Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Last Call For Hunting The Hunter, Con't

All of a sudden, Hunter Biden's plea deal is coming apart at the seams.

A proposed plea deal for Hunter Biden was on the brink of falling apart Wednesday, when the two sides could not agree on whether admitting to two tax crimes would immunize the president’s son from possible additional charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika pressed federal prosecutors and Biden’s lawyers to come to some “meeting of the minds.” But that appeared unlikely, as the two sides said they did not see eye to eye about the precise terms of their own plea agreement.

At one point in the hearing, Biden’s lawyer declared there was no deal — meaning that a long-running criminal investigation that Republicans have used to accuse both the president and his son of corruption might lead to a trial after all.

“As far as I’m concerned, the plea agreement is null and void,” Biden lawyer Chris Clark said.

The confusion over what, exactly, Biden would get or not get by pleading guilty stems in part from the unusual way his plea deal was structured — with a guilty plea to two tax misdemeanors and a diversion program, not a guilty plea, for an illegal gun possession charge.

That arrangement allowed Biden to admit the facts of the gun case without technically pleading guilty to the charge. It also created a bifurcated deal in which the assurances Biden wants that he won’t be pursued for other tax or foreign lobbying charges were not part of the tax case, but part of the gun diversion agreement, lawyers said in court.

Deals to plead guilty can sometimes fall apart under closer scrutiny from a federal judge, but even when that happens, the two sides often find a way to eventually resolve the issue and enter a deal acceptable to the court.

On Wednesday, the judge urged the prosecutors and defense lawyers to spend some more time talking, in the hopes that the guilty plea hearing might be salvaged. As the two sides spoke to each other, it became more clear how far apart they were.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish by blowing this up,” Clark told prosecutors. One of those prosecutors, Leo Wise, pointed to papers related to the case and said he was bound by the terms in them.

Clark shot back: “Then we misunderstood, we’re ripping it up.”
At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, Biden said he was prepared to enter the plea, which according to the deal he struck in June meant he would likely stay out of jail if he stays drug-free for two years.

Then Noreika asked whether he would still enter the plea if it was possible additional charges might be filed against him in the future. When Biden answered no, he would not, the judge ordered a break in the proceeding.
I'm not sure what the hell is going on here: that Hunter Biden's lawyers took a plea deal that didn't indemnify their client to future charges, that the DoJ sandbagged the offer, that the judge is crusading against Biden, or a combination of one or more of those.
But if this deal is truly sunk, and I have to believe politics is involved here, then things are going to get ugly.
Of course, they're going to get far uglier for Donald Trump. Let's keep that in mind, too.


Climate Of Destruction, Con't


The water temperature around the tip of Florida has hit triple digits — hot tub levels — two days in a row. Meteorologists say it could be the hottest seawater ever measured, although some questions about the reading remain.

Scientists are already seeing devastating effects from prolonged hot water surrounding Florida — coral bleaching and even the death of some corals in what had been one of the Florida Keys’ most resilient reefs. Climate change has set temperature records across the globe this month.

The warmer water is also fuel for hurricanes.

Scientists were careful to say there is some uncertainty with the reading. But the buoy at Manatee Bay hit 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit (38.4 degrees Celsius) Monday evening, according to National Weather Service meteorologist George Rizzuto. The night before, that buoy showed an online reading of 100.2 F (37.9 C).

“That is a potential record,” Rizzuto said.

“This is a hot tub. I like my hot tub around 100, 101, (37.8, 38.3 C). That’s what was recorded yesterday,” said Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Jeff Masters.

If verified, the Monday reading would be nearly 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than what is regarded as the prior record, set in the waters off Kuwait three summers ago, 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit (37.6 degrees Celsius).

“We’ve never seen a record-breaking event like this before,” Masters said.

The consequences for sea corals are serious. NOAA researcher Andrew Ibarra, who took his kayak out to the area, “found that the entire reef was bleached out. Every single coral colony was exhibiting some form of paling, partial bleaching or full out bleaching.”

Some coral even had died, he said. This comes on top of bleaching seen last week by the University of Miami, when NOAA increased the alert level for coral earlier this month.
The lights on the climate dashboard are blinking red, and the machinery of climate is breaking down as we speak.

