Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Archive for the ‘– My Hometown is the sweetest place I know’ Category

Mayberry, May – ber – ry! Remember when Aunt Bea and Clara wrote their song? Whose hometown isn’t the sweetest place they know? (It could be, but might not be.) But aren’t we proud of where we are?

A Few Thoughts On Support Of Roy Moore For US Senate In Alabama

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Roy Moore is no prize, but Alabama doesn’t need an opportunistic weasel like Doug Jones representing it. For one thing, he’ll drive a wedge within Alabama’s congressional delegation. He will quickly show he doesn’t share the values of most Alabamians because he will be a puppet of ilk like Schumer and Pelosi. The Senate will likely not seat Moore and Alabama’s governor can appoint a better qualified individual to the seat. This is much more desirable than “Sen. Jones.””

—//—

My thoughts in response to the preceding post:

Obviously, we do not know each other, however, I would appreciate the opportunity to rebut some of your commentary.

You wrote in part that renown former Federal Prosecutor, now Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama Doug Jones for Senate is, “an opportunistic weasel,” and yet you provided no evidence to support your assertion. Strike one. (Supposing that by “weasel” you meant to refer to someone whose story constantly changes, you surely mean to refer to Roy Moore, whose story has so changed after facing increased scrutiny.)

Then in the next sentence, you wrote in prediction of Mr. Jones that, Read the rest of this entry »

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What Motivates #RoyMoore Supporters?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I have asked many Roy Moore supporters why they support him.

As far as I can tell, their single unifying thread is that they seem to believe in, and surreptitiously advocate for some type of “theocratic” type government. And as far I can discern, or have observed, many Moore supporters, lack higher education, can neither think logically nor critically, and attempt to Read the rest of this entry »

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Florence Alabama Police Department Vicious K9 Escapes Negligent Handler, Attacks 60yo Woman

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, November 18, 2017

Florence Police K-9 Officer Josh Hein (LEFT) with Titus, his dog, has a running suspect, Florence Police Officer Jason Hodges (RIGHT), taken down at their training center. TimesDaily photograph by Jim Hannon

This past Saturday, November 11, 2017, in Florence, Alabama, approximately an hour-and-a-half before the Alabama v Mississippi State football game, a 60-year old Florence city employee, Teresa “Terre” Ann Noland, was attacked and maliciously mauled by an escaped Florence Police K9, whose negligent handler Florence Police Officer Josh Hein allowed the vicious dog to escape.

The unprovoked attack happened at Ms. Noland’s residence after the escaped Florence Police K9 had jumped a fence and began prowling the neighborhood.

The negligent handler, Florence Police Officer Josh Hein, was oblivious to any of the events while he was comfortably seated inside a friend’s house with whom he was visiting. Hein had brought the vicious Florence Police German Shepherd K9 with him.

Ms. Noland, whose 80-year old mother lives with her, and for whom she is the solitary care-giver, had just arrived home from grocery shopping, and was unloading groceries from her car which was parked in the garage.

She noticed the escaped Florence Police K9 prowling on her property, and decided to check the mail, hoping that it would go away, which would allow her to shut the garage door, and go inside away from the vicious dog which was already sniffing, and menacing her.

As she turned to walk away, the escaped Florence Police K9 jumped toward her, forcefully and Read the rest of this entry »

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#ALpolitics #RoyMoore: Activist Judge

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, November 16, 2017

Activist Judge, anyone?

For many years, Roy Moore has attempted to gut the state’s “Rape Shield” law by his rulings from the Alabama Supreme Court bench as Chief Justice, and has written opinions from the bench that expressed disdain for the law, and which were totally opposite the other justices’ opinions. THAT is the very definition of an “activist” judge.

“Rape Shield” laws are designed to Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary Jo West Confirms Leigh Corfman’s Roy Moore Abuse Story

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, November 13, 2017

Mary Jo West confirms Leigh Corfman’s Roy Moore abuse story.

November 11 at 9:34AM

I need to say something, not because I want to get political, but because I know the truth and I need to tell it.

The now-national story about Roy Moore and Leigh Corfman is true, and I have known it for over 20 years. Leigh’s mother and step-father have been friends of mine since 1992 and I know them to be the best of people. We don’t share the same political beliefs but we love and respect each other on a level deeper than politics and these wonderful friends tell the truth. They are caring and educated and accomplished people who would choose privacy over headlines any day.

