Saturday, July 16, 2016

Coup In Turkey Apparently Fails

It appears that the attempted coup in Turkey has failed as even the anti-Erdogan parties as well as senior military commanders did not support the coup which pretty much guaranteed its failure. As I mentioned before, President Erdogan will use this opportunity expand his autocratic powers. In addition to the thousands of military personnel that have been rounded up, apparently over 2,700 judges have also been dismissed, though it is hard to see how they were involved in the coup. And, I fear, this is only the beginning of the payback that Erdogan has promised. Hopefully, the international community can temper Erdogan's thirst for retribution, but, in the past, he has always gone overboard in his retaliations. Trying to overthrow a democratically elected government is never a good thing, but I do wonder if a few years down the road some Turks will question whether they wished they had done more to support the coup plotters.

Natural Weekends - Yosemite, Glacier Point

Friday, July 15, 2016

Not An Auspicious Start For Trump-Pence Ticket

As I constantly say with the Trump campaign, it's two steps forward, two steps back. After his VP pick of Mike Pence was leaked, Trump apparently wanted to backtrack and reconsider his choice, which does not indicate a lot of confidence in Pence. And then they came out with a widely ridiculed logo which only highlights Trump's ego and what Pence can expect as Trump's new lackey.

Needless to say, the pundits are having a field day.

GOP Senator Tillis Doesn't Think Confirming Judges Is His Job

I have already documented the staggering levels of obstruction by the Republican Senate to confirm judges nominated by President Obama. And one of the longest unfilled spots in the judiciary is the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. This seat has remained unfilled for the last 10 and a half years and one of the Senators responsible for that district these days is none other than Republican Thom Tillis. Tillis also serves on the Judiciary Committee which has unanimously recommended 23 nominations to the full Senate. The nomination to fill the North Carolina vacancy has not even been considered by the Judiciary Committee even though the other Republican Senator from North Carolina recommended Obama's nominee in 2009.

As has been a pretty regular occurrence these days, Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono try to move the nominations of these 23 judges forward in the Senate. And each time Republican Thom Tillis blocks their move. But you can imagine Democrats' surprise the other day when Tillis blocked another move to vote on these judges by saying, "What we get [from Democrats] are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs. I’m doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters."

Of course, one of the responsibilities of the Senate that is clearly laid out in Article II of the Constitution is the confirmation of judges:

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

I'm guessing that Senator Tillis, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, has some familiarity with the Constitution. But these days, with Republicans, you never really know. I do know that Merrick Garland, 23 judges, over-worked courts, and citizens around this country would really like Republican Senators to do their job.

Opioid Prescriptions Drop When Medical Marijuana Is Available

I guess we have a better idea of why the government has never spent any money studying the health effects of marijuana. It's not just the usual conservative opposition to anything that would make the "hippies" happy, it probably has more to do with opposition from the pharmaceutical industry whose products would be impacted by the use of medical marijuana. A recent study looked at the drop in prescriptions for certain drug categories under Medicare Part D in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws.  The chart below summarizes the findings:

That adds up to over 4,500 fewer prescriptions and saved Medicare Part D $165 million. The study suggests that Medicare would save over $500 million if all 50 states participated in a medical marijuana program.

The study clearly shows that medical marijuana works and is being used responsibly to treat a real medical situations as opposed to just an additional recreational use. But more importantly, the reduced number of opioid prescriptions will reduce dependency and overdoses on those powerful narcotics. And that is why Big Pharma has been fighting marijuana all along the way. They rely on dependency to keep generating those profits. And those overdoses are just collateral damage to them. Under a doctor's care, marijuana is cheaper and just as, or perhaps more, effective than narcotics with fewer of the negative risks. We could have learned this years ago but we now know why we didn't.

Connecticut Asks Citizens To Conserve Water In Moderate Drought

With rainfall in the last couple of months in Connecticut at its eleventh lowest level in 120 years, about 6 inches below normal for this time of year, the Connecticut Department of Public Health and Aquarion Water are asking residents to conserve water and reduce non-essential outdoor water use. Hopefully, this will inspire a few more households to forgo their water-gulping green lawns and replace them with drought-tolerant plants that are even more beautiful. And maybe Connecticut could offer a rebate for doing so like they do in San Francisco. But somehow I doubt it.

