Tuesday, June 24, 2014

B&R: The Lego HISHE

I love the Batman from How It Should Have Ended. That being said it's a pleasure to see him in Lego form gloating in front of Superman yet again. My favorite part is the "Everything is Batman" song at the end. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

10 NBA Free Agents the Miami Heat Should Take a Good, Long Look at This Summer

It's been a little difficult to think about basketball this week for Heat fans, especially with so much uncertainty swirling around the Big Three and several other free agents. The Heat clearly have needs to fill and they all center around one glaring issue: Depth. This is a team that straight up ran out of gas in the last three games of the Finals and the one thing they need more than anything is a deeper bench. And it hasn't gotten any easier since Sunday. Shane Battier has already announced his retirement and Chris Anderson announced that he will opt out of his contract, likely looking for more money at a time when the Heat can't afford to pay him. Mario Chalmers's spot on the Heat roster is in jeopardy as well. On the bright side, Udonis Haslem has expressed a desire to restructure his deal to free some cap space. If the Big Three has any desire to continue their dynasty by winning more championships, they will likely have to do the same...

1. Depth
2. Size/Length
3. Youth
4. Defense
5. Point Guard Play
6. Offense Creators
7. Shooting

UR = Unrestricted Free Agent; R = Restricted Free Agent; PO = Player Option

1. Marcin Gortat - UR - C - 6'11"

A perfect fit for the Heat: an athletic center who can rebound, block shots, and knock down mid-range jumpers. Doesn't provide much offense but he doesn't need to and he shoots a high percentage. Fulfills three of top four needs and just turned 30 but has only played 6 years in the NBA. Put this guy on the Heat and they beat the Spurs in 6. Might cost upwards of $10 million/year after his performance in the playoffs.

2. Kyle Lowry - UR - PG - 6'0"

Lowry would be the Heat's starting point guard immediately. Plays exactly the kind of disruptive defense the Heat make a living off of and plays with great effort and aggression. Excellent creator and distributor and great rebounder for his size. Has youth on his side. He also automatically puts the Heat over the Spurs in 6. Might cost upwards of $10 million/year with Toronto so close to the next level. Fulfills five of the team's top six needs.

3. Luol Deng - UR - SF - 6'8"

Another perfect fit for the Heat. Athletic and skillful scorer, passer, and defender with high IQ, exceptional length, and a great attitude. Very versatile and fulfills several needs. Already making over $14 million/year but may take less to play with LeBron.

4. Trevor Ariza - UR - SF - 6'8"

Long, athletic defender and tremendous rebounder who can shoot the lights out in bunches. Originally from Miami. Might cost upwards of $10 million/year after his performance in the playoffs.

5. Shaun Livingston - UR - PG - 6'7"

Big point guard with great vision and ballhandling who doesn't turn the ball over. Would be a great reserve point guard. Past injury is a concern but would be a cheap addition at a position of need.

6. Eric Bledsoe - R - PG - 6'1"

Strong, young, athletic point guard who can create on offense. Has a lot to learn about being a pure point guard and making good decisions. Value may get driven up by teams willing to overpay for him.

7. Evan Turner - UR - G/F - 6'7"

Young and talented. Can handle the ball, move without the ball and finish, rebound, and defend. Not particularly athletic. May have played down his value after the trade to Indiana.

8. Greivis Vasquez - R - PG - 6'6"

Big point guard with good passing and decision-making skills. Could be a phenomenal back-up or even start eventually. Shouldn't be too expensive.

9. Josh McRoberts - PO - PF - 6'10"

Young big guy who can rebound and block shots. Issues with consistency. Not very athletic. Shouldn't be too expensive.

10. Rodney Stuckey - UR - SG - 6'5"

Good, athletic scorer to back up Dwyane Wade. May be worth more to another team than he is to the Heat.

