Glenn Simpson accused of lying to Congress by Sen. Charles Grassley

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is suggesting Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson uttered an “outright lie” when he testified to panel staffers.

Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, made the charge in a letter to a Democratic senator who wanted Donald Trump Jr. recalled as a witness.

Fusion is one of the key players in the FBI’s nearly two-year Russia investigation. It was Mr. Simpson, a private investigator, who tapped Democratic Party money to hire ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who produced the discredited anti-Trump dossier.

In August 2017, Mr. Simpson testified in private to committee staff. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, ranking Democrat, later unilaterally released the transcript.

Mr. Simpson was asked directly if he continued to conduct anti-Trump opposition research after the Nov. 8 election. He answered, “I had no client after the election.”

That answer seems at odds with an FBI interview report, or 302, obtained by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The 302 recounted an interview agents’ conducted with Daniel Jones, a former senior Feinstein staffer who founded his own investigative firm, Penn Quarter Group. Mr. Jones told the agents he had received $50 million from seven to 10 wealthy donors and that he had hired Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele to continue investigating President Trump.

If Mr. Jones’ interview is accurate, it would mean that Fusion did in fact have a post-election client––Penn Quarter Group.

This discrepancy was pointed out by Mr. Grassley in a letter to Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat.

Mr. Coons wrote to Mr. Grassley asking that Mr. Trump Jr., the president’s son, be recalled as a witness. Mr. Coons said his previous testimony seemed to conflict with a May 19 New York Times article.

As precedent, Mr. Coons cited Mr. Grassley’s criminal referral letter to the Justice Department on Mr. Steele.

That referral, Mr. Grassley said in a letter to Mr. Coons on Tuesday, was based on a discrepancy in official sworn documents, not a newspaper story.

According to an October 2016 affidavit filed by the FBI to obtain a surveillance warrant, Mr. Steele told the bureau that he had not spoken to reporters about his dossier. But in fact, Mr. Steele had briefed a number of reporters in Washington the previous month at Mr. Simpson’s urging, according to a declaration he filed in a London court where he faces a libel charge.

“Where we do have actual evidence of misleading testimony in Committee interviews, we should treat it seriously,” Mr. Grassley said in his letter. “For example, when the Committee staff interviewed Glenn Simpson in August of 2017, Majority staff asked him: ‘So you didn’t do any work on the Trump matter after the election date, that was the end of your work?’ Mr. Simpson answered: ‘I had no client after the election.’ As we now know, that was extremely misleading, if not an outright lie.”

“Contrary to Mr. Simpson’s denial in the staff interview, according to the FBI and others, Fusion actually did continue Trump dossier work for a new client after the election,” the senator wrote. “As with the circumstances surrounding the Steele referral, we once again have two seemingly contradictory statements in contexts where material lies are criminal.”

Mr. Simpson was not under oath. But Mr. Grassley’s staff explained to him that lying to Congress violates federal law.

Mr. Grassley also took a shot at the New York Times.

“To clarify, the Steele referral was based on contradictory information provided in two sworn statements to courts,” Mr. Grassley said “In contrast, your concern is based on perceived inconsistencies between a Committee interview and a news article. Unfortunately, as we have seen all too frequently, reporting related to the Russia investigation and the Trump campaign has often been inaccurate.”

This is the second hiccup in Mr. Simpson’s testimony.

When Mrs. Feinstein released the transcript in January, it showed that Mr. Simpson testified that Mr. Steele was told by the FBI it had a source inside the Trump campaign.

Shortly after the revelation, sources identified in the news media as close to Fusion GPS said Mr. Steele was actually talking about George Papadopoulos and a conversation he had with an Australian diplomat in London. There was no spy.

But later, Joshua A. Levy, Fusion’s attorney, attested to Mr. Grassley that, in fact, Mr. Simpson’s committee testimony was accurate.

“I am writing in response to your letter, dated January 11, 2018, in which you have asked about the August 22, 2017 testimony from our client Glenn Simpson that Christopher Steele in the fall of 2016 said he believed the FBI had another source within the Trump organization/campaign. Mr. Simpson stands by his testimony,” Mr. Levy said.

Mr. Levy did not return a message seeking comment.

News reports in recent weeks said the FBI procured the services of academic Stefan Halper to spy on Trump associates. He made contact with at least two, Mr. Papadopoulos and volunteer Carter Page.