Reported Coup In Turkey

It's tough to know what exactly is happening but it appears that there has been an attempt at some sort of military coup in Turkey. If it is a real coup and it is not successful, I would expect President Erdogan to crack down even harder on any internal dissent and move that country even close to a dictatorship. It will be interesting to see how the European Union reacts to this crisis and its aftermath.

Trump Picks Pence For VP For No Good Reason

Donald Trump has chosen Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, as his running mate. With his positions cracking down on reproductive rights and the rights of the LGBT community, Pence is somewhat popular with traditional conservatives even as his approval rating in Indiana has dropped into the 40s. His fight for a "religious liberty" law that would allow businesses to refuse service due to gender identity or sexual preference has cost the state thousands of jobs and hurt his popularity in the state. In fact, Pence is running neck-and-neck with Democrat John Gregg in the gubernatorial race which Pence is required to drop out of by accepting the Vice Presidential slot. In fact, some Indiana Republicans are only too happy to see Pence go.

As for what he will do for Trump, it is hard to say. If Trump was going to have trouble winning Indiana, he wasn't going to win the election. Perhaps Pence can bring some conservatives along but it's not like he has a strong national following. And he is hardly known as a dynamic speaker or inspiring campaigner, but Trump covers that area totally. Apparently the Trump campaign feels that he could handle the policy details, which is an area that obviously totally disinterests Trump. But other than being a white middle-aged man from a red state in the Midwest with some legislative and executive experience, it's really hard to see what he can add to the ticket when 90% of the electorate has never heard of him.

The conservatives first choice among those Trump short-listed was, of course, Newt Gingrich. And Newt made one of the most appalling last-ditch appeals for the VP slot by out-Trumping Trump. In response to the attack in Nice yesterday, Gingrich said, "We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization...Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail...I mean, if you’re not prepared to monitor the mosque, this whole thing is a joke...These people are opposed to our way of life. They are opposed to our value system. They are opposed to our various religions". Needless to say, we might as well throw away the Constitution at this point with Newt. Loyalty oaths, felonies for reading certain material, ditching freedom of religion, why stop there? Well, actually he didn't. He added, "If we can’t destroy them through the internet, we should destroy them with kinetic power, using various weapons starting with Predators, and frankly just killing them." I'm not sure what kinetic power Newt is referring to, but every so often Newt does seem to come from another planet. While Newt's statements are downright scary, what is more frightening is that he believes that they are the perfect resume for the Vice Presidency of a major party. History will look back at these days with disbelief and fear.

Ailes, Murdochs Try To Move Carlson's Case To Arbitration

Roger Ailes and the Murdoch family are apparently desperate to get Gretchen Carlson's case out of court and into the forced arbitration that was included in her employment contract.  Recently, we have seen courts start to rule against these forced arbitration clauses and, in fact, the law is unclear right now as the Fifth and Seventh Circuit have entered conflicting opinions about their use. The final decision will eventually have to be made by the Supreme Court; but you can imagine a 4-4 split that would not resolve the issue if the case went to the Court right now. (Wouldn't it be nice to have a ninth justice so that cases like this could actually get resolved?)

Calson's employment contract includes the forced arbitration but also essentially restricts Carlson from speaking publicly about her case. But Carlson's suit may be able to bypass this issue simply because she only sued Roger Ailes personally. Obviously, Fox News has a pretty hostile working environment based on just the videos of stuff that went on during "Fox & Friends" and numerous other reports. But by only focusing on Ailes, she can make the point that the complaint is not covered under her employment contract which is with Fox News. And, presumably, Fox News did not instruct Ailes to proposition her. Yes, it may be a bit of a reach, but it will keep the heat on Ailes and Fox for quite a bit longer. And it's not necessarily good PR to declare your innocence while at the same time trying to move the case to arbitration where there can be no publicity. You just have to wonder how much longer the Murdochs will go before they have to cut Ailes loose.

Finally, this is yet another example of how abusive these forced arbitration contracts are. You should not have to give up your constitutional rights simply to get a job.

