Daily Archives: June 11, 2017

Forest Service cancels astronomy programs at heliport – Union Democrat

Posted: June 11, 2017 at 5:42 pm


Planets, stars, constellations and galaxies in the night sky are one of the free benefits for people who spend nights high in the Central Sierra, and for people who work and live beyond the reach of urban lighting.

The Forest Service used to offer astronomy programs at Bald Mountain Heliport. Stargazers say its a high point with no trees that offers near-perfect 360-degree panoramas of the heavens after dark.

But staffing and budget constraints have prompted Stanislaus National Forest administrators to cancel the astronomy star parties they used to host at the heliport.

Among those who are disappointed is amateur astronomer Rich Combs, 66, a resident of Strawberry and Livermore. He began coming to the Pinecrest area when he was a youngster in the late 1950s and 1960s. He remembers being inspired by a satellite passing over him in the night sky.

His affinity for the stars and astronomy stayed with him. He eventually hosted astronomy star parties for the Forest Service for more than a decade. An invoice from last year shows he got paid $120 a night for star parties at the heliport.

Combs contacted The Union Democrat and said today he doesnt care about the money.

Over the years, theyve offered me as much as $400 per presentation, Combs said Thursday. Thats what they told me some of their presenters get, and they asked me what I wanted to charge.

He charged $100, and thats what the Forest Service paid him for about 10 years. A couple years ago he started charging $120 a night.

I would be happy to do it for free if that would make any difference, Combs said. I hope the public understands heres what your money is not getting spent on.

Space race

Combs was born in 1951, and he remembers when he was about 8 years old the first time he attended Camp Gold, also known as Lair of the Golden Bear, an alumni camp for the University of California system, near Pinecrest and the Summit District Ranger Station.

Camp Gold is a family camp for alumni and their families, Combs said. Families almost always went the same week each year. We made friends that way. Combs family went from about 1959 to 1963.

Camp Gold is still there, off of Dodge Ridge Road and within walking distance of the Summit Ranger Station.

The first time Combs went to Camp Gold was for a week in August 1959, with his family. His father attended UC Berkeley, and he was a qualified alumnus. Combs remembers stargazing at dark night skies from a baseball field at the camp.

I was interested in astronomy since grade school, Combs said. I remember at Camp Gold going up and looking at a satellite, easily visible to the eye. My dad took to the family to a dark area near Camp Gold and a satellite had been predicted to be visible. We saw it go overhead. I was maybe 10 years old.

Combs said the satellite was called Echo.

This was in the midst of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the Russians were beating the Americans.

In late 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite placed in orbit, and Sputnik II, which carried a small dog named Laika into orbit.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, created in 1958, was in its infancy. According to NASA historians, the agency launched an Echo I metalized balloon satellite Aug. 12 1960.

Echo satellites generated a lot of public interest in the early 1960s because they could be seen with the naked eye from the ground as they passed overhead.

In April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth once and became the first human in space. Less than a month later, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

Bald Mountain Heliport

Bald Mountain Heliport opened in 1962, said Dave Phillips, helibase manager. Its a Forest Service facility on Forest Service land. Phillips said helicopter crews with Cal Fire and contractor PHI Air Medical also use the base when needed.

Shawn Estes, an information assistant at the Summit District Ranger Station, said summer interpretive astronomy programs at Bald Mountain probably began in the summer of 1975.

Combs says hes been an active amateur astronomer since 1980.

He said he remembers going to Bald Mountain Heliport for the first time about 15 years ago, when he saw an ad in the Stanislaus Traveler newsletter distributed by the Forest Service. Combs said they were looking for someone to help with astronomy programs at Bald Mountain Heliport, because the person who did it for several years was retiring.

Im an observer of stars, galaxies and other objects in the heavens, Combs said. I share my enthusiasm for astronomy with others through my club and through programs at schools, including Summerville High School in Tuolumne.

In addition to leading astronomy programs at Bald Mountain Heliport until this year, Combs says he hosts star parties at Summerville High in October each fall.

