Authorities ban Sunday opposition rally in Moscow

A Russian presidential candidate and prominent anti-corruption crusader organized the event.

MOSCOW — When police break up your meeting because of a false bomb threat, that could be just bad luck. When someone glues your office door shut, that could be just a misunderstanding about the rent. And when a stranger comes up to you in the street and dumps green guck all over your face, that could be just a random act of hooliganism.

When this kind of thing happens to you every day, that means you’re Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent anti-corruption crusader and a declared candidate for next year’s presidential election – the mother of all uphill battles, given that your likely opponent is Vladimir Putin.

And if you’re Alexei Navalny, there’s a good chance you’re going to wake up Monday in jail.

Authorities have preemptively banned a rally Navalny has organized for central Moscow on Sunday, as well as others planned across Russia.

The demonstrations were called to protest what he claims is rampant corruption in the Kremlin. Putin’s spokesman has said that even urging people to take part is illegal.

And Alexander Gorovoi, a senior Russian police official, warned Friday that authorities will “bear no responsibility for any possible negative consequences” for people who do show up.

That could mean that if something is started by pro-government activists who routinely interfere with Navalny’s campaign stops, officers might stand aside and let it happen.

Navalny, who has been arrested several times over the years, said the rally will go on.

“The Kremlin sees us as their enemy, but what should I do?” he said Thursday in his Moscow headquarters. “I’m not going away. I live here. I’m going to live here.”

What Navalny has done to provoke official enmity is issue frequent statements alleging instances of top Kremlin officials amassing huge fortunes. Most recently, he released a report and a 50-minute video detailing allegations that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has funneled more than $1 billion in bribes through companies and charities run by his associates to acquire vineyards, luxury yachts and opulent mansions.

The Russian government has barely acknowledged those accusations. One lawmaker in the State Duma, a communist, asked for an inquiry into Navalny’s report. Otherwise, the only palpable reaction has been that when the activist appears in public, eggs are tossed in his face, activists from the pro-government National Liberation Movement shout down his speeches, and occasionally he is doused with a green, Soviet-era topical antiseptic known as zelyonka.

But that is shaping up to change Sunday when Navalny and his supporters plan to challenge the bans on their rallies in Moscow and across the country.

In an interview Thursday, during a rare stop in Moscow, Navalny argued that staging the protests is worthwhile, despite the likelihood that he will be arrested, because it will signal the breadth of the support for his message – that Russia needs to rid itself of what he sees as a kleptocratic and authoritarian regime. People in 100 Russian cities have indicated they will turn out Sunday, he said, and more than 10 million people have watched the YouTube video about Medvedev.

Sports Digest: Johnson, Rahm advance to Match Play semifinals

Dustin Johnson and rising Spanish star Jon Rahm stay on track for a potential showdown.

GOLF

Johnson, Rahm continue on path toward championship battle at Match Play event

Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm advanced to the semifinals of the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin Country Club in Texas, staying on track for a potential showdown between the No. 1 player and Spain’s rising star.

Johnson lost a 3-up lead at the turn, and for the first time in 71 holes of the event, he was in a match that was all square. He answered with two birdies and put away Alex Noren.

Rahm was so dominant Saturday that he played only 27 holes in his two matches. The 22-year-old rookie has yet to play the 18th hole.

Johnson faces Hideto Tanihara in the semifinals. Rahm plays Bill Haas, who eliminated Phil Mickelson in the quarterfinals, 2 and 1.

PGA: Chris Stroud birdied his final hole to cap a 5-under 67 and take a one-shot lead in the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, as he goes for his first PGA Tour victory.

TENNIS

MIAMI OPEN: Roger Federer won his opening match, returning to the tournament after a two-year absence and beating 19-year-old American qualifier Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Federer took the lead with a flawless tiebreaker after both players held easily throughout the first set, and Tiafoe then became more inconsistent with his groundstrokes.