A vital system of ocean currents could collapse within a few decades if the world continues to pump out planet-heating pollution, scientists are warning – an event that would be catastrophic for global weather and “affect every person on the planet.”

A new study published Tuesday in the journal Nature, found that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current – of which the Gulf Stream is a part – could collapse around the middle of the century, or even as early as 2025.

Scientists uninvolved with this study told CNN the exact tipping point for the critical system is uncertain, and that measurements of the currents have so far showed little trend or change. But they agreed these results are alarming and provide new evidence that the tipping point could occur sooner than previously thought.

The AMOC is a complex tangle of currents that works like a giant global conveyor belt. It transports warm water from the tropics toward the North Atlantic, where the water cools, becomes saltier and sinks deep into the ocean, before spreading southwards.

It plays a crucial role in the climate system, helping regulate global weather patterns. Its collapse would have enormous implications, including much more extreme winters and sea level rises affecting parts of Europe and the US, and a shifting of the monsoon in the tropics. 
We're already well into seeing years of evidence of positive feedback loops in climate systems. Now the only question is when we hit those tipping points and break those systems, leading to mass extinction for humans and a lot of other species. Food and water become far more scarce, and the survivors will battle over what's left.
The time to fix this was of course 30 years ago with the Kyoto Protocols, when the US Senate refused to ratify the treaty because of "economic damage".

We're about to see what "economic damage" really looks like in the years ahead.

The Brown And The Union Crown

The Teamsters Union, representing hundreds of thousands of UPS workers, has reached a tentative five-year deal with the logistics carrier and for now has averted an economy-crippling strike.

United Parcel Service announced Tuesday that it had reached a tentative deal on a five-year contract with the union representing more than 325,000 of its U.S. workers, a key step in averting a potential strike.

The union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, reported in June that its UPS members had voted to authorize a walkout after the expiration of the current agreement on Aug. 1, with 97 percent of those who took part in the vote endorsing the move.

UPS handles about one-quarter of the tens of millions of packages that are shipped daily in the United States, and the strike prospect has threatened to dent economic activity, particularly the e-commerce industry.

Representatives from more than 150 Teamster locals will meet on Monday to review the agreement, and rank-and-file members will vote on it from Aug. 3 to Aug. 22, according to the union.

Negotiations had broken down in early July, largely over the issue of part-time pay, before resuming Tuesday morning.

“We demanded the best contract in the history of UPS, and we got it,” the Teamsters president, Sean M. O’Brien, said in a statement. “UPS has put $30 billion in new money on the table as a direct result of these negotiations.”

The company said it could not comment on the dollar value of the deal ahead of its second-quarter earnings call in early August.

The Teamsters said that under the tentative agreement, current full- and part-time UPS employees represented by the union would receive a $2.75-an-hour raise this year, and $7.50 an hour in raises over the course of the contract.

The minimum pay for part-timers will rise to $21 an hour — far above the current minimum starting pay of $16.20 — and the top rate for full-time delivery drivers will rise to $49 an hour. Full-time drivers currently make $42 an hour on average after four years.

The company has also pledged to create 7,500 new full-time union jobs and to fill 22,500 open positions, for which part-time workers will be eligible. The company has said that part-time workers are essential to navigating bursts of activity over the course of a day and during busy months, and that many part-timers graduate to full-time jobs.

“Together we reached a win-win-win agreement on the issues that are important to Teamsters leadership, our employees and to UPS and our customers,” Carol Tomé, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This agreement continues to reward UPS’s full- and part-time employees with industry-leading pay and benefits while retaining the flexibility we need to stay competitive.”

The union had cited the company’s strong pandemic-era performance, with net adjusted income up more than 70 percent last year from 2019, as a reason that workers deserved substantial raises.

It had especially emphasized the need to improve pay for part-timers, who account for more than half the U.S. employees represented by the Teamsters, and who the union said earn “near-minimum wage” in many areas.

The path to the agreement appeared to be paved weeks ago after the two sides resolved what was arguably their most contentious issue, a new class of worker created under the previous contract.

We'll of course see if the rank and file UPS employees sign on to the deal. It looks like a pretty good one. I know being a driver is a hard job. I applied for it some 20 years ago and they told me no.
Good for the drivers. I wish we all had a union 300,000 strong.

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