The next Detroit: The catastrophic collapse of Atlantic City
With the closure of almost half of Atlantic City's casinos, Newark set to vote on gambling and casinos or racinos in almost every state, it seems as if the reasons for the very existence of Atlantic City are in serious jeopardy. Israel Joffe Atlantic City, once a major vacation spot during the roaring 20s and 1930s, as seen on HBOs Boardwalk Empire, collapsed when cheap air fare became the norm and people had no reason to head to the many beach town resorts on the East Coast. Within a few decades, the city, known for being an ‘oasis of sin’ during the prohibition era, fell into serious decline and dilapidation. New Jersey officials felt the only way to bring Atlantic City back from the brink of disaster would be to legalize gambling. Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts, first opened its doors in 1978. People stood shoulder to shoulder, packed into the hotel as gambling officially made its way to the East Coast. Folks in the East Coast didn't have to make a special trip all the way to Vegas in order to enjoy some craps, slots, roulette and more. As time wore on, Atlantic City became the premier gambling spots in the country. While detractors felt that the area still remained poor and dilapidated, officials were quick to point out that the casinos didn't bring the mass gentrification to Atlantic City as much as they hoped but the billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs for the surrounding communities was well worth it. Atlantic City developed a reputation as more of a short-stay ‘day-cation’ type of place, yet managed to stand firm against the 'adult playground' and 'entertainment capital of the world' Las Vegas. Through-out the 1980s, Atlantic City would become an integral part of American pop culture as a place for east coast residents to gamble, watch boxing, wrestling, concerts and other sporting events. However in the late 1980s, a landmark ruling considered Native-American reservations to be sovereign entities not bound by state law. It was the first potential threat to the iron grip Atlantic City and Vegas had on the gambling and entertainment industry. Huge 'mega casinos' were built on reservations that rivaled Atlantic City and Vegas. In turn, Vegas built even more impressive casinos. Atlantic City, in an attempt to make the city more appealing to the ‘big whale’ millionaire and billionaire gamblers, and in effort to move away from its ‘seedy’ reputation, built the luxurious Borgata casino in 2003. Harrah’s created a billion dollar extension and other casinos in the area went through serious renovations and re-branded themselves. It seemed as if the bite that the Native American casinos took out of AC and Vegas’ profits was negligible and that the dominance of those two cities in the world of gambling would remain unchallenged. Then Macau, formally a colony of Portugal, was handed back to the Chinese in 1999. The gambling industry there had been operated under a government-issued monopoly license by Stanley Ho's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau. The monopoly was ended in 2002 and several casino owners from Las Vegas attempted to enter the market. Under the one country, two systems policy, the territory remained virtually unchanged aside from mega casinos popping up everywhere. All the rich ‘whales’ from the far east had no reason anymore to go to the United States to spend their money. Then came the biggest threat. As revenue from dog and horse racing tracks around the United States dried up, government officials needed a way to bring back jobs and revitalize the surrounding communities. Slot machines in race tracks started in Iowa in 1994 but took off in 2004 when Pennsylvania introduced ‘Racinos’ in an effort to reduce property taxes for the state and to help depressed areas bounce back. As of 2013, racinos were legal in ten states: Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia with more expected in 2015. Tracks like Delaware Park and West Virginia's Mountaineer Park, once considered places where local degenerates bet on broken-down nags in claiming races, are now among the wealthiest tracks around, with the best races. The famous Aqueduct race track in Queens, NY, once facing an uncertain future, now possesses the most profitable casino in the United States. From June 2012 to June 2013, Aqueduct matched a quarter of Atlantic City's total gaming revenue from its dozen casinos: $729.2 million compared with A.C.'s $2.9 billion. It has taken an estimated 15 percent hit on New Jersey casino revenue and climbing. And it isn't just Aqueduct that's taking business away from them. Atlantic City's closest major city, Philadelphia, only 35-40 minutes away, and one of the largest cities in America, now has a casino that has contributed heavily to the decline in gamers visiting the area. New Jersey is the third state in the U.S. to have authorized internet gambling. However, these online casinos are owned and controlled by Atlantic City casinos in an effort to boost profits in the face of fierce competition. California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Texas are hoping to join Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and the U.S. Virgin Islands in offering online gambling to their residents. With this in mind, it seems the very niche that Atlantic City once offered as a gambling and entertainment hub for east coast residents is heading toward the dustbin of history. Time will tell if this city will end up like Detroit. However, the fact that they are losing their biggest industry to major competition, much like Detroit did, with depressed housing, casinos bankrupting/closing and businesses fleeing , it all makes Atlantic City’s fate seem eerily similar.
Howdy there partners, and welcome to the Wasteland’s finest rodeo! Down here in Texas and good old Oklahoma, things work differently from the rest of the Wasteland. Oh yes, you see here we’re a fine folk, a refined folk, the kind of people who greet you with smiles and a face-full of buckshot if you even think about whipping out your tire iron. Yes, life here is simple, rustic, and downright apocalyptic... The region in all its glory! That’s right Wastelanders, it’s time for another exciting dev diary! Today, we’re focusing on just some of the map changes and additions brought to you by the team. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll reveal more about the factions you see before you, more of our other map changes, and give you some tasty insight into the way things work past the Legion’s border.To begin with though, why don’t we delve deep into the twisted guts of the map itself, and pull back the veil on this beautiful view you’d love to call home. Aren't provinces beautiful? Every map expansion begins here, the province map. For this update, a big focus for me was returning to my roots when it came to province design. More small, organic provinces, built up into many states that a great number of nations can occupy. The new playable region brought forth in 3.0 feels as dense and lively as the West Coast, without having nearly as many provinces dotted along its shoreline. There’s a vast variety of terrain in 3.0, from jungle, to marsh, to plains, urban, and deserts. 3.0 feels and plays like a small microcosm of the larger map, an area rich with lore from a game many people don’t even know about.Before we talk about that, though, let’s take a look at the states. Dare you count all these states? If you took the arduous time to count all of that before reading, let’s see if you were right! That’s 96 new states. Oh yes my friends, that’s right, your faithful friend here didn’t stutter now, did I? We’ve got 96 new states for you to control, conquer, and explore in 3.0: and they’re full of interesting characters.Why don’t we get on to that, actually? In 3.0, we’re representing the lore of the often hated and forgotten Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, as well as it’s cancelled sequel; Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2. Many of you may have never heard about these games, let alone played the first, so it’s time for a little history lesson. After the defeat of Unity, the super mutant army of the Master fractured into many pieces. Two leaders arose from the ashes, and they led large hordes of mutants out of California to greener pastures for plunder and glory. The important one is Attis, who led his new troops to Texas, in an attempt to uncover the secrets of FEV. A brotherhood detachment had already left to face off against the first mutant general, and with Attis’ departure, another group inside the Western Brotherhood wanted to chase them down. The Council of Elders said no, fearing another disaster like that which had happened to the first group, but ultimately a splinter faction formed. It was led by none other than High Elder Rhombus, and he led a group of scribes and paladins to chase down the largest super mutant army in the West, forming what would later be known as the “Texas Expedition.”Settling into the heartland of Texas, this new offshoot developed themselves, recruiting from the local population. They ran them through a training course utilising hologram technology, turning them into initiates. One of these initiates became the protagonist of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, and went on a large journey, tracking Attis all the way to his target destination: the Secret Vault. The Secret Vault was the holy grail for Attis, a place where the secrets of FEV were laid bare, and the secret headquarters of Vault-Tec. Built under the nose of the US, it was the control centre of all Vault-Tec infrastructure, designed to facilitate what Vault-Tec promised thousands of Americans: a safe life underground. The Vault was equipped with state of the art facilities to conduct unethical experiments, and was staffed by unique robots unlike anything the player had ever seen before, or since. Attis would eventually turn himself into a true abomination, an amalgamation of flesh and FEV, taking after the Master’s image in a final face-off against the protagonist. Thus ended Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 1. We must now go more than a hundred years into the future, a mere decade before OWB starts. The Brotherhood have consolidated their power, but outside threats are pressuring their organisation. Attis Army has split into two halves, led by two mutants respectively. Shale, a die-hard mutant supremacist who wants to reform the Army, and Keats; a super mutant who wishes to create a place in which super mutants and humans live and work together in harmony, free from oppression. But underneath the surface, a great plot is brewing. Reese, a former member of the Cyphers, a group who despise technology in all its forms, has acquired a broken GECK. This GECK has the ability to mutate anything it touches, twisting the world around it into a mockery of life itself. It is the Corrupted GECK, and Reese has big plans for it. He seeks to destroy the Texan Brotherhood, and plunge the region into chaos. The protagonist of the cancelled Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2 went across Texas, on the hunt for many things, but eventually Reese himself. They entered Lone Star, where they found evidence of his tampering, and scouts of the Legion. They travelled throughout Brotherhood territory, watching as the group was set upon by numerous raider gangs, all coordinated and persuaded by Reese. They visited Austin, where the tensions between the two super mutant factions was growing. Originally, Keats would always die. You could choose between Shale or Keats, but ultimately, he was always assassinated during a speech. But we decided that was boring. Scarlet (our protagonist of choice) saved Keat’s life, becoming bros for life in the process, and Shale was exiled from Austin alongside his goons. They then travelled, finally, to The Corpse. Within the ruins of a sunken Corpus Christi, Reese’s lair waited in the harbour, and there a final battle ensued. Everything up until now, barring Keat’s survival, is canon. Now, let’s jump into the juicy OWB fanon. Ultimately winning the fight, Scarlet took his GECK and hauled it across Texas, travelling a great distance to a remote location, far from large and established communities. She put the GECK down in what was to be its final resting place, and became its guardian and protector. Over the decade, its influence spread, creating a beautiful but deadly blood red canopy of mutant fauna, a place the natives of Texas refer to as Eden. Any and all who enter the twisted jungle without permission wind up dead, victim to the protagonist’s legendary assassination skills. So, there’s your juicy jet high of lore. Now, how about we get onto the region as a whole in OWB’s 2275? Many nations in Texas and Oklahoma, such as Carbon, Los, Shale's Army, Unity of Austin, Lonestar, the Texan Brotherhood, and others are all based in Fallout lore. Since we’re here, let’s go over them all in some more detail. Pecos: a collection of settler communities from Mexico, who primarily trade with the RRG and Las Granjas. Having struggled to maintain their independence over the last few decades, recent events have continued to destabilise their peaceful towns. Los: The Church of the Lost has recovered since the fall of the Secret Vault and the death of their old leader Blake. These survivors from Necropolis hope to live out the remainder of their days seeking nirvana within the hallowed streets of Los. Carthage: a civilised raider nation built over the ruins of Carthage, a town built atop a gigantic and largely untapped natural gas reserve. They use flame to do everything, from powering their cities to cooking their enemies alive. Carbon: The town of Carbon has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Recently the town is on an upswing - yet there are some that worry that the raiders that once destroyed their small town may come back again. The Pursuant: a vicious hunting lodge of civilised raiders who hunt the greatest monsters the wasteland has to offer, from terrifying, legendary Deathclaws, Horrifying Mirelurk Queens, and the most exclusive game of all: man. Traders must constantly be aware, as they are always on the hunt. Unity of Austin: led by Keats, the ever charismatic super mutant politician and every man, the Unity of Austin is a staunch ally of the Brotherhood, seeking to create a Wasteland in which mutants and humans live side by side through mutual cooperation. Houston Rockets: the remnants of NASA and Houston’s entertainment industry made a deal. One side made money off of sports, and the other side used the profits to launch rockets into orbit. The Patrolmen: a group of “protectors” who patrol the I-10 religiously, fighting off raiders and outside threats, while exploiting the communities who exist under their thumb. Bayou Motors: a trader nation that specialises in, produces, and sells boats and shipping equipment to most of the Gulf. Gatormaws: a group of violent tribal communities who’ve made the Bayou their home, and make use of their extensive expertise to raid traders who sail along the Red River. Desperados: a ghoul cartel who split off the Sinaloa after a brutal coup, they’ve taken up shop in Shreveport, demanding “protection fees” from passing traders, lest they die to “local raiders.” Assassin City Rollergirls: a raider gang steeped in roller derby culture, they skate around the urban sprawl in atomic skates, cleaving heads and splitting Brotherhood power armour like tin cans. Tubeheads: a cult of raiders and engineers led by the charismatic Mr. Entertainment, the Wasteland’s only late-night variety show host. Cooking segments, raider gladiatorial combat, special guest interviews, all from the pleasure of your own home: courtesy of the Tubehead’s mandatory TV and satellite installation package. The Last Lodge: a nation of peaceful settlers, draped in masonic imagery, with an outward focus and an emphasis on community. Scrappers Compact: an alliance of territorial but loyal junkyard settlers, who make a living out of scavenging and selling valuable scrap to the outside world. Shale’s Army: a warband of first generation super mutants exclusively, led by Shale, one of Attis’s fiercest commanders. Their hatred for all non super mutants is readily apparent, and they make a living out of claiming the lives of their neighbours, ultimately aiming to rebuild Unity from the ground up. The Chained Choir: a nation of former inmates; ghouls who were subjected to testing by the US army, for research into the potential psionic implementations of FEV. The Last Patrol: a regiment of national guard who were directly exposed to a nuclear blast, and now patrol the region around their compound, fiercely protecting the rights and liberties of the communities under their charge. The Texan Arms Association: a coalition of arms barons and factories in the northern Rio Grande who never fully assimilated. Motivated by dreams of liberty and greed, they sell weapons to anyone, and have continued to destabilise the RRG’s politics since its inception. 