Monthly Archives: September 2018

Colts lose to Texans in overtime after questionable decision on 4th down sets Texans up with short field

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Michael Hickey/Getty

  • The Indianapolis Colts went for it on 4th down in a tied overtime game from their own side of the field and failed to convert.
  • The Texans got the ball from the Colts’ 43, completed a 24-yard pass, then kicked the game-winning field goal.
  • While many in the NFL world questioned the decision, Colts head coach Frank Reich said the team was not going to tie and he would go for it every time.

A questionable decision on 4th down in overtime cost the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, as they lost, 37-34, to the Houston Texans.

After trading field goals in overtime, Andrew Luck got the ball with 1:50 left to play and got the Colts up to their 43-yard line. Facing 4th-and-4 with 27 seconds left, the Colts decided to go for it rather than punting the ball. That turned out to be a bad decision.

On 4th down, Luck’s pass to Chester Rogers was incomplete, turning the ball over to the Texans on the Colts’ half of the field, with 24 seconds to play.

On the first play of the drive, Deshaun Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 24-yard pass, setting the Texans up for a 37-yard field goal. Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed the field goal as time expired to give Houston the win.

The announcers for the game were both stunned, openly questioning the Colts’ decision. Though going for it on fourth down has become more popular across the league, in the Colts’ case, opting not to punt gave the Texans a great chance to get the win, rather than settling for a tie.

Many in the NFL world questioned the decision.

After the game, Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters, “We’re not playing to tie. We’re going for it 10 times out of 10.”

While a tie may have been unsatisfying, the Colts made things easier for the Texans. Both teams are 1-3.

Some of the last interviews Instagram founder Kevin Systrom gave before leaving Facebook might hint at what his concerns were

Instagram chief Kevin Systrom.

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Instagram chief Kevin Systrom.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • In a September 5th interview with Reid Hoffman on the Masters of Scale podcast, Instagram cofounder and then CEO Kevin Systrom spoke about his vision for the company – and it might have hinted at the reasons behind his recent departure.
  • Facebook’s recent handling of Instagram is rumored to have been a headache for Systrom and fellow Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger. In a few interviews before his announcement, Systrom discussed how the initial relationship with Facebook was mutually beneficial, and crucial for Instagram’s growth.
  • The pair didn’t provide a reason for quitting, however, and have yet to give an interview since the announcement.

On Monday, Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger made the unexpected announcement that they would be leaving the company in the the coming weeks.

They didn’t provide a reason for quitting, but in the last interviews he gave before announcing his departure, Systrom may have hinted at why he and Krieger decided to leave the company.

Systrom recently made an appearance on the Masters of Scale podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, where he discussed his visions for Instagram and how the company came to be. In the interview, Systrom spoke about his decision to sell Instagram to Facebook, and how he was initially optimistic about the relationship.

“The decision to sell was mostly about whether or not we were aligned in our vision of Instagram, and I think Mark and I both saw at the time that Instagram was a special thing,” Systrom said in the interview. “It wasn’t going to be like, ‘Oh, we’ll buy this thing and it’ll just be Facebook Photos.’ Like, ‘We’ll rebrand it as Facebook Photos.’ It’s a unique community and had a unique angle and he wanted to invest in it.”

Systrom also explained how Facebook’s infrastructure had a huge effect on Instagram’s growth, and the relationship between the two companies was mutually beneficial. However, according to Recode, this relationship began to decay as Facebook began to take Instagram in a different direction – a direction that was antithetical to Systrom’s vision of keeping Instagram “simple” and distinct from Facebook.

“The whole idea of joining Facebook was that we could scale way more quickly than we would independently,” Systrom said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal Magazine, which was conducted before his departure announcement. While the ability to quickly scale the Instagram platform was an upside to selling to Facebook, Systrom may have come to disagree with how the parent company was treating that relationship.

However, it’s been rumored that the duo’s departure came as a result of some headbutting with Facebook executives over their conflicting visions of what Instagram should be, and whether the social media app was competing with Facebook’s userbase. Multiple sources told Recode that Systrom and Krieger were frustrated with how Facebook had been dealing with Instagram lately, after an initially smooth and co-beneficial relationship for the first six years.

In the last year or so, Facebook lessened its promotion of Instagram, according to Recode, removing the Instagram label when pictures from the platform were shared to Facebook and decreasing the amount of Instagram promotion from within Facebook, in addition to testing Instagram notifications that would send people to Facebook. Recode is also reporting that there was conflict over the introduction of Instagram TV, and that Facebook was worried it would draw users away from Facebook’s own in-app video service. Given the sum of these actions, Recode’s sources claim Instagram executives were worried Facebook may have been intentionally slowing Instagram’s growth.

