Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer in the CIty

Schools out, days are longer, worthless movies and television, flip flops, it is summer time. Time to catch up on reading, family, and barbecue; we here at Rink Rats can offer some suggestions.

SUMMER MOVIES - Summertime is blockbuster time and the next few months offer a wealth of Hollywood's biggest movies.

Lots of toy flicks -- "Transformers," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" -- the latest Marvel film, "Guardians of the Galaxy," and a new comedy from Melissa McCarthy are among more than 90 films to check out this summer.

Rink Rats recommends:

'Citizen Koch'
This documentary looks into the tea party by following the group's funding, which ties back to wealthy folks like the Koch brothers. (June 6)

'Ivory Tower'
This documentary investigates whether higher education is worth the time and money. (June 13)

'Jersey Boys'
Clint Eastwood brings the popular musical to the silver screen. The film chronicles the rise of early rock 'n' rollers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Starring John Lloyd Young and Christopher Walken. (June 20)

'A Long Way Down'
Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, this comic drama follows four people who meet on a rooftop on New Year's Eve and form a support group. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots and Toni Collette. (July 11)

'The Two Faces of January'
Three people are on the run after a police officer is killed. Starring Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen. (Aug. 8)


This refreshing Cuban cocktail relies on a balance of mint, lime, rum, sugar, and club soda.

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) fresh lime juice
2 heaping teaspoons superfine sugar
1 cup crushed ice
12 fresh mint leaves, plus 5 small sprigs for garnish
1/4 cup (2 ounces) white rum
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) club soda

In 10-ounce glass (such as Collins or highball), stir together lime juice and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add 1/4 cup crushed ice. Rub mint leaves over rim of glass, then tear leaves in half and add to glass. Gently stir for 15 seconds, then add rum, remaining crushed ice, and club soda. Gently stir for 5 seconds, then tuck mint sprigs into top of glass and insert tall straw.

SUMMER DESSERT – Strawberry Shortcake with Orange Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 to 14 minutes
Servings: 8
Our classic strawberry shortcake with the addition of orange whipped cream is sure to please any palate. Tender buttermilk shortcake is filled with a pile of sweetened berries and fluffy homemade whipped cream with a hint of orange. This strawberry shortcake recipe is a keeper.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir into flour mixture until just moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 4 to 5 times with floured hands. Gently pat dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut out 8 shortcakes, gathering scraps and patting out again if necessary, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops of shortcakes with remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.
Bake shortcakes until lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully split shortcakes horizontally using a serrated knife.

Strawberry Filling
Hull and chop 15 strawberries and toss in a bowl with 2 teaspoons sugar; set aside. Combine heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and orange zest in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer on high until stiff peaks almost form. Refrigerate until ready to use. Hull and halve 20 berries lengthwise. Hull and vertically slice 8 strawberries. Use any remaining strawberries for garnish or reserve for another use.

Place the bottom halves of shortcakes, cut side up, on eight serving plates and spread each with 2 tablespoons whipped cream. Arrange 5 strawberry halves, on their sides (with the cut side facing in towards the center) around the edge of each shortcake to form a ring. Spoon chopped strawberries into the center of the ring. Top with 2 tablespoons whipped cream and place shortcake tops, cut side down, on top. Spread tops with 1 tablespoon whipped cream, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Decoratively arrange 4 to 5 strawberry slices on top and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Drop a small dollop of whipped cream in the center of sliced berries and garnish with the orange zest strips if using. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

SUMMER IN BEIJING - This sprawling city presents visiting travelers with often overwhelming levels of cognitive dissonance. After a hectoring by Chinese Communist Party officials on the unfairness of Western coverage of territorial disputes and the evils of our obsession with the Tiananmen Square massacre, it can feel like the capital of a country that remains a long way from reckoning with its past and carving out a future of greater freedom for its people.

But then you visit a company like the search engine giant Baidu and it feels like within the next generation the more oppressive aspects of the Communist regime will fall away under pressure from an exploding middle class glued to its smart phones. Baidu is doing incredible things with voice and visual recognition software aimed at mobile devices that far outstrip many of Google's current offerings.

And its director of international communications, Kaiser Kuo, a longhaired guitar player who grew up in the U.S., spoke to us about the massive new cloud data centers the company is building. These centers - designed to be highly green - are intended to enable the next generation of smart phones to be much thinner and lighter with far greater battery life as the bulk of the heavy processing work is done remotely. Just speak into this slim future phone or take a picture of something and the data centers will deliver whatever you want.

But for now, Baidu is also something of a cognitive dissonance generator. It's a search giant that trades on Nasdaq but it also must heavily censor the information it is able to provide to the Chinese people, which is among the reasons it has no plans to expand its offerings to North America, where its censorship would render it irrelevant. Try searching for Tiananmen or China's disputes with its neighbors and you will find very little objective information.

Baidu's Kuo is forthright on the topic: "We have to live within the existing constraints," he said. "We'd love to be able to give you everything. But we have to deal with reality." In these remarks, Kuo sounded much like Zhu Yinghuang, the retired former editor in chief of China Daily, whom our group also met with on Tuesday. Mr. Zhu, who was sent to the fields and factories after college during the Cultural Revolution, spoke of the "clear red lines" Chinese state-influenced media still must not cross.

