Friday, May 26, 2017

Informative links


Increased facial and head injuries after motorcycle helmet law change in Michigan


High levels of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) found in mid-Ohio River Valley residents from 1991 to 2013
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/uoca-hlo052617.php

Coroners unable to agree on what caused a person's death
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/uoh-cut052617.php

Vitamin D in pregnancy may help prevent childhood asthma
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/kcl-vdi052617.php

Slow posting for a few days


Not going to be on the internet much until I get my new laptop back with a new sound card and speaker. My old computer is very slow on the internet.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The fossil fuel industry's invisible colonization of academia

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/mar/13/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-invisible-colonization-of-academia

Benjamin Franta and Geoffrey Supran
Mar. 13, 2017

On February 16, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center hosted a film screening of the “Rational Middle Energy Series.” The university promoted the event as “Finding Energy’s Rational Middle” and described the film’s motivation as “a need and desire for a balanced discussion about today’s energy issues.”

Who can argue with balance and rationality? And with Harvard’s stamp of approval, surely the information presented to students and the public would be credible and reliable. Right?

Wrong.

The event’s sponsor was Shell Oil Company. The producer of the film series was Shell. The film’s director is Vice President of a family-owned oil and gas company, and has taken approximately $300,000 from Shell. The host, Harvard Kennedy School, has received at least $3.75 million from Shell. And the event’s panel included a Shell Executive Vice President.

The film “The Great Transition” says natural gas is “clean” (in terms of carbon emissions, it is not) and that low-carbon, renewable energy is a “very long time off” (which is a political judgment, not a fact). Amy Myers Jaffe, identified in the film as the Executive Director of Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Davis, says, “We need to be realistic that we’re gonna use fossil fuels now, because in the end, we are.” We are not told that she is a member of the US National Petroleum Council.

•••••

After years conducting energy-related research at Harvard and MIT, we have come to discover firsthand that this pattern is systemic. Funding from Shell, Chevron, BP, and other oil and gas companies dominates Harvard’s energy and climate policy research, and Harvard research directors consult for the industry. These are the experts tasked with formulating policies for countering climate change, policies that threaten the profits – indeed the existence – of the fossil fuel industry.

Down the street at MIT, the Institute’s Energy Initiative is almost entirely funded by fossil fuel companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron. MIT has taken $185 million from oil billionaire and climate denial financier David Koch, who is a Life Member of the university’s board.

The trend continues at Stanford, where one of us now works. The university’s Global Science and Energy Project is funded by ExxonMobil and Schlumberger.

•••••

Across the bay, UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute is the product of a $500 million deal with BP – one that gives the company power over which research projects get funded and which don’t.

Fossil fuel interests – oil, gas, and coal companies, fossil-fueled utilities, and fossil fuel investors - have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public’s knowledge.

For comparison, imagine if public health research were funded predominantly by the tobacco industry. It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to understand the folly of making policy or science research financially dependent on the very industry it may regulate or negatively affect. Harvard’s school of public health no longer takes funding from the tobacco industry for that very reason. Yet such conflicts of interest are not only rife in energy and climate research, they are the norm.

This norm is no accident: it is the product of a public relations strategy to neutralize science and target those whom ExxonMobil dubbed “Informed Influentials,” and it comes straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook.

•••••

We are not saying that universities must cut all ties with all fossil fuel companies. Energy research is so awash with fossil fuel funding that such a proposal would imply major changes. What we are saying is that denial – “I don’t see a conflict,” MIT’s Chairman told the Boston Globe – is no longer acceptable.

•••••

Informative links


Three Fox News reporters said late Wednesday that they witnessed GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body slam The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs earlier in the evening, confirming Jacobs's account of the incident.
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/335070-three-fox-news-reporters-witnessed-reporter-being-body-slammed

Tropical milkweed is not good for monarch butterflies
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/01/plan-save-monarch-butterflies-backfires

Twelve Native Milkweeds for Monarchs
http://blog.nwf.org/2015/02/twelve-native-milkweeds-for-monarchs/


The foster father who cares when terminally ill kids have no one


GoFundMe page:

https://www.gofundme.com/bzeek

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/foster-father-cares-terminally-ill-kids-no-one/

February 24, 2017

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the story of a good man on a quiet and heartbreaking mission, one many people would never consider undertaking.

