Sunday, August 17, 2025


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Monday, November 04, 2024

The structure of this blog

I have several blog posts that are at the top of my blog for extended periods of time, because I believe they are of continuing usefulness. So when you look at my blog, the fact that the first few are the same doesn't mean I haven't updated the blog recently.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Airplane noise at night can trigger cardiovascular death

I'm sure other noise can have the same effect, like the jerk who goes around our neighborhood setting off fire crackers in the middle of the night, some of them sounding like bombs.  Got a small chest pain for hours one night from one close to my house.


News Release 27-Nov-2020
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Most studies on transportation noise and cardiovascular mortality have focused on long-term exposure to noise. These studies demonstrated that chronic noise exposure is a risk factor for cardiovascular mortality. Across Europe, 48,000 cases of ischemic heart disease per year can be attributed to noise exposure, in particular to road traffic noise.

For the first time, a study led by researchers at Swiss TPH found that acute noise from airplanes during the night can trigger cardiovascular deaths within two hours of aircraft noise exposure. The study published today in the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal found that the risk of a cardiovascular death increases by 33% for night-time noise levels between 40 and 50 decibels and 44% for levels above 55 decibels.

"We found that aircraft noise contributed to about 800 out of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2015 in the vicinity of Zurich airport. This represents three percent of all observed cardiovascular deaths," said Martin Röösli, corresponding author of the study and Head of the Environmental Exposures and Health unit at Swiss TPH.

According to Röösli, the results are similar to the effects that emotions such as anger or excitement have on cardiovascular mortality. "This is not so surprising, as we know night-time noise causes stress and affects sleep," he added. The night-time noise effect was more pronounced in quiet areas with little railway and road traffic background noise and for people living in older houses, which often have less insulation and are thus more noise-prone.


Forest fires, cars, power plants join list of risk factors for Alzheimer's disease


News Release 30-Nov-2020
University of California - San Francisco


A new study led by researchers at UC San Francisco has found that among older Americans with cognitive impairment, the greater the air pollution in their neighborhood, the higher the likelihood of amyloid plaques - a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The study adds to a body of evidence indicating that pollution from cars, factories, power plants and forest fires joins established dementia risk factors like smoking and diabetes.

In the study, which appears in JAMA Neurology on Nov.30, 2020, the researchers looked at the PET scans of more than 18,000 seniors whose average age was 75. The participants had dementia or mild cognitive impairment and lived in zip codes dotted throughout the nation. The researchers found that those in the most polluted areas had a 10 percent increased probability of a PET scan showing amyloid plaques, compared to those in the least polluted areas.

When applied to the U.S. population, with an estimated 5.8 million people over 65 with Alzheimer's disease, high exposure to microscopic airborne particles may be implicated in tens of thousands of cases.


Plastic contaminants harm sea urchins


News Release 30-Nov-2020
University of Exeter


Plastics in the ocean can release chemicals that cause deformities in sea urchin larvae, new research shows.

Scientists soaked various plastic samples in seawater then removed the plastic and raised sea urchin embryos in the water.

The study, led by the University of Exeter, found that urchins developed a variety of abnormalities, including deformed skeletons and nervous systems.

These abnormalities were caused by chemicals embedded in the plastics leaching out into the water, rather than the plastics themselves.

The plastic-to-water ratio in the study would only be seen in severely polluted places, but the findings raise questions about the wider impact of plastic contaminants on marine life.


Researchers show risk-averse teens sway peers to make safer choices


News Release 30-Nov-2020
Virginia Tech

Your high school friends may have had a bigger influence on your behavior than you once thought.

Prior studies about peer pressure have focused on why adolescents are likely to experiment along with friends who use drugs and alcohol. But do friends who avoid risks have similar influential power? Could observing a peer making a safe choice encourage someone to follow their lead?

In a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech neuroscientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC show that observing peers making sound decisions may help young people play it safe. The discovery may one day inform measures to help teens make healthy decisions.

"This finding was surprising, because we were expecting to understand brain mechanisms of negative peer pressure. What we found in the brain and behavioral data is that positive social peers are even more important," said Pearl Chiu, an associate professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the Department of Psychology in Virginia Tech's College of Science. "Watching social peers making safe choices - positive peer pressure - may lead some teens to make safer choices than they would otherwise."

Risky decision-making in adolescence can have long-term consequences. Research has shown that teens who start using substances are more likely to develop a substance use disorder later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Mothers' stress may lead to preterm births, faster aging in children


News Release 30-Nov-2020
Two UCLA studies reveal how stress before and during pregnancy may adversely affect offspring
University of California - Los Angeles


Why do some people age faster than others? One potential answer, a new UCLA-led study indicates, is that a mother's stress prior to giving birth may accelerate her child's biological aging.

The researchers found evidence that maternal stress adversely affects the length of a baby's telomeres -- the small pieces of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that act as protective caps, like the plastic tips on shoelaces. Shortened telomeres have been linked to a higher risk of cancers, cardiovascular and other diseases, and earlier death.


