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Thursday, February 29, 2024

MEDIA THURSDAY / THANKS FOR NOTHING, MITCH


Journalist Beth Levin with Vanity Fair is right on point in her essay “After Thoroughly Fucking Over America, Mitch McConnell Decides to Treat Himself to a Break.” 

Levin’s piece is the first in a long line of farewells and as Bob Dylan penned “…goodbye’s too good a word, babe…” It’s more like: thanks for nothing, Mitch. And, don’t let those proverbial doors hit you in the ass as you leave. 

CLICK HERE for Levin’s essay. 



Wednesday, February 28, 2024

DESIGN / JIG SAW PUZZLES ARE BOOMING

 A group of seniors at the Springville Senior Center got to meet with puzzle maker and artist Eric Dowdle after they recently completed a 60,000-piece puzzle he designed. Dowdle is pictured fifth from right, above.


UTAH SENIORS TACKLE 60,000 PIECE PUZZLE 

GUEST BLOG / By Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com [Utah]—A group of Springville, Utah seniors got to meet puzzle-maker and artist #EricDowdle after completing a 60,000-piece puzzle he designed. Jigsaw puzzles are always out at the Springville Senior Center, for seniors to work on periodically throughout the day. 

Center Director Tori Eaton is great at finding fun projects for the center and after seeing Dowdle's 60,000-piece puzzle, she knew she had to get it, said Daryl Tucker, board of trustees member for the center. 

The "What a Wonderful World" puzzle is the world's largest commercially available puzzle at 29 feet long and 8 feet tall and features the art of 187 different paintings from the Dowdle art studio. 

The puzzle comes in a huge box with 60 bags of 1,000 pieces each. Each bag of pieces, when put together, completes one section of the puzzle. Once all 60 sections were put together at the Springville Senior Center, the city brought in a dozen tables for the seniors to connect them into one massive puzzle. 

"It was a big project," Tucker said. "It was great. I actually miss working on it. It was quite challenging." The puzzle depicts a map of the world with monuments, landmarks and other illustrations filling in the oceans in Dowdle's recognizable folk art style. 

Tucker said it was fun putting together all of the fine details and identifiable places — he remembers working on the Lincoln Memorial and other D.C. buildings. "These beautiful and vibrant paintings showcase the wonders of our magnificent world. Explore the islands of the Pacific, twinkling lights of Paris, beauty of the Taj Mahal and the majesty of America's national parks on your puzzling journey," the Dowdle Folk Art website says. 

 More than 30 people contributed to the puzzle that was started in October and finished in January. 

Tucker said each section of the puzzle took a couple days to finish and sometimes multiple sections were worked on at the same time. "Spent a lot of hours doing it and it was a pleasure," Tucker said. 

Eaton contacted Dowdle's company hoping he could pay the seniors a visit once they completed the puzzle. At first, there was no response from Dowdle because of a mixup in trying to contact him, but once Dowdle heard about the seniors finishing the puzzle he made arrangements to visit on Jan. 18. 

Tucker said Dowdle spent a lot of time with the seniors during his visit, ate lunch with them and gave them "high marks" on finishing the puzzle. He explained how challenging it was to create such a massive puzzle and said the seniors' puzzle process was just how he envisioned it would be completed. 

Dowdle has a studio in Lindon, Utah, where anyone can come and work on the same 60,000-piece puzzle. 

He invited the Springville seniors to come help, since they have prior experience. Eaton's acquaintance at the Heber City senior center asked to borrow the puzzle for their seniors to complete. The puzzle was taken apart, bagged up into sections and taken to Heber City where even more people will get to face the challenge of the giant puzzle. 

Tucker said activities and projects like this one are "indispensable" to the community, especially for people who have retired. "The senior center always provides something for them to be engaged in or active in," he said. "It's a great organization and I would say, my biased opinion, is we're the best senior center anywhere."

 The #SpringvilleSeniorCenter offers a variety of activities from book clubs to quilting, pottery, stained glass and music classes, tai chi groups, painting nights and more. The center also offers field trips around the state to exhibits downtown, sports events, concerts, plays, nature outings and more. 

Dowdle has become famous for his intricate folk art-turned puzzles that he creates of cities, towns and places across the world, including several in Utah, where he showcases the uniqueness of the area. "These puzzles are a way to show that there's no missing pieces, everybody matters, and we really celebrate the individual," Dowdle said in 2023. 

He aims to connect people and communities with his puzzles. 

Dowdle's puzzles are among #Costco's best selling items, Dowdle's puzzle sales exploded during the pandemic.

When it comes to completing a 60,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, laying down on the job is a must.


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

TRAVEL / STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO

1PIX=1K WORDS

SAN FRANCISCO/ KEARNY AND COLUMBUS STREETS AS CHINATOWN BLENDS INTO
NORTH BEACH, 2023.




Monday, February 26, 2024

MEDIA MONDAY / HOW FINANCIAL COLUMNIST GOT SCAMMED OUT OF $50,000.


 DON’T LAUGH IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU—SADLY. 

 GUEST BLOG / By Charlotte Cowles, the New York Magazine financial-advice columnist. In addition to “My Two Cents,” she writes about work and parenting for the site. Previously, she was the senior features editor at Harper's Bazaar and a senior editor at the Cut. She was also the editorial director for MM.LaFleur. Her work has also been published in Glamour, Art in America, Politico, and other places. “The Day I Put $50,000 into a shoe box and handed it to a stranger. I never thought I was the kind of person to fall for a scam.” –Charlotte Cowles. 