He worked for years in obscurity, until recent notice brought this remarkable man and his story to light.

From Los Angeles, special correspondent Gayle Tzemach Lemmon brings us this profile.

•••••

MOHAMED BZEEK: I am not an angel. I am not a hero. It’s just what we are supposed to do as a human being.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: In 1978, Bzeek, then a former marathon runner, came to the U.S. from Libya to study engineering. He met his wife here in the U.S., and became a citizen in 1997.

But, today, he is a different kind of champion. His distinction? He is the only foster parent in this city of four million who cares solely for terminally ill children.

What happens if you get sick?

MOHAMED BZEEK: Father doesn’t get sick day.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: It is not a glamorous job.

MOHAMED BZEEK: You have to do it from your heart, really. If you do it for money, you’re not going to stay for long.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Over almost three decades, he and his wife cared for scores of children. Ten have died in his care. Most of the children he’s taken recently are born with terminal illnesses.

Sometimes, they are abandoned or born to parents with drug addiction. Once they enter the foster care system, the county works to connect them with foster parents like Mohamed. The memories of the children, he says, still live with him every day.

•••••

MOHAMED BZEEK: I know it’s heartbreak. I know it’s a lot of work. I know it’s going to hurt me sometimes. You know, I feel sad. But, in my opinion, we should help each other, you know?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Much of his dedication, he says, derives from his faith. Bzeek is a practicing Muslim. And his story gained special notice recently, after President Trump issued an executive order seeking to bar immigrants from seven majority Muslim nations, including his own home country of Libya.

Bzeek says he sees the negative stereotypes out there. But he is not deterred.

MOHAMED BZEEK: As a Muslim, I don’t hate nobody. I love everybody. I respect everybody.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: His faith has continued to guide him through many heartbreaks. His wife passed away in 2015.

After your wife died, did you ever think, this is actually too much for one person to do?

MOHAMED BZEEK: Sometimes. But I know somebody who needs help. I will do it as long as I am healthy.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Now he has a nurse’s aide that helps with care on weekdays from 8:00 to 4:00. But, still, it’s a full-time job, one he handles by himself every night and every weekend.

•••••

And the challenges have continued to mount. In November, the caregiver became the patient.

MOHAMED BZEEK: I find out in November I have colon cancer. And they told me they have to operate on you in December.

I said — I talk with the surgeon. I said, Doctor, I can’t. You have to give me time, because I have a foster kid who is terminal. And I have my son. He is handicapped. There is nobody for them, you know?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Did anyone go with you to the hospital?

MOHAMED BZEEK: No. That was the scary part, you know?

I felt about the kids who’s been sick for all their for. If I am adult, 62 years old, and I feel this, that I am alone, I am scared, nobody tells me it’s OK and it will be fine, this experience, this humbled me.

•••••

To me, death is part of life. And I’m glad that I help these kids go through this period of his time, you know? And I help him. I be with him. I comfort him. I love him or her. And until he pass away, I am with him and make him feel he has a family and he has somebody who cares about him and loves him.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: That they’re not alone.

MOHAMED BZEEK: No. They’re not alone.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Bzeek underwent a successful cancer surgery in December, and treatment is ongoing.

His story has received wide attention that led to an online fund-raising drive that has already raised over $200,000. He says he will use the money for a new roof, air conditioning, and maybe even a replacement for his 14-year-old van.

MOHAMED BZEEK: I was reading all the comments that people put on the Internet. Every day, I was crying because of their kindness and the nice words they said.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: And, in the end, he says he has been humbled by just how much his story has brought out others’ heart and humanity.

MOHAMED BZEEK: I can’t describe the feeling, you know? I mean, you see how many nice people around us, but we don’t see them because of this turmoil and this time. We didn’t see just how many nice and kind people around us.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Do you think you see more of them now?

MOHAMED BZEEK: Yes.

There is always good in this world, you know, more than the bad, always. That’s what I believe.


How republicans try to win - change polling places just before election

http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2017/05/23/surveyusa-poll-ossoff-opens-lead-over-handel-in-6th-district-runoff/

SurveyUSA Poll: Ossoff opens lead over Handel in 6th District runoff


Greg Bluestein
May 23, 2017

Democrat Jon Ossoff opened a 7-point lead over Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District runoff in a SurveyUSA poll released this week.