A second UCLA-led study from the same research group found that women suffering from high stress during the months and even years before conception -- defined as feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope -- had shorter pregnancies than other women. Women who experienced the highest levels of stress gave birth to infants whose time in utero was shorter by one week or more.

"Every day in the womb is important to fetal growth and development," said Christine Dunkel Schetter, a distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry and senior author of both studies. "Premature infants have higher risk of adverse outcomes at birth and later in life than babies born later, including developmental disabilities and physical health problems."

Dunkel Schetter, who heads the Stress Processes in Pregnancy Lab, which conducted the studies, noted that premature birth rates are unusually high in the U.S., compared to other nations with similar resources, and that low-income and African American women have higher rates of preterm birth. "Preventing preterm birth, with its adverse consequences for mothers and children worldwide and in the U.S., is a top priority," she said.


 The researchers found that women who were exposed to the lowest or highest amounts of stress in their environment had the shortest pregnancies, while women who had a moderate level of environmental stress before conception had the longest pregnancies.

"Women exposed to moderate stressors in their environment may have developed coping strategies that serve them well both before and during pregnancy, while exposure to more severe stress challenges even women who normally cope very effectively," said lead author Nicole Mahrer, who conducted the research as a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in health psychology and is now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of La Verne. She is also a co-author of the other study.

A moderate amount of stress in utero may help prepare the developing fetus for the environment to come, Mahrer said, especially if the mother has developed effective coping strategies.

"What we have not known until now," Dunkel Schetter said, "is whether a mother's psychosocial health before conception matters for her birth outcomes. This study is among the first to point out that, yes, it does matter.


 "An important takeaway from this work is that prenatal and preconception maternal health and well-being are critically important for the health of the infant," Carroll said. "If we as a society can make changes to help give pregnant women the resources they need and provide them with a safe and supportive environment before and during pregnancy, we may have a significant impact on the health of their children." 

Study reveals connection between gut bacteria and vitamin D levels


News Release 30-Nov-2020
University of California - San Diego


Our gut microbiomes -- the many bacteria, viruses and other microbes living in our digestive tracts -- play important roles in our health and risk for disease in ways that are only beginning to be recognized.

University of California San Diego researchers and collaborators recently demonstrated in older men that the makeup of a person's gut microbiome is linked to their levels of active vitamin D, a hormone important for bone health and immunity.

The study, published November 26, 2020 in Nature Communications, also revealed a new understanding of vitamin D and how it's typically measured.

Vitamin D can take several different forms, but standard blood tests detect only one, an inactive precursor that can be stored by the body. To use vitamin D, the body must metabolize the precursor into an active form.

"We were surprised to find that microbiome diversity -- the variety of bacteria types in a person's gut -- was closely associated with active vitamin D, but not the precursor form," said senior author Deborah Kado, MD, director of the Osteoporosis Clinic at UC San Diego Health. "Greater gut microbiome diversity is thought to be associated with better health in general."


Plant-based diet ramps up metabolism, according to new study

News Release 30-Nov-2020
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

A plant-based diet boosts after-meal burn, leads to weight loss, and improves cardiometabolic risk factors in overweight individuals, according to a new randomized control trial published in JAMA Network Open by researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The study randomly assigned participants--who were overweight and had no history of diabetes--to an intervention or control group in a 1:1 ratio. For 16 weeks, participants in the intervention group followed a low-fat, plant-based diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes with no calorie limit. The control group made no diet changes. Neither group changed exercise or medication routines, unless directed by their personal doctors.

Researchers used indirect calorimetry to measure how many calories participants burned after a standardized meal at both the beginning and end of the study. The plant-based group increased after-meal calorie burn by 18.7%, on average, after 16 weeks. The control group's after-meal burn did not change significantly.


Within just 16 weeks, participants in the plant-based group lowered their body weight by 6.4 kg (about 14 pounds), on average, compared to an insignificant change in the control group. The plant-based group also saw significant drops in fat mass and visceral fat volume--the dangerous fat found around the internal organs.

The researchers also teamed up with Yale University researchers Kitt Petersen, MD, and Gerald Shulman, MD, to track intramyocellular lipid and hepatocellular lipid--the accumulating fat in muscle and liver cells--in a subset of participants using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Those in the plant-based group reduced the fat inside the liver and muscle cells by 34% and 10%, respectively, while the control group did not experience significant changes. Fat stored in these cells has been linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

"When fat builds up in liver and muscle cells, it interferes with insulin's ability to move glucose out from the bloodstream and into the cells," adds Dr. Kahleova. "After just 16 weeks on a low-fat, plant-based diet, study participants reduced the fat in their cells and lowered their chances for developing type 2 diabetes."