What Is Not Morally Acceptable To Paul Ryan?

I know I'm a bit late to this story, but I wanted to highlight Paul Ryan's answer to the question of how he could morally justify supporting Donald Trump after his racist and Islamophobic rhetoric. Take a look at the whole clip:

Ryan starts off by saying that not voting for Donald Trump will help Hillary Clinton be elected. Quite true, but the questioner already gave his reasons why he could not do it. Ryan proceeds to say that he and others should speak out when they disagree with what Trump is saying, as the questioner has done. Then Ryan goes into how Republican policies will not got adopted if Hillary Clinton is elected and the direction of the Supreme Court will be set for a generation. Then he runs through the Ryan "agenda" which will not get done under Hillary because she represent a "third Obama term". He concludes with "It's a binary choice. It is either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. You don’t get a third option. One or the other. And I know where I want to go."

Now, he could have just stated that not every Republican or Democrat supports every policy laid out by their candidate but still support their nominee. And that he strongly objected to Trump's comments and xenophobic policies and he would oppose them if introduced as legislation but that he would still support the nominee. Instead, he actually was making the argument that racism and xenophobia were actually better than losing the election and the chance to pass some of his pet legislation. This really prompts the next question for Ryan. Would he still support a candidate who vowed to call a national emergency, declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, but would pass the Ryan agenda. Would that still be morally acceptable to Ryan. Where, exactly, would he draw the line?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Trump Campaign Can't Quite Stay On Track

I have already mentioned how difficult Paul Manafort's job is managing the Trump campaign and a candidate that constantly wants to go off script. And for every couple of steps forward, there always seems to be about two steps back as well. After being incredibly restrained (for Trump) about the shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas, and gearing up for a Vice Presidential announcement on Friday, it certainly looked like Trump was at least trying to present a more reasonable face to the campaign.

But for those two steps forward, there were some setbacks. First, his ill-fated solicitations of MPs of countries around the world not only triggered an Federal Elections Commission complaint but also apparently resulted in nearly 80% of the emails being caught in spam filters and a suspension of his account from one bulk email platform due to security and legal concerns. Certainly not the end of the world but not exactly great PR for a supposedly fantastic businessman. More problematic may be the $10 million lawsuit that Trump has filed against a former staffer, who was fired from the campaign for racist posts he wrote in 2007, for violating his non-disclosure agreement in supposedly leaking to the NY Post a story of an affair between two top Trump staffers. In response, the staffer is alleging that the Trump campaign illegally co-mingled corporate and campaign funds. Again, allegations by a fired former staffer are not necessarily the end of the world but it is once again a needless distraction for the campaign. And as it is now a legal matter initiated by the Trump campaign, it is going to make it much more difficult for the story to go away without it looking like Trump has something to hide. And it just adds to the narrative of Trump using the courts to intimidate people who oppose him or to whom he owes money.

As I said, neither of these issues seems to be a serious threat to Trump's campaign. But it does seem that Trump can't go an entire week just staying on message without some other distraction interfering. And, no matter how much Manafort tries, I think it will be like this for the rest of the campaign.

Freedom Caucus Demands Impeachment Of IRS Commisioner

Apparently there just is no controlling the Freedom Caucus in the House. They are trying to force Paul Ryan's hand by getting him to set a date to vote to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Republican House leaders have no interest in impeaching Koskinen, perhaps because they have some political antennae that tells them historic impeachment proceedings over a minor management issue are probably not the best optics when you can't get a budget passed, don't display any interest in tackling the actual problems the country faces, and have Merrick Garland still waiting for a hearing over in the Senate to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. But the Freedom Caucus will have their way. If Ryan does not schedule a vote, they will file a "privileged resolution" that will bypass Ryan and bring it to the floor for a vote. Of course, the vote will not succeed so it will all come to nothing. But, for some reason, this waste of time will make the Freedom Caucus happy - well, maybe not happy; how about less grumpy.