The poll, conducted for 11 Alive, has Ossoff leading Handel 51-44 and is the first to show him with such a large advantage in the June 20 runoff to represent Georgia’s 6th District. About 6 percent of voters were undecided.

•••••

http://www.ajc.com/news/local/fulton-changes-district-poll-spots-after-unforeseen-circumstances/kU9onYZzOOPXFCqw1kKGoM/

Fulton changes District 6 poll spots after 'unforeseen circumstances'


Mitchell Northam The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

“The locations will either be undergoing renovations or have scheduled events. The timing of this election is causing us to make these changes,” Richard Baron, Fulton County’s director of registration and elections, said in a statement.

Voters in north Fulton County must go to a different polling place to cast their votes in the upcoming runoff.

Fulton County announced on Wednesday that is changing the locations of 12 polling places for the June 20 election when voters will decide if Jon Ossoff or Karen Handel will fill the congressional seat in Georgia’s 6th District.

The county cited “unforeseen circumstances” as to why the locations changed.

[They've known about this runoff since April 18, more than a month ago.]


•••••

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Informative links


Fox News reporters witnessed Gianforte grab reporter by neck, slam him to the ground
http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/335070-three-fox-news-reporters-witnessed-reporter-being-body-slammed

Amazon made a change to the way it sells books, which will result in authors not being paid
https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/5/19/15596050/amazon-buy-box-publishing-controversy

We tracked the Trump scandals on right-wing news sites. Here’s how they covered it.
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/18/15646098/right-wing-media-collective-memories

China grants Trump another trademark - this time for clothes
http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/24/news/trump-trademark-china-apparel/index.html?sr=fbpol052417trump-trademark-china-apparel1001PMVODtopLink&linkId=37975119

Plan to save monarch butterflies backfires
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/01/plan-save-monarch-butterflies-backfires

CBO predicts some with pre-existing conditions will lose coverage under GOP plan
http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/335059-cbo-predicts-some-with-pre-existing-conditions-will-lose-coverage-under-gop

When Dogs Hear a Growl, They Know What to Do
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/when-dogs-hear-a-growl-they-know-what-to-do/?WT.mc_id=SA_FB_BIO_BLOG

Informative links


The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville’
https://www.propublica.org/article/the-beleaguered-tenants-of-kushnerville

Murphy’s Law is totally misunderstood and is in fact a call to excellence
https://qz.com/984181/murphys-law-is-totally-misunderstood-and-is-in-fact-a-call-to-excellence/

Betsy DeVos’ hometown shows exactly what her education budget will produce — a return to segregation
https://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/betsy-devos-hometown-shows-exactly-what-her-education-budget-will-produce-a-return-to-segregation/

How exercise -- interval training in particular -- helps your mitochondria stave off old age
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307155214.htm

DeVos doesn't rule out federal funds for private schools that discriminate
http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/24/politics/betsy-devos-congressional-hearing/

Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America
http://time.com/4783932/inside-russia-social-media-war-america/

Why You Should Absolutely Never Drink Bottled Water Again
https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/nestle-bottled-water-desert/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share

They Went to Manchester Arena as Homeless Men. They Left as Heroes.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/world/europe/homeless-hero-manchester.html

Trump's Business Credit Score Is 19 Out of a Possible 100

No surprise after all the revelation of his tendency to still people he owes money to.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/2016/10/20/trumps-business-credit-score-is-19-out-possible-100.html

By Christine Giordano Published October 20, 2016

Nav, a business score education organization, decided to run business credit scores for both The Trump Organization and the Clinton Foundation . The results might surprise you.

Similar to your personal credit scores Opens a New Window. , business credit scores and reports suggest a way to determine the credibility of a company by looking into how it has handled debts and obligations in the past.

“Suppliers, vendors and even business partners can look up your business’s credit score, anytime they want, without notifying you and without your permission,” Gerri Detweiler, head of Market Education for Nav, said.

Businesses leave an information trail when using credit, which is collected by business credit reporting agencies. A business credit score could be determined by the use of business credit cards, repaying equipment leases or business loan, or working with creditors that report business activity to credit reporting agencies, Detweiler said.

•••••

According to Nav, The Trump Organization, Inc.’s business credit score is a 19 out of 100 as of Sept. 23, 2016, which puts it below the national average score by more than 30 points. The Nav report said the score indicates the Trump Organization “is very likely to default on its credit payments” and that “this will make it difficult to get financing.” It puts Trump’s Organization in a “medium-to-high risk” category.