As Hospitals Fill With COVID-19 Patients, Medical Reinforcements Are Hard To Find

November 30, 20205:02 AM ET

Blake Farmer
Carrie Feibel


 Hospitals in much of the country are trying to cope with unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients. As of Sunday, 93,238 were hospitalized, an alarming record that far exceeds the two previous peaks in April and July, of just under 60,000 inpatients.

But beds and space aren't the main concern. It's the work force. Hospitals are worried that staffing levels won't be able to keep up with demand as doctors, nurses and specialists such as respiratory therapists become exhausted or, worse, become infected or sick themselves.

The typical workaround for staffing shortages — hiring clinicians from out of town — isn't the solution anymore, even though it helped ease the strain early in the pandemic, when the first surge of cases was concentrated in a handful of "hot spot" cities such as New York, Detroit, Seattle and New Orleans.


Tennessee has now built its own field hospitals to handle patient overflows — one is inside the old Commercial Appeal newspaper offices in Memphis, and another occupies two unused floors in Nashville General Hospital. But if they were needed right now, the state would have trouble finding the doctors and nurses to run them because hospitals are already struggling to staff the beds they have.

"Hospital capacity is almost exclusively about staffing," says Dr. Lisa Piercey, who heads the Tennessee Department of Health. "Physical space, physical beds, not the issue."

When it comes to staffing, the coronavirus creates a compounding challenge.

As patient caseloads reach new highs, record numbers of hospital employees are themselves out sick with COVID-19 or temporarily forced to stop working because they have to quarantine after a possible exposure.

"But here's the kicker," says Dr. Alex Jahangir, who chairs Nashville's coronavirus task force. "They're not getting infected in the hospitals. In fact, hospitals for the most part are fairly safe. They're getting infected in the community."


Even the region's largest hospitals are filling up. This week, Vanderbilt University Medical Center made space in its children's hospital for non-COVID-19 patients. Its adult hospital has more than 700 beds. And like many other hospitals, it's had the challenge of staffing two intensive care units — one exclusively for COVID-19 patients and another for everyone else.

And they're coming from as far away as Arkansas and southwest Virginia.

"The vast majority of our patients now in the intensive care unit are not coming in through our emergency department," says Dr. Matthew Semler, a pulmonary specialist at VUMC who works with COVID-19 patients.

"They're being sent hours to be at our hospital because all of the hospitals between here and where they present to the emergency department are on diversion."

Semler says his hospital would typically bring in nurses from out of town to help. But there is nowhere to pull them from right now.


But Johnson says the sacrifices shouldn't just come from the country's health care workers. Everyone bears a responsibility, he says, to try to keep themselves and others from getting sick in the first place.

How this rapper quit his music career to start a cat rescue

NBC News
Jen Reeder
Sun, November 29, 2020, 7:00 AM EST

Atlanta resident Sterling Davis was on a break from a rap tour when he applied for a job at the county shelter scooping kitty litter. He just wanted to stay busy and make a little money. Plus, he’s always loved animals, like his cat at the time, Rick James.

“I did horrible in the interview because they had cats in the room and I was playing with all the cats, kissing all the cats,” he told TODAY.

Even though he didn’t really answer any of the questions because he was distracted by the friendly felines, he got the job because, as the person who hired him said, “We’re not seeing people like you with cats.”

Davis, 40, started helping shelter employees with trap-neuter-return cases. The team would trap community cats (formerly called “feral”), bring them to the shelter to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered, and then return them to their outdoor realm.


After five years of working at the shelter run by LifeLine Animal Project and training with Best Friends Animal Society, Davis founded the nonprofit TrapKing Humane Cat Solutions in 2017.

His bold goal: to change stereotypes of men in cat rescue and bridge the communication gap between Black communities and predominately white animal welfare organizations.


“I think being in the military, being around different people, different cultures and being in entertainment is what actually helped me better communicate with all types of people and better communicate this mission,” he said. “I’ve literally been pushing to make TNR community cat care as common as recycling and get more people engaged in so many fun ways.”

It hasn’t always been easy. Early on when Davis was returning cats to a predominately Black neighborhood, a group of men walked up and told him: “White people put tracking devices and diseases in these cats to hurt the Black community and you’re helping that. You’re bringing them into the neighborhood.”

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so wrong.’ It was really difficult to explain it because all the Black community could see was this is a white person’s thing,” he said.


“I think something as selfless as rescue could be an example to the world of unity and working together,” he said. “So I want to put that out there.”

Destructive Trump loyalists undermining Pentagon transition, retired admiral warns

The Independent
Louise Hall
Mon, November 30, 2020, 11:20 AM EST

Retired US admiral Michael Mullen has said he is “very concerned” about “Trump loyalists” working in the Pentagon amidst Joe Biden’s transition period.

During an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Mr Mullen discussed the importance of the peaceful transfer of power and the impact of Donald Trump’s delay of the official transition process.