Top Three "Realistic" 2014-15 Miami Heat Ten-Man Rotations:

1. Starters: PG Kyle Lowry* SG Dwyane Wade SF LeBron James PF Chris Bosh C Marcin Gortat; Bench: G Norris Cole, G Ray Allen, F Rashard Lewis, F Josh McRoberts, F Udonis Haslem

(Dream Lineup. This one might be a little costly but it would be pretty magical. Shooting, defense, and rebounding ALL OVER the place, the ability to give all five starters plenty of rest with so much talent in the starting lineup. This would easily be the best starting five in the NBA. If the Heat can clear out about $25 million by dumping Chalmers and convincing the Big Three and Udonis Haslem to take less money, this would be a dream rotation. This team would easily be the favorite to win the 2015 NBA Championship if the Spurs don't make any significant moves.)

2. Starters: PG Norris Cole SG Dwyane Wade SF LeBron James PF Chris Bosh C Marcin Gortat; Bench: G Shaun Livingston***, G Ray Allen, F Luol Deng**, F Josh McRoberts, F Rashard Lewis

(This one has a bit less firepower in the starting lineup, instead beefing up the bench. Luol Deng could be Sixth Man of the Year on this team. Still plenty of talent and defense in the starting lineup and the ability to get them plenty of rest with a very deep bench. This would probably cost about as much, if not more than #1 unless Deng and Gortat are willing to take less to play with LeBron. This team would still be my favorite to win the 2015 NBA Championship if the Spurs stand pat.)

3. Starters: PG Kyle Lowry* SG Dwyane Wade SF LeBron James PF Chris Bosh C Josh McRoberts; Bench: G Shaun Livingston***, G Ray Allen, F Luol Deng**, F Udonis Haslem, F Rashard Lewis

(This is basically #2 with Kyle Lowry replacing Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem replacing Marcin Gortat, which bumps McRoberts into the starting lineup for his defense and rebounding. Could easily keep Norris Cole in place of Livingston for youth and health concerns. Not quite as much depth or size but still a highly capable bench and tons of talent and defense in the starting lineup. Matches up well with all the top teams in the East and West.)

* Could replace Lowry with Eric Bledsoe if he's willing to take less money than Lowry. You sacrifice defense, PG play, and tenacity.
** Could replace Deng with Trevor Ariza if he's willing to take less money (not very likely unless Gortat jumps ship). You sacrifice playmaking and intangibles. Could also replace with Evan Turner to save money. You sacrifice some athleticism but gain some youth.
*** Could be replaced with Greivis Vasquez. Not as many injury concerns but also not as proven.

Bottom Line: The top two priorities for the Heat this summer should easily be Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry with emphasis on Luol Deng as well. Getting one of these guys would immediately improve the team. Getting two would be a coup and make the Heat the odds on favorite to win a third title in four years. If you can't get Gortat, McRoberts would be a handy big guy for cheap. If you can't get Lowry, Shaun Livingston or Greivis Vasquez would make a good backup, and maybe you could even convince Eric Bledsoe to take less money than Lowry and less than he could get elsewhere. Or you could just stand pat at PG and rely on your overall depth to elevate the games of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole by limiting their minutes. If you can't get Deng, you either need to load up the starting lineup or find bench help from some combination of Trevor Ariza (if he'll take less money), Evan Turner, Shaun Livingston, or Josh McRoberts. McRoberts would be a nice cheap big to pick up no matter what happens. Turner could also be a nice cheap piece if someone doesn't overpay for him. We'll probably never see the dream lineup of Lowry, Wade, James, Bosh, and Gortat, but hey, we said the same thing about the Big Three.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


We here at the Vundablog are psyched for Florida Supercon 2014. One of our favorite parts of the convention is the live wrestling every night. So to keep us psyched we will be looking at the past matches of the FSCW.

B&R: How The Dark Knight Should Have Ended

The HISHE Batman is great you know why "Because I'm Batman!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

#HEADLINES: White House Allows DACA Extensions, Obama to Ease Student Debt, Iranian Support Nuclear Compromise, Wasserman Schultz Says Pot Proposal 'Too Broad', Qatar World Cup Scandal, Medicare to Cover Gender Confirmation Surgery, CA Voters Approve $600 Million for Homeless Vets

Jim Lo Scalzo / European Pressphoto Agency
White House allows young immigrants to extend deportation waivers -- Los Angeles Times
"More than half a million young immigrants who were granted temporary deportation waivers can apply for a two-year extension, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday, in what may be a template for more sweeping White House action before the midterm election.

