The Capital Gazette Shooting and the True Value of Local Newspapers

The Capital Gazette Shooting and the True Value of Local Newspapers

Yesterday morning, a thirty-eight-year-old man named Jarrod Ramos killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper, in Annapolis, Maryland. He fired a gun into the newsroom, then stopped, reloadedthe staff now cowering under their desks—and then started firing again. After a mass shooting, there is usually both sadness and a sense of dread, as the country waits to discover the shooter’s identity and the nature of his grievance. But in this case the staff of the Capital Gazette already knew all about Ramos. He had been the subject of a story in the paper in 2011, which detailed how he had stalked a high-school classmate on Facebook. Ever since, he had mounted a relentless campaign of harassment and menace against the paper and its editors. Ramos sued the Capital Gazette for defamation, though he lost; he maintained a Twitter feed exclusively devoted to ranting against the paper. He threatened the paper often, and some of his threats “indicated violence,” the local police chief said yesterday. Tom Marquardt, who had been the newspaper’s publisher and editor until 2012, told the Los Angeles Times last night, “if it’s him, I’m gonna feel responsible for this. I pray it’s not him.” It was. This time there was no mystery about the killer’s motivation, no chance for opportunistic politics to creep in. His story was already laid out, in the memory of the local reporters and in their newspaper’s archives.

Yesterday evening, after Ramos was in custody, I read the article about Ramos and the woman from his high school, published on Sunday, July 31, 2011—the one that set off the unravelling. The story, written by a columnist named Eric Thomas Hartley, is a small masterpiece, one that shows exactly what local newspapers can do. Its tone is terse and alarmed; no paragraph is more than three sentences long. Its topic is an outwardly unexceptional criminal case in Anne Arundel Court, in which Ramos pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassment. The headline, ominous and artful, was “Jarrod Wants to be Your Friend.”

Here is how it begins:

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably gotten a friend request or message from an old high school classmate you didn’t quite remember.

For one woman, that experience turned into a yearlong nightmare.

Out of the blue, Jarrod Ramos wrote and thanked her for being the only person ever to say hello or be nice to him in school.

She didn’t remember him, so he sent pictures. She Googled him, found a yearbook picture and realized they apparently did go to Arundel High together.

“He was having some problems, so she wrote back and tried to help, suggesting a counseling center.

“I just thought I was being friendly,” she said.

“That sparked months of emails in which Ramos alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself. He emailed her company and tried to get her fired.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Hartley is trying to capture, from both sides, the emotional experience of a cyclonic, almost anonymous berating that becomes hard to escape. He captures Ramos’s belittling, hectoring fury in the e-mails he sent to his victim, which are preserved in court records: “Have another drink and go hang yourself, you cowardly little lush. Don’t contact you again? I don’t give a (expletive). (Expletive) you.”

From the victim’s testimony, Hartley extracts the feeling of being pursued. He quotes her recounting of her story in court. . “When it seemed to me that it was turning into something that gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, that he seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist … I tried to slowly back away from it, and he just started getting angry and vulgar to the point I had to tell him to stop,” she said. “And he was not okay with that.’ Hartley does not mention male entitlement, or trauma, but it is all laid bare.

In this type of case, the convicted man’s grievance often focusses on the judge, or the prosecutor, or the investigator. They are responsible, after all, for the consequences—the criminal conviction, the public ostracizing, the legal record. But Hartley’s had exposed Ramos, much more deeply. He may have thought himself invisible before the story was published—an ordinary person in an unexceptional place, seeking attachment to a woman who could not remember him. Then, all of a sudden, he was seen.

When I was just out of college, I worked for the Chester County bureau of the Philadelphia Inquirer, an operation of a similar scale to the Capital Gazette., . The Inquirer’s suburban strategy at the time was to hire a lot of exceptionally young reporters to provide hyper-local coverage of the towns around the city, to generate a county section, called “Neighbors,” — ran twice a week and to fill out the back pages of the daily Metro section. There were about ten of us, and we worked out of a converted movie theatre in the middle of West Chester, the county seat. Our editor was a tightly wound, very precise African-American woman in her forties, named Bettinita. Turnover was high, and new hires would tour their beat and then return, with a multi-part series in their imagination, and explain to Bettinita that they were going to expose the simmering racial tensions withinfor instance, the Phoenixville city council. Bettinita would nod, agree that racial tensions were simmering everywhere, and then ask what was the news—what was the eight-hundred-word story? And the reporter would exit, ambitions postponed, for an evening meeting of the water board.