“I think I'm actually very concerned about the Trump loyalists who have now gone to work in the Pentagon,” Mr Mullen said, suggesting that they could cause issues for Mr Biden during the transition period.

“I mean, recently, Secretary Esper was fired, and a host of other people left the building. And there are some real Trump loyalists there now in charge and it's pretty difficult to think that over the course of 50 or 60 days you can do something constructive, but you can do something that's really destructive," he added.


Sydney records hottest November night on record

A majority of Australians have voted for a leader who blocks action on climate disruption.


Sun, November 29, 2020, 2:20 PM EST

Sydney [Australia] has reported its hottest November night on record, with the official start of summer still days away.

The city recorded a minimum overnight temperature of 25.4C  [77.7F] and then hit 40C [104F] during the daytime on Sunday.

Dozens of bush fires are already burning in New South Wales with hotter weather predicted on Tuesday.

The states of Victoria and South Australia also reported soaring heat over the weekend.

"November has been quite unusual in many ways. We have only seen about half our normal rainfall and it is quite possible it will be one of our hottest Novembers on record," Andrew Watkins, of the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) noted on Friday.


tags: extreme weather, severe weather,

Sunday, November 29, 2020

‘We’re No. 28! And Dropping!’

By Nicholas Kristof
Sept. 9, 2020

This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.


The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.


The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are no longer the country we like to think we are,” said Porter.

The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.

The Social Progress Index finds that Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.


The decline of the United States over the last decade in this index — more than any country in the world — is a reminder that we Americans face structural problems that predate President Trump and that festered under leaders of both parties. Trump is a symptom of this larger malaise, and also a cause of its acceleration.

David G. Blanchflower, a Dartmouth economist, has new research showing that the share of Americans reporting in effect that every day is a bad mental health day has doubled over 25 years. “Rising distress and despair are largely American phenomenon not observed in other advanced countries,” Blanchflower told me.


The abyss has been winning

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Community noise may increase dementia risk

News Release 21-Oct-2020

Results from a new study published in Alzheimer's & Dementia support emerging evidence suggesting that noise may influence individuals' risk of developing dementia later in life.

Researchers studied 5,227 participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project who were aged 65 years or older, of whom 30% had mild cognitive impairment and 11% had Alzheimer's disease. They found that persons living with 10 decibels more noise near their residences during the daytime had a 36% higher odds of having mild cognitive impairment and a 30% higher odds of having Alzheimer's disease.

"These findings suggest that within typical urban communities in the United States, higher levels of noise may impact the brains of older adults and make it harder for them to function without assistance. This is an important finding since millions of Americans are currently impacted by high levels of noise in their communities," said senior author Sara D. Adar, ScD, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor.


Nearly 26 million Americans are going hungry the week of Thanksgiving

Robert Reich
Nov. 25, 2020

A staggering one in EIGHT Americans reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat in the past week. That’s nearly 26 million Americans who are going hungry the week of Thanksgiving. And a full quarter of out-of-work Americans with children at home reported not having enough food to eat. The numbers are worse for Black households than for white ones: 22 percent of Black households reported going hungry in the past week, over 2.5 times the rate for white households. Food banks are overwhelmed trying to meet the new surge in demand: “We'll be hard pressed to keep up. We’re just bracing for the worst,” said the CEO of Feeding Texas.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate last week and let them skip town early for Thanksgiving. He and his do nothing Senate Republicans get to go home to their families and sit down to a table bursting with food, while 26 million of their fellow Americans starve. As long as their rich friends are happy now that the stock market is soaring, they couldn’t be bothered to serve their constituents. It’s one of the grossest abdications of duty I’ve ever seen. There are no words to truly describe Mitch McConnell’s moral bankruptcy.

Shopping on Black Friday? Remember the stranded seafarers who make it possible

Nusrat Ghani and Guy Platten
Fri 27 Nov 2020 08.23 EST
Last modified on Fri 27 Nov 2020 08.29 EST

This weekend is one of the planet’s busiest shopping sprees, with an estimated £66bn to be spent in the UK alone over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, much of it online. Yet as shoppers click and wait to collect, there is a crisis at sea among the people whose work brings us these goods.

It is no exaggeration to say that without shipping the global marketplace would collapse. It is responsible for the movement of 90% of all global trade. Even in normal circumstances, more than a million seafarers labour daily on the vessels that make up the world cargo fleet, their work barely noticed by consumers. As Covid-19 has ravaged the world, they have helped keep the global economy functioning, unseen.

As Guardian Seascape has repeatedly reported, however, nearly 400,000 of these seafarers are trapped by the crew change crisis. Most have not been designated key workers during the pandemic, and have remained effectively imprisoned on board their vessels – unable to change crews at ports, and therefore unable to return to their homes and loved ones.


As things stand, a few major retailers are poised to profit immensely from the work of seafearers in the rush for goods on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The International Chamber of Shipping has written an open letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, asking him to use his influence to exert pressure on governments to recognise seafarers as key workers, so that they can change crews, go home and be reunited with their families.



