Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Last Call For Meanwhile Here In Cincy

Cincinnati is home to more than a few Fortune 500 companies, but nobody's bigger in the Queen City than grocery giant Kroger.  The company is finally planning to build a major downtown store next to its corporate HQ as part of a new mixed-use building.

Kroger plans to open a Downtown supermarket in the summer of 2019, giving neighborhood residents, city officials and boosters what they've sought for decades. 
The company will build a grocery store at the corner of Court and Walnut streets as part of a $90 million, mixed-use tower, officials are announcing Tuesday. The site, next to the Hamilton County Administration building and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles between Court and Central Parkway, is currently a 175-space parking lot. 
One block east of Kroger's headquarters, the two-story supermarket will anchor an 18-story project developed by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC). It will house 139 apartments and a six-story, 550-space parking garage. 
Kroger will close its smaller, unprofitable Vine Street store in Over-the-Rhine once the new store opens. Kroger officials say the 45,000-square-foot Downtown store will be a relocation of its Vine Street market with just 11,000 square feet of retail space. It will serve Over-the-Rhine, Downtown and the West End. 
The new supermarket will have a second-level wine and beer bar – an amenity that Kroger also installed at its newly opened Corryville store – designed to broaden the store's appeal and encourage some shoppers to linger. 
Developers will seek $8.5 million from the city for the parking garage and residential aspects of the project. Kroger is investing $19 million into the site. 
Mayor John Cranley hailed the project, which must be approved by City Council, as a hard-won milestone for the city. 
"I feel like getting a Downtown grocery store has been like chasing Moby Dick for 20 years and we're finally catching it!" Cranley said. "This is a sign that renaissance of Downtown and OTR is here to stay and is accelerating."

Frankly, Kroger has caught a lot of well-deserved flak for turning downtown Cincy into a food desert. It does have a store about 6 blocks north of its HQ in OTR on Vine, but as the story says, it's "not profitable" and the company hasn't bothered to build a new downtown store to serve the people in the city it calls home in decades.

That is at least looking to change, to the company's credit.  That is if City Council doesn't scuttle it, which is entirely possible if they don't get what they want from Mayor Cranley out of this, so it's not a done deal by any stretch.

We'll see where this goes.  After fighting the streetcar for years, Cranley really loves to take all the credit for OTR's revival.  He seems really excited about this, which means the rest of City Council might have him over a barrel.  I predict this will pass and get built, but it's going to cost Cranley something.  Question, as always around here, is what.

Qatar Pin, Linchpin, Grenade Pin, Boom, Con't

Yesterday I talked about Qatar, purported US ally in the Middle East, home of CENTCOM's forward base in the region, and why suddenly Saudi Arabia turned on it along with basically every other Gulf State and blockaded it on Monday. None of it made sense, it was way too complex to slice up in such a short period of time, and it was basically completely bonkers to the point of endangering the region.

Today we find out that, because Tang the Conqueror can't keep his damn mouth shut on Twitter, there's a significant chance that Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia last month meant Riyadh simply talked Trump into giving them the green light for screwing over Doha with "state sponsor of terrorism" as an excuse, completely ignoring the Saudis doing the same thing on the Sunni side.

President Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning, saying that during his trip to the Middle East, he warned about funding "radical ideology" and leaders there "pointed to Qatar."

Mr. Trump's comments come as Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries have officially severed ties with Qatar and moved to cut off land, sea and air routes to the energy-rich nation that is home to a major U.S. military base, accusing it of supporting regional terror groups. 
Mr. Trump issued additional tweets, saying his visit to the region was "already paying off" and that "perhaps this will be the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism."

Literally the Saudis told Trump that Qatar was the "real bad guy" on the peninsula and Trump of course completely believed them, so much so that now we're openly supporting the blockade of Qatar until further notice.  The Saudis couldn't be happier.  Iran couldn't be more pissed off.

I guess what the Qatari government really should have done instead of that CENTCOM base is to put a Trump Hotel in Doha like the Saudis have.

This is how we conduct our foreign policy now, whoever gets Trump's ear can use that access to go after any of our other allies that they may not like.  Qatar vs Saudi Arabia is bad enough, but let's magnify that to say, India vs Pakistan and you begin to see the potential downside of this mess.