3.0 will see the TAA exist on game start, and their association’s bid for independence may be welcomed by some of its neighbours who see it little more than prey. Painted Rock: a group of noble tribal warriors, unwavering combatants who test their young among jagged rocks, and prove their worth against the Wasteland’s toughest foes. Cypher Warband: a clan of luddites who hold a deep hatred for the old world, and in particular, the Brotherhood of Steel’s core doctrines. They’ve been fierce opponents for decades, but during the events of the cancelled Brotherhood of Steel 2, they disowned their most extreme member—Reese—who left in an attempt to destroy their archenemy once and for all. Lubbock: a settler community of ghouls and humans, attempting to work together despite their differences. Supported by the Lubbock Expedition, a military effort by Lone Star to secure the highways across Lubbock’s territory, securing their border and reaping the economic benefits of the partnership. The Ironmongers: a group of mutants who’ve taken over former TAA factories, regularly plundering their gunsmith neighbours. Unlike many other mutants, they construct massive vehicles of brutal machinery, backed up by giant guns and the strength of iron. They’re feared by many, and their iconic “Battlewagons” bring terror and destruction in their wake. Eden: lead by Scarlet, a protagonist from the protagonist of the cancelled game "Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2", who dragged Reese’s GECK from The Corpse to a remote location, to contain the spread of its taint from the outside world, and all who would covet its ruinous strength. Lone Star: the largest trade hub in Texas, all traders pass along its roads and through the gates of its capital city. Its emphasis on sustainable partnerships, justice, and profit have made it a veritable Wasteland boomtown. Texan Brotherhood: a brotherhood outfit who’s roots stemmed from a desire to crush Attis once and for all, in 2275 the Brotherhood look entirely different to their counterparts out west. Civilised, peaceful, just: they seek moral victories over material, a direction some among their ranks find fault with. The First People: the combined nations of the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw-Muscogee Coalition have banded together in an alliance, protecting one-another from outside threats and developing their communities in a Wasteland sorely lacking hope. Many of them emerged from vaults, and they rebuilt the casinos, infrastructure, and social venues that made their little corner of Oklahoma the darling it was. In 2275, beyond New Vegas, the Big Spend is the premiere destination for tourists, traders, and soldiers looking to experience the best service in the Wasteland. Live music, tasty food, refreshing drinks, and refurbished hotels continue to entice visitors year after year. In the words of everyone’s favourite doctor, “Well, that’s all she wrote.” Our dev diary has wrapped up, and boy, what a diary it was! What did you think? Are you excited for what you’ve seen of 3.0? Got any thoughts, comments, or suggestions to share? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Discord! Mapping is a labour of love, and I love doing it. Take care during this difficult time for all of us, and stay safe and healthy!
[Lost in the Sauce] Trump admin hides Paycheck Protection program details; lawmakers benefit from loans
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis. Title refers to: The Trump admin is blocking IGs from getting info on over $1 trillion in relief spending, including corporation bailouts. The admin is also withholding PPP info from Congress, meaning we don't know if Trump or his family took taxpayer money. Additionally, we learned that at least 4 members of Congress have benefited from PPP money, but aren't required to disclose it. Housekeeping:
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Inspectors general warned Congress last week that the Trump administration is blocking scrutiny of more than $1 trillion in spending related to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the previously undisclosed letter, Department of Treasury attorneys concluded that the administration is not required to provide the watchdogs with information about the beneficiaries of programs like the $500 billion in loans for corporations. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin refused to provide Congress with the names of recipients of the taxpayer-funded coronavirus business loans. After criticism, Mnuchin began to walk back his denial, saying he will talk to lawmakers on a bipartisan basis “to strike the appropriate balance for proper oversight” of PPP loans “and appropriate protection of small business information.” At least 4 lawmakers have benefited in some way from the Paycheck Protection program they helped create.Politico has been told there are almost certainly more -- but there are zero disclosure rules, even for members of Congress.
Republicans on the list include Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, a wealthy businessman who owns auto dealerships, body shops and car washes, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family owns multiple farms and equipment suppliers across the Midwest. The Democrats count Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada, whose husband is CEO of a regional casino developer, and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida, whose husband is a senior executive at a restaurant chain that has since returned the loan.
Mick Mulvaney dumped as much as $550,000 in stocks the same day Trump assured the public the US economy was 'doing fantastically' amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Mulvaney unloaded his holdings in three different mutual funds, each of which is primarily made up of US stocks. The next day, the value of the mutual funds tanked.
Cases rising in many states
Good summary: There was supposed to be a peak. But the stark turning point, when the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. finally crested and began descending sharply, never happened. Instead, America spent much of April on a disquieting plateau, with every day bringing about 30,000 new cases and about 2,000 new deaths. This pattern exists because different states have experienced the coronavirus pandemic in very different ways…The U.S. is dealing with a patchwork pandemic. As of Friday, coronavirus cases were significantly climbing in 16 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington. Oklahoma is experiencing a massive increase in coronavirus cases just days before Trump’s planned rally in Tulsa. In Tulsa county itself, 1 in roughly 390 people have tested positive. Yet Trump plans on cramming 20,000 people in an event with voluntary face mask policy and no social distancing. Attendees must sign a waiver that absolves the president’s campaign of any liability from virus-related illnesses.
On Monday, Pence lied saying that Oklahoma has “flattened the curve.” As you can see at any of the resources immediately below, this is not even close to true. Over the past 14 days, the state has seen a 124% increase in cases and reports 65% of ICU beds are in use.
Tulsa World Editorial Board: This is the wrong time and Tulsa is the wrong place for the Trump rally. "We don't know why he chose Tulsa, but we can’t see any way that his visit will be good for the city...Again, Tulsa will be largely alone in dealing with what happens at a time when the city’s budget resources have already been stretched thin."
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that he is a victim of double standards when it comes to perception of his decision to resume campaign rallies in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, declaring that attempts to “covid shame” his campaign “won’t work!”
Resources to track increases: There are many different sites with various methods of visualizing the spread of coronavirus. Here are some that may be particularly useful this summer… Topos COVID-19 compiler homepage and graphs of each state since re-opening. How we reopen Safely has stats on each state’s progress towards meeting benchmarks to reopen safely (hint: almost none have reached all the checkpoints). WaPo has a weekly national map of cases/deaths; the largest regional clusters are in the southeast. On Monday, Trump twice said that “if we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” (video). Aside from the fact that cases exist even if we don’t test for them, we cannot explain the rising number of cases by increased testing capacity: In at least 14 states, the positive case rate is increasing faster than the increase in the average number of tests.
Reminder: In March Trump told Fox News that he didn't want infected patients from a cruise ship to disembark because it would increase the number of reported cases in the US. "I like the numbers being where they are," Trump said at the time. "I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault."
Fired scientist Rebekah Jones builds coronavirus dashboard to rival Florida’s… Her site shows thousands more people with the coronavirus, and hundreds of thousands fewer who have been tested, than the site run by the Florida Health Department.
Equipment and supplies
More studies prove wearing masks limits transmission and spread of coronavirus… One study from Britain found that routine face mask use by 50% or more of the population reduced COVID-19 spread to an R of less than 1.0. The R value measures the average number of people that one infected person will pass the disease on to. An R value above 1 can lead to exponential growth. The study found that if people wear masks whenever they are in public it is twice as effective at reducing the R value than if masks are only worn after symptoms appear. Meanwhile, Trump officials refuse to wear masks and Trump supporters copy his behavior… VP Mike Pence, leader of the coronavirus task force, published a tweet showing himself in a room full of Trump staffers, none wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Pence deleted the tweet shortly after criticism. A poll last week showed that 66% of likely-Biden-voters “always wear a mask,” while 83% of likely-Trump-voters “neverarely wear a mask.”
Trump’s opposition to face masks hasn’t stopped him from selling them to his supporters, though. The online Trump Store is selling $20 cotton American flag-themed face masks.
Yesterday, we learned that South Carolina Republican Rep. Tom Rice and family have tested positive for the coronavirus. Just two weeks ago, Rice was on the House floor and halls of the Capitol without wearing a mask.
Internal FEMA data show that the government’s supply of surgical gowns has not meaningfully increased since March… The slides show FEMA’s plan to ramp up supply into June and July hinges on the reusing of N95 masks and surgical gowns, increasing the risk of contamination. Those are supposed to be disposed of after one use. Nursing homes with urgent needs for personal protective equipment say they’re receiving defective equipment as part of Trump administration supply initiative. Officials say FEMA is sending them gowns that look more like large tarps -- with no holes for hands -- and surgical masks that are paper-thin. More than 1,300 Chinese medical-device companies that registered to sell PPE in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic used bogus registration data… These companies listed as their American representative a purported Delaware entity that uses a false address and nonworking phone number. Florida is sitting on more than 980,000 unused doses of hydroxychloroquine, but hospitals don’t want it… Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered a million doses of the drug to show support for Trump, but very few hospitals have requested it.
Native American communities struggle
The CARES Act money for Native American tribes, meant to assist people during the pandemic, came with restrictions that are impeding efforts to limit the transmission of the virus. For instance, the funds can only be used to cover expenses that are "incurred due to the public health emergency." On the Navajo Nation, the public health emergency is inherently related to some basic infrastructure problems. 30% of Navajo don’t have running water to wash their hands, but the money can’t be used to build water lines. Federal and state health agencies are refusing to give Native American tribes and organizations representing them access to data showing how the coronavirus is spreading around their lands, potentially widening health disparities and frustrating tribal leaders already ill-equipped to contain the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has turned down tribal epidemiologists’ requests for data that it’s making freely available to states. A Hospital’s Secret Coronavirus Policy Separated Native American Mothers From Their Newborns… Pregnant Native American women were singled out for COVID-19 testing based on their race and ZIP code, clinicians say. While awaiting results, some mothers were separated from their newborns, depriving them of the immediate contact doctors recommend. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that state officials would investigate the allegations.
Personnel & appointees
Former IG Steve Linick told Congress he was conducting five investigations into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department before he was fired. In addition to investigating Pompeo's potential misuse of taxpayer funds and reviewing his decision to expedite an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Linick’s office was conducting an audit of Special Immigrant Visas, a review of the International Women of Courage Award, and another review "involving individuals in the Office of the Protocol."
Pompeo confidant emerges as enforcer in fight over watchdog’s firing: Linick testified that Undersecretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, a decades-old friend of Pompeo’s, “tried to bully [him]” out of investigating Pompeo.