TO FIND THIS ARTICLE ON THE INTERNET CLICK HERE. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

SUNDAY REVIEW / GEORGIANA HOUGHTON’S PAINTINGS FROM THE OTHER SIDE, 1871

Artist Georgiana Houghton, Glory Be to God, 1864  

GUEST BLOG / By Jennifer Higgie--
When Georgiana Houghton first exhibited her paintings at a London gallery in 1871, their wild eddies of color and line were unlike anything the public had seen before — nor would see again until the rise of abstract art decades later. But there was little intentionally abstract about these images: Houghton painted entities she met in the spirit regions. Viewing her works through the prism of friendship, loss, and faith, I have focused overdue attention on an artist neglected by historians, a visionary who believed that death was not the end, merely a new distance to overcome. 

 CLICK HERE for the remainder of Ms. Higgie’s essay “The Substantiality of Spirit,” which appeared in the Public Domain Review earlier this month. 

Ahead of her time

EXHIBITIONS. In 1871, Houghton organized and privately subsidized a public exhibition “Spirit Drawings in Water Colors” of 155 of her watercolors at the New British Library in London. 

In April 2015, Monash University organized the exhibition “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits” in which 25 of Houghton's watercolors were displayed. 

In June 2016, the Courtauld Institute of Art created a somewhat more comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the artist: “Georgiana Hougton: Spirit Drawings”.

In November 2018, 17 paintings were displayed as part of "World Receivers" exhibition along with Hilma af Klint and Emma Kunz, then six were exhibited at Wilhelm Hack Museum's "Floral Fantasies" exhibition in March 2019. 

 In 2021, as part of Centre Pompidou's "Women In Abstraction" exhibition, then this exhibition was presented at the Guggenheim Bilbao in late 2021/early 2022, both these exhibitions were in a virtual platform due to the pandemic.

In 2022, her work was included in the thematic exhibit Corps orbite for the 59th Venice Biennale. 

The Victorian Spiritualists' Union, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia have 35 of Houghton's original paintings permanently on display, and regularly loan the collections for exhibiting around the world. 

In 2020, the VSU published a book on Houghton's works.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

COFFEE BEANS & BEINGS / TOURING HAWAII’S COFFEE FARMS

53rd Kona Coffee Cultural Festival—November 1-10, 2024.

Hawaii’s Kona Region Coffee farms on the Big Island of Hawaii are open for tours and tastings the whole your round, and the coffee they serve for the free tasting is always fresh. This means that there really is not a ‘bad’ time to visit. 

 The volcanic soil and tropical rain of Hawaii result in a mild, fruity flavor that has developed on small farms throughout the region. 

The harvest spans from August to November. 

Each year, Hawaiians and coffee lovers celebrate the end of the harvest and Kona coffee’s centuries-old history with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. For years, Kona was the only Hawaiian region growing coffee. This changed throughout the last few decades, with note-worthy coffee coming from Kauai and Maui as well. 

Kona Snow blooms in February and March

When coffee plants bloom in the months February and March they carry lots of beautiful, small and fragrant flowers. These flowers are especially impressive when you see whole fields of coffee covered with them. It almost looks like the coffee plants are covered in snow, and this is why the flowering fields of coffee are also known as “Kona snow”. 

 There are now more than 650 coffee farms of all sizes clustered along the 20 miles of scenic roads on the Hualalai and Mauna Loa slopes. Many of these farms offer tours to the public. 

 

BEAN THERE. Coffee Farm tours are popular year-around

BIG LIST OF KONA COFFEE TOURS ON THE BIG ISLAND 

Click Here. 

South East Hawaii--Downtown #Pahoa with its raised wooden sidewalk, the false-front stores and the numerous old buildings, has a certain "Wild West" atmosphere. You can find vintage buildings, new age boutiques, craft stores, art galleries and a variety of cafes and restaurants in the town, plenty to keep you busy for a few hours during your visit to the #Puna district!



Friday, February 23, 2024

FOTO FRIDAY / HOW JOE ROSENTHAL WON HIS PULITZER PRIZE.


1PIX=1K WORDS

 Easily, one of the most recognized photographs ever snapped was taken 83 years ago today by U.S. Army photographer Joe Rosenthal.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

SPACE CADETS / NASA MOON LANDING REAL TIME UPDATES

 


CLICK HERE
.  NASA coverage of Intuitive Machines-1 lunar landing. Landing is scheduled for 6:24 pm EASTERN time. Stream live on NASA+ 
###

Successful landing! Control room frenzy after touchdown on the moon. 
Click here for TV coverage of moon landing.

                    BREAKING NEWS!  IT LANDED!








THE FOODIST / ANOTHER DELICIOUS SERVING OF POSOLE

View of a small serving of Posole chicken verde.
Ah, enjoy the taste and aroma of hominy, radish, cabbage, cilantro, lime and chili

By Holden DeMayo, equal opportunity food eater with Pillartopost.org daily online magazine--In San Diego my go to soup restaurant for posole or pozole is El Comal on Illinois Street, near University in San Diego’s historic North Park. 

However, a recent discovery [for me] is Jimmy Carter’s on Fifth Avenue between Bankers Hill and Hillcrest. Both have in-restaurant dining with efficient and friendly wait staff. 

For future posole connoisseurs, of course, many other restaurants in the city serve posole, a thick soup chiefly of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest made with pork, hominy, garlic, and chili but there’s only so much room in a blog. 

Try these two cucinas and you won’t be disappointed. 