Leigh’s mother told me and others “The Roy Moore Story” in the mid-1990s, because her daughter had finally unburdened herself after years of silence and that burden lay dark and deep on a mother’s shoulders and in that mother’s heart. I listened to the same details as those that are printed now, and while some of the story has faded with time, several facts are seared into my brain: 1) the attacker was attorney Roy Moore and the victim was then teenager Leigh Corfman; 2) Roy Moore got Leigh to his house under false pretenses; 3) Roy Moore made overt sexual advances to Leigh which involved Roy Moore coming out of the bathroom undressed and ready for action; 4) Leigh was terrified and had the good sense to say NO and Roy Moore accepted her NO.

During Roy Moore’s political ascent, I’ve almost called Leigh’s mother many times to suggest that they expose who Roy Moore is at his core, but I realize that this story is Leigh’s to tell… no one else’s. Why has she not exposed him before now? Perhaps because no one likes being called a liar – and she is being called that now. Perhaps because that secret was safer locked away from the pain that she must be reliving now and having to deal with all over again.

Whatever it is, it is NOT a political conspiracy. Leigh’s parents bleed Republican red as long as I have known them…and Leigh says she has voted Republican in the last three elections. While this story has the “He said, She said” element, surely the counterbalance on the scales in Leigh’s favor is US…the group of friends who knew the story before it was a headline. There was simply no reason for Leigh to make this story up when she was young and trying to figure out life. Roy Moore’s terrifying advances surely had to complicate the path that she admitted was filled with choices she would like to redo. She owned them, admirably, but I wonder if some of her young years might have been easier if she hadn’t been abused by Roy Moore when she was 14 years old, vulnerable and confused.

Perhaps it’s simply that it’s time to shout from the rooftops that this man, Roy Moore…who wants our nation’s trust and our belief that he is a good man… simply doesn’t deserve our trust. He lied yesterday when he said he had never met Leigh Corfman. Maybe he’s gotten too old to act on his abnormal urges now, but in his heart, he still knows that when he could, he scared and emotionally scarred young women and in that chamber of his heart, his blood still runs mean and cold.

I believe in redemption and forgiveness. I’ve asked for forgiveness many times in my life, but first, you have to acknowledge that you did something wrong. And yesterday Roy Moore stood staunch and unyielding that he did no wrong. Take a lie detector test, Mr. Moore. There’s nothing fake in this story. Roy Moore is lying. This story happened and it was shared mother-to-mother with no agenda other than to get it off her chest and share her agony. Women friends do that, thankfully. Leigh’s mother told me this story when Roy Moore was a nobody…now he’s just a lying somebody.

Just because Leigh Corfman didn’t come forward and tell this horrific story about a bad man until now, doesn’t mean that it never happened. It’s her story. Yes, it was a long time coming, but Read the rest of this entry »

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Roy Moore: Threat, Or Savior? Examine his history to see!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, November 12, 2017

First of all, let me state for the record: I am no fan of Roy Moore, nor have I ever been. So  if you’re closed minded enough to shut me out at this point, it’s your loss.

As a native, and long-time (almost lifetime) Alabamian with numerous family & friends still residing there, I “have a dog in that fight,” as is said. And to be certain, I love Sweet Home. What’s NOT to like about a state with one of the nation’s most significant diversity of flora and fauna, with mountains and beaches, clean water (for the most part), and moderate climate? It’s her politicians I loathe.

Sure, whenever the word “Alabama” comes up, most folks outside the state simply roll their eyes, and shake their heads. I mean, after all, who could forget George C. Wallace who once infamously said following his 1958 gubernatorial electoral defeat, “I was out-niggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be out-niggered again.”

Who could forget the host state where horrific actions by former Governor George C. Wallace, who in his 1963 gubernatorial inaugural infamously said “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” and his notorious stand in the schoolhouse door a few months later at Foster Auditorium on the campus of the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa on June 11, 1963?

Who could forget the deaths of 4 little girls in the KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the Bus Boycott, lunch counter sit-ins, Bloody Sunday, Birmingham’s cruel Police Chief Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor, high-pressure fire hoses, police dogs, and the Selma to Montgomery March?

There’s no question that it is Read the rest of this entry »

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Alabama Will Not Progress Until #ALpolitics Has A New #Constitution

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, October 29, 2017

In her gubernatorial campaign bid, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb has a new ad referencing the state’s fouled budgeting, in an ostensibly humorous manner, citing repeated “borrowing” from the Educational Trust Fund as culprit.

