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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 302)

Klobuchar recounts bizarre story of killing duck by accident while golfing

Westlake Legal Group AP19270766251637 Klobuchar recounts bizarre story of killing duck by accident while golfing fox-news/sports/golf fox-news/politics/elections/presidential fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/amy-klobuchar fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/politics fnc Bradford Betz article 43787307-984d-58b2-b24d-4dc7cf145c27

Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar recounted an odd series of events on the golf course Sunday, revealing she once accidentally killed a duck during a game.

The Democrat was speaking during a 2020 presidential candidate forum sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in Detroit.

“I did one time try to play golf… but I misfired on the first try and the ball hit a duck in the head, and it appeared to perish,” Klobuchar told the crowd whose uneasy laughter was audible.

“So, I don’t it’s a good idea for the bird population of America if I play golf,” she added.

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The UFCW’s Sunday forum also featured fellow presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Other Democrats are expected to participate in the UFCW’s next forum set for Oct. 13 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Westlake Legal Group AP19270766251637 Klobuchar recounts bizarre story of killing duck by accident while golfing fox-news/sports/golf fox-news/politics/elections/presidential fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/amy-klobuchar fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/politics fnc Bradford Betz article 43787307-984d-58b2-b24d-4dc7cf145c27   Westlake Legal Group AP19270766251637 Klobuchar recounts bizarre story of killing duck by accident while golfing fox-news/sports/golf fox-news/politics/elections/presidential fox-news/politics/elections/democrats fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/amy-klobuchar fox-news/odd-news fox news fnc/politics fnc Bradford Betz article 43787307-984d-58b2-b24d-4dc7cf145c27

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The New York Fed Chief Is Facing His Biggest Test. Here’s His Response.

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-nyfed-facebookJumbo The New York Fed Chief Is Facing His Biggest Test. Here’s His Response. United States Economy Money Market Accounts Interest Rates Government Bonds Economic Conditions and Trends Credit and Debt Banking and Financial Institutions

John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has spent the past two weeks grappling with the regional bank’s most tumultuous period in years.

Since Sept. 16, a shortage of dollars in an obscure but crucial corner of short-term Wall Street funding, called the repo market, has forced the New York Fed to engage in an ongoing series of market interventions — a first since the Great Recession. The effort is an attempt to keep the central bank’s benchmark rate from accidentally creeping higher.

The situation is the biggest test so far for Mr. Williams — who took the helm of the New York Fed in June 2018 — and one that many market analysts say deserves a less-than-stellar grade.

While officials have succeeded in getting interest rates under control, some investors have criticized the Fed for moving too hesitantly when problems first arose, waiting until rates on repurchase, or repo, agreements had skyrocketed and briefly spilled over, pushing the Fed’s benchmark rate above its intended range.

Mr. Williams, a theoretician responsible for some of the most influential economic studies of the past two decades, was at the center of the disapproval. Before assuming his role as head of the New York Fed, he ran the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and made a practice of ignoring day-to-day market moves. But those moves are central to the New York branch’s mission as the Fed’s primary conduit to — and supervisor of — Wall Street.

His early tenure in New York had not been smooth sailing, even before the market hiccups this month. Mr. Williams ousted two top officials, Simon Potter and Richard Dzina, earlier this year because of differences in management style. Each had more than two decades of experience at the Fed, and Mr. Potter had overseen the markets group. Their dismissal unsettled some bank employees and raised eyebrows on Wall Street.

The shake-up also left another New York Fed official, Lorie Logan, temporarily in charge of the market portfolio — the Fed’s giant stash of bonds. Ms. Logan is well-respected and often pointed to as a natural fit for the permanent job, but former Fed officials worry that she is now essentially auditioning, which could hinder her ability to make tough or unpopular decisions.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Williams batted back the critiques, defending the timing of the New York Fed’s recent responses and saying that the bank’s team was working effectively.

Mr. Williams also said he still supported the way the Fed has chosen to guide interest rates — what it calls an “ample reserves” framework. Instead of intervening in markets to push rates into place by balancing out supply and demand, as it did before the financial crisis, the Fed now announces how much interest it will pay on banks’ reserves, and that rate is passed through the financial system.

The approach requires the Fed to hang on to large holdings of government-backed bonds to keep reserves, essentially currency deposits at the Fed, plentiful. Central bankers had thought that they had a long way to go before reserves became scarce. So until last month, they were shrinking their balance sheet and drawing down that supply.

But Mr. Williams said the recent episode showed him that the approach might require higher reserves than he had realized. That is important, because it could hint that the Fed will start growing its balance sheet again soon, something several of Mr. Williams colleagues have signaled over the past week.

Mr. Williams, who has a constant vote on monetary policy decisions made by the Federal Open Market Committee, was mum on the other major question facing policymakers — whether the Fed will cut rates beyond the two moves it has already made. He declined to give any hint about his preferences, arguing that amid uncertainty, the Fed should keep its options open.