"Under a program that President Obama announced in 2012, about 560,000 people who were brought to the country illegally as children have been granted temporary work permits and two-year deportation deferrals. The first permits will expire in September."

AP Photo
Obama Plans Steps to Ease Student Debt -- New York Times
"Mr. Obama's main action will be to expand on a 2010 law that capped borrowers' repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income. The intent is to extend such relief to an estimated five million people with older loans who are currently ineligible — those who got loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011. But the relief would not be available until December 2015, officials said, given the time needed for the Education Department to propose and put new regulations into effect.

"Also, Mr. Obama will announce that the department will renegotiate contracts with companies that service federal loans to give them additional financial incentives to help borrowers avoid delinquency or default. The Education and Treasury Departments are to work with the nation's largest tax-preparation firms, H&R Block and Intuit Inc., to ensure that borrowers are aware of repayment options and tax credits for college tuition."

Majid Asgaripour / Mehr News Agency / Reuters
Bitten by sanctions, Iranians support nuclear compromise -- Reuters
"After years of tough sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, many in the country now say they want the government to make compromises that could satisfy world powers and allow a semblance of prosperity to return.

"Although many Iranians still fervently believe in their country's right to all aspects of a civilian nuclear program, including those regarded with suspicion in the West, they are increasingly tired of the high economic price.

"That weariness will form the backdrop on June 16 when Iran's political leaders send negotiators to Geneva for talks with six world powers aimed at hammering out an agreement that swaps concessions on uranium enrichment for sanctions relief."

Daniel Acker / Bloomberg
Wasserman Schultz says pot proposal 'too broad' -- Sun Sentinel
"'I have concerns that it is written too broadly and stops short of ensuring strong regulatory oversight from state officials,' she said. 'Other states have shown that lax oversight and ease of access to prescriptions can lead to abuse, fraud, and accidents. Also, given Florida's recent history in combating the epidemic of "pill mills" and dubious distinction as having among the highest incidents of fraud, I do not believe we should make it easier for those seeking to abuse the drug to have easy access to it.'

"Wasserman Schultz's opposition to the state constitutional amendment puts her squarely in the camp of Republicans, a position unusual for the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Indeed, the DNC is already distancing itself from its chairwoman's view. 'She was speaking as a mom and a member of Congress on her personal concerns on a local issue,' DNC press secretary Mike Czin said. 'The DNC has not taken an official position on this ballot initiative. We leave it to the good people of Florida to make that decision.'"

Qatar World Cup 2022 scandal: Bill Clinton's fury at vote triggered global search for truth -- Telegraph
"In March this year, The Telegraph disclosed that Jack Warner, the former vice-president of Fifa, and his family were paid almost £1.2million by a Qatari firm linked to the World Cup bid. This newspaper also revealed that the 10-year-old daughter of a Brazilian Fifa executive who participated in the 2010 decision had more than £2 million put into a savings account set up in her name.

"The Sunday Times has been given millions of leaked documents that appear to show a further £2 million in bribes that were paid to Fifa members in a plot allegedly organised by Mohamed Bin Hammam, Qatar’s most senior football official at the time.

"Mr Bin Hammam is alleged to have used ten secret slush funds to make dozens of payments, many of them to accounts controlled by the heads of 30 African football associations who could lobby the continent’s four executive members over how to vote."

Medicare Can Pay For Transgender Recipients' Gender Confirmation Surgeries: Feds -- Huffington Post
"Transgender people receiving Medicare may no longer be automatically denied coverage for sex reassignment surgeries, a U.S. Department of Health and Services review board ruled Friday in a groundbreaking decision that recognizes the procedures as a medically necessary and effective treatment for individuals who do not identify with their biological sex.

"Ruling in favor of a 74-year-old Army veteran whose request to have Medicare pay for her genital reconstruction was denied two years ago, the agency's Departmental Appeals Board ruled that a three-decade-old HHS rule excluding such surgeries from the procedures covered by the national health program for the elderly and disabled was unjustified."