We usually try to schedule it around a crescent moon, Combs said. A crescent moon is easy to view but does not overwhelm the dark night sky, so people can see the moon as well as stars.

He said he met a Summerville High science teacher, Karen Wessel, at a star party at Bald Mountain Heliport. At Summerville High star parties, Combs said he organizes star parties on the tennis court at the school. Each year, 20 to 30 people attend, including students and family members.

Its convenient, and its usually dark enough we can see a reasonable number of objects in the night sky, Combs said. Its not as good as Bald Mountain, but its close.

Combs says he is also currently president of the club Tri-Valley Stargazers, based in Livermore.

Staffing and budget

Combs said he went to Summit District Ranger Station about two weeks ago because he had not received his annual invitation to host star parties at Bald Mountain Heliport.

Basically, I was told they were not going to be having the program this year due to a lack of staffing and a lack of funding, Combs said.

Estes confirmed that interpretive astronomy programs at Bald Mountain Heliport this summer have been canceled.

A night program like that, we have to have staff up there, Estes said. Its on a locked firefighting aviation facility. There needs to be supervision up there for public safety.

Like numerous other federal agencies, the Forest Service has faced a hiring freeze and budget cuts since President Donald J. Trumps inauguration in January.

In Tuolumne County, public affairs staff with the Stanislaus National Forest announced that, beginning this week, the front desk at the Mi-Wok Ranger District will be open just one day a week, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Friday.

The decision to open the Mi-Wok Ranger District front desk only on Fridays stems in part from staffing challenges and budget constraints, said Diana Fredlund with Stanislaus National Forest public affairs.

Asked for more details, Fredlund responded, Regarding the staffing challenges, the hiring freeze limits our ability to fill behind departures, whether its retirements or relocations. Flat or declining budgets for the past many years eventually impact our ability to provide services and reducing Mi-Woks front desk operating hours is one of those impacts. We cant discuss anything about future budgets until they have been voted on and announced by Congress and the White House.

In 2016 the overall budget for Stanislaus National Forest was about $20 million, Fredlund said. The 2017 overall budget is about $19.5 million. These numbers do not take into account special funding sources, like recovery from the Rim Fire, which may only be spent on recovery or management efforts directly related to the Rim Fire, or other grants that are designated for a specific purpose.

Combs said, I understand, but I kind of feel our government priorities are not in order. Were losing the chance to educate the public with a free resource, the night skies.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.


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Hubble applauds waltzing dwarfs – Astronomy Now Online

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The image is a stack of 12 images made over the course of three years with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Using high-precision astrometry, an Italian-led team of astronomers tracked the two components of the system as they moved both across the sky and around each other. Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Bedin et al.

This seemingly unspectacular series of dots with varying distances between them actually shows the slow waltz of two brown dwarfs. The image is a stack of 12 images made over the course of three years with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Using high-precision astrometry, an Italian-led team of astronomers tracked the two components of the system as they moved both across the sky and around each other.

The observed system, Luhman 16AB, is only about six light-years away and is the third closest stellar system to Earth after the triple star system Alpha Centauri and Barnards Star. Despite its proximity, Luhman 16AB was only discovered in 2013 by the astronomer Kevin Luhman.

The two brown dwarfs that make up the system, Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B, orbit each other at a distance of only three times the distance between the Earth and the sun, and so these observations are a showcase for Hubbles precision and high resolution.

The astronomers using Hubble to study Luhman 16AB were not only interested in the waltz of the two brown dwarfs, but were also searching for a third, invisible, dancing partner. Earlier observations with the European Southern Observatorys Very Large Telescope indicated the presence of an exoplanet in the system. The team wanted to verify this claim by analyzing the movement of the brown dwarfs in great detail over a long period of time, but the Hubble data showed that the two dwarfs are indeed dancing alone, unperturbed by a massive planetary companion.

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Solar astronomy buffs warming up for August eclipse – Anniston Star

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James Ambrister has trained his telescope since he was a seventh-grader on the night-sky, but lately learned to look up during the day at the skys brightest star the sun.