•••••

“Derogatory information, including a tax lien, judgement and collection accounts are affecting the Trump Organization’s credit scores,” Detweiler said. Derogatory information can include things like bankruptcies, but Trump’s bankruptcies did not show up on the report — most likely because they were old or for other businesses he is associated with, Detweiler said.

“Payment status is the most important factor when it comes to business credit scores, accounting for approximately 50% or more of the score,” Detweiler said. The Trump Organization’s payment history shows it pays an average of 26 days beyond terms (DBT), compared to the national average of 12 DBT.

Interestingly, the report also shows a tax lien, a judgement and three collection accounts, all of which ding the Trump Organization’s score, but the status of these is unclear.

•••••

According to Nav, the Clinton Foundation’s business credit score is a 42 out of 100 as of Sept. 23, 2016, which puts it below the national average score by about seven points. The Nav report said the score indicates the Foundation is “somewhat likely to default on its credit payments” and that “this could make it difficult to get financing and the terms may be unfavorable.” It puts the Clinton Foundation into a “medium-risk” category.

What works against the Clinton Foundation is that it is a relatively new organization and it is a foundation — its credit history only dates to 2013 and it has a relatively “thin file,” Detweiler said. Because it is a foundation, it may not use a lot of credit, so there may not be as many active trade lines as a regular business, she said. That’s because foundations are often funded through donor dollars. “According to the reports, the foundation has no derogatory information, low credit utilization, a mix of different accounts and a projected payment trend of zero days beyond terms,” Detweiler said.
[So as with personal credit, if you don't borrow money, you get a lower credit score. Crazy.]

•••••

UnitedHealth Doctored Medicare Records, Overbilled U.S. By $1 Billion, Feds Claim

Ah yes, those CEOs whose wealth proves them to be good, deserving people.

http://khn.org/news/unitedhealth-doctored-medicare-records-overbilled-u-s-by-1-billion-feds-claim/

By Fred Schulte May 17, 2017

The Justice Department on Tuesday accused giant insurer UnitedHealth Group of overcharging the federal government by more than $1 billion through its Medicare Advantage plans.

In a 79-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, the Justice Department alleged that the insurer made patients appear sicker than they were in order to collect higher Medicare payments than it deserved. The government said it had “conservatively estimated” that the company “knowingly and improperly avoided repaying Medicare” for more than a billion dollars over the course of the decade-long scheme.

•••••

Tuesday’s filing is the second time that the Justice Department has intervened to support a whistleblower suing UnitedHealth under the federal False Claims Act. Earlier this month, the government joined a similar case brought by California whistleblower James Swoben in 2009. Swoben, a medical data consultant, also alleges that UnitedHealth overbilled Medicare.

The case joined on Tuesday was first filed in 2011 by Benjamin Poehling, a former finance director for the UnitedHealth division that oversees Medicare Advantage Plans. Under the False Claims Act, private parties can sue on behalf of the federal government and receive a share of any money recovered.

UnitedHealth is the nation’s biggest Medicare Advantage operator covering about 3.6 million patients in 2016, when Medicare paid the company $56 billion, according to the complaint.

Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance plans offered as an alternative to traditional fee-for-service option.

•••••

Tuesday’s court filing argues that UnitedHealth repeatedly ignored findings from its own auditors that risk scores were often inflated — and warnings by officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) — that it was responsible for ensuring the billings it submitted were accurate.

•••••

For the Illiterate Adult, Learning to Read Produces Enormous Brain Changes

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/for-the-illiterate-adult-learning-to-read-produces-enormous-brain-changes/?WT.mc_id=SA_FB_MB_BLOG

Surprises turn up in scans of the newly literate—a possible boon for dyslexics
By Gary Stix on May 24, 2017

•••••

In the report, a broad-ranging group of researchers—from universities in Germany, India and the Netherlands—taught reading to 21 women, all about 30 years of age from near the city of Lucknow in northern India, comparing them to a placebo group of nine women. The majority of those who learned to read could not recognize a word of Hindi at the beginning of the study. After six months, the group had reached a first-grade proficiency level.