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
California voters support plan to spend $600 million for homeless veterans -- Reuters
"California residents have voted for a plan to spend $600 million to build houses for homeless veterans in the state with the highest number of ex-servicemen without a roof in the United States.

"Under the plan backed by voters in a primary election on Tuesday, the state will sell bonds to build apartments and temporary shelters for qualifying veterans or those recovering from physical injuries or mental health issues.

"California has about 25 percent or 19,000 homeless veterans, according to the Coalition for Veterans Housing support group.

"With the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of those returning need housing, employment, and mental health and drug treatment."

B&R: Batman: The Brave and The Bold - Emperor Joker - Where's the fun in that?

As seen before the Batman Brave and the Bold has amazing musical sequences involving Batman and the DC universe. This one let's you rock out with the Joker. The song is quite catchy and get's stuck in your head. "Smile darn ya smile" is almost as iconic as "why so serious" as far as Joker quotes go.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Update on Daniel Bryan's Condition (SPOILERS) and Money In the Bank Theory/Fantasy Booking (POSSIBLE SPOILERS)

So the big news of the day is that Daniel Bryan will not be cleared to compete in this month's Money In the Bank pay-per-view and therefore will likely--probably tonight--be stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This means that the Money In the Bank match at the PPV will likely be for the championship rather than for the briefcase(s) and contract(s). But it doesn't necessarily have to be. Not exactly.

Here's what I propose:

Reveal tonight on Raw that HHH has inked a deal with Daniel Bryan to split the titles back up again and have Bryan forfeit either the WWE Title or the World Heavyweight Championship while retaining the other. This effectively turns HHH on Steph while still essentially keeping him heel because he believes Daniel Bryan is "best for business" and can make The Authority a lot of money but Steph disagrees because he's insubordinate and beloved and a legitimate threat to their power and she learned from her dad that when you're up against someone like that, you have to break him by any means necessary.

Plus, now you can have a MITB match for either title and do another MITB match for a briefcase that gives the winner his choice of which title to go after (because one of the two guys always ends up stuck in a loop for a while, having one is so much better). And people won't just assume it will be the WWE Title because the WHC will be more prestigious than it's been in years either in the hands of Daniel Bryan or the winner of one of the 3-5 highest profile matches of the year (up there with Royal Rumble, WrestleMania main event, Undertaker WM match [R.I.P.] [I hope], and that's about it).

With Cesaro heavily rumored to be the pick to win the MITB match, the WHC would be the perfect title to put on him. But you could also put the WWE Title on him and the WHC on Bryan, bringing the prestige of the WHC to effectively equal the WWE Title while still elevating Cesaro.

From a creative standpoint, it also really opens up a lot of possibilities. First of all, even if the WWE Title is the one up for grabs, it opens up the field in terms of who could conceivably win the match. Think about it, does anyone really think Alberto Del Rio stands a chance in this match? But make it for either one title or the other (particularly the WHC), and suddenly it doesn't seem so far-fetched for him to win.

Rollins has to be considered a leading candidate for the MITB match as well. Certainly no one expects him to win the currently unified title any time soon but he would benefit immensely from the WHC or WWE Title or even the briefcase. You could even have him win the title and then have Evolution screw him and replace him with the briefcase winner (Ambrose? Reigns? Bo Dallas? CM Punk?). The possibilities are endless!

Not to mention the possibilities that come with having one briefcase winner who can choose his title. Not only is the MITB match more important with only one briefcase on the line but the amount of potential creative directions that stem from letting the guy choose his title is so much better than the alternative. Plus, it opens up the possibilities of who could win even more.

If I was booking this, Bryan would give up the WWE Title and Cesaro would win it with Seth Rollins taking home the briefcase. Cesaro would beef with a returning Brock Lesnar, dropping the title to him at Battleground after being betrayed by Heyman. Then, Lesnar would challenge Bryan to a title vs. title match (NOT a title unification, just a match for both titles) and lose clean but then get angry and destroy Bryan, leading to Rollins cashing in and taking the WWE Title, leading to a feud between Shield members over the title and, hopefully, eventually, Bryan reclaiming it at WrestleMania.