Trump has empowered John McEntee, director of the Presidential Personnel Office, to make significant staffing changes inside top federal agencieswithout the consent — and, in at least one case, without even the knowledge — of the agency head. Many senior officials in Trump's government are sounding alarms about the loss of expertise and institutional knowledge. Trump’s nominee for under secretary of defense for policy, retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, has a history of making Islamophobic and inflammatory remarksagainst prominent Democratic politicians, including falsely calling former President Barack Obama a Muslim. Amid racial justice marches, GOP advances Trump court pick hostile to civil rights.Cory Wilson, up for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, has denied that restrictive voting laws lead to voter suppression and called same-sex marriage “a pander to liberal interest groups.” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has indefinitely extended the terms of the acting directors of the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, sidestepping the typical Senate confirmation process for those posts and violating the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,
Courts and DOJ
The Supreme Court declined on Monday to take a closer look at qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that shields law enforcement and government officials from lawsuits over their conduct. Developed in recent decades by the high court, the qualified immunity doctrine, as applied to police, initially asks two questions: Did police use excessive force, and if they did, should they have known that their conduct was illegal because it violated a "clearly established" prior court ruling that barred such conduct? In practice, however, lower courts have most often dismissed police misconduct lawsuits on grounds that there is no prior court decision with nearly identical facts. The Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination laws protect gay and transgender employees. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s liberals in the 6 to 3 ruling. They said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes LGBTQ employees.
Alito, writing more than 100 pages in dissent for himself and Thomas, accused the court's majority of writing legislation, not law. Kavanaugh wrote separately: "We are judges, not members of Congress...Under the Constitution and laws of the United States, this court is the wrong body to change American law in that way."
Just days before the SCOTUS opinion was released, the Trump administration finalized a rule that would remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people when it comes to health care and health insurance. The SCOTUS ruling may make it easier to challenge the changes made by Trump.
The Supreme Court also declined to take up California’s “sanctuary” law, denying the Trump administration’s appeal. This means that the lower court opinion upholding one of California's sanctuary laws is valid, limiting cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, two of the Court's conservative members, supported taking up the case. A federal appeals court appeared unlikely Friday to stop a judge from examining why the Justice Department sought to walk away from its prosecution of Michael Flynn. "I don't see why we don't observe regular order," said Judge Karen Henderson. "Why not hold this in abeyance and see what happens?" Judge Robert Wilkins told Flynn's lawyer that if Sullivan doesn't let the government drop the case, "then you can come back here on appeal."
Good read: Fiona Hill on being mistaken as a secretary by Trump, her efforts to make sure he was not left alone with Putin, and what the US, UK and Russia have in common. “It’s spitting in Merkel’s face,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat who’s now a foreign-policy analyst. “But it’s in our interests.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry welcomed Trump’s plan to withdraw more than a quarter of U.S. troops from Germany.
Op-Ed: Why cutting American forces in Germany will harm this alliance
According to a new book, the Secret Service had to seek more funding to cover the cost of protecting Melania Trump while she stayed in NYC to renegotiate her prenup - taxpayers paid tens of millions of dollars to allow her to get better terms. Additionally, NYPD estimated its own costs conservatively at $125,000 a day. Georgia election 'catastrophe' in largely minority areas sparks investigation. Long lines, lack of voting machines, and shortages of primary ballots plagued voters. As of Monday night, there were still over 200,000 uncounted votes. Fox News runs digitally altered images in coverage of Seattle’s protests, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone Fox News Mocked After Mistaking Monty Python Joke for Seattle Protest Infighting In addition to holding a rally on the day after Juneteenth (originally scheduled the day of), Trump will be accepting the GOP nomination in Jacksonville on the 60th anniversary of “Ax Handle Saturday,” a KKK attack on African Americans. Environmental news:
Ruling against environmentalists, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the federal government has the authority to allow a proposed $7.5 billion natural gas pipeline to cross under the popular Appalachian Trail in rural Virginia.
Trump administration has issued a new rule blocking tribes from protecting their waters from projects like pipelines, dams, and coal terminals.
The EPA published a proposal in the Federal Register that critics described as an assault on minority communities coping with the public health legacy of structural racism. The rule would bar EPA from giving special consideration to individual communities that bear the brunt of environmental risks — frequently populations of color.
The Trump administration is preparing to drill off Florida’s coast, but says it will wait until after the November election to avoid any backlash from Florida state leaders.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection used emergency funding meant for migrant families and children to pay for dirt bikes, canine supplies, computer equipment and other enforcement related-expenditures… The money was meant to be spent on “consumables and medical care” for migrants at the border.
ACLU files lawsuit against stringent border restrictions related to coronavirus that largely bar migrants from entering the United States.
Under Trump’s leadership, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has mismanaged its finances so badly that it has sought an emergency $1.2 billion infusion from taxpayers. When Trump took office, USCIS inherited a budget surplus. A large amount of funding is drained by its deliberate creation of more busy work for immigrants and their lawyers — as well as thousands of USCIS employees. These changes are designed to make it harder for people to apply for, receive or retain lawful immigration status.
Asylum-seeking migrants locked up inside an Arizona ICE detention center with one of the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases say they were forced to clean the facility and are 'begging' for protection from the virus
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TL;DR: Man with too much time on his hands goes deep down the rabbit hole on a concept this sub already didn’t seem that enthusiastic about. If you really want to skip ahead, CTRL+F “verdict” and it’ll get you there. Two days ago, u/MrPhillyj2wns made a post asking whether USL should launch a D1 league in order to compete in Concacaf. From the top voted replies, it appears this made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. But I’ve been at home for eight weeks and I am terribly, terribly bored. So, I present to you this overview of what the USL pyramid might look like if Jake Edwards got a head of steam and attempted to establish a USSF-sanctioned first division. This is by no means an endorsement of such a proposal or even a suggestion that USL SHOULD do such a thing. It is merely an examination of whether they COULD. Welcome to the Thunderdome USL Premiership First, there are some base-level assumptions we must make in this exercise, because it makes me feel more scientific and not like a guy who wrote this on Sunday while watching the Belarusian Premier League (Go BATE Borisov!).
All D1 teams must comply with known USSF requirements for D1 leagues (more on that later).
MLS, not liking this move, will immediately remove all directly-owned affiliate clubs from the USL structure (this does not include hybrid ownerships, like San Antonio FC – NYCFC). This removes all MLS2 teams but will not affect Colorado Springs, Reno, RGVFC and San Antonio.
The USL will attempt to maintain both the USL Championship and USL League One, with an eventual mind toward creating the pro/rel paradise that is promised in Relegations 3:16.
All of my research regarding facility size and ownership net worth is correct – this is probably the biggest leap of faith we have to make, since googling “NAME net worth” and “CITY richest people” doesn’t seem guaranteed to return accurate results.
The most a club can increase its available seating capacity to meet D1 requirements in a current stadium is no more than 1,500 seats (10% of the required 15,000). If they need to add more, they’ll need a new facility.
Let’s pretend that people are VERY willing to sell. It’s commonly acknowledged that the USL is a more financially feasible route to owning a soccer club than in MLS (c.f. MLS-Charlotte’s reported $325 million expansion fee) and the USSF has some very strict requirements for D1 sanctioning. It becomes pretty apparent when googling a lot of team’s owners that this requirement isn’t met, so let’s assume everyone that can’t sells to people who meet the requirements.
(Known) USSF D1 league requirements: - League must have 12 teams to apply and 14 teams by year three - Majority owner must have a net worth of $40 million, and the ownership group must have a total net worth of $70 million. The value of an owned stadium is not considered when calculating this value. - Must have teams located in the Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones - 75% of league’s teams must be based in markets with at a metro population of at least 1 million people. - All league stadiums must have a capacity of at least 15,000 The ideal club candidate for the USL Premiership will meet the population and capacity requirements in its current ground, which will have a grass playing surface. Of the USL Championship’s 27 independent/hybrid affiliate clubs, I did not find one club that meets all these criteria as they currently stand. Regarding turf fields, the USSF does not have a formal policy regarding the ideal playing surface but it is generally acknowledged that grass is superior to turf. 6 of 26 MLS stadiums utilize turf, or roughly 23% of stadiums. We’ll hold a similar restriction for our top flight, so 2-3 of our top flight clubs can have turf fields. Seem fair? Capacity is going to be the biggest issue, since the disparity between current requirements for the second-tier (5,000) and the first tier (15,000) is a pretty massive gap. Nice club you have there, triple your capacity and you’re onto something. As a result, I have taken the liberty of relocating certain (read: nearly all) clubs to new grounds, trying my utmost to keep those clubs in their current markets and –importantly--, ensure they play on grass surfaces. So, let’s do a case-by-case evaluation and see if we can put together 12-14 teams that meet the potential requirements, because what else do you have to do? For each club’s breakdown, anything that represents a chance from what is currently true will be underlined. Candidate: Birmingham Legion FC Location (Metro population): Birmingham, Ala. (1,151,801) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Legion Field (FieldTurf, 71,594) Potential owner: Stephens Family (reported net worth $4 billion) Notes: Birmingham has a pretty strong candidacy. Having ditched the 5,000-seater BBVA Field for Legion Field, which sits 2.4 miles away, they’ve tapped into the city’s soccer history. Legion Field hosted portions of both the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 1996 Olympics, including a 3-1 U.S. loss to Argentina that saw 83,183 pack the house. The Harbert family seemed like strong ownership contenders, but since the death of matriarch Marguerite Harbert in 2015, it’s unclear where the wealth in the family is concentrated, so the Stephens seem like a better candidate. The only real knock that I can think of is that we really want to avoid having clubs play on turf, so I’d say they’re on the bubble of our platonic ideal USL Prem. Candidate: Charleston Battery Location (Metro population): Charleston, S.C. (713,000) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Johnson Hagood Stadium (Grass, ~14,700) Potential owner: Anita Zucker (reported net worth $3 billion) Notes: Charleston’s candidacy isn’t looking great. Already disadvantaged due to its undersized metro population, a move across the Cooper River to Johnson Hagood Stadium is cutting it close in terms of capacity. The stadium, home to The Citadel’s football team, used to seat 21,000, before 9,300 seats on the eastern grandstand were torn down in 2017 to deal with lead paint that had been used in their construction. Renovation plans include adding 3,000 seats back in, which could hit 15,000 if they bumped it to 3,300, but throw in a required sale by HCFC, LLC (led by content-creation platform founder Rob Salvatore) to chemical magnate Anita Zucker, and you’ll see there’s a lot of ifs and ands in this proposal. Candidate: Charlotte Independence Location (Metro population): Charlotte, N.C. (2,569, 213) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Jerry Richardson Stadium (Turf, 15,314) Potential owner: James Goodnight (reported net worth $9.1 billion) Notes: Charlotte ticks a lot of the boxes. A move from the Sportsplex at Matthews to UNC-Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson stadium meets capacity requirements, but puts them on to the dreaded turf. Regrettably, nearby American Legion Memorial Stadium only seats 10,500, despite a grass playing surface. With a sizeable metro population (sixth-largest in the USL Championship) and a possible owner in software billionaire James Goodnight, you’ve got some options here. The biggest problem likely lies in direct competition for market share against a much better-funded MLS Charlotte side due to join the league in 2021. Candidate: Hartford Athletic Location (Metro population): Hartford, Conn. (1,214,295) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Pratt & Whitney Stadium (Grass, 38,066) Potential owner: Ray Dalio (reported net worth $18.4 billion) Notes: Okay, I cheated a bit here, having to relocate Hartford to Pratt & Whitney Stadium, which is technically in East Hartford, Conn. I don’t know enough about the area to know if there’s some kind of massive beef between the two cities, but the club has history there, having played seven games in 2019 while Dillon Stadium underwent renovations. If the group of local businessmen that currently own the club manage to attract Dalio to the table, we’re on to something. Candidate: Indy Eleven Location (Metro population): Indianapolis, Ind. (2,048,703) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lucas Oil Stadium (Turf, 62,421) Potential owner: Jim Irsay (reported net worth of $3 billion) Notes: Indy Eleven are a club that are SO CLOSE to being an ideal candidate – if it weren’t for Lucas Oil Stadium’s turf playing surface. Still, there’s a lot to like in this bid. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what current owner and founder Ersal Ozdemir is worth, but it seems like there might be cause for concern. A sale to Irsay, who also owns the NFL Indianapolis (nee Baltimore) Colts, seems likely to keep the franchise there, rather than make a half-mile move to 14,230 capacity Victory Field where the AAA Indianapolis Indians play and expand from there. Candidate: Louisville City FC Location (Metro population): Louisville, Ky. (1,297,310) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lynn Family Stadium (Grass, 14,000, possibly expandable to 20,000) Potential owner: Wayne Hughes (reported net worth $2.8 billion) Notes: I’m stretching things a bit here. Lynn Family stadium is currently listed as having 11,700 capacity that’s expandable to 14,000, but they’ve said that the ground could hold as many as 20,000 with additional construction, which might be enough to grant them a temporary waiver from USSF. If the stadium is a no-go, then there’s always Cardinal Stadium, home to the University of Louisville’s football team, which seats 65,000 but is turf. Either way, it seems like a sale to someone like Public Storage founder Wayne Hughes will be necessary to ensure the club has enough capital. Candidate: Memphis 901 FC Location (Metro population): Memphis, Tenn. (1,348,260) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Liberty Bowl Stadium (Turf, 58,325) Potential owner: Fred Smith (reported net worth $3 billion) Notes: Unfortunately for Memphis, AutoZone Park’s 10,000 seats won’t cut it at the D1 level. With its urban location, it would likely prove tough to renovate, as well. Liberty Bowl Stadium more than meets the need, but will involve the use of the dreaded turf. As far as an owner goes, FedEx founder Fred Smith seems like a good local option. Candidate: Miami FC, “The” Location (Metro population): Miami, Fla. (6,158,824) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Riccardo Silva Stadium (FieldTurf, 20,000) Potential owner: Riccardo Silva (reported net worth $1 billion) Notes: Well, well, well, Silva might get his wish for top-flight soccer, after all. He’s got the money, he’s got the metro, and his ground has the capacity. There is the nagging issue of the turf, though. Hard Rock Stadium might present a solution, including a capacity of 64,767 and a grass playing surface. It is worth noting, however, that this is the first profile where I didn’t have to find a new potential owner for a club. Candidate: North Carolina FC Location (Metro population): Durham, N.C. (1,214,516 in The Triangle) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Carter-Finley Stadium (Grass/Turf, 57,583) Potential owner: Steve Malik (precise net worth unknown) / Dennis Gillings (reported net worth of $1.7 billion) Notes: We have our first “relocation” in North Carolina FC, who were forced to trade Cary’s 10,000-seat WakeMed Soccer Park for Carter-Finley Stadium in Durham, home of the NC State Wolfpack and 57,583 of their closest friends. The move is a whopping 3.1 miles, thanks to the close-knit hub that exists between Cary, Durham and Raleigh. Carter-Finley might be my favorite of the stadium moves in this exercise. The field is grass, but the sidelines are artificial turf. Weird, right? Either way, it was good enough for Juventus to play a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara there in 2011. Maybe the move would be pushed for by new owner and medical magnate Dennis Gillings, whose British roots might inspire him to get involved in the Beautiful Game. Straight up, though, I couldn’t find a net worth for current owner Steve Malik, though he did sell his company MedFusion for $91 million in 2010, then bought it back for an undisclosed amount and sold it again for $43 million last November. I don’t know if Malik has the juice to meet D1 requirements, but I suspect he’s close. Candidate: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Location (Metro population): Pittsburgh, Penn. (2,362,453) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Heinz Field (Grass, 64,450) Potential owner: Henry Hillman (reported net worth $2.5 billion) Notes: I don’t know a ton about the Riverhounds, but this move in particular feels like depriving a pretty blue-collar club from its roots. Highmark Stadium is a no-go from a seating perspective, but the Steelers’ home stadium at Heinz Field would more than meet the requirements and have a grass surface that was large enough to be sanctioned for a FIFA friendly between the U.S. WNT and Costa Rica in 2015. As for an owner, Tuffy Shallenberger (first ballot owner name HOF) doesn’t seem to fit the USSF bill, but legendary Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Hillman might. I’m sure you’re asking, why not the Rooney Family, if they’ll play at Heinz Field? I’ll tell you: I honestly can’t seem to pin down a value for the family. The Steelers are valued at a little over a billion and rumors persist that Dan Rooney is worth $500 million, but I’m not sure. I guess the Rooneys would work too, but it’s a definite departure from an owner in Shallenberger who was described by one journalist as a guy who “wears boots, jeans, a sweater and a trucker hat.” Candidate: Saint Louis FC Location (Metro population): St. Louis, Mo. (2,807,338) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Busch Stadium (Grass, 45,494) Potential owner: William DeWitt Jr. (reported net worth $4 billion) Notes: Saint Louis has some weirdness in making the jump to D1. Current CEO Jim Kavanaugh is an owner of the MLS side that will begin play in 2022. The club’s current ground at West Community Stadium isn’t big enough, but perhaps a timely sale to Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr. could see the club playing games at Busch Stadium, which has a well established history of hosting other sports like hockey, college football and soccer (most recently a U.S. WNT friendly against New Zealand in 2019). The competition with another MLS franchise wouldn’t be ideal, like Charlotte, but with a big enough population and cross marketing from the Cardinals, maybe there’s a winner here. Wacko idea: If Busch doesn’t pan out, send them to The Dome. Sure, it’s a 60k turf closed-in stadium, but we can go for that retro NASL feel and pay homage to our nation’s soccer history. Candidate: Tampa Bay Rowdies Location (Metro population): Tampa, Fla. (3,068,511) Time zone: Eastern Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Raymond James Stadium (Grass, 65,518) Potential owner: Edward DeBartolo Jr. (reported net worth $3 billion) Notes: This one makes me sad. Despite having never been there, I see Al Lang Stadium as an iconic part of the Rowdies experience. Current owner Bill Edwards proposed an expansion to 18,000 seats in 2016, but the move seems to have stalled out. Frustrated with the city’s lack of action, Edwards sells to one-time San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who uses his old NFL connections to secure a cushy lease at the home of the Buccaneers in Ray Jay, the site of a 3-1 thrashing of Antigua and Barbuda during the United States’ 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign. Breather. Hey, we finished the Eastern Conference teams. Why are you still reading this? Why am I still writing it? Time is a meaningless construct in 2020 my friends, we are adrift in the void, fueled only by brief flashes of what once was and what may yet still be. Candidate: Austin Bold FC Location (Metro population): Austin, Texas (2,168,316) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 95,594) Potential owner: Michael Dell (reported net worth of $32.3 billion) Notes: Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has some unexpected competition and it comes in the form of tech magnate Michael Dell. Dell, were he to buy the club, would be one of the richest owners on our list and could flash his cash in the new first division. Would he have enough to convince Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (I’m not kidding, that’s its actual name) to go back to a grass surface, like it did from ’96-’08? That’s between Dell and nearly 100,000 UT football fans, but everything can be had for the right price. Candidate: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC Location (Metro population): Colorado Springs, Colo. (738,939) Time zone: Mountain Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Falcon Stadium (FieldTurf, 46,692) Potential owner: Charles Ergen (reported net worth $10.8 billion) Notes: Welcome to Colorado Springs. We have hurdles. For the first time in 12 candidates, we’re back below the desired 1 million metro population mark. Colorado Springs actually plans to build a $35 million, 8,000 seat venue downtown that will be perfect for soccer, but in our timeline that’s 7,000 seats short. Enter Falcon Stadium, home of the Air Force Academy Falcons football team. Seems perfect except for the turf, right? Well, the tricky thing is that Falcon Stadium is technically on an active military base and is (I believe) government property. Challenges to getting in and out of the ground aside, the military tends to have a pretty grim view of government property being used by for-profit enterprises. Maybe Charles Ergen, founder and chairman of Dish Network, would be able to grease the right wheels, but you can go ahead and throw this into the “doubtful” category. It’s a shame, too. 6,035 feet of elevation is one hell of a home-field advantage. Candidate: El Paso Locomotive FC Location: El Paso, Texas Time zone: Mountain Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Sun Bowl (FieldTurf, 51,500) Potential owner: Paul Foster (reported net worth $1.7 billion) Notes: God bless Texas. When compiling this list, I found so many of the theoretical stadium replacements were nearly serviceable by high school football fields. That’s insane, right? Anyway, Locomotive don’t have to settle for one of those, they’ve got the Sun Bowl, which had its capacity reduced in 2001 to a paltry 51,500 (from 52,000) specifically to accommodate soccer. Sure, it’s a turf surface, but what does new owner Paul Foster (who is only the 1,477th wealthiest man in the world, per Forbes) care, he’s got a team in a top league. Side note: Did you know that the Sun Bowl college football game is officially, through sponsorship, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl? Why is it not the Frosted Flakes Sun Bowl? Why is the cereal mascot the promotional name of the football game? What are you doing, Kellogg’s? Candidate: Las Vegas Lights FC Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (2,227,053) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Allegiant Stadium (Grass, 61,000) Potential owner: Sheldon Adelson (reported net worth $37.7 billion) Notes: Sin City. You had to know that the club that once signed Freddy Adu because “why not” was going to go all out in our flashy hypothetical proposal. Thanks to my narrative control of this whole thing, they have. Adelson is the second-richest owner in the league and has decided to do everything first class. That includes using the new Raiders stadium in nearby unincorporated Paradise, Nevada, and spending boatloads on high profile transfers. Zlatan is coming back to the U.S., confirmed. Candidate: New Mexico United Location: Albuquerque, N.M. Time zone: Mountain Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Isotopes Park – officially Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (Grass, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion) Potential owner: Maloof Family (reported net worth $1 billion) Notes: New Mexico from its inception went deep on the community vibe, and I’ve tried to replicate that in this bid. The home field of Rio Grande Cr---I’m not typing out the whole thing—Isotopes Park falls just within the expansion rules we set to make it to 15,000 (weird, right?) and they’ve found a great local ownership group in the Lebanese-American Maloof (formerly Maalouf) family from Las Vegas. The only thing to worry about would be the metro population, but overall, this could be one of the gems of USL Prem. Candidate: Oklahoma City Energy FC Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. (1,396,445) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Grass, 13,066) Potential owner: Harold Hamm (reported net worth $14.2 billion) Notes: There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow and it says it’s time to change stadiums and owners to make it to D1. A sale to oil magnate Harold Hamm would give the club the finances it needs, but Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (home of the OKC Dodgers) actually falls outside of the boundary of what would meet capacity if 1,500 seats were added. Could the club pull off a move to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma – home of the Oklahoma Sooners? Maybe, but at 20 miles, this would be a reach. Candidate: Orange County SC Location: Irvine, Calif. (3,176, 000 in Orange County) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Angels Stadium of Anaheim (Grass, 43,250) Potential owner: Arte Moreno (reported net worth $3.3 billion) Notes: You’ll never convince me that Rangers didn’t choose to partner with Orange County based primarily on its name. Either way, a sale to MLB Angels owner Arte Moreno produces a fruitful partnership, with the owner choosing to play his newest club out of the existing Angels stadium in OC. Another baseball conversion, sure, but with a metro population of over 3 million and the closest thing this hypothetical league has to an LA market, who’s complaining? Candidate: Phoenix Rising FC Location: Phoenix, Ariz. (4,857,962) Time zone: Arizona Stadium (playing surface, capacity): State Farm Stadium (Grass, 63,400) Potential owner: Ernest Garcia II (reported net worth $5.7 billion) Notes: We’re keeping it local with new owner and used car guru Ernest Garcia II. His dad owned a liquor store and he dropped out of college, which is making me feel amazing about my life choices right now. Casino Arizona Field is great, but State Farm Stadium is a grass surface that hosted the 2019 Gold Cup semifinal, so it’s a clear winner. Throw in Phoenix’s massive metro population and this one looks