Saturday, October 01, 2016

Reducing 'mean girl' behaviors in classrooms benefits boys and teachers too

blic Release: 2-Aug-2016
Reducing 'mean girl' behaviors in classrooms benefits boys and teachers too
CHOP researchers: Relational aggression program, pioneered in girls, improves overall classroom climate
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

When a targeted program to reduce relational aggression among at-risk girls is shared with the entire classroom, the entire class benefits--not just the aggressive girls for whom the program was developed. Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) recently reported these findings from Friend to Friend (F2F), a program they developed to prevent relational aggression among urban girls.

Relational aggression, popularized as "mean girl" behavior, is nonphysical, using gossip and social exclusion to manipulate social standing or reputations. In contrast to the physical aggression more prevalent among boys, relational aggression is the most common type of aggression among girls.


After the intervention, not only did the targeted aggressive girls participating in F2F improve their behaviors, but boys within these girls' classrooms scored higher in peer-ratings of positive friendships and being nice, and scored lower in peer ratings of rumor-spreading, exclusion and fighting, compared to boys in HSO. The boys also had more positive relationships with their teachers than similar boys in HSO classrooms. Even girls in the F2F classrooms who were not involved in the direct group intervention were rated by peers as being higher in positive friendships and being nice compared to girls in the HSO classroom.

"A program focused on improving behaviors among urban aggressive girl students also had positive effects on non-targeted students and served to improve the classroom climate," says Dr. Leff. "We hope our future studies will determine why the program has such strong effects for non-targeted youth. Regardless, we are excited about the initial impact, and feel that the program has great potential for helping aggressive girls and their classmates."

Adolescent depression in girls offset by presence of 'boomerang father'

Public Release: 2-Aug-2016
Adolescent depression in girls offset by presence of 'boomerang father'
University of Houston

A study of the impact of "boomerang fathers" -- those who cycle in and out of their children's lives -- yielded surprising results for researchers. "Boomerang fathering" provided a type of stability in a daughter's life that staved off her depressive symptoms compared to those adolescent girls whose fathers were completely absent.


"Previous research has suggested that stressful experiences, like family instability, father absence or stepfather presence, contribute to an adolescent experiencing depression," said Daphne Hernandez, University of Houston assistant professor and principal investigator. "This is not what happened in the cases of these youth. Boomerang fathering served as a protective factor for female adolescent depression compared to female adolescents who experienced instability, but not boomerang fathers."


Among their findings:

There was no real difference between adolescent depressive symptoms of girls who lived with their biological father from birth to 18 years of age and those with lived with boomerang fathers

Adolescent girls exposed to boomerang fathers had lower depressive symptoms at 18 years of age than those exposed to unstable, non-boomerang fathers

Boomerang fathering was not significantly related to depression in adolescent boys


Longer duration of untreated childhood schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis predicts poorer outcomes

Public Release: 2-Aug-2016
Longer duration of untreated childhood schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis predicts poorer outcomes
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News

A review of 35 studies of early-onset schizophrenia-spectrum psychosis (EOS) identified the most common psychotic symptoms and the disorders that most often co-occur in children and adolescents with EOS. The longer the psychosis goes untreated, the lower the predicted functional improvement, according to a study published in Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology website until September 2, 2016.