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brumby cull debate still causes bitter divide

Deputy Premier John Barilaro introduced a bill protecting brumbies from lethal culling into the NSW Parliament, in a stunning backflip on the government’s 2016 proposal to wipe out thousands of the wild horses.

NSW Labor has promised to vote against the bill, which is now before parliament, and to repeal it if elected next year.

Journalist Blake Foden visited Kosciuszko National Park this week to find out more. 

Union blasts pending move to ‘modernise’ APS workforce

National Secretary of The Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood.

National Secretary of The Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

A push to “modernise” the government’s workforce with a strategy formed by the public service commission has drawn fire from the main public sector union, which has called it a front for more insecure work and contractors.

Budget papers in May revealed the Coalition had tasked the Australian Public Service Commission with forming a strategy to grow staff movements between agencies, and the private sector. The government will consider ways to “maximise flexibility” under the plan.

Public service reporter Doug Dingwall has more. 

ACT government promises to match funding for Monaro Highway

The ACT will match federal funding for the Monaro Highway.

The ACT will match federal funding for the Monaro Highway.

Photo: Supplied

The Barr government has promised to match federal funding for an upgrade to the Monaro Highway, ahead of next Tuesday’s budget.

ACT transport minister Meegan Fitzharris said the territory would provide up to $100 million to improve the highway, after the Turnbull government also promised $100 million for the road in its May budget.

Katie Burgess has more. 

Human Services didn’t tell staff about Symonston closure

Charlotte Evans, and her mum Rita Evans. Charlotte faces an uncertain future after Human Services ended its contract with disability employment provider LEAD.

Charlotte Evans, and her mum Rita Evans. Charlotte faces an uncertain future after Human Services ended its contract with disability employment provider LEAD.

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Staff at the mail scanning centre found out their facility was closing when outside contractors were told first.

Employees at the mail sorting centre at Fairbairn, where the work is contracted out to supported work provider LEAD for people with disabilities, were notified on May 18 that the contract for their work would end on June 30.

Sally Whyte has more. 

Sunwolves fans eating horse meat ahead of Brumbies clash

The Japan Sunwolves' mascot Pinging in their first season of Super Rugby in 2016.

The Japan Sunwolves’ mascot Pinging in their first season of Super Rugby in 2016.

Photo: Japan Sunwolves

Japan Sunwolves fans have a … different approach to showing support for their Super Rugby team.

They have been eating opposition mascots as a good omen heading into each round. Yes, eating them.

This week they face ACT Brumbies, so yep, that means fans have been tucking into horse meat.

Sports reporter Eamonn Tiernan has more here. 

Today’s cartoon:

The Canberra Times editorial cartoon for June 1, 2018. Cartoon by David Pope.

The Canberra Times editorial cartoon for June 1, 2018. Cartoon by David Pope.

Photo: David Pope

Daniella White

Daniella White is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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Trump’s election shortened 2016 Thanksgiving dinners, researchers say

A key finding is that people travelling from places with very high levels of political advertisements experienced a more extreme holiday-shortening effect.

It left a bad taste in Americans' mouth: The divisive 2016 election.

It left a bad taste in Americans’ mouth: The divisive 2016 election.

Photo: Bloomberg

“Ads are throwing fuel on the fire,” said Keith Chen, a professor of economics at the University of California at Los Angeles and the lead author of the report.

Many Americans avoid talking politics at family gatherings. In a December 2016 Pew Research Center survey, about one-third of respondents said they had political views shared by zero or only a few relatives. Among the people in these politically mismatched families, 6 in 10 said their families keep politics out of their conversations.

The research by Chen and co-author Ryne Rohla doesn’t actually detect whether people talked about politics during Thanksgiving 2016. The mobile phone data merely reveal that, broadly speaking, people had less opportunity to talk about politics because of the shorter gatherings on average, and the tendency for some people to stay home rather than travel as they did in 2015.

“Nationwide, 34 million hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving dinner discourse were lost in 2016 owing to partisan effects,” Chen and Rohla, of Washington State University, wrote.

