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Thursday, June 30, 2022


Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is testifying before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) 

How did the J-Six Committee’s star witness do under pressure?: 

GUEST BLOG / By Jon Allsop, The Media Today columnist with the Columbia Journalism Review: 

“BREAKING NEWS: The Jan. 6 committee abruptly scheduled a session for tomorrow to hear ‘recently obtained evidence’ and witness testimony.” “The committee released names of witnesses for *prior* hearings. They're NOT doing so ahead of tomorrow. It adds a layer of intrigue and hints at a blockbuster.” “I think we have more information right now as to who it’s not gonna be as opposed to who it is gonna be.” “There are a number of excellent reporters who have been on the Jan. 6 beat for the last year and a half. That not a single one has (to my knowledge) gotten the go-ahead to reveal tomorrow's testimony/witnesses yet is... kind of amazing.” “NEWS: Cassidy HUTCHINSON will be the surprise witness at the Jan. 6 hearing tomorrow.” “What’s not known is why the committee is rushing her out into public today.” “I'm told the panel would not have called such a sudden hearing (members flew in last-minute from across the country) unless it would contain significant revelations.” “BETTER BE A BIG DEAL.”

“IT WAS A BIG DEAL AND IT WILL GROW BIGGER! Thank you, Cassidy Hutchinson.” “We thought we knew everything about this day.” “Just absolutely incredible.” “In an era defined by blockbuster political hearings—James Comey, Robert Mueller, Brett Kavanaugh, Michael Cohen and Fiona Hill, to name a few—Cassidy Hutchinson and the House Jan. 6 committee successfully delivered what few others have.” “One of the most stunning offerings of testimony in American history.” “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “I've covered politics a long time. I don't think there has been testimony like this… since Watergate.” “This lived up to the hype of what I had been told about this witness. If you want to make the John Dean comparison… this feels that compelling.” “This is an historic day. Our descendants are going to ask us what we know about Cassidy Hutchinson. That’s a name that they will know.” “Hutch, Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: How one woman’s bullseye testimony took down the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang that couldn’t shoot straight, by Maureen Dowd.” 


GUEST BLOG / By Tom Jones, Senior Media Writer, The Poynter Report: 

“THIS TIME IT’S TRUE— CNN’s Kasie Hunt tweeted, “Just an astonishing witness.” 

The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser tweeted, “For once when someone promises ‘explosive’ testimony, this hearing delivers.” 

On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier called the testimony “stunning,” while anchor Martha MacCallum called it “riveting.” 

And NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted, “When in history have we ever heard testimony before Congress this shocking against a President of the United States?” 

All were reacting to the testimony given Tuesday by Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump’s final chief of staff. Hutchinson spoke before the House selection committee investigating the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. 

New Yorker's Glasser was right. Sometimes, the media uses words like “explosive” or “bombshell” to describe certain events, even when the events really aren’t that strong. In this case, however, the words “explosive” and “bombshell” and “stunning” don’t feel potent enough. 

Then again, CBS News’ Robert Costa said, “What we just heard in this testimony wasn’t a bombshell. This was history. We are watching history unfold.” 

Among Hutchinson’s claims: 

• Trump knew that the crowd he amassed in Washington on Jan. 6 was armed and could turn violent, and yet he wanted security to be lowered because he knew he, personally, was in no danger. Hutchinson said that Trump said something to the effect of, “You know, I don’t (expletive) care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the (expletive) mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the (expletive) mags away.” (“Mags” are metal detectors.) 

• While being driven in his car, Trump lunged to take the steering wheel away from a member of the Secret Service when he was told he could not go to the Capitol. “I’m the (expletive) president. Take me up to the Capitol now!” he said, according to Hutchinson. When Trump was told by the head of the Secret Service detail to take his hand off the steering wheel, Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward that Secret Service agent. Hutchinson testified that this was what she was told by Tony Ornato, the former White House chief of operations. The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that a “person familiar with the matter” said the driver and Ornato are willing to testify under oath that no agent was assaulted and Trump never lunged for the steering wheel. 

• Other examples of Trump’s anger was him throwing a plate with ketchup on it against the wall and being “(expletive) irate” because the crowd was not big enough to listen to him speak on Jan. 6. There was much more to Hutchinson’s testimony — and pretty much all of it appeared devastating to Trump, especially the part that Trump knew the day could turn violent. 

The Atlantic’s David A. Graham wrote, “That is the most damning moment to emerge from the hearings so far. Trump’s supporters’ defense of the president’s behavior that day up until now has been that he simply wanted a peaceful demonstration, and didn’t anticipate the violence that broke out when his supporters stormed the Capitol. Some allies have denied that demonstrators were even armed. The defense has never been especially plausible, but Hutchinson’s testimony demolishes it.” 

In a nutshell: Trump knew the mob was armed and could turn violent, he wanted to join them in storming the Capitol and became irate (and physical with the Secret Service) when they stopped him. 

One unnamed Trump adviser told CNN, “This is a bombshell. It's stunning. It's shocking.” 

Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin wrote, “It’s hard to say which of Hutchinson’s revelations were the most damning.” 

On his Truth Social site, Trump said he “hardly know(s)” Hutchinson and called her “bad news.” 

But former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said, “I know her. I don’t think she is lying.” 

And Baier, on Fox News, said, “Cassie Hutchison is under oath, on Capitol Hill. The president is on Truth Social making his statements.” 

CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “Trump comes across as a man desperately clinging to power, resistant to any attempts to curtail what he believed to be his absolute power to do whatever he wanted — up to and including remaining in office by any means necessary. It's an ugly portrait. And, unfortunately, an accurate one.” 