Whatever happens, Money In the Bank promises to be the most interesting PPV WWE has put on since WrestleMania.

Nic Cage Monday: Hermione Cage

#HEADLINES: NSA Could Spy More Under Reform Bill, Student Heroes in Seattle University Shooting, China's Miserable Environmental Report, Scientists Race to Save Doomed Coral, Egypt Criminalizes Sexual Harassment, Sao Paolo Metro Strike, New York Prison Education Program

Scott Olson / Getty Images
The NSA Could Actually Spy on More Phone Calls Under Reform Bill -- National Journal
"Last month, the House passed the USA Freedom Act, which would force the NSA to give up its massive database of phone records, which contains phone numbers and timestamps of millions of landline calls. Under the bill, the NSA would have to receive court approval for each search of a phone company's records.

"But the legislation includes a provision that would require the phone companies to provide 'technical assistance' to help the NSA collect the data in a readable format.

"That provision could allow the NSA to more easily access millions of cell-phone records, according to Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy-advocacy group."

Officials Hail Hero Students in Seattle Pacific University Shooting -- NBC News
"The gunman walked into the lobby and fired multiple gunshots, said police Capt. Chris Fowler, the incident commander. When he stopped to reload, a student security guard subdued the man by pepper-spraying him and taking him to the ground, where he was pinned by other students until authorities arrived, Fowler said.
"Washington Gov. Jay Inslee [praised] the 'students who put themselves in real danger to protect classmates from further violence and to aid and comfort the victims.'

"'Those selfless and brave acts should remind us of the indomitable spirit of young people,' Inslee said in a statement."

William Hong / Reuters
China's annual state of the environment report is miserable -- Quartz
"-Of 4,788 groundwater sites tests, 59.6% of them had 'poor' or 'very poor' water quality.

"-Of 74 cities where air quality was tested, only three met the government's urban air quality standards.

"-In the southern part of China and along the Yangtze River, acid rain falls on 11% of the land.

"-About 19% of China's 'offshore' water, meaning the seawater along its coast, is so polluted that it is unsafe for human beings to go in or eat fish from."

University of Miami
Scientists race to save coral doomed by Government Cut dredging -- Miami Herald
"The coral, which may hold clues about how sea life adapts to climate change, is growing in Government Cut. The channel, created more than a century ago, leads to PortMiami and is undergoing a $205 million dredging project — scheduled to begin Saturday — to deepen the sea floor by about 10 feet in time for a wave of new monster cargo ships cruising through an expanded Panama Canal starting in 2015.

"Endangered coral and larger coral have already been removed by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging work.

"But the remaining coral, deemed 'corals of opportunity' in Corps lingo, can be retrieved with a permit. The problem, scientists say, is they only had 12 days between when the permits were issued last month and the start of dredging, not nearly enough time to save the unusual colonies thriving in Government Cut."

Sexual harassment made a crime in Egypt -- Al Jazeera English
"The decree defines harassment as any sexual or pornographic suggestion or hints through words, signs or acts, until now the country has not had a law defining sexual harassment.

"The decree amended the country's current law, which did not criminalise sexual harassment and only vaguely referred to such offences as indecent assault.

"A minimum two-year jail term was introduced for harassers who hold a position of power over their victim, is in uniform or is armed with a weapon. Penalties would double for repeat offenders.

"Egypt has witnessed a jump in sexual assaults since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak from the presidency, with large numbers of mob attacks on women during political protests. "

Chico Ferreira / Reuters
Sao Paulo metro strike to continue Monday despite court ruling -- Reuters
"Sao Paulo's metro workers voted to stay off work for a fifth day on Monday even after a court declared the strike illegal, complicating preparations for the World Cup opening match.

"Another vote on the strike was scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), after a rally in downtown Sao Paulo in which they will be joined by homeless' workers and other social movements.

"'The (metro workers') union sent an official request to President Dilma Rousseff asking her to help the category reopen talks with the (Sao Paulo) state government,' which controls the subway system, the union said in a note on Sunday.