Stan Wawrinka, seeded No. 1, easily won his opening match against Horacio Zeballos, 6-3, 6-4.

SOCCER

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: Bruce Arena’s return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night in San Jose, California, to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

AUTO RACING

XFINITY SERIES: Kyle Larson held off Joey Logano on the final lap to win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Larson thrived out of a late restart with smart moves and a clever lane choice on Fontana’s five-wide asphalt. The native Californian won the Xfinity race at Fontana for the second time.

Kyle Busch was third, with Erik Jones in fourth and rookie William Byron in fifth.

HORSE RACING

DUBAI WORLD CUP: Arrogate showed his class again as he came from last place after a delay out of the stalls to win by an impressive 21/4 lengths at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

With the win, four-year-old Arrogate became the highest-earning racehorse ever, surpassing California Chrome, winner of the same race last year. Arrogate has grossed $17,084,600 for winning seven races out of eight in his career.

– News service report

Feature obituary: Dana Morton, 75, worked for CIA, built engineering firm

The agency recruited him after college, and he spent time assessing the capabilities of Soviet warheads.

Dana R. Morton’s penchant for finding out things that other people didn’t know was apparent from his college days, one of his longtime friends recalled Saturday.

“He had all this information about lots of stuff,” Terry Weymouth of Buxton said. “How he found out the things he found out, I still don’t know. In college, he found a ski dorm at Sugarloaf that was just $2 a night – if we did the dishes. It was quite a tragedy when the lift tickets went from $6 to $8.”

Morton, who died March 16 in Portland at age 75, went on to find out more things that most other people didn’t know. After college he went to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

After getting stationed in places like Area 51, the top-secret Air Force base in Nevada, and working on projects including development of supersonic reconnaissance jets such as the SR-71 Blackbird, he returned to his home state of Maine and helped found SMRT, an engineering firm.

Weymouth said Morton was always coy about what he knew and didn’t know.

“It was always a joke with my wife – she would say, ‘Dana, do you still work for the CIA?’ And Dana would just smile,” Weymouth said.

Morton grew up in Gorham. He and Weymouth, who grew up in South Portland, met in the freshman dorm at the University of Maine in the fall of 1959. They later joined the same fraternity.

Weymouth said Morton’s knack for mechanical things showed in college, when he paid $125 for a 1929 Ford that had been stored in a barn and got it running. In the winter, it sat at Morton’s parents house, but in the spring, Weymouth and Morton would drive it up to Orono to use for weekend jaunts.

The trips up to Orono, in the days before an interstate highway made it a relatively short venture, were especially enjoyable, Weymouth said.

“We weren’t 21, but let’s just say we were able to get beer, and we did that for several years in a row,” he said.

In the CIA, which recruited him from college, Morton was part of a new crew of engineers that the spy agency brought in, said Noble Dowling, who worked with Morton in the mid-1960s, when the Cold War was in full swing.

Dowling said prior to the early 1960s, most CIA workers were spies, spy handlers or analysts who worked on finding out information. Morton, Dowling and others were part of a new wave of CIA hires who were engineers and scientists who could make sense out of the detailed information that was being collected.

Dowling said other CIA employees stole the telemetry – readings on speed, altitude and the like – from Soviet Union rocket tests and then he and Morton would analyze it. Dowling specialized in figuring out the capabilities of Soviet rockets, while Morton’s focus was on determining the kinds and capabilities of nuclear warheads the Soviets would pack on top of the rockets.

“It was an interesting period because we were among the few engineers hired by the CIA,” said Dowling, now 79 and living in Florida.

Dowling said he and Morton and the other engineers would usually socialize only with one another. They had weekly cookouts, he said, mainly because they were the only people they could talk shop with while grilling steaks in the backyard.

After a few years, Dowling left to work for rocket manufacturers for the U.S. space program. Morton, he said, “went into the black stuff,” meaning supersecret projects, including the SR-71, a high-flying, supersonic spy plane that was the successor to the U2 and was used to capture photographs of military installations and equipment inside the Soviet Union. Ultimately, the spy planes were supplanted by spy satellites.