Not everyone rejoiced at Thanksgiving. Republican Party supporter Georgia Touloumes, 86, of Venetia, Pennsylvania, shouts with joy surrounded by her family as more states are announced for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Not everyone rejoiced at Thanksgiving. Republican Party supporter Georgia Touloumes, 86, of Venetia, Pennsylvania, shouts with joy surrounded by her family as more states are announced for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Photo: AP

There are some obvious limitations to this study, in which the conclusions rest atop a scaffolding of assumptions. For example, the partisan beliefs of people who travelled or stayed home were assumed to track the partisan leanings of their home voting precincts. To protect privacy, the researchers tracked people only at the precinct or Zip code level, Chen said: “We do not try and identify where someone lives at the level of a street address.”

The researchers also assumed that people exposed to political ads over the course of many months continue to feel the polarising effects weeks after the election, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She said other research shows that advertising effects “decay very rapidly.”

“They’re making very large assumptions at virtually every stage in this process,” she said of the researchers.

In an interview, Chen acknowledged that it is difficult to isolate the cause of the observed change in behavior captured by the phone data.

“It was hard to argue causality, in the sense that families that differ in politics also differ on numerous other dimensions,” he said.

“What’s cool about the study is the use of digital data to observe human behaviour in the wild. That’s the kind of novel social science here,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth who was not involved in the new research.

There is abundant evidence of intensifying political polarisation in the American public, with party affiliation looming larger as an element of personal identity. Increasingly, people live in places where their neighbours tend to be like-minded. A striking feature of this intensifying tribalism is that Americans have grown more negative in their views of people affiliated with the other major political party.

Since 1994, there has been a near-tripling in the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who say they have a “very unfavorable” view of the other party, according to a report published last year by the Pew Research Centre. A June 2016 report from Pew found that 47 per cent of Republicans viewed Democrats as more “immoral” than other Americans, while 35 percent of Democrats felt that way about Republicans. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to view members of the other major party as “close-minded” (70 per cent to 52 per cent).

“Social media is feeding partisan identity and polarisation, and it’s feeding the notion that people who aren’t like us politically aren’t worthy of being associated with,” Jamieson said. “The candidacies of Trump and Clinton were both encouraging audiences to believe that the other candidate was morally reprehensible. And that’s new.”

Larry Diamond, a political scientist at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said of the study by Chen and Rohla, “It’s very intriguing, and sounds like a very innovative study, which is certainly telling us something of sobering importance about the way political polarisation is affecting American life.”

He added, “There’s nothing happening in American politics now to suggest it will be better at Thanksgiving in 2020.”

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Firefly Autism Laugh Yourself Blue fundraiser – The Denver Post

From its modest beginning six years ago — a dinner with approximately 250 guests — Firefly Autism’s signature fundraiser, Laugh Yourself Blue, has grown by leaps and bounds to become one of Denver’s largest charitable events.

The 2018 edition brought a standing-room-only crowd of 800 to the Seawell Ballroom and raised a record $520,000, thanks to leadership provided by co-chairs John Farnam, Paul Heitzenrater, Kelly Hume-Hodges, Fred Churbuck and Wes Olivas. Honorary chairmen were Sam and Nancy Gary, Sandy Wolf, Pam Savage Sims and Nancy Koontz.

Farnam and Heitzenrater were putting in their third year as Laugh Yourself Blue chairmen; they are also 2016 recipients of Firefly’s Luminescence Award, an award that Churbuck and his sister, Megan Fearnow, shared in 2017.

Churbuck and Fearnow are part of the Salah Foundation, which offered a $100,000 challenge grant for the evening’s special appeal. When all was said and done, the appeal generated $183,000 — money that will be put toward a capital campaign that launches in the fall and will fund the construction of Firefly’s new, state-of-the-art treatment facility.

“Needless to say I was blown away with the event, even though I knew what it was going to look like,” remarked a jubilant Jesse Ogas, Firefly’s executive director, days afterward. “The video that opened the program, “Shiva’s Story,” helped set the tone for the evening. It was deeply moving and it seemed to touch everyone because when the lights came back up, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

“Shiva’s Story” recalled the horrific case in which a school bus aide repeatedly assaulted a Firefly student, and the prosecution of that case inspired not only the video, but the decision to present Firefly’s 2018 Children’s Advocacy Award to Stan Garnett and the Boulder District Attorney’s Office, the Longmont Police Department and the law offices of Rathod & Mohamedbhai.

