Thanks For The Gem-ories
February 21, 2022
The Good News
- Scientists have possibly cured HIV in a woman for the first time (NBC)
- Basic income: Wales pilot offers £1,600 a month to care leavers (BBC)
“Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.” – John F. Kennedy
A Money Disposition
Former First Lady Melania Trump blames “cancel-culture” politics and liberal media for rejection of her efforts to make charitable donations benefiting children. Mrs. Trump said Friday the board of directors of an Oklahoma technical school specializing in teaching advanced computer science skills had “organized a politically motivated decision” to reject an offered donation. It’s believed she refers to the Holberton School, a San Francisco-based education company founded in 2015 by two software engineers who set out to build a more-diversified workforce of skilled programmers beyond those coming from elite universities. Today, Holberton has over 30 schools operating globally, including in Tulsa.
It isn’t the first time since Melania left the White House that her efforts to raise money for charity or make money for herself have been questioned or rejected. Last month, she tried holding an online auction to sell a white hat she’d worn at the White House during a 2018 visit by the French president. It was one of three pieces comprising the Head of State Collection to be sold in a 14-day auction on melaniatrump.com. The opening bid for the group was set at $250,000, with an unspecified portion of the proceeds going to her charitable initiative for children “Be Best.” Ultimately, Melania paid $180,000 to buy the collection herself.
Recently, Mrs. Trump announced plans to host an exclusive high tea event in Naples, Florida this April called “Tulips and Topiaries,” with tickets for “VIP table sponsors” going for $50,000. Again, the proceeds were to be partly donated to another initiative she calls Fostering the Future, aiming to help children emerging from foster care. But Florida officials question if Melania complied with state laws requiring anyone soliciting charitable donations to be registered with the state. Melania said she didn’t intend to create her own formal nonprofit organization registered with Florida or the federal government. Instead, she would partner with other nonprofits that are registered.
Interestingly, in November 2019, the New York Supreme Court shut down the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a private, tax-exempt organization controlled by Trump and three of his adult children. Among multiple court-ordered stipulations, Trump was ordered to pay $2 million in damages for illegally using charitable assets to further his own political interests, among other abuses. Trump had to admit to personally misusing the charity’s funds, and agree to mandatory training, restrictions on future charitable service, and ongoing reporting to the New York Attorney General’s Office in the event he creates a new charity. (NYT ($), ArtNet News, ag.ny.gov)
The Ukraines Of The Operation
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Germany Saturday for the annual meeting of the Munich Security Conference, despite warnings that his absence from Kyiv would give Russia an opportunity to strike. At times bitterly critical of the West, Zelensky urgently appealed to a large audience of allies to begin imposing sanctions on Russia now.
- “What are you waiting for?” he exclaimed, taking aim at repeated American declarations that an invasion could begin any day. “We don’t need your sanctions after” the economy collapses and “parts of our country will be occupied.” Referring to NATO, Zelensky said “We are told the doors are open. But so far the strangers are not allowed [in].”
- If the members don’t want his country included in the alliance, Zelensky implored, they should be honest about it. Ukraine, he added, does not need “years and years” of equivocation. He was emphatic that “all our partners and friends” should not agree to any deal to avoid the crisis with Russia “behind our back.” (NYT, $)
- Last Wednesday, a cargo vessel carrying 1,100 Porsches, 189 Bentleys, and 4,000 Volkswagens caught fire near Portugal’s Azores Islands. Some speculated that lithium-ion batteries in the electric cars onboard were to blame. Portuguese Navy helicopters rescued all 22 crew members, but the burning vessel with its multi-million dollar cargo was left adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. The cargo ship had been scheduled to arrive in Davisville, R.I. this week.
- Another tragedy at sea occurred Friday when an Italian-owned ferry carrying over 290 passengers and crew, 153 trucks, and 32 cars, caught fire three hours after leaving a Greek port bound for Italy. The ferry operator said the fire started in a hold where vehicles were parked. Greek Coast Guard and other boats evacuated about 280 people to the nearby island of Corfu. The ferry was still burning Sunday when Greek emergency workers rescued a 21-year-old Belarussian truck driver, and found the body of a deceased 58-year-old Greek truck driver. 10 people are still missing. (WaPo ($), ABC News)
Additional World News
- Six African countries to begin making mRNA vaccines as part of WHO scheme (Guardian)
- Unable to Agree on Russia Sanctions Bill, Senate Settles for a Statement (NYT, $)
- Australia says Chinese warship ‘illuminated’ one of its planes with a laser (CNN)
- Livestream of jets landing at Heathrow during storm watched by thousands (NBC)
- Ethiopia turns on the turbines at giant Nile hydropower plant (Reuters)
- With French Election Looming, It Is Macron Against the Right (NYT, $)
A Strong Suit
- A federal judge in D.C. issued a 112-page ruling Friday that would allow three civil lawsuits seeking to hold Donald Trump accountable for the January 6 insurrection to move forward in court. Two of the suits were brought by Democratic House members, and the third by Capitol Police officers.