Reality Is Stranger Than Fiction

If the Trump Regime's plan to go after leakers was designed to take the spotlight off Russian interference with our election systems, the first iteration has failed miserably as the Justice Department has all but confirmed now that Moscow used phishing attacks to infiltrate voter registration systems and to compromise election officials in multiple states ahead of last year's elections.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday charged a federal contractor with sending classified material to a news organization that sources identified to Reuters as The Intercept, marking one of the first concrete efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on leaks to the media.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged with removing classified material from a government facility located in Georgia. She was arrested on June 3, the Justice Department said.

The charges were announced less than an hour after The Intercept published a top-secret document from the U.S. National Security Agency that described Russian efforts to launch cyber attacks on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and send "spear-phishing" emails, or targeted emails that try to trick a recipient into clicking on a malicious link to steal data, to more than 100 local election officials days before the presidential election last November.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the case beyond its filing. Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the charges do not name the publication, a U.S. official with knowledge of the case said Winner was charged with leaking the NSA report to The Intercept. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against Winner were directly tied to it.
The Intercept's reporting reveals new details behind the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence services were seeking to infiltrate state voter registration systems as part of a broader effort to interfere in the election, discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help then Republican candidate Donald Trump win the election.

The new material does not, however, suggest that actual votes were manipulated.

Multiple observations here:  first, the NSA analysis document on the Russians using phishing to get into voter registration systems is authentic, which means yes, the Russians did try to undermine confidence in our election infrastructure and got caught.  The notion that the Russians weren't behind this is now factually wrong and this confirms what we've known for months now.  We have a serious international problem on our hands.  The Russians messed with our elections, period.  How does fiddling with voter registration systems help Trump and the GOP?  Why that one's simple, guys. Purging the rolls of Democrats.  Particularly in say, zip codes where there's a heavy black and/or Latino presence in swing states like NC or Florida.  Or say...Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Second, the Trump regime must have known about this NSA report, and have made multiple attempts to lift sanctions on Russia anyway, despite the fact they knew the Russians tampered with at least one major voter registration logistics company and the election officials that used that company, which according to the story is VR Systems based in Florida...see point one above.  There was no bigger electoral prize up for grabs in 2016 than the Sunshine State, with NC close behind.  If Clinton has taken both of them, she'd be President right now.

Third, in their zeal to go after the leaker, a 25-year-old woman, all the Trump regime has done is authenticate the story.  They've also sent a message that Trump and Sessions are far more worried about protecting Russia here than our election systems, and the people who are coming forward with the truth.  They also need a colossal distraction from this week's Senate Russia hearings.

Fourth, The Intercept appears to have immediately burned their NSA source in Ms. Winner here through a combination of wanting to get this story out first, and being sloppy as hell on protecting its source from Trump and Sessions.  Considering all they went though to keep Ed Snowden safe, they sure screwed the pooch on protecting Reality Winner.  Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are very upset with The Intercept that they so "carelessly" exposed a source.

Fifth, her name is Reality Leigh Winner.  Somebody thought that was a good name. I have no words. You'd get thrown out of your editor's office if you came to them with an NSA leaker character in your fiction novel named that, and for good reason.  Of course, she's a flesh-and-blood person whose life is about to be utterly destroyed by Trump for political cover, so it's actually not as amusing as you think.

Finally, here's an off-the-wall thing here.  We basically knew all this stuff beforehand.  We knew that local/state election officials had been compromised, we knew at least one major voter registration logistics company had been phished, and we knew that the Russian goal was to undermine confidence in our election systems.

The question becomes why The Intercept would do this now, and burn a source so casually like this.  If you were the Trump regime, and you wanted to protect Russia and parade a leaker around in chains and an orange jumpsuit in order to terrify the press and other potential leakers, you would need, well, an obvious case of somebody leaking a Russia document that doesn't really say too much.  Yeah, I know, the Feds caught her pretty much right after she mailed the Intercept with the document and would have busted her anyway, but the Intercept didn't have to go to the NSA over this either.  Maybe it saved the Feds a little leg work, maybe it didn't.

But you would be forgiven if one might think that Team Double G were told to burn their source on purpose, days before NSA chief Mike Rogers and FBI Director James Comey are to testify under oath to the Senate.

Just saying.


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