LBN – Sunday, December 17th, 2017

*FAIL – File Your Taxes on a Postcard? A G.O.P. Promise Marked Undeliverable:

The Republican tax bill does not pass the postcard test. It leaves nearly every large tax break in place. It creates as many new preferences for special interests as it gets rid of old ones. It will keep corporate accountants busy for years to come. And no taxpayer will ever see the postcard-size tax return that President Trump laid a kiss on in November as Republican leaders launched their tax overhaul effort. This was not the grand simplification of the code that Republicans promised when they set out to eliminate tax breaks and cut the number of tax brackets as they lowered rates. As their bill tore through Congress, their ambitions fell to the powerful forces of lobbying and the status quo. Killed tax breaks returned to life. New ones sprung up beside them. A plan for three individual tax brackets became five, and finally eight.

*Mueller Obtains Thousands of Trump Transition Emails

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation has obtained thousands of emails sent and received by Trumpofficials during the president’s transition, a move that a lawyer for Trump has decried as illegal, the Associated Press reports. The emails concern 13 top Trump officials, and their correspondence includes national security discussions and chatter about Trump’s possible international goals, according to the report. Mueller’s team reportedly obtained the emails not directly from Trump’s transition team, but from the General Services Administration, a separate federal agency that stored the emails and whose facilities were used by Trump’s transition team. The move has prompted Kory Langhofer, the general counsel for Trump’s transition, to accuse Mueller of using unlawful methods. Langhofer said Saturday that he’s sent a complaint to two congressional committees over the GSA’s “unauthorized” disclosure of materials. His complaints come amid reports of increasing friction between Trump and Mueller’s team, with some lawmakers claiming Trump and his allies are trying to shut down the investigation into whether there was collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

*Pope Francis: Fake, Sensationalized News Is a ‘Very Serious Sin’

Pope Francis has called on journalists to avoid sensationalizing the news and digging up old scandals, warning that to do so constitutes a “very serious sin.” In comments to Catholic media on Saturday, he described journalism as one of the most “fundamental” missions in democratic societies but warned against several pitfalls in the business that he said “hurts the heart of the journalist and hurts others.” “You shouldn’t fall into the ‘sins of communication:’ disinformation, or giving just one side, calumny that is sensationalized, or defamation, looking for things that are old news and have been dealt with and bringing them to light today,” the pope said. His remarks came ahead of an upcoming annual communications message, which he reportedly intends to dedicate to “fake news.” While he didn’t address anyone in particular, the pope’s comments come as the U.S. media is dominated by reports of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations against politicians, celebrities, and even President Trump himself. Many of those reports have included claims of years-old and even decades-old alleged misconduct.

*CLOAK AND DAGGER –  Australian Man Charged as Weapons ‘Agent’ for North Korea

Federal authorities in Australia have charged a Sydney man with brokering weapons and other illegal sales worth millions of dollars for North Korea. Police say 59-year-old Chan Han Choi, a naturalized Australian citizen of Korean origin, broke both UN and Australian sanctions in his alleged dealings with “high-ranking officials in North Korea.” In a case that is the first of its kind for Australia, Chan has been charged under the country’s 1995 Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act. He allegedly used encrypted communications to broker deals, some involving components used in ballistic missiles, to generate funds for Pyongyang’s weapons program. At a Sunday press conference, the Australian Federal Police described Chan as a “loyal agent” who “believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose,” the BBC reports. Chan was taken into custody on Saturday night and could face up to 10 years in prison on the charges.