Other awards went to the Tafoya Family (Community Impact Award) and Elyse Murrin (Lighting Up Lives Award).

To better accommodate the record number of guests, the silent auction and social hour was held in tents set up outside the ballroom that had been decorated in a style reminiscent of a spring-summer garden party.

The Seawell Ballroom itself was festooned in shades of blue as guests such as Carrie Fell and Richard Bailey; Renee Ortiz; Bradley Joseph; Sandee Walling; John Brackney; Trish Morris; Shelly St. John; Stacy Ohlsson; Mike and Diane McKinnon; Kim Easton; Tera Prim; Wayne Taylor and Amber Human enjoyed dinner and the laughs provided by 25-year comedy veteran Karen Mills and Michael McCreary, who incorporates his own diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome in his act, opening most sets with his self-deprecating tagline: “Does this make my Aspbergers look big?”

Also on the program: Dave Sevick’s reading of the latest entry in his “Life in The Spectrum,” a poem written in the cadence and rhyming style of Dr. Seuss, that focuses on the unique and daily challenges of children who live in a mysterious land called The Spectrum.

Sevick, who is Firefly’s vice president of marketing and development, plans to publish the collection of poems as a children’s book with proceeds donated to Firefly.

Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, and @joannedavidson on Twitter

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A critical task for the Greek economy enters a new phase

OF THE €57.7bn ($68.2bn) of loans that Piraeus Bank, one of Greece’s four dominant lenders, had on its books at the end of March, €20.5bn were more than 90 days overdue. A further €11.7bn were also deemed unlikely to be repaid. In all, at the end of 2017 Greek banks carried €95.7bn of such non-performing exposures (NPEs)—at 43.1% of loans, the heaviest burden in Europe. Still, the pile was €13bn smaller than at its peak in March 2016. The banks plan to reduce it by €30bn this year and next.

Dealing with bad loans to business—around 60% of NPEs, mostly to small firms—is the most daunting part of this monumental job. It means resetting the balance-sheet of much of Greece’s economy, from restaurants to manufacturing. But a new phase of this task is under way, with the first sale of secured commercial loans. On May 29th Piraeus said it had agreed to sell Amoeba, a €1.45bn bundle of loans to around 180 borrowers, to Bain Capital Credit, which has previously bought bad debts in Italy and Spain. The collateral, comprising about 1,700 properties, is mainly in big cities. Other banks have been watching keenly. Alpha Bank, another of the four big banks, is weighing a similar sale. Bankers and investors say Amoeba has helpfully spawned an ecosystem of buyers and advisers.

Clearing away the NPE rubble and renewing lending are both vital. GDP shrivelled by a quarter in 2010-13 and then stagnated for three more years. Though it is growing once more, at 1.4% in 2017 and maybe 2% in 2018, it is scarcely roaring back. Write-offs and sales have accounted for most of the reduction in NPEs, though “cures” (as borrowers return to health or simply find the cash) have ticked up too. Sales have mainly been of unsecured consumer debt, for a few cents on the euro. In October Eurobank, another leading lender, sold a €1.5bn portfolio to Intrum, a Swedish specialist, for about €40m. In March Alpha shed €3.7bn of loans to Norwegian-owned B2Kapital Greece for €90m.

Selling business loans is harder. Though provisions already cover half of NPEs, and collateral notionally covers the rest, banks and loan-buyers must still discern which indebted businesses are viable and which not, and what collateral is truly worth. Debtors may owe money to more than one bank, and different parts of a property (parking space, storage areas) may have been pledged separately. Bankers reckon that 25% of defaulters are “strategic”—that is, they can pay but won’t, believing foreclosure will never come.

Lately online public auctions of foreclosed commercial and residential properties have also begun. Up to 20,000 pieces may go under the e-hammer this year. Banks are buying a high proportion themselves—at Piraeus, 80%—but at least sales are happening. Protests prevented physical auctions last year. E-auctions have smoked out some strategic defaulters: perhaps a fifth of properties put up for sale have been pulled when borrowers found the money or asked to restructure the debt.