Ambrister and other local astronomy buffs are excited for one of the rarer wonders of the daytime sky: a total solar eclipse that will be visible to much of the U.S. in August.

Ambrister, a member of the Oxford Alabama Solar Astronomy Club, had solar telescopes set up Saturday at Art in the Park in Choccolocco Park in Oxford.

Ambrister said he moved from New Hampshire to Oxford in 2009. He had been a member of New Hampshire Astronomical Society, which visited schools to interest kids in astronomy. Ambrister said he missed that outreach.

When I moved down, I missed that, Ambrister said. I started taking my telescope to Oxford Lake and show people.

Laura Weinkauf, planetarium director at Jacksonville State University, said people can usually see sunspots and solar flares through telescopes.

Sunspots are regions that are cooler than the rest of the sun, Weinkauf said. Solar flares are when the sun sends heated plasma out in one direction or another.

According to Weinkauf, sunspots look like small blemishes on the surface of the sun, but she said its all relative.

The sun is about 6,000 degrees Kelvin, Weinkauf said. The sunspots are cooler at about 4,000 degrees Kelvin, but keep in mind Earth is only 300 degrees Kelvin. Sunspots also look small, but theyre about the size of the Earth.

Ambrister said he is amazed at how many people dont know how big the sun is.

You can fit 109 Earths across the diameter of the sun, Ambrister said. If you opened it up, 1.2 million Earths would fit inside the sun.

Weinkauf said solar telescopes have special lenses on them that filter out sunlight to make it safe.

Its usually a lens you can attach to your telescope that blocks ninety-nine point some large fraction of the sunlight, Weinkauf said. Its so you dont blind yourself like Galileo did.

Ambrister said he has a telescope that is made specifically for looking at the sun and the filtering lenses for another telescope. He said he brought both to the park.

Oxford resident and co-founder of Backyard Weather Kent Shaddix was also at the park. He said he connected with Ambrister through a mutual friend. Shaddix said he and Ambrister decided to do a joint solar astronomy and weather event at the park.

Shaddix said he is excited for the upcoming solar eclipse.

Its gonna be August 21, Shaddix said. Were gonna set up somewhere for that too.

Weinkauf said a solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. She said seeing a solar eclipse is pretty rare. She said the last total solar eclipse that could be seen in North America was in 1972 in northern Alaska.

The place where you can see the eclipse, the pass width, usually ends up to be somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Weinkauf said. We wont get a total eclipse in Anniston, but well get about 95-percent coverage which is still pretty rare.

Ambrister said he wont be in town for the eclipse, but he plans to take his telescopes back to the park on June 18 from 8 a.m. to noon. He said he hopes people will come out to take a look.

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Cloud Computing Companies Move Into Medical Diagnosis (GOOG, IBM) – Investopedia

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Your next medical diagnosis could come from a cloud-based machine learning system. According to a Bloomberg report, Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Google is gearing up to provide “Diagnostics-as-a-Service” capabilities through its cloud division. The service will analyze reams of patient and disease data to diagnose patients and, possibly, recommend appropriate drugs for treatment. A German cancer specialist Alacris Theranostics GmbH is already working with Google’s cloud division to carry out virtual clinical trials and virtual patient modeling. It uses these models to design drug therapies for patients. (See also: Google Creates New Cloud Group to Take On Amazon and Microsoft.)

Google is not the only cloud company targeting the healthcare industry. International Business Machine Corporation’s (IBM) Watson, which uses a mix of artificial intelligence and cloud computing on the back end, analyzed medical data and images pertaining to 1,000 cancer patients last year and returned diagnoses that concurred with a human doctor’s assessment in 99 percent of all cases. Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), which is a leader in cloud computing, lists genomic sequencing as one of the most prominent use cases of its service on its site. Last year, the National Cancer Institute announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) and Amazon to analyze cancer genomes and enable secure collaboration between researchers using the company’s cloud services. (See also: Top Medical & Healthcare Software Companies.)