Those lines are blurring just a bit with increased coverage of local-level Chinese government corruption. But even in that, Mr. Zhu noted that it was often "selective" coverage not aimed at high-level Beijing officials. "They are trying very hard to maintain control in all of the ways that they can," he said.

DEEP THROAT GARAGE IS HISTORY – Arlington, Virginia approves residential, office project that will also replace “Deep Throat” garage: One of the most historic journalism sites ... will soon vanish, following a decision by the Arlington County Board on Saturday to demolish the building and parking garage where FBI official Mark Felt secretly met with ... Bob Woodward [at parking spot 32D] ... The County Board unanimously agreed to allow Monday Properties to replace its two 12-story, 1960s-era buildings at 1401 Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn with a 28-story residential tower and a 24-story commercial building.

The parking garage ... will be razed, although the county will save the historical marker it erected in 2011, and the landowner has pledged to create a commemorative memorial to the events ... Demolition [will be] no earlier than January 2017.

TEACHER TROUBLE - A group of students representing five California public school districts have prevailed against the state and its two largest teachers' unions. We report that the student plaintiffs in Vergara v. California argued that the statutes protecting teachers' jobs serve more often to keep poor instructors in the schools, hurting students' chances to succeed. Citing the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, a judge wrote in his decision that the laws in the case "impose a real and appreciable impact on the students' fundamental right to equality of education." The ruling also agreed with the plaintiffs' arguments that the worst teachers tend to end up in underprivileged schools. We note that the verdict could encourage similar lawsuits in other states. The teachers' unions, however, said they planned to appeal the ruling.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – Starbucks soon will be helping college kids with more than pulling all-nighters. The company ... will pay a huge chunk of college tuition for its baristas and the rest of its 135,000 U.S. employees through a new partnership with Arizona State University. ... The Starbucks College Achievement Plan will fully reimburse employees enrolled as college juniors and seniors in one of more than 40 of ASU's online degree programs. Starbucks will pay partial tuition and provide need-based scholarships if students are enrolled as freshmen or sophomores.

BANKS, EDUCATION BATTLE OVER DEBIT CARDS: One of the biggest and least understood regulatory headaches for the banking industry this year isn't coming from a financial regulator but from the Education Department. The agency is poised to propose sweeping restrictions on the products banks sell to college students, after industry, schools and consumer groups failed to agree to a proposal for new rules last month. Banks argue the latest draft plan goes way too far and could put products like student debit cards and checking accounts out of business. Consumer advocates are urging Education to hold the line to keep banks from side-stepping new consumer protections, including limits on fees and disclosure rules ... In 2012, the federal government doled out about $142 billion in grants and loans to 15 million students under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, according to a Government Accountability Office report. At issue is the role that financial firms play in distributing that money and the lucrative fees they collect through deals with colleges and universities.

HAPPY 90th 41 - George H.W. Bush at the end of his parachute jump on his 90th birthday yesterday!

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Joan Ahrens …famous College Administrator, Lou Brock (75), Paul McCartney (72), Phil Mickelson (44), Meryl  Streep (65). Kathleen Turner (60), Brian Wilson (72).


WORLD CUP – Brazil to beat Spain in the World Cup Final.
2014 Season to date (38-31)

MARKET WEEK - It’s a busy Monday morning for economic reports, with investors most focused on the May industrial production and capacity utilization numbers out at 9:15 a.m. ET. Economists expect a 0.5 percent rise in industrial production following a 0.6 percent drop in April, while utilization is expected to come in at 78.9 percent for May after April’s 78.6 percent.

DRIVING THE WEEK - CFPB Director Richard Cordray testifies on the bureau's semi-annual report before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday ... The panel's oversight subcommittee holds its third hearing on allegations of discrimination at CFPB also on Tuesday ... Lew travels to the Middle East this week, with stops in Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem and Berlin ... Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin and SEC Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresny among speakers at WSJ's Annual CFO Networking Meeting on Tuesday ... Senate Banking holds a hearing Tuesday on the nominations of Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Laura Wertheimer to be inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency ... Consumer prices and housing starts on Tuesday ... FOMC policy statement on Wednesday ... The Senate's permanent investigations subcommittee holds a hearing on high frequency trading on Tuesday and a Senate subcommittee gathers for the same topic on Wednesday ... Philadelphia Fed survey on Thursday.

ALL EYES ON FED - Federal Reserve officials will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to consider whether to scale back support for an economy that is still showing signs of shakiness. The Fed will most likely continue reducing its bond-buying program, which is expected to wrap up later this year, as more attention will be paid to its economic forecasts and when the central bank will raise its benchmark interest rate. Even though the labor market is improving, most analysts expect officials to lower their outlook for growth after a rocky start to the year. "Despite these revisions, we expect the message to be patience regarding the timing of any rate hike cycle," which is still expected to come next summer, Barclays Capital analysts said in a note Friday.

Next week: Words of the month, summer concerts, and Jack Ass of the Month.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA

June 16, 2014

#V-9, 218

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