Sue Bell Cobb’s new campaign video:

However… the ROOT of the EXCEEDING MAJORITY of the state’s problems lie with its bloated and unwieldy 1901 Constitution (now with 900+ amendments and counting, making it the world’s LONGEST, bar none), which in part FORBIDS “Home Rule,” which is the legal authority of local governments, i.e., counties and cities, to self-govern, and instead FORCES state legislators to micro-manage cities and counties, wasting precious time on exclusively local matters, rather than effectively steering the ship of state. If you’ve ever wondered why Read the rest of this entry »

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GOP Cause & Democrat Effect

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, September 8, 2017

POS45 and the GOP are showing the people why the Democrats will sweep the House & get control of the Senate next year. 

The GOP continually demonstrates they care NOT for humanity. Their god is money and greed. In their warped imagination, people are expendable. Protect a fertilized egg or zygote, and neglect those whom are living and breathing. Take from the poor, give to the rich. I got mine, good luck with yours.

As my late father said many times, Read the rest of this entry »

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134,971,077 Reasons So Far This Year For #ALpolitics To #LegalizeIt & #Tax #Cannabis

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, September 3, 2017

If one were to look at Colorado as an example of reasons to legalize cannabis, there would be at least 134,971,077 reasons this year so far to FULLY legalize it not only in Alabama, but nationwide.

You see, $134,971,077 is the “Total All Marijuana Taxes, Licenses, Calendar Year-to-Date” Colorado has collected.

ref: State of Colorado Marijuana Taxes, Licenses, and Fees Transfers and Distribution Tax Revenue from July 2017
https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data

But if one were to completely ignore the increased voluntary revenue, there are other topics raised.

And of course, opponents of cannabis legalization make assertions like DUI rates will increase. But, there’s nothing like the truth to dispel such specious claims. Remember: Specious means “superficially plausible, but actually wrong.”

So here are some facts on that very matter from Oregon, which has also legalized cannabis for recreational purposes.

“Five to ten times more drivers who were involved in fatal accidents in Oregon between 2004 and 2014 had alcohol in their system than THC. As with THC intoxication, the overall trend of alcohol intoxication in fatal accidents has been an increase since 2010, although alcohol-related fatalities spiked significantly in 2015 while THC-related fatalities decreased slightly.”

ref: 2015 House Bill 3400 DUII Legislative Report
http://www.oregon.gov/olcc/marijuana/Documents/HB3400_2015_DUIILegislativeReport.pdf

“Overall traffic fatalities increased substantially in all three states [CO, OR, WA] between 2014 and 2015 and cannot be explained by THC-related fatalities. This data illustrates that traffic fatalities overall remain a significant problem, independent of THC-related crashes.”

Logically, and rationally, legalizing Cannabis is common sense, for the following two simple reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

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Should Churches Be Taxed?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In response to Lakewood Church, and Joel Osteen’s initial refusal to open the doors of that facility to be a refuge from the torrential storms deluging Houston:

If I’m not mistaken (and I could be), late former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace advocated taxing churches & other religious institutions.

I think there is genuine merit in considering the argument – pro & con – why churches should remain tax-free institutions, particularly given that their ostensible purposes include Read the rest of this entry »

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“Gotta’ Travel On” Was Early Cross Over Hit

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The song “Gotta’ Travel On,” written by by Billy Wayne Grammer (August 28, 1925 – August 10, 2011), is perhaps among the most renown songs in modern recorded history, and for good reason. It was one of the very first songs to have ever had broad “crossover” appeal.

The song’s melody is a traditional one, and the lyrics are thought to be based on a fragment of an unnamed song found in the archives of the Virginia Folklore Society entitled “Done Laid Around,” though there are versions of the song with the same title which typically use a different set of stanzas.

February 22, 1958, Pete Seeger became the first musician to have recorded it and the lyrics with which most are now familiar – which were written by Paul Clayton, David Lazar, Larry Ehrlich, Fred Hellerman, Pete Seeger, and Lee Hays. The BMI Award Winning Song is BMI Work #503008 in the repertoire, and is 100% controlled by BMI.

Pete Seeger performs “Gotta Travel On”

It was only very shortly thereafter, in 1959, when Billy Wayne Grammer recorded and released that song, that it charted on the Country (ranking 5th), Pop (ranking 4th) AND R&B (ranking 14th) music charts! That was no small feat! While not the very first such crossover song,”Gotta’ Travel On” was certainly one of the first. And in the years since, many songs have increased popularity among wider audiences by artists whose interpretations have brought nuance, and even complete change to a song.