OSHA finds 20 ‘serious’ violations at plant where worker died E-Mail Share via e-mail To Add a message Your e-mail Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn 14 Comments Print Fire officials inspected the scene of a deadly March ammonia leak at a South Boston fish warehouse. that killed a worker. Scott Eisen for The Boston Globe Fire officials inspected the scene of a deadly March ammonia leak at a South Boston fish warehouse. that killed a worker. By John R. Ellement and Travis Andersen Globe Staff September 30, 2016 A Boston seafood company where an employee died when he was overcome by ammonia fumes was cited Friday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 20 “serious” safety violations that exposed employees to the risk of falls, electrical shocks, and hazardous chemicals. OSHA said it was issuing preliminary fines totaling about $173,000 against Stavis Seafoods, which is headquartered in the Seaport District. The agency said it found that the company must dramatically improve its safety practices to ensure that another employee does not face a “catastrophic release of ammonia.’’ “The company’s failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals, and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency,’’ James Mulligan, the OSHA acting area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts, said in a statement. OSHA launched its investigation after the March 23 accident at the company’s South Boston cold-storage warehouse — which the company has since closed — where a pipe burst in the machine room, spewing ammonia into the air and fatally injuring Brian Caron , a 43-year-old father of two from Peabody. View Story Worker dead in South Boston warehouse ammonia leak Firefighters couldn’t reach the victim at the Stavis Seafoods warehouse because they were “pushed back by the ammonia.” Chemical exposure deaths on the job getting rarer Caron was one of five people inside the facility when the pipe burst. Four other workers escaped the deadly fumes. The volume of ammonia was so large that Boston firefighters had to withdraw as a safety measure, the Globe reported in March. In its report, OSHA found that a “deficient design and lack of proper operation and maintenance for the machine shop’s ammonia refrigeration system and equipment exposed Caron and other Stavis employees to a catastrophic release of ammonia.” Richard Stavis, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement that Stavis closed the warehouse after Caron’s death, cooperated with OSHA, and hired independent safety experts. “We continue to mourn the loss of Brian Caron, our co-worker and friend,’’ Stavis said. Among the steps the company has taken to ensure employee and public safety, he said, were hiring a third-party safety and compliance consultant, and working closely with OSHA to ensure that Stavis facilities and equipment meet the highest safety standards. The seafood distributor was founded in 1929 as the Stavis Ipswich Clam Co. and changed its name in 1967, its website says. It still has operations in the Seaport, and it also has a Miami location, according to the site. Douglas K. Sheff, a personal injury lawyer who chairs the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Workplace Safety Task Force, said the financial penalty is significant, calling it “huge for OSHA. . . . That’s a big fine.” Since January 2015, OSHA has levied initial fines of more than $100,000 against at least seven Massachusetts companies, according to the agency’s website. Initial penalties can be reduced as an investigation moves forward. In the Stavis case, OSHA found the company did not have a door in place to separate the machine room where the leaking pipe was located from an adjacent room. Moreover, there were “large holes in the floor” that allowed the poisonous gas to seep into other parts of the building. The company must now test ammonia sensors in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, create an inspection schedule for pressure vessels at the plant, label ammonia piping properly, and provide a venting system to prevent the buildup of explosive ammonia vapors in the event of another leak. OSHA also found the company had defective ladders, an unmarked door that could lead to a 17-foot drop, lack of roof guardrails, and “insufficiently guarded door openings.” Exit routes were blocked or impeded by improperly stored equipment, along with electrical hazards created by the use of extension cords. In addition, OSHA found, the company did not have a complete inventory of hazardous chemicals inside the plant, had unmarked containers with hazardous chemicals inside, and did not provide appropriate training for workers. In a statement, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advocates for workplace safety, noted that OSHA has previously fined Stavis for safety violations. “OSHA’s fine won’t bring back Mr. Caron, nor compensate the family and co-workers for their suffering,” the coalition said. “It is but a small penance for the damage Stavis has done, repeatedly. But we hope it will give pause to them and other companies that expose their workers to ammonia or other hazardous chemicals.” In 2009, OSHA cited Stavis for 15 serious workplace safety violations, including the company’s safety program for handling of “anhydrous ammonia” in the facility’s refrigeration system. OSHA inspectors later determined that because the plant used less than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, it was not required to comply with that safety program. Ultimately, OSHA withdrew nine citations related to ammonia but kept the other findings intact, reducing the fine from $47,250 to $15,750, records show. Kathy McCabe of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John R. Ellement can be reached at Travis Andersen can be reached at Get Today’s Headlines from the Globe in your inbox: Privacy Policy Show 14 Comments Most Popular in Metro Bottle flipping becomes the rage with middle schoolers It’s not hard these days to find kids flipping bottles: at bus stops, at middle-school lunchroom tables, inside Little League dugouts. MORE... Even at 3 a.m., Donald Trump can’t let a feud go Publicly airing grudges against a former beauty queen, in the middle of the night, is certainly unprecedented in presidential politics.MORE... DCR official forced to resign for misusing state-issued vehicle State Police caught Matthew Sisk, who helped Baker’s gubernatorial campaign, using his vehicle’s siren and lights to cut through Boston traffic.MORE... Protest denounces BC’s response to gay slur on campus About 350 students marched silently through the campus to condemn what they called an “insidious” lack of response from administrators. MORE... No deathbed confession in Gardner heist An attorney rushed to a South Carolina hospital where Robert Gentile is near death Friday, but did not get any new information.MORE... Photos: Celebrating a first at Wellesley College Paula Johnson became the first African-American president of Wellesley College when she was inaugurated Friday.MORE... Little drought relief even as rain soaks the area The region needs a lot more rain than what is forecast through Monday to end the drought.MORE... Former Chelmsford High student files lawsuit alleging sexual assault, retaliation A former Chelmsford High School student who was allegedly raped by at least three teammates has filed a lawsuit saying he was retaliated against for reporting the accusations to law enforcement.MORE... BU professor meant ‘intimacy’ with students, not harm, lawyer says BU Professor Eric Ruske did not mean to cause emotional distress when he touched and kissed two students, his lawyer claimed. MORE... Gunfire near historic ballroom leaves two injured in Dedham The early-morning gunshots left two injured but don’t appear to be life-threatening, police said. MORE... BLOTTER TALES Satanic Temple? She begs to differ Shoplifters steal pricey golf clubs and considerably stranger things, and other odd tales from local police blotters.MORE... Before loss at sea, boater’s family clashed over money Nathan Carman is at the center of two mysteries: The fate of his missing mother and the unsolved murder of his wealthy grandfather.MORE... In Colo., a look at life after marijuana legalization In November, Massachusetts voters are likely to consider a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana.MORE... Next year is this year, long-suffering Cubs fans proclaim It has been 108 years since the Chicago North Siders won a world championship, the longest drought for any major sports club.MORE... Reflections on family, faith as Jewish High Holidays arrive At sundown Sunday, Jews will fill synagogues to usher in the new year, reflect on their lives, take stock of their failings, and pray.MORE... Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation official resigns DCR’S deputy commissioner Matt Sisk resigned Friday, following a string of damaging revelations about the agency.MORE... As Mark Wahlberg seeks a pardon, some aren’t ready to forgive To those who remember the havoc Wahlberg wreaked, his request to erase his teenage offenses from the record is infuriating.MORE... Seven people stabbed in Boston’s Theater District No arrests had been made as of Sunday evening, and no information on a suspect or suspects was available, a police spokesman said.MORE... Is The Country Club too exclusive even for Tom Brady? Brady and Gisele Bundchen reportedly want to join the 133-year-old institution, which prizes privacy and discretion.MORE...

Libertarians & Republicans will be unhappy that a government agency is interfering with the right of a company's executives to maximize their income, by requiring them to follow practices that protect the lives of their employees.

By John R. Ellement and Travis Andersen
Kathy McCabe of the Globe staff contributed to this report
Sept. 30, 2016

A Boston seafood company where an employee died when he was overcome by ammonia fumes was cited Friday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 20 “serious” safety violations that exposed employees to the risk of falls, electrical shocks, and hazardous chemicals.

OSHA said it was issuing preliminary fines totaling about $173,000 against Stavis Seafoods, which is headquartered in the Seaport District.

The agency said it found that the company must dramatically improve its safety practices to ensure that another employee does not face a “catastrophic release of ammonia.’’

“The company’s failure to follow industry and OSHA standards exposed its employees to the hazards of an ammonia release as well as falls, electric shock, hazardous chemicals, and delayed or obstructed exit from the facility during a leak or other emergency,’’ James Mulligan, the OSHA acting area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts, said in a statement.

OSHA launched its investigation after the March 23 accident at the company’s South Boston cold-storage warehouse — which the company has since closed — where a pipe burst in the machine room, spewing ammonia into the air and fatally injuring Brian Caron , a 43-year-old father of two from Peabody.


The volume of ammonia was so large that Boston firefighters had to withdraw as a safety measure, the Globe reported in March.


In a statement, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advocates for workplace safety, noted that OSHA has previously fined Stavis for safety violations.


In 2009, OSHA cited Stavis for 15 serious workplace safety violations, including the company’s safety program for handling of “anhydrous ammonia” in the facility’s refrigeration system.


Criticize Donald Trump, get your site smashed offline from Russia

Sept. 30, 2016

It has been an odd day for Newsweek – its main site was taken offline after it published a story claiming a company owned by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump broke an embargo against doing deals with Cuba.

The magazine first thought that the sheer volume of interest in its scoop was the cause for the outage, but quickly realized that something more sinister was afoot.

The site was being bombarded by junk traffic from servers all around the world, but the majority came from Russia, the editor in chief Jim Impoco has now said.

"Last night we were on the receiving end of what our IT chief called a 'massive' DoS [denial of service] attack," he told Talking Points Memo.

"As with any DDoS [distributed DoS] attack, there are lots of IP addresses, but the main ones are Russian, though that in itself does not prove anything. We are still investigating."

The story, written by staffer Kurt Eichenwald, detailed how former employees of Trump Hotels had arranged a visit to Cuba in 1998 to explore the possibility of joint ventures with the communist regime. A consultancy company called Seven Arrows made the visit, and the funds to pay for the trip were then allegedly hidden as a charitable expense.