Journalists give on another far too many prizes, but, even so, it was hard to see how you could win one in Chester County. I spent two and a half years there, in between the September 11th attacks and the financial crisis, when the country felt both prosperous and militantly self-assured. Chester County was especially so. Its politics were in the hands of sedate suburban Republican attorneys in their fifties, who were periodically challenged by Democrats of the same profession, vintage, and mood. The only steady drama concerned development issues, the conversion of horse farms into subdivisions, the bickering over how much money would flow to whom. My first beat, which covered the area defined by the Owen J. Roberts school district, did not contain a single sidewalk. I would return in the morning from a township planning meeting and Bettinita would edit my copy, which was mostly a matter of rearranging the quotes, so that the smart-sounding, context-rich account from the supervisors got buried and the bluntest and least-decorous words were elevated, into the lead. Our job was not to provide a theory of the case. It was to prospect for genuine feeling, amid the mundanity, and then account for it.

It turned out that the story of Chester County was the story of the struggle for emotional expression, which for some people came naturally and for others was like gasping for air. I visited a Christian psychotherapist who, hoarder-like, had stuffed his house with documents from a grisly local murder from the nineteen-twenties, which he was determined to solve. I wandered into a school construction meeting and discovered that the superintendent had required that everyone on the panel (parents, vice-principals, the contractor) read Foucault, so that the new cafeteria did not become a carceral. One morning, an elderly bus driver picked up the students on his route and simply bypassed their school and headed across state lines, into Delaware. He could not clearly explain why he had done this, either to the children, who were terrified, or to the authorities, who caught him later that morning. I was sent to ask the bus driver’s neighbors about him, and eventually I found his home, a little cabin on a rural hill in Berks County, a quarter mile from anyone else. His neighbors had no insights. I walked up to his home and knocked. No one was there. Afterward, I could not shake the feeling of the overwhelming isolation and claustrophobia of old age.

It is an ugly business, showing up at someone’s door after there has been a trauma, an accident or a crime, in which they were the victims or the perpetrators. I found that it worked best when I did not apologize for my presence, or for what happened. Twenty-two years old, I tried to keep my face kind but my bearing formal. The people who answered their doors often wanted to rush straight to the heart of things, to their experience of the day, to their fury at their circumstances. My hope was to arrest that emotion, to ask them first to confirm the proper spelling of their name and their exact age, and then, once they understood that there would be a structure to our conversation, to begin again. I often told the people I met on their doorsteps that they did not need to talk to me, that they could simply shut the door. Though I meant it sincerely, I found that it usually served as an accelerant. It reminded people that they did want to explain, that the police had taken the facts but no one else would hear their story.

We knew, even then, that these journalistic practices were dying. The Inquirer had three editors-in-chief in the short time I was there, each one of whom reversed the strategy of the previous one. Of the dozen reporters I worked with in the Chester County bureau, I believe that I am one of only two still in journalism. Bettinita was laid off and, after another stint at a local paper, found work as a personal trainer. The decline of local newspapers is often lamented—and even more so this morning—but lamented in a particular way, as if their main role has been as municipal watchdogs, and, without them, corruption and the simple aggression of the powerful will now go unchecked. Having worked as a local reporter, I tend to think that the role of these publications was broader than that, and the loss is far deeper. We were an outlet through which ordinary people could explain themselves to strangers, without requiring the political side-taking of talk radio or the tribal insularity of the Internet. We wore laminated press passes on lanyards and carried pencils, because pens froze on cold days; we made twenty-nine thousand dollars a year. We showed up, even when it was boring. We tried to explain how it was that people in a majestically well-off place could feel so frustrated, and so angry.

The men and women who died yesterday at the Capital Gazette were not young. One of the victims was a thirty-four-year-old sales assistant named Melissa Smith; the other four were all journalists, and all veterans. John McNamara, an editor, was fifty-six; Wendi Winters, a community reporter and columnist, was sixty-five; Gerald Fischman, the editorial-page editor, was sixty-one; and Rob Hiaasen, the paper’s editor, was fifty-nine. What resonated in their obituaries was the daily act of wading into the news in Annapolis in search of its emotional center. Yesterday, that center was easy to find—it was with their colleagues. After the killings, with the newsroom evacuated, a news photographer captured two young Gazette journalists set up across the street, working on laptops at a folding table. One of them, Chase Cook, tweeted: “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” They did.


via Everything

June 29, 2018 at 08:22PM

Focus: Vaping travel guide

Focus: Vaping travel guide

Vaping travel guide

You might travel a lot as part of your job. Or when you are working hard, your thoughts might be turning to taking a well-deserved vacation as summer approaches.