 You’ll note I’ve spelled posole also pozole. 

 What’s the deal? 

 There’s really no big difference between the two except one letter of the alphabet. 

 In Mexico, where the brothy, chile spiked soup originated it’s often spelled with a Z; near the US border it’s often spelled wth an S. 

 Posole is a stew and a soup. Viva! 

 My family via mom and our tias have straddled both sides of the border in South New Mexico for seven generations and they spell it posole. That’s good enough for me. Like many things in life it depends where you are, and who taught you to cook it. 

If I had to choose El Comal adds more avocado and shredded radishes and cabbage in a green or red soup. 

Jimmy Carter’s serves posole in three sizes. A small bowl is plenty, especially with an order of Jimmy’s three street carne asada tacos. All delicious. 

And, some establishments make posole with chicken as an option. 

Ah, tequila. Both places here have a liquor license so you can order a margarita. 

El Comal, North Park

Above, El Comal North Park
[sit down] 3946 Illinois Street near University 


Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Café
Hillcrest [sit down] 3172 Fifth Avenue at Spruce St. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

DESIGN. / 5 BEAUTY SHOTS OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST CRUISE LINER


ICON OF THE SEAS 

ON MAIDEN VOYAGE. 

 It’s big, and breathtaking and Royal Caribbean cruise lines says its brand-new Icon of the Seas will hold as many as 10,000 passengers. 

 The 20-deck ship set sail last week from Miami. Dezeen magazine points out theIcon was designed by four design entities: Skylab Architecture; Wilson Butler Architects; 3 Deluxe; and RTKL. 

 The 250,000-ton vessel is the size of five Titanics with room for 7,600 guests and 2,350 crew. 

 So far, no icebergs have been sighted in the ship’s destination: ports around the Caribbean. Sorry, we couldn’t resist. 

MORE STATS:

--2,805 cabins 

--7 swimming pools 

--8 entertainment neighborhoods, including waterpark, Central Park, Chill Island with pools and the Aqua Dome. 

--Huge ship-based waterpark 

--Runs on a combo of LNG and diesel. 

--Constructed Meyer Turku Shipyard, Finland. 

--365-metres in length that’s bigger than U.S. Aircraft Carrier Gerald Ford at 337 metres. 






Tuesday, February 20, 2024

AMERICANA / DEAL? STEAL? OR FOLLY? AMERICA’S PURCHASE OF THE ALASKAN TERRITORIES, 1867.

With this check, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. 

GUEST BLOG / From the National Archives--In 1866 the Russian government offered to sell the territory of Alaska to the United States. Secretary of State William H. Seward, enthusiastic about the prospects of American Expansion, negotiated the deal for the Americans. 

Edouard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, negotiated for the Russians. 

On March 30, 1867, the two parties agreed that the United States would pay Russia $7.2 million for the territory of Alaska. For less that 2 cents an acre, the United States acquired nearly 600,000 square miles. Opponents of the Alaska Purchase persisted in calling it “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox” until 1896, when the great Klondike Gold Strike convinced even the harshest critics that Alaska was a valuable addition to American territory. 

 The transcript included below is for the Treaty of Cession, signed by Tzar Alexander II, which formally concluded the agreement for the purchase of Alaska from Russia. This transcript is for the Treaty of Cession, signed by Tzar Alexander II, which formally concluded the agreement for the purchase of Alaska from Russia. Ratified by the United States May 28, 1867; Exchanged June 20, 1867; Proclaimed by the United States June 20, 1867. 

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:A PROCLAMATION. Whereas a treaty between the United States of America and his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias was concluded and signed by their respective plenipotentiaries at the city of Washington, on the thirtieth day of March, last, which treaty, being in English and French languages, is, word for word as follows: (the French version is omitted for brevity) 

The United States of America and His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, being desirous of strengthening, if possible, the good understanding which exists between them, have, for that purpose, appointed as their Plenipotentiaries: the President of the United States, William H. Seward, Secretary of State; and His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, the Privy Councillor Edward de Stoeckl, his Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. And the said Plenipotentiaries, having exchanged their full powers, which were found to be in due form, have agreed upon and signed the following articles: 

ARTICLE I. His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias agrees to cede to the United States, by this convention, immediately upon the exchange of the ratifications thereof, all the territory and dominion now possessed by his said Majesty on the continent of America and in the adjacent islands, the same being contained within the geographical limits herein set forth, to wit: The eastern limit is the line of demarcation between the Russian and the British possessions in North America, as established by the convention between Russia and Great Britain, of February 28 - 16, 1825, and described in Articles III and IV of said convention, in the following terms: "Commencing from the southernmost point of the island called Prince of Wales Island, which point lies in the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude, and between the 131st and the 133d degree of west longitude, (meridian of Greenwich,) the said line shall ascend to the north along the channel called Portland channel, as far as the point of the continent where it strikes the 56th degree of north latitude; from this last-mentioned point, the line of demarcation shall follow the summit of the mountains situated parallel to the coast as far as the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude, (of the same meridian;) and finally, from the said point of intersection, the said meridian line of the 141st degree, in its prolongation as far as the Frozen ocean. 

"IV. With reference to the line of demarcation laid down in the preceding article, it is understood - 

"1st. That the island called Prince of Wales Island shall belong wholly to Russia," (now, by this cession, to the United States.) 