Shortly after the story was published, traffic on the site started to rise – as you'd expect in a presidential season with serious allegations being made. But the traffic count continued to rise and eventually brought the site down.

As with any DDoS attack, finding the culprit is nearly impossible. But it appears that the article has pissed off a lot of people who control many Russian servers. ®

Friday, September 30, 2016

Eating more plant protein associated with lower risk of death

Public Release: 1-Aug-2016
Eating more plant protein associated with lower risk of death
The JAMA Network Journals

Eating more protein from plant sources was associated with a lower risk of death and eating more protein from animals was associated with a higher risk of death, especially among adults with at least one unhealthy behavior such as smoking, drinking and being overweight or sedentary, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.


The authors report:

After adjusting for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, every 10 percent increment of animal protein from total calories was associated with a 2 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 8 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease death.

In contrast, eating more plant protein was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of death from all causes for every 3 percent increment of total calories and a 12 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death.

Increased mortality associated with eating more animal protein was more pronounced among study participants who were obese and those who drank alcohol heavily.

The association between eating more plant protein and lower mortality was stronger among study participants who smoked, drank at least 14 grams of alcohol a day, were overweight or obese, were physically inactive or were younger than 65 or older than 80.

Substituting 3 percent of calories from animal protein with plant protein was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes: 34 percent for replacing processed red meat, 12 percent for replacing unprocessed red meat and 19 percent for replacing eggs.


Exercise results in larger brain size and lowered dementia risk

Public Release: 1-Aug-2016
Exercise results in larger brain size and lowered dementia risk
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

Using the landmark Framingham Heart Study to assess how physical activity affects the size of the brain and one's risk for developing dementia, UCLA researchers found an association between low physical activity and a higher risk for dementia in older individuals. This suggests that regular physical activity for older adults could lead to higher brain volumes and a reduced risk for developing dementia.

The researchers found that physical activity particularly affected the size of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain controlling short-term memory. Also, the protective effect of regular physical activity against dementia was strongest in people age 75 and older.


What this all means: one is never too old to exercise for brain health and to stave off the risk for developing dementia.

Meat consumption contributing to global obesity

Public Release: 1-Aug-2016
Meat consumption contributing to global obesity
University of Adelaide

Should we be warning consumers about over-consumption of meat as well as sugar?

That's the question being raised by a team of researchers from the University of Adelaide, who say meat in the modern diet offers surplus energy, and is contributing to the prevalence of global obesity.

Comparative anatomy and human evolution experts from the University's School of Medicine have been studying the correlation between meat consumption and obesity rates in 170 countries.

"Our findings are likely to be controversial because they suggest that meat contributes to obesity prevalence worldwide at the same extent as sugar," says Professor Maciej Henneberg, head of the Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit.

"In the analysis of obesity prevalence across 170 countries, we have found that sugar availability in a nation explains 50% of obesity variation while meat availability another 50%. After correcting for differences in nations' wealth (Gross Domestic Product), calorie consumption, levels of urbanization and of physical inactivity, which are all major contributors to obesity, sugar availability remained an important factor, contributing independently 13%, while meat contributed another 13% to obesity.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

The decline of the middle class is causing even more economic damage than we realized

Lawrence H. Summers, the Charles W. Eliot university professor at Harvard, is a former treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council in the White House. He writes occasional posts on Wonkblog about issues of national and international economics and policymaking.

By Lawrence H. Summers September 29, 2016

I have just come across an International Monetary Fund working paper on income polarization in the United States that makes an important contribution to the secular stagnation debate. The authors — Ali Alichi, Kory Kantenga and Juan SolĂ© — use standard econometric techniques to estimate the impact of declines in middle class incomes on total consumer spending. They find that polarization has reduced consumer spending by more than 3 percent or about $400 billion annually. If these findings stand up to scrutiny, they deserve to have a policy impact.

This level of reduction in spending is huge. For example, it exceeds by a significant margin the impact in any year of the Obama stimulus program. Alone it would be enough to account for a significant reduction in neutral real interest rates. If consumers were spending 3 percent more, there would be scope to maintain full employment at interest rates much closer to normal. And there would be much less of a problem of monetary policy’s inability to respond to the next recession.

What is the policy implication? Principally, it is the macroeconomic importance of supporting middle class incomes. This can be done in a range of ways from promoting workers right to collectively bargain to raising spending on infrastructure to making the tax system more progressive. These are hardly new ideas. And I supported them before seeing this new research. But there is now another powerful argument in terms of mitigating secular stagnation in their favor.

How Donald Trump’s Company Violated the United States Embargo Against Cuba

By Kurt Eichenwald On 9/29/16

A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami, where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.


Breastfeeding associated with better brain development and neurocognitive outcomes

Public Release: 29-Jul-2016
Breastfeeding associated with better brain development and neurocognitive outcomes
New research finds pre-term babies fed more breast milk in the first 28 days of life had larger deep nuclear gray matter volume and better IQs, academic achievements, memory, and motor function by age 7
Brigham and Women's Hospital

A new study, which followed 180 pre-term infants from birth to age seven, found that babies who were fed more breast milk within the first 28 days of life had had larger volumes of certain regions of the brain at term equivalent and had better IQs, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function.

The findings were published online Friday, July 29, in The Journal of Pediatrics.


President George W. Bush originated and signed NAFTA treat

November 14, 1993

The House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on the North American Free Trade Agreement, a complex and ambitious piece of legislation to create the world's largest free-trade zone. It is timely, then, to look at what is proposed and why it has aroused such opposition:


4. Is it a treaty? It is not a treaty. It is an international agreement. This is why it requires approval of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Treaties require only approval of the Senate. NAFTA faces its biggest challenge in the House, which votes Wednesday.

5. Whose idea was it? It was first proposed by President George Bush and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari in June as "a powerful engine for economic development, creating new jobs and opening new markets" in both countries. Canada, which created a free-trade zone with the United States in 1989, agreed to join the wider bloc.

6. Why has NAFTA come up now? President Bush signed the original agreement in December 1992. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton endorsed NAFTA on the condition that side agreements be negotiated to strengthen Mexico's implementation of labor and environmental standards. Negotiations on the side agreements lasted until August, delaying congressional consideration. Without the side agreements, it had no chance of congressional approval. Even with them, the outcome of the House vote is uncertain.


December 18, 1992|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite

President Bush signed the North American Free Trade Agreement yesterday, and his successor-in-waiting Bill Clinton immediately announced that he would not seek the treaty's renegotiation.

Mr. Clinton, in a statement issued in Little Rock, Ark., said the signing represented "an important step" toward the economic integration of North America. He repeated his campaign assertion that there would have to be new job and environmental protections, and safeguards against sudden trade "surges," but these could be settled without renegotiating the treaty with Mexico and Canada before he submitted implementing legislation.