When the researchers conducted brain scans—using functional magnetic resonance imaging—they were startled. Areas deep below the wrinkled surface, the cortex, in the brains of the new learners had changed. Their results surprised them because most reading-related brain activity was thought to involve the cortex.

•••••

What did you find, what did you expect to find and what surprised you about your ultimate results?

We expected to replicate previous findings that changes are limited to the outer layer of the brain, the cortex, which is known to adapt quickly to new challenges. We found the expected changes in the cortex but we also observed that the learning process leads to a reorganization that extends to deep brain structures in the thalamus and the brainstem. The relatively young phenomenon of human literacy therefore changes brain regions that are very old in evolutionary terms and already core parts of mice and other mammalian brains.

•••••

Republican stealing Democratic campaign signs

I saw this on a friend's Facebook post.

Jon Ossoff is the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 2017 special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district.
He has been a target of a lot of republican lies during this campaign.




Democrats Just Flipped Seats In 2 Districts That Voted For Donald Trump



Ed Mazza
HuffPost•May 24, 2017

Two districts that voted for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election selected Democrats for state legislature seats in New York and New Hampshire on Tuesday night.

In a Long Island, New York district that Trump won by 23 percent, Democrat Christine Pellegrino defeated Republican Thomas Gargiulo in the race for a seat in the New York State Assembly. Pellegrino served as a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention last year, the local Patch reported.

The seat Pellegrino won on Tuesday had been held by Republican Joseph Saladino, who resigned earlier this year after being appointed to a local office. He had defeated his Democratic opponent in 2016 by 37 points. Prior to 2016, however, that same district voted twice for President Barack Obama, per Ballotpedia.

Democrats are also celebrating an upset in a New Hampshire district that Trump won by 7 points in November. Democrat Edith DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Plache in a special election for a seat in the state’s GOP-controlled House of Representatives, WMUR reported. That seat had been held by Republican Harold Parker, who resigned to join the administration of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

While neither election will change the balance of power, Democrats are hoping the victories may signal a change in the political leanings of the country.

•••••

A Freedom Caucus Republican says the foundation of the Trump budget is ‘a lie’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/05/24/a-freedom-caucus-republican-says-the-foundation-of-the-trump-budget-is-a-lie/?utm_term=.03f52bb6b3c2

By Mike DeBonis May 24

resident Trump’s 2018 spending plan landed in front of the House Budget Committee on Wednesday, where Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney heard plenty of criticism of the blueprint — mainly from Democrats, with one outspoken exception.

GOP Rep. Mark Sanford — a fellow South Carolinian who belongs to the House Freedom Caucus, the hard-right group Mulvaney helped found — used his five minutes of questioning at the hearing to sharply challenge the bedrock of the Trump budget: an economic growth assumption of 3 percent, one that is sharply more optimistic than those projected in recent Obama administration budgets or by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

•••••

From there, Sanford trotted out various data points to support his claim. He called the assumption at odds with the historical record — pointing out that the current economic expansion of 94 months has already long outstripped the average American economic expansion: “But what you presume in this budget is not only will we not have a recession — though we’re in the third longest economic expansion in history — but it’s going to keep going for another 214 months. It’s not only unprecedented; I would think that to be unreasonable. It assumes that the stars perfectly align with regard to economic drivers.”

•••••

In an interview after Wednesday’s hearing, Sanford said that he simply could not accept blind faith as a basis for the federal budget and suggested that he would not be inclined to support any budget that adopts a similarly rosy view of America’s economic future given its aging and slow-growing workforce and stagnant productivity gains.

“Whatever your budget is, just base it on real numbers and then let’s have a food fight,” he said. “But let’s not base it on fooling the American public into believing that you can do all this because we’re going to have a Goldilocks economy that we’ve never seen before.”

Muslims drive for hours to pay tribute to Manchester attack victims



By Gisela Crespo, CNN
Updated 10:29 PM ET, Tue May 23, 2017

Imams and Muslim youth from around the UK drove to Manchester, England on Tuesday in a display of solidarity after the city's deadly terror attack.
Zishan Ahmad, an imam at London's Baitul Futuh Mosque, made the 8-hour round trip to pay tribute to the victims at a vigil outside Manchester City Hall.
He joined about 50 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association -- and hundreds of others who attended the solemn event.

•••••

The AMYA members held banners that read "Love for all, hatred for none."

