Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Feel Good: Volunteer With AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for 2016

This is a very gratifying job. Please share it. We need volunteers, including greeters.
The AARP foundation provides training.
They also need monetary donations, to pay for the computers and training materials.


Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation's largest volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance service. And we want you to join us.

We started in 1968 with just four volunteers at one site preparing 100 tax returns. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide now involves more than 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.6 million taxpayers annually at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. In fact, we're one of the most effective volunteer programs in America.

But even though we've grown a lot, we're still all about the grassroots. You'll be helping people in your own community with a much-needed service that's free, individualized and has no strings attached.

Almost four out of five people who turn to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide are 60 or older. Household incomes aren't high. For many of them, a tax refund could mean they won't have to choose between paying for groceries and keeping the lights on.

Who volunteers?

People like you. And there's a role for everyone.

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

You'll work with taxpayers directly; filling out tax returns and helping them seek a refund. Experience isn't necessary — we'll train you on the latest tax preparation forms and software.

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

You'll manage computer equipment, ensure taxpayer data security and provide technical assistance to volunteers at multiple sites.

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

You'll welcome taxpayers, help organize their paperwork and manage the overall flow of service.

Want to help us get the word out? Be a communications coordinator.

You'll promote AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and recruit volunteers in your community.

Have a knack for running things? Be a leadership or administrative volunteer.

Manage volunteers, make sure program operations run smoothly, track volunteer assignments and site activities, and maintain quality control.

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

We have a big demand for bilingual speakers. Dedicated translators who can assist our volunteers are also welcome.

Get the joy and satisfaction of helping others by applying to join the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer team today! Your expertise will be appreciated more than you can imagine.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.

Sign up to be an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Volunteer. Go

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump’s EPA May ‘Review’ California’s Car Pollution Rules

Republicans are only for states rights when it means that states are allowed to hurt people.


By John Upton
Jan. 18, 2017

It became clear Wednesday that far-reaching car pollution rules enforced by California and a handful of other states could be jeopardized if EPA nominee Scott Pruitt is confirmed by the Senate.

After repeatedly suing the EPA as Oklahoma's attorney general over what he has characterized as federal overreach, President-elect Trump’s pick to lead the agency said during his senate hearing that he plans to review whether California will be allowed to continue operating its own pollution rules affecting vehicles.

California has long set the standard nationwide on environmental regulations, and it has been enforcing pollution rules on automakers for more than 50 years that have helped to reduce smog, slow global warming and improve mileage.

California’s rules for 2017 to 2025 require automakers to sell minimum numbers of electric vehicles, which are typically less polluting than traditional alternatives and can help slow global warming. Motorists can recharge electric vehicles using solar and wind power, which are becoming more common and affordable.

Pruitt said he would review a federal waiver provided to California that allows it to operate clean car standards that are more stringent than federal rules. Pruitt said “we shouldn’t prejudge the outcome” of his review.

Federal standards are silent on electric vehicles. Under a longstanding provision of the Clean Air Act, Massachusetts and some other states are allowed to enforce California’s vehicle regulations instead of federal ones.

Pruitt’s statement triggered alarm among climate experts and activists who already fear that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress will go further than merely ending federal leadership on climate action — and preemptively prevent cities and states from taking action on their own.

“The current federal regulations, while great, are not going to be aggressive enough,” said Andrew Linhardt, a car pollution expert with the nonprofit Sierra Club. Revoking California’s waiver “would really be a setback for the fight for a clean environment and for mitigating the worst of climate change.”

The plan to review California’s waiver “is hitting me real hard,” said RL Miller, an environmental activist in California. She is president of the Climate Hawks Vote Super PAC. “For some guy from Oklahoma to be telling us that suddenly states’ rights don’t count, because he’s pushing an agenda, was just appalling.”


Among other things, Pruitt’s lawsuits have targeted EPA regulations limiting mercury and greenhouse gas pollution from power plants — health and environmental issues that the Supreme Court has ruled the EPA is required to regulate.

“What we’ve heard all day is how much you support states’ rights when it comes to these issues,” Markey said. “But now, when it comes to the rights of California, of Massachusetts and other states to be able to reduce carbon pollution, you’re saying you’re going to review that.”

Politician Arrested for Pinching Woman’s Genitals ‘Said He No Longer Had to Be Politically Correct’

If you voted for Trump, this is what you encouraged.

What would you say if a man did this to you, or your wife, daughter, or mother?


Eliana Dockterman @edockterman
Jan. 16, 2017

Connecticut Republican politician Christopher von Keyserling was arrested and charged with sexual assault after he was caught on a security camera pinching the genitals of a woman with whom he got into a political disagreement.

Von Keyserling, the 71-year-old chair of the Representative Town Meeting in Greenwich, encountered the unnamed woman in the hallway of an unnamed town facility on Dec. 8, according to the Westport Weston. She told him it was “a new world” politically, to which he allegedly replied, “I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct,” according to the warrant.

She told him that if he was “proud of that I can’t help you,” after which he called her a lazy, bloodsucking union employee, the warrant said. He allegedly followed her into her office, saying he wanted to talk to her co-worker. Her co-worker came into the office, refused to talk with him, and left.

The first woman attempted to do the same, at which point von Keyserling “reached in from behind to place his hand between her legs and pinch her in the groin area,” according to the police arrest warrant. She threatened to hit him if he tried to pinch her again, and he replied, “It would be your word against mine and nobody will believe you,” according to the warrant.

Police say that the incident was caught on security camera and that the footage is consistent with the events the woman described.

The woman told police she was initially hesitant to file a criminal complaint because of the risk of retribution and the public attention it might bring, according to authorities. However, she decided to do so after she later found out that von Keyserling had allegedly behaved “in a similar way with other employees.”

Von Keyserling’s lawyer told Greenwich Time: “There was a playful gesture, in front of witnesses. It was too trivial to be considered anything of significance. To call it a sexual assault is not based in reality.”

Von Keyserling was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault. He posted $2,500 bond and was released to appear in court on Jan. 25.

The Domestic Conspiracy That Gave Trump The Election Is In Plain Sight


Jan. 17, 2017

Information presently public and available confirms that Erik Prince, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump conspired to intimidate FBI Director James Comey into interfering in, and thus directly affecting, the 2016 presidential election. This conspiracy was made possible with the assistance of officers in the New York Police Department and agents within the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All of the major actors in the conspiracy have already confessed to its particulars either in word or in deed; moreover, all of the major actors have publicly exhibited consciousness of guilt after the fact. This assessment has already been the subject of articles in conservative news outlets such as The American Thinker, but has not yet received substantial investigation by major media.