"2d. That whenever the summit of the mountains which extend in a direction parallel to the coast from the 56th degree of north latitude to the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude shall prove to be at the distance of more than ten marine leagues from the ocean, the limit between the British possessions and the line of coast which is to belong to Russia as above mentioned (that is to say, the limit to the possessions ceded by this convention) shall be formed by a line parallel to the winding of the coast, and which shall never exceed the distance of ten marine leagues therefrom." 

The western limit within which the territories and dominion conveyed, are contained, passes through a point in Behring's straits on the parallel of sixty-five degrees thirty minutes north latitude, at its intersection by the meridian which passes midway between the islands of Krusenstern, or Ignalook, and the island of Ratmanoff, or Noonarbook, and proceeds due north, without limitation, into the same Frozen ocean. The same western limit, beginning at the same initial point, proceeds thence in a course nearly southwest through Behring's straits and Behring's sea, so as to pass midway between the northwest point of the island of St. Lawrence and the southeast point of Cape Choukotski, to the meridian of one hundred and seventy-two west longitude; thence, from the intersection of that meridian, in a south-westerly direction, so as to pass midway between the island of Attou and the Copper island of the Kormandorski couplet or group in the North Pacific ocean, to the meridian of one hundred and ninety- three degrees west longitude, so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole of the Aleutian islands east of that meridian. 

ARTICLE II. In the cession of territory and dominion made by the preceding article are included the right of property in all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other edifices which are not private individual property. It is, however, understood and agreed, that the churches which have been built in the ceded territory by the Russian government, shall remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory, as may choose to worship therein. Any government archives, papers, and documents relative to the territory and dominion aforesaid, which may be now existing there, will be left in the possession of the agent of the United States; but an authenticated copy of such of them as may be required, will be, at all times, given by the United States to the Russian government, or to such Russian officers or subjects as they may apply for. 

ARTICLE III. The inhabitants of the ceded territory, according to their choice, reserving their natural allegiance, may return to Russia within three years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they, with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may, from time to time, adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country. 

ARTICLE IV. His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias shall appoint, with convenient despatch, an agent or agents for the purpose of formally delivering to a similar agent or agents appointed on behalf of the United States, the territory, dominion, property, dependencies and appurtenances which are ceded as above, and for doing any other act which may be necessary in regard thereto. But the cession, with the right of immediate possession, is nevertheless to be deemed complete and absolute on the exchange of ratifications, without waiting for such formal delivery. 

ARTICLE V. Immediately after the exchange of the ratifications of this convention, any fortifications or military posts which may be in the ceded territory shall be delivered to the agent of the United States, and any Russian troops which may be in the territory shall be withdrawn as soon as may be reasonably and conveniently practicable. 

ARTICLE VI. In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States agree to pay at the treasury in Washington, within ten months after the exchange of the ratifications of this convention, to the diplomatic representative or other agent of his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, duly authorized to receive the same, seven million two hundred thousand dollars in gold. The cession of territory and dominion herein made is hereby declared to be free and unencumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises, grants, or possessions, by any associated companies, whether corporate or incorporate, Russian or any other, or by any parties, except merely private individual property holders; and the cession hereby made, conveys all the rights, franchises, and privileges now belonging to Russia in the said territory or dominion, and appurtenances thereto. 

ARTICLE VII. When this convention shall have been duly ratified by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on the one part, and on the other by his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, the ratifications shall be exchanged at Washington within three months from the date hereof, or sooner if possible. In faith whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have signed this convention, and thereto affixed the seals of their arms. Done at Washington, the thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven. 

[L. S.] WILLIAM H. SEWARD. [L. S.] EDOUARD DE STOECKL. 

And whereas the said Treaty has been duly ratified on both parts, and the respective ratifications of the same were exchanged at Washington on this twentieth day of June, by William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, and the Privy Counsellor Edward de Stoeckl, the Envoy Extraordinary of His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, on the part of their respective governments, 

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States of America, have caused the said Treaty to be made public, to the end that the same and every clause and article thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof. 

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this twentieth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States the ninety-first. 

[L.S.] ANDREW JOHNSON By the President: William H Seward, Secretary of State 

THE GOODS


THE DEALMAKERS

Andrew Johnson, President of the United States

William H. Seward, Secretary of State, United States of America


Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, Russian Minister to the
United States of America

Czar Alexander II of Russia






Monday, February 19, 2024

MEDIA MONDAY / REDDIT'S REMARKABLE RECOVERY


Back in my parents day anything made in Japan was considered subpar. Things have changed. The high tech Japan of today has come a long way since its tinny days of the 1950s. 

 Carry my point over to social media entity called Reddit. The social media site in its early days was tinny at best, however our friends at Columbia School of Journalism are saying not so fast on judging today's Reddit for its credibility and desire to be worthy. 

 Wikipedia defines. “Reddit is an American social news aggregation, content rating, and forum social network. Registered users (commonly referred to as "Redditors") submit content to the site such as links, text posts, images, and videos, which are then voted up or down by other members. Posts are organized by subject into user-created boards called "communities" or "subreddits". Submissions with more upvotes appear towards the top of their subreddit and, if they receive enough upvotes, ultimately on the site's front page. Reddit administrators moderate the communities. Moderation is also conducted by community-specific moderators, who are not Reddit employees. It is operated by Reddit Inc., based in San Francisco.” 

 The following article on Reddit was posted recently on the Columbia School of Journalism’s site: “The Media Today/World.

It was written by James Ball, who is a journalist, author, and fellow of the UK-based think tank Demos. 


 Join today's discussion: CLICK HERE. 






James Ball illustration.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

SUNDAY REVIEW / HEY, GRINGO--EVER SPEND HARD TIME IN A MEXICAN JAIL?