If you are feeling virtuous having switched the cigarettes for vaping, you might not even give it a second thought as you put your vaping kit in your purse instead of the cigarettes.

However, vaping is still a fairly new concept, so different countries have different views on e-cigarettes and different rules and regulations. Giving up smoking is hard enough – you don’t want your vaping kit confiscated to set you back!

Here are some things you need to know before you travel and vape:

• Do your research before you travel by air

If you are travelling by plane, make sure that you look at the specific vaping policies for that airport and airline. Some airports have vaping areas, and some airports ban vaping in the airport buildings completely.

E-cigarettes are not allowed in checked baggage and have to be transported in carry-on luggage through security in a clear plastic bag.

As with any battery powered device, it is a wise idea to remove the batteries from the device before a flight to be extra cautious. If you have a wax pen vaporizer then drain the battery or separate the chamber from the mod. 

Plan ahead for how much e-liquid you need to bring with you for your trip, as depending on where you are going, you might not be able to stock up easily once at your destination.

After going through security, wrap your e-cigarette and e-liquids in a paper towel or put them in a sealed plastic bag. The change in the pressure as the plane travels higher can cause the e-liquid to leak into your purse.

When travelling by plane, bear in mind that you will not be allowed to charge your e-cigarettes on board.

• Be aware of laws against vaping

Some countries have made vaping illegal following advice from the World Health Organisation. There is quite a long list, but it includes Brazil, Dubai, Egypt and Thailand.

Anyone caught entering theses countries with a vaping device can be subject to fines or even imprisonment.

Although you won’t end up in jail for vaping in the US, there are laws about outdoor and indoor vaping to adhere to. In New York and California, vaping follows the same restrictions as smoking with smoke-free laws in place.

The laws across the globe are constantly changing so make sure you find up-to-date information. Look out for English language vaping forums for the country that you are travelling to.

If you really need a nicotine fix in a country where e-cigarettes are banned, pack some nicotine gum or patches.

• Vaping-friendly countries

There are a number of countries where vaping can get you into jail….but on the flipside there are many other countries which have fully embraced vaping as an effective way of giving up tobacco smoking.

48.5 million Europeans have tried e-cigarettes (12% of the total population), so there is a good awareness there. Awareness in Greece is highest with 98.7% of the population knowing about e-cigarettes. In the UK, awareness is also high, with the National Health Service (NHS) promoting vaping as a highly effective way of giving up smoking.

Even if a country is vaping-friendly – you still need to check regulations before you go. Most European countries have vaping regulations, but bans are uncommon – the main focus in Europe is on restricting the sale and use of e-cigarettes for those under 18 years old.

• E-Liquid on flights

In 2006, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) banned all liquids and aerosols over 100ml from all commercial flights as a result of the ‘liquid bomb plot’. At the time it was a big change and meant re-thinking how we packed our bags before a flight. Today we don’t think anything of spending that extra time in the security queues – it has become part of air travel.

Make sure that your e-liquid is transported in a 100ml bottle and if you need to take more e-liquid, fill a larger bottle and store it in your checked luggage.

If you will need to buy e-liquid at your destination research where you can buy it from before you go (if the country allows vaping).

• Be mindful of your surroundings

Until the rest of the world stops seeing vaping in the same category as as smoking, then you need to respect the systems in other countries.

The country you are visiting might allow vaping, but it is still polite to remember vaping etiquette.

General good manners include not vaping in enclosed spaces like elevators and waiting rooms. It is polite to avoid vaping in any crowded area and seeking quiet locations to take an e-cigarette break. Don’t vape in eating areas, even if outside, as the different vaping smells can impact the senses of those who are eating.

Finally, if you have travelled abroad to work, check with your colleagues or clients before vaping. Some offices have a designated area for vapers, like a roof terrace – and this may create chances to network, socialise and clinch that deal.