While a full summary of the Prince-Giuliani-Trump conspiracy would require a longer discourse, the actions of these men, along with multiple still-anonymous actors, can be summarized in five paragraphs. It will be for journalists with more resources than this writer to follow up on these leads—and, moreover, to see how this domestic conspiracy dovetails with the Trump-Russia controversy, though this too is briefly addressed below.

In addition to the paragraphs here, this article incorporates its three predecessors (I, II, III).


WMO confirms 2016 as hottest year on record

Not surprising, but now official from the World Meteorological Organization


Jan. 18, 2017

The year 2016 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record, surpassing the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015, according to a consolidated analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The globally averaged temperature in 2016 was about 1.1°C higher than the pre-industrial period. It was approximately 0.83° Celsius above the long term average (14°C) of the WMO 1961-1990 reference period, and about 0.07°C warmer than the previous record set in 2015.

WMO uses data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. WMO also draws on reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which use a weather forecasting system to combine many sources of data to provide a more complete picture of global temperatures, including in Polar regions.

“2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “But temperatures only tell part of the story.”

« Long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016,” he said. « Carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records. Both contribute to climate change, » said Mr Taalas.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean, where it acidifies the water, for even longer. It is now above the symbolic and significant level of 400 parts per million concentration in the atmosphere.

« We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic, » said Mr Taalas. “Greenland glacier melt – one of the contributors to sea level rise _ started early and fast. Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record both at the start of the melt season in March and at the height of the normal refreezing period in October and November, » he said.

« The Arctic is warming twice as fast a the global average. The persistent loss of sea ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world. We also have to pay attention to the potential release of methane from melting permafrost, » said Mr Taalas.

A very powerful warming El Niño event fuelled high temperatures in the early months of 2016. But even after the end of El Niño, temperatures remained well above average.

All the 16 hottest years on record have been this century, apart from 1998 when there was a strong El Niño. [Of course, 1998 was only two years before this century.]

Throughout 2016, there were many extreme weather events which caused huge socio-economic disruption and losses. Record ocean heat contributed to widespread coral reef bleaching.


A number of definitions exist for the pre-industrial period, the most commonly used being 1850-99 and 1880-99. The value of 1.1 °C is valid (to the nearest 0.1 °C) whichever of these periods is chosen.
[And the world had already warmed before then due to human activity. So the more recent warming is even higher in respect to the natural climate cycles.]

The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water






Monday, January 16, 2017

Global sea ice is at lowest level ever recorded


By Michael Le Page
Jan. 16, 2017

It’s a new low point. The area of the world’s oceans covered by floating sea ice is the smallest recorded since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s. That means it is also probably the lowest it has been for thousands of years.

The latest observations from the US National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, show how the ice extent has fallen to a new low this year (bright red trace in the graph below).


In the Arctic, the low in sea ice coverage is a result of both global warming and unusual weather events probably influenced by global warming.

But in the Antarctic, the current low in seasonal sea ice could just be a result of natural variability.

The extent of Arctic sea ice should be growing rapidly during the northern hemisphere winter. But not only has the Arctic been warming rapidly, this winter repeated incursions of warm air have pushed temperatures even further above average.

It has been so warm that on occasions this winter the sea ice coverage has actually temporarily shrunk, as shown by dips in the blue line in the graph below.


In the Arctic, by contrast, there is a long-term decline in sea ice due to global warming. This warming seems to be weakening the winds that circle the pole, allowing warm air to intrude into the Arctic.

And when warm air intrudes, cold air spills south. This is why parts of Asia and Europe have experienced unusually cold weather at times this winter.

As a result of the simultaneous lows at both poles, the total area of sea ice on the planet has fallen to a record low. Reconstructions of past levels of sea ice in the Arctic suggest it is likely the lowest it has been for thousands of years, says meteorologist Eric Holthaus.

Jan. 21 marches around the world

These are part of the "Womens March", but all genders are welcome to the ones I know about.
See the link below for links to marches around the U.S. and around the world.


Sister Marches are solidarity events inspired by the Women's March on Washington, and organized by volunteers around the world. If you can't make it to Washington, D.C. on January 21, join or host a Sister March near you.




Q: I’m not a woman, am I invited?
A: Yes, the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) is for any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights.



Unity Principles
Click to download full PDF

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women - including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women - are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.


Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.


We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.


We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.


We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers - must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.


We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.


Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.


We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed - especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Nearly Doubled In Texas After Cuts To Women’s Health


08/18/2016 01:23 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2016

Texas experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011, the same year the state slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s health programs, according to a study in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

After a modest increase in maternal mortality in Texas between 2000 and 2010, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled in 2011 and 2012 ― something researchers described as “puzzling” and out of sync with data from the other 49 states. Seventy-two women in Texas died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2010, and that number jumped to 148 in 2012.

While the study does not suggest a clear cause for Texas’ alarming data, the rise in pregnancy-related deaths coincided with lawmakers slashing family planning funds by 66 percent in the state budget in 2011. The cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close, one-third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics, and left Texas’ women’s health program able to serve less than half as many women as it had previously served. Low-income women in particular had less access to affordable birth control and thus had more babies, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

These 8 Men Have As Much Money As Half The World


Jan. 15, 2017
Emily Peck

Just eight super-rich men hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to an analysis from the charity Oxfam released Sunday night.

Six of these billionaires, from Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, are American entrepreneurs: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Rounding out the list are Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon, and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of a retail conglomerate that includes clothing chain Zara. Together their net wealth ― assets minus debts ― amounts to $426 billion.

We cannot name the bottom half of humanity, more than 3.6 billion people, with that kind of precision, but they mostly live in the developing world.


Worsening inequality threatens to upend the very fabric that’s held democracies together in the post-World War II global order. In the United States, the widening gulf between the rich and everyone else helped propel Donald Trump into office. Overseas, the trend is credited with sparking Brexit, the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union.

“Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart,” Oxfam writes in its report, citing Brexit, Trump’s campaign and “a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics.”

In 2016, the richest 1 percent of the world held slightly more than half of the wealth of the entire planet, Oxfam notes. And the 1,810 billionaires on Forbes’s list ― 89 percent male ― hold $6.5 trillion, as much wealth as 70 percent of humanity.

Put another way, billions of people are fighting over crumbs from half of a pie, while the rich dig into fat slices all to themselves.


If you ignore debt entirely, it would take 56 of the wealthiest individuals to equal the wealth of the bottom 50 percent, according to Oxfam’s report.

“The underlying trend is the same: At the very pinnacle of the economic pyramid, rich people are getting progressively and rapidly richer, while the rest of humanity is muddling along,” Kripke said. He called the wealth of the top eight individuals “biblical.”


