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Journal Archives

Tensions rise in federal prisons as weary guards go without pay and work double shifts

Prison guard Brian Shoemaker was patrolling the halls of Lee penitentiary in southwestern Virginia on Friday when an inmate tried to squeeze past him into a restricted area. Seconds after Shoemaker told the prisoner to turn around, the inmate lunged at him, punching him in the shoulder.

Shoemaker did not sustain a major injury. But it did not escape him that he is working without a paycheck at one of the most dangerous federal jobs in America during the partial government shutdown. Fears for his and other prison staff members’ safety are escalating as 16-hour shifts become routine and a growing number of guards call in sick in protest or to work side jobs to pay their bills.

“I don’t think we should be subjected to that kind of thing and not receive a paycheck,” said Shoemaker, 48, a 17-year veteran of Lee penitentiary. “I’m walking in here and doing my job everyday, and it’s very dangerous.”

Shoemaker is one of 36,000 federal prison workers deemed “essential employees” by the U.S. government, which means he is expected to report for work during the shutdown even though he will not get paid until after the government reopens.

Will Republican senators support Trump theft of congressional purse?

Time will tell.

Norovirus outbreak sickens hundreds on cruise ship bound for Jamaica

Miami — One of the world's biggest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, is returning to a Florida port a day early and giving passengers full refunds of their fare after 277 guests and crew members were hit with an outbreak of norovirus as it sailed to Jamaica.

Cruise line spokesman Owen Torres told The Associated Press, "We think the right thing to do is get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health."

He says the ship will return to Port Canaveral on Saturday. It sailed from there Sunday on a seven-day Caribbean cruise.

Passengers took to social media on Wednesday, tweeting they were forced to stay onboard after docking in Falmouth, Jamaica, for what was supposed to be a day of excursions.

Miami airport terminal closing early as screeners call in sick

Miami International Airport is closing a terminal this weekend due to the partial government shutdown because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport's normal rate. The current partial government shutdown became tied for the longest shutdown on record as of Friday.

Friday marks the first day screeners will miss a paycheck, and airport spokesman Greg Chin says there's a concern there won't be enough workers to handle all 11 checkpoints during normal hours over the weekend.

Chin says Terminal G will close at 1 p.m. Saturday, reopen for flights Sunday morning and close again at 1 p.m. that day.

The terminal serves United Airlines along with smaller carriers. Its closure means restaurants and shops that depend on departing flights also will close.

Polyana Principle

A man allegedly tried to steal a woman's cellphone over the weekend, but quickly learned that he chose the wrong person. UFC fighter Polyana Viana, who was waiting for an Uber outside her Rio de Janeiro apartment, reportedly punched and kicked him until police arrived to arrest him. UFC president Dana White tweeted the news with a picture of the bloodied man's face.

Viana was waiting for her car to arrive Saturday night when a man asked her for the time and wouldn't leave her proximity, she described in an interview with the website MMAjunkie Sunday.

"He asked me the time, I said it, and I saw he wasn't going to leave," she said. "So I already moved to put my cell phone in my waist. And then he said, 'Give me the phone. Don't try to react, because I'm armed.' Then he put his hand over (a gun), but I realized it was too soft." It turned out that the "gun" was just a cardboard cut-out.

The 26-year-old strawweight, who made her UFC debut in 2018, followed her instinct and decided to strike first –– the best way she knew how.

The X-Max is back in my garage

It looks great and I noticed only one thing amiss when I rode it home from the repair shop Friday. During reassembly the windshield was attached to the high setting. I will have to remount it to my preferred low setting.

With high temperatures in the 60s the next couple of days I may be riding to work.

Now it is time for a leisurely run around the neighborhood.

That is all.

Trump defends Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, garbling facts in the process

President Trump's lengthy, on-camera cabinet meeting Wednesday touched on a variety of topics, including the funding fight over a border wall, and the impending withdrawal of American troops from Syria. But in a bizarre aside, the president defended the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

"Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan," Mr. Trump said. "The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you're reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan."

The Soviet Union -- which comprised not only Russia, but several other now-independent nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia -- invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and left in 1989. However, contrary to Mr. Trump's claims, Russia was in Afghanistan to spread communism, not fight terrorists. And in the process, Soviet forces waged a brutal campaign that often targeted civilians.

The Soviets invaded Afghanistan as part of a long-term effort to get a warm-water port in what was a longstanding effort to drive south," said Michael Morell, former deputy and acting CIA director and CBS News national security contributor. "It had nothing to do with terrorism."

Leonid Brezhnev would be so proud.

A year of unprecedented deception: Trump averaged 15 false claims a day in 2018

President Trump’s year of lies, false statements and misleading claims started with some morning tweets.

Over a couple of hours on Jan. 2, Trump made false claims about three of his favorite targets — Iran, the New York Times and Hillary Clinton. He also took credit for the “best and safest year on record” for commercial aviation, even though there had been no commercial plane crashes in the United States since 2009 and, in any case, the president has little to do with ensuring the safety of commercial aviation.

The fusillade of tweets was the start of a year of unprecedented deception during which Trump became increasingly unmoored from the truth. When 2018 began, the president had made 1,989 false and misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database, which tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. By the end of the year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency — averaging more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018, almost triple the rate from the year before.

Even as Trump’s fact-free statements proliferate, there is growing evidence that his approach is failing.

A Russian bank gave Marine Le Pen's party a loan. Then weird things began happening.

PARIS — When French politician Marine Le Pen needed cash for her far-right party, an obscure Russian bank agreed to help.

Four years later, the bank has gone bust. The owner is facing a warrant for his arrest. Former Russian military officers are demanding money. And the party’s treasurer is sending off some $165,000 every few months to a woman in Moscow, unsure of where the payments ultimately will go.

The money failed to deliver Le Pen the French presidency in last year’s election, denying the Kremlin a powerful ally in the heart of Europe. Instead, the 9.4 million-euro loan, then worth $12.2 million, dragged her party into the shadowy underworld of Russian cross-border finance, putting it in league with people accused of having ties to Russian organized crime, money laundering and military operations.

The mysterious saga of the loan offers a rare look inside the Russian influence engine, demonstrating how people, companies and networks outside the Kremlin pursue President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aims, often without a centralized plan.

Excellent article. Read all of it.

Gatwick drones: Man and woman from Crawley held

A 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman from Crawley are being questioned in connection with multiple drone sightings that brought Gatwick Airport to a standstill.

Flights were grounded for more than 36 hours when drones were first spotted close to the runway on Wednesday night.

The airport has since reopened and flights were operating on schedule, but there were still long queues and some knock-on delays, a spokesman said.

The pair remain in police custody.
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