But what might it mean? 

There wasn’t even supposed to be a hearing on Tuesday. The House select committee called it at the last minute, saying they had a surprise witness with important testimony. 

That was an understatement. This was someone who was, as CBS News’ Caitlin Huey-Burns said, “a fly on the wall,” someone who saw and heard many of the things she testified about last Tuesday. 

Mulvaney tweeted, “Things went very badly for the former President today. My guess is that it will get worse from here.” 

New York Times political correspondent Michael C. Bender tweeted, “The talons are out in Trump World for Cassidy Hutchinson in an attempt to undermine her credibility — but there's also a sense of dread about implications for Trump. ‘It’s a killer,’ a well-placed Trump adviser told me.” 

In an analysis piece for The Washington Post, Dan Balz wrote, “Trump’s presidency and its aftermath — his actions in office and his perpetuation of the lie that the 2020 election was rife with fraud and therefore stolen — have left many Americans without the ability to be shocked or surprised, whether through fatigue or mere disinterest. In measured and careful language, Hutchinson punctured that indifference.” 

As Balz noted, it will be up to the Department of Justice to determine whether Trump should face legal consequences. But this could hurt him politically. Balz wrote, “More Republicans will be asking themselves if this is the person they want as their nominee in 2024. Taken as a whole, it was devastating in the extreme.” 

The hearings are not over. More will follow in July. But Tuesday? Tuesday was a stunner. Or as New York Times chief television critic James Poniewozik wrote, “It was a beast.” 

Veteran journalist Wesley Lowery put it in smart perspective when he tweeted, “there's been so much important journalism done on the Trump administration and Jan 6 - so much of it confirmed during these hearings. And also, the allegations today are ground-shaking and, before today, completely unreported. Makes them even more stunning.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Monday, June 27, 2022


GUEST BLOG / By Bill Penzey
--As much as our bodies have evolved to really-really enjoy things that are sugar-coated, there’s no point in sugar-coating the impact of the attack on America and our values committed by the ultra rightwing judges of the Supreme Court this past Friday. 

The damage they have done is immense and won’t be easily solved. If it would do any good I would cry for our country, for women, for Black lives, for LGBTQ+ plus people, and for everyone else being forced to live on the edge of acceptance. But tears won’t solve this. 

The truth is this just sucks, but together we will make this right. The vast majority of Americans want sensible gun laws, women to have control over their bodies, and for every American to be able to marry the person they love. These can only happen if we vote to keep those who would take away our rights out of office. 

 The path forward starts now. 

It won’t be easy, but it will matter. 

And we’re Cooks, we wouldn’t actually know what to do with easy. What starts tonight with finally being done having any respect for a political party that would overthrow our democracy or seize control of women’s bodies ends with America arriving at truly being that far more perfect union our founders imagined. 

We have years ahead of us to achieve this. It will be time well spent and none of us will be doing this alone. Together we will make the difference. 

And it is a long road ahead of us, but it’s a good road and none of us will have to travel it alone. As a Cook you belong to an amazing community of people who care about whoever is hungry, whoever is in need. 

Yes, we have years of commitment ahead of us to restore the equality stolen from all of us by the “Supreme” Court this past week. But these will be years well spent and along the way we can still enjoy our lives, the seasons, friendship, family, and lots of tasty food. Caring about others isn’t a sacrifice, it’s what makes life worth living. Together we will get this done and America and the world will be better for it. Thank you for reading and cooking. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022


Civil War Era Magnolia Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina


By JOHN GALSWORTHY (From Pears' Annual and The Century Magazine), 1921.

"The Incident at Magnolia Gardens." 

Rupert K. Vaness remains freshly in my mind because he was so fine and large, and because he summed up in his person and behavior a philosophy which, budding before the Civil War, hibernated during that distressing epoch, and is now again in bloom. 

He was a New-Yorker addicted to Italy. One often puzzled over the composition of his blood. From his appearance, it was rich, and his name fortified the conclusion. What the K. stood for, however, I never learned; the three possibilities were equally intriguing. Had he a strain of Highlander with Kenneth or Keith; a drop of German or Scandinavian with Kurt or Knut; a blend of Syrian or Armenian with Kahalil or Kassim? 

The blue in his fine eyes seemed to preclude the last, but there was an encouraging curve in his nostrils and a raven gleam in his auburn hair, which, by the way, was beginning to grizzle and recede when I knew him. The flesh of his face, too, had sometimes a tired and pouchy appearance, and his tall body looked a trifle rebellious within his extremely well-cut clothes; but, after all, he was fifty-five. 

Perhaps Vaness

You felt that Vaness was a philosopher, yet he never bored you with his views, and was content to let you grasp his moving principle gradually through watching what he ate, drank, smoked, wore, and how he encircled himself with the beautiful things and people of this life. One presumed him rich, for one was never aware of money in his presence. Life moved round him with a certain noiseless ease or stood still at a perfect temperature, like the air in a conservatory round a choice blossom which a draught might shrivel. 

This image of a flower in relation to Rupert K. Vaness pleases me, because of that little incident in Magnolia Gardens, near Charleston, South Carolina. 

Vaness was the sort of a man of whom one could never say with safety whether he was revolving round a beautiful young woman or whether the beautiful young woman was revolving round him. 

His looks, his wealth, his taste, his reputation, invested him with a certain sun-like quality; but his age, the recession of his locks, and the advancement of his waist were beginning to dim his lustre, so that whether he was moth or candle was becoming a moot point. It was moot to me, watching him and Miss Sabine Monroy at Charleston throughout the month of March. 