Last year, when Oxfam did its report, it took 62 billionaires to equal the bottom half of the world. The change this year seems drastic because of improvements in the quality of the data Credit Suisse was able to get. If Oxfam had used that improved data last year, it would’ve taken just 9 billionaires to reach parity with the world’s bottom half, Kripke said. (Number nine? Charles Koch.)


Trump, whose political fortune has benefited from increasing economic dissatisfaction, ranks 324 on the Forbes billionaires list ― tied with “Star Wars” creator George Lucas. The president-elect has nominated the wealthiest group in American history to his Cabinet. Combined, these future public servants hold about $12 billion, according to a recent estimate from Bloomberg.


Rising inequality causes more than a sense of moral outrage and the election of reality TV stars. There’s a wide body of research that shows inequality adversely affects the health of those at the bottom, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease, increasing suicide rates and shortening lifespans. Some attribute the rise in the death rate of white people and the heroin epidemic to inequality.


And How Are the Children?

By Patrick T O'Neill
The Rev. Patrick O'Neill is minister of the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York.

Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising, then, to learn the traditional greeting that passed between Masai warriors: "Kasserian Ingera," one would always say to another. It means, "And how are the children?"

It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children's well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, "All the children are well." Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place. That Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. "All the children are well" means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles for existence do not preclude proper caring for their young.

I wonder how it might affect our consciousness of our own children's welfare if in our culture we took to greeting each other with this daily question: "And how are the children?" I wonder if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, if it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared about in our own country.

I wonder if every adult among us, parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our community, in our town, in our state, in our country... I wonder if we could truly say without any hesitation, "The children are well, yes, all the children are well."

What would it be like... if the minister began every worship service by answering the question, "And how are the children?" If every town leader had to answer the question at the beginning of every meeting: "And how are the children? Are they all well?" Wouldn't it be interesting to hear their answers? What would it be like? I wonder...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Will We Miss Our Last Chance to Save the World From Climate Change?


By Jeff Goodell
December 22, 2016

In the late 1980s, James Hansen became the first scientist to offer unassailable evidence that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet. In the decades since, as the world has warmed, the ice has melted and the wildfires have spread, he has published papers on everything from the risks of rapid sea-level rise to the role of soot in global temperature changes – all of it highlighting, methodically and verifiably, that our fossil-fuel-powered civilization is a suicide machine. And unlike some scientists, Hansen was never content to hide in his office at NASA, where he was head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York for nearly 35 years. He has testified before Congress, marched in rallies and participated in protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline and Big Coal (he went so far as to call coal trains "death trains").


Right now, the Earth's temperature is already well into the range that existed during the Eemian period, 120,000 years ago, which was the last time the Earth was warmer than it is now. And that was a time when sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is now. So that's what we could expect if we just leave things the way they are. And we've got more warming in the pipeline, so we're going to the top of and even outside of the Eemian range if we don't do something. And that something is that we have to move to clean energy as quickly as possible. If we burn all the fossil fuels, then we will melt all the ice on the planet eventually, and that would raise the seas by about 250 feet. So we can't do that. But if we just stay on this path, then it's the CO2 that we're putting up there that is a burden for young people because they're going to have to figure out how to get it out of the atmosphere. Or figure out how to live on a radically different planet.Right now, the Earth's temperature is already well into the range that existed during the Eemian period, 120,000 years ago, which was the last time the Earth was warmer than it is now. And that was a time when sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is now. So that's what we could expect if we just leave things the way they are. And we've got more warming in the pipeline, so we're going to the top of and even outside of the Eemian range if we don't do something. And that something is that we have to move to clean energy as quickly as possible. If we burn all the fossil fuels, then we will melt all the ice on the planet eventually, and that would raise the seas by about 250 feet. So we can't do that. But if we just stay on this path, then it's the CO2 that we're putting up there that is a burden for young people because they're going to have to figure out how to get it out of the atmosphere. Or figure out how to live on a radically different planet.
And a sea level rise of a certain amount results in the sea coming much farther inland. Think of a right triangle, with the height being the sea level rise, and the hypotenuse being the show line. The hypotenuse is ALWAYS larger than the height. If the land rises gradually, the hypotenuse will be much larger.

Eg., if the land rises at an angle of 10 degrees, a rise in sea level of 20 feet will mean the sea will come 115 feet farther inland.


I think that our government has become sufficiently cumbersome in its support of R&D that I'd place more hope in the private sector. But in order to spur the private sector, you've got to provide the incentive. And that's why I'm a big supporter of a carbon fee.

Is the target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius, which is the centerpiece of the Paris Agreement, still achievable?
It's possible, but barely. If global emissions rates fell at a rate of even two or three percent a year, you could achieve the two-degree target. People say we're already past that, because they're just assuming we won't be able to reduce missions that quickly. What I argue, however, is that two degrees is dangerous. Two degrees is a little warmer than the period when sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher. So it's not a good target. It never had a good scientific basis.


When I was working at NASA, I always felt I was working for the taxpayer. I was not working for the administration. When a new administration comes in, they think they can control public-information offices and science agencies and influence what they're saying so they become, in effect, offices of propaganda. But that's just wrong. When we have knowledge about something, we should not be prohibited from saying it as clearly as we can.


Unrelenting Global Warming Sends Sea Ice to Record Low


By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Jan 9, 2017

Unrelenting warmth during what should be the iciest time of year sent global sea ice extent to a record low last month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center said on Friday, with both polar ice caps at a record-low extent every single day of the month.

Compared to the average from 1981 to 2010, the area of ice missing in the Arctic was about the size of Texas and Arizona combined; in the Antarctic, it was bigger than Alaska, according to the NSIDC.

Temperatures in the Arctic were about 9 degrees Fahrenheit above average throughout November and December, with peak readings soaring to 50 degrees above the long-term average around Christmas, when the North Pole warmed above freezing, a mark rarely seen outside of summer.

"Some of the crazy weather patterns we've seen this winter could be, in part, due to the loss of sea ice," said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. "We've had very unusual weather patterns pumping warmth up into the Arctic...the changes are happening so fast that we can't keep up with them."

Scientists measuring sea ice in a three-year run of record global heat feel the urgency of the data they are capturing, while the political climate around them changes even faster.


After Trump's election, a senior NASA official expressed concern in an internal email that the Earth Sciences division would have its funding cut, and Trump adviser Bob Walker, a former House Science Committee chair, has said he believed NASA should end its climate monitoring programs, which he calls "politically correct environmental monitoring." Christopher Shank, the leader of Trump's NASA transition team, is policy director for the House Science Committee, which has doggedly questioned the climate work of NOAA and NASA scientists.