Healthcare spending on cloud services reached $3.73 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase to $9.5 billion by 2020. Primary use cases for this spending were data storage, email and software systems that increase efficiency. For example, telemedicine is rapidly gaining ground as a means to cut down on redundant costs associated with doctor visits for minor ailments. Medical diagnosis using cloud computing is a relatively new use case.

And it might be a while before the diagnostic use case becomes a reality. This is because such diagnoses requires healthcare providers to release critical data to cloud computing companies. A mix of regulatory and competitive advantage considerations may prevent them from doing so. The Bloomberg article quotes an analyst who says that medical data are likely to remain “locked up” with healthcare providers in the “foreseeable future.” (See also: Investing in the Healthcare Sector.)

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Real Estate Weekly: Digital Realty Becomes A Cloud Computing … – Seeking Alpha

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Weekly Review

The REIT ETF indexes (VNQ and IYR) finished the week lower by 0.3% as the 10-year yield climbed 7bps following the UK elections. The S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) gained 0.3%. The homebuilder ETFs (XHB and ITB) were lower by 1.0% on the week. The commercial construction ETF (NYSEARCA:PKB) gained 0.2%.

(Hoya Capital Real Estate, Performance as of 12pm Friday)

Across other areas of the real estate sector, mortgage REITs (NYSEARCA:REM) finished the week higher by 0.5% and the international real estate ETF (NASDAQ:VNQI) declined 0.6%. The 10-Year Treasury yield (NYSEARCA:IEF) gained 7 bps on the week, recovering from YTD low yields earlier this week.

REITs are now higher by 0.8% YTD on a price-basis and higher by roughly 3% on a total-return basis. The sector divergences are quite significant: the Data Center sector has surged 24% while the retail-focused REITs have fallen double-digits. REITs ended 2016 with a total return of roughly 9%, lower than its 20-year average annual return of 12%.

REITWeek Recap

This week was NAREIT’s annual REITWeek conference in New York City, the biggest industry conference of the year. We listened to about 25 presentations across all the major REIT sectors.

We came away with a slightly more positive outlook on the REIT sector as a whole. Retail REITs were unquestionably the major focus for many investors. The bifurcation between high-quality and low-quality retail space has intensified. High quality retail space in desirable locations continue to perform very well and, in many cases, the apparel downsizing has actually been a net positive as the vacated space has been put to more productive and higher-traffic uses. We detailed our judgments in “Short Squeeze May Send Mall REITs Surging.”

We also published, “Obamacare Uncertainty Remains A Drag On Healthcare REITs,” our update on the Healthcare REIT sector. We discussed that healthcare REITs have outperformed over the past quarter, but this outperformance is entirely attributable to plunging interest rates. Healthcare REITs are up 8% as the 10-year yield fell 45bps. Hospitals and skilled nursing REITs, the sub-sectors most exposed to changes in healthcare policy, continue to trade at substantial discounts as Obamacare crumbles and its replacement appears politically infeasible. While much of the media focus is on drug prices, labor costs are the true drivers of healthcare inflation. This is a structural allocation-of-resources issue within the American education system.

Finally, we also published our Net Lease update, “Retail Contagion Continues To Trouble Net Lease REITs” where we discussed that despite the significant decline in interest rates over the past quarter, net lease REITs have badly underperformed the broader REIT indexes, a worrying development for the sector. Net lease REITs are the most yield-sensitive REIT sector, but these REITs have not acted as bond-proxies so far this year. Investors have been rudely reminded of the significant retail exposures of these names. Credit issues with key tenants at Spirit Capital has dragged down the entire Net Lease sector. More than other REIT sectors, net lease REITs depend on their cost of capital advantage for acquisition-fueled growth. Spirit’s credit issues may have meaningfully impaired the sector’s competitive advantage.