At the top of the scale Pillarstone, a turnaround specialist owned by KKR, a private-equity giant, is taking on a few large, troubled companies. It is overhauling Famar, a drugmaker, and is close to deals with Alpha and Eurobank to reshape Notos, a department-store chain, and Kallimanis, a frozen-seafood firm. Banks have also set up a forum to tackle companies owing money to more than one lender.

Among other positive signs, all four banks boast healthy capital ratios and came through stress tests by the European Central Bank (ECB) this month without being required to raise more equity. They should soon be weaned off ECB emergency funding, which by April was down to €10.2bn, from €86.7bn in mid-2015. Deposits that gushed out in the crisis have begun to flow back.

Yet much of the masonry is far from firm. Leonidas Fragkiadakis, chief executive of National Bank of Greece, the other big bank, resigned on the eve of the stress tests, having fallen out with his board. Private-sector deposits, at €120bn, are still 45% lower than at the end of 2009. Tens of billions are stashed in homes—even buried in gardens—or abroad.

Despite changes in the law intended to speed up bankruptcies, procedures are still “a mess”, believes Stathis Potamitis of PotamitisVekris, a law firm in Athens. The statute is too complicated for small firms, he says. Many new “out of court” workouts will in fact require judges’ rulings because the state, often the biggest creditor, will object to banks’ plans. And Greece lacks specialised courts: a judge can rule on a divorce one day and a foreclosure the next. Last year, according to Creditreform, a debt-collection group, Greece saw just 120 company insolvencies. Similarly-sized Portugal had over 6,000.

The terms of Greece’s graduation from its third bail-out programme, due in August, also matter. Yannis Stournaras, the central bank’s governor, argues that the government should ask for a precautionary credit line from the European Stability Mechanism, as insurance against a sharp rise in borrowing costs (which would feed through to banks). The left-wing government vehemently disagrees, preferring to rely on building a cash reserve.

Even if banks fulfil their plans, they will still have €65bn of NPEs—a ratio of 35%—at the end of 2019. Theodore Kalantonis, the head of Eurobank’s troubled-assets division, says the “biggest question” is how lenders will come up with a new plan after that, to bring NPEs closer to the European average. “Can we do it? The answer has to be yes. But it will not be easy.”

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Donald Trump to pardon Dinesh D’Souza

President Trump announced Thursday that he was granting a pardon to conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

“Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!” the president tweeted.

D’Souza was convicted of making an illegal campaign contribution in 2014.

He pleaded guilty to giving $20,000 to New York politician Wendy Long and was sentenced to five years probation, eight months in a halfway house and paid a $30,000 fine.

Mr. Trump said he did not have a personal relationship with D’Souza, and spoke to him for the first time Wednesday night when he called D’Souza to tell him about the pardon.

“Nobody asked me to do it,” Mr. Trump told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One. “I’ve always felt he was very unfairly treated.”

He said that a lot of people make illegal campaign contributions and that D’Souza should have gotten “a quick minor fine like everybody else with the election stuff.”

“What they did to him was horrible,” Mr. Trump said.

D’Souza has nettled Democrats with films such as “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” and “2016: Obama’s America.”

His pardon almost immediately came under fire from the left.

Donald Trump has sent a message to his friends and cronies that if you break laws to protect him or attack our democracy, he’s got your back. That’s the same message he’s been sending to Vladimir Putin for the last two years,” said David Donnelly, president of the liberal advocacy group Every Voice. “Contribution limits are a key bulwark against corruption in politics and pardoning the man who knowingly violated them is in direct conflict with his pledge to drain the swamp in Washington.”

The liberal group Public Citizen described the pardon as a “blazing signal” to Mr. Trump’s allies that they will be rewarded for loyalty amid special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Karen Hobert Flynn, president of left-leaning Common Cause, said Mr. Trump showed his “contempt for the rule of law.”

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted Mr. D’Souza, said a presidential pardon did not change the fact that Mr. D’Souza broke the law.

“The President has the right to pardon but the facts are these: D’Souza intentionally broke the law, voluntarily pled guilty, apologized for his conduct & the judge found no unfairness. The career prosecutors and agents did their job. Period,” tweeted Mr. Bharara, an outspoken critic of the president.

Mr. Trump last year fired Mr. Bharara from his job as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The pardon of Mr. D’Souza is the fifth pardon granted by Mr. Trump in 16 months in office.

He pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for contempt of court; Kristian Mark Saucier for unauthorized retention of defense information; Lewis “Scooter” Libby for obstruction of justice and perjury; and boxing legend Jack Johnson for violating transporting a white woman across state lines.

Mr. Trump also commuted the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, the former CEO of what was America’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison for bank fraud, a sentence the White House said was too harsh compared to typical sentences for similar offenses.

Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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Some good news from the fight against opioids

SOME 382,000 Americans have overdosed on opioids—a group of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetics—since the year 2000. That is greater than the number of American combat deaths in the second world war and the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. Despite this epic toll, there are early signs that at least one battle may be ending.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the best data for tracking the opioid epidemic. Its latest data, which cover the 12 months to the end of October 2017, show that opioids were responsible for some 46,041 deaths (see chart) in that period. While provisional and subject to revision, that number was at least not dissimilar to the previous month’s figure of 46,202.

Two trends emerge from the numbers. The first gives cause for cheer: deaths from heroin and prescription opioids are falling. Combined, the two drugs were responsible for 29,600 deaths in the 12 months to October 2017, 4% below their peak in figures released five months earlier. The second trend provides less reason for optimism. Deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—a drug up to 50 times stronger than heroin—rose 12% between May and October last year, to 26,760. Assuming the two trends have continued, deaths from synthetic opioids probably surpassed those from heroin and prescription drugs in February this year.

The precise workings of the epidemic in recent months are not well understood, but a few elements stand out. The first is that deaths from prescription medication are likely to have been pushed down by lower availability of those drugs. Official data from the CDC show that prescription rates were nearly 20% lower in 2016 than at their 2012 peak. IQVIA, a health consultancy, reckons that prescriptions fell by another 10% in 2017. Donald Burke, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate school of public health, thinks there is “almost certainly cause and effect” between prescription rates and deaths.

But there may be unintended consequences if alternatives to painkillers are not made available to addicts. One study assessed the impact of reformulating OxyContin, a prescription opioid, to prevent it being crushed and snorted to extract its potent active ingredient. It found that the reformulation simply led to a one-for-one replacement of deaths by heroin.

The increased use of naloxone, a drug which reverses the effects of an overdose, appears to have helped reduce death rates. Emergency-room visits caused by drug overdoses rose 30% in the 12 months to September 2017, while deaths rose by a more modest 17%. The drug is becoming “as important as having a defibrillator” says Michael Barnett, a professor of health policy at Harvard University.

The emergence of new synthetic drugs, such as carfentanil, which is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, shows how hard it is to get ahead of the epidemic. Forewarning users before they take deadly doses will help. Fentanyl testing strips, which cost just $1, allow addicts to test for the presence of deadly opioids before they take them. In time, such kits might save the lives of other drug users too. Deaths from a mix of cocaine and synthetic opioids—which suggests that the two were unexpectedly and mistakenly laced together—more than doubled to 4,500 in 2016.

Experts agree that the most effective way to fight addiction is with medication-based treatment, such as methadone. But just one-third of Americans live in counties with treatment centres providing these kinds of drugs. For real progress it is necessary to look north. Vancouver has pioneered the use of safe-injection sites. Seattle and other progressive enclaves of America would like to follow their lead but they face stern opposition. America’s attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, has threatened to prosecute such sites under the “crack house statute”. Such sites, claims the Department of Justice, will only “encourage and normalise heroin use”.

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Anticipated or anticlimactic? Warriors-Cavs 4 in NBA Finals.

The first one deserved a sequel, which Cleveland won in the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to even things up with Golden State.

Then with Kevin Durant joining Stephen Curry on one side and LeBron James leading the other, the Warriors and Cavaliers sent interest soaring as they rampaged toward the tiebreaker last season.

But the rubber match was a mismatch, and the Warriors are expected to win just as easily this time.

So as Round 4 of the record-setting rivalry begins Thursday night, has Warriors-Cavaliers become too much of a good thing?

“I don’t think so,” Golden State guard Klay Thompson said. “I think the rest of the NBA has got to get better. It’s not our fault. I’m sure if you asked the fans of the Warriors and the Cavs around the world, whether it’s in the Bay Area or in Cleveland, I’m sure they’re happy with their team performance. The only people I hear saying that are fans from other teams, which is natural. I don’t blame them. But as long as our fan base is happy, that’s all that matters.”