"I will pursue those other things that I think need to be done in the public interest, then I will prepare implementing legislation and try to pass it in Congress," he said.

His new administration would also take domestic action on assisting workers, protecting the U.S. environment, helping farmers, encouraging public participation in consideration of the agreement and closing loopholes for foreign workers, he said.

"I believe these steps do not require renegotiation of NAFTA," said Mr. Clinton, promising to work closely with the two neighboring governments and with congress to "move this process forward."


Mr. Bush's action yesterday fulfilled the requirements of the "fast-track" legislative process, under which Congress can now only vote the agreement up or down. It cannot change the signed document.

Mr. Bush had to allow Congress 90 days to consider the agreement before signing. Yesterday was the first possible day for his signature. The clock will start ticking again when Mr. Clinton submits implementing legislation to make the necessary changes in U.S. law and tariffs required by the treaty. There is no deadline for Mr. Clinton to take this action, but once he does Congress will have up to 90 legislative days to vote up or down on the implementing legislation or change it.


Prominent climate change denier now admits he was wrong

By Neela Banerjee
July 30, 2012

The verdict is in: Global warming is real and greenhouse-gas emissions from human activity are the main cause.

This, according to Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkely, a MacArthur fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of other climatologists around the world came to such conclusions years ago, but the difference now is the source: Muller is a long-standing, colorful critic of prevailing climate science, and the Berkeley project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which, along with its libertarian petrochemical billionaire founder Charles G. Koch, has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change.

In an opinion piece in Saturday’s New York Times titled “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic,” Muller writes:

“Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

The Berkeley project’s research has shown, Muller says, “that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2½ degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1½ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

He calls his current stance “a total turnaround.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cognitive ability varies, but prejudice is universal

Public Release: 29-Jul-2016
Cognitive ability varies, but prejudice is universal
Society for Personality and Social Psychology

When it comes to prejudice, it does not matter if you are smart or not, or conservative or liberal, each group has their own specific biases. In a recent study, psychologists show that low cognitive ability (i.e., intelligence, verbal ability) was not a consistent predictor of prejudice. Cognitive ability, whether high or low, only predicts prejudice towards specific groups. The results are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

"Very few people are immune to expressing prejudice, especially prejudice towards people they disagree with," says lead author Mark Brandt (Tilburg University, Netherlands).

Brandt and Jarret Crawford (The College of New Jersey) analyzed data from 5914 people in the United States that includes a measure of verbal ability and prejudice towards 24 different groups.

Analyzing the results, the researchers found that people with both relatively higher and lower levels of cognitive ability show approximately equal levels of intergroup bias, but towards different sets of groups. People with low cognitive ability tended to express prejudice towards groups perceived as liberal and unconventional (e.g., atheists, gays and lesbians), as well as groups of people perceived as having low choice over group membership (e.g., ethnic minorities). People with high cognitive ability showed the reverse pattern. They tended to express prejudice towards groups perceived as conservative and conventional (e.g., Christians, the military, big business).
[How do they define "prejudice"? If you are not a Christian, you have received nasty comments & behaviour from people calling themselves Christians, , and proposals to limit your rights, so of course you will have negative feelings toward them. If you are intelligent and informed, you will know that big business does do things like conceal the fact that their products are harmful, conspire to make needed medicines cost a lot, etc. I have noticed that people in various groups readily accept totally ridiculous claims towards those they don't like.]

The mind-boggling New Orleans heat record that no one is talking about

By Angela Fritz
Sept. 26, 2016

During one of the country’s hottest summers, New Orleans quietly set a mind-boggling record. On 43 nights, the temperature did not drop below 80 degrees in New Orleans, according to the Louisiana state climatologist.

It blows the previous record out of the water — 13 nights in 2010. It’s also incredible considering in an average summer, New Orleans has just 2.1 nights at or above 80 degrees.

This record should be getting much more attention than it has been.

Very warm overnight temperatures are hard on your body, let alone your utility bills. The elderly are particularly at risk during these times, as is the entire homeless population and anyone with an illness. You might be inclined to raise a finger to mention that air conditioning negates these effects, but around 30 percent of New Orleans’s population lives in poverty. If a family is lucky enough to own an air conditioner, they probably cannot afford to use it.

Why is this happening? In short, man-made climate change.

It’s not just New Orleans and the South in general that are suffering through dangerously uncomfortable nights; this trend is obvious across the entire Lower forty-eight. And that’s exactly what we expect in a climate-change world. In reality, very warm overnight low temperatures have been increasing in frequency since the 1970s.


Why is this happening? In short, man-made climate change.

It’s not just New Orleans and the South in general that are suffering through dangerously uncomfortable nights; this trend is obvious across the entire Lower forty-eight. And that’s exactly what we expect in a climate-change world. In reality, very warm overnight low temperatures have been increasing in frequency since the 1970s.

The World Passes 400 PPM Threshold.

By Brian Kahn
Sept. 27, 2016

The World Passes 400 PPM Threshold. Permanently

In the centuries to come, history books will likely look back on September 2016 as a major milestone for the world’s climate. At a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide is usually at its minimum, the monthly value failed to drop below 400 parts per million.

That all but ensures that 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes, according to scientists.

Because carbon pollution has been increasing since the start of the Industrial Revolution and has shown no signs of abating, it was more a question of “when” rather than “if” we would cross this threshold. The inevitability doesn’t make it any less significant, though.

September is usually the month when carbon dioxide is at its lowest after a summer of plants growing and sucking it up in the northern hemisphere. As fall wears on, those plants lose their leaves, which in turn decompose, releasing the stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. At Mauna Loa Observatory, the world’s marquee site for monitoring carbon dioxide, there are signs that the process has begun but levels have remained above 400 ppm.

Since the industrial revolution, humans have been altering this process by adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than plants can take up. That’s driven carbon dioxide levels higher and with it, global temperatures, along with a host of other climate change impacts.

“Is it possible that October 2016 will yield a lower monthly value than September and dip below 400 ppm? Almost impossible,” Ralph Keeling, the scientist who runs the Scripps Institute for Oceanography’s carbon dioxide monitoring program, wrote in a blog post. “Brief excursions toward lower values are still possible, but it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year – or ever again for the indefinite future.”

We may get a day or two reprieve in the next month, similar to August when Tropical Storm Madeline blew by Hawaii and knocked carbon dioxide below 400 ppm for a day. But otherwise, we’re living in a 400 ppm world. Even if the world stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, what has already put in the atmosphere will linger for many decades to come.


Donald Trump Would Boost Debt More Than Hillary Clinton, Report Says

From the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by right-winger Rupert Murdoch.