May Appoints Johnson As Foreign Secretary To Almost Universal Derision

Theresa May has unveiled her cabinet selections and the biggest surprise (or is it shock) is that Boris Johnson will be Foreign Secretary.  You really have to wonder what May's thinking is with this choice. Johnson is not the guy you associate with quiet, understated diplomacy while driving hard bargains behind closed doors. Rather he is known for off-the-cuff and often inappropriate remarks and many European leaders apparently despise him. So you really have to wonder what May was thinking. As Foreign Secretary, Johnson will be required to do lots of traveling, keeping away from home and perhaps plotting against her. She may also be thinking that it won't take long for Boris to have a major faux-pas and then she could sack him. Or with David Davis handling the Brexit negotiations and Liam Fox handling trade, Johnson's job might actually become more like an American Vice President, traveling the globe to go the dignitaries' funerals and visiting remote countries with little strategic importance. Or perhaps he will be the bad cop to David Davis' good cop in the Brexit negotiations, although that seems less likely. Whatever her rationale for the appointment was, it has been met with pretty much universal derision which is probably not the first impression May would like to make. And I'm sure it makes Britain's allies even more uncomfortable and uneasy about Britain's place in the world going forward.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Brexit Update - May Takes Over As Pressure Builds

So long David Cameron and hello Theresa May. Today, David Cameron turn over the keys to Britain to Theresa May who became the new Conservative party leader and, therefore, the new Prime Minister, after Andrea Leadsom, her last challenger, dropped out of the leadership race. I'm not close enough to British politics to give you any kind of personal read on May and I would guess that the majority of people in Britain are in the same position. According to press reports, she can be moralistic and difficult to work with, while others say she is always willing to make a deal in the end.  On the plus side, she seems to be trying to encroach on traditional issues of the Labor party, which is now in total disarray, by talking about curbing excessive executive pay and having greater representation for workers and consumers on corporate boards. So it would seem her moralistic streak could be reflected in a more "compassionate capitalism". Whether this actually creates any results or is just lip service to the disgruntled working class remains to be seen. On the other hand, her tendency to micromanage does not bode well for a well-functioning government and her apparent unwillingness to offer government posts in return for support for her leadership run, while morally commendable, may also indicate an unwillingness to make the necessary deals to get things done in the dirty business of politics.

May has insisted that Brexit will go forward but the road ahead will be difficult. Her party is split in two over the issue so finding the right balance to move forward will be critical. Some poor leave supporter will be appointed the thankless task of negotiating the split with the Europeans but eventually the results will be May's responsibility. She insists that Britain can maintain its trading relations with Europe while at the same time limiting immigration, an issue that has become a lightning rod with the electorate. But it is doubtful that European leaders will go along with that plan. And, at least initially, any major setback would put her leadership position in doubt - she has not been elected by the people and a significant part of her party still opposes Brexit.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the vote continues with Gerry Adams demanding an Irish referendum on Brexit that would allow Northern Ireland and Ireland to vote on reunification, thereby allowing Northern Ireland to stay in the EU. This follows on a similar threat in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon. In addition, Parliament will actually have a debate later this fall over whether to have a second vote on Brexit because an online petition to reconsider the initial vote reached 4.1 million signatures, well over the 100,000 to force a Parliamentary debate. Right now, it is doubtful that the debate will lead to any changes, but a lot could happen between now and then.  Although the UK stock markets have recovered, the pound has still fallen over 10% and many economists are predicting a recession for the country as uncertainty over its futures drives business away.

On the continent, the Brexit vote has also created its own set of problems. The slowdown in trade with Britain has put additional pressure on Italy's overstretched banks, with two major Italian banks on the verge of collapsing with over non-performing loans amounting to 15% of the total on their books. While the Italian government would like to bail out those banks, European rules do not permit that. Instead depositors' money would be used to shore up the banks, putting the depositors at risk. Needless to say, any move like that would probably create a bank run similar to what happened in Cyprus in 2013 when depositors were "bailed-in" to shore up that nation's banks. It is highly doubtful, therefore, that the Italians will go down that road.

Because of the economic strains that Brexit is causing for Europe, leaders there are now pushing for a quick resolution to the British exit. Yesterday, Merkel said, "The United Kingdom will need to quickly clarify how it wants its ties with the European Union to be in future." On the other hand, Britain seems in no rush to invoke Article 50 and begin negotiations for exit until early next year. With both sides feeling pressure from a long period of uncertainty and instability, it is difficult to imagine that something will have to happen much sooner than that.

