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Why Atlantic City is failing and Vegas isn’t

Revel Atlantic City. 2 years old.  Cost $2.7 billion. Closing this weekend.

Revel Atlantic City. 2 years old. Cost $2.4 billion. Closing this weekend.

Atlantic City casinos opened 36 years ago with great hoopla about being an East Coast Vegas. Today, one casino there has already closed and three more will close imminently, leaving Atlantic City economically devastated. Revel is the poster child for the decline and fall. Constructed just two years ago for $2.4 billion, the 57-floor hotel casino has been in bankruptcy twice and will close permanently this weekend. Predictably there are brave plans to repurpose casiona as apartments or condos. But for that to happen, people will want to vacation and live there. Given that crime in the city is very high and tourist atractions like the boardwalk are in dicey areas, this seems unlikely.

From comments on Philly.com.

Vegas is different than AC. People come from all over the world to go to Vegas. AC is circling the drain. Are there parts of Vegas that are ghetto? Sure. In Vegas it’s the exception, in AC it’s the rule.

100% accurate. Forget the surrounding areas for a moment and simply look at the beach and boardwalk. It’s a ghetto. And I don’t mean any particular race. I mean a slum ghetto that families do not want to be around. Including mine.

Tourists in Vegas generally take a short taxi ride from the airport to The Strip or downtown, then stay there. Casinos offer a wide range of attractions other than gambling. Are parts of North Las Vegas dicey? Sure. However vacationers never go there. Instead, mega-scale casinos offer whatever you want, including world-class entertainment. Plus Vegas is a major city for conventions.

As such, gambling has traditionally represented about 80 percent of the 40,000-person [Atlantic City] economy. As Atlantic City is now learning, no city should put all of its eggs in one economic basket. The beleaguered residents of Detroit, once known as Motown for its automobile industry, can attest to the same thing. (It should be noted that while Las Vegas is hardly thriving, it has done a better job of building up non-gambling related industries than Atlantic City. Sin City is now a major destination for conventions and musical performances, for example.)

Also, the Downtown Project in Vegas is successfully helping revitalize the downtown casino area and bring in tech startups. Spearheaded by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, it is investing $350 million into the area.

Downtown Project mission:

Our goal and purpose is to help make downtown Vegas a place of Inspiration, Entrepreneurial Energy, Creativity, Innovation, Upward Mobility, and Discovery, through the 3 C’s of Collisions, Co-learning, and Connectedness in a long-term, sustainable way.

We’ve allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. We’re investing $200 million in real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education, and $50 million in tech startups through the VegasTech Fund.

A key to the continued success of Vegas is, I think, it never stops reinventing itself.

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Horrific child porn Tor site busted by traditional and cyberwar methods

tor

Tor itself may still be technically secure. However, it can’t protect against stupid mistakes or concerted attacks. The FBI used traditional police methods as well as cyberwar techniques to bust a sickening child porn site hosted on Tor where members talked about torturing and killing infants. Tor sites can only be accessed using the Tor browser and are generally considered secure. Except when users make dumb errors, that is.

Timothy DeFoggi was just convicted of three federal child porn charges. Astonishingly he had been cybersecurity director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He probably should have know better than to use a screen name on the child porn site that he used on AOL or to not know that authorities can tell when you are using Tor, even if they don’t know what sites you are accessing.

The crucial break for the FBI came when the site operator accidentally left his admin account unprotected by a password. That gave them access. They then installed drive-by software on the site that infected anyone who accessed it, presumably allowing authorities to track users. And, of course, some of the users were FBI.

The malware that investigators installed remotely on the machines of visitors to PedoBook and McGrath’s other sites was designed to identify the computer’s IP address as well as its MAC address and other identifiers. The results were coordinated raids in April 2013 that swept up more than a dozen suspects.

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Coffee is better with fresh roasted beans. Nesco FreshRoast

nesco-fresh-roast

Home roasted coffee is superior to store-bought because it is so fresh. Coffee loses flavor after being roasted, no matter how carefully it is packaged. Plus, you can control how dark you want the roast with a home roaster. This is important. The darker the roast, the more you taste the roast. The lighter the roast, the more you taste the bean. This distinction is mostly lost on Starbucks, who generally almost burns their beans. Also, lighter roasts have more caffeine!