"A court on Sunday set a 500,000 reais penalty ($223,000) for each day they stay off work from Monday. It also declared the strike illegal, paving the way for state-owned Companhia do Metropolitano de Sao Paulo to lay off striking workers.

"Metro workers' demand a 12 percent pay rise, but Metro has offered 8.7 percent."

Richard Perry / New York Times
Prison Program Turns Inmates Into Intellectuals -- New York Times
"On the day I visited Otisville, another student, Devon Simmons, read a skillfully argued piece he wrote on the importance of financing prison education (which experienced an unfortunate reversal 20 years ago when inmates became ineligible for federal Pell grants), remarking that he and his fellow students at Otisville had managed to excel despite the absence of Power Point lectures and Wikipedia — most technology, especially Internet access, is forbidden. The essay won him an award in a writing contest in which he competed with traditional students at John Jay. (His sister accepted it for him.)

"Despite the worthy case he was making, many members of the State Legislature opposed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to include financing for prison education in his most recent budget, and the governor dropped it. Mr. Cuomo is now seeking private financing for the initiative.

"For far too long we have thought about prison education almost exclusively in terms of the reduced recidivism it produces, which study after study has shown to be evident. But in some sense this is an inadequate metric and paradigm, neglecting the kinds of economic and social opportunities that are and should be available to prisoners who pursue and complete higher learning. As Ms. Dreisinger put it, 'These guys reoffending is really the last thing I’m worried about.'

"The more urgent and compelling question now is whether and how quickly they find work worthy of their achievements. The Bard Prison Initiative, begun in 1999, which provides a Bard College education to prisoners in New York State, has reported that two-thirds of program alumni are employed, finishing college degrees or enrolled in graduate school, including at New York University, Columbia and Yale. Most who are working are doing so in social service, which is also true of the graduates of another program in New York, known as College and Community Fellowship, that helps women leaving prison finish college."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

#HEADLINES: Bipartisan VA Reform Compromise in US Senate, Bergdahl Swap = End of Gitmo?, Israel to Expand Settlements in Response to New Palestinian Gov't, NBA Playoffs' Corporate Winners, FL Gov Signs $77 Billion Budget, UN's Next President Is Corrupt Gay-Hater, NYC Task Force Aids Mentally Ill Inmates

Win McNamee / Getty Images
Senators Reach Framework To Pay For Veterans' Care Outside System -- NPR
"Senators from both parties have reached an agreement on legislation that would expand the ability of veterans to seek government-paid medical care outside the network of the VA medical system.

"Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, was joined by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in making the announcement Thursday on the Senate floor."

Paolo Pellegrin / Magnum
Bergdahl swap could spell the end of Guantanamo -- MSNBC
"Ever since President Obama signed an executive order, on his second day in office, to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Republicans have blocked the effort with a steady stream of obstacles, including cutting funding for prisoner transfers to the U.S. and calling for impossible guarantees that released detainees would never pose a threat to America. As the White House's political will to overcome these hurdles waned, Obama’s supporters had reason to wonder if he would make good on his promise.

"But when Obama exchanged five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo for U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, he demonstrated that despite the best efforts by Republicans to keep scores of men - most of them never charged with any crime - detained indefinitely, he has the power to both move prisoners and close the prison he once called a 'stain on America.' And he stands by his decision."

Dan Balilty / Associated Press
Angry over new Palestinian government, Israel to expand settlements -- Los Angeles Times
"In an almost predictable response to recent developments, Israel announced plans to expand construction in East Jerusalem and in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, drawing Palestinian outrage and deepening tensions with the United States.

"The announcement Thursday followed the creation of a new Palestinian unity government established in agreement with Hamas, which Israel and the U.S. regard as a terrorist organization.