like a lock. Candidate: Reno 1868 FC Location: Reno, Nev. (425,417) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Mackay Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000) Potential owner: Nancy Walton Laurie (reported net worth $7.1 billion) Notes: The Biggest Little City on Earth has some serious barriers to overcome, thanks to its low metro population. A sale to Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and 1.6 mile-move to Mackay Stadium to split space with the University of Nevada, Reno makes this bid competitive, but the turf surface is another knock against it. Candidate: Rio Grande Valley FC Location: Edinburg, Texas (900,304) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): McAllen Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion) Potential owner: Alice Louise Walton (reported net worth $45 billion) Notes: Yes, I have a second straight Walmart heiress on the list. She was the first thing that popped up when I googled “McAllen Texas richest people.” The family rivalry has spurred Walton to buy a club as well, moving them 10 miles to McAllen Memorial Stadium which, as I alluded to earlier, is a straight up high school football stadium with a full color scoreboard. Toss in an additional 1,500 seats and you’ve met the minimum, despite the turf playing surface. Candidate: San Antonio FC Location: San Antonio, Texas (2,550,960) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Alamodome (FieldTurf, 64,000) Potential owner: Red McCombs (reported net worth $1.6 billion) Notes: I wanted to keep SAFC in the Spurs family, since the franchise is valued at $1.8 billion. That said, I didn’t let the Rooneys own the Riverhounds based on the Steelers’ value and it felt wrong to change the rules, so bring on Clear Channel co-founder Red McCombs. Toyota Field isn’t viable in the first division, but for the Alamodome, which was built in 1993 in hopes of attracting an NFL franchise (and never did), San Antonio can finally claim having *a* national football league team in its town (contingent on your definition of football). Now if only we could do something about that turf… Candidate: San Diego Loyal SC Location: San Diego, Calif. (3,317,749) Time zone: Pacific Stadium (playing surface, capacity): SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) (Grass, 70,561) Potential owner: Phil Mickelson (reported net worth $91 million) Notes: Yes, golf’s Phil Mickelson. The existing ownership group didn’t seem to have the wherewithal to meet requirements, and Phil seemed to slot right in. As an athlete himself, he might be interesting in the new challenges of a top flight soccer team. Toss in a move to the former home of the chargers and you might have a basis for tremendous community support. Candidate: FC Tulsa Location: Tulsa, Okla. (991,561) Time zone: Central Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000) Potential owner: George Kaiser ($10 billion) Notes: I’m a fan of FC Tulsa’s rebrand, but if they want to make the first division, more changes are necessary. A sale to Tulsa native and one of the 100 richest men in the world George Kaiser means that funding is guaranteed. A move to Chapman Stadium would provide the necessary seats, despite the turf field. While the undersize population might be an issue at first glance, it’s hard to imagine U.S. Soccer not granting a waiver over a less than a 10k miss from the mark. And that’s it! You made it. Those are all of the independent/hybrid affiliates in the USL Championship, which means that it’s time for our… VERDICT: As an expert who has studied this issue for almost an entire day now, I am prepared to pronounce which USL Championships could be most ‘ready” for a jump to the USL Prem. A reminder that of the 27 clubs surveyed, 0 of them met our ideal criteria (proper ownership $, metro population, 15,000+ stadium with grass field). Two of them, however, met almost all of those criteria: Indy Eleven and Miami FC. Those two clubs may use up two of our three available turf fields right from the outset, but the other factors they hit (particularly Silva’s ownership of Miami) makes them difficult, if not impossible to ignore for the top flight. But who fill in the rest of the slots? Meet the entire 14-team USL Premier League: Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven Louisville City FC Miami FC North Carolina FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Tampa Bay Rowdies Saint Louis FC San Antonio FC New Mexico United Phoenix Rising FC Las Vegas Lights FC Orange County SC San Diego Loyal SC Now, I shall provide my expert rationale for each club’s inclusion/exclusion, which can be roughly broken down into four categories. Firm “yes” Hartford Athletic: It’s a good market size with a solid stadium. With a decent investor and good community support, you’ve got potential here. Indy Eleven: The turf at Lucas Oil Stadium is no reason to turn down a 62,421 venue and a metro population of over 2 million. Louisville City FC: Why doesn’t the 2017 & 2018 USL Cup champion deserve a crack at the top flight? They have the market size, and with a bit of expansion have the stadium at their own SSS. LCFC, you’re in. Miami FC, “The”: Our other blue-chip recruit on the basis of ownership value, market size and stadium capacity. Yes, that field is turf, but how could you snub Silva’s chance to claim victory as the first division 1 club soccer team to play in Miami? Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: Pittsburgh sacrificed a lot to be here (according to my arbitrary calculations). Their market size and the potential boon of soccer at Heinz Field is an important inclusion to the league. Saint Louis FC: Willie hears your “Busch League” jokes, Willie don’t care. A huge market size, combined with the absence of an NFL franchise creates opportunity. Competition with the MLS side, sure, but St. Louis has serious soccer history and we’re willing to bet it can support two clubs. Tampa Bay Rowdies: With a huge population and a massive stadium waiting nearby, Tampa Bay seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up for the USL Prem. Las Vegas Lights FC: Ostentatious, massive and well-financed, Las Vegas Lights FC is everything that the USL Premier League would need to assert that it didn’t intend to play second fiddle to MLS. Players will need to be kept on a short leash, but this is a hard market to pass up on. Phoenix Rising FC: Huge population, big grass field available nearby and a solid history of success in recent years. No brainer. San Diego Loyal SC: New club? Yes, massive population in a market that recently lost an absolutely huge sports presence? Also yes. This could be the USL Prem’s Seattle. Cautious “yes” New Mexico United: You have to take a chance on New Mexico United. The club set the league on fire with its social media presence and its weight in the community when it entered the league last season. The market may be slightly under USSF’s desired 1 million, but fervent support (and the ability to continue to use Isotopes Park) shouldn’t be discounted. North Carolina FC: Carter-Finley’s mixed grass/turf surface is a barrier, to be sure, but the 57,000+ seats it offers (and being enough to offset other fully-turf offerings) is enough to put it in the black. Orange County SC: It’s a top-tier club playing in a MLB stadium. I know it seems unlikely that USSF would approve something like that, but believe me when I say “it could happen.” Orange County is a massive market and California likely needs two clubs in the top flight. San Antonio FC: Our third and only voluntary inclusion to the turf fields in the first division, we’re counting on San Antonio’s size and massive potential stadium to see it through. Cautious “no” Birmingham Legion FC: The town has solid soccer history and a huge potential venue, but the turf playing surface puts it on the outside looking in. Memphis 901 FC: Like Birmingham, not much to dislike here outside of the turf playing surface at the larger playing venue. Austin Bold FC: See the other two above. FC Tulsa: Everything’s just a little bit off with this one. Market’s slightly too small, stadium has turf. Just not enough to put it over the top. Firm “no” Charleston Battery: Small metro and a small potential new stadium? It’s tough to say yes to the risk. Charlotte Independence: A small new stadium and the possibility of having to compete with an organization that just paid over $300 million to join MLS means it’s best for this club to remain in the USL Championship. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC: When a club’s best chance to meet a capacity requirement is to host games at a venue controlled by the military, that doesn’t speak well to a club’s chances. El Paso Locomotive FC: An undersized market and a turf field that meets capacity requirements is the death knell for this one. Oklahoma City Energy FC: Having to expand a baseball field to meet requirements is a bad start. Having to potentially play 20 miles away from your main market is even worse. Reno 1868 FC: Population nearly a half-million short of the federation’s requirements AND a turf field at the hypothetical new stadium makes impossible to say yes to this bid. Rio Grande Valley FC: All the seat expansions in the world can’t hide the fact that McAllen Memorial Stadium is a high school stadium through and through. Here’s who’s left in the 11-team Championship: Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Memphis 901 FC Austin Bold FC Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC El Paso Locomotive FC Oklahoma City Energy FC Reno 1868 FC Rio Grande Valley FC FC Tulsa With MLS folding the six affiliates it has in USL League One, the league is a little bit thin (especially considering USSF’s requirements for 8 teams for lower level leagues), but seems definitely able to expand up to the necessary numbers with Edwards’ allusions to five new additions this year: Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Forward Madison FC Greenville Triumph SC Union Omaha Richmond Kickers South Georgia Tormenta FC Tucson Format of Assorted Leagues – This (like everything in this post) is pure conjecture on my part, but here are my thoughts on how these leagues might function in a first year while waiting for additional expansion. USL Premier – We’ll steal from the 12-team Scottish Premiership. Each club plays the other 11 clubs 3 times, with either one or two home matches against each side. When each club has played 33 matches, the top six and bottom six separate, with every club playing an additional five matches (against each other team in its group). The top club wins the league. The bottom club is automatically relegated. The second-bottom club will enter a two-legged playoff against someone (see below) from the championship playoffs. USL Championship -- 11 clubs is a challenge to schedule for. How about every club plays everyone else three times (either one or two home matches against each side)? Top four clubs make the playoffs, which are decided by two-legged playoffs. The winner automatically goes up. I need feedback on the second part – is it better to have the runner-up from the playoffs face the second-bottom club from the Premiership, or should the winner of the third-place match-up get the chance to face them to keep drama going in both playoff series? As for relegation, we can clearly only send down the last place club while the third division is so small. USL League One – While the league is so small, it doesn’t seem reasonable to have the clubs play as many matches as the higher divisions. Each club could play the other six clubs four times – twice at home and twice away – for a very equitable 24-match regular season, which would help restrict costs and still provide a chance to determine a clear winner. Whoever finishes top of the table goes up. And there you have it, a hypothetical look at how the USL could build a D1 league right now. All it would take is a new stadium for almost the entire league and new owners for all but one of the 27 clubs, who wouldn’t feel that their property would be massively devalued if they got relegated. Well that’s our show. I’m curious to see what you think of all of this, especially anything that you think I may have overlooked (I’m sure there’s plenty). Anyway, I hope you’re all staying safe and well.
McGirt v. Oklahoma - thoughts on it and US Indian law more generally?
On Thursday the Supreme Court issued its opinion in McGirt v. Oklahoma, finding 5-4 that because Congress never took the steps to disestablish the reservations of the Five Civilized Tribes when Oklahoma was granted statehood, the eastern part of the state remains "Indian country", including Tulsa, the state's 2nd largest city. The direct impact of the ruling is that the state of Oklahoma does not have jurisdiction in that area over enrolled Native Americans who are accused of crimes outlined in the Major Crimes Act. Instead, Native Americans will be tried by tribal or federal courts, and a small number of Native inmates in OK will be eligible for retrials -- people on death row in particular will seek this because tribes generally do not allow the federal government to execute their members. Other than Gorsuch, who has experience with Indian law, the decision fell along party lines and the conservative dissent claims this will disrupt the governance of eastern OK more generally, and it won't simply stop with the state sending cases to federal/tribal courts. I don't really think the tribes are that interested in radically changing the status quo, although it probably gives them more leverage in their ongoing dispute with the governor (himself a registered Cherokee) over casino fees. Trump himself hasn't commented on the case but a lot of conservatives have already leveraged it as outrage bait and talk like this is a prelude to land expropriation which is absurd, although if you look at indigenous radlib twitter for too long you'd probably start to believe it. The decision could have not come at a worse time for inflaming people's perceptions; furthermore if I was black and in favor of reparations I would see this as an extremely strong argument in favor of it. I'm curious how people here feel about this, and the idea of tribal sovereignty more generally. There's a decent diversity of thought and I think most have more nuanced positions than "give it all back, kick the colonizers out". It's worth noting that most of the people living in these newly-clarified reservations are not enrolled in a tribe and I would say that before this case, it was not an issue that the tribes actively pursued so most people would have never considered that they are living under anything but the state of Oklahoma's jurisdiction. On the other hand, given how incompetent the OK government is, I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of people here who would be more than willing to let tribes take over providing services even if it meant they couldn't have electoral representation.