Here is a look at how he is addressing the biggest questions facing the New York Fed and the central bank, in a curated, and partly paraphrased, transcript.

New York Times: Some market participants have said the Fed was too slow to intervene amid the recent disruption in overnight repurchase agreements, or repos. Can you walk us through the decision-making process?

Mr. Williams emphasized that data on the Fed’s policy rate, the federal fund rate, comes in slowly and the official figure is released on a delay — it comes out at 9 a.m. the following morning. That figured into the timing, Mr. Williams said, because “we need to explain why we’re intervening — the desk directive is very clear,” he said, referring to the rules set out by the policymaking Fed committee for the New York Fed to follow.

The bank is meant “to conduct open market operations, to keep the federal funds rate in the range.”

He noted that the Fed took market participant feedback from the first intervention into account. Since Sept. 17, it has announced a day in advance that it would provide liquidity to markets and how much. It also -announced on Sept. 20 that it would continue intervening through Oct. 10.

There’s concern on Wall Street that you ousted Mr. Potter and Mr. Dzina, and, in doing so, set a tone at the New York Fed in which experts may not feel comfortable speaking up, especially about repo market issues. What is your response to that?

“It’s just completely wrong, in terms of what actually happened,” he said, noting that when rates started to spike in the market for repos earlier this month, he and Ms. Logan were both in Washington for the Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

“It was all hands on deck. Everyone was working tirelessly to understand what was happening,” he said. “The team operated magnificently, there was no delay, there was no hesitation — there was no, in any way, feeling that people weren’t sharing and discussing things very quickly. This is something that Lorie, Lorie Logan, and her colleagues have been preparing for, for years.”

“We have complete confidence in the teams’ analysis, and conclusions, and it played out exactly the way you would want it to,” he said.

When it comes to the recent repo market turmoil, what does a long-term solution to fixing that look like?

“We have learned something. Despite there being a lot of reserves in the system, they weren’t moving around. They’re lumpy.”

When it comes to the level of bank reserves needed going forward, “any view I had before, based on all the research, and the outreach, and the surveys, my view would be that — that level is probably higher,” Mr. Williams said.

“I think we are seeing that liquidity doesn’t move around as easily, in these situations, which means that if we want interest rates to stay kind of on their own in a narrow range, that we have to make sure we have that amount of reserves to support that.”

“As we think about permanent solutions, the big issues, I think, are: what is the right level of reserves,” he said, along with the possibility of some sort of standing facility to keep markets running smoothly.

Do you have a specific number for how much bigger reserves need to be?

He said he did not, but “I do have on my computer a picture of where reserves were in the summer, and where they were in September,” he said. Earlier this year, “we saw a period where these issues were not manifesting themselves in the way that we saw in the last couple of weeks.”

Is market functioning the primary thing keeping you up at night, or are other aspects of central banking in 2019 more worrying?

“This is very acute. This is very much an issue that arose very quickly,” he said of repo market disruption. But when it comes to monetary policy, “we still have a very interesting point where the economy remains in a very favorable place,” but “there’s a lot of uncertainty — the slowing in global growth continues. Uncertainty around trade and other issues, Brexit.”

You’ve been a big advocate of moving early to forestall risks, rather than waiting. Do you think that means lowering rates again before the end of the year?

“I don’t think that this issue — of the lower bound, and trying to risk manage around it — is pertinent to a specific issue, of what decision we should make at the coming meetings.”

“It’s really more about where the likely trajectories of the U.S. economy are right now,” he said. “The issue we’re grappling with, I’m grappling with, is managing these various uncertainties and some of these downside risks, that do seem more prominent now than normally.”

“I do think we’re in a very good place, on monetary policy, and obviously I supported the decisions we’ve made,” he said. “My view is just to continue doing that assessment.”

Did you forecast another cut when the entire Fed committee released its September economic projections?

“I am not going to answer what my projection, or my expectation is, because I think it’s really pretty uncertain,” he said.

He noted that policymakers’ projections fit a few different narratives. “Maybe the economy will do well, surprise to the upside,” or “the economy takes longer, or doesn’t do as well,” and “I don’t know which of those is going to happen.”

We tend to paint Fed officials a faceless technocrats. But you have obsessions outside of economics, including video games. What video games are you playing?

“I really enjoy playing the online games, so I have been playing this game Dark Souls for the last few months,” he said. “You learn about how teams work together, or don’t work together effectively.”

How do you try to bring your personality — the sneaker-wearing, book-loving, craft beer enthusiast — to your leadership role?

He said he encouraged people to be themselves at work, and, prodded, admitted that “we did change the dress code,” adding, “But people always want to know what the new dress code is. And I always say: It’s use good judgment.”

He seemed disappointed that the change in the dress code at the New York Fed, traditionally a jackets-and-heels institution, was not happening faster.