By Nick Timiraos
Sep 26, 2016

A new analysis estimates Hillary Clinton’s tax and spending proposals would have a relatively modest effect on the national debt, while Donald Trump’s fiscal plans would sharply boost deficits and the debt over the next decade.

The report from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates debt reduction, examines the fiscal proposals of both candidates as of Sept. 21.

It finds Mrs. Clinton’s proposed tax increases, primarily on businesses and the wealthiest American households, would cover most of the cost of $1.65 trillion in new proposed spending over the next decade, including $500 billion on college education and $300 billion each on infrastructure and paid family leave.

The plan would boost spending by $200 billion over the next decade relative to current policy, leaving the national debt at around 86% of gross domestic product in a decade. That is up from around 75% today and in line with the level that the Congressional Budget Office estimates the debt will hit if no changes are made to spending and revenue over the coming decade.

The report finds that Mr. Trump, on the other hand, would cut spending by around $1.2 trillion over the next decade while reducing revenues by $5.8 trillion through his plans to cut taxes and repeal other taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act. The spending estimate takes into account large cuts from repealing the health-care law and from slashing nondefense discretionary spending. Partially offsetting those cuts are big increases in spending on defense, veterans’ programs and child care.


Including the costs of additional federal borrowing from Mr. Trump’s plans, the national debt would rise by $5.3 trillion over a decade relative to current policy, pushing the debt-to-GDP ratio to 105%, which is significantly higher than either Mrs. Clinton’s policies or the current trajectory for the debt, though it is lower than an earlier estimate from the CRFB.


Online polls showing Trump won the debate were rigged

And this is from a news site owned by right-winger Rupert Murdoch

By Marisa Schultz
September 27, 2016 | 5:42pm

A series of online polls showing Donald Trump winning Monday night’s debate were rigged, according to a report on Tuesday.

While mainstream media and pundits quickly crowned Hillary Clinton the winner, Trump touted several online polls showing that he triumphed.

“Such a great honor. Final debate polls are in — and the MOVEMENT wins,” Trump tweeted.

Online polls aren’t given much credence because they aren’t scientifically representative samples of the electorate.

But The Daily Dot suggested online results from about 70 debate polls were particularly egregious because Trump supporters “artificially manipulated” the results “to create the false narrative” that he won.

Trump supporters using Reddit and 4chan message boards bombarded the online polls and spread the effort to Twitter to catapult the hashtag “#Trumpwon” to the No. 1 trending topic.

Established pollster Neil Newhouse says online surveys encourage a “stuffing the ballot box” mentality.


“At the same time, the polls that were supposedly ‘manipulated’ weren’t actually polls to begin with. They are nothing more than ‘click-bait’ to get people to respond. Ignore these polls. They are not measuring what they purport to and are really quite worthless.”


News outlets admit their results are far from scientific.

“Online reader polls like this one are not statistically representative of likely voters, and are not predictive of how the debate outcome will affect the election,” wrote in an online disclaimer. The Time poll shows Trump won 56 percent to 44 percent with 1.8 million responses.

“They are a measure, however imprecise, of which candidates have the most energized online supporters, or most social media savvy fan base.”

Major Insurers Charge Moderate-Income Customers With Perfect Driving Records More Than High-Income Customers With Recent Accidents

September 26, 2016

Auto insurance prices are often more closely aligned with personal economic characteristics than with drivers’ accident and ticket history, according to new research by Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Testing premiums offered by the nation’s five largest insurers in ten U.S. cities for drivers with different socio-economic characteristics and different driving records, CFA found surprising results, including:

Upper-income drivers with DUIs often pay less than good drivers of modest means with no accidents or tickets on their driving record.


Moderate-income drivers with perfect records pay more than upper-income drivers who caused an accident in which someone was injured.


Progressive and GEICO consistently charge upper-income bad drivers less than moderate-income good drivers.


Moderate-income good drivers often pay more than upper-income drivers with multiple points on their record.


Moderate-income good drivers often pay more than upper-income drivers with multiple points on their record.


According to CFA’s premium testing, it costs a moderate-income good driver more for basic auto insurance than an upper-income driver convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in the past 12 months over two-thirds of the time. Of the 30 instances in which companies offered a quote both to an upper-income driver with a DUI and a moderate-income driver with a clean record, 21 times the driver with the perfect record paid more,


“The data show that Progressive and GEICO are competing vigorously for the business of upper-income drivers regardless of their driving record, and they’re subsidizing that competition by overcharging moderate-income drivers with clean records. As we have seen in other research for these two insurers, auto insurance appears to be a loss-leader and marketing ploy for gaining access to higher-income people to try to sell them other products. This is unfair discrimination in my estimation and illegal in all states.” said Hunter of CFA, who is also an actuary.


California was the only market tested in which the good drivers always paid less than the drivers with marks on their driving record. This state has the nation’s best consumer protections in place when it comes to preventing the unfair pricing revealed in CFA’s report.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Compromise nearly guaranteed when a woman is involved in decision-making pairs

Public Release: 28-Jul-2016
Compromise nearly guaranteed when a woman is involved in decision-making pairs
Study finds when making joint decisions, men need to prove masculinity, 'push away' from compromise; findings pertinent to marketers, managers, and consumers
Boston College

More isn't necessarily better when it comes to men making decisions together, especially if you want a middle-of-the-road compromise. That's according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research which finds that compromise always occurs among two decision makers when a woman is involved (female-female pairs or mixed gender pairs), but hardly ever when the pair of decision makers are men. The findings could be pertinent to marketers, managers, and consumers alike.

"When men are in the presence of other men, they feel the need to prove their masculinity," says co-researcher Hristina Nikolova, the Coughlin Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor of Marketing with the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. "Both tend to push away from the compromise option because the compromise option is consistent with feminine norms. On the other hand, extremism is a more masculine trait so that's why both male partners tend to prefer an extreme option when making decisions together."


"No matter what the product is, we see the same effects," says Nikolova. "The compromise effect basically emerges in any pair when there is a woman. However, surprisingly, when you have men choosing together, they actually tend to push away from the compromise option and select one of the extreme options. Say two men are choosing a car and the cars they are considering differ on safety and fuel efficiency - they will either go for the safest car or the one that offers them the most fuel efficiency, but they won't choose an option that offers a little of both." In contrast, individuals and mixed-gender and female-female pairs will likely go for the middle option since it seems reasonable and is easily justified.

According to the study: "When making decisions together, men take actions that are maximally different from feminine norms, which prioritize moderation, and maximally similar to masculine norms, which prioritize extremity. Furthermore, because a female presence makes the masculinity of men in male-female dyads obvious, in these pairings we observe compromise behavior consistent with that of individual decision-makers and female-female dyads."