Ahmad said this motto "signifies the basis starting point that Islam requires of a Muslim."
For Ahmad, the vigil was an experience that brought people together.
"People were approaching us, hugging us," Ahmad said. "It allowed us to show the local community and world at large that terrorists have nothing to do with Islam."

Informative links


Trump’s budget is simply ludicrous
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/05/trumps-budget-is-simply-ludicrous.html

http://larrysummers.com/2017/05/23/a-budget-warning/

Human-induced deforestation is causing an increase in malaria cases
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170523081901.htm

U.S. accuses Fiat Chrysler of trying to mask emissions in 100,000 vehicles
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/us-accuses-fiat-chrysler-of-trying-to-mask-emissions-in-100000-vehicles/2017/05/23/10ad09d0-3fe0-11e7-adba-394ee67a7582_story.html?utm_term=.3508fb6487a4

Uber admits it underpaid tens of thousands of New York City drivers
Why some businesses want to do away with regulations, so they can cheat their workers and customers.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2017/05/23/uber-admits-it-underpaid-tens-of-thousands-of-drivers-in-new-york/?utm_term=.364b90e49e4c

Fox News retracts controversial story on Seth Rich’s death
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/05/23/fox-news-retracts-controversial-story-on-seth-richs-death-and-alleged-wikileaks-contact/


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump's 'Massive' Middle-Class Tax Cuts Are Tiny Compared To Those Promised To The Rich



Mar 1, 2017 @ 09:26 AM 30,861
Tony Nitti

•••••

As measured by the erstwhile eggheads at the Tax Policy Center, the Trump plan would result in total tax cuts of $6.2 trillion over the next ten years. Now that is certainly a massive tax cut. But is for the middle class? Or for someone else?

According to the TPC, of the $6.2 trillion in cuts, the richest 1% will enjoy 47% of those cuts, or nearly $3 trillion over ten years. The middle class, however -- should we choose to define it as those taxpayers in the wealthiest 20% to 80% of the population--would receive only 20% of the tax cuts combined. Put into simpler terms, here is how the different income classes would benefit from the President's plan:

 Income Level  Income Percentage Share of Tax Cuts Annual Tax Savings per Individual  Percent Change in After-Tax Income
 $0-$24,800 0-20% 1.1% $110 0.8%
$24,800-$48,400 20-40% 3% $400 1.2%
$48,400-$83,300 40-60% 6.6% $1,010 1.8%
$83,300-$143,100 60-80% 11.3% $2,030 2.2%
> $143,100          80-100%     77.7% $16,660 6.6%

•••••

remember to look at the percentage column, which confirms the plan's regressivity, meaning it disproportionately benefits the richest taxpayers on a percentage -- rather than absolute dollar -- basis.
If we focus on the upper reaches of the income scale, the impact becomes more dramatic. Consider the following:
 Income Level  Income Percentage Share of Tax Cuts Annual Tax Savings per Individual  Percent Change in After-Tax Income
 $292,000-$699,000 95-99% 16.3% $18,490 6%
> $699,000 >99% 47.3% $214,000 13.5%
>$3,749,600 >99.9% 24.2% $1,066,460 14.2%

•••••

In their 2016 "Blueprint for Tax Reform," Ryan and Brady did indeed propose sweeping tax cuts of their own, amounting to $3.1 trillion over the next ten years.  They have, however, somehow managed to make their proposal even less progressive that the President's plan, with the richest 1% getting nearly 77% of the tax cuts, leaving the middle class only 2.5% of the savings. It looks like so:

•••••

Under the GOP plan, middle-class taxpayers will get an annual tax break of $120 - $410, less than half of that offered by the President's plan. Meanwhile, the richest 20% of the country will, on average, enjoy additional after-tax cash of nearly $12,000, with the richest 1% getting an average tax break of $212,000. Again, the disparity isn't reconciled on a percentage basis, as the middle class will experience an increase in after-tax income of less than 1%, while the richest 1% will see their after-tax income rise by 13.4%.

•••••

The Heartless Tradeoffs in the Trump Budget

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2017/05/22/Heartless-Tradeoffs-Trump-Budget

By Mark Thoma
May 22, 2017

As the bombshells continue to drop on the Trump administration, behind the scenes Trump’s first detailed budget proposal is being developed, and it has a few bombshells of its own, particularly for the poor. The budget proposal is not yet finalized, so the details could change, but according to what has leaked so far, the budget is a combination of tax cuts for the wealthy, reduced spending on social programs that serve the needy, and wishful thinking about tax cuts and economic growth.