Remember that you are representing the vaping community when you travel and by being conscientious you can have a trouble free time away!


via Breaking Travel News

June 29, 2018 at 08:09PM

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis Gets Multi-Million Dollar Revamp

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis Gets Multi-Million Dollar Revamp

The Gateway Arch, the marquee tourist attraction of St. Louis, Missouri, is looking like a million bucks. Actually, make that $380 million.

That’s the total price tag of a complete overhaul of the 91-acre National Park on which the 630-foot stainless steel monument stands. The multi-million dollar undertaking has refreshed everything from the landmark’s entrance to the park’s museum on the settlement of the Western US, to the grounds’ verdant landscape — and even partially rerouted a highway that used to buzz across the park’s interior.

The only thing that wasn’t refurbished as part of the effort, dubbed the City River Arch Project, was the Arch itself. 

“We didn’t touch the arch,” Eric Moraczewski, the executive director of the Gateway Park Foundation, told USA Today. “What we did is improve the environment around it.” That area is now replete with lush landscape in the middle of downtown St. Louis that stretches from the Arch to the city’s historic Old Courthouse and borders the banks of the mighty Mississippi River.

“The Gateway Arch is a monument that is known around the world as one of the great monuments that has ever been built,” Moraczewski added. “We weren’t here to touch our great historical architectural feat.”

Courtesy National Park Service
Courtesy National Park Service

The grounds now have 2,400 more trees, along with new walking and bike paths that wind through the park. Project developers even razed a parking garage on the property’s riverfront to make way for an additional 7.5 acres of green space.

There is a new land bridge that stretches over Interstate 44, whose traffic used to thunder through the Arch grounds. Now, there is “Park Over the Highway,” which is like a well-kept lawn that stretches over the traffic and completely muffles the cars’ cacophony.

“It’s really a new connection to the city,” Moraczewski said. “We had multiple lanes of traffic people had to cross, and what we had a lot of times was people hiring taxis just to get to the arch grounds.”

The Arch’s museum space also got a significant revamp. Its square footage was increased by about one third to a total of 150,000 square feet. The brand new exhibits tell St. Louis’ history from its beginnings as an 18th century outpost for French fur traders to the present day, as well as the city’s past as a starting point for settlers heading to the Western US. The best part? The museum is free to all visitors.

“We’re telling the story of why St. Louis is here and why it was important and why it was a jumping off point for so many settlers west of here, so people can understand why this historic monument is sitting where it is,” Moraczewski said of the museum.

The Arch was completed on October 28, 1965, and was designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The property was renamed the Gateway Arch National Park earlier this year. It was first called Jefferson National Expansion Memorial from its founding in 1935.

The grand re-opening of the revamped park is July 3.

H/T: USA Today

Featured image by Matt Miller for The Washington Post via Getty Images.


via The Points Guy

June 29, 2018 at 08:02PM

World Cup 2018: The African Teams Depart Early

World Cup 2018: The African Teams Depart Early

For the first time since 1982, no African team has advanced to the knockout round of the World Cup. Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Senegal have all been eliminated. The three North African teams were out before playing their final matches; Nigeria and Senegal went into their last group-stage games this week carrying both momentum and hope for a continent that has yet to see one of its teams advance beyond the quarter-finals in the eighty-eight year history of the tournament.

Nigeria’s final match, on Tuesday, was against Argentina, which had, to that point, looked like a shadow of itself. Following two dreadful performances, Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest player in the world, scored a stunning goal early on, but the Nigerians levelled the game a few minutes after halftime, on a Victor Moses penalty. For most of the rest of the game it appeared as though it would end in a draw, and Nigeria would advance. Then, in the eighty-sixth minute, Marcos Rojo scored on a first-time volley from a Gabriel Mercado cross to send Argentina to the next round and Nigeria out of the tournament.

African hopes, then, settled on the shoulders of the Senegalese. They had already beaten Poland and tied Japan, and entering their last group-stage game, against Colombia, there were a number of possible paths forward: a win or a tie would see them through, and even a loss would be enough if Japan lost their last game, against Poland, by enough goals.

The four teams in each group play their final games simultaneously, so that the result in one won’t spoil the drama of the other. For obsessives, like me, this means watching one game on television, another on my computer, and reading running commentary from friends’ text messages and the Twitter timeline on my phone. When I caught myself in the mirror, I briefly took note of how ridiculous I looked: pacing around my living room, talking frantically to the television and then the laptop and then to the soccer gods above, asking for some sort of divine intervention on behalf of the Senegalese team.