Of the numerous musicians have since lent their interpretations to, and re-recorded “Gotta’ Travel On,” which include musical luminaries such as Read the rest of this entry »

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You CAN!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, July 24, 2017

My late father, who grew up in abject poverty in rural West Alabama in Lamar County, escaped poverty by serving in the Navy during the Korean War. Daddy said he asked his father – who had at most, a 3rd Grade education, and who, like him was well-acquainted with the backside of a mule and a plough – if he thought it would be a good idea for him to join the Navy. Daddy said that his father replied, “I think it’s a good idea. Maybe you won’t have to work as hard as I have.”

Daddy completed High School, which was almost an unheard-of thing for many in that era, especially in that location, and then went to Navy Boot Camp at San Diego, which is now San Diego Naval Air Station, where he experienced culture shock. Though he never identified it as such, his stories to me about his time there clearly indicate it was.

The idiomatic phrase “everything but the squeal” was a very real thing for him. That phrase means Read the rest of this entry »

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Southerners Still Want Segregated Schools Because Hatred Runs Deep In The South

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Following is an excerpt to a soul-searching article about the resegregation of schools in the South. 

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, racial discrimination was prohibited in any federally funded program. But in 1964, there was very limited federal aid to schools. However, in 1965, Congress passed the Elementary and Zsecondary Education Act, and there was quite a lot of federal money for schools that enrolled poor children. The Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare took the Brown decision seriously. Top officials in the Lyndon B. Johnson told Southern districts that they would lose federal funding unless they presented real data on the racial distribution of students and faculty. 

So did the federal courts. Southern districts, governors, and legislators offered “school choice” proposals. They were a farce. Federal officials rejected them. Federal courts rejected them. 

Within ten years after the passage of ESEA, the South had more integrated public schools than any other region. 

But then the great rollback began. With more conservative justices on the federal courts, the zeal to follow through on the promise of the Brown decision faded. The Department of Education, created in 1980, never had the energy and focus of the LBJ officials. 

The authors of this article write:

“As we continue our “anti-dumbass” campaign to champion and improve Southern public schools for all students, we maintain our focus on the influence poverty, race, and racism continue to play in schools. Within the current political and cultural climate, there looms a growing sense of separation, where private interests replace democratic interests and the rich and powerful profit while the poor and underserved continue to struggle. You might think we were living in the 1930s or 1940s. This is, however, 2017, and the resegregation of public schools is increasing at an alarming rate. 

“As parents and proud Southerners we constantly ask ourselves, Read the rest of this entry »

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Playing Piano With Grandmother In The Rain

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

As a child and youth – even later in life – when visiting my maternal grandmother, I would often play her baby grand piano.

As a child, when a summer thunderstorm would approach, she would tell me to stop playing, because, as she said, lightning would strike the piano because of the metal wires in it. She falsely supposed it to be an attractive force of some type.

Of course, at the time, I thought such an idea to be preposterously absurd… and still do. And in retrospect, I saw my obedience, then rebellion, and later obsequiousness, more as a reflection of my love to, and respect for her.

Naturally, as a youth, I attempted to reason with her by asking her if she’d ever heard of, or knew anyone who’d ever had their piano struck by lightning while being played during a thunderstorm, and she said Read the rest of this entry »

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Open Letter to University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017

Open Letter to University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell

Re: Megan Rondini

Dear Dr. Bell,

As you know, Megan Rondini was a former honors student at the University. On July 1, 2015, Megan was subjected to a traumatic sexual encounter with the son of Terry J. Bunn, a prominent Tuscaloosa businessman and power player on Alabama’s political scene. At the time, Megan was 20-years old and had a bright future ahead of her. That future was cut short when she committed suicide on February 26, 2017.

Dr. Stuart R. Bell, PhD, is the 29th president of The University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, AL.

I understand that Terry Bunn was, and may still be, a member of the University President’s Cabinet. This group’s power inside the University is quite impressive. For all practical purposes, it is an invitation-only oligarchy. Members of the President’s Cabinet can make good things happen for the University. They can also make bad situations go away.

Terry Bunn’s son, T.J. “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr., is a real problem for you and the University. Megan Rondini filed a rape report against Sweet T fourteen days before you took office. Sweet T was a 34-year old bar regular at Innesfree Iris Pub on University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa on the night in question.