Open Carry Law Creates Problems For GOP Convention And Cleveland

It looks like it is becoming a bit problematic for Republicans but even more so for the city of Cleveland to be hosting a national convention in an open carry state. Tensions around the country are already heightened after the killings of black civilians by police and then the murder of five police officers in Dallas a few days ago. Add that to Donald Trump's virulent rhetoric and you have a real headache for Cleveland Police which only last year entered into a consent decree with Justice Department to rein its use of excessive force after the shootings of Tamir Rice in 2014 and of two unarmed civilians in 2012.

With right wing groups like the Oath Keepers and radical groups like the New Black Panther Party both armed to the teeth and running around downtown Cleveland, the city will look more like a third world country whose government has collapsed. And the potential for violence that could easily escalate will be high. The irony, of course, is that the actual convention area in the Quicken Loans Arena will be a heightened security zone and no guns will be allowed onto the convention floor. Because even though we constantly hear many Republican politicians make the (bogus) claim that open-carry laws make us all safer, that apparently doesn't apply when those very same politicians actually gather and meet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Court Rules Chinese Claims In South China Sea Without Merit

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued an important ruling that Chinese claims to sovereignty over areas of the South China Sea are without merit. China has spent the last few years essentially building islands with two landing strips in the Spratly Islands as well as flexing its naval might in various regions the South China Sea. China's claims over that area include some vital fishing grounds and, more importantly, substantial reserves of oil and natural gas. The ruling specifically stated that China had encroached on the Philippines fishing rights and violated the Philippine's sovereignty by exploring for oil and gas in Philippine waters.

China apparently made a tactical error in boycotting the tribunal which handed the Chinese a devastating legal defeat. In addition to the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan also welcomed the ruling while Taiwan, which has also made similar claims for other islands in the South China Sea, objected.  This ruling will only raise tensions in the area and, since the Court has no power to enforce its ruling, it is quite possible that China's overwhelming military presence may make the ruling moot. This specific scenario is what essentially drove the most recent election in Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a landslide victory that will not only allow him to continue to revive the economy but, more importantly, possibly rewrite the Japanese constitution to allow Japan to rebuild its military power. That change is driven by North Korea's rogue actions but even more so by the increasing naval power of the Chinese.

The South China Sea has long been seen as the next arena of superpower military skirmishes. This ruling and the reactions it has provoked signal just the beginning of the battle over this important area.

Sanders Gives Strong Endorsement To Clinton

Bernie Sanders gave his full-throated endorsement to Hillary Clinton today, making it clear that the over-arching goal for the remainder of the campaign is to make sure she defeats Donald Trump. As I've written many times before, Sanders has helped move to party and Clinton herself in a progressive direction not only during the campaign but also during the last month of intense negotiations after Clinton had secured the nomination. Articles and pundits are sure to find plenty of still disgruntled Sanders supporters unwilling to go along with Hillary - we hear those stories after every primary campaign. Virtually all those supporters will come around in the end, especially when the choice between Clinton and Trump is so stark.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Baton Rouge PD Exemplifies Over-Militarization Of Police

It is sad but true that this is happening in America today. If this image does not demonstrate the over-militarization of our police, I don't know what will.

Bernie Gets Clinton, Dems To Endorse Public Option And $15 Minimum Wage

You really have to hand it to Bernie Sanders. He ran a great campaign against a Clinton juggernaut that no other big name Democrat was willing to take on. He rallied the progressive wing of the party and a lot of young voters to his cause. And he really played hardball with Clinton and the Democratic establishment even after Clinton had clearly won the nomination, using every ounce of his leverage right up until the end. And he's gotten results.  Last week, Clinton basically adopted his plan for free college tuition. And over the weekend, he also got two huge concessions from the Clinton camp. First, he got the Democratic platform to adopt his proposal for the $15 minimum wage. On Saturday, he also got Clinton to endorse the "public option" within Obamacare and to allow people to enroll in Medicare at age 55.  This is a huge win that will help millions of Americans if it becomes law and set us on the path to a real national health care system like every other industrialized country. Sanders was not able to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership from being adopted in the Democratic party platform, but that was mainly a concession to the Obama administration - both Sanders and Clinton oppose the treaty.