We were living in an apartment with a tiny interior deck for two years and roasting wasn’t possible there. The roaster is somewhat noisy and the aroma of roasting coffee would pervade the interior deck area. Happily, we are back in a house now and roasting has re-commenced. Roasting should be done outdoors to prevent the possibility of smoke detectors going off.

Sweet Maria’s sells a multitude of carefully graded green coffee beans for $6-7 a pound. I just bought the Nesco FreshRoast SR500 from them for $169. Do the math. Coffee shops generally sell coffee for about $15 a pound, so a home roaster pays for itself quickly. Plus, as mentioned, the coffee tastes way better too.

I’ve owned previous Nesco roasters. The SR500 features several improvements and is dead easy to use. Put 43 grams of green beans in the hopper and set the timer to 5.9 minutes. Push the roast button. It’ll roast the beans using air, similar to how a popcorn popper works. Fan speed, temperature, and timer can be adjusted, so you can do custom roasts. At the end, it does a cool down for a couple of minutes. Wait for everything to cool down before transferring the coffee to a container.

I’m enjoying my first cup of home roasted in two years, a fine Sumatra Peaberry. If you are a coffee aficionado, check out home roasting!

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Collapse of American Exceptionalism. China, Russia openly mock US

capt-america

When China and Russia, the other two superpowers, openly challenge the US to the point of ridicule, then something fundamental has changed in geopolitics. US supremacy as shot-caller in international politics is over. It just is. Deal with it. An new era is emerging. There will be serious blowback at home over this as our fall from dominance accelerates. It’s not just that Obama is so disinterested in world politics he appears comatose. The US public is tired of endless wars that only beget new wars and make things worse. Our ruling class is venal and corrupt, focused primarily on looting the country. It’s time for this country to withdraw a bit from the world stage and clean up its own backyard.

China recently buzzed a US surveillance jet flying close to their borders and then openly mocked US displeasure with this.

“Their various reconnaissance aircraft have been wandering around foreign airspace for decades and watching the military secrets of other countries like a disgusting thief spying over his neighbor’s fence. However, when the neighbor comes back with a big stick, the thief will turn tail and run away, blaming the neighbor

America has lost face and does not want to show the world they are sick. They have been lording over other countries for so long, and they will never let it go after they eat this loss”

The Russia Foreign Ministry is openly questioning whether the US is capable of leading anything or even being coherent when it comes to foreign policy.

“More and more questions are being raised about the ability of the current US administration to participate in the development of realistic and pragmatic approaches to international problems, to adequately assess the situation in the various regions of the world,”

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Ferguson, Gaza, and Luhansk – What responsibility to protect?

Ferguson. Day 6

U.S. takes little responsibility, offers little protection

Ferguson, Gaza, and Luhansk bleed all the time these days and the United States does nothing very useful for any of them. Not in out “national interest.”  Simpler and easier to blame the victims. Can’t waste our precious resources.

Ferguson, Gaza, and Luhansk have been bleeding for days, for weeks, for years, forever in current and chronic crisis, and what does the United States do to help any of them?

Faced with these and other huge humanitarian challenges, the United States puts its big-hearted humanitarian effort into a renewed war in Iraq, acting as if it was only a mission to rescue Yazidis.  To be sure, it’s a good thing to rescue Yazidis, even if the true U.S. motivation is only to prop up a quasi-legitimate Iraqi government that will still only pretend to love us a little for just a few more years, while continuing to oppress its own other minorities.

But keeping the world safe for Zoroastrianism is an inherently good thing. Such tolerance should be universally honored, though few actually see it that way. All heretics have a legitimate right to the free practice of their beliefs without harming others. That clearly leaves out the Islamic State jihadis as much as their zealous Christian American counterparts. Also omitted would be all those other places where people whose crazy obsessions even control states, sometimes states with nuclear weapons. So the U.S. defense of tolerance is honorable enough, but way too paltry.

What in the world is more important than rushing to rescue Yazidis?

This rushing to rescue Yazidis raises questions of priority and scale. THIS is the most valuable thing the United States can do in the world today? THIS is what matters most in a warming globe of seven billion people?