“People are changing. I’m not telling them what they should do, but people are coming in, dressed as they wish,” he said. Among men, “where you really see it — far fewer ties.”

“Like so many things, it’s a longer journey.”

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Mark Hamill Burns Ivanka Trump’s ‘Star Wars’ Family Photo With Correction

Westlake Legal Group 5d911eeb2200003400dfb866 Mark Hamill Burns Ivanka Trump’s ‘Star Wars’ Family Photo With Correction

Ivanka Trump’s family has gone to the dark side ― or at least that’s what one photo might suggest.

President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter proclaimed the Force “strong in my family” while sharing a family photo that included a pint-sized Stormtrooper from the “Star Wars” films.

Unfortunately for her, actor and Trump critic Mark Hamill, who starred as Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in the original film trilogy, was quick to offer an edit to her caption.

“You misspelled ‘fraud,’” he said while adding the hashtag #GoForceYourself.

Others on Twitter were eager to point out that Stormtroopers fought on the dark side in the “Star Wars” trilogy, having worked for the Galactic Empire and Darth Vader.

No matter what side you’re on, at least one Twitter user pointed out one thing that’s virtually impossible to disagree with: “this kid rocks.”   

But as Han Solo might say: “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”

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‘Historic’ winter storm dumps 3 feet of snow, smashes records in West

CLOSEWestlake Legal Group icon_close 'Historic' winter storm dumps 3 feet of snow, smashes records in West

By 10 a.m. MDT, Teton County, Montana, had already been covered by snow. The snowstorm, which arrived on Sept. 28, hit the area hard earlier that morning. Accuweather

One week after summer’s end, a “winter” storm began blasting parts of the West with up to 3 feet of snow, smashing records with low temperatures, heavy snow, strong winds and blizzard conditions forecast into Monday.

Snow was piling up across parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. The National Weather Service, calling the storm “historic,” said temperatures in some areas would drop as much as 30 degrees below normal.

“Many daily record low maximum temperature records are possible through Monday, especially across the Northern Great Basin, Rockies and Northern California,” the weather service said.

“An unprecedented winter storm (is) throwing our state a surprise in September,” said Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who declared a winter storm emergency in his state.

High winds downed trees and power lines, temporarily closing some roads and triggering cellular and power outages. The town of Browning, near Glacier National Park, recorded 40 inches of snow Sunday.

Powerhouse storm: Lorenzo becomes the most powerful hurricane to make it so far east in the Atlantic

And it was still snowing. Some areas near the park could see an astonishing 4 feet before the storm wraps up Monday, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Pydynowski told USA TODAY.

“You have higher terrain where you will never know how much snow fell because there is no one there to measure it,” Pydynowski said. “There will be areas over 4 feet, measured or not.”

Pydynowski said September snow in parts of the USA isn’t that unusual, but the amount of snow at relatively low elevations is.

Great Falls, Montana, which averages 1.2 inches of snow in September, was at 16 inches and counting Sunday. The 9.7 inches of snow recorded Saturday broke a record for the day that stood for 65 years.

Winter conditions: Cold, snowy weather en route to Reno-Tahoe this weekend

More than a foot of snow fell in parts of northeastern Washington. Spokane got much less, but it was the city’s first recorded September snow since 1926. Temperatures forecast to dip below freezing by Monday night prompted expansion of the city’s homeless shelter capacity.

In Oregon, the National Weather Service reported wind damage from gusts of up to 55 mph in Portland, where hail was reported. The Cascade Mountains got up to 10 inches of snow.

“It’s a winter wonderland up in the Cascades,” the weather service’s Portland office tweeted. “Pictures are worth a 1,000 words, but reports are even better!”

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/09/29/snow-historic-storm-smashes-records-west/3812375002/

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US airman stationed in Germany gets 5 years for recording women undress, shower in his house, report says

A U.S. airman stationed in Germany was sentenced by a court-martial Thursday to five years in jail for using hidden cameras in his off-base house to record women who were his guests bathing or undressing while he was away, according to a report.

Staff Sgt. Andrew P. Rogers told a general court-martial last week that he used cameras hidden in alarm clocks and smoke alarms to record the women in the bathroom or guest bedroom, Stars & Stripes reported.

The devices, which were connected to WiFi, were motion activated, allowing Rogers to watch the footage whether he was on base or on vacation, according to the outlet. Other footage was recorded directly on data cards which Rogers reportedly viewed on his laptop or phone.

Westlake Legal Group Ramstein-Air-Base US airman stationed in Germany gets 5 years for recording women undress, shower in his house, report says fox-news/world/world-regions/germany fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/us/military/military-trials fox-news/tech/topics/us-air-force fox news fnc/world fnc cbcbd761-a919-5f66-a590-b348a275ffae Bradford Betz article

A U.S. airman stationed in Germany was sentenced to prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to indecent recording. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The illicit recordings took place between November 2015 and April 2018. A woman who’d been house-sitting for Rogers while he was on vacation discovered a hidden camera in the smoke detector while she was taking a shower, Stars & Stripes reported, adding that she later discovered a hidden camera in an alarm clock in the guest bedroom.