Afghan pilot who saved Americans hiding from Taliban after US denies plea for refuge


The Independent
Josh Marcus
Sat, November 28, 2020, 8:15 PM EST

A decorated Afghan Air Force pilot who had saved American lives is now in hiding in Afghanistan from the Taliban after the US military suddenly changed course and denied his emergency request to seek refuge in America late last month.

“I cannot go backward,” Maj. Mohammed Naiem Asadi, 32, told military news site Stars and Stripes, which broke the news. “And I cannot go forward, because I am not allowed to go forward.”

Stars and Stripes accessed documents which showed the Pentagon initially approved the request from Mr Asadi, who reportedly killed more Taliban fighters than anyone else in the Afghan Air Force and helped protect an American pilot who crashed their plane in northern Afghanistan this summer.


Biden has white men to thank for putting him in the White House

Andrew L. Yarrow, Opinion contributor
Sun, November 29, 2020, 4:00 AM EST

President-elect Joe Biden has white men to thank.

Two years ago, I wrote that Democrats and progressives needed to appeal to white men and address the problems particularly of non-college educated white men. Although the party may not have been so explicit about what the problems of this population are and the ways in which they would tackle them, at least at the presidential level, Democrats were successful in winning many of them over.

Donald Trump made gains among virtually every other demographic — Black men and women, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and even white women. The one significant demographic in which his support cratered compared to 2016 was among white men, who make up more than one-third of the electorate. Biden made an impressive 11 percentage point gain among white, college-educated men and a 6 percentage point gain among white, non-college educated men, supposedly Trump’s core constituency.


Autumn illnesses including flu up to halved by coronavirus restrictions, says German study


The Telegraph
Daniel Wighton
Sun, November 29, 2020, 7:10 AM EST 

Coronavirus measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing haven’t just helped stop the spread of Covid-19, they’ve also slashed cases of cold weather illnesses by up to 50 per cent, according to new data from Germany.

Instances of flu, bronchitis and pneumonia have all significantly decreased in north-eastern Germany, which includes Berlin, according to a study by health insurer AOK Nordost.   

From September until mid-November, the number of people taking sick days off work due to the flu was halved compared to previous years.

Absence due to acute bronchitis fell by more than half, the study found, while sick days as a result of pneumonia and gastrointestinal infections dropped by a third.

The authors said this was likely due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.  

“The corona protective measures including masks, washing hands and keeping your distance did not prevent the second Covid-19 wave,” said the report.  

“The rules, however, have at least severely contained the spread of flu and other infectious diseases in the autumn.”

The authors also speculated that an increase in flu vaccinations may have also contributed to the decline in infections. 


Saturday, November 28, 2020

GOP congressman calls party's refusal to acknowledge Biden's win a 'massive grift' and says Trump 'forgot he was serving people and not himself'

Business Insider /

John L. Dorman
Sat, November 28, 2020, 6:28 PM EST


GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia slammed President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans in a recent interview with Forbes, calling the party's large-scale refusal to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden's victory a "massive grift" and saying that Trump has "never served anything but himself."

Riggleman, an outgoing congressman and one of a handful of House Republicans who are openly acknowledging Biden's presidential win, said that the current posturing by the party is "just money-making for the 2024 election" and "completely unethical."

The conservative congressman said that the fear of Trump's wrath was motivating many House Republicans to prioritize their individual careers over accepting the election results.

"They're worried about committee assignments, they're worried about the team," Riggleman said of Republicans who are standing with the president. Trump, Riggleman said, can "cost them their careers" and for many members, "the career is more important than the facts, it's that simple."



Friday, November 27, 2020

She once stood before a judge as a juvenile delinquent. Now, she’s practicing law.

by Melanie Burney, Updated: March 14, 2020

When the moment finally came, it was surreal for Carmen Day: She had accomplished her childhood dream to become a lawyer.

It began with a promise she made 13 years ago to a judge in Camden who showed her leniency when she stood before him as a juvenile delinquent. She could have faced prison time. Instead, she got a second chance.

This week, Day began working as an associate at the Brown & Connery law firm in Westmont. She landed the position two months after obtaining a Juris Doctorate with honors from Rutgers-Camden Law School. She is handling employment law cases.


William Tambussi, a partner in the politically connected firm who will mentor Day, said he was impressed with her triumph over adversity. Unlike most hires, Day didn’t complete a summer internship at the firm or clerk with a judge.

”She had the smarts, was goal-driven and had the work ethic,” Tambussi said. “This is the kind of person we want.”

Her first exposure to the law had an ominous beginning when Day stood before Superior Court Judge Charles Dortch in December 2006. She had a plea agreement that called for 18 months’ probation. She begged for leniency, and the judge reduced her sentence to six months.