Those sentiments have led some scientists reportedly to begin to duplicate climate data to protect it from potential Trump administration tampering.


Monitoring Arctic sea ice conditions is important, he said, because of implications for shipping, the Arctic environment and energy development.

Serreze said, "We at the NSIDC view our role as the honest purveyors of the best scientific information. We've tried to avoid getting into advocacy because we would lose respect. We're in a situation now where the data speak for themselves. People who deny that, who say that humans don't have anything to do with it, have their head in the sand. Deny it at your peril.

"You can't hide or suppress data. We're in the information age."

The information these days carries sobering implications about the vicious cycle of climate change, which has been amplified in the Arctic as it warms at double the rate of the global average.


According to Serreze and Meier, there's increasing evidence that the continuing loss of sea ice is, at least in part, causing the weather patterns that funnel even more warm air toward the Arctic by shifting the path of the jet stream.

"It's not only the extent. The thickness and volume are even more concerning," said Lars Kaleschke, an oceanographer with the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Recent satellite data show that much of the thicker multi-year ice has vanished from the Arctic. The remaining ice is so thin that it's susceptible to melting and breaks up faster during stormy weather, according to Mats Granskog, a research scientist at the Norwegian Polar Institute who specializes in tracking the age of Arctic ice.


The changes in Antarctic ice extent the past few months have been equally dramatic, but the causes are not well understood. By August of 2016, the belt of ice around Antarctica was sharply below average.

The exact cause of the precipitous decline remains elusive, scientists said, but they detected significant changes in wind patterns in August, September and November that are most likely linked with global warming, according to Serreze.

The job of monitoring complex systems like the Arctic and Antarctic and studying climate change impacts requires not just well-funded U.S. research, but also global collaboration. For example, some European satellite missions have specialized in reading sea ice thickness and volume. Together with data from NASA and NOAA, scientists are able to most accurately paint a picture of global climate change.


Friday, January 13, 2017

How to reduce your carbon footprint


Jan. 10, 2017


While kicking off 2017 with promises to eat healthy or live more simply is a great start, have you ever thought about resolving to reduce the environmental impact that your lifestyle has on the planet?

We’re talking about your carbon footprint. Although carbon dioxide, a colorless, odorless gas known as CO2, occurs naturally in the atmosphere as part of the life cycle of oceans, soil, plants and animals, human activities are causing harmful amounts to be released into the environment. The resulting greenhouse gas effect is causing climate change.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of human-related carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil), the decay of solid waste and the combustion of wood products. In 2014, CO2 from human activities accounted for 81 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The three main sources of carbon pollution in the U.S. are:


It’s also important to note the role that methane plays when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, according to the EPA. In 2014, CH4 accounted for about 11 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. And, livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide.

Why is it so important to reduce our carbon footprint? More than 6 million deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution, according to a recent New York Times report.

How to Reduce Your Carbon Dioxide Footprint

Did you know that a family of four with two cars and a 2,000-square-foot house in Northern California could generate more than 106 tons of CO2 a year, depending on how many airplane trips they take and other factors, including how much food they consume? (Check out how you compare by plugging in your numbers to this carbon footprint calculator tool.)

While you might feel like one family can’t do much to solve global warming, if everyone were to live their lives more sustainably, collectively we could make a difference in the health of our planet, especially when it comes to the air we breathe.

So get started by calculating your carbon footprint. Many of your daily activities, such as throwing away trash instead of recycling, or running the air conditioner instead of opening a window, can impact your household’s carbon footprint.

Then, make a commitment to reduce your footprint. Here are some steps you can take:

Go solar:


If you can’t go solar, there are many things you can still do to make your home more energy efficient, whether it be investing in ENERGY STAR® certified energy efficient appliances or weatherproofing your windows. (Learn more in this post about reducing your electric bill.) You can also choose to patronize businesses that have made the switch to renewable energy.


Spend less time in your car: Most cars and trucks use gasoline and diesel to transport people and goods, and this accounts for about 31 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions. Consider biking to work (find 45,003 mapped miles of cycling routes via the U.S. Bicycle Route System), walking to the grocery store, or taking public transportation. You could also drive an electric vehicle. SunPower has a partnership with Ford that offers rebates to EV owners who go solar, and we’ll donate money to The Sierra Club on your behalf.

Reduce, reuse, recycle: The industries that produce the goods and raw materials that we use every day are one of the three main contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than throwing glass or aluminum in the trash, take advantage of local recycling programs. Recycling one good into another means you’re reducing your reliance on new products that add more waste to our landfills.


Make conscious food choices: Just like working out and getting in shape, conscious food choices start with one meal at a time. Try weaving in just one vegetarian meal a day. If you like the results, consider eating veggie for a whole day or week. Forming healthy food habits will help our animal friends and the planet.

Small choices add up to huge collective reductions in our collective footprint.

Trump 'compromising' claims: How and why did we get here?


By Paul Wood BBC News, Washington
12 January 2017

Donald Trump has described as "fake news" allegations published in some media that his election team colluded with Russia - and that Russia held compromising material about his private life. The BBC's Paul Wood saw the allegations before the election, and reports on the fallout now they have come to light.

The significance of these allegations is that, if true, the president-elect of the United States would be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

I understand the CIA believes it is credible that the Kremlin has such kompromat - or compromising material - on the next US commander in chief. At the same time a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump's organisation or his election campaign.

Claims about a Russian blackmail tape were made in one of a series of reports written by a former British intelligence agent, understood to be Christopher Steele.

As a member of MI6, he had been posted to the UK's embassy in Moscow and now runs a consultancy giving advice on doing business in Russia. He spoke to a number of his old contacts in the FSB, the successor to the KGB, paying some of them for information.

They told him that Mr Trump had been filmed with a group of prostitutes in the presidential suite of Moscow's Ritz-Carlton hotel. I know this because the Washington political research company that commissioned his report showed it to me during the final week of the election campaign.

The BBC decided not to use it then, for the very good reason that without seeing the tape - if it exists - we could not know if the claims were true. The detail of the allegations were certainly lurid. The entire series of reports has now been posted by BuzzFeed.


And the former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by "the head of an East European intelligence agency".

Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file - they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", in "more than one place" - in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg - and that the material was "of a sexual nature".


One Russian specialist told me that Vladimir Putin himself sometimes says there is kompromat on him - though perhaps he is joking. The specialist went on to tell me that FSB officers are prone to boasting about having tapes on public figures, and to be careful of any statements they might make.

A former CIA officer told me he had spoken by phone to a serving FSB officer who talked about the tapes. He concluded: "It's hokey as hell."