Tax Cuts: It should be no surprise that the Trump budget includes large tax cuts for the wealthy. But the magnitude of the cuts is staggering. The cuts would result in a loss of tax revenue of more than $5 trillion over the next decade (over $500 billion per year on average). And the beneficiaries will mainly be the wealthy. According to calculations from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, each household in the top 1% would receive approximately $250,000 per year, and the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes would each receive at least $15 million per year, for a total of “at least $6 billion annually.” As the CBPP points out, “$6 billion is more than the federal government spends on grants for major job training programs to assist people struggling in today’s economy,” and it is “roughly the cost of providing 600,000 low-income families with housing vouchers.”

•••••

Medicaid and SSDI: The Trump budget proposal includes cuts to Medicaid that go beyond the cuts in House health care bill, and it also includes cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance.

The cuts to Medicaid in the House health care bill, as the CBPP notes, “would have a devastating impact on health care for over 70 million people who rely on Medicaid, including over 30 million children and millions of seniors, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and low-income adults.” Trump’s proposal would make these numbers even worse. So much for his promise that Medicaid would not be cut.

The cuts to SSDI would mostly affect people over 50, “About three-fourths of beneficiaries are over 50, and more than one-third are over 60” and it would reduce enrollment by 14 million people by 2026. This will reduce the economic security available for people who are disabled before retirement and for families who are dependent upon a family member who dies.

•••••

Schools: The Washington Post’s analysis of the cuts to public schools identifies 22 public school programs that would be eliminated, including:

After-school programs serving 1.6 million mostly low-income children ($1.2 billion)
Teacher training and class-size reduction ($2.1 billion)
Child care for low-income parents in college ($15 million)
Arts education ($27 million)
Programs for Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students ($65 million)
International education and foreign language programs ($72 million)
A program for gifted students ($12 million)
Special Olympics education programs ($12 million)
Mental-health services, anti-bullying initiatives, physical education, Advanced Placement courses, and science and engineering instruction ($400 million)

•••••

Traffic-related air pollution linked to DNA damage in children

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170519153547.htm

Date: May 19, 2017
Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Summary:
Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have evidence of a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, reports a new study.

Children and teens exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have evidence of a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, reports a study in the May Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Young people with asthma also have evidence of telomere shortening, according to the preliminary research by John R. Balmes, MD, of University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues. They write, "Our results suggest that telomere length may have potential for use as a biomarker of DNA damage due to environmental exposures and/or chronic inflammation."

•••••

The researchers assessed the relationship between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a "ubiquitous" air pollutant caused by motor vehicle exhaust; and shortening of telomeres, a type of DNA damage typically associated with aging.

As the exposure to PAHs increased, telomere length decreased in linear fashion. Children and teens with asthma were exposed to higher PAH levels than those without asthma. The relationship between PAH level and telomere shortening remained significant after adjustment for asthma and other factors (age, sex, and race/ethnicity) related to telomere length.

The study adds to previous evidence that air pollution causes oxidative stress, which can damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. Research has suggested that children may have different telomere shortening regulation than adults, which might make them more vulnerable to the damaging effects of air pollution.

•••••

Just one alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk, exercise lowers risk

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170523084758.htm

Date: May 23, 2017
Source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Summary:
Drinking just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk, finds a major new report.

Drinking just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk, finds a major new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).The report also revealed, for the first time, that vigorous exercise such as running or fast bicycling decreases the risk of both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancers. Strong evidence confirmed an earlier finding that moderate exercise decreases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer.

•••••

The report found strong evidence that drinking the equivalent of a small glass of wine or beer a day (about 10 grams alcohol content) increases pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and post-menopausal breast cancer risk by 9 percent. A standard drink is 14 grams of alcohol.

For vigorous exercise, pre-menopausal women who were the most active had a 17 percent lower risk and post-menopausal women had a 10 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who were the least active. Total moderate activity, such as walking and gardening, linked to a 13 percent lower risk when comparing the most versus least active women.

In addition the report showed that:

• Being overweight or obese increases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer.

• Mothers who breastfeed are at lower risk for breast cancer.