It’s the first time in NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL history that the same teams are meeting four straight times in the championship round, and intrigue in the teams hasn’t waned yet. The NBA had its most-watched conference finals since 2012, as both teams had to rally from 3-2 deficits to win Game 7s on the road.

But if this series quickly becomes as lopsided as some fear — ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said he couldn’t remember a bigger gap between finals teams and said any game the Cavs win is a huge upset — many of those people who have tuned in the last few years might be looking for something else to watch by the time the series switches to Cleveland.

“If James and the Cavaliers win Game 1, you know, the interest is going to skyrocket because they are going to have done what very few — except for them maybe — think they can do, which is win at Golden State,” Van Gundy said. “If they get blown out both games, it doesn’t matter what we say. People aren’t going to be as excited.”

The players won’t apologize for showing up again, or worry that it hurts the NBA.

“I mean, it may not be as suspenseful as a lot of people want it to be or as drama-filled,” Durant said, “but that’s what you’ve got movies and music for.”

Some things to watch when the series begins at Oracle Arena:


If the Warriors win, it would be their sixth NBA championship and tie them for third on the all-time list with the Chicago Bulls, who won all theirs with Michael Jordan. Then it would be a long way to go from there to catch Boston (17) or the Lakers (16).


James could vault into second place on the NBA Finals’ career lists for points and assists. He has 1,247 points and needs 71 to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,317) and move behind only Jerry West (1,679). His 339 assists are 61 behind Bob Cousy (400). Magic Johnson had 584.


While matching up on the court, James and Durant could flip-flop on the career postseason scoring list. James currently has a slight edge, with his 28.83 points per game placing him fourth and slightly ahead of Durant, who has averaged 28.75. Durant has been even better in the NBA Finals, with his 32.9 points per game ranking last year’s finals MVP behind only Rick Barry (36.3) and Jordan (33.6) among players who have appeared in at least 10 games.


The much-maligned Cavaliers’ defense has shown up in the postseason, where Cleveland is allowing just 99.9 points per game, second among the 16 teams. The Cavs held Boston under 100 points in four of the final five games of the East finals. More impressively, Golden State kept high-scoring Houston under 100 in five straight games and is right behind Cleveland at 100.3 in the playoffs.


Viewers will notice something new on the court during the series. The familiar NBA Finals logo has been replaced and the floor will now be marked with one that reads “The Finals presented by YouTube TV.”

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Neil Portnow to leave post as Grammys CEO in 2019

NEW YORK (AP) – Neil Portnow will step down as president and CEO of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Awards next year.

The organization announced Thursday that Portnow chose not to “seek an extension on his current contract,” which ends next year.

He has led the academy since 2002.

Portnow was criticized at the Grammys this year when he said women need to “step up” when asked about the lack of female winners backstage. Only two female performers won awards during the live telecast.

Portnow later said his words were taken out of context and he now understands the pain his “poor choice of words” has caused. The remarks were criticized by Pink, Sheryl Crow, Katy Perry, India.Arie and others.

“When I had the honor of being selected to lead this great organization in 2002, I vowed that on my watch, for the first time in our history, we would have a thoughtful, well-planned, and collegial transition. With a little more than a year remaining on my current contract, I’ve decided that this is an appropriate time to deliver on that promise,” Portnow said in a statement.

The academy said Portnow made the announcement at the company’s semi-annual Board of Trustees meeting last week. Over the next year he will continue to work on a transition plan with the organization.

Before leading the academy, Portnow served on the organization’s Board of Trustees. His 16-year run, the longest for a president at the academy, has been met with some criticism. For years the music community felt that the Grammys were out of date, giving out awards to older musicians and acts from the jazz, rock and country music worlds, and continually dismissing rap and R&B; musicians, though those genres heavily dominate pop music. Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Eminem and Mariah Carey are among the acts who were on track to win top awards like album of the year at the Grammys, but constantly walked away without the big wins.

But the biggest setback for Portnow came this year at the show, where men dominated in nominations. Lorde, the only woman nominated for album of the year, didn’t get a chance to perform at the show, which was met with criticism. Three separate letters from music executives demanded a revamp at the academy.

Some of Portnow’s highlights over the years include leading the charity MusiCares and helping the Grammys establish online voting.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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