"In contrast to men," says Nikolova, "women act the same together as they would alone because they don't need to prove anything in front of other women. Womanhood is not precarious and does not need the same level of public defense as manhood. That's why we observe the compromise effect in the joint decisions of two female partners."

Interestingly, the research found that compromise is criticized among other men, but embraced by women.

"Only men judge other men very harshly when they suggest the compromise option to a male partner," says Nikolova. "It doesn't happen when a man suggests the compromise option to a female partner or when women suggest the compromise option so it's really specific to men dealing with other men."


As for consumers, it's important for male consumers to know what they might buy themselves is different from what they would choose with another man.

"What we're finding is when men have to choose alone, most select the compromise option," says Nikolova. "But when they have to make the decision with another man, they tend to choose one of the extreme options which is not something they would prefer if they were alone. It's important for male consumers to be aware of this when making decisions with other people since the drive to prove their masculinity might lead them to make decisions that they might not enjoy later."

Research reveals restorative justice reduces recidivism

Public Release: 28-Jul-2016
Research reveals restorative justice reduces recidivism
Sam Houston State University

Restorative justice programs, such victim-offender mediation and community impact panels, are more effective in reducing recidivism rates among juvenile offenders than traditional court processing, a study by researchers at Sam Houston State University found.

"Our results generally not only support the effectiveness of RJ (restorative justice) programming as compared to traditional juvenile court processing but also suggest that each type of RJ intervention, even those that are minimally involved, reduces recidivism risk relative to juvenile court proceedings," said Jeffrey Bouffard, a Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and Research Director for the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University. "This pattern of results would suggest that in many cases, it may be possible to use less intensive RJ approaches and still receive promising results."

The study, published in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, examined four types of restorative justice programs for juvenile offenders in a small, mostly rural area in the upper Midwest. These interventions include face-to-face mediation between victims and offenders, indirect communication between victims and offenders, community panels who stand in for the victim, and even minimal RJ interventions that simply educate offenders about the restorative justice process.


Maintaining healthy relationships: University of Waterloo studies identify a promising way

Public Release: 28-Jul-2016
Maintaining healthy relationships: University of Waterloo studies identify a promising way
University of Waterloo

Thinking about the future helps overcome relationship conflicts, according to a University of Waterloo study just published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

"When romantic partners argue over things like finances, jealousy, or other interpersonal issues, they tend to employ their current feelings as fuel for a heated argument. By envisioning their relationship in the future, people can shift the focus away from their current feelings and mitigate conflicts," said Alex Huynh, a doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study, which he published with Igor Grossmann from the University of Waterloo, and Daniel Yang from Yale University.

Previous research has shown that taking a step back, and adopting a distanced fly-on-the-wall-type of perspective can be a positive strategy for reconciliation of interpersonal struggles. For example, prior research by Grossmann and colleagues suggests that people are able to reason more wisely over issues of infidelity when they are asked to do so from a third-person perspective. Huynh and his collaborators investigated whether similar benefits in reasoning and relationship well-being can be induced by simply stepping back and thinking about the future.


The researchers found that thinking about the future affected both participants' focus on their feelings, and their reasoning strategies. As a result, participants reported more positivity about their relationship altogether. In particular, when study participants extended their thinking about the relationship a year into the future, they were able to show more forgiveness and reinterpret the event in a more reasoned and positive light.

The way people respond to conflict is an essential component for relationship maintenance, say the researchers.


What Kind of World - replaced video Sept. 27, 2016

What Kind of World
© copyright 2016 Patricia M. Shannon

What kind of world do we want to leave the future?
What will they say about us when we are gone?
Will they thank us? Will they curse us?
Will there be anybody left to care at all?
Will they thank us? Or will they curse us?
Will there be anybody left to care at all?

We have learned much, risen from the muck.
Will we throw it all away?
We could continue on so far, maybe even to the stars,
if we don't throw it all away, if we don't throw it all away.


(verse 2)
When we take a stand, we can heal the land,
if we work together now.
We could clean up the ocean, prevent our own extinction,
if we would work together now,
if we just work together now.


200 Million Americans Have ‘Erin Brockovich’ Carcinogen in Their Tap Water © Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

By Eric Pianin
September 23, 2016


Lead contamination of municipal water systems, sadly, is a relatively widespread problem in this country and would require massive resources at the federal and local level to adequately address the problem. CNBC reported recently that data it obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that 41 states have reported higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in drinking water during the past three years.


Now comes a troubling report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an activist research organization, that chromium-6, a carcinogenic chemical compound, has contaminated water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. The tests conducted by utilities across the country and supervised by the EPA found chromium-6 in almost 90 percent of the water systems sampled.

The study found that levels of chromium-6 are at or exceed 0.03 parts per billion in three-quarters of the samples that were tested between 2013 and 2015. Roughly seven million people received or consumed tap water with levels of the compound higher than the 10-parts-per-billion legal limit set by California— the only state that currently imposes a maximum contaminant level.

Arizona, California and Oklahoma had the highest average statewide levels, according to the report. Phoenix by far had the highest average level among major cities while Houston and St. Louis also registered comparatively high levels.

Hexavalent chromium or chromium-6 is a chemical compound commonly used in industry for a number of purposes, including electroplating and manufacturing stainless steel and textiles. Chromium-6 is also used as a coolant in power plant towers and is found in the ash of coal burned by utilities. While scientists may differ on the degree of public health risks that it poses, research has shown that exposure to small quantities of chromium-6 in drinking water can produce cancer in humans and animals.

A two-year study released in 2008 by the National Toxicology Program found that drinking water with chromium-6 caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. Subsequently, research scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded in 2011 that ingestion of even tiny amounts of chromium-6 could cause cancer in people. That finding was later confirmed by scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina, according to EWG.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers all chromium compounds to be “occupational carcinogens” that are closely connected with lung, nasal and sinus cancer, according to a government website.

The chemical industry has long opposed tough regulation of chromium-6, arguing that additional research was needed. The EPA has never set a specific limit on chromium-6 in drinking water, although the environmental agency has established a drinking water standard of 100 parts per billion for all forms of chromium, which is a natural occurring element.


How Mylan Soaked Medicare and Taxpayers for EpiPen Profits

By Eric Pianin Follow
September 21, 2016


Bresch has been back-peddling for weeks following complaints from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, lawmakers and consumer groups about a marketing strategy that drove up the list price of the two-pack nearly six-fold since 2007, from $100 to $600.

EpiPen injectors generate a reported $1 billion a year in revenues for Mylan.

Mylan is just the most recent pharmaceutical company to spark a nationwide uproar over excessive drug pricing. These companies have either jacked up the retail list price of drugs that have long been on the market after acquiring their patents, which is what Mylan did with EpiPen, or have imposed sky-high prices on newly developed, highly-effective drugs such as Gilead Sciences’ hepatitis-C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni, which retail for roughly $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a course of treatment.