MEXICO IS SUING US GUNMAKERS FOR ARMING CARTELS. WILL US COURTS AWARD BILLIONS IN DAMAGES? 

GUEST BLOG / Timothy D. Lytton, Regents Professor and Professor of Law, Georgia State University via TheConversation.com 

The government of Mexico is suing U.S. gun-makers for their role in facilitating cross-border gun trafficking that has supercharged violent crime in Mexico. 

The lawsuit seeks US$10 billion in damages and a court order to force the companies named in the lawsuit - including Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Beretta and Ruger - to change the way they do business. 

In January, a federal appeals court in Boston decided that the industry's immunity shield, which so far has protected gun-makers from civil liability, does not apply to Mexico's lawsuit. 

As a legal scholar who has analyzed lawsuits against the gun industry for more than 25 years, I believe this decision to allow Mexico's lawsuit to proceed could be a game changer. 

To understand why, let's begin with some background about the federal law that protects the gun industry from civil lawsuits. Gun industry immunity 

In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibits lawsuits against firearm manufacturers and sellers for injuries arising from criminal misuse of a gun. 



, There are limits to this immunity shield. For example, it doesn't protect a manufacturer or seller who "knowingly violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing" of a firearm. Mexico's lawsuit alleges that U.S. gun-makers aided and abetted illegal weapons sales to gun traffickers in violation of federal law. 

Mexico's allegations 

Mexico claims that U.S. gun-makers engaged in "deliberate efforts to create and maintain an illegal market for their weapons in Mexico." 

 According to the lawsuit, the manufacturers intentionally design their weapons to be attractive to criminal organizations in Mexico by including features such as easy conversion to fully automatic fire, compatibility with high-capacity magazines and removable serial numbers. 

Mexico also points to industry marketing that promises buyers a tactical military experience for civilians. And Mexico alleges that manufacturers distribute their products to dealers whom they know serve as transit points for illegal gunrunning through illegal straw sales, unlicensed sales at gun shows and online, and off-book sales disguised as inventory theft. 

In short, Mexico claims that illegal gun trafficking isn't just an unwanted byproduct of the industry's design choices, marketing campaigns and distribution practices. 

 Instead, according to the lawsuit, feeding demand for illegal weapons is central to the industry's business model. In response, the gun-makers insist that Mexico's attempt to hold them legally responsible for the criminal activity of others is precisely the type of lawsuit that the federal immunity shield was designed to block. They argue that merely selling a product that someone later uses in a crime does not amount to a violation of federal law that would deprive a manufacturer of immunity. 

Additionally, the gun-makers assert that, even if Mexico's lawsuit were not barred by the immunity law, they have no legal duty to prevent criminal violence that occurs outside the U.S. 

 The next legal steps 

Last month, a federal appeals court in Massachusetts decided that Mexico's allegations, if true, would deprive the gun-makers of immunity, and it sent the case back to trial court. 

Mexico now needs to produce evidence to prove its allegations that the industry is not only aware of but actively facilitates illegal gun trafficking. Additionally, to win, Mexico will need to convince a Boston jury that the manufacturers' design choices, marketing campaigns, and distribution practices are closely enough connected to street crime in Mexico to consider the companies responsible for the problem. 

This is known as "proximate cause" in the law. For their part, the gun-makers have asked the trial judge to put the case on hold while they pursue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

However, the Supreme Court has been reluctant to weigh in on gun industry cases until they have reached their conclusion in the lower courts, where most of them are dismissed and a few have settled. 

High stakes for the industry 

If Mexico does win at trial, its demand for $10 billion in damages could drive several of the nation's largest firearm manufacturers into bankruptcy. Even if the case were to settle for much less, a victory by Mexico would provide a template for a wave of future lawsuits that could change the way the gun industry operates. 

 Similar theories about dangerous product designs, irresponsible marketing and reckless distribution practices in opioid litigation have transformed the pharmaceutical industry. Civil lawsuits have forced the drugmakers to take public responsibility for a nationwide health crisis, overhaul the way they do business and pay billions of dollars in judgments and settlements. 

Mexico's lawsuit holds out the prospect that the gun industry could be next. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

COFFEE BEANS & BEINGS / VIETNAMESE COFFEE MUSEUM CLUSTER

Nestled in the heart of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, Trung Nguyen Coffee Village in Buon Ma Thuot transcends the boundaries of a traditional coffee shop. It is a sanctuary where you can truly connect with the essence of Vietnamese coffee culture, a place where the artistry of coffee-making merges seamlessly with the tranquility of nature. 

Today, we’re off to Buon Ma Thuot, a town in the Central Highlands Province of Dak Lak. Here you will find two major coffee cultural centers associated with coffee growing and consumption. 

Affectionately, Vietnam can be called coffee crazy. Today, with a total production of about 30 million bags, around 95 percent of coffee grown in Vietnam is Robusta. Vietnam has the highest yields globally with an output of 2.8 tons of coffee per hectares. This is a full ton higher than the second-highest yield of 1.4 tons per hectare in Brazil. 

That’s a lot of coffee beans for such a small nation. 

The ubiquitous Robusta is coffee made from the beans of the Coffea canephora plant, the origins of which are in Africa. Western coffee consumers label Robusta coffee as notoriously bitter and note that this Asian grown variety is used primarily in instant coffee, espresso, and as a filler in certain blends of ground coffee. Arabica beans are more popular in the U.S. The Americas and Europe. 