Air Force investigators confronted Rogers upon his return from vacation. Defense lawyers said Rogers admitted to secretly recording his guests and provided the names of other victims.

The women, who went unnamed in the report to protect their identities, testified in court that the experience traumatized them. One woman who worked with Rogers said she still checked for cameras, “even in my own house.”

CALIFORNIA MARINE FILMED VIOLENTLY TACKLING TWO BRAWLING STUDENTS TO THE GROUND

“I’ve searched my soul for answers,” Rogers told the court Thursday.

“I became obsessed with something unhealthy, something I knew was destructive, but I continued to do it.”

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Rogers pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent recording, a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In addition, he received a dishonorable discharge and demotion.

Westlake Legal Group 181108-F-VQ832-1059 US airman stationed in Germany gets 5 years for recording women undress, shower in his house, report says fox-news/world/world-regions/germany fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/us/military/military-trials fox-news/tech/topics/us-air-force fox news fnc/world fnc cbcbd761-a919-5f66-a590-b348a275ffae Bradford Betz article   Westlake Legal Group 181108-F-VQ832-1059 US airman stationed in Germany gets 5 years for recording women undress, shower in his house, report says fox-news/world/world-regions/germany fox-news/world/world-regions/europe fox-news/us/military/military-trials fox-news/tech/topics/us-air-force fox news fnc/world fnc cbcbd761-a919-5f66-a590-b348a275ffae Bradford Betz article

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How Mark Milley, a General Who Mixes Bluntness and Banter, Became Trump’s Top Military Adviser

WASHINGTON — Mark A. Milley never planned to spend his life in the military.

He faced a choice between joining crew-cut cadets at West Point and attending an Ivy League university. As he weighed the decision, his father, a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima in World War II, made clear he did not want his son joining the military, and even enlisted another son to sabotage the young Milley’s West Point visit by getting acquaintances to show him the more miserable parts of the Army college regimen.

Alexander Milley, the father, won the battle — Mark Milley did not go to West Point, but to Princeton, where he grew his hair long and played on the hockey team.

But the elder Milley, who died in 2015, lost the larger war. Something had been planted in his brain, Mark Milley has told friends, that made him believe that he was lucky to be born in America, and duty bound to follow his father’s footsteps. At Princeton, he joined the R.O.T.C.

On Monday, Gen. Mark A. Milley, a four-star Army officer with multiple combat tours during his 39 years of service, will be sworn in as the highest-ranking military officer in the country: chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He succeeds Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. of the Marines, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

It will then be up to General Milley, who easily mixes charming banter and bluntness, to manage what is probably the most consequential professional relationship of his life: becoming the senior military adviser to a mercurial president who has routinely brought the Pentagon into the political fray, to the discomfort of many top Pentagon officials.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161589627_6e6b2530-7890-4efc-8e50-e0d340996516-articleLarge How Mark Milley, a General Who Mixes Bluntness and Banter, Became Trump’s Top Military Adviser United States Defense and Military Forces United States Army Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Milley, Mark A Mattis, James N Joint Chiefs of Staff Iraq Dunford, Joseph F Jr

The next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, with William S. Cohen, then defense secretary, at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in 1998.CreditYun Jai-hyoung/Associated Press

At the Pentagon, one narrative about General Milley’s ascent was that he got the top job — over Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff who was the choice of Jim Mattis, the defense secretary at the time — because he cozied up to President Trump, massaging their relationship with jokes and friendly chats interspersed with exchanges about how to rein in bloated military costs.

Mr. Trump himself flicked at that during a Medal of Honor presentation last year when he cited conversations with General Milley about the cost of expensive bombs. “I could see in his eyes when I talk about the cost of those bombs,” the president said. “He’s good at throwing them, but he’s also good at pricing them.”

(The president had a point. Back in 2016, when General Milley was Army chief of staff and the service was going through a drawn-out process of trying to find a new pistol, an exasperated General Milley exploded. “Two years to test? At $17 million?” he later scoffed to a think tank audience in Washington. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight.”)

Late last year, Mr. Trump overruled Mr. Mattis (who quit soon afterward over a dispute regarding troops in Syria and several other issues related to the president’s worldview) and announced suddenly — almost a full year before General Dunford’s term was to expire — that he was appointing General Milley as the next chairman.

General Milley’s friends and people who have worked with him say his ability to get along with Mr. Trump is simply a reflection of the ebullient general’s personality. Unlike General Dunford, who is more reserved, General Milley never met anyone he did not like — at least at first.