Arthur Thompson, eventually Morton’s business partner, said Morton returned to Maine in the late 1970s, where he opened his own engineering and surveying firm in Buxton, That firm was later blended into SMRT with Thompson and others. The Portland-based engineering firm now has more than 100 employees and offices in four states.

Thompson said Morton’s was eager and positive, two traits that were essential in a startup.

“When all the chips were down, he was always ready to go, go, go,” Thompson said. “He always had this little twinkle in his eyes – he would walk in a room and really light it up.”

The Morton family plans a celebration of Dana Morton’s life in July in Kennebunkport. Morton lived in Kennebunkport and also had a house in Venice, Florida.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

Across U.S., cheers, jeers over ACA’s fate

Beneficiaries of the current health care law applaud Congress’ failure to repeal it, while others hold out hope that Republicans will ‘get it right next time.’

NEW YORK — Some Americans breathed a sigh of relief, others boiled with frustration, and nearly all resigned themselves to the prospect that the latest chapter in the never-ending national debate over health care would not be the last.

The withdrawal of the Republican-sponsored health bill in the face of likely defeat Friday in the U.S. House seemed to ensure that the deep divisions over the Affordable Care Act and its possible replacement will continue to simmer.

As news spread, Americans fell into familiar camps, either happy to see a Democratic effort live another day, or eager to see Republicans regroup and follow through with their “repeal Obamacare” promises.

“Yessssss,” an elated 27-year-old artist, Alysa Diebolt of Eastpointe, Michigan, typed on Facebook in response to the news, saying she was relieved those she knows on Affordable Care Act plans won’t lose their coverage. “I’m excited, I think it’s a good thing,” she said.

Millions more shared her view, and #KillTheBill was a top trending topic on Twitter on Friday afternoon. Among those who have long sought to see former President Barack Obama’s health law dismantled, though, there was disappointment or chin-up resolve that they still could prevail.

“Hopefully they’ll get it right next time,” said Anthony Canamucio, the 50-year-old owner of a barbershop in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania. He gave his vote to Trump in November and wanted to see Obama’s health law repealed, but found himself rooting for the Republican replacement bill to fail. He is insured through his wife’s employer, and laments the growing deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, blaming Obama’s law even as health economists say those trends in employer-provided health coverage preceded the legislation.

For Canamucio, the Republicans’ bill didn’t go far enough in dismantling the ACA. But he remains steadfast behind Trump and said he believes the president will still deliver.

FOR SOME, A QUESTION OF LIFE AND DEATH

Cliff Rouse, a 34-year-old banker from Kinston, North Carolina, likewise was willing to give the president he helped elect a chance to make good on his promise. He sees Obama’s law as government overreach, even as he knows it could help people like his 64-year-old father, who was recently diagnosed with dementia but refused to buy coverage under a law he disagreed with. Rouse sees Trump’s moves on health care as hasty, but believes Republicans will eventually come around with better legislation.

“They’ve not had enough time to develop a good plan,” Rouse said. “They should keep going until they have a good plan that Americans can feel confident in.”

It remained far more than a petty political debate, though, and some like Janella Williams, framed the issue as a question of life and death.

The 45-year-old graphic designer from Lawrence, Kansas, spent Friday in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous drip for a neurological disorder, getting the drugs that she says allow her to walk. Under her Affordable Care Act plan, she pays $480 a month for coverage and has an out-of-pocket maximum of $3,500 a year. If she were to lose it, she wouldn’t be able to afford the $13,000-a-year out-of-pocket maximum under her husband’s insurance. Her treatments cost about $90,000 every seven weeks.

As she followed the efforts to undo Obama’s law, Williams found herself yelling at the TV a lot. She wrote her senators, telling how she felt “helpless and out of control,” and how her hope was dwindling.