For now, Systrom isn’t setting the record straight one way or the other, but that could change once the executive officially departs the company in coming weeks – or perhaps the next time he sits down with a reporter to talk about whatever new project he’s working on next.

You can listen to or read Systrom’s interview with Hoffman on the Masters of Scale podcast here. You can read the full WSJ Magazine article here.

‘Little lies point to bigger lies’: James Comey writes that the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh won’t be ‘as hard as Republicans hope it will be’

James Comey.

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James Comey.
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Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

  • Former FBI director James Comey wrote in an op-ed Sunday that the FBI’s background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will not be “as hard as Republicans hope it will be.”
  • FBI investigators “know that little lies point to bigger lies,” Comey wrote. “They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper.”
  • It’s unclear how deep the FBI will be able to dig, however, because Republicans and the White House have imposed significant constraints on the scope of the background check.

The former FBI director, James Comey, weighed in Sunday on the recent firestorm surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the decision to order an FBI investigation into the sexual-misconduct allegations against him.

In an op-ed published by The New York Times, Comey wrote that “the FBI is up for this,” referring to the background check. “It’s not as hard as Republicans hope it will be.”

Comey continued, “FBI agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews. Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days, if necessary.”

But multiple media reports this weekend have suggested that the FBI’s inquiry is far more constrained than previously known.

Initially, Republicans set just two parameters: that the investigation had to be complete in under a week, and that it had to be limited to “current credible” allegations against Kavanaugh.

But on Saturday, NBC News and The Times reported that the White House and Senate Republicans gave the FBI a list of just four witnesses to interview. Investigators are also reportedly barred from pulling records that could be critical to corroborating parts of the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

Republicans and Kavanaugh’s defenders have argued that because the alleged assault happened 36 years ago, Ford may be remembering it wrong, and that it should carry less weight compared to Kavanaugh’s standing since then.

“But FBI agents know time has very little to do with memory,” Comey wrote. “They know every married person remembers the weather on their wedding day, no matter how long ago. Significance drives memory.”

Comey also alluded to the apparent discrepancy between statements Kavanaugh made to the committee about his drinking habits in high school and college, and what some of his former classmates remember based on their encounters with him.

In particular, Kavanaugh claims that he was not a heavy drinker when he was young and that he never drank to excess or had gaps in his memory. His former classmates, conversely, have said that they recall multiple instances when Kavanaugh was heavily intoxicated and likely blacked out.

Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook also appears to contain multiple references to partying and heavy drinking. But the Supreme Court nominee said under oath that they were innocent references to inside jokes that had nothing to do with what the common meanings of those terms typically are.

FBI investigators “know that little lies point to bigger lies,” Comey wrote. “They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper.”

It’s unclear how deep the FBI will be able to dig, however, given the additional limits that have been placed on the scope of the investigation.

“There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”

Companies are sticking to a practice that Warren Buffett and other business titans warn is damaging the economy

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REUTERS/Fred Prouser

  • Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has long decried Wall Street’s habit of providing quarterly earnings guidance.
  • But last year, S&P 500 companies issued forward guidance at the highest rate since 2008, according to a report by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  • Executives have made fewer forecasts this year amid more calls to do away with the practice.

Warren Buffett has long said that short-termism is bad for companies, but many didn’t seem to concur last year.

Companies on the S&P 500 issued quarterly earnings guidance 444 times in 2017, the most since 2008, according to a report by S&P Global Market Intelligence released on Thursday.

Forward guidance remains a cornerstone of the quarterly ritual of earnings reporting. Public companies are not required by law to give investors hard estimates for the future, unlike their results. But many companies do so anyway to give analysts and shareholders a sense of their outlook, sometimes by popular demand.

But Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has refrained from this practice. In fact, his company’s earnings statements are so unorthodox that they don’t include any quotes from him or other executives – he reserves those for his annual letter and shareholder meeting.

Buffett told CNBC in 2016 that earnings guidance “can lead to a lot of malpractice.” That’s because if companies know they are going to miss earnings expectations, they might try to find ways to make up for the shortfall.

Several other chief executives – including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, and General Motors’ Mary Barra – weighed in on the topic in 2016 in an open letter titled “Commonsense Corporate Governance Principles.” They wrote, among other things, that markets were too obsessed with quarterly earnings forecasts and that companies should issue guidance only if it would benefit shareholders.

Even President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting in August what he said was a quote from a business leader that companies should “stop quarterly reporting & go to a six month system.”