He talks. And talks. He is an avid student of history in general and military history in particular. He cites St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Henry David Thoreau in conversation — and do not get him started on the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the World War II debacle in Tunisia when unprepared American troops were outfoxed by German forces. (He does hold a master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University.)

Gen. Mark A. Milley with President Trump last year at an Army-Navy college football game. General Milley’s friends and people who have worked with him say his ability to get along with Mr. Trump is a reflection the general’s ebullient personality.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

When General Milley talks about war, it is from the point of view of someone who has been under fire multiple times. During the Iraq war, he was a brigade commander and one of a group of hotshot colonels who would all go on to bigger things at the Pentagon: Robert Abrams, now a four-star general and commander of United States Forces Korea; Stephen Lanza, who rose to become a three-star general and commander of I Corps; and James C. McConville, now a four-star and the new Army chief of staff.

During his time in Iraq, Mark A. Milley picked his way through open sewage in Abu Ghraib, took fire from rocket-propelled grenades in Sadr City and gave lip to a higher-ranking American officer clad in tanker boots who dared to question whether Colonel Milley’s brigade, suddenly tasked as a quick-reaction force, could handle Baghdad in the middle of a flaming insurgency. “General, we’re the most mobile force you’ve ever had,” Colonel Milley said, according to people with knowledge of the conversation. “We’ll do just fine in your city.”

As Army chief of staff, General Milley has come under criticism from some in the Special Operations community for his involvement in the investigation into the 2017 ambush in Niger that left four American soldiers dead. He persuaded Patrick M. Shanahan, who was acting defense secretary, to curtail a broader review, and also protected the career of an officer who some blamed for the ambush. General Milley’s backers said he prevented the officer from leading another combat unit.

But General Milley also has an instinct for finding common ground with different types of people. At a conference of senior African military leaders in Arusha, Tanzania, in May of 2016, General Milley broke the stiffness in the room as he opened his keynote speech by affectionately calling the American major general who organized the conference a knucklehead, eliciting laughter, and then by likening his own time under fire during the Iraq war to conflicts in which African militaries had taken part.

“Many of you in this room are descendants of fighters who practiced guerrilla warfare against the French, the British, the colonial forces of Europe,” General Milley told senior military officials from 37 African countries. “Embedded in your armies is the knowledge of how to fight guerrilla warfare.”

General Milley will be fighting a different type of guerrilla warfare soon, as Mr. Trump’s top military adviser. It is a delicate and highly specialized job to walk the tightrope of giving the president the best military advice possible while saluting and following directives with which one might not fully agree.

General Milley, a four-star Army officer with multiple combat tours, honoring fallen troops last year at Arlington National Cemetery.CreditCliff Owen/Associated Press

“You have to have a framework of values and principles that you adhere to — lines in the sand that you will not cross,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, said in an interview. “Because standing in the presence of the most powerful person in the world, and having to adhere to those values in a consequential decision; you have to have those values and that framework or you will fail at it.”

Senior officials at the Pentagon insist the American military has no business in partisan politics. During his Senate confirmation hearing in July, General Milley promised that he would not let himself be pushed by the White House. “We will not be intimidated into making stupid decisions,” he said in response to questions from Senator Angus King of Maine. “We will give our best military advice and not keep the consequences to ourselves.”

It is certain he will face challenges in that.

The Pentagon in the Trump presidency has agreed to divert some of its congressionally allotted funding for schools on military bases to instead build the border wall. American service members have worn paraphernalia related to the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan to Mr. Trump’s speeches on American bases, while the president has attacked his Democratic opponents in Congress — angering some active-duty and retired military personnel who feel those in uniform should never be publicly partisan or put on partisan display. The Navy exchanged emails with the White House about keeping the warship John S. McCain out of view while Mr. Trump was visiting Japan, because of the president’s enmity toward the American war hero and senator, who died last year.

And Mr. Trump’s efforts to get the government of Ukraine to go after former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., another political opponent, have dragged the Pentagon into the middle of an impeachment crisis, as senior Pentagon leaders are scrambling to explain why military aid to Ukraine was withheld despite a Defense Department letter saying that Kiev had met the benchmarks necessary to get the assistance.

General Milley has not spoken publicly about the Ukraine issue. But it will certainly dog his coming tenure.

“Milley is going to have to craft his relationship with his president himself,” Admiral Mullen said. “For military leaders, operating in a political environment will push you to the limit, and you’ve got to be prepared to say, ‘I’m not going there.’”

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California Fire Insurance Squeeze Hinders a Key Goal: Preventing Fires

PARADISE, Calif. — D.J. Gomes and his logging crew were working in California’s wine country last fall, helping clear vegetation away from power lines and reduce the ever-growing wildfire risk. While they were gone, fire came for their hometown.

