King” Kirby. But 2017 would be his year anyway.

Kirby’s Marvel Comics heroes, such as Captain America, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Hulk and Thor, are all over screens large and small. Even his more obscure creations, such as Ego the Living Planet (featured in “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”) and the Inhumans, are starting to surface in mainstream pop culture. Some of Kirby’s New Gods — who many consider a direct influence on “Star Wars” — are expected to appear in DC’s forthcoming “Justice League” movie.

Kirby’s influence on comics is as fundamental as Shakespeare’s on literature. His list of  innovations in the medium stretches from the 1930s to 1980s. His influence is obvious in artists such as Cliff Chiang, Shaky Kane, Steve Rude, Tom Scioli and Walter Simonson, but all comics are at least a little Kirby-esque.

Michael Allred — who’s currently illustrating two series about Kirby characters, “Bug! The Adventures of Forager” and “Silver Surfer” — recently told Comics Beat that Kirby’s influence is “in virtually everything, whether fully realized or not. Much like The Beatles have consciously or unconsciously influenced all pop music since the ’60s.”

Among his career highlights, Kirby co-created the genre of romance comics with Joe Simon. Simon and Kirby also created Captain America, who punched Hitler on the cover of Captain America No. 1, mere months before we entered World War II. Though known best for a bombastic action style and mythological subject matter often involving cosmic beings, Kirby was not bound to any genre. We wrote and drew westerns, crime, war, humor, romance and more.

Some of Kirby’s most striking work involved monster comics in the early 1960s; his Spragg and Groot (later reinvented as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy) must have looked bonkers on the comic shelf when they debuted. Kirby’s sci-fi work in the ’70s was astounding, including a “2001: A Space Odyssey” adaptation that out-cosmic-ed the movie. In the 1980s, Kirby’s “Captain Victory” and “Silver Star” series helped Pacific Comics get off the ground, spurring the creator-owned comics scene that has blossomed today. The story of comics is largely the story of Kirby.

Kirby made his most lasting impact from about 1961 through 1972, going on an astounding run of creativity. In about a decade, the ridiculously prolific and innovative Kirby co-created the Marvel Universe, then moved to DC to create another mythology. This is the work that dominates pop culture today.

At Marvel, Kirby worked with Stan Lee to create just about every significant Marvel hero, villain and concept, from Cosmic Cubes to the planet-eating Galactus. Lee has received disproportionate credit for their work, partly due to a misunderstanding of what the two creators actually did. As Marvel Comics was exploding in the 1960s, Lee had too many comics on his plate to crank out full scripts. So he would come up with short plot summaries and let his two visionary artists — Kirby and Steve Ditko — plot out the issues they illustrated. Lee would then return to fill in the dialogue. Known as “Marvel method” or “Marvel style,” this process created many classic comics. It was also partly responsible for Kirby and Ditko not getting due credit or compensation for their work. Few understood that the illustrators were writing as much, if not more than, the writer.

Frustration with Lee and Marvel led Kirby to jump to DC in 1970, at the height of his considerable powers. The first thing he did at DC was invent a brand-new cosmos: the Fourth World, featuring the New Gods of Apokolips and New Genesis. This sci-fi-infused, Bible-inspired, techno-mythological story surfaced as an interlocking narrative via four separate series. Beyond ambitious, what Kirby offered was decades ahead of its time.

Parts of Kirby’s Fourth World are uncannily like “Star Wars,” which emerged later in the ’70s. Kirby’s main baddie was a stone-faced tyrant named Darkseid (pronounced “dark side,” a favorite “Star Wars” term). Darkseid’s main foe was Orion, a New God who discovers he’s Darkseid’s son. All the New Gods are bound by the Source, which is a hell of a lot like the Force. When you throw in Darth Vader’s resemblance to Dr. Doom, another Kirby creation from back at Marvel, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the Kirby heirs deserve a yearly check from Lucasfilm.

It’s a sad theme of Kirby’s life that this great man, who had to fight his way out of the slums of the Lower East Side and fight Nazis overseas, also had to battle for proper credit and compensation. One of Kirby’s most famous quotes is, “Comics will break your heart,” and they must have broken his, since the corporate entities he enriched so seldom treated him right. Marvel’s mistreatment of Kirby was a particular insult, since Kirby essentially built that company, brick by cosmic brick. That situation has been somewhat remedied for the survivors of Kirby’s family: Marvel settled a 2014 lawsuit with the Kirby heirs that was headed to the Supreme Court. His heirs are finally getting at least some of the wealth their father created.

Yes, we’re surrounded by Kirby’s characters and influence at this moment, but, right now, we could use more people of his character.

It’s easy to imagine that Kirby the person — who died in 1994 — would be appalled by the rise of nationalist, proto-fascist movements around the world (though probably not surprised). Many of his characters and story lines warned against a resurgence of the fascism that Kirby personally fought against in World War II, where he helped liberate a concentration camp and almost lost his feet to frostbite.

Freedom is the common denominator in the extraordinary life of Kirby. As a soldier, he fought for freedom. As a creator, he worked within the suffocating world of corporate-owned comics to create immortal characters and mind-bending artwork that today is featured in gallery shows.

One of Kirby’s signature concepts was the Anti-Life Equation — a powerful MacGuffin pursued by Darkseid. If found, the Anti-Life Equation would allow Darkseid to control everyone in the universe, fulfilling his ugly desire for control. Jack Kirby, through his life and art, fought against such evil on more fronts than just about anyone — a real Captain America.

Destinee Mangum, one of the teenage girls at the center of a stabbing attack in Portland, Oregon, has shared an emotional message of gratitude for the men who died trying to stop a man who was harassing her.

Mangum, 16, was riding a MAX train Friday with a 17-year-old-friend who is Muslim and was wearing a hijab, according to The Oregonian, when a man later identified as Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, allegedly began verbally abusing the two girls.

Two men, Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, intervened on the girls’ behalf and were fatally stabbed. A third man who confronted Christian, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, survived the attack.

In tears, Mangum told Fox affiliate KPTV this weekend that she wanted “to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me, because they didn’t even know me.”

“They lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we looked,” Mangum continued. “I just want to say thank you to them and their family, and I appreciate them, because without them we probably would be dead right now.”

Best and Namkai-Meche have received a wave of tributes from friends, family and strangers describing them as heroes for their selfless action.

“They were attacked because they did the right thing,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Their actions were brave and selfless and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all.”

Christian is known to authorities as a white supremacist and has previously been convicted of several felonies, according to the Portland Mercury. Before the attack, he was “ranting and raving,” Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said.

A witness told KATU-TV that Christian had said to the girls, “Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don’t pay taxes here.”

Mangum shared a similar account with KPTV, saying the man had told them to get out of the country and to “go back to Saudi Arabia.”

“He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves,” she said.

She and her friend had decided to move to a different part of the train because they were scared and then strangers jumped in to stand up to their harasser, Mangum told the news station.

Christian was booked into a local jail Saturday and has been charged with offenses including two counts of aggravated murder, one of attempted murder and two counts of intimidation in the second degree.

The attack occurred shortly before the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and has drawn condemnation as the latest example of anti-Muslim hate in a political climate where Islamophobia is on the rise.

President Donald Trump was silent on the Portland incident initially, but tweeted about it Monday, noting the attacks were “unacceptable” and his prayers were with the victims.

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