Buffett, Dimon, and nearly 200 CEO members of the Business Roundtable narrowed in on the issue again in June. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article, they said that quarterly earnings contributed to a shift away from long-term investments.

If the trend in 2018 is anything to go by, companies might be coming around to this viewpoint. S&P’s data shows that guidance in the first and second quarters fell from a year ago. And according to a FactSet report released on Monday, companies were issuing third-quarter guidance at a pace below average.

9 27 18 forward guidance COTD

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S&P Global Market Intelligence

Now read:

UBS: The housing markets in these 6 cities are closest to a bubble

Munich is at bubble risk.

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Munich is at bubble risk.
source
Michael Dalder/Reuters

  • At least six cities around the world are at risk of having housing bubbles, according to UBS’ 2018 Global Real Estate Bubble Index.
  • There are affordability crises in many more cities because housing costs have risen faster than incomes.
  • Policymakers will need to step in, but the appropriate response could be challenging to nail down.

Housing costs are rising in almost every major city in the world.

At least six are at risk of being in a bubble, defined as a persistent rise in prices to the point where properties are well above their fundamental value.

“Most households can no longer afford to buy property in the top financial centers without a substantial inheritance,” UBS said in its 2018 Global Real Estate Bubble Index.

“Rents continue to consume a significant share of income.”

Policymakers will be required to intervene in affordability crises, by granting subsidies to first-time homebuyers, for example.

But other policies could be more detrimental, UBS said. If governments impose heavy property taxes in expensive cities, they could chase away foreign investors. They could also cause prices to plummet too quickly, hurting existing homeowners who want to sell.

Bubbles are often hard to identify until they burst, but UBS has handpicked six cities that are at “bubble risk.” Only two of the major cities they examined – Boston and Singapore – were considered “fairly valued.”

Here’s the list of cities on bubble watch in ascending order:


London

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

“The UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index score for London declined for the second straight year but remains in the bubble-risk zone. Overall, inflation-adjusted prices are more than 10% higher than in 2007, when the last bubble burst, while rents have stayed roughly stable and real incomes have gone down by 10%.

… The relative weakness of the city’s housing market can be attributed to a few causes. First, housing remains unaffordable for London’s citizens … Second, the prime segment is hurt by higher stamp duties for luxury and buy-to-let properties … Third, inflation continues to erode the purchasing power of local residents.”


Amsterdam

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Shutterstock

“In the last four quarters prices climbed by 12% in inflation-adjusted terms. They are now 60% higher than in 2013.

Their ongoing explosive growth was fueled by the strongest income increase since 2013 among all cities and attractive financing conditions. The city’s housing price rise has more than doubled nationwide averages in the last five years. Given the highly strained affordability, a tightening of lending conditions might end the boom rather abruptly.”


Vancouver

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Shutterstock/mffoto

“Imbalances increased again as house prices rose in the past four quarters at a double-digit rate in real terms. Real prices have doubled in 12 years. The imbalances are mitigated somewhat by income growth and above-average rental growth of 5-7% in nominal terms over the last four quarters.

As the government tries to contain speculation, the tax burden is rising for high-end property buyers and foreign purchasers. The already strained affordability will become an acute issue if mortgage rates rise further, one that may halt the local market boom.”


Toronto

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Akin Oyedele/Business Insider

“Since the waning of the housing frenzy in the middle of last year, prices have stabilized over the past four quarters. In inflation-adjusted terms, they are 50% higher than five years ago.

Last year’s ‘fair housing plan,’ which imposed taxes on foreign purchases and vacant apartments and implemented stricter rent controls, probably contributed to the cooling.

Higher mortgage costs and tighter lending standards should limit the upside for the time being. But a short-term weakening of the Canadian dollar may again attract foreign buyers.”


Munich

Munich is at bubble risk.

source
Michael Dalder/Reuters

“Real prices have doubled in the last 10 years and seem to be continuing on an explosive trajectory.

Nominal rents jumped 9% last year, reflecting record low vacancies, so affordability goes on deteriorating. Purchasing a 60m2 (650 sqft) flat requires of a skilled services employee an all-time high of eight accumulated years of income.

Construction has already risen significantly in recent years. Should mortgage rates pick up, a correction seems likely.”


Hong Kong

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zhangyuqiu/Shutterstock

“The market is chronically undersupplied. Demand remains buoyant thanks to the residential market’s high appeal to local and foreign investors alike. So over the last decade its affordability has fallen the most among the cities considered in this study.