*WHO READS LBN? Acclaimed Documentary FilmmakerErrol Morris

*LBN-INVESTIGATES: There are more bacteria in a human mouth than there are people in the world

*Report: Pentagon Acknowledges Secret UFO Program

For the first time, the Pentagon has acknowledged the existence of a recent, secretive program to investigate reports of UFO sightings, The New York Times reports. While the Defense Department says it ended the mysterious Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in 2012, Luis Elizondo, the former head of the program, told the Times it continues to operate with the help of officials from the Navy and CIA, albeit without federal funding. Elizondo said he appointed a successor to take over after his resignation in October. The program, which began as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2007, was launched with backing from former Senate majority leader Harry Reid and his longtime friend,Robert Bigelow. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, received just under $22 million in government funds from late 2008 until 2011, according to the report. The company used the funds to modify buildings for the storage of materials recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena and study people who’ve reported unexplained encounters. The program also collected video and audio recordings of reported UFO sightings, including one in which Navy pilots can be heard expressing shock as a “fleet” of rotating, glowing auras follow them at high speeds.

*Doug Jones breaks with top Democrats on Trump: 

Senator-elect Doug Jones is already breaking with some prominent Democrats by refusing to call for President Trumpto step down over ongoing sexual harassment allegations. “I don’t think that the president ought to resign at this point,” Jones (D-Ala.) told CNN’s “State of the Union.” In his first round of Sunday show interviews since securing a stunning victory in red state Alabama over accused sexual predator Roy Moore, Jones said he doesn’t want to get bogged down in Trump’s sexual harassment allegations and would rather work on “real issues.” “I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues,” Jones added. “Let’s get on with the real issues that are facing the people of this country right now.”

*UNRELENTING – Southern California Wildfire Grows, Prompts New Evacuations

Authorities in Southern California have carried out a new round of evacuations as high winds push the raging Thomas Fire closer to homes in Santa Barbara County. The 404-square-mile blaze, which has been burning its way through the area for nearly two weeks, approached the wealthy community of Montecito on Saturday. “It is right above the homes,” Cal Fire spokesman Jude Olivas was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brian Olmstead said about 12,000 people were being evacuated Saturday  as the fire picked up again. Firefighters had made some progress when the Santa Ana winds died down Friday, but meteorologists have warned that winds of up to 55 mph could further spread the blaze and spark new fires over the weekend. The Thomas Fire, now the third-largest in California’s modern history, has already claimed two victims, a firefighter killed earlier this week and a 70-year-old woman found dead along the evacuation route last week.

*LBN-BUSINESS INSIDER:   ***The Winklevii became billionaires after all — and they didn’t need Facebook to do it.Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss — the 6-foot-5 identical twins who sued Mark Zuckerberg 13 years ago for allegedly stealing the idea for Facebook — made big news last week by becoming the first bitcoin billionaires. For the two Harvard grads, now 36, it’s an especially sweet victory. An over-the-top portrayal by actor Armie Hammer in the 2010 film “The Social Network” painted them as prepster buffoons who bungled their way out one of the most important creations in social media. They saw their rival Zuckerberg go on to make some $70 billion. Larry Summers, who was president of Harvard when the twins complained to him about Zuckerberg, called them “a - - holes.” And no one thought their investment of $11 million — part of a $20 million cash settlement from Zuckerberg — in bitcoin in 2013 was anything more than a fool’s folly. But that was before the digital currency was selling for nearly $20,000 per coin.


*LBN-HOLLYWOOD INSIDER:   ***Sam Rockwell, riding high on his SAG-nominated turn in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, will host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” January 13. Musical guest will be Halsey. The booking was announced Saturday during the Kevin Hart-hosted show, the last episode before the comedy’s holiday break.  ***Sheila Nevins, who as president of HBO documentary films became a powerful figure in the world of non-fiction programming, is leaving HBO. News of her departure came in a lengthy New York Times profile posted today. HBO confirmed to Deadline that she is leaving, but noted that she is not retiring. Further announcements and details are expected from HBO this upcoming week.

*LBN-BOOK NEWS:   ***As cold and flu season returns to knock many of us on our backs, a new book reveals just how successfully our bodies keep us on our feet. “Immune: How Your Body Defends and Protects You” (Bloomsbury Sigma) by Catherine Carver reminds us of “the wonder of your own secretions.” From tears to earwax, here are the miracle weapons our bodies produce to keep us safe from infection.