The Southern "casual observer" of his day

The casual observer would have said that she was "playing him up," as a young poet of my acquaintance puts it; but I was not casual. For me Vaness had the attraction of a theorem, and I was looking rather deeply into him and Miss Monroy. 

That girl had charm. She came, I think, from Baltimore, with a strain in her, they said, of old Southern French blood. Tall and what is known as willowy, with dark chestnut hair, very broad, dark eyebrows, very soft, quick eyes, and a pretty mouth,—when she did not accentuate it with lip-salve,—she had more sheer quiet vitality than any girl I ever saw. 

It was delightful to watch her dance, ride, play tennis. She laughed with her eyes; she talked with a savoring vivacity. She never seemed tired or bored. She was, in one hackneyed word, attractive. And Vaness, the connoisseur, was quite obviously attracted. Of men who professionally admire beauty one can never tell offhand whether they definitely design to add a pretty woman to their collection, or whether their dalliance is just a matter of habit. 

But he stood and sat about her, he drove and rode, listened to music, and played cards with her; he did all but dance with her, and even at times trembled on the brink of that. And his eyes, those fine, lustrous eyes of his, followed her about. 

How she had remained unmarried to the age of twenty-six was a mystery till one reflected that with her power of enjoying the life she could not yet have had the time. Her perfect physique was at full stretch for eighteen hours out of the twenty-four every day. Her sleep must have been like that of a baby. One figured her sinking into dreamless rest the moment her head touched the pillow, and never stirring till she sprang up into her bath. 

As I say, for me Vaness, or rather his philosophy, erat demonstrandum. I was philosophically in some distress just then. The microbe of fatalism, already present in the brains of artists before the war, had been considerably enlarged by that depressing occurrence. 

Miss Montroy

Could a civilization, basing itself on the production of material advantages, do anything but ensure the desire for more and more material advantages? Could it promote progress even of a material character except in countries whose resources were still much in excess of their population? 

The war had seemed to me to show that mankind was too combative an animal ever to recognize that the good of all was the good of one. The coarse-fibred, pugnacious, and self-seeking would, I had become sure, always carry too many guns for the refined and kindly. 

The march of science appeared, on the whole, to be carrying us backward. I deeply suspected that there had been ages when the populations of this earth, though less numerous and comfortable, had been proportionately healthier than they were at present. As for religion, I had never had the least faith in Providence rewarding the pitiable by giving them a future life of bliss. 

The theory seemed to me illogical, for the more pitiable in this life appeared to me the thick-skinned and successful, and these, as we know, in the saying about the camel and the needle's eye, our religion consigns wholesale to hell. 

Success, power, wealth, those aims of profiteers and premiers, pedagogues and pandemoniacs, of all, in fact, who could not see God in a dewdrop, hear Him in distant goat-bells, and scent Him in a pepper-tree, had always appeared to me akin to dry rot. And yet every day one saw more distinctly that they were the pea in the thimblerig of life, the hub of a universe which, to the approbation of the majority they represented, they were fast making uninhabitable. 

It did not even seem of any use to help one's neighbors; all efforts at relief just gilded the pill and encouraged our stubbornly contentious leaders to plunge us all into fresh miseries. So I was searching right and left for something to believe in, willing to accept even Rupert K. Vaness and his basking philosophy. But could a man bask his life right out? Could just looking at fine pictures, tasting rare fruits and wines, the mere listening to good music, the scent of azaleas and the best tobacco, above all the society of pretty women, keep salt in my bread, an ideal in my brain? Could they? That's what I wanted to know. 

Every one who goes to Charleston in the spring, soon or late, visits Magnolia Gardens. A painter of flowers and trees, I specialize in gardens, and freely assert that none in the world is so beautiful as this. Even before the magnolias come out, it consigns the Boboli at Florence, the Cinnamon Gardens of Colombo, Concepcion at Malaga, Versailles, Hampton Court, the Generaliffe at Granada, and La Mortola to the category of "also ran." 

Nothing so free and gracious, so lovely and wistful, nothing so richly coloured, yet so ghostlike, exists, planted by the sons of men. It is a kind of paradise which has wandered down, a miraculously enchanted wilderness. Brilliant with azaleas, or magnolias, it centres round a pool of dreamy water, overhung by tall trunks wanly festooned with the grey Florida moss. Beyond anything I have ever seen, it is otherworldly. And I went there day after day, drawn as one is drawn in youth by visions of the Ionian Sea, of the East, or the Pacific Isles. I used to sit paralysed by the absurdity of putting brush to canvas in front of that dream-pool. I wanted to paint of it a picture like that of the fountain, by Helleu, which hangs in the Luxembourg. But I knew I never should. 

I was sitting there one sunny afternoon, with my back to a clump of azaleas, watching an old coloured gardener—so old that he had started life as an "owned" negro, they said, and certainly still retained the familiar suavity of the old-time darky—I was watching him prune the shrubs when I heard the voice of Rupert K. Vaness say, quite close: 

"There's nothing for me but beauty, Miss Monroy." 

The two were evidently just behind my azalea clump, perhaps four yards away, yet as invisible as if in China. 

"Beauty is a wide, wide word. Define it, Mr. Vaness." 

"An ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory: it stands before me." 

"Come, now, that's just a get-out. Is beauty of the flesh or of the spirit?" 

"What is the spirit, as you call it? I'm a pagan." 

"Oh, so am I. But the Greeks were pagans." 

"Well, spirit is only the refined side of sensuous appreciations." 

"I wonder!" 

"I have spent my life in finding that out." 

"Then the feeling this garden rouses in me is purely sensuous?" 

"Of course. If you were standing there blind and deaf, without the powers of scent and touch, where would your feeling be?" 