Mr Trump and his supporters are right to point out that these are unsubstantiated allegations.
[The problem for compulsive liars is that even when they are telling the truth, we will doubt them because of their habitual behaviour.]

The claims of Russian kompromat on Mr Trump were "credible", the CIA believed. That is why - according to the New York Times and Washington Post - these claims ended up on President Barack Obama's desk last week, a briefing document also given to Congressional leaders and to Mr Trump himself.

Mr Trump did visit Moscow in November 2013, the date the main tape is supposed to have been made. There is TV footage of him at the Miss Universe contest. Any visitor to a grand hotel in Moscow would be wise to assume that their room comes equipped with hidden cameras and microphones as well as a mini-bar.

At his news conference, Mr Trump said he warned his staff when they travelled: "Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go you're going to probably have cameras." So the Russian security services have made obtaining kompromat an art form.
[By now everybody should be aware of how useless Trump's denial is. He lies continually.]


In a New York Times op-ed in August, the former director of the CIA, Michael Morell, wrote: "In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr Putin had recruited Mr Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation."

Agent; puppet - both terms imply some measure of influence or control by Moscow.

Michael Hayden, former head of both the CIA and the NSA, simply called Mr Trump a "polezni durak" - a useful fool.

The background to those statements was information held - at the time - within the intelligence community. Now all Americans have heard the claims. Little more than a week before his inauguration, they will have to decide if their president-elect really was being blackmailed by Moscow.

One of the Main Reasons the World’s Elite Are Buying Up Elaborate Underground Survival Bunkers

Where will they get food and clean water after they use up what is stocked? Who will repair the machinery needed to maintain these places? Who will cook, wash dishes, do plumbing repairs, etc? Do these places have accommodations for those who will do the needed work?


Kathryn Blackhurst Apr 15, 2016

Some of the richest people in the world reportedly are buying up spots in luxurious bomb-proof shelters across the globe due to fears of civil unrest and other possible apocalyptic scenarios.

Vivos, the main construction company behind the survival shelter complexes, states that the facilities were created for the “protection of high net worth individuals” if an apocalyptic-style catastrophe occurred. One of the company’s biggest shelters, Europa One, is located in Germany and seeks to offer buyers “one of the most fortified and massive underground survival shelters on Earth, deep below a limestone mountain” that is “safely secured from the general public, behind sealed and secured walls, gates and blast doors.”

Vivos also turned a Cold War era underground bomb shelter in Indiana into a luxurious facility geared toward meeting the needs of up to 80 of the world’s wealthiest patrons for a minimum of one year. Journalist Lynn Parramore told RT.com that she visited this site while researching the bomb-proof shelters and the appeal that draws the elite to them.

“You go underground and it feels like you’re in a very nice hotel,” Parramore said. “This is for wealthy people who are concerned about various disaster scenarios, but a common theme among them is a fear of civil unrest, a fear of an uprising from the 99 percent.”

Parramore also added, “It’s a strange thing to me, culturally, because inequality is obviously a problem, and this is part of a realization on the part of wealthy people that it’s a problem. But the idea that the solution to that is to hide away in a gold-plated bunker while everything else goes to hell — I don’t believe that people can survive that way.”


“I think we all need each other, and it’s a strain of libertarianism that puts emphasis on the individual and doesn’t trust the government to do anything right in the case of a disaster. So I think that’s feeding into this, and a little paranoia is feeding into it,” Parramore told RT.com. “I would be much more happy if some of these wealthy people would say, ‘Hey, maybe I don’t need all of these tax breaks. Maybe I wanna do something to actually solve the problem of inequality, rather than hide away from it.'”


Mysterious ruby seadragon spotted in real life for the first time

Read the article at the link below to discover how they were able to locate and film this newly discovered species.


Eva Botkin-Kowacki
Staff writer for Christian Science Monitor
January 13, 2017

Seadragons, with strange appendages protruding from their bodies and long, straw-like snouts, seem like mythical creatures. But marine biologists have known for more than 150 years that there are at least two distinct species that actually exist.

So imagine how surprised marine biologists Greg Rouse and Josefin Stiller were when they discovered a third species of seadragon, which they named the ruby seadragon.

But part of what makes their finding remarkable is the journey that led them to this new species. The researchers didn't discover the the critter swimming around in the ocean. That surprise came later. The team was analyzing dead, decades-old tissue from museum collections when they made a startling realization: a few of the ancient specimens had been incorrectly classified as the common seadragon.


Woman Dies From Superbug Resisting All Antibiotics

Typical human behaviour, we ignore problems until there is a crisis. We are doing the same with climate disruption.


By EJ Mundell

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- A Nevada woman in her 70s who'd recently returned from India died in September from a "superbug" infection that resisted all antibiotics, according to a report released Friday.

The case raises concern about the spread of such infections, which have become more common over past decades as germs have developed resistance to widely used antibiotics.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "basically reported that there was nothing in our medicine cabinet to treat this lady," report co-author Dr. Randall Todd told the Reno Gazette-Journal. He's director of epidemiology and public health preparedness for the Washoe County Health District, in Reno.

The report was published Jan. 13 in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


On Aug. 19, doctors isolated a sample of a known antibiotic-resistant "superbug" -- known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) -- from the patient.

CDC testing subsequently revealed the germ was New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM) -- a highly resistant form of CRE typically found outside the United States.

"Antimicrobial susceptibility testing in the United States indicated that the isolate was resistant to 26 antibiotics," the researchers reported. In effect, the germ "was resistant to all available antimicrobial drugs," they said.

As soon as CRE was identified, "the patient was placed in a single room under contact precautions," Todd's group wrote. The woman later developed septic shock and died in early September.


"Had any of the other patients been infected with this, they would have had the same resistance," he said. "This is kind of scary stuff, and that's why we jump on things like this very quickly. We were pleased that the hospital responded as quickly and comprehensively as they did."

Both doctors stressed that the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant germs is caused by the overuse of these drugs -- often for conditions for which they are useless. [Also for farm animals.]

For example, people will often ask for an antibiotic for a cold or flu, which are caused by viruses. Antibiotics target bacteria, not viruses.

"Even if you're able to talk your doctor into prescribing them, and many people are able to do that, that is not going to help your cold or the flu in any way, shape or form," Todd said.

Millennials are falling behind their boomer parents

Jan. 13, 2017

Baby Boomers: your millennial children are worse off than you.

With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.

The analysis being released Friday gives concrete details about a troubling generational divide that helps to explain much of the anxiety that defined the 2016 election. Millennials have half the net worth of boomers. Their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher.


Millennials are making a big mistake by not owning a home, says one financial expert
Millennials are making a big mistake by not owning their homes, says one financial expert
Friday, 30 Dec 2016 | 1:45 PM ET | 00:49

Baby Boomers: your millennial children are worse off than you.