Throughout most of the Senegal-Colombia match, it looked as if the Lions of Teranga would sail undisturbed into the next round. Colombia mounted few meaningful attacks and their best player, James Rodríguez, limped off the field after half an hour. When Poland scored against Japan, in the match that was streaming, without sound, on my laptop, I felt certain that both Senegal and Colombia would go through. But in the seventy-fourth minute, Colombia’s Juan Fernando Quintero sent in a corner kick that was met by his six-feet-five teammate Yerry Mina, who leapt over three Senegalese defenders and headed the ball between the goalkeeper, Khadim N’Diaye, and the Senegalese defender, Idrissa Gueye, who was leaning, far too casually, on the goal post.

Senegal could not come up with an equalizer, and lost 1–0. Japan lost 1–0, too. And the two teams finished group play with the same number of wins and losses, as well as the same goal differential. As a result, Senegal became the first team in the history of the tournament to be eliminated by fifa’s fair-play rule: they had accumulated six yellow cards, compared to Japan’s four, and so they were out. It is difficult to think of a more subjective metric by which to determine which team should move on to the next round. That subjectivity becomes even more worrying if you’ve read much about racial bias in refereeing.

Earlier this week, I had joked, on Twitter, about the way that I and many other black Americans experience the World Cup.

There is a particular solidarity that black Americans feel with African athletes during sporting events like this one. It does not stem from the false pretense that, because we are all black, we are all the same. Rather, it’s a recognition of the shared lineage that we know is present even when we cannot trace it directly. To my knowledge, I have direct roots in neither Nigeria nor Senegal, but I know that the lives of the people there, like my own, have been shaped in part by an oppression that we did not choose. American chattel slavery and European colonialism in Africa are not the same, but neither can be disentangled from the global phenomenon of anti-blackness. And it is also impossible to disentangle the history of colonialism from the economic instability that puts African countries at a disadvantage when competing on the world stage.

In this moment, especially, with a U.S. President who has suggested that the entire continent of Africa consists of “shithole countries” and said that all Nigerians live in “huts,” I was hopeful that at least one of the African teams would advance to the next round. But this, too, is a burden they should not have to carry. Senegal played with a joy and spirit during the tournament that gained the team support the world over. And I’ll still be wearing my Senegal jersey with pride long after this World Cup is over.


via Everything

June 29, 2018 at 07:46PM

China’s HNA Looks to Sell Radisson Hotel Group to Pay Down Debt

China’s HNA Looks to Sell Radisson Hotel Group to Pay Down Debt

HNA Group Co., the Chinese conglomerate selling assets to pay down debt, is exploring a sale of Radisson Hotel Group, according to people familiar with the matter.

HNA has been gauging interest from rival hotel chains and other potential buyers of the Minneapolis-based company, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. There is no certainty the talks will lead to a sale, they said.

“While it has been widely reported that HNA has recently been exploring the sale of some of its assets, we are in a very strong place with our business and remain committed to our go-forward strategy,” John Kidd, chief executive of Radisson’s operations in the Americas and Asia Pacific., said in a statement. “Any additional questions about a potential sale would need to be answered by HNA.”

A representative for HNA declined to comment.

HNA has been aggressively selling assets this year to pay down heavy debt incurred during a multi-year buying spree. It agreed to sell a Minneapolis office tower for $320 million to Samsung Group, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month. It has also sold down stakes in Deutsche Bank AG and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

HNA brings Radisson to market as hotel operators benefit from a strong global economy and a growing appetite for travel among middle class people across the world. The travel and tourism sector grew 4.6 percent in 2017, outpacing the growth of the global economy by 50 percent, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

HNA acquired Radisson in 2016, when it was called Carlson Hotels.

Today, the chain operates or has under development more than 1,400 hotels around the world under eight brands, including Radisson, Park Plaza and Country Inn & Suites, according its website.

It also owns a controlling stake in Radisson Hospitality AB, the Brussels-based operator of hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Africa with a market value of about $541 million.

A representative for Radisson Hospitality AB declined to comment.

(Updates with Raddison declining to comment in last graph.)

–With assistance from Manuel Baigorri, Gillian Tan and Patrick Clark.


©2018 Bloomberg L.P.