Juvenile records are sealed, and Day has declined to disclose specifics about her case, including the charges she faced. She has said that she succumbed to peer pressure from her boyfriend and friends, and went down the wrong path.


Dortch told Day he was proud of her. They posed for photographs and their story went viral, and she received messages from around the world. She has become a motivational speaker and a role model for young girls in Camden, where she grew up.

”This is my testimony. I hope by sharing that I can encourage someone to keep fighting and keep dreaming,” Day wrote in a social media post.


When he leaves office, can ex-President Trump be trusted with America's national security secrets?

NBC News

Ken Dilanian
Fri, November 27, 2020, 9:03 AM EST

When David Priess was a CIA officer, he traveled to Houston, he recalls, to brief former President George H.W. Bush on classified developments in the Middle East.

It was part of a long tradition of former presidents being consulted about, and granted access to, some of the nation's secrets.

Priess and other former intelligence officials say Joe Biden would be wise not to let that tradition continue in the case of Donald Trump.

They argue soon-to-be-former President Trump already poses a danger because of the secrets he currently possesses, and they say it would be foolish to trust him with more sensitive information. With Trump's real estate empire under financial pressure and his brand suffering, they worry he will see American secrets as a profit center.

"This is not something that one could have ever imagined with other presidents, but it's easy to imagine with this one," said Jack Goldsmith, who worked as a senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration.

"He's shown as president that he doesn't take secret-keeping terribly seriously," Goldsmith said in an interview. "He has a known tendency to disrespect rules related to national security. And he has a known tendency to like to sell things that are valuable to him."

Goldsmith and other experts noted that Trump has a history of carelessly revealing classified information. He told the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in 2017 about extremely sensitive terrorism threat information the U.S. had received from an ally. Last year he tweeted what experts said was a secret satellite photo of an Iranian nuclear installation.


Trump has said his finances are sound, and that the debts are a small percentage of his assets. Generally, though, large debts to foreign banks — Trump's biggest creditor is reported to be Deutsche Bank, a German institution with links to Russia — would exclude a person from a top secret clearance.

Presidents, however, are not investigated and polygraphed for security clearances as all other government officials are. By virtue of being elected, they assume control over all the nation's secret intelligence, and are allowed by law to disclose any of it, at any time, to anyone.

Former presidents aren't subject to security clearance investigations, either. They are provided access to secrets as a courtesy, with the permission of the current president.


That said, Trump probably is not conversant with many highly classified details, experts say, He was famous for paying only intermittent attention during his intelligence briefings and declining to read his written materials. Moreover, intelligence officials tend not to share specifics about sources and methods with any president, unless he asks.

So Trump probably doesn't know the names of the CIA's spies in Russia, experts say. But presumably he knows a bit about the capabilities of American surveillance drones, for example, or how adept the National Security Agency has been at intercepting the communications of various foreign governments.


Like so much with Trump, his track record of sharing secrets has been unprecedented in American presidential history.

In interviews with the journalist Bob Woodward for a book released this fall, Trump boasted about a secret nuclear weapons system that neither Russia nor China knew about.

According to the Washington Post, Woodward's sources "later confirmed that the U.S. military had a secret new weapons system, but they would not provide details, and that the people were surprised Trump had disclosed it."

When Trump briefed the public about the commando raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, he disclosed classified and sensitive details, according to reporting by NBC News.

In 2017, Trump gave the location of two American nuclear submarines near North Korea to the president of the Philippines.


Inching toward exit, Trump says he'll leave if Biden wins Electoral College vote


Jeff Mason and Simon Lewis
Thu, November 26, 2020, 6:07 AM EST 

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, the closest he has come to conceding the Nov. 3 election, even as he repeated unfounded claims of massive voter fraud.

Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden - who is due to be sworn in on Jan. 20 - is formally declared the winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House.

Asked if he would leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, Trump said: "Certainly I will. Certainly I will. And you know that."




November 29–30, 2020 Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

See the web site for details

This is the last penumbral lunar eclipse of 2020. Residents of North and South America, Australia, and parts of Asia can see about 82% of the Full Moon turn a shade darker during the maximum phase of this eclipse.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ants are crucial in spreading wildflower seeds

Updated May 25, 2018
By Charles Seabrook

The trilliums, violets, hepatica, rue-anemone, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, trout lilies and dozens of other “spring ephemeral” wildflowers that bloomed so beautifully and lushly in early spring are fast disappearing now.


Then, the ants take over. While spring ephemerals primarily are pollinated by bees, wasps, beetles and other insects, they rely on woodland ants to spread their seeds May through July. (Seed-dispersal by ants is called myrmecochory.)

To entice the ants, seeds of spring ephemerals bear external fat-rich attachments called elaiosomes, which woodland ants love. The ants carry the seeds back to their nests and feed the elaiosomes to their larvae. The unharmed seeds, now free of elaiosomes, are tossed by the ants onto well-aerated, nutrient-rich discard piles — ideal seedbeds. In effect, the ants plant the seeds.