Expensive drugs have greatly added to the overall annual cost of U.S. health care and are posing serious economic consequences for consumers, health insurers and federal government agencies and programs.

Medicare Part D spending on EpiPen injectors, for example, grew by an astounding 1,151 percent between 2007 and 2014 – from $7 million to $87.9 million— while the number of beneficiaries rose by just 164 percent, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation released this week.

Moreover, out-of-pocket spending by seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D who didn’t qualify for income-based subsidies for EpiPen purchases nearly doubled during that period, from $30 to $56 per purchase. In the aggregate, out-of-pocket spending by all Part D enrollees who used the EpiPen increased more than five-fold between 2007 and 2014, according to the report, from $1.6 million to $8.5 million, “reflecting both an increase in the number of users and price increases for the EpiPen.” And that doesn’t include subsequent price hikes over the past two years that led to the current controversy.


Mylan Admits It Makes Far More on EpiPens Than It Originally Reported to Congress

By Eric Pianin
September 26, 2016


The company has caused an uproar among lawmakers, consumers and health care policy makers after driving up the list price of the two-pack nearly six-fold since 2007, from $100 to $600. Throughout her testimony to the House Oversight and Investigation Committee, Bresch insisted that Mylan had actually reaped modest profits for the drug dispenser after deducting the costs of health care industry middlemen, research and marketing. She repeatedly blamed the health care system – not Mylan – and said her company cleared only $50 per pen in profit, or $100 per two-pack.

But Mylan admitted on Monday that the EpiPen’s pre-tax profits were actually 60 percent higher than it told Congress, according to The Wall Street Journal. Mylan had added a 37.5 percent U.S. tax rate into the mix while computing its profits. Without that tax-related reduction, the profits on the EpiPen two-pack would be about $160 per pack – much higher than the $100 figure Bresch gave to committee members last week.

The company sells an estimated 4.1 million EpiPen two-packs in this country annually, worth nearly $1 billion in revenues.


Ryan Baum, an analyst with SSR Health, a health-care investment research firm, told The Wall Street Journal that the 37.5 percent tax rate Mylan applied to EpiPen is unrealistic because the company didn’t pay nearly that much tax on its product. He said that Mylan had a low 7.4 percent overall tax rate last year and a “negative effective tax rate” in the United States where the EpiPen was sold.


Friday, September 23, 2016

What Consumers Need to Know About the Yahoo Security Breach

Paul Blake and Mike Levine contributed to this story.
Sep 23, 2016

Yahoo announced on Thursday that it believes information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen by a "state-sponsored actor" at the end of 2014.

Cyber security experts believe that this was the largest-known breach of user accounts. Russian hackers are suspected as being behind the breach.

More users were reportedly impacted in this one incident than all of last year, according to the 2016 Internet Security Threat Report produced by security company Symantec.


The stolen information could include names, email addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, password information and possibly the question-answer combinations for security questions, which are often used to reset passwords, said Yahoo in a statement.

However, Yahoo said that the passwords that were compromised were hashed, a way of encrypting data.

The stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data or bank account information, according to Yahoo.

"Unfortunately there is information being stolen everyday and this is not a unique event, but it's adding to the long list of compromises that have been out there,” said Jeff Greene, director of government affairs for North America at Symantec.


Hackers may attempt to log directly into a Yahoo account, but they could also use the information to try to get into someone’s other accounts, according security experts.

“If your primary email address is compromised, so much of you the rest of your digital life flows from that,” said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT, which represents app and tech companies.

When it comes to stolen passwords, the "good news" is that the passwords were encrypted, said Reed.

The bad news is that the one entity that has the resources to break encryption is a state actor, he added.

Criminals can also come out of the woodwork to use this as an opportunity to take advantage of consumers, said Greene. People may receive bogus emails to reset accounts and click on links.

"It's like after a storm, there will be all these fake requests for money," said Greene.

There is also a future risk. The data may be stored and used for an attack down the road. The hackers themselves may not even know the potential of the information yet.

"There's the short game, the immediate compromise, and there's the long game," he said.

What can you do?

Change your password. Yahoo recommends "that users who haven't changed their passwords since 2014 do so," the company said in its statement. Cyber security experts say this is the necessary first step.

Security experts also recommend signing up for "two-factor authentication," make sure passwords are complex and unique, and make all software is up-to-date and patched.

Use different passwords on different accounts, according to cyber experts that spoke with ABC News.

“Far too many Americans use the same password for different services,” said Reed.

However, a new Consumer Reports report, which compiled 66 expert tips, found that it's better to keep the same password and be "password loyal," unless there is a breach.

Be aware of unusual activity. Look for unusual friend requests, requests to reset a password and anything out of the ordinary.

"If you do all of these things, you are going to stop the vast majority of the attacks,” said Greene.





The Estate Tax

Confused About Taxes
Posted on September 12, 2016 by James Kwak | 20 Comments
By James Kwak

In the Times a couple of days ago, Gregory Mankiw made a half-hearted case for eliminating the estate tax that was so weak I’m not even sure he convinced himself. The core of his argument is that the estate tax violates the principle of horizontal equity, according to which “similar people should face similar burdens.” The problem, on his view, is that between two rich couples that each amass $20 million, the Profligates who consume their wealth before death end up paying lower taxes than the Frugals who maintain a modest lifestyle. “To me, this does not seem right,” Mankiw concludes.

First of all, it’s not even clear why this example violates horizontal equity. The Profligates and the Frugals are not “similar people”


Second, it’s not clear that the Frugals are paying more tax than the Profligates. Their estate will pay higher taxes, but by then they are dead; the estate tax does not directly limit their personal consumption in the slightest.


Only an economist, and an economist of a certain type, could evaluate the fairness of the estate tax by comparing two wealthy families. Mankiw’s point is that the estate tax is unfair to the Frugals—as compared to whom, exactly? Remember, Mr. and Mrs. Profligate spent most of their money before they died; their children get next to nothing. The Frugals’ kids end up with about $16 million ($20 million less the 40% federal estate tax on the amount above the exemption), but they’re still the richest people in the story. The Profligates’ kids get the remaining crumbs of the parents’ once-impressive fortune—yet we’re supposed to feel sorry for the Frugals.

But the people we should really be thinking about are everyone else’s children. It’s a little peculiar to profess to care about equal treatment and then proceed to talk solely about rich people. What about Mr. and Mrs. Poor and their children, who far outnumber the Profligates and the Frugals? The Poors’ children inherit nothing because their parents died with nothing; the Frugals’ kids inherit $16 million although their parents died with $20 million. There’s no reason to think the second generation of Frugals is any more deserving than the second generation of Poors—yet they are born into comfort and security, while the Poors face hardship and anxiety. From this perspective, the only fair estate tax would be one with a rate of 100%. And even then, the Frugals’ kids would be better off than those of the Poors, since they would have the most productivity-enhancing childhood that money can buy.

