Nicola Sturgeon steps down as Scottish leader – and gets blasted by Trump

Nicola Sturgeon made a surprise announcement that she is stepping down as the first minister of the Scottish parliament.

“First, though I know it will be tempting to see it as such, this decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures,” said Sturgeon, who has been facing increasing tensions with the UK government in London over Scottish independence, as well as Westminster’s decision to block a Scottish law intended to allow trans people in Scotland to change their legal gender without a medical diagnosis.

Wednesday’s shock announcement led to breathless speculation over Sturgeon’s timing, particularly as she had only recently pledged to make the next British general election a de-facto second referendum on Scottish independence.

While Sturgeon underlined that she felt she didn’t have enough left in the tank to perform her duties, her list of political headaches has grown. The SNP’s polling has dipped, making a dent in its grip on Scottish politics. The independence movement has stalled, with no real chance of a referendum on the cards any time soon.
[Read more…]

Manipulating elections

A consortium of reporters from 30 media outlets working undercover have exposed an election disinformation program that spans many countries. Pretending to be “consultants working on behalf of a politically unstable African country that wanted help delaying an election”, they managed to secretly video conversations with the group’s founder who talked about what his operation has done and what he could offer them.

A team of Israeli contractors who claim to have manipulated more than 30 elections around the world using hacking, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media has been exposed in a new investigation.

The unit is run by Tal Hanan, a 50-year-old former Israeli special forces operative who now works privately using the pseudonym “Jorge”, and appears to have been working under the radar in elections in various countries for more than two decades.

He is being unmasked by an international consortium of journalists. Hanan and his unit, which uses the codename “Team Jorge”, have been exposed by undercover footage and documents leaked to the Guardian.
[Read more…]

Brain damaging sports

A few years ago, the serious brain injury condition known as chronic trauma encephalopathy (CTE) that was found after autopsies of former American football players made news and there were calls for reform. (I wrote several posts about this back then.) But it seems like those concerns have been forgotten and we have just seen yet another Super Bowl extravaganza with scarcely a mention of the fact that the players out on the field were likely destroying their brains, with each hard concussive hit cheered on by the millions watching the event

In an article in the New Yorker, Ingfei Chen highlights the research of medical historian Stephen Casper who has found that the revelations of brain injuries in football players that were treated as surprising new findings have been known for a long time in football, hockey, soccer, and rugby and each time the sports business complex has managed to suppress those concerns by arguing that the causal relationship of repeated collisions in sports to brain damage were not conclusively proven. The sports industry is adopting the same tactics as the tobacco industry did when the dangers of smoking were first raised. They bring forward their own paid ‘researchers’ to cast doubt and claim that the science is not yet resolved and demand standards of rigor in making causal connections that would take decades to obtain, all so that the people making money from the violence can ignore the problem.
[Read more…]

Are some people trying to start a war with China?

The media has been agog with the sudden flurry of objects in the sky that have been shot down by the US military. There have been four so far in the space of eight days. The objects have been nothing if not varied. So far, we have had the large white balloon that started the process, followed by what was described as. a small car-like object, then a cylindrical object, and then an octogonal one. The Chinese government has acknowledged that the balloon was theirs but say that it was a meteorological balloon and not a spy device. No one has claimed ownership of the other three objects.

What is peculiar is that all four objects were essentially propelled by the ambient wind currents and thus drifted at very low speeds. Of course, this has spurred all manner of claims (seriously by UFOlogists and facetiously by skeptics) that these are probes sent by extra-terrestrials to gain data before they invade.
[Read more…]

Tax implications of having a kidnapped child?

I started doing my taxes and was going through the instructions for the federal form when I was stopped short by seeing this passage:

Kidnapped child. If your child is presumed by law enforcement authorities to have been kidnapped by someone who isn’t a family member, you may be able to take the child into account in determining your eligibility for head of household or qualifying surviving spouse filing status, the child tax credit, the credit for other dependents, and the earned income credit (EIC). For details, see Pub. 501 (Pub. 596 for the EIC).

This not something new, apparently. I looked back as far 2018 (the earliest year for which I still have instructions) and saw that it had been there but I had not seen it. I suspect that it goes back even further.

The rules for who can claim a child as a dependent and thus get a deduction or a tax credit is complicated by the fact that it depends on the time the child stayed with the tax filer. For example, both divorced parents cannot claim their child as a dependent. It depends on how the child splits their time between the two adults. A similar issue arises with foster children who may not spend the entire year with one family. That problem is common and so one can see the need for general rules to cover the various possibilities.

But how often does the kidnapped child problem occur? Often enough, apparently, that the IRS felt the need to create a rule to cover it. It is often the case that a kidnapped child has been taken by the non-custodial parent. But I would imagine that a parent whose child has been kidnapped would be far too distraught to care about whether that child can be claimed as a dependent.

Has swearing become socially acceptable?

There was a time when swearing was taboo in polite society. Those who swore were considered gauche. But swearing is much more common now in films and all manner of media and so I was interested in this article that discussed whether it was now accepted in ordinary conversation. The article says that what constitutes a swear word has also changed over time.

It was reported last week that an employment judge, presiding over a case of unfair dismissal and discrimination, had decided that using the phrase “I don’t give a fuck” in a “tense” meeting was not necessarily significant. “The words allegedly used in our view are fairly commonplace and do not carry the shock value they might have done in another time,” said the judge.

Swearing is everywhere. It is on TV, on social media, in music. Young children use “WTF” and “OMG”. For many of us, workplace swearing seems so normal that it doesn’t even stand out any more (this was one theory, in that employment tribunal, as to why others in that meeting couldn’t remember if that particular swearword was used).
[Read more…]

Nextdoor discussion about lizards

On Jimmy Kimmel’s show, he had actors recreate a Nextdoor community thread based on what people posted after someone asked for help about what to do with a lizard that had entered their house and hidden somewhere.

I have seen many threads like that on Nextdoor. It starts when one person posts a real problem they have encountered and asks for advice. While a few responders offer helpful suggestions, others use the opportunity to post unhelpful tangents or boast about something that is only mildly related or even make snarky comments.

The ‘My client is an ignorant idiot’ defense did not work well

Kevin Seefried was sentenced to three years in prison for carrying a Confederate flag into the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 and threatening a police officer with the flagpole. His lawyers tried to find some way to mitigate his actions.

Kevin Seefried, 53, teared up before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in a Washington, D.C., courtroom. The judge told him that bringing the flag into “one of our nation’s most sacred halls” was “outrageous.”
[Read more…]

Childless by choice

Chelsea Handler, one of the rotating hosts of The Daily Show until they find a permanent replacement for Trevor Noah, talks about her decision not to have children and the reactions of disapproval she gets from people when they learn of it.

It is quite astonishing how people feel quite comfortable criticizing the choices of other people even if those choices have absolutely nothing to do with them.