"The Israelis are furious about not only the new government but also its acceptance by the U.S. The settlement construction, announced Wednesday night, was widely seen as a jab at both the Palestinians and the Americans."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


#HEADLINES: Bernie Sanders Takes Lead on VA Controversy, Senate Hearings on Campaign Cash, Seattle OKs $15 Min Wage, U.S. to Aid Child Migrants, Florida Gerrymandering Case with Implications for 2014 Mid-Terms, Israel Condemns US for Backing Palestinian Unity Gov't, China May Limit Carbon Emissions for First Time

AP Photo
VA moves Bernie Sanders from stage left to center stage -- Politico
"With Eric Shinseki out at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the focus now shifts to Capitol Hill, placing the two-term Vermont independent and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman at the center of the growing VA health care controversy. Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, is assembling a legislative package to help address the issue in the hopes that he can consolidate support within the veterans community and assuage concerns of vulnerable Democrats.

"In the process, he’ll have to win over enough Republicans to push the bill through the narrowly divided Senate — or maneuver deftly so it appears that Democrats aren’t blamed for its failure.

"It’s a tall task for anyone in a gridlocked Congress — let alone a fiery partisan in the middle of an intense election year. And he’s already engaged in a fierce back-and-forth with Republicans on the issue, after the GOP rejected his $21 billion vets bill earlier this year and he blocked a House plan aimed at holding senior VA officials more accountable."

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo
Senate panel to hold hearing on campaign cash -- Associated Press
"The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday began a long-shot bid at pushing a constitutional amendment that would limit deep-pocketed political campaign donors' influence.

"With plenty of politics but very limited prospects of actually changing the Constitution, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the free flow of 'shady money' into politics the biggest threat to democracy he's seen. His Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called efforts to limit campaign spending a tactic to rile up Democrats this election year.

"Changing the Constitution is an intentionally difficult process, and leaders from both parties acknowledge that the Democrats' efforts to prohibit super PACs are likely to result in little more than election-year posturing. But Democrats plan to push forward to force Republicans to cast votes on this topic before November's elections."

AP Photo
Seattle OKs $15 minimum wage - Politico
"The Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday that gradually increases the minimum wage in the city to $15, which would make it the highest in the nation.

"The issue has dominated politics in the liberal municipality for months, and a boisterous crowd of mostly labor activists packed the Council chambers for the vote. Mayor Ed Murray, who was elected last year, had promised in his campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A newly-elected socialist City Council member had pushed the idea as well."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

B&R: Siskel & Ebert Batman (1989) Review

This week the B&R has a classic bit of criticism by the late great Siskel and Ebert. I love how adult Siskel thinks this film is, I wonder what he would have thought of the Dark Knight. It's interesting that they say it's not for kids when I loved it as a kid. Who do you think is the bigger bat-fan between Siskel or Ebert?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nic Cage Monday: Bane

#HEADLINES: Obama's New Carbon Emissions Rules, NSA Collecting Faces, US Training Anti-Terror Troops in Africa, FL Atty Gen: Gay Marriage Would "Impose Significant Public Harm", Russia and 2 Neighbors Form Economic Union, Obama Admin Sides with Banks in Madoff Case, Palestinians Fear Encroaching Settlement Bloc

Jeff Swensen / Getty Images
A guide to Obama's new rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants -- Vox
"How can Obama do this without Congress? He'll be working through the Environmental Protection Agency, which already has the legal authority to regulate US greenhouse gases.

"Since 2009, the EPA has used that authority to ratchet up fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks. Then, last year, the agency imposed strict carbon standards on anyone who wants to build a new coal or gas plant in the future.

"Now the agency is going even further. The EPA's newest proposal will require the nation's power plants to cut their carbon-dioxide emissions 25 percent in the 2020s and 30 percent by 2030 — compared to 2005 levels."

U.S. Marshalls Service via
Associated Press / Reuters
N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images -- New York Times
"The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

"The agency intercepts 'millions of images per day' — including about 55,000 'facial recognition quality images' — which translate into 'tremendous untapped potential,' according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show."

Peter Tinti
U.S. Training Elite Antiterror Troops in Four African Nations -- New York Times
"The secretive program, financed in part with millions of dollars in classified Pentagon spending and carried out by trainers, including members of the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force, was begun last year to instruct and equip hundreds of handpicked commandos in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali.

"The goal over the next few years is to build homegrown African counterterrorism teams capable of combating fighters like those in Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls last month. American military specialists are helping Nigerian officers in their efforts to rescue the girls."