Arguably the most significant piece of REIT news this week actually came after the conference, as Digital Realty (NYSE:DLR) announced a merger with DuPont Fabros (NYSE:DFT) to form a data center giant that appears more fortified to go head-to-head with the public cloud providers, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). While demand has continued to be robust and outstripping supply, pricing power has been a concern among investors as companies have increasingly utilized public cloud solutions rather than using their own server racks in the data center. In many cases, both the public and private cloud are both located in these REIT data centers, but the rent per megawatt is lower when, for example, Amazon is the tenant rather than an individual mid-sized company. We think consolidation is the right move. We will write a full report on it early next week.

The six best performing REITs on the week were Dupont Fabros , LaSalle Hotels (NYSE:LHO), Diamondrock (NYSE:DRH), Pebblebrook (NYSE:PEB), Sunstone (NYSE:SHO), and CoreSite (NYSE:COR).

The six worst performers on the week were Care Capital (NYSE:CCP), National Retail Properties (NYSE:NNN), Store Capital (NYSE:STOR), Realty Income (NYSE:O), Digital Realty , and CubeSmart (NYSE:CUBE).

Economic Data

Every week, we like to dive deeper into the economic data that directly impacts real estate.

(Hoya Capital Real Estate, HousingWire)

Home Prices Continue To Rise As Mortgage Rates Continue To Fall

Core Logic’s Home Price Index showed a 6.9% YoY rise in home prices in April, a slight deceleration from the 7.1% YoY rise in March.”Mortgage rates in April dipped back to their lowest level since November of last year, spurring home-buying activity,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “In some metro areas, there has been a bidding frenzy as multiple contracts are placed on a single home. This has led home-price growth to outpace rent gains. Nationally, home prices were up 6.9 percent over the last year, while rent growth for single-family rental homes recorded a 3 percent rise through April, according to the CoreLogic Single-Family Rental Index.”

Zillow’s April Case-Shiller forecast sees a 5.6% rise in home prices for April. Home price appreciation has reaccelerated in recent months after showing signs of slowing in early 2017 as mortgage rates shot up nearly 100bps from the summer 2016 lows. All else equal, lower mortgage rates lead to higher home prices.

Bottom Line

REITs fell 0.3% on the week as the 10-year yield climbed 10 bps. Hotels and retail REITs were the best performers. This week was the annual REITWeek conference in NYC. We came away with a more positive outlook on the REIT sector as a whole, especially the higher quality retail space.

Apartments and hotels have been upside surprises this year and have defied the headwinds from higher supply. Demand has been robust in both sectors and has largely offset higher supply. Digital Realty will merge with DuPont Fabros to form the largest data center REIT. Consolidation will allow these REITs to command better pricing power with the public cloud providers.

Please add your comments if you have additional insight or opinions. We encourage readers to follow our Seeking Alpha page (click “Follow” at the top) to continue to stay up to date on our REIT rankings, weekly recaps, and analysis on the REIT and broader real estate sector.

Disclosure: I am/we are long VNQ, SPY, CCP, COR, DLR, CUBE, SHO.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: All of our research is for educational purpose only, always provided free of charge exclusively on Seeking Alpha. Recommendations and commentary are purely theoretical and not intended as investment advice. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. For investment advice, consult your financial advisor.

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Why isn’t Cloud Computing in the 2017 Belmont Stakes? – FanSided

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May 20, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Javier Castellano aboard Cloud Computing (2) races Julien R. Leparoux aboard Classic Empire (5) during the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Why isnt Always Dreaming in the 2017 Belmont Stakes? by Cody Williams

French Open 2017: Womens results Final by John Buhler

Cloud Computing was not on the radar of many people coming into the Preakness Stakes. He opened at a 30-1 underdog. And though his odds drastically improved leading up to post time to 13-1, he was still considered a longshot. Yet, he came out of nowhere and was able to overtake Classic Empire on the final stretch to win at Pimlico Race Course.

However, the win for Cloud Computing eliminated the chance of a Triple Crown winner in 2017. Thus, the Belmont Stakes didnt hold the same meaning for him or for Derby winner Always Dreaming. As such, both Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing wont be running on Saturday in the 2017 Belmont Stakes.

But not running solely because theres no shot at the Triple Crown seems a bit petty. Is that the whole reason as to why Cloud Computing isnt running at the 2017 Belmont Stakes? The short answer is, of course, no.