This article was written by Bloomberg News from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Photo Credit: HNA is considering a sale of Radisson Hotels. Radisson


via Skift

June 29, 2018 at 07:21PM

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message to the Democratic Party

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message to the Democratic Party

After winning the Democratic primary in New York’s Fourteenth Congressional District, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now a national political figure. On Wednesday, she made a series of media appearances, including spots on CNN and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Later in the day, Stephen Colbert hailed her win, joking that when he was twenty-eight he got his first can opener. On Thursday, she appeared on Colbert’s show, and an article in the Times described her as “an instant political rock star.”

Ocasio-Cortez deserves all the attention she’s getting, but it’s important not to focus only on her personal traits: her age, her gender, her ethnicity, and her inspiring life story. As she pointed out in her post-victory interviews, she ran on a platform that transcended these things. “Our campaign was focussed on just a laser-focussed message of economic, social, and racial dignity for working-class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx,” she told Mika Brzezinski, of “Morning Joe.”

Of course, all politicians say that they are dedicated to the interests and well-being of their constituents. But Ocasio-Cortez, who had the support of progressive groups such as MoveOn and the Democratic Socialists of America, isn’t your average pol. She delivered an important message to the Democratic Party by running an explicitly populist, anti-establishment campaign. And, as the Party prepares for the midterms and the 2020 Presidential election, it would do well to listen to her.

Ocasio-Cortez’s first point was that being opposed to Donald Trump and his actions, while essential, isn’t a sufficient political strategy. Ocasio-Cortez herself is vehemently anti-Trump. Last week, she visited a detention center on the Mexican border; after her victory, she said that she would vote to impeach the President. But she has also warned against fixating on him and his every offensive statement. “What we need to do is lay out a plan and a vision that people can believe in, and getting into Twitter fights with the President is not exactly, I think, where we’re going to find progress as a nation,” she said, on “Morning Joe.”

Ocasio-Cortez also expressed the view that Democrats have something to learn from Trump’s rise and, particularly, from his ability to mobilize voters who are detached from, or alienated by, the major political parties. “He spoke very directly to a lot of needs that were not being met by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party,” she told the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald. “Our neglect of that is something we wholeheartedly have to take responsibility for, and correct for.”

Although some Democrats continue to insist that it was the Russians or James Comey or Jill Stein who gifted Trump the White House, Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t accept this narrative. “I do think the role of Russian interference was aggressive in the election,” she told Greenwald. “But that didn’t get Donald Trump to forty per cent. It didn’t get him to forty-five per cent in the polls.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s second point is related to the first: to attract working-class and middle-class voters of all colors and ethnicities, Democratic candidates need to demonstrate that they aren’t part of a system rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. As a former campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez levelled many of the same charges against her opponent, the ten-term Democratic congressman Joseph Crowley, that Sanders hurled at Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary. “My opponent takes insane amounts of money from luxury-real-estate developers, from private-equity groups, from pharmaceutical corporations and insurance corporations,” she told Greenwald. “And that is tied directly to the legislation he has been passing.”

Crowley vehemently denied this charge, and his voting record shows that he may well have a point. In May, for example, he voted against a G.O.P. bill that rolled back some of the financial regulations that the Dodd-Frank Act put in place. But in representing a poor, working-class district—the most diverse in the country, according to Ocasio-Cortez—why did he need to raise money from interests like the Blackstone Group, a private-equity firm co-founded by the late Republican billionaire Pete Peterson? The entire business model of private-equity firms is based on upward redistribution, by borrowing large sums of money to take over companies, then squeezing costs—particularly labor costs—so that the companies can be resold at a profit, generating huge gains for the partners of the firm.

There is little convincing justification for Crowley’s association with the Blackstone Group, just as there was little convincing justification for Clinton when she gave highly paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms in advance of her second Presidential bid. To position itself as a truly populist force, Ocasio-Cortez says, the Democratic Party must make a decisive leap from the standard methods of financing campaigns through corporate-money politics—and from the conflicts of interest that come with them. “Once we break free from that system [and] start to finance our campaigns with grassroots donations, we are able to speak more directly to the needs of the American people,” she told Greenwald.

With the Democratic Party preparing to fight elections against opponents financed by the likes of Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers, many more seasoned Democrats would say (at least in private) that Ocasio-Cortez is being unrealistic, that the Party has no choice but to accept big donations from people like Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Michael Bloomberg. With so much depending on depriving Republicans of control of Congress, it is easy to sympathize with this argument. Ultimately, however, it is unpersuasive.