Even for highly skilled workers, property ownership is now out of reach. With citizens priced out of their own market, political pressure has mounted to curb price growth. Recently, the government announced an occupancy tax for vacant, completed units to encourage developers to sell them as quickly as possible, in an effort to improve supply.”


And here’s the full list:

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UBS

DON’T MISS:

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Shutterstock

The 16 cities where Americans struggle the most to pay rent »

Jameis Winston took over for Ryan Fitzpatrick after just one half — then promptly threw an interception

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched for Jameis Winston after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trailed the Chicago Bears, 38-3 at halftime.
  • It was Winston’s first game back from a suspension.
  • On Winston’s first drive, he threw an interception.

Ryan Fitzpatrick lit up the NFL for two weeks, but came crashing back down to earth in Week 4.

After Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored just three points and trailed the Chicago Bears 38-3 at halftime, the Bucs sat Fitzpatrick and turned to Jameis Winston for the second half.

Winston returned to the team in Week 4 after serving a three-game suspension for allegedly groping an Uber driver. The Bucs decided to stick with Fitzpatrick to start, riding the hot hand that got them to 2-1 to begin the season. But it didn’t take long for them to switch back to Winston.

Unfortunately, for the Bucs, on Winston’s first drive, he was hit by Khalil Mack, then threw up a duck that was picked off by the Bears.

Much was made about the Bucs’ quarterback decision and who they’d go forward with. Fitzpatrick performed well and seemed to rejuvenate an offense that disappointed last season. Yet Fitzpatrick has never sustained a high level of play during his career, and the Bucs have invested in Winston. It would be tough to sit a No. 1 pick for a career journeyman QB.

Whether it’s Week 5 or some other time, it appears Winston will be the guy. Whether that actually helps the Bucs remains to be seen.

The FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh is far more constrained than previously known, and experts say ‘it would be comical if it wasn’t so important’

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh takes the oath before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

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Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh takes the oath before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

  • The FBI’s supplemental background check on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is far more constrained by Republicans and the White House than previously known.
  • Legal experts suggested the restrictions are intended to handicap the investigation and shield Kavanaugh from legal exposure related to sexual-misconduct allegations and a potential perjury charge.
  • “There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” said one DOJ veteran. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”

A steady trickle of revelations over the weekend indicates that the FBI’s supplemental background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is much more limited than previously known.

The original parameters, Republican lawmakers said, were that the inquiry should be constrained to “current credible” allegations against Kavanaugh and that it should be completed within one week.

But NBC News and The New York Times reported on Saturday that in addition to those limitations, Republicans and the White House gave the FBI a list of just four witnesses to interview.

Investigators have also reportedly not been permitted to scour certain records that could be critical to ascertaining the credibility of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

The FBI will probe aspects of sexual misconduct allegations made by all three women who have come forward against Kavanaugh, but it does not reportedly plan to directly question the third, Julie Swetnick, about her claims.

The White House counsel Don McGahn, who is in charge of guiding Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, is also directing the FBI on the scope of its background check.

“That seems like a clear conflict of interest,” said Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond and an expert on federal judicial selection.

Norm Eisen, who served as the Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform under President Barack Obama, said he helped vet “hundreds” of presidential nominees when he worked at the White House.

“Every one got an FBI background check,” he added. “We never told the FBI which witnesses they could and could not interview. It’s not just [Democrats] who want an investigation–so do Flake, Collins & Murkowski. But it must be a real one.”

He was referring to GOP Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, all of whom have expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of the allegations against him. All three backed a one-week delay in the final vote in order for the FBI to investigate the claims.

But the way the investigation is currently being conducted is a “sham,” said Susan Hennessey, the managing editor of the national-security blog Lawfare.

President Donald Trump disputed some of the reporting on Saturday night, tweeting that he wants the FBI “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”

‘The FBI will do what the committee didn’t’

Christine Blasey Ford.

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Christine Blasey Ford.
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Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

The four witnesses the FBI has been permitted to question so far are Deborah Ramirez, Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, and PJ Smyth.

Ramirez has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a dorm-room party at Yale during the 1983-1984 school year.

And Ford said Judge, Keyser, and Smyth were present at a high school gathering in 1982 during which she alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Ford said she was pushed into a bedroom from behind and that an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her down on the bed, groped her over her clothes, and covered her mouth when she tried to yell for help. She said she was able to escape before things escalated.

Ford added that Judge, Kavanaugh’s longtime friend, was an eyewitness to the attack and was also intoxicated at the time. Keyser and Smyth say they do not recall such a gathering. Judge denies the incident occurred, and his and Keyser’s lawyers said this week that their clients are ready to fully cooperate with the FBI.