On average, an ant carries a seed only about six feet from the parent plant. However, the seed benefits by having a favorable spot in which to germinate. In addition, by being in an ant nest, the seed is less likely to be eaten by predators such as mice.

Other plants, of course, have come to rely on other seed-dispersal strategies. Winged seeds are scattered by wind and water; seeds of berry and fruit plants are sown far and wide by birds and mammals; rough, sticky seeds are spread by clinging to fur and feathers.

Charles Koch doubles down on saying he 'screwed up' with partisanship

 He still won't admit he did wrong by his backing of climate denialism.


Juliana Kaplan
Nov 24, 2020, 2:16 PM

The billionaire megadonor Charles Koch is doubling down on saying he "screwed up" by fueling partisanship.

In a new interview with Axios, Koch expanded on the issues with partisanship that he detailed in his new book. He told the interviewer, Mike Allen, about when he realized his mistake.


Koch has poured millions into the GOP and conservative movements; he and his late brother David are credited with helping to create and shape the modern tea party. His $45 billion fortune comes from Koch Industries, the refinery business Koch inherited from his father.



Republicans are right: democracy is rigged. But they are the beneficiaries

Stephen Holmes

Thu 26 Nov 2020 06.35 EST

The Republican establishment, despite being unfairly advantaged by the skewed composition of the electoral college, by over-representation in the House due to partisan gerrymandering and in the Senate due to equal State suffrage, has been in no hurry to reject Donald Trump’s ludicrous allegation that the American electoral system is rigged to favor Democrats. Sweating the make-or-break Georgia runoffs, the party’s leaders are apparently frightened to cross the mad king, who owns their voters, lest he cause their ratings to plummet as he is doing with Fox News. But Republican complicity with this unprecedented attack on American democracy is not a matter of short-term expediency or fear of reprisals. It is much worse than that. Mitch McConnell and the others are not merely humoring the president until his mania subsides. Trump’s voters are the Republicans’ voters and the Republican party cannot easily cut them, and their deranged conspiracy theories, loose even after 20 January.


The Republican party is deeply committed to the outrageously tilted playing field that allows a minority of voters to choose a majority of senators and, indirectly, a majority of supreme court justices, not to mention the occasional president as in 2000 and 2016. They are an unabashedly anti-democratic party in that sense alone, even if we set aside their brazen efforts at voter suppression and voter intimidation. This is perhaps the main reason why its leaders have proved so reluctant to dissociate themselves from Trump’s specious allegation that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged”. They know that the system is rigged. It is rigged to favor Republicans. And they relish not only the irony of Trump’s audacious reversal of the truth, but also the way it distracts attention from the genuinely unconscionable rigging that gives an American minority the power to impose its will on the American majority.


'No end in sight': hunger surges in America amid a spiraling pandemic

Nina Lakhani in New York and Maanvi Singh in Oakland
Wed 25 Nov 2020 04.00 EST

Millions of Americans must rely on charity to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table this year, as hunger surges amid a devastating spiraling of the Covid-19 pandemic which the Trump administration has failed to get under control.

In what is traditionally a season of celebration, less than half of US households with children feel “very confident” about having enough money to afford the food needed over the next month, according to the US Census Bureau’s latest pandemic survey. A staggering 5.6m households struggled to put enough food on the table in the past week.

Families of color are suffering disproportionately with 27% of black and 23% of Latino respondents with children reported not having enough to eat sometimes or often over the past week – compared with 12% of white people.

Overall food insecurity has doubled since last year due to record unemployment and underemployment rates. For families with children, hunger is three times higher than in 2019, according to analysis by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of the non-partisan Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.


Hunger is not new in America. Even before the pandemic, 35 million people relied on food banks every year, according to Feeding America. But the pandemic has been catastrophic – despite initial lauded federal interventions such as the stimulus cheques and enhanced unemployment benefit. As many as 50 million people could experience hunger this year, including a quarter of all children.

Trump has more or less stopped talking about the pandemic, as the CDC predicts the US could hit 300,000 deaths before Christmas

Bill Bostock
Thu, November 26, 2020, 8:21 AM EST

President Donald Trump has all but stopped talking about the coronavirus pandemic, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning the US could pass 300,000 deaths by Christmas.

Throughout the pandemic, Trump often blamed China, praised the White House's work in finding a vaccine, and downplayed the threat that the virus posed to Americans.

But, in the past week, the topic seems to have disappeared from his public statements.

Since President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, Trump has used his public statements — either in press briefings or tweets — to double down on the baseless claims that he will have a second term, and that votes were stolen from him.


On Wednesday, the CDC said that the US may hit 300,000 coronavirus deaths before December 19. The US has currently reported 262,000 deaths — the highest in the world — according to Johns Hopkins University data.