As a result of the Bunn family’s status within the University and its “pillar of society” standing in the larger Tuscaloosa community, Megan got “home-cooked” in the Tuscaloosa County criminal justice system. Former district attorney Lyn Head, acting in concert with two Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigators, cleaned up Sweet T’s messy situation for the Bunn family. Investigator Adam Jones transformed Megan from an alleged sexual assault victim into a criminal suspect solely because of Read the rest of this entry »

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Megan Rondini Fought #ALpolitics Corrupt Wealthy Power System

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, June 29, 2017

Megan Rondini Fought The Power Of Money

By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on June 29, 2017
Used with permission

T. J. “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr., in his Tuscaloosa, AL residence

By now, a lot of people have read or heard the story about Megan Rondini and her encounter with T. J. “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr. Sweet T is the son of Terry J. Bunn, Sr., a well-known and powerful member of the oligarchy that runs the state of Alabama.

Sweet T is also the man Megan accused of raping her on the night of July 1, 2015, at his mansion in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He admits to having sex with Megan on the night in question, but claims it was consensual.

Megan was a 20-year old University of Alabama honors student. Sweet T was a 34-year old big game hunter and employee at his father’s Tuscaloosa-based construction firm.

The Deck Was Already Stacked Against Megan

At the time of the sexual encounter in question, Megan did not know how well connected Sweet T was to the governor of Alabama, the University of Alabama, and the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s office. The Bunn family’s “pillar of the community” status in Tuscaloosa was recognized inside the local law enforcement community as well. All of these connections robbed Megan of a fair opportunity to receive justice from the night she reported her rape complaint against Sweet T until the day she committed suicide.

Megan Rondini

DCH Regional Medical Center, Tuscaloosa, AL

Following a rape kit exam at a local hospital after she escaped from Sweet T’s home, Megan entered the Sheriff’s Department as an alleged rape victim. At the most traumatic time in her life, Megan had no knowledge that the deck was already stacked against her. Once Megan named Sweet T as the perpetrator of her sexual assault, any chance she had of prosecuting a rape case against him evaporated.

What is worse, investigator Adam Jones bullied Megan by reading Miranda rights to her for actions she took in escaping from the scene of the alleged rape. Once Jones read her these constitutional rights, Megan was transformed from a sexual assault victim into a criminal suspect.

Using strong-arm tactics, criminal investigators were looking for ways to charge Megan with Read the rest of this entry »

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Megan Rondini’s @UofAlabama Death: Attorney @DonaldVWatkins Is On The Job when #ALpolitics Is Off The Clock

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27, 2017

Open Letter to T.J. “Sweet T” Bunn, Jr.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Dear Mr. Bunn,

My name is Donald V. Watkins. To my knowledge, we have never met. The unfortunate incident that happened to Megan Rondini at your home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on the night of July 1, 2015, has brought us together.

You got to know Megan in life, at least on that one night in July when you admitted to having sex with her. I have only gotten to know Megan in death.

I am a trial lawyer and investigative journalist. I usually work on the difficult cases most prosecutors are afraid to touch, or on exposing the cases where prosecutors have “fixed” the outcome for the benefit of rich and powerful people.

I am very familiar with how some law enforcement investigators and prosecutors “fix” cases for the oligarchy that runs Alabama. I have seen this type of prosecutorial misconduct occur throughout my 44-year legal career. I also understand how prosecutors sometimes use the grand jury system as cover for their unwillingness to prosecute rich and powerful people. Whether a case is indicted or not often depends upon the socio-economic status of the parties involved and how a prosecutor presents the evidence and applicable law to grand jurors.

I understand sexual assault cases in Alabama (and elsewhere). To me, a sexual assault is not just a sex crime; it is an act of violence against the victim. In many cases, the deck is already stacked against female victims of sexual assaults by the very nature of our male dominated world of law enforcement.

One version of the “truth” in Megan’s case resulted in her allegations of sexual assault against you going away. Former Tuscaloosa District Attorney Lyn Head reportedly presented Megan’s sexual assault case to a Tuscaloosa County grand jury several weeks after her February 26, 2016, death and that body took no action against you.

Today, Megan is dead and you are walking around free. The criminal justice system in Tuscaloosa worked well for you. The same system failed Megan miserably.

My job is to find and report the whole truth in Megan’s case. I have been doing this kind of work for a long time.

You may be familiar with some of my most recent work. In 2014, I discovered and reported the shocking truth about the wife-beating conduct and marital infidelity involving Read the rest of this entry »

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Russians Hacked Into Election Software

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The ONLY FAILSAFE means to electronically count ballots is by using an Optical Scanning system. Votes can be counted manually, and Voter Intent can be determined by examining ballots. I write from experience as an Election Official in numerous elections. Can any electronic device be hacked? Yes. But physical ballots are the “backup” which can be examined to check against any suspicious machine, or software.