Though many people only pay attention to horse racing during the Triple Crown races, its actually quite a long season. There are numerous races with big purses for the winner throughout the summer. Thus, a lot of trainers and owners are interested in seeing their horses do well in those races to complete the season.

Whats more, the Belmont Stakes is a notoriously grueling race. Weve seen former Triple Crown hopefuls win the Derby and Preakness only to come up short at the Belmont because of the length of the race.

Thus, with the prestige of the Triple Crown not on the line, it makes sense that Cloud Computings team would rather focus on the summer and not such a long race. Its unfortunate and takes away some of the drama, but it makes sense in the long run.

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Donald Trump’s State Visit To The UK Now In Doubt – HuffPost

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Two senior administration officials told New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush on Sunday that PresidentDonald Trumps visit to the United Kingdom is currently off the presidents schedule.

That report follows a story inThe Guardianthat said Trumps U.K. trip had been put on hold after he told British Prime Minister Theresa May he was worried about being met with mass street protests.

The conversation between the two leaders took place in recent weeks and was heard by a Downing Street adviser who was in the room, according to The Guardian.

The White House denied The Guardian report on Sunday.

The President has tremendous respect for Prime Minister May. That subject never came up on the call, a White House spokespersonsaid.

A spokesman for May said Sunday, The Queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the UK and there is no change to those plans.

The reported scheduling change comes just days after London Mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated last week that his country should not host a state visit in Trumps honor.

I dont think we should be rolling out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for, said Khan, who is Londons first Muslim mayor.

The presidentslammed Khan over his handling of the June 3 terror attack in London. Khan shot back, saying Trump had deliberately taken his assurances to Londoners out of context.

May sparked criticism earlier this year when she announced that Trump had been invited to visit the U.K. with full state honors. Thisweeks snap electionin Britain, however, threw the process into further doubt and Trump will be even more uncertain about a trip given the instability of Mays prospective minority government, according to HuffPost UK.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed reports of the visits cancellation on Sunday.

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Donald Trump’s Son Inadvertently Backs Up Comey’s Account Of Conversation With President – HuffPost

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WASHINGTON Donald Trumps eldest son seemed to confirm fired FBI director James Comeys account that the president expressed hopeComey would end the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynns contacts with Russian officials, contradicting the presidents denial that he made such an appeal.

While defending his father in a Fox News interview with Judge Jeanine Pirro, a Trump ally, the younger Trump said there would have beenno ambiguity if the president had made the request to Comey during a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting, despite the president and his personal lawyer disputing the exchange.

When he tells you to do something, guess what? Theres no ambiguity in it, theres no, Hey, Im hoping, Donald Trump Jr. told Pirro on Saturday, trying to explain that it could not have been a direct request. You and I are friends: Hey, I hope this happens, but youve got to do your job. Thats what he told Comey.

Comey immediately detailed the meeting in a memo, writing that Trump told him: I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

The president has repeatedly denied Comeys account of the Feb. 14 conversation.

Comeys account is central to the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by asking Comey to end the investigation and then fired him when he did not.

The former FBI director on Thursday testified that he took it as a direction, given that the president had dismissed everyone else from the room to meet with Comey alone, before making the request. It also followed a previous one-on-one encounter in which Trump asked Comey to pledge his honest loyalty.

Trumps son attacked Comey for not taking action if he felt threatened by the president.

For this guy, as a politician, to then go back and write a memo: Oh, I felt threatened. He felt so threatened, but he didnt do anything, Trump Jr. said.

Comey testified that he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not allow Trump to meet with him alone. But he did not feel it was appropriate to tell Sessions about Trumps request, fearing it would impede the larger FBI investigation into the Trump campaigns ties to Russian officials.

Sessions, who met at least twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year, later recused himself from matters involving the Russia investigation. Comey revealed Thursday that at the time, he and FBI colleagues knew that Sessions would have to recuse himself because they may have discovered even more compromising information involving Sessions.