“The FBI will do what the committee didn’t and work to corroborate aspects of what Dr. Ford said,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago.

One of the first things the FBI will do, Cramer said, is talk to Judge, who was the only other eyewitness to the alleged assault.

Experts said that while the night of the alleged attack is etched in Ford’s memory, for other witnesses, it may have been like any other night, which could be why Judge and others who Ford says were there say they don’t recall the gathering.

But Ford testified to the committee that six to eight weeks after the assault, she ran into Judge at the Potomac Safeway, a local supermarket where he worked, and that Judge was uncomfortable and “looked a little bit ill” when he saw her.

She added that she believed she could be “much more helpful” in providing details about her alleged assault if she knew the exact date or time period that Judge worked at the supermarket.

NBC News reported that the FBI has not been authorized to pull Judge’s employment records.

“That is crazy,” Cramer said of the constraint. “If he worked at the store where Ford says she saw him, it would corroborate one part of her testimony. Albeit, that is not a critical element, but it adds to the mix. The flip side is also true: if Mark Judge never worked at the store, then it calls into question one part of Ford’s story.”

Ford’s allegation is at the center of the FBI’s background check, but Cramer said it’s critical for investigators to talk to witnesses in addition to the four people currently on the list, because it would help them establish a fact pattern about Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school and college.

“Drinking habits are something that are regularly explored as part of routine background checks (along with drugs),” said the former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa. “It probably came up in one of his earliest checks, but without indications that it resulted in harm to others would not have been pursued. Now that has changed.”

Kavanaugh says he is certain he did not assault anyone, and does not ever recall doing so, because he never drank so much that he could have forgotten his actions.

If the FBI spoke to multiple witnesses who said they frequently saw Kavanaugh drink heavily or black out, it could undercut a key part of that defense.

Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook also appears to contain multiple references to partying and drinking that seem to contradict some statements he made under oath.

Extracts of his high school yearbook are displayed as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

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Extracts of his high school yearbook are displayed as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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Saul Loeb/Getty Images

He said during his testimony that the term “Devil’s Triangle,” which shows up on his yearbook page and is slang for sex between two men and one woman, was a reference to a drinking game. Kavanaugh added that another comment in his yearbook that reads, “Judge – have you boofed yet?” referred to flatulence.

Kavanaugh also faced questions about two other yearbook entries, one that read “Georgetown vs. Louisville – Who Won That Game Anyway?” and another tha read “Orioles vs. Red Sox – Who Won Anyway?”

In both cases, Kavanaugh told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse he didn’t know which team won each game not because he was drunk, but because he was having too much fun with his friends.

“By explicitly denying under oath that he ever drank to excess, which goes to his veracity and credibility with regard to Dr. Ford, he himself has made it a central issue,” Rangappa said. “Had he been transparent about it, that would likely not be the case.”

Many of Kavanaugh’s former classmates have since come forward to the media and said what Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee does not square with what they witnessed when they knew him in college.

None of those people are on the list of witnesses the FBI has been permitted to question.

Rangappa suggested this was a deliberate move on the part of Senate Republicans and the White House.

“This is why the [White House] doesn’t want the FBI to inquire about [Kavanaugh’s] drinking at Yale,” she said. “[Because] there are classmates ready to directly contradict him, which would open him up to perjuring himself to the Senate (and therefore a disqualifier separate and apart from the Ford allegation).”

Cramer agreed.

“There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” he said. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”

The White House and GOP have constrained the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh far more than previously known, and experts say ‘it would be comical if it wasn’t so important’

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh takes the oath before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

caption
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh takes the oath before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
source
Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

  • The FBI’s supplemental background check on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is far more constrained by Republicans and the White House than previously known.
  • Legal experts suggested the restrictions are intended to handicap the investigation and shield Kavanaugh from legal exposure related to sexual-misconduct allegations and a potential perjury charge.
  • “There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” said one DOJ veteran. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”

A steady trickle of revelations over the weekend indicates that the FBI’s supplemental background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is far more limited than previously known.

The original parameters, Republican lawmakers said, were that the inquiry should be constrained to “current credible” allegations against Kavanaugh and that it should be completed within one week.

But NBC News and The New York Times reported on Saturday that in addition to those limitations, Republicans and the White House gave the FBI a list of just four witnesses to interview. Investigators have also reportedly not been permitted to scour certain records that could be critical to ascertaining the credibility of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

The FBI will probe aspects of sexual misconduct allegations made by all three women who have come forward against Kavanaugh, but it does not reportedly plan to directly question the third, Julie Swetnick, about her claims.