"You are very discouraging, Mr. Vaness." 

"No, madam; I face facts. When I was a youngster I had plenty of fluffy aspiration towards I didn't know what; I even used to write poetry." 

"Oh! Mr. Vaness, was it good?" 

"It was not. I very soon learned that a genuine sensation was worth all the uplift in the world." 

"What is going to happen when your senses strike work?" 

"I shall sit in the sun and fade out." 

"I certainly do like your frankness." 

"You think me a cynic, of course; I am nothing so futile, Miss Sabine. A cynic is just a posing ass proud of his attitude. I see nothing to be proud of in my attitude, just as I see nothing to be proud of in the truths of existence." 

"Suppose you had been poor?" 

"My senses would be lasting better than they are, and when at last they failed, I should die quicker, from want of food and warmth, that's all." 

"Have you ever been in love, Mr. Vaness?" 

"I am in love now." 

"And your love has no element of devotion, no finer side?" 

"None. It wants." 

"I have never been in love. But, if I were, I think I should want to lose myself rather than to gain the other." 

"Would you? Sabine, I am in love with you." 

"Oh! Shall we walk on?" 

I heard their footsteps, and was alone again, with the old gardener lopping at his shrubs. 

 But what a perfect declaration of hedonism! How simple and how solid was the Vaness theory of existence! Almost Assyrian, worthy of Louis Quinze! 

And just then the darker man came up. "It's pleasant settin'," he said in his polite and hoarse half-whisper; "dar ain't no flies yet." 

"It's perfect, Richard. This is the most beautiful spot in the world." 

"Such," he answered, softly drawling. "In deh war-time de Yanks nearly burn deh house heah—Sherman's Yanks. Such dey did; po'ful angry wi' ol' massa dey was, 'cause he hid up deh silver plate afore he went away. My ol' fader was de factotalum den. De Yanks took 'm, suh; dey took 'm, and deh major he tell my fader to show 'm whar deh plate was. My ol' fader he look at 'm an' say: 'Wot yuh take me foh? Yuh take me foh a sneakin' nigger? No, sub, you kin du wot yuh like wid dis chile; he ain't goin' to act no Judas. No, suh!' And deh Yankee major he put 'm up ag'in' dat tall live-oak dar, an' he say: 'Yuh darn ungrateful nigger! I's come all dis way to set yuh free. Now, whar's dat silver plate, or I shoot yuh up, such!' 'No, suh,' says my fader; 'shoot away. I's neber goin' t' tell.' So dey begin to shoot, and shot all roun' 'm to skeer 'm up. I was a li'l boy den, an' I see my ol' fader wid my own eyes, suh, standin' thar's bold's Peter. No, suh, dey didn't neber git no word from him. He loved deh folk heah; such he did, suh." 

The old man smiled, and in that beatific smile I saw not only his perennial pleasure in the well-known story, but the fact that he, too, would have stood there, with the bullets raining round him, sooner than betray the folk he loved. 

"Fine story, Richard; but—very silly, obstinate old man, your father, wasn't he?" 

He looked at me with a sort of startled anger, which slowly broadened into a grin; then broke into soft, hoarse laughter. "Oh, yes, suh, sueh; berry silly, obstinacious ol' man. Yes, suh indeed." 

And he went off cackling to himself. He had only just gone when I heard footsteps again behind my azalea clump, and Miss Monroy's voice. 

"Your philosophy is that of faun and nymph. Can you play the part?" 

"Only let me try." 

Those words had such a fevered ring that in imagination I could see Vaness all flushed, his fine eyes shining, his well-kept hands trembling, his lips a little protruded. There came a laugh, high, gay, sweet. "Very well, then; catch me!" I heard a swish of skirts against the shrubs, the sound of flight, an astonished gasp from Vaness, and the heavy thud, thud of his feet following on the path through the azalea maze. I hoped fervently that they would not suddenly come running past and see me sitting there. My straining ears caught another laugh far off, a panting sound, a muttered oath, a far-away "Cooee!" And then, staggering, winded, pale with heat and vexation, Vaness appeared, caught sight of me, and stood a moment. Sweat was running down his face, his hand was clutching at his side, his stomach heaved—a hunter beaten and undignified. He muttered, turned abruptly on his heel, and left me staring at where his fastidious dandyism and all that it stood for had so abruptly come undone. 

I know not how he and Miss Monroy got home to Charleston; not in the same car, I fancy. As for me, I travelled deep in thought, aware of having witnessed something rather tragic, not looking forward to my next encounter with Vaness. 

He was not at dinner, but the girl was there, as radiant as ever, and though I was glad she had not been caught, I was almost angry at the signal triumph of her youth. She wore a black dress, with a red flower in her hair, and another at her breast, and had never looked so vital and so pretty. 

Instead of dallying with my cigar beside cool waters in the lounge of the hotel, I strolled out afterward on the Battery, and sat down beside the statue of a tutelary personage. A lovely evening; from some tree or shrub close by emerged an adorable faint fragrance, and in the white electric light the acacia foliage was patterned out against a thrilling, blue sky. If there were no fireflies abroad, there should have been. A night for hedonists, indeed! 

And suddenly, in fancy, there came before me Vaness so very well-dressed, panting, pale, perplexed; and beside him, by a freak of vision, stood the old blackman's father, bound to the live-oak, with the bullets whistling past, and his face transfigured. 

There they stood alongside the creed of pleasure, which depended for fulfilment on its waist measurement; and the creed of love, devoted unto death! 

"Aha!" I thought, "which of the two laughs last?" 