In response to his testimony, Trump and his allies have continued to dispute Comeys detailed recollections and attack the fired FBI directors character, while simultaneously claiming that his testimony vindicated the president. On Friday, Trump accused Comey of committing perjury, and said he would be 100 percent willing to testify under oath to dispute Comey.

This story has been clarified to note that Trump Jr. was explaining that his father could not have meant his possible comments to Comey as a direct request.

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Salma Hayek Reveals How Donald Trump Allegedly Asked Her Out, and It’s Gross – PEOPLE.com

Posted: at 5:41 pm

Remember how Salma Hayek claimed she turned down a date with Donald Trump? Now, the actress is offering up the story straight.

During a Thursday appearanceon The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,the 50-year-old Beatriz at Dinner star revealed the details behind how the now-president attempted to court her even though she wasnt single. According to Hayek, it started when she got cold at an event and Trump, who was sitting behind her, immediately put his coat over her shoulders.

I turn around and my boyfriend so charming, so nice he said hello [to Trump], she recalled of the initial interaction at an event years ago. [Trump] said, Im sorry, your girlfriend, I saw she was cold. And then he kept talking to my boyfriend.

According to the actress, Trump, 70, kept talking to her boyfriend. He then allegedly invited the couple to visit his hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, if they were ever in town, asking for their phone numbers and never calling her boyfriend, but eventually ringing up Hayek separately instead.

RELATED VIDEO: Salma Hayek Claims Donald Trump Planted a Story About Her After She Denied Him a Date

Hes inviting me out, and Im like, What about my boyfriend? Am I crazy? Are you asking me out? You know I have a boyfriend, she says, adding that Trump responded with, Hes not good enough for you. Hes not important, hes not big enough for you. You have to go out with me.

Trevor Noah jokes that Trump was right since Hayek didnt end up with that boyfriend. Instead, she married French billionaire Franois-Henri Pinault, with whom she shares 9-year-old daughter Valentina Paloma, in 2009.

RELATED VIDEO: Watch: Natasha Stoynoff Breaks Silence, Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Attack

RELATED:Salma Hayek Calls Out Donald Trump After Mixing Up 7-Eleven with 9/11

Hayeks recollection of the courting attempt comes some months after she initially revealed she turned the reality-television alum down after which, she claimed, heplanted a tabloid story about her, supposedly giving the reason they didnt date as her being too short.

Later, he called and left me a message. Can you believe this? Who would say this? I dont want people to think this about you, the Mexican-born actress, who has been outspoken about her opinion on Trumps Mexican border wall proposition, said in October.

He thought that I would try to go out with him so people wouldnt think thats why he wouldnt go out with me, added the How to Be a Latin Lover star.

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Will Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim words on travel ban hurt his case? – USA TODAY

Posted: at 5:41 pm

Here’s a look at some of the comments made by Trump and his advisers that have been cited by judges that have blocked his travel ban. USA TODAY

A lone protester stood outside the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco in early February, as legal wrangling over President Trump’s travel ban was just getting started.(Photo: JOHN G. MABANGLO, EPA)

WASHINGTON It’s been 18 months since Donald Trump,presidential candidate,called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United Statesuntil our countrys representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

It’s been nearly six months since Trump, as president-elect, was asked if terror attacks in Europe had affected his proposed Muslim ban. “You know my plans,” he said. “All along, I’ve been proven to be right.”

And it’s been less than a week since President Trump trumpeted the travel ban he first proposed in January, which would have shut down virtually all travel from seven majority-Muslim countries while giving Christians preferential treatment. “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.,” he tweeted.

Now “S.C.” the Supreme Court may have the last word on whether Trump’s words matter. The justices could decide as soon as this week whether to overrule lower courts and let the travel ban go into effect temporarily, as well as whether to rule on its overall constitutionality. Oral arguments could be held within weeks, or later in the year. Ultimately, the ban could be implemented or permanently blocked.