The White House counsel Don McGahn, who is in charge of guiding Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, is also directing the FBI on the scope of its background check.

“That seems like a clear conflict of interest,” said Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond and an expert on federal judicial selection.

Norm Eisen, who served as the Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform under President Barack Obama, said he helped vet “hundreds” of presidential nominees when he worked at the White House.

“Every one got an FBI background check,” he added. “We never told the FBI which witnesses they could and could not interview. It’s not just [Democrats] who want an investigation–so do Flake, Collins & Murkowski. But it must be a real one.”

He was referring to GOP Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, all of whom have expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s nomination in light of the allegations against him. All three backed a one-week delay in the final vote in order for the FBI to investigate the claims.

But the way the investigation is currently being conducted, said Susan Hennessey, the managing editor of the national-security blog Lawfare, is a “sham.”

President Donald Trump disputed some of the reporting on Saturday night, tweeting that he wants the FBI “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”

‘The FBI will do what the committee didn’t’

Christine Blasey Ford.

caption
Christine Blasey Ford.
source
Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

The four witnesses the FBI has been permitted to question so far are Ramirez, Mark Judge, Leland Keyser, and PJ Smyth.

Ford said all four witnesses were present at a high school gathering in 1982 during which she alleges Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Ford said she was pushed into a bedroom from behind and that an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her down on the bed, groped her over her clothes, and covered her mouth when she tried to yell for help. She said she was able to escape before things escalated.

Ford added that Judge, Kavanaugh’s longtime friend, was an eyewitness to the attack and was also intoxicated at the time. Keyser and Smyth say they do not recall such a gathering. Judge denies the incident occurred, and his and Keyser’s lawyers said this week that their clients are ready to fully cooperate with the FBI.

“The FBI will do what the committee didn’t and work to corroborate aspects of what Dr. Ford said,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago.

One of the first things the FBI will do, Cramer said, is talk to Judge, who was the only other eyewitness to the alleged assault.

Experts said that while the night of the alleged attack is etched in Ford’s memory, for other witnesses, it may have been like any other night, which could be why Judge and others who Ford says were there say they don’t recall the gathering.

But Ford testified to the committee that six to eight weeks after the assault, she ran into Judge at the Potomac Safeway, a local supermarket where he worked, and that Judge was uncomfortable and “looked a little bit ill” when he saw her. She added, during her testimony this week, that she believed she could be “much more helpful” in providing details about her alleged assault if she knew the exact date or time period that Judge worked at the supermarket.

NBC News reported that the FBI has not been authorized to pull Judge’s employment records.

“That is crazy,” Cramer said of the constraint. “If he worked at the store where Ford says she saw him, it would corroborate one part of her testimony. Albeit, that is not a critical element, but it adds to the mix. The flip side is also true: if Mark Judge never worked at the store, then it calls into question one part of Ford’s story.”

Ford’s allegation is at the center of the FBI’s background check, but Cramer said it’s critical for investigators to talk to witnesses in addition to the four people currently on the list, because it would help them establish a fact pattern about Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school and college.

“Drinking habits are something that are regularly explored as part of routine background checks (along with drugs),” said the former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa. “It probably came up in one of his earliest checks, but without indications that it resulted in harm to others would not have been pursued. Now that has changed.”

For instance, if the FBI spoke to multiple witnesses who said they frequently saw Kavanaugh drink heavily or black out, it could undercut a key part of his defense against the allegations. Specifically, Kavanaugh says he is certain he did not assault anyone, and does not ever recall doing so, because he never drank so much that he could have forgotten his actions.

But his high school yearbook appears to contain multiple references to partying and drinking that seem to contradict some of Kavanaugh’s statements, many of which were made under oath.

Extracts of his high school yearbook are displayed as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

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Extracts of his high school yearbook are displayed as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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Saul Loeb/Getty Images

He said during his testimony that the term “Devil’s Triangle,” which shows up on his yearbook page and is slang for sex between two men and one woman, was a reference to a drinking game. Kavanaugh added that another comment in his yearbook that reads, “Judge – have you boofed yet?” referred to flatulence.

Kavanaugh also faced questions about two other yearbook entries, one that read “Georgetown vs. Louisville – Who Won That Game Anyway?” and another tha read “Orioles vs. Red Sox – Who Won Anyway?”

In both cases, Kavanaugh told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, he didn’t know which team won each game not because he was drunk, but because he was having too much fun with his friends.

“By explicitly denying under oath that he ever drank to excess, which goes to his veracity and credibility with regard to Dr. Ford, he himself has made it a central issue,” Rangappa said. “Had he been transparent about it, that would likely not be the case.”