With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.

The analysis being released Friday gives concrete details about a troubling generational divide that helps to explain much of the anxiety that defined the 2016 election. Millennials have half the net worth of boomers. Their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher.

The generational gap is a central dilemma for the incoming presidency of Donald Trump, who essentially pledged a return to the prosperity of post-World War II America. The analysis also hints at the issues of culture and identity that divided many voters, showing that white millennials — who still earn much more than their blacks and Latino peers — have seen their incomes plummet the most relative to boomers.

Andrea Ledesma, 28, says her parents owned a house and were raising kids by her age.

Not so for her. Ledesma graduated from college four years ago. After moving through a series of jobs, she now earns $18,000 making pizza at Classic Slice in Milwaukee, shares a two-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend and has $33,000 in student debt.

"That's not at all how life is now, that's not something that people strive for and it's not something that is even attainable, and I thought it would be at this point," Ledesma said.

Her mother Cheryl Romanowski, 55, was making about $10,000 a year at her age working at a bank without a college education. In today's dollars, that income would be equal to roughly $19,500.

Romanowski said she envies the choices that her daughter has in life, but she acknowledged that her daughter has it harder than her.

"I think the opportunities have just been fading away," she said.

The analysis of the Fed data shows the extent of the decline. It compared 25 to 34 year-olds in 2013, the most recent year available, to the same age group in 1989 after adjusting for inflation.

Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.

The home ownership rate for this age group dipped to 43 percent from 46 percent in 1989, although the rate has improved for millennials with a college degree relative to boomers.

The median net worth of millennials is $10,090, 56 percent less than it was for boomers.

Whites still earn dramatically more than Blacks and Latinos, reflecting the legacy of discrimination for jobs, education and housing.

Yet compared to white baby boomers, some white millennials appear stuck in a pattern of downward mobility. This group has seen their median income tumble more than 21 percent to $47,688.

Median income for black millennials has fallen just 1.4 percent to $27,892. Latino millennials earn nearly 29 percent more than their boomer predecessors to $30,436.

The analysis fits into a broader pattern of diminished opportunity. Research last year by economists led by Stanford University's Raj Chetty found that people born in 1950 had a 79 percent chance of making more money than their parents. That figure steadily slipped over the past several decades, such that those born in 1980 had just a 50 percent chance of out-earning their parents.

This decline has occurred even though younger Americans are increasingly college-educated. The proportion of 25 to 29 year-olds with a college degree has risen to 35.6 percent in 2015 from 23.2 percent in 1990, a report this month by the Brookings Institution noted.

The declining fortunes of millennials could impact boomers who are retired or on the cusp of retirement. Payroll taxes from millennials helps to finance the Social Security and Medicare benefits that many boomers receive — programs that Trump has said won't be subject to spending cuts. And those same boomers will need younger generations to buy their homes and invest in the financial markets to protect their own savings.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Russia waging information war against Sweden, study finds


Jon Henley
Jan. 11, 2017

Sweden’s most authoritative foreign policy institute has accused Russia of using fake news, false documents and disinformation as part of a coordinated campaign to influence public opinion and decision-making in the Scandinavian country.

The Swedish Institute of International Affairs said in a comprehensive study that Sweden had been the target of “a wide array of active measures” aimed at “hampering its ability to generate public support in pursuing its policies”.

The study said Russia had used misleading reports on its state-run news website Sputnik, and public interventions by Russian politicians in Swedish domestic affairs, as well as more covert methods.

These included forged documents and fabricated news items that appeared in Swedish media and were subsequently picked up by Sputnik and “other sources of Russian public diplomacy” and broadcast to an international audience, it said.

The report admitted it was impossible for researchers to establish exactly where and how the forgeries and fake stories had been generated, but said they were consistent with Russia’s strategic objectives.

“We are able to establish intent, dominant narratives, behavioural patterns and strategic goals, where the close correlation between Russian public diplomacy and active measures suggest the operation of a coordinated campaign,” it said.

Moscow’s main aim was to “preserve the geo-strategic status quo” by minimising Nato’s role in the Baltic region and keeping Sweden out of the international military alliance, the study said.

Following accusations that Russian hackers interfered with the US presidential election and similar concerns expressed in Germany, the authors said their study confirmed a “growing body of research highlighting Russia’s increasing use of active measures as a foreign policy tool towards western states” since 2014.


The study said the forgeries contained enough factual and other mistakes to enable authorities to declare them fakes – but not before they had been widely circulated on social media, Swedish and Russian websites and, in one case, mainstream media.

In “their level of detail and the instrumental exploitation of non-household names”, the forgeries and fake news stories “suggest the originators of the documents have access to comprehensive intelligence on Swedish society”, it said.

It also identified “troll armies” targeting journalists and academics, hijacked Twitter accounts and pro-Kremlin NGOs operating in Sweden as further weapons in what it said amounted to a Russian information war.


Many were highly negative about Nato or the European Union in particular, Åsberg said, adding that false information had made its way into parliamentary debates.

Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, told a national defence conference this week that he “cannot rule out” Russia trying to influence the country’s next elections, which are due in 2018.

“We should not rule it out and be naive and think that it does not happen in Sweden. That’s why information and cybersecurity is part of this strategy,” Löfven told the TT news agency.

The Kremlin has denied claims it interfered in the US elections, hitting out at what it says are “baseless allegations substantiated with nothing” and claiming the assertions by the American intelligence agencies are a political witch-hunt.

An intelligence report declassified on Friday said Vladimir Putin had personally “ordered an influence campaign” during the US election to tip the balance in Donald Trump’s favour.

US intelligence officials bristle at Trump's false accusation of dossier leak


Spencer Ackerman
Jan. 11, 2017

A shaky detente between Donald Trump and the intelligence agencies he will soon control has broken down, as Trump wrongly accused US intelligence of leaking an unverified, salacious document to damage his nascent presidency.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump said that “who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies” were responsible for the document, which he said would be “a tremendous blot on their record”.

Earlier, Trump likened the intelligence agencies to “Nazi Germany”, in a tweet, saying they “never should have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ to the public. One last shot at me”.

Intelligence veterans reacted with shock to the renewed and intensified attack, with one saying Trump had exhibited “open, irrational and hysterical hostility” to their colleagues on the eve of Thursday’s confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Another suggested conscientious intelligence officials may have to contemplate resignation.

The intelligence agencies neither compiled nor leaked the unverified dossier. It and several of the claims it contained have circulated for months within newsrooms, including the Guardian’s, which resisted their publication until adequate verification could be unearthed.