*LBN-NOTICED:   ***Guys — give it up already! We know!Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx — who, for some reason, still seem to think their relationship is a secret — are spending a romantic weekend at the chic Shutters on the Beach hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., we’re told. And a spy adds that they’ve continued to try and stay ­under the radar. “They were so awkward, looking around so much to make sure no one was watching them,” said the source of spotting Holmes and Foxx, who have reportedly been dating for a solid four years.



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*LBN-COMMENTARY by Errol Morris (Acclaimed Documentary Filmmaker): I don’t know what I feel about filmmaking. I’m excited by it, but a lot of it—there’s this phenomenon that’s going on, which is that history isn’t history until you make a movie about it. You make a movie about this, that, and the other thing, you make a movie about Dunkirk, you make a movie of Churchill standing before the House of Commons, defending Great Britain. You have a movie about Chappaquiddick! You have a movie about Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. So every single thing, from the most insignificant kind of historical event to the big, grand, save-the-world kind of historical event, and “The Post” is very much in that category. Everything becomes grist for some kind of Hollywood reduction. Do I like it? No, I don’t like it. Do I hate it? Yeah, yeah, I hate it. Do I hate it a lot? Yeah, I hate it a lot! And why, why do I hate it? Because the study of history is the study of how we learn about history, how we form an idea of what happened in the past. “Wormwood” is very much about that. It has an ironic dimension about how things are hidden, covered up, lied about, revealed, and on and on and on and on. And I wanna do more projects like that. If I have to see more standard, meat and potatoes, put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other historical account, I’m going to kill myself. This is a threat! I’m just going to fucking kill myself. Am I going to see “The Post”? I’d rather be eviscerated by the Iroquois in public. [laughs]

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Benedict Nightingale: “The Twilight Zone”, the CBS series that originally ran on television from 1959 to 1964, has been much repeated, reworked and adapted since then. It has been heard on radio, published as a series of short stories, turned into comic books, become both board and video games, seen on the big screen, even become Towers of Terror in Disney theme parks. So unstoppable has it proved that you wouldn’t be the least surprised to find it transformed into the sort of shadow play, with puppets seen in silhouette behind a giant sheet, that’s called “Nang Yai” in Thailand. Come to think of it, “Nang Yai” might be more entertainingly sinister than the new stage version of The Twilight Zone which, adapted by the American playwright Anne Washburn, has just opened at London’s Almeida Theater. It sometimes feels like period pastiche, a sort of sci-fi Rocky Horror Picture Show, and sometimes aspires to seem real and be alarming. And often it is marooned between those extremes. (It does not, it must be said, use too much of Marius Constant’s famous theme tune.)

*LBN-COMMENTARY by Ginia Bellafante: How political leaders respond to accusations of sexual misconduct that come up around their colleagues in public life is bound to be a litmus test of their viability in the coming weeks and months. Ms. Gillibrand, despite the perception that she has exploited the issues of sexual harassment and abuse to her own advantage, has the moral authority to take on these subjects, given how much she has fought for the rights of assault victims in the military and on campuses. As she ascends, she might use that authority to push for due process, to ensure that those accused are not summarily expunged from civic life without proper review. Zero tolerance shouldn’t mean zero chance of a fair hearing or no possibility of redemption.


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*LBN-OVERHEARD:   ***As Omarosa Manigault Newmanexits her job in the White House, a bizarre video showing her less, er, stateswomanly side has emerged. A pop-culture polymath sent Page Six a link to “Soul Sistahs,” an ultra-camp, hyper-kitsch, uber-low-budget 10-minute sci-fi short film. While the plot is virtually incomprehensible, as far as we can tell it focuses on an intergalactic yenta in a housecoat who kidnaps Omarosa in an attempt to steal Donald Trump’s hair as part of a difficult-to-understand get-rich-quick scheme. The mini-flick was made back in 2006 — two years after Omarosa shot to fame on Trump’s NBC show “The Apprentice.”

LBN E-Lert Edited By Dan Gaylord