Rescuing 20,000 or so Yazidis matters more than bringing relief to millions of Ukrainian Slavs in cities under siege by a proto-fascist government bent on ethnic cleansing? Well, maybe that’s not exactly what Kiev is up to, but so far the pattern holds and the Kiev-inspired slaughter of innocents in Odessa offers a terrifying template. How is it better to wait and see whether greater atrocities occur when the alternative is supporting the Red Cross?

Rescuing 20,000 or so Yazidis matters more than bringing relief to almost two million Gazans in cities under siege by a relentlessly expansionist, rightwing Israeli government bent on ethnic cleansing? Well, maybe that’s not exactly what Tel Aviv/Jerusalem is up to, but decades of repetitive behavior that includes repeated war crimes is anything but reassuring. How is it better to keep arming Israel, the better to kill Palestinians, or at least to kill those Palestinians who survive the lethal and illegal Israeli occupation and blockade, when the alternative is to support the United Nations and perhaps prevent more atrocities?

Rescuing 20,000 or so Yazidis matters more than protecting at least as many Americans in Ferguson, a city under siege by white privilege? Saving the Yazidis for now matters more than bringing justice to African-American Americans who have suffered their country’s crimes against their humanity for longer than the United States has existed?  How is it better to arm local police with the weapons of international war in a country where police already commit the atrocity of killing a black man on average every 28 hours?

Is there any humane excuse for U.S. tolerance of extreme suffering in Luhansk, Gaza, or Ferguson? Confronted by a constellation of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is the best the U.S. government can do is rescue some Yazidis and give a great big political shrug to all the rest? Is Washington simply saying: you don’t really expect the U.S. to be principled in defense of the great values we so often trumpet, or trash, depending on the interests involved, do you?

Anyone here remember the principle of Responsibility to Protect?

Less than a year ago, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power was reminding the world of the importance of the Responsibility to Protect: 

“… in 2005 the nations of the world met in this Assembly and reached a consensus that the protection of civilians against the most horrific crimes known to man presents an urgent summons to each and all of us. All governments have a responsibility to protect their people from these crimes, and all nations have a stake in helping them meet that responsibility.”

She was speaking in the context of trying to get someone to intervene in Syria, but she articulated the principle as a universal truth: “All attacks on civilians are an outrage that should shock the conscience.”

The point blank execution of a jaywalker in Ferguson on August 9 shocked a lot of consciences. But not many shocked consciences belonged to the local leadership, least of all to police and prosecutors. As a result, the country (and the world) got a good look at what militarization of the police looks like in the U.S. Now this decades-old process or arming police to the teeth is a hot button of the moment. Even the New York Times all of a sudden takes notices and has an interactive map showing how well armed your local police have become (the map shows St. Louis County getting 12 assault rifles, 6 pistols and 3 helicopters from the feds, but no MRAP armored vehicles are listed, even though they’ve shown up on the streets of Ferguson).

Will enough consciences remain shocked to keep this hot button hot? Will the political will to protect civilians and prevent atrocities actually emerge? Or will the permanent government in Washington be able to continue its bipartisan building of what looks and acts like an occupying army in its own country?

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News

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Autistics are highly qualified for jobs requiring concentration

Unit 9900 before and after photos of suspected weapons cache.

Unit 9900 before and after photos of suspected weapons cache, spotted by autistic soldiers

Sometimes a supposed handicap can actually be an asset. Autistic people can be perfect for job requiring huge focus and attention to detail. There are employment agencies that specialize in placing autistics. The owner of one says it’s not charity. Autistics often catch problems and discrepancies the rest of us miss.

Intelligence Unit 9900 in the Israel Defense Forces uses autistics in an important and crucial role.

Special intelligence Unit 9900 is dedicated to everything related to geography, including mapping, interpretation of aerial and satellite photographs and space research. Within this unit there is a small unit of highly qualified soldiers, who have remarkable visual and analytic capabilities. They can detect even the smallest details, undetectable to most people.

The uniqueness of this elite group of intelligence soldiers in Unit 9900 lies in the fact that they are all diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

This started as a pilot project and has been successful beyond initial expectations. The autistic soldiers are completely accepted by other soldiers.

The Danish employment agency Specialisterne was started by the father of an austistic child and has found responsible jobs for autistics.