Before CNN reported last night that aspects of the dossier, acquired by the FBI in December from Arizona Republican senator John McCain, were briefed to Barack Obama and Trump, no news organization had published the accusations, which purport to reveal compromising information Russia possesses on Trump. Trump has denied them, and NBC later reported that the material was prepared for the Trump briefing, but not discussed.

Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee and a consistent critic of spycraft excesses, told the Guardian it was “profoundly dangerous” for Trump to continue his feud with the agencies.

“The president is responsible for vital decisions about national security, including decisions about whether to go to war, which depend on the broad collection activities and reasoned analysis of the intelligence community. A scenario in which the president dismisses the intelligence community, or worse, accuses it of treachery, is profoundly dangerous,” Wyden said.


One retired intelligence official, who declined to be named, said he was in a “wait and see” mode with Trump, as Pompeo and Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, seemed like “reasonable choices” for their positions. Trump’s rhetoric “hasn’t helped morale” within the agencies, but the ex-official questioned its theatricality and said former colleagues’ reactions to Trump were “mixed” and were not panicked.

“Nobody’s planning on quitting or jumping from the seventh floor of the building,” the retired official said.

But Glenn Carle, a retired CIA officer, said resignations were a rational response to Trump, as the intelligence agencies face “existential crisis” prompted by the imminent prospect of serving “someone for whom the truth is irrelevant”.

Carle continued: “One is forced either to serve a man disdainful of the community’s mission, and of facts in general, as essentially a toady, or provide intelligence to the parts of the government that may actually know how to use it in the national interest, such as the military or other organs of the government, or resign. The choice is that stark.

“This crisis cannot be covered over with a politician’s, or an egotist’s, bromides and lie.”

TV news anchor's report accidentally sets off viewers' Amazon's Echo Dots


By Jennifer Earl CBS News January 10, 2017, 3:22 PM

Dallas mom Megan Neitzel’s cautionary tale involving her 6-year-old daughter accidentally ordering pricey gifts through “Alexa,” Amazon’s voice-activated Echo Dot, went viral last week as stories about the incident were shared by news organizations across the country.

But San Diego residents listening to local TV station CW6 claim they didn’t just hear the report, they lived it.

Anchors Jim Patton and Lynda Martin discussed the hilarious mishap that led to the purchase of a $160 KidKraft Sparkle Mansion dollhouse and a 4-pound tin of sugar cookies on their morning show.

“I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,’” Patton joked.

Unfortunately, Amazon’s Alexa didn’t get Patton’s joke. And afterward, viewers began complaining that their devices had tried to order dollhouses, CW6 reported.


After reading the conversation, Neitzel had to laugh, admitting that this was a good reminder to activate parental controls and turn off voice purchasing. To ensure something like this doesn’t happen again, she set a four-digit code on the device for purchases and went over some ground rules with the kids on how to properly use the item.

It’s safe to assume Neitzel won’t be the only one changing settings on her device for the future.

Amazon clarified to CBS News that there was not an influx of dollhouse orders after the newscast.

“You must ask Alexa to order a product and then confirm the purchase with a “yes” response to purchase via voice. If you asked Alexa to order something on accident, simply say “no” when asked to confirm,” a spokesman said. “You can also manage your shopping settings in the Alexa app, such as turning off voice purchasing or requiring a confirmation code before every order.

Trump staff provided applause at press conference

Trump pits his staff against the media

The president-elect packs his news conference with paid aides ready to jeer reporters.

By Annie Karni
01/11/17 03:49 PM EST

When Donald Trump gathered the press at Trump Tower 20 months ago to announce his unlikely candidacy for president, he reportedly paid actors to fill the marble lobby and cheer.

Not much — and everything — has changed since.

On Wednesday morning, when the president-elect once again faced hundreds of reporters from around the globe gathered in his lobby -- this time for his first press conference in seven months — Trump filled the room with paid staffers who clapped and cheered as he blasted members of the media as purveyors of “fake news.”


Men who eat lots of red meat at risk for painful gut disorder

By Amy Norton HealthDay January 11, 2017, 2:16 PM

Men who eat a lot of red meat may have a higher risk of a painful inflammatory condition of the colon, a new study suggests.

The disorder, called diverticulitis, causes severe abdominal pain, nausea and constipation. And it can lead to complications such as tears or blockages in the colon.

The new study found that men who ate the most red meat were 58 percent more likely to develop diverticulitis, compared to men who ate the least.

The findings don’t prove cause-and-effect, stressed senior researcher Dr. Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

On the other hand, he said, there are already reasons to think about cutting down on red meat. Heavy consumption has been tied to higher risks of heart disease and certain cancers, Chan pointed out.

“This study offers one more reason to consider limiting the red meat in your diet,” he said.

As people age, it’s common for “pouches” to form in the lining of the colon; over half of Americans aged 60 and older have them, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Most people who have these pouches suffer no problems, but around 5 percent develop diverticulitis -- where the pouches become infected or inflamed.

Roughly 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for diverticulitis each year, the NIH says.

The new findings, published online Jan. 9 in the journal Gut, are based on a long-term study of more than 46,000 male health professionals.


Oregon woman evicted from senior housing for $328 in late rent freezes to death in parking garage


By Molly Harbarger | The Oregonian/OregonLive
on January 09, 2017 at 10:23 AM, updated January 10, 2017 at 6:27 PM

The 52-year-old woman who died of hypothermia on Saturday has been identified as Karen Lee Batts.

Public records show she was evicted from an apartment complex for low-income seniors in October. At the time of her death, she appeared homeless.

Batts was found in the Smart Park parking garage at 730 Southwest 10th Avenue. The Portland Police had been called because she was taking off her clothes and appeared to be struggling in the cold weather.

In some cases, people in the late stages of hypothermia undress because they feel extremely hot, due to nerve damage.

By the time police arrived, Batts was dead. Police said Saturday she likely died of exposure.


It is a fairly uncommon occurrence in Portland, where winters tend to be mild with short stretches of below-freezing temperatures.

In the last five years, hypothermia caused or contributed to five deaths of homeless people, according to Multnomah County. Eighty-eight people died on the street in 2015 in Multnomah County overall, mostly from either drugs and alcohol or diseases.

But the long cold snap of the past week has shown how dangerous freezing weather can be for people without shelter, especially people who aren't living or traveling in groups.



Homeless Portland Woman Who Died Suffered From Schizophrenia

by Amelia Templeton Follow OPB | Jan. 9, 2017 7:33 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 10, 2017 5:40 p.m.

A woman who died of hypothermia in a downtown Portland parking garage Saturday struggled for much of her life with schizophrenia. And she had been recently evicted from an affordable housing complex.