With phony demagogues like Trump busy claiming the mantle of populism, progressive parties need to offer voters the real thing. That’s bottom-up, participatory politics—or people power. If sympathetic billionaires wish to align themselves with such a movement, that is all very well (at least until campaign-finance laws are fixed). But if the interests and policy preferences of the wealthy take precedence over those of the average citizen, that is the politics of plutocracy, not populism.

How well are the Democrats doing in heeding Ocasio-Cortez’s warnings? Despite all the stories about potential splits in the Party, there are some grounds for optimism.

On the organizational side, Trump’s occupancy of the White House has unleashed an unprecedented wave of political activism. From dedicated groups such as Indivisible to the suburban moms who participated in the Women’s March, to the marchers protesting the Administration’s immigration policy, participation on the left is on the rise. Small donations are pouring into Democratic candidacies and progressive causes. And the fight over Anthony Kennedy’s replacement on the Supreme Court will only heighten this enthusiasm.

In terms of messaging, Ocasio-Cortez isn’t as much of an outlier as she might appear. Although many prominent Democrats seem to be talking mainly about Trump—to the point that they can barely see straight—that preoccupation is partly an artifact of the media’s focus. In a world of all Trump all the time, Democrats who bring up other things don’t get much coverage. The fact is that many Democrats are concentrating on the same issues that Ocasio-Cortez emphasized during her campaign: health care (she supports Medicare for all), housing, education (like Sanders, she favors free tuition at public universities), wages, and jobs (she has advocated for a federal jobs guarantee).

Listen to the speeches of Senator Sherrod Brown, of Ohio; or of Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia; or of Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Ted Cruz in Texas; or of Conor Lamb, who won a special election in western Pennsylvania earlier this year; or of Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot who recently won the Democratic primary in New Jersey’s Republican-held Eleventh Congressional District. To be sure, these Democrats are attacking Trump and talking about immigration and the Supreme Court. But their main focus is on promoting social and economic empowerment for people living in their districts.

That is the traditional Democratic Party message, and it is one that never grows old. Every so often, however, it needs to be renewed and adapted to new circumstances. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just demonstrated how to do this.


via Everything

June 29, 2018 at 07:18PM

I Booked a Mediterranean Cruise with Rewards: Here’s How it Went

I Booked a Mediterranean Cruise with Rewards: Here’s How it Went

Late last year, I booked a cruise on the MSC Poesia for June of this year. I also racked up a ton of travel credit by paying my mortgage off through with my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. Ultimately, my goal way paying for our cruise to Italy, Croatia, Albania, and Greece entirely with rewards.

I got pretty close. The total cost of our seven-night cruise with balcony cabin plus two excursions I booked through the ship was a little over $3,000, and I paid for $2,500 of the cost with flexible travel credit. Of course, that doesn’t count the money we spent on board….but still.

We are back from our cruise now and I’m happy to report that we really loved it. I wouldn’t say an Adriatic and Mediterranean cruise is similar to a Caribbean cruise, but you get many of the same benefits. Here are some of the things I learned from the experience, plus how it went over all:

I found out that we need more time to relax.

When I originally booked our cruise, I loved the fact we would stop somewhere new every day. Our cruise on the MSC Poesia departed from Venice and stopped in Bari, Italy, Olympia, Greece, Mykonos, Athens, Sarande, Albania, and Dubrovnik. What could go wrong?

While nothing really “went wrong,” I definitely feel like there were too many stops on this cruise. By the time we got to Dubrovnik, we were so tired we just stayed on the ship the entire day. It was no big deal for us since we have a bigger, land-based Croatia trip later this year, but still. In the future, I will look for Mediterranean cruises with at least a few days on the ship, or I will just plan to sit out a few days so we don’t get overwhelmed and tired.

We ate a ton of food.

Whether we were on the ship or on land, I feel like all we did was eat. On board the MSC Poesia, they had a solid mix of ethnic food and Mediterranean food plus the world’s best pizza. In Greece and Italy, we noshed on all our favorites like Greek Salad, Saganaki, and yes, more pizza.

The kids had a blast.

One thing I love about cruising is the fact there’s so much for the kids to do. Just like when we were on the MSC Divina, my kids loved the kid’s club on the MSC Poesia. They were there almost every day for a few hours, did crafts, and sang and danced their hearts out. They even cried when it was time for us to leave.