The disaster that followed, the Camp Fire, killed 86 people and virtually leveled Paradise, where Mr. Gomes’s house was one of the few spared. His loneliness has started to ease as stores reopen and displaced neighbors move into new modular homes. But getting back to work has been more complicated.

Mr. Gomes owns Crossfire Tree & Vegetation, one of many companies that have been contractors for utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric in fire-prevention work. State law makes the utilities liable for fires caused by their equipment, increasing the urgency of trimming trees and maintaining the power grid. But contractors face liability, too, if fires are traced to what they did or failed to do. And that is making it harder to get the insurance needed for the work.

“Every year I go to renew, it’s a huge fight,” Mr. Gomes said. Despite his company’s safety record, “they keep increasing the amount of insurance they want you to have.”

Before he first went to work for PG&E after the 2015 Butte Fire, which scorched more than 70,000 acres in the Sierra foothills, Mr. Gomes said it cost around $1,500 to buy $1 million in annual liability coverage. He spent $15,000 last year to secure $5 million in liability coverage then required by PG&E.

In addition to surging premiums, insurance brokers said that some contractors were seeing policies canceled or were unable to secure new coverage. Tree work has always been hard to insure because of hazards like falls from 100-foot trees and the heavy use of chain saws. Now, after several seasons of major wildfires, the risk calculus has changed.

“They’re starting to apply wildfire exclusions,” said Milton Smith, a senior vice president at the national insurance brokerage McGriff, Seibels & Williams. And without wildfire coverage, Mr. Smith said, a fire traced to a contractor’s job site can be “a business-ending event.”

At the heart of the insurance anxiety is a provision of the state constitution known as inverse condemnation. That rule holds utilities responsible for fires even if they are not negligent — a doctrine that PG&E has lobbied to change as it contends with tens of billions of dollars in potential claims for fires attributed to its equipment, including the Camp Fire.

To work for PG&E, contractors must agree to absorb the liability for any lawsuits over death, injuries or property damage — during or after the fact — in areas where they work.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160745199_e2e9a51a-bef5-4969-bcdb-b7c0f0d8cbb0-articleLarge California Fire Insurance Squeeze Hinders a Key Goal: Preventing Fires Wildfires Suits and Litigation (Civil) Pacific Gas and Electric Co insurance Freelancing, Self-Employment and Independent Contracting California

A Napa County parking lot serves as a staging area for trucks operated by Pacific Gas & Electric contractors. Insurance brokers said some contractors were seeing policies canceled or were unable to secure new coverage.CreditSarahbeth Maney for The New York Times

The result can be multimillion-dollar payouts. In 2007, after two fires ignited by San Diego Gas & Electric equipment, the utility sued two of its contractors over work they had been responsible for — tree trimming and power-pole maintenance — at fire sites. The contractors agreed to a $370 million settlement.

How much contractors might pay for more recent fires is unclear. Since PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in January, victims’ lawyers have requested extensive information about the company’s contractors and argued at a May hearing that tree trimmers, inspectors and other vendors could be liable for up to $1 billion.

“If a tree falls on a line, there’s a reasonable claim against the tree trimmer for screwing up, right?” said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. “They’re at least partly responsible.”

Now the question is how much of the burden contractors can be asked to bear, especially as PG&E tells regulators that it cannot secure enough crews to confront a yearslong backlog of maintenance around power lines.

“When the utilities talk about the limited labor supply, part of what they’re really talking about is the fact that these companies will not do business with them,” Mr. Wara said. “Because doing that exposes the tree-trimming companies to enormous potential liability that they cannot insure.”

The world’s largest tree company, Asplundh of Pennsylvania, allowed its longtime contract with PG&E to expire late last year. A subsidiary of Asplundh, Trees Inc., was named in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by two women whose father was killed in the Butte Fire, sparked when a PG&E power line was hit by a dead tree that the suit said the contractor had failed to address. The case is in limbo, since no verdict was reached before PG&E declared bankruptcy, freezing lawsuits. Asplundh did not respond to requests for comment.

Paul Doherty, a PG&E spokesman, acknowledged the concerns of contractors about the availability and cost of insurance. But he said that the cost of contract labor had risen for reasons “primarily related to supply and demand” and that it was hard to judge how much of the increase was attributable to insurance.

As officials try to head off another devastating wildfire season, there are signs that much remains to be done.

An August report by a court-appointed monitor found “systemic” issues with PG&E’s fire mitigation work, including a nearly 50 percent shortfall in identifying fire hazards, as well as indications that power lines had come in contact with vegetation that contractors said they had cleared. The report, part of the utility’s criminal probation from a 2010 gas pipeline explosion, also found “record-keeping defects” in PG&E’s system for contractors that may make it unclear who is doing work.

The confusion is evident to Steve Sando, who lives in forested hills above Napa Valley where a 2017 fire destroyed a barn and trees on his property. More than a dozen crews have made inspections of his land, resulting in a hodgepodge of “rainbow trees” that were spray-painted four colors to denote hazards but were never taken down, he said.