Karen Batts spent most of her childhood in Portland, and attended Grant High School. As an adult, she would at times become isolated because of her schizophrenia.

Her family said over the last year, Batts had stopped answering their phone calls.

“I’m so sad. It’s just, a parent isn’t supposed to lose a child,” Elizabeth Batts said of her daughter on Monday.

Batts said she didn’t learn until too late that her daughter Karen had been evicted in October and was living on the streets.

“Nobody reached out to us,” Elizabeth Batts told OPB. “Nobody cared about us to tell us what was going on. I mean, why couldn’t somebody tell us something.”

Batts said had she known her daughter was facing eviction, she would have paid her rent, as she has in the past.


As an adult, Alan Batts tried to watch over his sister. Last year, after she stopped returning the family’s calls, he tried to visit her at her apartment, but she wouldn’t buzz him in. So Batts asked the Portland Police to conduct a welfare check.

“They knocked on her door, and said she wasn’t a danger to herself or others, and so they couldn’t put her in a hospital. That’s what I requested, that she be admitted into the hospital,” he said.

Batts says his sister had been hospitalized once previously, and that the hospital stay helped stabilize her.

Once she was evicted, he said, it became impossible to find her. Batts says her illness made her fearful of others, and she said she’d been bullied at homeless shelters in the past.


“Our staff reached out to her repeatedly, had Project Respond come reach out to her, had adult protective services come and reach out to her,” said Martha McLennan, executive director for Northwest Housing Alternatives.

She said mental health workers evaluated Batts several times to see if she qualified for a mental health hold, but she did not meet the stringent criteria.

“I see situations not uncommonly, where the person who needs the help doesn’t know how to ask, or can’t ask, or is in no shape to have that realization and ask,” McLennan said.

She added that privacy laws often prevent the nonprofit from notifying family members when their tenets are facing eviction.

Batts is one of three people living on the street who have died of exposure so far in 2017. David Guyot, 68, and Mark Johnson, 51, also died of hypothermia this winter while living on Portland’s streets, according to the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office.


Irrationality in the boardroom


Jan. 10, 2017

Here’s the finding of a new study of German firms:

Managerial overconfidence is positively related to the probability of failure of planned investment projects.

This corroborates a decent amount of research summed up (pdf) by Ulrike Malmendier:

A large and growing body of evidence suggests that a substantial share of top corporate executives exhibit symptoms of overconfidence in their decisions…Even when managers intend to maximize claimholder value, they can fail to do so because they hold overconfident beliefs.

For example, she shows (pdf) that where bosses are overconfident, firms’ capital spending is unduly sensitive to corporate cash flow: they invest when the firm is flush but not when it isn’t. And Charles Lee and Salman Arif have shown that increases in investment tend to lead to more earnings disappointments and lower growth – which suggests that investment decisions are motivated by sentiment rather than a realistic assessment of potential projects.


This is by no means the only evidence we have. There’s also groupthink in boardrooms, which has contributed to corporate scandals. Bosses can be narcissists and psychopaths, with adverse effects on corporate performance. Richard Roll famously pointed out 31 years ago that takeovers were often motivated by hubris (pdf): RBS’s takeover of ABN Amro, which was one of the most expensive mistakes in British economic history, fits this pattern. And banks took excessive risks in the mid-00s, which led to the financial crisis.

What we have here, therefore, is abundant evidence that bosses are irrational, and this irrationality is costly for shareholders and the wider economy.

Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a maximum income does not address this. The problem is not just that bosses have too much money, but that they have too much power, which they misuse.

This fact, however, is almost completely effaced from political discourse. The nudge agenda focuses far more upon low-level individual irrationalities than upon boardroom ones; bosses are routinely portrayed in the media as disinterested experts and even heroes rather than biased rent-seekers; and debate about Brexit has stolen almost all the cognitive bandwidth that should be devoted to other matters.

In these ways, politics and the media serve the function of sustaining unjust and inefficient inequalities.

Children's Whirligig Toy Inspires a Low-Cost Laboratory Test

January 10, 201712:37 PM ET
Madeline K. Sofia

Scientists have found the inspiration for a lifesaving tool in an unusual place — a children's toy. The invention may soon help health care workers diagnose malaria in places where standard laboratory equipment is hard to find. Diagnosing malaria in the field isn't all that difficult, but you need a device called a centrifuge that can spin a blood sample very quickly, causing different types of cells in blood to separate from each other.

Most centrifuges are bulky, require electricity and are expensive. Because of that, many field hospitals in developing nations don't have easy access to the technology.

Manu Prakash, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University who developed the new tool, saw the need firsthand during a trip to Uganda.


When he got back to California, Prakash began experimenting with all kinds of things that spin, including toys.


The researchers started to experiment with yo-yos. But the yo-yos didn't spin fast enough to work as a centrifuge. Then they stumbled upon the children's toy known as the whirligig, or buzzer.


The toy is made of a disc that spins when a person pulls on strings that pass through the center. And it spins much faster than a yo-yo. The scientists clocked their version at 125,000 revolutions per minute. According to the authors, that's the fastest rotational speed reported for a human-powered device. By comparison, the internal combustion engine of a Formula One race car rotates at about 15,000 rpm.

And so the paperfuge was born.

The paperfuge is made out of paper coated in a polymer film that makes it extra strong, string and PVC pipe or wood. Blood samples are attached to the center disc and pulling the strings causes the cells to separate, just like in the more expensive electrical centrifuge. The samples can then be processed and tested for parasites.

To prove that the paperfuge could work in the field, the researches took a prototype to Madagascar for a test run. It worked as advertised, allowing local health care workers to spin blood and test for parasites. Prakash and his colleagues reported their results Tuesday in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

This isn't the first time that Prakash has invented a low-cost tool for use in resource-poor areas. A few years ago, his group also invented a $1 paper microscope called the Foldscope.


New poll has Trump approval rating at 37%, Obama at 55%


David M Jackson , USA TODAY Published 1:23 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2017 | Updated 2:02 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2017

At this point at least, many voters don't have much confidence in Donald Trump's presidential abilities, a new poll says.

Trump "will be a worse president than Barack Obama, 45% of voters say, while 34% he will be a better president and 15% percent say he will be about the same, according to the Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday.

Trump enters office on Jan. 20 with a favorable rating of 37%, the poll said; Obama exits the White House with an approval rating of 55%.

"President Barack Obama leaves the White House a lot more popular than Donald Trump is as he crosses the threshold and saddles up for the most important job in the world," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

He added: "President-elect Trump gets points for strength and intelligence, but voters' feelings about his personality traits, empathy, leadership and level-headedness, are headed south."

The national poll of 899 voters was conducted Jan. 5-9 and had a 3.3-point margin of error.