To be honest, it’s really nice to have some form of babysitting when you’re traveling abroad with kids. The kid’s club on our ship worked a lot like a short-term babysitter since we could drop them off for a few hours whenever we wanted. Since my kids had so much fun there, I never had to feel bad about it either.

We saw a lot of amazing sights.

Since our cruise departed from Venice, we spent a few days there before departure. My kids got to take a famous Gondola ride and get lost in the tiny alleys of the floating city, and they loved every minute. In Olympia, Greece, we took a tour to see where the Olympic games started and I was able to share some of my favorite statues on Earth with my kids.

In Mykonos, we had an awesome beach day at the SantAnna Beach Club on Paranga Beach. This place is absolute paradise and you should go if you have a chance. My kids swam and played all day and we didn’t want to leave. Also, the food was amazing! We had french fries, sushi, and veggie hummus wraps and it was all superb.

In Athens, a private driver took us to the Acropolis. I got to show my kids some of the oldest ruins on Earth, plus how awesome ancient Athens is. We also had lunch at my favorite restaurant that was I wasn’t even sure I could find.

In Ksamil, Albania, we celebrated my daughter’s 7th birthday on the beach. The kids swam and looked for shells while flirting with little Italian boys.

Over all, the entire trip was amazing and I think we’ll probably do a Mediterranean cruise again with a different itinerary. It was great to pack and unpack only once for the entire week while also seeing so many sights.

The best part about it, however, was the fact we could cover most of the expense with credit card rewards. And now, I just have to start building up more travel credit for our next trip.


Have you ever done a Mediterranean cruise? Why or why not?

[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]


via Frugal Travel Guy

June 29, 2018 at 07:09PM

See Norwegian’s New Slimline Seats on Its 737 MAX 8

See Norwegian’s New Slimline Seats on Its 737 MAX 8

A year after Norwegian launched transatlantic flights from small regional airports on the US’ East Coast to Europe, the airline has taken delivery of Boeing 737 MAX 8s with new slimline seats that it will use on the same routes.

According to a press release, Norwegian will take delivery of 12, 737 MAX 8s this year with the new seat. According to Economy Class and Beyond, the first aircraft with the new seats is registered EI-FYG. FlightRadar24 shows that it’s been operating in Europe since late May.

The new slimline seats on Norwegian’s 737 MAX. Image courtesy of Norwegian.

The seat, a Recaro BL3710C, is 17.2″ wide and has 30″ of pitch on the MAX. The MAX will replace Norwegian’s 737-800s which are currently used on some of the transatlantic routes. The new seats will replace an older model that, according to SeatGuru, has 29″ to 31″ of pitch. Note that the seats in the front row with fixed armrests will only be 16.8″ wide.

Economy seats on Norwegian’s 737-800.

There are currently 189 seats on the MAX, arranged in a 3-3 configuration — three more than on the -800. The new MAXs will keep the same seat count and layout. Norwegian is billing the new seats as a boon for tall travelers, claiming the slimline design offers more legroom at knee level than the older model.

Although Norwegian claims they are the first customer of the BL3710, the seats appear to already be installed on SAS’ A320neo. In parallel with the MAXs fuel efficiency, these seats are about two pounds lighter and will reduce the overall aircraft weight by more than 440 pounds.

Norwegian currently has 100 MAX 8s on order and uses the aircraft to fly from New York Stewart (SWF) and Providence, Rhode Island (PVD) to destinations in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindström told Runway Girl Network that new seats should have been installed on the six MAXs that were delivered in 2017, but delivery was “delayed” — those six aircraft will be retrofitted with the new configuration, too.

H/T: Economy Class and Beyond

Featured image courtesy of Norwegian.


via The Points Guy

June 29, 2018 at 07:01PM

Toy Story Land Review

Toy Story Land Review

We’re here with a review of the newest addition to Walt Disney World! Toy Story Land brings two new attractions to Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. In this post, we’ll discuss how fun the new roller coaster and whiplash ride are, critique the overall quality of Toy Story Land, and […]

This is a post in the Disney Tourist Blog RSS feed. For tips on Disney vacation planning, including dining reviews, tips & tricks, and other guides, check out Disney Tourist Blog!


via Disney Tourist Blog

June 29, 2018 at 06:49PM