Many of Kavanaugh’s former classmates have since come forward to the media and said what Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee does not square with what they witnessed when they knew him in college.

None of those people are on the list of witnesses the FBI has been permitted to question.

Rangappa suggested this was a deliberate move on the part of Senate Republicans and the White House.

“This is why the [White House] doesn’t want the FBI to inquire about [Kavanaugh’s] drinking at Yale,” she said. “[Because] there are classmates ready to directly contradict him, which would open him up to perjuring himself to the Senate (and therefore a disqualifier separate and apart from the Ford allegation).”

Cramer agreed.

“There isn’t a finder of fact in the country that would hamstring investigators like this,” he said. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so important.”

11 things you should do in the 15 minutes before a job interview

Stay calm with a breathing exercise.

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Stay calm with a breathing exercise.
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Renat Latyshev/Strelka Institute/Flickr

Stay calm with a breathing exercise.

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Stay calm with a breathing exercise.
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Renat Latyshev/Strelka Institute/Flickr
  • The 15 minutes before your job interview are crucial.
  • You need to stay calm, get focused, and be confident.
  • Remember to show up no earlier than 10 minutes before the interview, and to check a mirror before you walk into the office.

The 15 minutes before a job interview can be harrowing. Job seekers are never quite sure what to do with that time – but experts suggest that you look in a mirror, take deep breaths, and do whatever else it takes to get focused and stay calm.

“Those 15 minutes are your opportunity to get yourself into the right frame of mind, and set your energy and focus on who you’ll be meeting with, what you want them to remember about you, and what you want to ask them,” says Deborah Shane, a career author, speaker, and media and marketing consultant.

Here are 11 things you should do in the 15 minutes before a job interview:


Stay calm

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Dmitry Smirnov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

When you become stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. Depending on the level of your stress, these can inhibit your ability to think clearly, said David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach, and author.

“Ensuring that you remain calm, collected, and cool in the minutes leading up to the interview is necessary to avoid this hormonal elixir, and keep your mind clear,” Parnell said.

Career coach Anita Attridge added that staying calm before and during an interview allows you to listen better and to stay focused on how to best respond to questions.

“In addition, you are better able to think how you can best present your accomplishments in alignment with what is important to the interviewer – and being calm also demonstrates your ability to deal with stressful situations,” Attridge said.


Arrive early, but don’t go inside

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Few things can shake you more than running late to an interview, so always arrive early – but no more than 10 minutes early.

If you’re earlier than that, wait in your car or a nearby café, as being too early can place unnecessary pressure on your interviewer and start the meeting off on the wrong foot, Parnell said.

Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach, agrees. “It can come across as an imposition, as if you are expecting the interviewer to drop whatever he or she is doing to attend to you.”


Be friendly to all receptionists and security guards

When you do walk into the office’s waiting room (which should be about 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time), remember to be nice to the receptionist, security guards, or whoever greets you.

“It’s very likely that he or she will be reporting back to the hiring manager about how you behaved,” Friedman said.

Hopefully, you were planning on being friendly anyways.


Decide on one or two things you want to be remembered for

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WOCinTech Chat/Flickr

What makes you different from other applicants, and what do you know the company is looking for? Project management, communication savvy, or another skillset that sets you apart?

“Keying in on a few things that will impact your memorability and likeability is a smart way to approach the interview,” Shane said.


Stop rehearsing

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

You don’t want to use this time to over-prepare or rehearse responses, which can make your conversation seem scripted and not authentic.

“You want to know your stuff, but remember your interview is a conversation. Trust that you know what you know, and that the interview will take on a flow of its own,” Shane said.


Breathe

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

Feeling nervous? Try a breathing exercise.

This will help with the first tip, which is to remain calm.

“Counting your breath is one of the most immediate and impactful techniques for calming your nerves,” Parnell said. “Simply focus on your breaths, counting each until you reach 10, and repeat.”


Focus on your posture

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Sitting up straight, along with maintaining eye contact and minimizing your use of filler words, communicates that you’re confident and professional, wrote Fran Hauser, author of “The Myth of the Nice Girl.”

“You’ll come across as looking more confident and poised,” Friedman added.

Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin wrote on exactly how to maintain great sitting posture:

First, sit at the end of your chair (that’s right, don’t rely on your backrest). Let your body go into a slouching position. Now, try to sit up straight, accentuating the curve of your back as much as possible. Hold this position for a few seconds. Next, release the position a little bit.

Be sure your feet are on flat on the floor and your shoulders are relaxed, too.