Steve Sando lives in forested hills above Napa Valley where a 2017 fire destroyed a barn and trees on his property. He said crews have marked trees on his property as hazardous but have not taken them down.CreditSarahbeth Maney for The New York Times
An empty plot of land where Mr. Sando’s barn was destroyed by the 2017 fire.CreditSarahbeth Maney for The New York Times A sign on Mr. Sando’s property wards off crews working on tree projects.CreditSarahbeth Maney for The New York Times

“At first, I thought, ‘These people don’t have it quite together,’ but it was an emergency, so you cut them some slack,” said Mr. Sando, who owns Rancho Gordo, the heirloom beans purveyor. “It really just kept going, the PG&E drama.”

PG&E’s chief executive, Bill Johnson, said the company was doing all it could. It has about 4,500 workers engaged daily in tree maintenance, he said in an interview, and by the end of the year will have felled or trimmed 1.8 million trees. It is also changing inspection procedures and improving contractor training, he added.

“This is a huge effort,” he said, “and we’re learning as we go.”

The success of that effort may help shape how insurers and investors respond to climate-related risks.

“We are marching steadily toward a future in which the private market may conclude that these are uninsurable risks,” said Dave Jones, a former state insurance commissioner. “In some ways, that’s already happened for the utilities.”

In July, California lawmakers approved a plan to create a state-backed insurance pool to expedite payments to victims after future wildfires. Homeowners in fire-prone areas who report their own insurance cancellations and skyrocketing costs are increasingly directed to secondary insurance markets or state plans, similar to flood insurance, as a last resort.

For utility contractors, there is no backstop like a state insurance program. Many are turning to costly alternatives, sometimes sold by offshore companies in places like Bermuda and lacking some of the regulation and financial guarantees of conventional policies.

The income from utility work is still enough to draw bidders. For Paul Sousa, owner of California Tree Solutions of San Jose, it meant increasing his insurance to $12 million in liability coverage from the $2 million he carried as a residential tree trimmer. But after weathering the initial costs, he said he was confident that his nine-man crew doing PG&E fire mitigation in Lake County would make the gamble pay off.

“If I hadn’t been established already, I think I would have gone out of business,” Mr. Sousa said. It also takes longer to be paid by the utility, he said, but there is an advantage to having a client with hundreds of thousands of miles to clear. “It’s better job security,” Mr. Sousa said. “They need us as much as we need them.”

Other established contractors have had second thoughts, including Mr. Gomes. He has stopped doing work for the utility in recent months to focus on cleanup jobs for fellow Paradise residents as they rebuild.

“There’s so much work that I don’t see the point of leaving,” he said.

MORE ON CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES
California Reckons With the Cost of Wildfires to Come

June 7, 2019

As California Wildfire Season Looms, Finding Tree Trimmers Is a New Problem

May 23, 2019

California Says PG&E Power Lines Caused Camp Fire That Killed 85

May 15, 2019

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Browns’ Freddie Kitchens says Ravens ‘choked’ Odell Beckham Jr., wants answers from NFL

CLOSEWestlake Legal Group icon_close Browns' Freddie Kitchens says Ravens 'choked' Odell Beckham Jr., wants answers from NFL

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. offered up a good reason for his in-game dustup with Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

“I’m just upset I lost my earring,” Beckham said after the game, according to the NFL Network.

Beckham and Humphrey were engaged in a physical matchup all game long Sunday in Cleveland’s 40-25 victory. Late in the contest, after Beckham was brought down on a play, Humphrey leaned over Beckham and appeared to hold his throat with his left hand while the receiver clung onto the cornerback’s facemask. Teammates came to separate the two.

Beckham and Humphrey were both flagged for the scuffle, but Humphrey was not ejected.

“I saw what you saw,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said after the game, according to ESPN. “He was getting choked on the ground. They get away with that because it’s Odell. I’m going to be one the phone with (NFL vice president of officiating) Al (Riveron) when I get on the bus.”

Humphrey was repentant following the loss.

“I ran into him after the game and apologized, it’s not really the brand of football I really want to represent,” Humphrey told reporters after the game. “When the whistle blows, it’s got to be over with. It got my team a flag and it’s never good when you get a flag. Like I said, it’s not the brand I want to represent, so I was happy I was able to talk to him after the game.”

Beckham, who caught only two passes for 20 yards on seven targets, was often double – and sometimes even triple – covered by the Ravens.

That allowed Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to look to other options to fuel Cleveland’s attack. Fellow receiver Jarvis Landry caught eight passes for 167 yards and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones caught three passes for 82 yards and one score.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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More than 130 dolphins die on island beach off West Africa in mysterious mass stranding

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6090414416001_6090422130001-vs More than 130 dolphins die on island beach off West Africa in mysterious mass stranding Stephen Sorace fox-news/world/world-regions/africa fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox news fnc/science fnc bb1f2307-649b-5f29-a4a7-e15b63dee449 article

More than 130 dolphins died on an island beach off West Africa last week in a mysterious mass stranding event that has left experts puzzled as they investigate the cause.