After watching coverage on Friday while tethered to a port in an outpatient area, she said when the bill was withdrawn, “I am thankful. I hope that this makes Trump the earliest lame duck ever.”

Whatever comes of the developments, they became the latest chapter in a long-running policy debate – from Teddy Roosevelt’s call for national health insurance in 1912, through waves of New Deal and Great Society legislation that brought Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but no comprehensive health system for all, to an unsuccessful attempt at universal coverage at the start of Bill Clinton’s administration. For now at least, Trump joins a list of American presidents who sought but failed to bring major health reform.

Trump has railed against the 2010 ACA since the start, and Republican leaders in Congress have rallied for its repeal with dozens of votes during the Obama years. Republicans won the chance to replace the health law with Trump’s win and control of both chambers of Congress.

“This is our opportunity to do it,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday. “We’ve talked about this thing since 2010. Every Republican … has campaigned, from dogcatcher on up, that they would do everything they could to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare.’ ”

OBAMACARE CALLED ‘UNBELIEVABLE GODSEND’

Meantime, the Affordable Care Act has enjoyed growing approval with Obama’s departure from the White House and the emergence of details of Trump’s plan. For the first time, the law drew majority approval in a Pew Research Center poll last month, with 54 percent of Americans in favor.

Even some of Trump’s voters have come around to supporting the Obama law, or to a late realization that their coverage was made possible by it.

Walt Whitlow, a 57-year-old carpenter from Volente, Texas, gave Trump his vote even as he came to view Obama’s law as “an unbelievable godsend.” He went without health coverage for nearly 20 years, but after the ACA passed, he signed up. Two months later, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. He proclaims himself opposed to government handouts that he thinks people grow too dependent on, though he wouldn’t say what he hoped would happen with the Republican bill. Still, its withdrawal brought relief for a man who says his ACA coverage kept him from massive debt and maybe worse.

“It saved my life,” he said. “I really don’t know what to say.”

Some Gorsuch traits revealed during days of grueling hearings

The high court nominee isn’t too ‘bigly’ to apologize when ‘bound by circuit precedent.’

WASHINGTON — Nominees appearing before the Senate all have one goal in mind: Win confirmation. And when one party controls the Senate and the White House, the strategy of saying as little as possible doesn’t vary much. But because Supreme Court nominees spend days in televised hearings, they still manage to reveal things about themselves, professionally and personally.

Here are a few things we learned about Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the high court:

A DELIBERATE MANNER

Gorsuch was careful in his phrasing and steadfastly refused Democratic attempts to get him to talk about abortion, guns, campaign finance and a host of key issues in a way that might signal how he’d rule. “If I did make a bunch of campaign promises here, what’s that mean to the independent judiciary?” he said.

MAKING UP HIS MIND

A judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver since 2006, Gorsuch described how he comes to decisions, starting with past decisions, or precedent. “It’s the anchor of the law, it’s the starting place for a judge,” he said. Democrats seemed more interested in knowing when Gorsuch might decide a past decision needs to be jettisoned, and which ones in particular. He listed factors, including “age of the precedent, how often it’s been reaffirmed, the reliance interests surrounding it, whether it was correctly decided, whether it was constitutional versus statutory.”

WILLING TO APOLOGIZE

Shortly after Gorsuch’s final day of testimony began, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled public schools must do more for learning-disabled students than Gorsuch’s 10th Circuit had deemed sufficient. The opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts took aim at a phrase from an earlier case that Gorsuch himself wrote about minimum standards. “Merely more than de minimis progress” doesn’t cut it, Roberts wrote. “If I was wrong, senator, I was wrong because I was bound by circuit precedent and I’m sorry,” Gorsuch said when Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois asked him about the ruling.