New world news from Time: World Health Organization Reports Largest Single-Day Increase in Coronavirus Cases
(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases by its count, at more than 183,000 new cases in the latest 24 hours. The UN health agency said Brazil led the way with 54,771 cases tallied and the U.S. next at 36,617. Over 15,400 came in in India. Experts said rising case counts can reflect multiple factors including more widespread testing as well as broader infection. Overall in the pandemic, WHO reported 8,708,008 cases — 183,020 in the last 24 hours — with 461,715 deaths worldwide, with a daily increase of 4,743. More than two-thirds of those new deaths were reported in the Americas. In Spain, officials ended a national state of emergency after three months of lockdown, allowing its 47 million residents to freely travel around the country for the first time since March 14. The country also dropped a 14-day quarantine for visitors from Britain and the 26 European countries that allow visa-free travel. But there was only a trickle of travelers at Madrid-Barajas Airport, which on a normal June day would be bustling. “This freedom that we now have, not having to justify our journey to see our family and friends, this was something that we were really looking forward to,” Pedro Delgado, 23, said after arriving from Spain’s Canary Islands. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged people to take maximum precautions: “The virus can return and it can hit us again in a second wave, and we have to do whatever we can to avoid that at all cost.” At a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump said Saturday the U.S. has tested 25 million people, but the “bad part” is that it found more cases. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’″ White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN that Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” and made the comment in a “light mood.” Democratic rival Joe Biden’s campaign accused Trump of “putting politics ahead of the safety and economic well-being of the American people.” The U.S. has the world’s highest number of reported infections, over 2.2 million, and the highest death toll, at about 120,000, according to Johns Hopkins. Health officials say robust testing is vital for tracking outbreaks and keeping the virus in check. In England, lockdown restrictions prevented druids, pagans and party-goers on Sunday from watching the sun rise at the ancient circle of Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. English Heritage, which runs the site, livestreamed it instead. A few people gathered outside the fence. “You can’t cancel the sunrise,” druid Arthur Pendragon told the BBC. The number of confirmed virus cases is still growing rapidly not only in the U.S. but in Brazil, South Africa and other countries, especially in Latin America. Brazil’s Health Ministry said the total number of cases had risen by more than 50,000 in a day. President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying the risks even as his country has seen nearly 50,000 fatalities, the second-highest death toll in the world. South Africa reported a one-day high of almost 5,000 new cases on Saturday and 46 deaths. Despite the increase, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a further loosening of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Casinos, beauty salons and sit-down restaurant service will reopen. In the United States, the virus appears to be spreading across the West and South. Arizona reported over 3,100 new infections, just short of Friday’s record, and 26 deaths. Nevada also reported a new high of 445 cases. In Europe, a single meatpacking plant in Germany has had over 1,000 cases, so the regional government issued a quarantine for all 6,500 workers, managers and family members. In Asia, China and South Korea reported new coronavirus cases Sunday in outbreaks that threatened to set back their recoveries. Chinese authorities recorded 25 new confirmed cases — 22 in Beijing. In the past week, Beijing tightened travel controls by requiring anyone who wants to leave the Chinese capital, a city of 20 million people, to show proof they tested negative for the virus. In South Korea, nearly 200 infections have been traced to employees at a door-to-door sales company in Seoul, and at least 70 other infections are tied to a table tennis club there. But South Korean officials are reluctant to enforce stronger social distancing to avoid hurting the economy. ___ Joe McDonald reported from Beijing and Kim Tong-hyung reported from Seoul, South Korea. AP journalists around the world contributed to this report. from Blogger https://ift.tt/2YS74mO via IFTTT
continuing As I was picking myself up off the shooter’s shack floor, I glanced over to the TV. The ballplayers were all wandering around the field, looking skyward. Evidently, there was this hellacious explosion…even the television sports commentators were speculating as to what happened. Whoops. I looked out into the quarry. The wall that I had charged had receded some 75 feet. There was rather a large amount of shattered, blasted dolomitic limestone now in the quarry. Enough, I found out later, for a full month’s worth of orders. We never did find the blasting mats. I think they sort of evaporated. Luckily, the quarry is essentially an open amphitheater in plan view; basically a big hole in the ground with vertical limestone walls. The shockwave of the blast that didn’t spend itself shattering the limestone into which it was housed, blew out laterally, hit the opposite quarry wall, rebounded, and then dispersed, rather energetically, vertically upward. I set off car alarms for a 20 block radius. There were no broken home windows, as the lion’s share of the shock wave was redirected upward. Good thing there were no low flying zeppelins or dirigibles in the area... I waited the requisite time to allow for any loafers. There were none, so I jumped into the nearest wheel loader and began clearing the quarry floor. Hell, I had to so I could open the front gate. As I was clearing the floor, making pile number eight of the loose rock I had liberated, I heard the characteristic whoop-whoop of emergency vehicles. I parked the wheel loader, opened the front gate, and raised the green flag. That was enough blasting for one day. A few minutes later, three police cars zoom into the site. Two were local city cops, and one was a state trooper. “Hi, guys!” I waved, “Nice day, innit?” “Doctor Rock! We should have known.” One of the local boys groaned. “Hey, I did call you beforehand, as per procedure,” I said. Polack the cop walks up, just knowing I was responsible. “Yeah, but we didn’t figure on you terrorizing the entire city.” “Polack! How goes it?” I asked. The other local cop and the state trooper look to Polack, “You know this maniac?” “Oh, hell yeah. For years. Don’t worry, the good doctor is mostly harmless.” He chuckles. “Damn. OK. I guess everything’s OK. Just no more shooting today, please, Doctor. It’s going to take hours to calm everyone down.” He laments. “Yes, sir. I’m done for the day.” I reply, snickering slightly. The one local and state trooper depart, shaking their heads in amazement. This left Polack to follow me over to the shooter’s shack to mooch a cigar and whatever else he can find. “Jesus Hula-Dancing Christ, Rock. What the hell was that? I was all the way out in Whitewatosa and heard you.” He asks as he sneakily snakes a smoke out of my case. “Just some common chemicals in the proper proportions.” I snicker. “Which were?” he asks. I go in the back of the shed and toss him an empty container of one of the parts of the binaries I used. He catches it, reads the label, and drops it like a live grenade. “Binaries? Fuck! Like what you used at the tower?” he asks. “Yep. I used just a little more.” I reply. “Little more? Damn, as I said, we’ve been briefed on the stuff. This shit’s nasty.” He shakes his head. “Yeah. Fun, too.” I reply. Polack grabs a Sprechler’s Cream Soda out of the fridge as I opt for a cold Cream Ale and shot of potato juice. Hell, I was done for the day, so… We sit around and have a chat, just shooting the shit, as it were. Manly topics, so the conversation eventually steered over to guns. “Hey!” Polack remembers, “That’s right! You fucking owe me. Let me borrow that fucking cannon you carry. I want to show the chief a thing or two.” “Yeah, that’s right”, I agree, “When do you need it?” “This Friday, after shift. It’s the monthly qualifiers for us.” He notes. “Are pyromaniacs allowed in?” I ask. “To observe? Sure. To shoot? Nope. Insurance regulations.” He says. “What time?” I continue. “1800 hours.” He tells me. “I’ll be there. I’ll bring my gun and an assortment of loads. Hey, this could be fun!” I evilly smile. “Doctor. You’re doing that thing again. You’re grinnin’ like a shithouse rat. You know how much that scares me. Stop it.” He pleads. “No worries. Friday at 1800 hours.” I reply, grinning. Polack slurps down his Sprechlers, snitches another stogie, and squeals out of the quarry in a cloud of dense dolomitic dust. I arrive back at our flat, after stopping for two frozen custard Turtle Sundaes, to go. I give one to an appreciative wife and I ask her about her day. “Oh, went shopping with Oma. Got the cutest shoes, and a new purse, and…oh well, never mind. You’ll see.” Between bites of Turtle Sundae, she asks how my day went. “Oh, my dear. I had a real blast.” I replied, not lying in the least. Monday, after my first classes, I’m back in the faculty lounge, savoring a Greenland Coffee. There was the usual instructor chatter when Dean Vermiculari walks in. “Good morning, Dean!” I say. “Care for a sit-down and a coffee?” “Good morning, Doctor Rock. Yes, please to both.” He replies. I fix us both a fresh Greenland Coffee and return to our table. I hand him one and sit down to savor my soupçon. “How was your weekend?” I ask the Dean of the College. “Oh, very nice. Had a fine time catching some perch and crappie out on Lake Genever. I see you had a victorious weekend as well. Twice.” He smiles. “Twice?” I asked. “Well, your handling of the tower demolition made all the papers. Very, very well done, Doctor. I congratulate you.” He smiles. “Thank you, Dean. That means a lot. Just doing what I can with what I’ve got. But twice?” I replied. “It wasn’t front-page news, but I saw there was some, well, let us just say, ‘energetic activity’ out at the Silurian reef limestone quarry yesterday.” He grinned. “Oh, yes. I had a job to do and well, as I always say: ‘Nothing succeeds like excess.” I smile back. “Quite. This beverage you’ve created is really rather extraordinary, Doctor. Again, I thank you.” He tips his mug my direction in the age-old Midwestern salute. “It’s a little recipe I picked up on my last expedition to the northlands. I grew rather fond of the concoction.” I replied. “Ah, I see. Marvelous.” He smiles. “Thank you, Dean. High praise indeed.” I reply. “Which leads me to…ah, Doctor Rock. I have another favor to impose upon you.” He says, all serious. “Yes, Dean? How can I be of service?” I ask. “We, as you no doubt know, have many, many fine extractive mineral company connections. We actually receive quite a large amount of funding and endowments from them. They recruit here extensively for our young geoscientists. Now, since Dr. Pataariki has left for industry himself, I would like to appoint you as the College of Natural Sciences corporate liaison.” He explains. “Indeed?” I replied, too stunned for words for once. “Yes, indeed.” He continues, “It will require travel, mostly domestic, and delivering symposia at various companies on differing extractive geological subjects. You will also serve as host and university coordinator when they are present on recruiting tours. There will, of course, be additional remuneration to accompany the added responsibilities.” I slurped my coffee, thinking furiously. “Could I please first discuss it with my wife before I answer?” I ask. “Oh, Doctor. Of course, of course. Take your time. I will not require a reply until… tomorrow.” He smiles, finishes his coffee, thanks me again, and toddles out. “Yow, Es!” I exclaim, “This is one hell of an opportunity. It’s never before been offered to a junior professor. This will cement my tenure-track. It’s going to be a bitch with time, though. What do you think I should do?” “Well, Rock, honey, I think you should do…” Es begins. “No! None of that ‘do what you think is best’ stuff. I want your own thoughts, just like when I decided to go after my doctorate.” I explained. “OK, then.” Esme looks all serious like she’s going to deliver a bipartisan political speech. “Yes.” She says, firmly “That’s it?” I ask. “Yep. You asked I answered. We’ll make it work. We always do. You can’t let the Dean down. You will accept tomorrow without fear or qualms of your wife’s hesitations, of which I harbor none.” Esme proclaims. “Did I ever tell you of the myriad reasons I love you so?” I ask. The next morning I meet with Dean Vermiculari. He’s pleased that I accept and hands over to me the charter. Then the lists of company representatives, their contact information, and some other secret stuff that I can’t divulge right yet. A raft of oil companies will be coming in the late spring semester, so I need to contact each and every one to solidify dates, times and positions for which they’re recruiting. But that’s for then, I have something more proximal for now. I have a Friday appointment with Polack the cop at the town police shooting range. I arrive spot on time with my Casull .454 Magnum pistol, in its carry bag, along with a small duffel crammed with Pyrodex, Tannerite, and selection of specialty loads I had Herman the German, the