But today we’re in Robusta country. Because of Vietnam’s nationwide love for coffee there are many coffee museums—large and small all over the country. 

Two are selected for today’s post because they are conveniently located in Buon Ma Thuot, which is also called the coffee capital of central Vietnam. 

 TRUNG NGUYEN COFFEE VILLAGE


Trung Nguyen Coffee Village is a collection of coffee houses, food courts, stores and replica traditional houses celebrating the Dak Lak Province coffee region. The 20,000 square meter grounds resemble a cultural museum that depicts the coffee centric agricultural life of the ethnic groups in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. 

 On display are ten ancient houses and 2,000 artifacts, including various production tools and cultural items from old to modern times. Inside the village, there is a dedicated tasting area for coffee aficionados. 

This area comprises three traditional houses named Cherry, Arabica, and Robusta, each constructed in the architecture of Hue. 

Here is where you can indulge in Trung Nguyen coffee, featuring an array of options such as Weasel, Legendee, Creative, G7, and Passiona coffees. This selection is curated from premium coffee beans, carefully roasted, ground, and brewed, aiming to satisfy discerning connoisseurs. 

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 THE WORLD COFFEE MUSEUM

The World Coffee Museum ticket can be easily bought at the entrance of the museum

As mentioned, there are other coffee-themed museums in Vietnam. Down the road from Trung Nguyen Coffee Village [described above] is the modestly named “The World Coffee Museum.” It is also an architectural amazement. This 100-acre property houses one of the largest private coffee museums in Vietnam. It is an interesting place to learn the different ways people enjoy coffee. 

 When you arrive at the World Coffee Museum, you will immediately notice its unique architecture. The building's design, inspired by the traditional longhouses of the Ede ethnic group, blends modern and special elements seamlessly. The museum's exterior is entirely covered in basalt, giving it a distinct and beautiful look. 

 The museum was opened in 2018 by Chairman Vu, the owner of Trung Nguyen Coffee. The museum is in partnership with Germany’s Kaffeemuseum Burg in Hamburg.

 Inside, you will find creative architecture, vibrant colors that reflect the Central Highlands culture, and a layout that is both fascinating and easy to navigate. The museum is filled with more than 10,000 coffee-related items on display, including special tools used in coffee making and collections from coffee-loving countries around the world. 

 Trung Nguyen coffee shop in the World Coffee Museum complex offers specialty coffees such as weasel or kopi luwak, two of the most sought-after luxury beverages in the world. 

 ADDITIONAL PHOTOS: 

 WORLD COFFEE MUSEUM 

 Inside the World Coffee Museum 



Exterior of World Coffee Museum in Vietnam.

 The main coffee-tasting area has a touch of European elegance that's different from the rest of the museum. The bar has a modern open design, so you can watch the bartender in action. 

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TRUNG NGUYEN COFFEE VILLAGES 





Thursday, February 15, 2024

THE FOODIST / 3 LOCAL PIZZAS AMONG 100 BEST

 BEST PIZZA IN SAN DIEGO

San Diegans can be proud of the fact three out of Yelp’s 100 top pizza restaurants in the nation are located here. 

 Spicy Spring Slice from Prince Street Pizza, Downtown San Diego  

#7 

 Prince Street Pizza, 415 Market Street, Downtown. 619. 501.4261. Originally from New York, this SoHo pizzeria is now a nationwide phenomenon, thanks to its popular Sicilian-style pan pizza (aka SoHo Squares) with juicy Roni (pepperoni) cups. “You can find pepperoni anywhere now, but we made it famous,” says CEO and general manager Tony Sosa. 

 Pepperoni is the top seller, while other favorites include the Vodka Fra Diavolo Square Pie), The Fancy Prince (a Margherita-style pie available round or square), and the new Naughty pie (with hot honey, pepperoni, mozzarella, ricotta, and spicy Fra Diavolo sauce). 

 The “outstanding” flavors, taste, and texture of Prince Street’s pizza—crafted from the owner’s great-grandfather’s recipes—come in part from the brick oven, says Tony. The extreme heat cooks the thick Sicilian pizza fast (in about 15 minutes) and keeps it juicy as ingredients melt together and flavors seal in. Prince Street makes its own dough— which yields “soft, fluffy, and chewy” crust—as well as its signature spicy marinara, which can take up to two hours to make with hand-ground ingredients. 

They also worked with Hormel to develop their signature pepperoni with its distinctive juice-holding cup shape. (Be sure to grab some napkins to soak up the oil from those crispy, crunchy, concave cups.) There’s one entrance to pick up whole pies and another for takeout slices, but with just a few tables outside, it’s generally standing room only, so be prepared to prop yourself at the counter or walk and eat. 

 Thanks to social media, pizza lovers everywhere have been craving a Prince Street slice. The popular pizzeria recently opened locations in Los Angeles (downtown LA and Studio City), San Diego, and Miami. 

 Most popular/most photographed pizzas: Pepperoni; Spicy Spring (which pairs Prince Street’s famed pepperoni cups with fresh mozzarella and spicy Fra Diavolo sauce to pack a “zesty-sweet heat”); Vodka Fra Diavolo Square Pie; Neapolitan Pizza With Roni Cups. –Text by Yelp. 

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Fig + Stracchino Pizza from Cocina Urbana, Bankers Hill San Diego 

 #10 

Cucina Urbana, 505 Laurel Street, Bankers Hill, 619.239.2222. Savor a Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizza with your favorite vintage at this Michelin-recognized restaurant/wine-shop. The kitchen makes its dough in the morning, “rounding it into balls covered with olive oil and allowing it to proof,” explains general manager Travis LeGrand. “As soon as somebody orders a pizza, a ball of dough is hand-stretched, then goes into our brick oven, and straight to the plate and your table.” 