On Tuesday, the US recorded 2,216 new daily COVID-19 deaths — the highest since June 26, The New York Times reported, adding that daily new deaths were trending upwards and would likely soon surpass the record of 2,752 set on April 15.

Trump has made few statements in recent weeks, and when he has, his remarks largely avoided discussing the virus.

On Tuesday, Trump gave a Thanksgiving press conference in the Rose Garden which he began by praising the Dow Jones Industrial Average gains and only briefly mentioned the pandemic, thanking Americans who "waged the battle against the China virus."

Earlier that day, Trump gave a bizarre, minute-long press briefing in which he again praised the stock market, but added he was "thrilled with what's happened on the vaccine front."


As Business Insider's Sarah Al-Arshani previously noted, Trump has been neglecting his official duties since his election loss. 

El Paso lawyered up to try and collect $570,000 owed to the city by the Trump campaign from a rally 2 years ago


Kelsey Vlamis
Thu, November 26, 2020, 2:16 AM EST

The City of El Paso hired legal counsel to help it collect the more than half a million dollars owed to the city by the Trump campaign from a rally almost two years ago, local station KTSM reported.

The city council voted unanimously on Monday to hire external lawyers to help collect the nearly $570,000 in debt that the city has been trying to collect since February 2019.

A Trump campaign rally took place that month at the El Paso County Coliseum. The city spent about $470,000 on security and other expenses, according to the Texas Tribune. The additional debt is for a one-time late payment fee of about $99,000, or 21%.

The city council vote came days after news that National Guard personnel were deployed to the western Texas city to help with overflowing morgues as it battles the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this month, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told Business Insider's Charles Davis that the city is in need of federal funding to help fight the spread of the virus and protect the local economy.


Biden becomes the first presidential candidate in US history to win 80 million votes — and counting


Oma Seddiq
Wed, November 25, 2020, 4:43 PM EST

President-elect Joe Biden continues to rack up the most votes won by any presidential candidate in US history.

At least 80 million people ticked the Democratic box in the 2020 presidential election as of Wednesday afternoon. The figure is only expected to increase while election officials continue counting votes across the country.

Biden breaks the record held by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who secured 69.5 million votes in 2008, with Biden on the ticket as his running mate. The president-elect surpassed that number only a day after the election.

In the weeks since, a tremendous amount of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic dramatically increased Biden's tally and propelled him to victory. Insider and Decision Desk HQ called the race for Biden on Nov. 6. 


The United States Election Project, which tracks votes, estimates that around 159 million people voted this election, crushing voter turnout rates in over a century at roughly 66.7%. The last high was 73.7% in 1900. 

Warm Arctic, Cold Continents? It Sounds Counterintuitive, but Research Suggests it’s a Thing


By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Nov 22, 2020

By any measure, the Arctic has changed profoundly in the last 40 years, warming three times as fast as the global average, and losing half its summer sea ice, as well as billions of tons of land-based glacier ice.

And even though the Arctic only encompasses about 6 percent of the Earth's surface area, the warming there has kicked off climate chain reactions that are disrupting weather and climate patterns across the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, including most major North American and European cities and agricultural areas. The abrupt and accelerating Arctic warming directly harms the communities, livelihoods and traditions of the 4 million people who live in the polar region.

Some scientists say a more frequently recurring cycle they refer to as "warm Arctic, cold continents," is a sign of that disruption. The pattern seemed to emerge as a global warming signal about 10 years ago, as researchers documented an increase of summer and winter extremes in parts of North America and Eurasia, including heat waves, killer blizzards, floods and cold snaps, occurring even as Arctic warming and ice loss accelerated.


"In general we do see the tendency that, when the Arctic is very warm, you're displacing the cold air that is usually over the Arctic to somewhere else," said co-author Jennifer Francis, a climate researcher with the Woodwell Climate Research Center. "As the arctic warms faster we expect to see this more."


Cohen said he considers complex atmospheric movements involving the polar vortex to be a key link between the warming Arctic and extreme cold events in North America and Eurasia. The polar vortex is a belt of winds around the Arctic that keeps cold air bottled up if it's tight, but spills frigid air masses southward when disrupted.

That disruption happens, he said, when the warm Arctic air works its way high into the upper atmosphere, where it crests like a wave to break through the vortex.

"It's getting increasingly difficult to get severe winter weather into the mid-latitudes without a polar vortex disruption," he said. "And amplified Arctic warming is favorable for disrupting the polar vortex."

Francis, of the Woodwell center, added that it's important to remember that the overall hypothesized impact of amplified Arctic warming is "to favor an increase in the persistence of weather conditions, including cold spells, heat waves, dry periods and storminess, all of which can be disruptive if they last long enough."

Those patterns, she said, can last a week to several weeks and they can flip suddenly: "The whiplash from a record-breaking heatwave to cold and snow that occurred in the western states (particularly Rockies) this fall was a great example."

tags: extreme weather, severe weather,