POLITICS IN ITS PLACE

Democrats remain upset about how Republicans treated Judge Merrick Garland. Gorsuch praised Garland, but cited the need to remain above the political fray. “Senator, I appreciate the invitation. But I know the other side has their views of this, and your side has your views of it. That by definition is politics,” Gorsuch told Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

OLD SCHOOLED

He has degrees from the some of the best, and oldest, schools – Columbia, Harvard and Oxford – a Supreme Court clerkship, more than 10 years as a federal judge and a couple of books to his name. Even Democrats acknowledged that he has an enviable resume.

BIGLY HOMAGE

Gorsuch was describing the most prominent signature on the Declaration of Independence with a word of more recent vintage. “No one remembers who John Hancock was but they know that that’s his signature, because he wrote his name so bigly, big and boldly,” Gorsuch said.

Belarus police crack down on demonstrators

Authorities arrest more than 400 opposition protesters in the capital, beating many of them.

MINSK, Belarus — Police in Belarus cracked down hard Saturday on opposition protesters who tried to hold a forbidden demonstration in the capital. A human rights group said more than 400 people were arrested and many were beaten.

The demonstrators had hoped to build on a rising wave of defiance of the former Soviet republic’s authoritarian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994.

About 700 people tried to march Saturday along Minsk’s main avenue, but were blocked by a cordon of riot police wielding clubs and holding shields. After a standoff, the arrests began.

“They’re beating the participants, dragging women by the hair to buses. I was able to run to a nearby courtyard,” demonstrator Alexander Ponomarev said.

Tatiana Revyako of the human rights group Vesna said more than 400 people were arrested, saying “many of the arrested were beaten and are in need of medical help.”

Among those arrested were about 20 journalists, according to the Belarusian Journalists’ Association.

“They grabbed everybody indiscriminately, both young and old. We were treated very harshly,” BBC Belarus correspondent Sergei Kozlovsky said.

Even before the protesters gathered, police raided Vesna’s office and detained more than 50 people.

In the days preceding Saturday’s demonstration, more than 100 opposition supporters were sentenced to jail terms of three to 15 days, Vesna reported before the raid. Prominent opposition figure Vladimir Neklayev reportedly was pulled off a train by police overnight while trying to travel to Minsk.

The anti-government protests also attracted hundreds of people Saturday in Brest and Grodno, two other large cities.

Belarus has seen an unusually persistent wave of protests over the past two months against Lukashenko, who recently claimed that a “fifth column” of foreign-supported agitators was trying to bring him down.

Saturday’s demonstrators shouted slogans including “Shame!” and “Basta! (Enough!)” and deployed the red-and-white flag that is the opposition’s symbol. The flag was first used by the short-lived independent Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918 and again after the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, but was replaced in 1995 after Lukashenko gained power. He has stifled dissent and free media and retained much of the Soviet-style command economy.

In New Jersey, 2,000 demonstrate for president

The mayor initially denies a rally permit, citing concerns of clashes.

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — Hundreds of President Trump’s supporters rallied Saturday at the Jersey shore, vowing their help in “making America great again.”

More than 2,000 people turned out for the event staged on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, one of several marches held across the nation.

The event was mostly peaceful but there was a minor scuffle early on when some anti-Trump protesters tried to make their way through the crowd and were confronted by supporters of the president. However, undercover police officers immediately surrounded the anti-Trump group and walked them out of the crowd without further incident.

Seaside Heights police said there were no major issues during the rally and no arrests were made.

Borough Mayor Anthony Vaz had initially denied the request for a permit to stage the rally on the town’s boardwalk, citing concerns about potential clashes with opposing groups. He asked the Trump supporters to move the rally elsewhere.

But it was eventually approved to avoid any potential legal issues.

Many Trump backers carried homemade signs stating their support for him and his policies, while others carried American flags. Many also chanted “Trump” and “lock her up,” the latter a reference to Hillary Clinton.

“I’m here because Donald Trump is my hero and I’m trumping for him,” Barbara Messano, of Toms River, told NJ.com. “I support him because he’s not a politician. He’s honest and a businessman, and I know he will do what’s best for the country.”