Sanders took a lot of abuse from mainstream Democrats for not getting behind Clinton as soon as it was clear that he had lost the nomination. But he hung tough and fought for hard the positions that he had run on. And he succeeded in making Clinton and the Democratic party move significantly in his direction. Tomorrow, he will endorse Clinton and hopefully bring his dedicated voters with him in a united effort to defeat Trump. Because of his campaign, Clinton is a better candidate and the Democratic party is far more progressive. Thank you, Bernie!

Roger Ailes Looking More And More Like Bill Cosby

Roger Ailes is looking more and more like Bill Cosby every day. At least six more women have come forward to accuse him of unwarranted and unwanted sexual advances. The behavior these women describe is simply disgusting and is a remarkable example of how certain men believe they can abuse their positions of power. The News Corporation, of course, has never been known for their scruples or morals. But Rupert Murdoch is quietly passing the torch to his sons who are from an entirely different generation where this is not acceptable behavior. Fox News has been an incredible asset to News Corp., but when you look at the demographics and the ratings, you really have to wonder whether the network's heyday has passed. It will be interesting to see how long the sons are willing to stand behind Ailes. I can't believe it will be for too much longer.

Liberal Coalition Barely Survives In Australian Election

I wanted to follow up on the Australian elections that I wrote about last week. Over the weekend, the Labor party candidate, Bill Shorten, finally conceded the election to the Liberal coalition leader Malcom Turnbull after over a week of vote counting that had still left the election in doubt. It still remains to be seen whether the Liberal coalition can actually form a majority government or whether it will have to bring other minor parties into a minority government. In either case, passing any legislation that does not have a pretty broad consensus will be extremely difficult. This was essentially a defeat for Turnbull and the Liberals as they had expected to maintain a clear outright majority. The razor thin margin of this vote and the possible need to rely on third parties going forward makes another election in the next year or so a real possibility.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Sports Roundup

Andy Murray won the Wimbledon singles title today with a relatively convincing 3 set win over Milos Raonic, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6. Raonic played well but Murray was at the top of his game and you never really felt that he was threatened at all during the match. The difference in the match really comae down to fact that Raonic just had many more unforced errors than Murray and you just felt that Murray had the advantage going into both tiebreaks. It was a great effort and tournament for Raonic but Murray deserved the win and his second Wimbledon title.

In Euro 2016, Portugal won a very cynical game 1-0, with a goal by Eder in extra time. The Portuguese star Cristiano Rinaldo had to leave the game in the first ten minutes with a knee injury and after his departure the game just fizzled away. France dropped their level and Portugal totally committed to defense. The late substitution of Eder provided Portugal with some offensive punch with eventually proved to be the winner on a wonderful effort by the striker. The French have plenty to rue as Griezmann missed an open header, Guignac hit the post, and the winning goal came directly after a badly missed hand ball call on the French when it was actually Eder's hand on the ball - the free kick by Guerreiro went off the crossbar and the ensuing throw-in led to Eder's goal. All in all, a very disappointing final but congratulations to Portugal for winning their first major tournament and doing it with Rinaldo.

As I write this, it appears that Brittany Lang will win the Women's US Open Golf title, defeating Anna Nordqvist in a three-hole playoff. Nordqvist had a brilliant five under par final round, while Lang three-putted the 17th hole to send the tournament to a playoff. But Nordqvist apparently grounded her club in the sand trap on the second playoff hole, incurring a two stroke penalty and virtually handing the victory to Lang. It brings back memories of Dustin Johnson a couple of years ago, but it really was an unforgivable error by Nordqvist. World number one Lydia Ko and newcomer S.H. Park both fell out of contention when they were put on the clock in the middle of the round. A crushing loss for Nordqvist and a life-changing win for Lang.

Natural Weekends - An Egret And A Heron

A couple of our fine feathered friends, an egret and a heron, came over for a little meal yesterday.

Both the heron and the egret had a few nibbles to eat - here's the heron chowing down.