The bottom line is this: You can’t argue against the estate tax on fairness grounds, unless your powers of abstraction are so awesome that you can some how overlook the fact that most people wish their parents had to pay the estate tax.


The big misdirection in Mankiw’s column, however, goes unstated: talking about the estate tax in isolation from the rest of the tax code and, for that matter, the economy. At the end of the day, the estate tax is about the inter-generational transmission of wealth. From that standpoint, the rest of the tax code effectively imposes a negative estate tax.

The main reason is step-up of basis at death. Ordinarily, when you sell an asset, you have to pay capital gains tax on your profits (sale price minus purchase price). But when you die, your heirs get to increase their cost basis to the value of the asset at the time of your death—so no one ever pays tax on the appreciation during your lifetime. This is very clearly a negative estate tax, since it makes assets worth more to your heirs than they were to you. In addition, you don’t pay capital gains tax until you sell an asset—so the longer you hold onto an asset, the lower your effective tax rate. This obviously benefits the wealthiest families the most, since they have the least need to sell assets. And if you do ever sell an asset, you get to pay capital gains tax at a preferential rate.

In short, most of the tax code benefits families with more wealth than they can consume in one lifetime. In this context, the estate tax is really just an imperfect, partial, insufficient way to slightly mitigate the inter-generational transmission of wealth and the development of an aristocracy of hedge fund managers and their children. The big question isn’t whether we should have an estate tax or not. It’s whether we should take much more aggressive measures to give all children a fair shot at a comfortable and prosperous future. Eliminating the estate tax, without addressing the sources of inter-generational inequality, would only accelerate the transformation of American into a new feudal society.

Police: 4 Men Held at California Pot Farm, Forced to Work

By kristin j. bender, associated press
SAN FRANCISCO — Sep 21, 2016

Two women have been arrested on charges of holding four brothers captive at an illegal marijuana farm in Northern California and forcing them to work there for six months, police said Wednesday.

The men told police they ran away in July from the secluded pot-growing operation in the small Sierra Nevada foothills town of West Point after overhearing they would be killed once all the marijuana was harvested, Calaveras County Sheriff's Capt. Jim Macedo said.

Two other men, including the brothers' nephew, are being sought by authorities from the small, impoverished county undergoing a dramatic transformation because of marijuana cultivation.

The traditionally politically conservative board of supervisors on May 10 made it legal for farmers to grow commercial amounts of medicinal marijuana. The legislation was seen as a way to help the county recover from a devastating wildfire


The cultivation law was passed over the objection of the sheriff and district attorney, who said the remote county was already overrun with too many illicit pot farms and warned of an influx of unsavory outsiders.

Authorities said they destroyed 23,000 plants worth up to $60 million found on July 28 at the forested compound where the brothers worked. The two women were arrested Sept. 14 in Modesto and charged with human trafficking, kidnapping, battery with serious bodily injury, terrorist threats and drug charges.

"We've seen an increase in violence, theft and greed related to marijuana trafficking, and this appears to be an organized, violent group," Macedo said.

Neither Guadalupe Sierra Arellano, 43, nor Medarda Urbieta, 44, entered pleas during a court appearance in San Andreas, California. Macedo said the two women are suspected of living in the United States without proper documentation.

Macedo said investigators are looking into whether suspects have ties to any Mexican drug cartels. Authorities said they found a religious shrine popular among Mexican drug traffickers and cartels during a search of a Modesto home in connection with the case.


Macedo said the victims, who were not identified, had bruises and black eyes after they escaped the marijuana farm and made it to a nearby home to ask for help. One of the brothers suffered a broken jaw and had to be hospitalized, court records show.

The case began in February when Arellano hired two of the brothers to help clean a Modesto home, court records show. Instead, the two brothers said they were taken against their will to the marijuana farm and forced to live and work there at gunpoint. They told police that Arellano threatened harm to their family if they escaped or called police.

Nine days later, investigators say Arellano lured the two other brothers to the farm under the guise of visiting the brothers held captive. Once there, all four brothers were forced to live and cultivate. They say they were beaten on three occasions, the last time three days before their escape.

The men worked the marijuana operation on several acres of land up a winding road with armed men standing guard over a house where the women lived. The men themselves slept in squalid and ramshackle conditions in a hut-like structure, Macedo said.

tags: drug use, drug abuse,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ireland jails three top bankers over 2008 banking meltdown

Writing by Conor Humphries; editing by Mark Heinrich
July 29, 2016

Three senior Irish bankers were jailed on Friday for up to three-and-a-half years for conspiring to defraud investors in the most prominent prosecution arising from the 2008 banking crisis that crippled the country's economy.

The trio will be among the first senior bankers globally to be jailed for their role in the collapse of a bank during the crisis.

The lack of convictions until now has angered Irish taxpayers, who had to stump up 64 billion euros - almost 40 percent of annual economic output - after a property collapse forced the biggest state bank rescue in the euro zone.

The crash thrust Ireland into a three-year sovereign bailout in 2010 and the finance ministry said last month that it could take another 15 years to recover the funds pumped into the banks still operating.

Former Irish Life and Permanent Chief Executive Denis Casey was sentenced to two years and nine months following the 74-day criminal trial, Ireland's longest ever.

Willie McAteer, former finance director at the failed Anglo Irish Bank, and John Bowe, its ex-head of capital markets, were given sentences of 42 months and 24 months respectively.

All three were convicted of conspiring together and with others to mislead investors, depositors and lenders by setting up a 7.2-billion-euro circular transaction scheme between March and September 2008 to bolster Anglo's balance sheet.

Irish Life placed the deposits via a non-banking subsidiary in the run-up to Anglo's financial year-end, to allow its rival to categorize them as customer deposits, which are viewed as more secure, rather than a deposit from another bank.

"By means that could be termed dishonest, deceitful and corrupt they manufactured 7.2 billion euros in deposits by obvious sham transactions," Judge Martin Nolan told the court, describing the conspiracy as a "very serious crime".

"The public is entitled to rely on the probity of blue chip firms. If we can’t rely on the probity of these banks we lose all hope or trust in institutions," said Nolan.


Two other Anglo-Irish bankers, chief operations officer Tiarnan O'Mahoney, 56, and former company secretary Bernard Daly, 67, earlier this year had their sentences quashed on appeal after spending several months in prison.

Banks in the United States and Britain have paid billions of dollars in fines and settlements connected to wrongdoing over their handling of subprime loans that helped cause the crisis. But no senior industry executives in those countries have been sent to jail.