Fans love the imaginative mixtures of fresh ingredients, like the “decadent” mushroom pizza with goat cheese, mozzarella, caramelized onion, and truffle oil, and the “delicious and rich” burrata pizza topped with eggplant caponata, sweet pepper, tomato, pecorino, and chili oil. 

Travis recommends the sweet and savory grape pizza, with grapes, prosciutto cotto, gorgonzola dolce, arugula, pistachio, and balsamico. “The savoriness, saltiness, sweetness, and pepperiness all work together,” he says. When figs are in season, in late summer and early fall, the restaurant offers a fig + stracchino pizza with a similar flavor profile. Text by Yelp. 

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White Pizza with Pesto and added Pepperoni from Bronx Pizza Hillcrest San Diego 

#13 

Bronx Pizza, 111 Washington Street, Hillcrest. 619.291.3341. More than one Yelper pizza aficionado has been thrilled to discover Bronx Pizza in San Diego. With its authentic New York-style pizza, welcoming atmosphere, and superb service, Bronx Pizza offers an East Coast dining experience that is sure to delight even the most discerning pizza lovers. 

 Upon entering Bronx Pizza, you're instantly transported to a classic New York City pizzeria, complete with checkerboard floors and iconic photographs adorning the walls. The laid-back and friendly vibe makes it a perfect spot for a casual meal with friends or family. 

 The menu offers a range of specialty pies, each with its own unique combination of fresh, high-quality ingredients. A standout choice is the "Bronx Deluxe," a mouthwatering mix of pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers, all atop a perfectly crispy-yet-chewy crust. The generous toppings and rich, tangy tomato sauce create a flavor explosion that will leave you craving more. Vegetarians will also find plenty of options to choose from, such as the "Whitestone," a delectable combination of ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, and oregano. 

Each slice boasts a generous layer of creamy ricotta and gooey mozzarella, which harmoniously blend with the robust garlic and fragrant oregano, resulting in a satisfying and flavorful experience. The service at Bronx Pizza is quick and efficient, with friendly staff members who ensure that your pizza is prepared and served promptly. 

It's evident that they take pride in their craft, consistently delivering high-quality pies that keep patrons returning for more. In summary, Bronx Pizza offers an outstanding New York-style pizza experience right in the heart of San Diego. With its delicious pies, authentic atmosphere, and exceptional service, it's no wonder that Bronx Pizza has earned its reputation as a local favorite. Whether you're a native New Yorker longing for a taste of home or a pizza enthusiast eager to explore new flavors, Bronx Pizza is first rate. Text by Yelp. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

FOR VALENTINE'S DAY / EROS OBLIGES WITH A SAXOPHONE SOLO / FICTION BY BEN HECHT

 


EXCERPT FROM “THE FLORENTINE DAGGER” via The Project Gutenberg eBook/www.gutenberg.org 

Chapter 2: The Veiled Aphrodite

 In which a lady of barbaric eyes smiles, sighs, and weeps—In which Eros obliges with a saxophone solo—A morning of golden shadows and an off-stage pizzicato. 

New York on a spring morning.... A leap of windows toward a gay sky, a carnival of windows, windows fluttering like silver pennants, unwinding in checkerboards and domino lines. A deluge of signs, a sweep of acrobatic advertisements, a circus of roof tops and a fanfare of stone, the city flings itself into a glittering panorama. It stands in bewildered pantomime. Gigantic and amazing, it hovers like an inverted abyss over a wavering pavement of hats. 

De Medici turned his eyes from the trumpeting geometries of the skyscrapers and looked at the young woman beside him. 

“We’re an intrusion,” he said close to her. The crowds drifted tenaciously around them. “Paolo and Francesca,” he smiled, “murmuring in Bedlam. Can’t we go somewhere?” 

His lean face regarded her dreamily as she answered: 

“The morning is wonderful.” 

“The morning is a nuisance,” he demurred. “But you! Beautiful—yes, your eyes are like gardens, night gardens. Come, we’ll go somewhere. We’ll take a cab. I want to talk to you in a gentle and persuasive voice.” 

The young woman, Florence Ballau, nodded. De Medici stared excitedly at her. Her presence delighted and warmed him. An amazing woman. She wore her youth like a banner. Her gypsy face under a blue toque stamped itself like an exotic flower on the gray and yellow background of the crowd. Her lips were parted, her deep eyes were laughing darkly. 

De Medici restrained the ecstasy that threatened to start him stammering. She was tonic. Her body, luxurious and vibrant under the silver cloth of her dress, bewildered him. He was in love. But more than that, the flamboyant life of the girl, the gay and dominant poise of her manner, her voice, her head, exhilarated him in a curious way. A sense of awe came to him as he studied for an instant the exotically masked vigor of his companion. His own subtle and convoluted nature prostrated itself blissfully before her vivid dominance. 

“Let’s go to father’s office,” she said. He found it difficult to object. Nevertheless he blurted an objection. 

“Impossible.” 

 “Well, why not just walk to the park and sit down?” she persisted. 

De Medici shook his head. “Damn it all!” he exclaimed. “I’m going to make love and I don’t want a lot of fat policemen walking up and down in front of me or a parade of squirrel-feeding old maids staring rebukefully. I’ve set my mind on a cab. It’s distinctly modern.” 