- Judge Amit Mehta outlined how the former president could conceivably be responsible for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The judge reasoned that Trump’s statements to his supporters before the riot are “the essence of civil conspiracy,” because Trump spoke about himself and rallygoers working “towards a common goal” of fighting and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. “The President’s January 6 Rally Speech can reasonably be viewed as a call for collective action,” Mehta said.
- The judge agreed to dismiss claims against close allies of the president who also spoke at the rally: his attorney Rudy Giuliani, his son Donald Trump Jr., and Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama. While plaintiffs were elated, a long road of appeals undoubtedly lies ahead. (CNN)
Kim Potter Sentenced To Two Years
- Prosecutors and many others were stunned Friday when Judge Regina Chu sentenced former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter, 49, to two years in prison for fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop last year in the Minneapolis suburb. Wright was pulled over in April for having expired license plate tags and an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.
- When Potter, who is white, and another officer tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant, Wright got back in the car. Potter grabbed her gun instead of her Taser and shot Wright in the chest. Potter was convicted of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter, and prosecutors said she faced a presumptive sentence of just over seven years under state guidelines.
- But Chu said Potter unintentionally “made a mistake,” and “her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines.” Chu asked those who disagreed to “please try to empathize with Ms. Potter’s situation.” Potter could wind up serving just 16 months in prison. (CBS)
Additional USA News
- Congressman Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota dies at 59 (CBS)
- Far-right Oath Keepers leader to stay in jail until Capitol attack trial, judge rules (Guardian)
- Authorities consider reinstalling fence around Capitol ahead of possible convoy protest (NBC)
- US officials prep big banks and utilities for potential Russian cyberattacks as Ukraine crisis deepens (CNN)
- ‘Irreversible’: No easy fix for water fouled by gas driller (ABC)
- ‘We get to breathe’: Chicagoans celebrate as city blocks metal shredder (Guardian)
Thanks For The Gem-ories
- Fred von Brandt, who mines for gold in Alaska, says his family has deep roots in the gem and rock business. Von Brand relates that in the late 1950s, his grandfather bought an opal the size of a brick from an Australian opal dealer named John Altmann. The opal, dubbed “Americus Australis,” weighed over 11,800 carats and was in two pieces, which was the practice used decades ago to prove gem quality.
- Guy von Brandt, Fred’s father, was in charge of the opal and kept it stored away for years. Eventually, Guy decided the opal had been “locked up long enough, that it’s time to put it back out in the world and see what interest it can generate.” Guy entrusted Fred to figure out what direction to go. So over a year ago, Fred took the gem-quality opal pieces back to his home in Big Lake, north of Anchorage, and put them in the linen closet while he thought about what to do.
- Fred finally decided to go with a smaller auction house, Alaska Premier Auctions and Appraisals. In doing their due diligence on the opal’s provenance, the auction house contacted Fiona Altmann, granddaughter of John Altmann and general manager of Altmann + Cherny in Sidney. Fiona said her grandfather used to make regular business trips to Europe and the U.S. And while she didn’t recognize the opal’s name, she started digging and found something in her grandfather’s handwriting with the picture of the opal with the word “Americus Australis,” proving its authenticity. The auction house put the gemstone up for sale, billing it as one of the largest gem-quality opals in existence. The minimum starting bid was $125,000, which the auctioneers said was a “calculated risk.” On Sunday, it sold for $143,750. (AP)
- Plant fossils found in San Juan Islands like ‘finding a penguin in North America’ (SeaTimes)
- 500-pound bear known as “Hank the Tank” breaks into another Lake Tahoe home: “Lost all fear of people” (CBS)
- Berry large: Israeli farmer grows world’s heaviest strawberry (Guardian)
- Italian craftsman claims Putin’s ‘unique’ oversized table (Al Jazeera)
- This Hyperspeed Space Sail Could Take Us to Next-Door Star Systems (CNET)
- I Gave My Child a Smartphone and It’s Been the Best Thing for Her (Wired)
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