—//—

Russians Hacked Into Election Software, Databases In 39 States

The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they complained directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.”

By Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson, Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON – Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they took an unprecedented step — complaining directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.” In October, two of the people said, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict.

The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts. But they also paint a worrisome picture for future elections: The newest portrayal of potentially deep vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s patchwork of voting technologies comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that Moscow isn’t done meddling.

“They’re coming after America. They will be back.”

– Former FBI Director James Comey testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington declined to comment on the agency’s probe.

Russian officials have publicly denied any role in cyberattacks connected to the U.S. elections, including a massive “spear phishing” effort that compromised Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, among hundreds of other groups. President Vladimir Putin said in recent comments to reporters that criminals inside the country could have been involved without having been sanctioned by the Russian government.

One of the mysteries about the 2016 presidential election is why Russian intelligence, after gaining access to state and local systems, didn’t try to disrupt the vote. One possibility is that the American warning was effective. Another former senior U.S. official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the classified U.S. probe into pre-election hacking, said a more likely explanation is that several months of hacking failed to give the attackers the access they needed to master America’s disparate voting systems spread across more than 7,000 local jurisdictions.

Such operations need not change votes to be effective. In fact, the Obama administration believed that the Russians were possibly preparing to delete voter registration information or slow vote tallying in order to undermine confidence in the election. That effort went far beyond the carefully timed release of private communications by individuals and parties.

One former senior U.S. official expressed concern that the Russians now have three years to build on their knowledge of U.S. voting systems before the next presidential election, and there is every reason to believe they will use what they have learned in future attacks.

As the first test of a communication system designed to de-escalate cyber conflict between the two countries, the cyber “red phone” — not a phone, in fact, but a secure messaging channel for sending urgent messages and documents — didn’t quite work as the White House had hoped. NBC News first reported that use of the red phone by the White House last December.

The White House provided evidence gathered on Russia’s hacking efforts and reasons why the U.S. considered it dangerously aggressive. Russia responded by asking for more information and providing assurances that it would look into the matter even as the hacking continued, according to the two people familiar with the response.

“Last year, as we detected intrusions into websites managed by election officials around the country, the administration worked relentlessly to protect our election infrastructure,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for former President Barack Obama. “Given that our election systems are so decentralized, that effort meant working with Democratic and Republican election administrators from all across the country to bolster their cyber defenses.”

Illinois, which was among the states that gave the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security almost full access to investigate its systems, provides a window into the hackers’ successes and failures.

In early July 2016, a contractor who works two or three days a week at the state board of elections detected unauthorized data leaving the network, according to Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois board of elections. The hackers had gained access to Read the rest of this entry »

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German Grocer Aldi To Heat Up U.S. Competition

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, June 12, 2017

German Discount Grocer Aldi Sets U.S. Expansion Plan

Aldi says it will open nearly 900 stores, invest $5 billion over five years

Aldi says it will open 900 stores and invest $5 billion over five years. Photo by Anthony Devlin/Zuma Press

By Heather Haddon
June 11, 2017 9:00 p.m. ET

Competition in the U.S. grocery sector is about to get more fierce.

Discount grocery chain Aldi is expected to unveil on Monday plans to invest $5 billion to open nearly 900 stores and remodel hundreds more in the U.S.

The expansion, over the next five years, puts the German grocer on track to becoming the third-largest food retailer in the U.S. by store count, behind the larger Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co., and a growing threat to traditional food retailers.

Aldi said it is expected to have a total of 2,500 locations across the U.S. by 2022. Its plan comes as another German discounter, Lidl, is set to open its first 10 stores in the U.S. on Thursday as part of a multiyear expansion.

Executives at Wal-Mart and Kroger have been preparing for the growth of the discounters for years. Wal-Mart has been sprucing up its stores and slashing prices on some products in select markets, while Kroger continues to drive down costs to compete.

But the discounters could have a big impact on the U.S. grocery market as they did in Europe. Their market share there has steadily grown while traditional supermarkets have seen theirs fall.

Deep discount chains in the U.S. are expected to grow by up to 10% a year through 2020, five times the rate of traditional grocers, according to a recent report by consulting firm Bain & Co.

“It should absolutely be more than scary to traditional grocers and retailers,” said Mikey Vu, a partner in Bain’s retail practice.

Many shoppers in the U.S. are unfamiliar with Aldi. The chain has been in the U.S. since Read the rest of this entry »

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