Trump’s statements lie at the heart of the legal battle federal courts from Virginia to Hawaii have wrestled with since February in deciding whether the president’s temporary travel ban is constitutional.While the fighthas raised questions aboutnational security, presidential power and due process rights, what’s garnered the most attention has been whether Trump’s rants and tweets trump his actions.

“It’s a genuinely difficult question,” says Kate Shaw, an associate law professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who says Trump’s words reveal his intentions. “This is not a question that the Supreme Court has resolved.”

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Trump was one of 14 Republican candidates still seeking his party’s presidential nomination on Dec. 7, 2015, when he made his first statement about Muslim immigration. Now he’s the president who twice hassought a temporary ban on immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations with ties to terrorism, as well as all refugees.

Did the campaign rhetoric presage the presidential policy?Most of the judges who have issued rulings on Trump’s travel ban a name the president embraced in all CAPS as recently as this week have said his statements as a candidate, president-elect and president are relevant.

“These statements, taken together, provide direct, specific evidence of what motivated both (executive orders): President Trumps desire to exclude Muslims from the United States,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in a 10-3 ruling last month.

Protesters march outside the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond last month during oral argument over President Trump’s travel ban.(Photo: Steve Helber, AP)

But severaljudges have argued that campaign promises should be off-limits, or at least dwarfed by government actions that are not overtly discriminatory.

“Opening the door to the use of campaign statements to inform the text of later executive orders has no rational limit,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in dissent to the 4th Circuit decision. He mused that such past history could extend to “statements from a previous campaign, or from a previous business conference, or from college.”

Judges in California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington have weighed in on the question this winter and spring, raising a number of issues that are likely to come before the Supreme Court as soon as later this month.

The majority of them have said courts can and should examine the purpose behind government actions; that Trump’s words reveal hispurpose to be, at least in part, banning Muslims; that his initial focus on Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen is but a means to that end; and that Trump the president cannot claim to be different thanTrump the candidate.

Just as the Supreme Court has held that ‘the world is not made brand new every morning, a person is not made brand new simply by taking the oath of office, said Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Her reference was to a Supreme Court ruling in 2005, in which Justice David Souter wrote that two Kentucky counties could not hide the unconstitutional religious purpose of their Ten Commandments courthouse displays by later adding additional documents.

“Reasonable observers have reasonable memories,” Souter wrote. “Our precedents sensibly forbid an observer ‘to turn a blind eye to the context in which thepolicy arose.’

But Mathew Staver, who represented the two counties before the Supreme Court, says the original display and later versions all represented government actions. “Here, you have comments by the president before he was president,” Staver says. “That is fundamentally different.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, here with President Trump at the White House, could be the swing vote on the travel ban case.(Photo: JIM LO SCALZO, EPA)

In Trump’s case, some travel ban opponents say, one doesn’t need a long memory because he never stopped talking in stark terms about the travel ban.

There is a continuous run of statements from the campaign, through the election, through the inauguration and right up to this week,” says Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia School of Law professor specializing in religion. “The president has never expressly disavowed those earlier statements.”

Judges and legal analysts who defendthe travel ban argue that Trump’s words and those of his aides cannot form the basis for a constitutional violation. It takes too much interpretation, they say, to read anti-Muslim bias into an executive order devoid of religious content.

The policy he spoke about is not in any way the policy that was passed, saysNorthwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich, who specializes ininternational law.Its not clear this is about Muslims. This is about countries that everyone agrees are among the worlds most messed up.

Even so, the Supreme Court has said judges can look beyond the challenged policy in cases involving religious libertyor civil rights to determine if there was another purpose, or if the stated purpose was a sham. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could be the swing vote in the travel ban case, made that point in a 2015 rulinginvolving the government’s denial of a visa to a U.S. citizen’s husband.

Even though the court upheld the visa denial, Mark Haddad, who represented the womanin court, said Kennedy’s cautionary view shows that courts should not take government policies at face value.

There has to be a way to show that the governments acting in bad faith,” Haddad says. “Otherwise, the check on the governments power is non-existent.


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Will Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim words on travel ban hurt his case? – USA TODAY

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