Autistic people are especially gifted for software-tests, testing mobile phone applications and general programming. But Sonne also sees a lot of potential in the tax or auditing sector. GlobalConnect has recently tested some candidates of Specialsterne. The firm is extremely pleased with their performance: “Our test people are extremely meticulous in their work. This is very important as these tests have no fault tolerance,” says the Manager of GlobalConnect.

To reiterate, in both instances austistics did a better job than they rest of us would.

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Native Seed Search. Preserving endangered Southwest native seeds

native-seed-search-beans

Native Seed Search in Tucson has preserved and saved multitudes of heirloom seeds including beans, squash, pepper, corn, eggplant, herbs, and a multitude of other vegetables. They were once given a medicine man’s pouch which contained sunflower seeds they’d never seen before. This previously unknown variety of sunflowers proved resistant to sunflower rust and was soon cross-bred with commercial species.

Native Seeds/SEARCH is a nonprofit seed conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. Our story began in 1983 following a profound realization. While working on a Meals for Millions project to assist the Tohono O’odham Nation with establishing gardens, NS/S co-founders Gary Nabhan and Mahina Drees presented tribal elders with broccoli and radish seeds. “What we are really looking for,” the elders replied, “are the seeds for the foods our grandparents used to grow.” This revelatory remark inspired the formation of Native Seeds/SEARCH as a collector and preserver of these endangered traditional seeds.

They are worth supporting.

nss-peppers

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It’s moving day. Vegas here we come!

Vegas Hilton men's room

Vegas Hilton men’s room

I like a city that has personality, that often changes seemingly overnight, and gives the people what they want. San Jose is nice. However the cost of housing is ridiculously high.  We look forward to living in a house again and to having zillions of house guests. Hello Vegas.

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Steppenwolf. Monster. As true now as it was in the 1960′s.

“Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
But she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And ’til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
But she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and gray they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war was over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it’s share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it’s protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it’s a monster and will not obey

The spirit was freedom and justice
And it’s keepers seem friendly and kind
It’s leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won’t pay it no mind

‘Cause the people got fat and grew lazy
Now their vote is like a meaningless joke
You know they talk about law, about order
But it’s all just an echo of what they’ve been told

‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose
It’s got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin’

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin’ the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can’t understand

We don’t know how to mind our own business
‘Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who’s the winner, we can’t pay the cost

‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose
It’s got our heads into the noose
And it just sits there watching

America where are you now?
Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?
Don’t you know we need you now
We can’t fight alone against the monster.”

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Obama manages to be willfully ignorant, condescending to Iraq

Facepalm

This is why the US can’t have coherent foreign policy. It has little grasp of or interest in realities on the ground, believes exceptional force can solve everything, and other countries simply cannot carry on without US intervening into their affairs to make them safe for democracy.

Witness this vapid, arrogant statement from Obama about Iraq:

“The nature of this problem is not one that the U.S. military can solve. Our military obviously can play an extraordinarily important role in bolstering efforts of an Iraqi partner as they make the right steps to keep their country together. But we can’t do it for them.”

Obama’s statement is wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. The US has mostly destroyed Iraq, invaded based on lies, destabilized the entire region, funded the current enemy ISIS to fight Assad and are now gobsmacked ISIS is in Iraq. Further, Iraq as we know it is dead. It inevitably will split into parts. Instead of acknowledging the obvious, Obama pretends Iraq will somehow be as it was, before the US invaded and that Iraq simply needs to man up and git ‘er done. I’m guessing most Iraqis feel rather differently about the US “helping” them.

Saddam was a thug. However Iraq did have a functioning economy and Saddam slapped down Islamists hard and fast, something the US never does until far too late, generally because we’ve armed those very same Islamists to fight someone else. Lest we forget, when Bill Clinton ordered a Bin Laden base in Afghanistan blown up, it couldn’t be done. Why? Because it was built to CIA specs when Bin Laden was their asset and was impervious to direct missile strikes. This kind of deranged idiocy is what characterizes CIA / NSA / black ops. Those in charge of such operations are not patriots. Rather, they are war criminals and quite probably war profiteers. No other explanation makes sense. Our self-destructive wars continue because a few at the top make a lot of money and gain much power because of war. This includes Obama, who like Bill Clinton, will surprisingly become quite wealthy shortly after leaving office.

Meanwhile, countries fall into chaos because of their actions.

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