And just then I saw Vaness himself beneath a lamp, cigar in mouth, and cape flung back so that its silk lining shone. Pale and heavy, in the cruel white light, his face had a bitter look. And I was sorry—very sorry, at that moment for Rupert K. Vaness. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022


Martens Café is in Belum, Brazil in a greenhouse turned into the city’s best café. 

 Lots of light and plenty of rich black Brazilian coffee that you can savor noir or for the timid doctor it with aerosol whipped cream. 

Go for the gusto. 

 Go black. 

You can’t miss the all-glass emporium inside Belum’s Parque Zoobotanico Mangal das Garcas. It’s near the ocean and they play a lot of live music to go with your coffee and your Brazilian cuisine.

Above: the coffee bar and 
Below: the blackest coffee in the world.

Friday, June 24, 2022


He’s wild. He’s got a mullet. He’s a juggling unicyclist and a unicycling juggler all in one. Don’t miss the Wilder Show at the San Diego County Fair thru July 4. 

The 2022 San Diego County Fair (located at its usual site in Del Mar CA) ends July 4. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but there’s still time to catch the cast of cliches and all the fun and crazy food that mark summertime in the USA. 

Billy Joel was busy but who cares when you can enjoy the Fair’s own “Piano Man.” He’s a moving experience from one end of the midway to the other. 

 Not every day you see Wango & Dango’s Umbrella ship. Electric and eclectic stilt walkers add to the fun. Who says vaudeville is dead?

Euphoria Brass Band brings the spirit of New Orleans (without the humidity) to San Diego’s ageless county fair. 

Hang out with these colorful safari creatures; they know where the good times are to be found. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022


This breezy tourist photo shows the expanse of Stonehenge in the West English Countryside.  Photo:

GUEST BLOG / By Katie Hunt, CNN Travel
--Astronomical alignments were built into the design and orientation of Stonehenge -- the imposing monument that dominates a flat plain in southwest England. Archaeologists discover the likely source of Stonehenge's giant sarsen stones.  

The central axis of the megaliths was -- and still is -- aligned with the sunrise at midsummer and sunset at midwinter, the stones perfectly framing the rising and setting sun when days were at their longest and shortest. But it has long been thought the monument was used for ceremonial purposes rather than an accurate way to track the days, months and seasons. 

However, a new study by Timothy Darvill, a professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, has concluded that Stonehenge served as a solar calendar and identified how it may have worked. 

Stonehenge is made of two types of stone: larger sarsen stones and smaller bluestone monoliths from Wales. The latter were thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones, which came from a site much closer to the monument. 

Sarsen, also called silcrete, is a sedimentary rock mostly made up of quartz sand cemented by silica (quartz is just silica in crystal form), formed in layers of sandy sediment. Thanks to erosion, sarsen boulders are now scattered in clumps all over southern England. 

Prehistoric Britons built monuments like Stonehenge and Avebury with sarsen boulders, Roman settlers used sarsen bricks to build their villas, and medieval people built sarsen churches and farm buildings. But the largest sarsen boulders we know of in Britain today are the ones at Stonehenge. 

Stonehenge may be a rebuilt stone circle from Wales, new research suggests a ring of 30 upright sarsen stones, supporting 30 horizontal lintels, represent the days within a month. Distinctive stones in the circle mark the start of three 10-day weeks, according to the study. Twelve such months would come to 360, but a group of "trilithons" -- a structure formed of two large vertical stones supporting a third stone set horizontally across the top -- were arranged in a horseshoe shape in the center of the site. 

Those represent the extra five days needed to match the 365-day solar year, Darvill said. Four smaller stones that lay outside the circle in a rectangle were a way to keep track of a leap year, with an extra day every four years. "Finding a solar calendar represented in the architecture of Stonehenge opens up a whole new way of seeing the monument as a place for the living," Darvill said in a news statement. "A place where the timing of ceremonies and festivals was connected to the very fabric of the universe and celestial movements in the heavens." 

However, other experts weren't convinced by Darvill's argument. "The numbers don't really add up -- why should two uprights of a trilithon equal one upright of the sarsen circle to represent 1 day? And there's selective use of evidence to try to make the numbers fit: some of the stones have been left out because they evidently can't be made to fit," said Mike Parker Pearson, a professor at University College London's Institute of Archaeology and the leader of The Stones of Stonehenge research project, via email. 

The starting point for Darvill's explanation was new research that found the 30 massive sarsen stones were all sourced from the same area and added during the same phase of construction, suggesting they were a single unit. And while only 17 of the 30 upright stones are in their original positions and 22 of the lintels are missing, archaeological work at the site has suggested it wasn't the case that the monument was unfinished, rather these massive stones were lost in antiquity. 

While the solar calendar is unfamiliar today, it was used in ancient Egypt and other cultures in the eastern Mediterranean around the same time. It was possible that the builders of Stonehenge were influenced by these people, Darvill said. Recent discoveries of graves and artifacts near the stone circle have shown that Stonehenge was not home to one isolated group but part of a deeply interconnected world. The findings were published in the journal Antiquity this month. 

ROCK VENUE? Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge. He claims the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform. That would have had people of importance upon it, with the hoi polloi below. A ramp or stairs would have led to the top of the platform. But the wood has long since rotted away. Leaving only the stones behind. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022


Chef James Beard [1903-1985]

Here's the full list of the 2022 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards nominees. The winners in each category are listed in RED

Outstanding Restaurateur  

• WINNER: Chris Bianco, Tratto, Pane Bianco, and Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix 

• Ashok Bajaj, Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Rasika, Bindaas, Annabelle, and others), Washington, DC 

• Kevin Gillespie, Red Beard Restaurants (Gunshow and Revival), Atlanta 

• Akkapong "Earl" Ninsom, Langbaan, Hat Yai, Eem, and others, Portland, Oregon 

• Chris Williams, Lucille's Hospitality Group, Houston 

• Ellen Yin, High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, + bar, High Street Philly, and others), Philadelphia 

Outstanding Chef  

• WINNER: Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, Georgia [left].