Don’t check the news, your email, or social media

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LStockStudio/Shutterstock

Now is not the time to read up on political news.

You may hear or read something that will get you all worked up, Shane said. Then, you’ll be distracted and harried rather than calm and confident.


Briefly review your notes, but don’t do any additional research

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Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

You should be done researching, preparing, and rehearsing.

But if you made any notes for yourself, this is a good time to briefly look them over.

“This is not the time to be using your phone to look up the company’s recent achievements or earnings report,” Friedman said. “Giving big numbers of projects a glance at the last second is a good way to misinterpret key information.”


Look in a mirror

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jesterpop/Shutterstock

Duck into a nearby restroom or clothing store to check yourself out in the mirror.

“You may have left the house looking like a million dollars, but you could still arrive looking like a vagabond,” Friedman said.

This is also a great time to wash your hands and make sure your fingernails are clean and your palms are dry. If you wore comfortable shoes and plan on changing into dress shoes, be sure not to do this in the office.


Think happy thoughts

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Mikhail Goldenkov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

This may sound cliché, but thinking of pleasant things that make you smile and feel good will help put you in the right state of mind going in to the interview.

A smile can do wonders on how people perceive you.

Jacquelyn Smith contributed to a previous version of this post.

Kanye West went on a pro-Trump rant at the end of ‘SNL’ that wasn’t seen on TV — and the audience wasn’t impressed

Kanye West wearing his MAGA hat on the

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Kanye West wearing his MAGA hat on the “SNL” stage next to host Adam Driver and cast member Kenan Thompson.
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Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

  • At the end of Saturday’s “SNL” premiere, Kanye West took a moment to deliver a speech while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
  • While performing the song “Ghost Town,” West talked politics, referenced possibly running in 2020 again, and addressed why he supports Trump.
  • West also claimed he was bullied backstage to not wear his “MAGA” hat.
  • Comedian and actor Chris Rock was in attendance and captured a lot of it on video, which you can watch below.

Kanye West performed three times on “Saturday Night Live,” but there’s one more moment of his that was cut during the final broadcast.

As the “SNL” credits rolled, West took the stage at the show’s end to perform a surprise third song, “Ghost Town,” wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.

The rapper used the song as a moment to address the crowd in a pro-Trump speech that touched on everything from the possibility of West running in 2020 to why he supports Trump.

“I wanna cry right now. Black man in America, you’re supposed to keep what you feel inside right now,” West sang, according to People. “And the liberals bully you and tell you what you can and cannot wear, where you and they can’t not stare. And they look at me and say, ‘It’s not fair. How the hell did you get here?'”

Kanye West talks about supporting Trump on the

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Kanye West talks about supporting Trump on the “SNL” stage.
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@ChrisRock/Instagram

“Actually, blacks weren’t always Democrats,” he continued in a speech. “It’s like a plan they did to take the fathers out the homes and promote welfare. Does anybody know about that? That’s the Democratic plan.”

In video that made it to YouTube from the end of the show, West also claimed on the “SNL” stage he was “bullied” backstage to not wear the “MAGA” hat on television.

“They bullied me backstage. They bullied me and then they say I’m in the sunken place,” West told the SNL crowd. “You want to see the sunken place? OK. I’m gonna listen to y’all now. I’m gonna put my Superman cape on because this means you can’t tell me what to do.”

Chris Rock, who was in the audience, captured most of the moment that didn’t make it on TV on his Instagram story.

“So many times I talk to a white person about this and [they] say, ‘How could you like Trump he’s racist?’ Well, if I was concerned about racism I would’ve moved out of America a long time ago,” West can be heard saying.

During the filming of the Instagram story, Rock can be heard laughing to himself saying, “My God.”

According to Deadline and People, West received a “smattering of boos.” A few claps can be heard in the videos posted to YouTube and Rock’s Instagram, but it’s mostly an overwhelming silence as West speaks.

“I think the universe has balance,” West said as his speech came to a close. “90% of news are liberals – 90% of TV, LA, New York, writers, rappers, musicians. So, it’s easy to make it seem like it’s so, so, so one-sided. I feel kinda free. I thought this country said I could be me.”

You can watch most of West’s speech here:

You can watch Rock’s Instagram story below:

Before his appearance on “SNL,” West announced on Twitter he was changing his name to “Ye.” The artist was expected to drop a new album, “Yandhi,” Saturday night.

Earlier in the evening, West dressed up as a bottle of Perrier to perform “I Love It” with Lil Pump.

Expect to see West back on “SNL” this season. The rapper said he spoke with “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels who agreed he “would host before the year is out.”

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