Comcast Launches New 24/7 Workplace Surveillance Service

America’s largest ISP just rolled out a new service that allows small and medium-sized business owners “to oversee their organization” with continuous video surveillance footage that’s stored in the cloud — allowing them to “improve efficiency.” An an…

America’s largest ISP just rolled out a new service that allows small and medium-sized business owners “to oversee their organization” with continuous video surveillance footage that’s stored in the cloud — allowing them to “improve efficiency.” An anonymous reader quotes the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Inventory is disappearing. Workplace productivity is off. He said/she said office politics are driving people crazy. Who you gonna call…? Comcast Business hopes it will be the one, with the “SmartOffice” surveillance offering formally launched this week in Philadelphia and across “70 percent of our national [internet] service footprint,” said Christian Nascimento, executive director of premise services for the Comcast division. Putting a “Smart Cities” (rather than “Big Brother is watching you”) spin on “the growing trend for…connected devices across the private and public sectors,” the SmartOffice solution “can provide video surveillance to organizations that want to monitor their locations more closely,” Nascimento said…

The surveillance cameras are equipped with zoom lenses, night-vision, motion detection, and wide-angle lenses, while an app allows remote access to the footage from smartphones and tablets (though the footage can also be downloaded, or stored online for up to a month). Last year Comcast was heavily involved in an effort to provide Detroit’s police department with real-time video feeds from over 120 local businesses, which the mayor said wouldn’t have been successful “Without the complete video technology system Comcast provides.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Protestor pepper-sprays woman at Trump rally in California

The man is subsequentally roughed up prior to being detained by the California Highway Patrol in Huntington Beach.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Violence erupted at a Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach on Saturday when an anti-Trump protester allegedly doused the female organizer of the event with pepper spray and was immediately set upon by a group of Trump supporters.

After spraying the march organizer, the man, wearing a black mask, was tackled by a group of flag-waving Trump supporters, who started punching and kicking him, according to witnesses at the scene.

The crowd then chased the man, who jumped over a fence and started running along Pacific Coast Highway, where he was detained by California Highway Patrol officers.

A handful of other counter-protesters fled the scene.

Travis Guenther, whose wife was also pepper-sprayed, said he was among those who chased the masked man and hit him with a flag that said “Trump, Make America Great Again.”

“I hit him five times with the flag over his head,” said Guenther, who yelled at the man as he was detained by law enforcement officials.

“How is your head?” he asked the man.

“Were not xenophobic,” Guenther said. “We’re not racist. We’re just proud Americans.”

Jennifer Sterling of Laguna Beach, the organizer who was hit with pepper spray, seemed unfazed by the incident, which involved a small number of protesters.

“It was a quick reaction,” she said. “There was about 12 of them.”

Sterling said the rally was not simply for Trump but also “a patriotic rally, celebrating first responders, military veterans, vice president and president.”

The noontime rally and march at Bolsa Chica State Beach drew hundreds of flag-waving supporters of President Donald Trump.

The event was slated to run from noon to 3 p.m. and was one of about 40 affiliated events scheduled nationwide throughout the day.

Though the march bears Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and organizers elsewhere are making their support for the president quite clear, Sterling said before the march that the local gathering – while pro-Trump – would have a different focus. Participants would be wearing blue ribbons to support law enforcement and donations would be collected for veterans, she said.

“We want to wave our American flag and be patriotic,” Sterling said.

Dozens rally in Augusta in support of Trump

It comes a day after a bill to replace Obamacare was pulled by House Republicans because it lacked support.

About three dozen people rallied in support of President Trump on Saturday in Augusta, according to WCSH-TV.

A video shot by the Portland television station showed people cheering in front of a state office building.

About 40 rallies were scheduled around the country on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times. They came a day after a bill designed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a Republican version was pulled before a vote was taken in the House of Representatives.

House Republican leaders said the measure, which was backed by Trump, lacked support. Trump blamed Democrats for the bill’s defeat.