• Peter Chang, Peter Chang, Virginia and Maryland 

• Jason Vincent, Giant, Chicago 

• Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, Joule, Seattle 

• Reem Assil, Reem's, Oakland and San Francisco 

Outstanding Restaurant  

• WINNER: Chai Pani, Asheville, North Carolina 

• Brennan's, New Orleans 

• Butcher & Bee, Charleston, South Carolina 

• Parachute, Chicago • The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle 

Emerging Chef 

• WINNER: Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria, Austin, Texas posed with manager Sara Mardanbigi. 

• Calvin Eng, Bonnie's, New York City 

• Angel Barreto, Anju, Washington, DC 

• Cleophus Hethington, Benne on Eagle, Asheville, North Carolina 

• Serigne Mbaye, Dakar Nola, New Orleans 

• Crystal Wahpepah, Wahpepah's Kitchen, Oakland, California 

Best New Restaurant 

• WINNER: Chefs/Owners Sean Sherman and Dana Noelle Thompson of Owamni Restaurant, Minneapolis. Specializing in the revitalization of Native American cuisine

• Angry Egret Dinette, Los Angeles 

• Bacanora, Phoenix • BARDA, Detroit 

• Dhamaka, New York City 

• Horn BBQ, Oakland, California 

• Kasama, Chicago 

• Leeward, Portland, Maine 

  • Oyster Oyster, Washington, DC 

• Roots Southern Table, Farmers Branch, Texas 

• Ursula, New York City 

Monday, June 20, 2022


An officer with the International Liaison Unit leads 21-year old Damion Salinas, accused of killing a man following a traffic accident in Fresno, to one of the unit's vehicles after Salinas' apprehension in Tijuana.

GUEST BLOG / By Kevin Sieff, Reporter, The Washington Post via San Diego Union-Tribune
--The fugitive could have been anywhere, so Ivan kept his voice down. “We know he’s probably armed,” he told the members of his team. They had pulled into a parking lot near the cruise ship terminal, a semicircle of undercover Mexican police officers, handguns hidden in the waistbands of their jeans. 

If anyone asked, they were just friends on their way to the beach. But behind their sunglasses, their eyes darted between possible suspects. They were searching — as always —for an American. 

“Another guy who thinks he can create a new life in Mexico,” Ivan said. Information had trickled in from the U.S. Marshals Service in the case of Damion Salinas, a 21-year-old accused of killing a man after a traffic accident in Fresno. But the intelligence was weak. Salinas appeared to have crossed the border into Mexico. 

He might be working as a barber in Ensenada. Or he might be in Tijuana. Or in any of the expat hideouts in between. Authorities had lost track of him more than a year earlier. The cops knew this feeling well. Their cases almost always began the same way — with a sense that the foreigners could be anywhere. 

There are a lot of them: Americans on the run from U.S. law enforcement who have slipped into northern Mexico. They include fugitives on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, serial killers, billionaires accused of securities fraud. Here in Baja California, there’s one small unit of state police — 10 men and two women — assigned to catch them. 

Officially, they’re the International Liaison Unit. But they’re known by another name: the Gringo Hunters. 

Pursuing American fugitives in Mexico might seem like the punchline of an unwritten joke, a xenophobic stereotype inverted: Donald Trump’s “bad hombres” in reverse. This is, after all, the Baja Peninsula, a dagger of land jutting into the Pacific, with deserted beaches and sprawling cities that nurture anonymity. Among its most popular tourism campaigns? “Escape to Baja.” 

The unit now catches an average of 13 Americans a month. Since it was formed in 2002, it has apprehended more than 1,600. Many of those suspects were inspired by one of America’s oldest clichés: the troubled outlaw striding into a sepia-toned Mexico in the hope of disappearing forever. 

“I’m goin’ to Mexico,” Susan Sarandon says in “Thelma & Louise” after her character kills a man. 

“Way down to Mexico way,” Jimi Hendrix sang. “Ain’t no hangman gonna — he ain’t gonna put a rope around me.” Ivan knows the stereotypes — all the ways life imitates art in Baja — because he apprehends versions of the same misguided fugitive every other day. “We find them everywhere,” he said. “And almost always, they have no idea we’re looking for them. They think: ‘We’re in Mexico. We’re home free.’ ” 

Here’s an incomplete list of where Mexican officers have found American fugitives: --In beach resorts. 

--Dangling from parasails. 

--In remote mountain cabins. 

--In fishing boats. 

--At a nightclub called Papas & Beer. 

--In drug rehabilitation centers. 

-- In trailer parks. 

--Tending bars. 

--In cars with prostitutes. 

--In Carl’s Jr. parking lots. 

 Some were on crystal meth. Some had undergone plastic surgery and acquired new names they couldn’t pronounce. Some were found dead. There were former Playboy models, Catholic priests, professional athletes, C-list celebrities, ex-Marines. So when the case of Damion Salinas crossed the Gringo Hunters’ desk, it seemed pretty straightforward. 

Then again, so had other cases. It was late March. The unit had been busier than at any other time in its history. While politicians in Washington argued over whether there was a crisis at the border, it felt to the fugitive unit that crime was spilling over in the opposite direction. 