inveterate gunsmith, create. Herman the German, his actual sobriquet, was this incredible gunsmith, craftsman, and all-around artillery specialist. Have any sort of problem with a rifle, shotgun, or pistol? See Herman. Gun holding too high? See Herman. Barrel warped? See Herman. Need solid gold projectiles for a certain one-off job? See Herman. Herman the German can sort it out. Just never ask him: “How?” “Ach! I’ve lived so long to learn, and you want it free? I’ll fix it, you pay, but I am only one knowing how!” Herman was a cranky old Kraut, and has lived here for as long as anyone can remember. Even my Grandfather had deferred to Herman when he had some particularly delicate machining operation that need special attention and was unique. As far as anyone knew, Herman had no family, but was never at a loss for friends. He was one of the most popular, and well known, but still oddly really unknown, kind of mysterious, old bastards in the entire community. Herman the German liked me because I could obtain for him certain high-energy things he couldn’t. All were entirely legal, but some were sort of out there in the gray zone. He also liked that I was educated, as he held education in the highest esteem. He also liked that I was of German extraction myself. I often made it a point to drop by with odd and unusual high-octane potables while never expecting anything in return other than a story or a shared cigar. Herman created some special loads for my .454 Magnum, which he prized. “I like your gun, Doctor Rock, it is so big! I can still see well enough to build things for it.” He told me one day over cheroots and Schnapps. Herman was a character to be certain. It must have been the pixie in him to dream up some of the specialty rounds he created for me to share with the local constabulary. He lived out in the county by himself in an old farmhouse. He had a full machine shop in his basement, complete with forge, metal handling equipment, and a firing test range. He handed back my .454, rather solemnly. “Doctor, I am afraid to say I couldn’t test all the special rounds I’ve created for you. I need to patch the hole in the cinder blocks in the downstairs range. Your gun punched right through the back…” he apologized. Now, Herman does all sorts of work on the local’s deer rifles, the police’s ordinance and has even worked some with the Baja Canada National Guard. Some of the little novelties he’s dreamed up for me are the first to escape his homemade basement test range. I felt oddly honored. After proving who I was to the nice range officer, I looked around trying to find Polack. “It’s 1550. Where the hell is Polack? I wondered. “Rock! Over here.” Polack calls to me. He motions me outside to the police department’s tactical outdoor range. I had thought all along he was referring to the indoors police target range. This might pose some problems. The tactical range was a series of clapboard shacks, all setup and designed to represent some downtrodden urban inter-city landscape. There were a couple of junked cars, broken sidewalks, storefronts, houses, bus stops…in short, all things necessary to replicate the seediest sections of a settlement where malefactors live and breed. The cops all run around this range, shooting at bad guy pop-up cut-outs and avoid the not-bad-guy pop-up cut-outs. They’ve got music blaring, firecrackers going off, all trying to re-create a shady deeply urban environment. Points are awarded by the accuracy of fire on the run, time to maneuver the course, and the ability of not gunning down innocent bystanders. It is not the best place to test a .454 Cusall. This hand cannon recoils like a fundamentalist Christian being solicited for donations to Anton LaVey, shoots flames and incandescent gasses like Smaug after a hard night of drinking and a stop at the Taco Bell buffet, is louder than a dime-store Karen demanding to see a Manager, and more powerful than a Ghost Pepper suppository. To quote Joe Piscopo: “It shoots through schools.” Especially faux-schools made of plywood. A .32 or .38 cop special is the correct weapon here; even a 9mm is a little heavy. Enough power to make a serious dent, easy on control, light on the recoil…a good tactical weapon. But, nothing succeeds like excess. Polack’s Chief is running around, capping off his ‘big ol’ .44 Magnum, and making the valley echo. He punches considerable holes in the pop-up cut-outs, but has such a hard time handling the recoil, his score is barely passable. Polack runs his test with his standard 9mm sidearm and qualifies easily. However, he’s nowhere near done with his Chief yet. I suggest to Polack we have a shoot-off. And since a .44 Magnum bullet ‘is so close to a .454 Magnum’, which it isn’t…the .454 Casull generates nearly 85% more recoil energy than the .44 Magnum; that we’d need something other than holes punched in plywood to judge the efficacy of each. We are literally just down the road from Max Yazzer’s farm and market. They’re the place you go for your Halloween jack-o-lantern. However, now, he has a surplus of melons. I think you can see where this is headed… I borrow Polack’s personal conveyance and run down to Max’s farm. I return with a trunk-load of elderly, overripe, cheap as chips, melons. Watermelons, Honeydews, Musks, and Casabas. We place them in strategic areas on the course, five for the Chief to find, and five for Polack. A .44 vs. a .454 melon-wise results in pretty much the same sort of mess: high-velocity fruit spatter. Although, the Chief was very impressed by the report of the .454. So, after running the tactical-melon course, clear demarcation of a winner was elusive. OK, OK, clever dicks. How about this? A standing shoot-off? We’ll set up 3 melons each at 30, 20, and 10 yards. Beginning at 30 yards, your time will be until you take out all three melons. But, they’re not going to be in a straight line, we’re going to make them somewhat camouflaged. You will stand in one small demarcated area, hunt those miscreant melons, and bring them to justice. Fastest time and greatest display wins, as determined by the Police Peanut Gallery. Polack and the Chief agree. The Chief goes first and dispatches the melons, with a fair amount of spatter, in 15.3 seconds. Not bad. Polack is next. He wipes out all the melons and creates some thoroughly impressive displays with Herman’s ‘special’ rounds. Normal ballistics for the .454 are, for a 250 grain (16 g) bullet, a muzzle velocity of over 2,400 feet per second, developing up to 2,800 ft-lb of energy. Herman’s hot loads are double that. Polack wins the day on impressive high-velocity melon distribution, but misses, so close, with a time of 17.0 seconds. Recoil’s a bitch. Then there are Herman’s ‘specialties’. The Chief is duly impressed and even comments that his ears are ringing even with the ear protectors. He asks to inspect the weapon. He is even more than duly impressed. Polack knows what’s up and asks the Chief if he’d like to give a whirl. Of course, the Chief can’t back down. Polack loads the .454 with 5 of Herman’s specialties: hollow-point rounds loaded hot, compressed, and tipped with alkaline earth metals, like metallic sodium and metallic potassium… We set up the nastiest, glorpiest, just barely-holding-together, overripe, laced with Tannerite (an impact-actuated low-explosive) watermelon at the ‘Concealed Carry’ distance of 5 meters. We slowly fade back into the distance to avoid the inevitable ‘Gallagher reaction’. The Chief fires one, and just nicks the top of the melon. Don’t laugh, with the type of recoil and heft of the sidearm, and tensing up in anticipation, it’s easy to be off the mark initially. The second round impacts dead-center. Now, alkaline earth metals and water don’t get along really well. In fact, their relationship is explosive. Especially explosive when delivered at 2,900 feet per second. The Chief catches a huge smattering of vitamin-packed watermelony back blast goo. He’s not entirely happy. He looks positively grisly with all that blown-up melon schmoo on his nice, neat uniform. He returns my gun and bans me from ever showing up at the police range again. Polack is on traffic duty for the next month. He figures it was well worth it. Back at the flat, Esme is shaking her head and wondering if I’ll ever grow up. “I may grow old, but I’ll never grow up.” I reply. I see I have several missed phone calls. Ah, me; no rest for the weary. Back to company-university liaison duties. After I had contacted these companies, I receive no less than 12 requests for symposia, talks, and seminars to be given to various level of industrial scientific employees in their respective companies. I am now slated to give academic conferences on stratigraphy, sedimentology, and seismic structural geology to different companies in Houston, Oklahoma City, Denver, Casper, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, and Tulsa. In the next 12 weeks, I’ll be giving no less than 8 talks in seven cities. I speak with Dean Vermiculari on how best to handle the situation. He understands and appoints two graduate student teaching assistants to handle my classes while I’m on the road. That relieves me of being physically there, but I still have to grade papers, compose lesson plans, and keep things running smoothly until finals. Besides giving the talks, there’s travel to oil fields, production facilitates, manufacturing plants, hotels, restaurants while I’m in town…the pace is excruciating. I’m gone more than I am at university. Plus in my time back home, I’m still the ad hoc master blaster for the limestone quarry. Then, there’s the companies arriving on campus, and the roles are reversed. Now I’m the welcome wagon and have to sort out the logistics of receiving the company representatives. I need to set up the colloquia to introduce the companies to the prospective students, arrange lodging, arrange passes for the university, transportation, “Meet-and-Greet’s, ad infinitum. I knew this was having a bit of effect on me when I came back to the flat after one particularly grueling ordeal of canceled flights, full hotels, missed connections and lukewarm reception by the company workers. “Hello”, I said, as I walked in the flat, “I believe you have a reservation for…” Esme just stood there, wondering if I was having a laugh. No, I wasn’t. I was completely hallucinating from road weariness, lack of sleep, jet lag, and total disorientation. This continued on for the next approximately 18 months. Esme was beginning to have second thoughts about all this. My teaching load was diminished by one whole introductory course. However, I was still flying hither and yon, delivering symposia, meeting with young geoscientists and getting to know the ins-and-outs of the Oil Industry. I found it particularly fascinating. Time marched on and it was once again it was the recruiting season. We had no less than eight oil companies visiting the university in their quest to swell the roster of their junior scientists. I’m still busier than a one-armed paperhanger in a windstorm, but have settled into a groove of sorts. I know the company recruiters and they now know me. I’ve actually struck up friendships with several. Particularly since I take them to the best local restaurants and bars after their recruiting duties are finished. I’ve met with recruiting representatives of Shrill Petrol, Mexxon, Nobil, Nocono Oil, Flug, Geddy, Brutish Petroleum, and Qexaco. The recruiting season is winding down and I find myself with Red (not Adair), of Nocono Oil. “Well, Doctor Rock”, Red states, “Another fine recruiting run. We’ve snagged two of your young geologists and one geophysicist. I’d say it was almost a perfect score.” We’re sitting in the Norton’s Steakhouse. After a couple of prime pink porterhouses, we’re working on the post-dinner double vodka and bitter lemon for me, and Lagavulin for Red. “Almost perfect?” I ask. “Yeah. There’s been this one small nagging concern from our company higher-ups.” Red continues. “What’s that?” I ask. “We need some more senior people. For one thing, we’ve recently opened a new petroleum laboratory down in our Houston office. Going to need some serious talent to run that show.” Red says. “I see”, I reply, “And…?” “We need mentors. Those with varied and far-flung knowledge. They must be well educated, global in experience and stature, with an [ahem] diverse set of skills.” Red notes. “Whew”, I agree, “That’s a tall order. You want my help with names of possible candidates? Is that it?” “Not as such, Doctor.” Red drains his drink, motions for me to do the same, and orders another round. Our drinks arrive and Red downs half his in one gulp. “Well, then”, I continue, “How can I help?” Red chuckles, “For someone so educated, you can really be thick as two short planks at times.” I sit back, and sip my Old Thought Provoker. The mercury-vapors light off. “No!” I say, incredulously. “Oh, yes.” Red smiles. “No?” I ask, slowly taking in the possible effects of what he’s hinting at… “OK, Doctor Rocknocker”, Red gets all serious and corporate, “We’d like to offer you a position at Nocono Oil as Senior Laboratory Manager and Head of Corporate Continuing Education.” You could have knocked me over with a grenade. I was stunned. I fumbled with my drink. “Red, you old con artist” I reply, “Is this a set-up?” Red, serious as a heart attack, looks directly at me and replies, “Doctor Rock, absolutely not, it’s a genuine offer.” He slides over a folder with some papers inside. “Here are the particulars.” Reeling, I accept the folder. I open it and right after the corporate logos and legal bullshit, I see a tall figure with a whole raft of zeros trailing behind it. I read furiously. The job would be both interesting and challenging. It would be