“But a fearful waste of money,” the girl smiled. 

“Ah,” De Medici murmured, “then you do love me.” 

“Of course,” she answered. They stood silently in the press of the crowds moving down Fifth Avenue, their fingers touching. De Medici’s eyes grew misty. He felt curiously at peace, as if he had escaped forever the dark things inside him. “We’ll take a cab, anyway,” he said finally. 

Then, as the girl raised her luminous face to him, he grew buoyant. He looked about him with a feeling of surprise. He had awakened from a bad dream. Prince Julien the cynical and tormented survivor of an evil race had vanished. Here was an ecstatic and humorous youth making love to a marvelous creature under the towers of a new civilization. “I’ve a lot of speeches I’ve always wanted to include as a part of my first and last proposal. We’ll get into a cab and I’ll propose.” He hailed a taxi and they entered. “Drive,” he smiled at the chauffeur, “slowly and carefully, anywhere you want.” 

The man nodded, grinned, and pocketed a bill. They were silent as the cab moved away. “Well,” said Florence at last, “you may begin.” 

De Medici looked at her. “I love you,” he whispered. “Will you marry me?” 

“You promised speeches,” she laughed. 

“I’ve changed my mind,” he said, staring at her. “I can’t think of anything to say.” 

They were silent again. The cab entered a park. Turning to her, De Medici raised her hand to his lips. His restless, burning eyes remained on her face. He felt intoxicated. Her profile with its parted red lips, its tiny line of white teeth, her eyes dark and desirous as they avoided him, her aromatic hair in black coils under the toque. 

“Dearest,” he whispered, “I adore you.” 

She nodded, still avoiding his eyes. Then, “When do you want to get married?” she asked. 

De Medici extricated himself from his emotions. “Tomorrow,” he answered calmly. 

“That’s too soon. I’ll have to tell father first.” 

“I’ve told him all about it,” he smiled. 

“Well!” 

De Medici nodded and looked fearfully at her. She was angry. Her face had grown bright with color. “What did he say?” she asked. 

Ignoring the change in her voice, De Medici answered: “He gave me some advice. He advised me against starting any arguments with you.” 

Florence turned her eyes to him. They were burning and enigmatic. 

“Curious,” he thought. “She’s like him. She hides something.” He felt miserable again. But his hand caressed her arm. 

“Arguments about what?” she asked quietly. 

“Oh, this and that,” De Medici answered smiling. “Never mind asking me. Let’s save up all the arguments for another time, when we have nothing else to talk about.” 

“What did he say?” she persisted. Then: “Excuse me. We’ll tell him and have him announce the engagement. He’ll love that.” Her face was again gay and dominant. 

De Medici nodded. “I’ll telephone him,” he said quickly, and tapped on the driver’s window. The cab stopped. Leaning out of the door, De Medici gave a vague direction.  “Take us to a telephone,” he said. 

The driver nodded as if he appreciated the details of the situation. 

They started again. “Julien,” the girl exclaimed suddenly. She was laughing. Her arms embraced the surprised young man. He felt himself powerless for an instant. The warmth of her body was against him. Her lips waited intimately for his kiss. 

“Oh, I adore you,” he murmured. His arms tightened around her and they remained embraced as the cab rolled jerkily on. 

The driver was talking. 

De Medici removed his eyes bewilderedly from Florence. “What is it?” he inquired. 

“I think there’s a telephone in that drugstore,” the driver repeated. 

De Medici stepped out of the cab. 

Several minutes later he returned, smiling broadly. “The parent thaws,” he announced exuberantly. “We have his consent and his blessing.” 

“But you told me you had all that in advance,” Florence laughed. “I know,” he went on excitedly, “but our talk last night was only sort of a rehearsal.” 

“What did he say?” she asked as he sat down beside her. “Going to announce it tonight. Says he’ll summon a gathering worthy of the event.” 

“Poor father,” murmured Florence. Her face had grown sad. 

“He’s delightful,” cried De Medici. “He’s the most charming man in the world,” she added. 

The driver put in an apologetic appearance. “Where to?” he asked. 

“I think we’d better go back to the theater,” Florence murmured. 

De Medici gave the direction. 

“Well,” she smiled as they started again, “from a literary point of view your proposal has been a decided failure. I rather expected something—bizarre.” 

“Give me time,” De Medici smiled. “I’ll improve. But why to the theater now?” 

“There’s a matinée today.” 

He frowned. “You don’t mean you’re going to play this afternoon?” 

“Are you insane? Of course I am.” 

“And let that bounder Mitchell make love to you in the second act ... after this?” 

“I swear you’re out of your head, Julien.” 

“You kiss him,” he growled. “You wrote the play, my dear.” 

“Hm.” He looked at her whimsically thoughtful. “I’ll rewrite it. The kiss isn’t necessary. I’ll go back and take it out. You don’t have to kiss him. You can just look at him—with feigned tenderness. It’ll be enough. How do you suppose I’m going to feel watching you embrace that bounder and kiss him every night?” 

“You told me last week I did the part wonderfully,” she smiled. They were in front of the theater. 

De Medici held her arm. “When shall I see you again?” he asked. 

“I promised to have dinner with Fedya this evening. Why don’t you go and help father arrange his party and call for me after the performance tonight?” 

De Medici nodded. He appeared to have grown speechless. He looked with infatuated silence at the girl. Then, with a sigh, he bowed, removing his fedora and placing it cavalierly over his heart. “Until we meet again, beloved,” he whispered and, turning, walked away.