“Honestly, I think it’s all the drugs over there,” said Moises, the liaison unit’s commander. Like other unit members, he spoke on the condition that his last name be withheld so he can continue to work undercover. In its office, the unit keeps a whiteboard with the month’s apprehensions tallied by name, date and charge. In the first three weeks of March, there were eight accused of drug trafficking, two of murder and one of pedophilia. 

The Salinas case was another one that seemed to reflect something rotten across the border. On Aug. 16, 2020, Salinas allegedly arrived at the scene of a traffic accident involving his girlfriend. 

Several people argued over who was responsible for the crash. Within minutes, authorities say, Salinas pulled out a handgun and shot 36-year-old Joshua Thao at close range. 

“He never saw it coming because he shook the killer’s hand thinking everything was fine,” the victim’s sister told a local TV news reporter. 

Nineteen months later, Baja police received a tip that Salinas was cutting hair at the Teximani barbershop in Ensenada, a small black storefront painted with murals of boxing champions. 

The bulletin from U.S. authorities was emblazoned with Salinas’ photo. 

“DANGEROUS,” it warned in bold. “Remember,” Ivan told his team at the outset, “don’t take any unnecessary risks.” One of the younger undercover officers, a lanky man named Carlos, went into the barbershop and sat down for a haircut. “Just a little off the sides,” he said, and looked around for Damian. 

Members of the unit are trained to spot the ways Americans make themselves conspicuous in Mexico. They wear more shorts and more flip-flops. Many speak little Spanish. One officer swears he can identify how long a foreigner has been in Mexico by the depth of his tan. 

Carlos had studied the photos of Salinas from his Facebook profile. He was 6 feet tall and 185 pounds, an amateur rapper. He wore his hair in dreadlocks. “Forever West Coast” was tattooed on his right arm. 

“This guy is going to stand out,” Carlos thought. Scanning the shop, he didn’t see Salinas. But there was an apartment upstairs and a steady flow of clients. He called for backup. That’s how three unmarked cars, each with two or three heavily armed agents, came to be sitting outside the barbershop. 

I was in the back of one of the cars, behind Ivan and his colleague Abigail. Spring-breakers were taking selfies along the bay. New copies of the biweekly Gringo Gazette — with its tagline “No Bad News” — had recently been delivered. Ivan turned up the Bad Bunny song on the radio. He squinted through the windshield. 

 “Where are youuu, Damion?” he said, to no one in particular. Ivan, like the rest of the team, had grown up along the border. He prefers “thank you” to “gracias.” He worked for years in construction and then as a bodyguard. In 2010, he was recruited by the unit. The unit’s existence surprised him. “I was like, wait, you chase Americans?” 

He shuddered when he learned that fugitive pedophiles often settle near primary schools. He noticed the mark the job was beginning to leave on him — the way he triple-checked that his front door was locked when he got home, or reproached his wife for sitting in the car too long outside their home. 

“You’re raising our profile,” he insisted. He learned that the dumbest fugitives were often the most violent. There was the Oregon man running from rape charges who worked as a surfing instructor with a LinkedIn profile (“High performing, results oriented”). 

There was the California murder suspect found in Tijuana after he posted a music video for a song called “Stay Gangsterific.” Ivan’s job flickered between humor and danger, suddenly and without warning. On his phone, he saved the photos of dozens of American fugitives he’d caught, like a digital trophy gallery. 

One recent photo showed the body of Anthony “Lucky” Luciano. The police had been surveilling Luciano last year as he cruised downtown Tijuana. He was wanted for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Los Angeles. Hours into the mission, Luciano leapt from the car, spraying bullets. Then he hijacked a Mini Cooper with a woman in the back seat and continued shooting at the police. Ivan was hit in the foot. The officers fired back. Luciano died of his wounds. 

Parked in front of the barbershop, Ivan read through the WhatsApp group “DAMION SALINAS.” It included a map showing Baja barbershops where the target might be working. “This guy must know people here,” Ivan said, scratching a chin covered by a few days of stubble. “Someone’s got to be hiding him.” 

For decades, fugitives fleeing to Mexico have posed a profound challenge for U.S. law enforcement officers, who cannot operate independently on this side of the border. They rely instead on Mexican police to make apprehensions on their behalf. It isn’t extradition, which involves a formal request by the United States and a court process in Mexico. 

Technically, the foreigners are deported for violating Mexican immigration law. “Without the Mexicans able to do this for us, no one is going to get caught,” said Scott Garriola, a former FBI agent who led a fugitive task force in Los Angeles until last year. U.S. officials pass intelligence on to Mexican police. 

--Sometimes it comes from tracing U.S. wire transfers to rural Mexican banks. 

--Sometimes it’s from phone records of relatives in the United States. 

--Sometimes it’s a tip, prompted by U.S. reward money. 

After big cases, U.S. officials send plaques, FBI apparel and gift certificates to their Mexican counterparts. They invite the Mexican agents to training sessions across the United States and ply them with drinks and dinners. “A lot of it boils down to keeping the jefes happy,” Garriola said. 

Ivan and the others say they have a different motivation. “We don’t want a bunch of criminals in our community,” Ivan said. The Gringo Hunters had been sitting in front of the barbershop for about an hour when the U.S. marshals called again. Ivan picked up his phone and nodded. His eyes widened. “He’s not here,” Ivan told a colleague. 

“It looks like he’s in Tijuana.” The team headed north, the ocean on their left. Abigail sped through it at 90 miles an hour. She gripped the steering wheel with one hand and held her phone with the other, firing off voice memos to headquarters. “That’s the telephone number of the target,” she said in one. “Check to see if it’s registered.” “Find out who has the deed to the barbershop,” she said in another. 