Locals and tourists found around 163 melon-headed dolphins stranding themselves on a beach on the island of Boa Vista, BIOS Cape Verde, a volunteer environmental association, wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

GEORGIA BEACHGOERS RESCUE WHALES MASS STRANDED ON SHORE, WILDLIFE OFFICIALS SAY

Hundreds of volunteers tried dragging the mammals out to sea. Despite their best efforts, many returned to the shore where they died.

Bulldozers buried 136 dead dolphins on the beach.

Scientists from BIOS took samples from 50 dolphins and froze four carcasses for a necropsy, the group wrote Friday.

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An official with the organization told local news outlet OPAIS on Saturday that there was still no “right explanation” for the deaths.

Spanish veterinarians from the University of Las Palmas in Spain’s Canary Islands are due in the coming days to perform tests on the carcasses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6090414416001_6090422130001-vs More than 130 dolphins die on island beach off West Africa in mysterious mass stranding Stephen Sorace fox-news/world/world-regions/africa fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox news fnc/science fnc bb1f2307-649b-5f29-a4a7-e15b63dee449 article   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6090414416001_6090422130001-vs More than 130 dolphins die on island beach off West Africa in mysterious mass stranding Stephen Sorace fox-news/world/world-regions/africa fox-news/science/wild-nature/mammals fox news fnc/science fnc bb1f2307-649b-5f29-a4a7-e15b63dee449 article

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Trump Allies In Disarray As Democrats Push Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group 5d9122b62100003700fdc3b3 Trump Allies In Disarray As Democrats Push Impeachment

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that he expects the whistleblower at the heart of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump to testify “very soon.”

“All that needs to be done, at this point, is to make sure that the attorneys that represent the whistleblower get the clearances that they need to be able to accompany the whistleblower to testimony,” said Schiff, D-Calif., “and that we figure out the logistics to make sure that we protect the identity of the whistleblower.”

As Democrats and the director of national intelligence worked out key arrangements, Trump’s allies erupted in a surge of second-guessing and conspiracy theorizing across the Sunday talk shows, suggesting the White House strategy is unclear against the stiffest challenge to his presidency. One former adviser urged Trump to confront the crisis at hand and get past his fury over the probe of Russian election interference.

“I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 investigation,” said Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser. “If he continues to focus on that white whale,” Bossert added, “it’s going to bring him down.”

The Ukraine investigation produced what the Russian probe did not: formal House impeachment proceedings based on the president’s own words and actions.

The White House last week released a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as well as the whistleblower’s complaint alleging the U.S. president pressured his counterpart to investigate the family of Joe Biden, the former vice president who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump’s reelection next year.

Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son Hunter Biden in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.

The House forged ahead, with Schiff’s committee leading the investigation. Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment, with hearings and depositions starting this week. Many Democrats are pushing for a vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year, mindful of the looming 2020 elections.

Schiff has said the whistleblower has agreed to testify. His committee has been negotiating to interview the person, who reported to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged Zelenskiy to investigate Biden. The whistleblower also said that White House officials then moved to “lock down” the details by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.

One of the whistleblower’s lawyers tweeted Sunday that talks were ongoing.

“We continue to work w/both parties in House & Senate and we understand all agree that protecting whistleblower’s identity is paramount,” posted Mark Zaid. “Discussions continue to occur to coordinate & finalize logistics but no date/time has yet been set.”

Trump’s allies fanned out across the Sunday talk shows with myriad responses.

Stephen Miller, the president’s senior policy adviser, called the whole inquiry a “partisan hit job” orchestrated by “a deep state operative” who is also “a saboteur.”

“The president of the United States is the whistleblower,” Miller said.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, promoted a debunked conspiracy theory, insisting that Ukraine had spread disinformation during the 2016 election.

Bossert advised that Trump drop that defense.

“I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again,” said Bossert, who also was an adviser to President George W. Bush. “That conspiracy theory has got to go, they have to stop with that, it cannot continue to be repeated.”

Giuliani not only repeated it but also brandished what he said were affidavits that support them and claimed that Trump “was framed by the Democrats.”

He also at one point said he would not cooperate with Schiff, but then acknowledged he would do what Trump tells him. The White House did not provide an official response on whether the president would allow Giuliani to cooperate.

“If they’re going to obstruct,” Schiff warned, “then they’re going to increase the likelihood that Congress may feel it necessary to move forward with an article on obstruction.”

Giuliani appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” while Schiff was interviewed on ABC and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Bossert spoke on ABC and Miller on “Fox News Sunday.”

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

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