in Houston, with travel and teaching at all other company outposts on a regular basis. I reexamine that figure from before and verify that I’m not now hallucinating. The job comes with furnished, corporate-paid housing, incredible benefits, loads of opportunity for advancement, more opportunity to travel, really generous vacation time… “Right. On the level?” I ask again. “Yep.” Red bluntly says. “Well”, I gulp, “you know I have to discuss this with Esme”, whom he’s met several times previous. “Of course, and you probably want to finish out the semester, correct?” red asks. “Oh, yes.” I reply. There would be a monsoon of paperwork and other grunt work I’d need to conclude or hand over if I were to accept this offer. “OK, then”, Red finishes his drink, motions for me to do the same, a real rarity; but I was in another dimension at this point. He orders another round and sits back, waiting on a refill. “You have two weeks to reply” Red states. “I know that’s not a terribly long time, but we need to fill this position ASAP. Can I ask for that? Your answer, yea, or nay, within a fortnight?” Red demands. “Yes”, I reply. “I at least owe you that.” And that was the end of the discussion for the night about me joining the private sector. We stayed a few more hours, chatting, smoking my cigars, and discussing everything but the lumbering elephant in the room. We part outside as I need to head back to our flat. Red wants to go downtown to one of those “Gentleman’s Clubs” he’s heard were so famous at the time. I was flummoxed the whole cab ride home. It was late when I returned, but I simply had to wake Es with the news. “Rock, for pity’s sake, its 2 o’clock in the morning!” Es protests. “Can’t this wait until later?” “Sorry, my dear” I reply, probably as serious as I ever had with Esme. “This is a potential game-changer.” “What is it? Are you OK?” Esme trembles. “Oh, I’m fine. Better than fine.” I reply. She’s relieved. “Then what’s so important?” she asks. “Um…how would you like to move to Houston?” I ask. “You going to teach at Cougar High (University of Houston)?” she inquires. “Nope. Brace yourself. I’ve been offered a job with Nocono Oil.” I finally spill the beans. Esme is slightly stunned and sits down. I go to the wet bar, fix me a bracing potato juice and citrus and Esme a stiff white Zinfandel. I hand her the wine and she is still semi-dazed and digesting the information. I slurp a good portion of my drink, retrieve her Sobranjes and me a cigar from my Turkmenistan humidor. I sit on the couch next to her and hug her soundly. “Esme? Es? Earth to Es? You in there?” I joke. “Oh, Yeah. Rock. Really? Hang on”, she leaves, returning with her housecoat as this might take a little time. “So?” I ask, “Your thoughts. Now! Immediately! Initial reaction!” I try to jar her back into reality. “Well, what do you want?” she asks. “C’mon, my dearest. You know I hate that. No, what do you think? What do you honestly think?” I reply. We both fire up our smokes, and I refresh our drinks. We return to the dinner table where Red’s folder lies. “Es, here. Look at this.” I say, sliding the portfolio over to her. She reads like a hungry man at a Vegas casino buffet. I can tell where she was stopped by something extraordinary. “This is for real?” she asks, “Red’s not pulling a fast one?” “Nope. It’s the genuine article”, I tell her, “He needs my reply within two weeks.” “Rock, Rock…I just don’t know. It’s a lot to process at 0230 in the morning. Let’s go to bed and have a think in the morning. You have the luxury of at least that amount of time.” She notes. “Right again, as usual”, I say, “Stuff it. It can wait.” We toddle off to bed. The next morning, over Cuban omelets and Greenland Coffees, we sort through the particulars. “Rock, it’s an extraordinary offer. But, do you want to leave teaching? I remember how you got all animated by Dean Vermiculari giving you the corporate liaison job and how that would improve your shot at tenure.” She notes. “I just don’t know. I’m still shell-shocked.” I tell her. “Let me go to school and we’ll pick this up tonight. We both have work to do no matter what. Oh, bloody hell. I hadn’t considered your job. Another wrinkle in the mess.” “Don’t you worry about that”, Esme smiles. “One catastrophe at a time.” “I do so love you.” I hug her soundly. “Think I should mention this offer to anyone at school?” “No. Definitely not.” Esme shakes her head. “Let’s figure this out on our own.” “I agree”, I say, kiss her and depart for school once again. The next week was a blur. Recruiting duties were dragging and I was being preoccupied. Even my students noted the lack of in-room explosions lately. I spend the next Saturday at the quarry, doing some small amount of blasting. I quiz the quarry owners about their progress in acquiring a new master for the quarry’s operation. “Oh, Doctor Rock” they gush, “You’re doing such a fine job, we haven’t really looked. Why do you ask?” “No particular reason at this time, I reply, “But perhaps you might want to begin looking” The chinks in my armor were finally starting to show. Sunday was spent out on Sliver Lake, with Esme and me chasing the elusive crappie, perch, and bucketmouth bass. It also gave us a chance to clear our heads from work, school and other such intrusions. We both needed a bit of downtime. Later that night, after a meal of beer-battered fillet of crappie and perch on the barbie, we sit down at the dinner table. The portfolio sits there, taunting us. I get up, makes us both our drinks, sit down and declare that this is it. “Es, darling” I say, “its nut-cuttin’ time. We need to make our decision.” “You’re right.” Es agrees, “Time for risk-reward analysis. Get some paper and some pencils.” We spend the next few hours listing the pros and cons of accepting the Houston position or staying here and pursuing my tenured professorship. After several hours, I stretch, stand, and go to the fridge. I retrieve the bottle of Bollinger Les Vieilles Vignes Francaises I had purchased the other day. I return to the table with the wine and the glasses, pop the cork and pour us both a glass of high-brow bubble water. I hug and kiss Esme like I had just returned from a long, solo expedition. “Esme, my darling. I’d like to propose a toast. First to us. Hа здоровый!” “Cheers!” Esme replies. “Secondly to Red, Dean Vermiculari, the quarry guys, Polack the Cop, and all the others that makes our life weird around here.” “Seconded”, Es echoes. “Finally: to Houston, Texas. Our new home!” I finally add. The next morning, Dean Vermiculari peers over the top of his pince-nez glasses. He’s not looking overly happy with me right now. “Why is it, Doctor, that everyone that receives the job of corporate liaison ends up going with corporate?” he asks. “Perhaps it’s just the exposure to another world that exists beyond academia.” I reply, truthfully. “Doctor Rocknocker,” the Dean gravely states, “I am not at all happy about your decision. We had great hopes for you here and you were riding right up the tenure track. Another five years and it would have been assured.” “Five years is a long time, Dean”, I state the obvious. “Yes, indeed.” The Dean replies frostily. “However, you are young. Perhaps you need to get this private sector nonsense out of your system, then you can return to academia where you belong.” “Perhaps, perhaps”, I reply. “Please, do consider this option down the road. You and your antics will be missed here, by students and faculty alike.” He says. “I will, Dean, I promise.” I reply “However, for now, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.” “Doctor, I will miss your strange and unique way of looking at life. I reluctantly accept your resignation at the end of the current semester and wish you all the best in your newest endeavors. Please remember us when corporate support for academia is mentioned in your new company.” he says. “I promise you, Dean, I will not forget what I’ve learned here and what you’ve taught. It’s the least I can do,” I reply. “I will never forget my roots.” “All I can ask”, he concludes. He stands to shake my hand. We shake and my audience is over. I resign from the quarry a week later. They haven’t found a new blaster but wish me well on my new journey. I tell them I’m here until the end of the semester, so I won’t leave them high and dry. I tell Polack the Cop about all the goings-on. “Who the hell can I roust for beer and cigars now?” He whines. “Let me know when you get to Texas if they need any cops. I wouldn’t mind trying’ that. Hell, maybe a Texas Ranger!” “A Cheesehead Ranger…?” I assure him I will and pass a box of cigars to him as a parting gift. He gives me a mayoral-signed get-out-of-jail-free card. “Now you can drive that old Harley just as crazy as you want.” He chuckles. “Thanks, Polack.” I say, shaking his hand. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I sold my bike a week earlier. Red was very chuffed with the news. “Snagged me a big one this time!’ He laughed, over the phone. There was enough paperwork, considerations and decisions to be made to last the remaining time Esme and I had in-state until our move. Already, a moving company had arrived, done inventory, and was preparing for our move to Houston. Esme resigned her position and decided she wanted to take some time off. She wanted to be a housewife, a colleague, and not have to work for once at an outside job. My new position allowed for that in spades. Besides with her credentials, anytime when she wants to re-join the workforce, there are myriad opportunities in the Bayou City. We made the choice of housing out west of town, in Katy, Texas. We could have chosen Sugarland, Addicks, Greenspoint, Greenway, or the Memorial area. However, these west Houston company properties were closest to the job and largest in square footage. My students got wind of my resignation and relocation. They threw me an unexpected farewell party at the Gast Haus. It was nickel-beer night and since they were footing the bill, it all worked out just fine. I would miss the old place. The camaraderie, the seasons, the university; hell my home these last many years. I’ve been on many, many expeditions, but I always returned home. Now, home was moving and was awaiting our arrival. Esme and I said our farewells to our families as well. We were the first through college, the first ones to travel international, the first Doctor in the family, and the first to leave the state. That’s a lot of familial firsts. I had to keep reminding everyone it wouldn’t be the last. Hell, we’re just moving to Texas, it’s not like we’re off to Greenland or Mongolia… [Gasp] We saddled up Es’s old Chevy Nova, took one last, lingering look in the rearview mirror, and said fare thee well to our previous lives. “We’ll be back. Someday. I promise” I told the city of our youth and young married adulthood. We decided to drive to Houston because we had the luxury of a bit of time. We needed the stretch to chew over some interpersonal and private things on the way to the next chapter in our lives. Besides, the weather was good, the roads ahead open and clear, and Texas had no ‘Open Container’ law, yet. We pointed the old Nova south and hit the gas. A week later, we’re wandering around our new house in Katy, Texas. Our belongings, scant though they may be, arrived the day after we did. Esme and I spent the next couple of day rearranging the house, buying necessary domestic bits and pieces, and getting to know our new neighborhood. First thing, though, Esme wanted to replace the old Nova. I concurred, but insisted we keep it as a second car and went out to purchase our first new car as a couple. I wanted a Land Rover. We ended up with a glossy black Toyota 4-Runner. Close enough. I was scheduled to show up at my new job the next Monday. I had my own parking spot, complete with “Reserved for Dr. Rock” painted on the bumper block. I was shown my new lab and was introduced to my seven laboratory assistants. I was shown the catalogs I could use to order what I needed and went over the requisition procedures. I was trotted around to meet the company CEO, CFO, CIO, VPs and many, many more company executives and managers. I’ve met with presidents and heads of state, I was impressed but not overly. They seemed like a more or less nice bunch of chaps. Almost exactly five weeks to the day from our arrival in Houston, I come home, yelling “Darling, I’m home!” Esme comes to greet me with a rib-rearranging hug. She tells me to sit at the dinner table, where my long hard day at the office drink, cigar, ashtray, and lighter are already set. “How was work, dear?” she asks, sitting down with her Perrier water. “Oh, it’s going great. The knotheads let me have an open-ended budget until I get the labs sorted just the way I want it. These guys pay their bills on time and I have carte blanche at Wards Scientific, and other supply houses. My crew is great, no interpersonal crapola, and hard workers. I can smoke in my office and no one dares give me shit about my cigars. I’m getting to know the exploration department quite well. They’re really interested in our expeditions and are more interested in my opinions of their new exploration directives.” Esme just smiles and sips her water. “Odd”, I thought. “That’s great, dear.” She says. “I am so glad to hear it.” “Me too”, I say, “How are you holding up after all these weeks alone?” “Oh, I’m getting used to it.” She smiles. And smiles. Beatifically. Glowing. “What?” I ask. “Remember what we talked about in the car on the way down here?” She asks. “We talked about a lot of things…” I say, suddenly my eyes grew very, very wide indeed. “Yes. You’re going to be a father. I’m pregnant, Rock.” Esme smiles.
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