Abigail, a member of the International Liaison Unit, poses as a tourist going for an ATV beach ride as she searches for a fugitive couple wanted in a killing.
Photos: Luis Antonio Rojas, for the Washington Post.

“This is a homicide case,” she advised gently. “It’s a little bit urgent.” Abigail was the only woman on Ivan’s team. She wore blue jeans and had straight hair down to her shoulders. 

She, too, had grown up on the border, in Tijuana, secretly dreaming of becoming a police officer. Her mother begged her not to. Abigail waited until her own daughter was 2, and then signed up. A few years later, she transferred to the fugitive unit and immediately helped make several major arrests. 

Still, even when her colleagues praise her, the compliments can sometimes be loaded. “She can do anything,” Ivan said. “She’s like a man in a woman’s body.” 

 Abigail says she isn’t bothered. She rose to the top position in the liaison unit’s Tijuana field office. She became known for finding ways to capture fugitives without engaging in high-speed chases or shootouts. When a former Texas police officer, wanted for sexually assaulting a child, fled to Rosarito, she tracked his Facebook account until he posted to a local expat group, looking for a woman to show him around. 

Abigail created a fake profile and contacted him to offer a tour. When he showed up, freshly coifed and wearing cologne, the team arrested him. “You expect these guys to be smarter than that,” she said. The team quipped about her having a “woman’s sixth sense” — and maybe there was something to that, she thought. She half-joked about migrating to the U.S. to increase her salary, roughly a thousand dollars a month. “I could apply a lot of blush and tell them I’m Ukrainian,” she said. 

But the more time she spends in the unit, the less appealing the U.S. has come to seem. Is it possible to arrest a nonstop procession of foreign criminals without feeling a little less enthusiastic about their country? It was noon when Abigail parked across the street from Bunker Cuts in Tijuana. 

 The U.S. marshals believed Salinas might be living in the apartment above the barbershop. Abigail could see a rack of clothes left to dry on the patio. They waited, air conditioning blasting, staring through the windshield. The conversation turned — as it always did — to speculation about the fugitive’s life on the run. Which version of the Baja outlaw life had Salinas chosen, they wondered. Was he parasailing? Was he in a mountain hut, protected by cartel gunmen? 

Some fugitives have lived in Mexico for decades without being caught. Others last only a few days. Baldomero Barrientos Banuelos, who allegedly stabbed his wife to death in North Hollywood has been at large for 29 years. “Some of these guys are really gifted at blending in,” Ivan said. 

 Abigail went to the store next to the barbershop, bought a plastic cup of potato chips dipped in chili and came back shaking her head. “Nothing,” she said. To pass the time, they talked about old cases: the alleged pedophile who tried to stab himself when he was apprehended, the ex-football star who was so strong that it took the entire team to detain him. 

The call came out of nowhere, another officer on the walkie-talkie. “That looks like him. In the beige Honda Accord.” Abigail and Ivan turned on a siren and took off, tearing through two lanes of traffic. It took them about 15 seconds to cut off the Accord. They pulled a tall, thin man out of the car. He didn’t look much like the picture of Salinas I’d seen, grimacing at the camera. He was gangly, with a bowl haircut and a wispy mustache. He wore a pair of Air Jordan sandals. He looked like he’d just woken up from a nap. 

 “I don’t think it’s him,” Ivan said. But when Ivan took a wallet out of the man’s pocket, there it was: a California driver’s license with the name “Damion Ariza Salinas.” “Pon las manos atras,” one of the agents shouted. It became clear Salinas didn’t understand, so the agent repeated the words in English. 

“Put your hands in the back.” The agents handcuffed Salinas and led him to the back seat of one of the unmarked cars. Abigail began weaving through traffic on the way to the police intake center. Ivan called his colleagues in the United States. “We got him,” he said. 

Sieff writes for The Washington Post. 

Friday, June 17, 2022


Philip Baker Hall, the prolific character actor of film and theatre, who starred in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movies and who (above) memorably hunted down a long over-due library book in “Seinfeld,” has died. He was 90. 

In an acting career spanning half a century, Philip Baker Hall was a ubiquitous hangdog face whose doleful, weary appearance could shroud a booming intensity and humble sensitivity. His range was wide, but Hall often played men in suits, trench coats and lab coats. “Men who are highly stressed, older men, who are at the limit of their tolerance for suffering and stress and pain,” Hall told the Washington Post in 2017. 

To many, Hall was instantly recognizable for one of the most powerfully funny guest appearances on “Seinfeld.” In 1991, Hall played Lt. Joe Bookman, the library investigator who comes after Seinfeld for a years overdue book. Hall played him like a hardboiled noir detective: “Well, I got a flash for ya, Joy-Boy: Party time is over…”  

Video clip of Philip Baker Hall as Lt. Joe Bookman from a 1991 “Seinfeld” episode. CLICK HERE

With Al Pacino in “The Insider.”

He also appeared in film and television projects like: “Midnight Run,” “Say Anything,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The West Wing,” “Sydney,” “Coffee & Cigarettes,” “Rush Hour,” “Family Ties,” “Modern Family,” “Falcon Crest,” “M*A*S*H,” “Secret Honor,” “L.A. Law,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “The Waltons,” “Buddy,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cradle will Rock,” “The Practice,” “Dogville,” “The Truman Show,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “Ghostbusters II,” “Air Force One,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Monk,” “Matlock,” “Boston Legal,” “Psycho II,” “Zodiac,” and “Argo.” 

His last performance was in the 2020 series “Messiah.”—By the Associated Press. 

As Nixon in “Secret Honor.” 

 “You’d better not screw up again, Seinfeld, because if you do, I’ll be all over you like a pit bull on a poodle,” Lt. Bookman warns Jerry.