• Greater adult weight gain increases risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in US women with over 252,000 new cases estimated this year. AICR estimates that one in three breast cancer cases in the U.S. could be prevented if women did not drink alcohol, were physically active and stayed a healthy weight.

•••••

Ex-C.I.A. Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and Russia

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/politics/john-brennan-russia-trump-campaign-cia.html?ribbon-ad-idx=11&rref=politics&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Politics&action=swipe®ion=FixedRight&pgtype=article

John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described on Tuesday a nerve-fraying few months last year as American authorities realized that the presidential election was under attack and feared that Donald J. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight.

Mr. Brennan, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned by a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates. The C.I.A. learned about those meetings just as it was beginning to grapple with Russian hackers and propagandists trying to manipulate the presidential race.

His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.

“I know what the Russians try to do,” Mr. Brennan said. “They try to suborn individuals and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly.”
Continue reading the main story

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Continue reading the main story

When he left his post in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

•••••

“I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Mr. Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.”

Mr. Brennan’s prediction proved inaccurate. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered in the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. Mr. Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and has tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.

•••••

Informative links


Trump Effect Inspires Radical Christians in Military
http://www.newsweek.com/christian-fundamentalists-us-armed-forces-national-security-threat-613428

The Link between Disorder and Genius
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-link-between-disorder-and-genius-an-interview-with-dr-gail-saltz/?WT.mc_id=SA_FB_MB_NEWS

White House Moves To Block Disclosure Of Ethics Waivers For Trump Appointees
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/22/529502156/white-house-moves-to-block-disclosure-of-ethics-waivers-for-trump-appointees

Christie says he wouldn't let Flynn into White House "if he were president"
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/christie-says-he-wouldnt-let-flynn-into-white-house-if-he-were-president/

Report: Girl in Weiner sexting case lied to damage Clinton
http://thehill.com/homenews/news/334511-report-girl-in-weiner-sexting-case-lied-to-damage-clinton

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump Budget Would Cut E.P.A. Science Programs and Slash Cleanups


Since the states that get back more taxes than they send to Washington tend to be poor and Republican, and those that send more than they get back tend to be Democratic, this might hurt Trump's voters and help his opponents.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/climate/trump-epa-budget-superfund.html?_r=1

By CORAL DAVENPORT MAY 19, 2017

President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Science and Technology nearly in half, while paring by 40 percent funding for E.P.A. employees who oversee and put in place environmental regulations, according to a White House document that was shared with The New York Times.

And while the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has vowed to prioritize the agency’s cleanup of hazardous waste sites, the president would cut funding for the program, known as Superfund, by about 25 percent. And spending for a program to restore former industrial sites contaminated by pollution, another stated priority of the administrator, would shrink by about 36 percent.

Those cuts are part of an overall E.P.A. budget reduction of about 30 percent, as outlined originally in March, when the White House unveiled the top-line budget requests for the fiscal year that begins in October. The agency’s budget would drop to $5.7 billion — its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation — from its current $8.2 billion.

•••••

Mr. Trump has made clear that he wants to increase military spending by 10 percent, and spend more on the border with Mexico, including building a wall. He would also not touch the largest drivers of the budget deficit, Medicare and Social Security.

To do all of that, deliver what he has called the largest tax cut in the nation’s history and make good on his campaign pledge to balance the budget, virtually every other aspect of government would have to be significantly cut back. Those cuts would hit the E.P.A. especially hard.

The proposed cuts to the agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment and public health appear explicitly aimed at slowing or stopping some of its ability to regulate several forms of pollution, including the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. The proposed reductions would carry out Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges to drastically reduce the size and scope of the E.P.A., and his subsequent push to roll back major Obama-era environmental regulations.

•••••

Republicans on Capitol Hill are unlikely to approve reductions at the levels envisioned by the White House.

Last year, the House spending subcommittee that controls the E.P.A.’s budget proposed funding the agency at $8 billion, cutting just $291 million from President Barack Obama’s request.

•••••

Among the few state-level programs it would leave intact is a $20 million revolving fund to help states and communities build safer water infrastructure, a program aimed at helping municipalities prevent disasters like the lead contamination crisis that sickened thousands in Flint, Mich.

But the proposed budget would eliminate all spending on nearly a dozen state-level programs aimed at researching and protecting local watershed ecosystems, including programs on the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Champlain, Lake Pontchartrain and Puget Sound.

The richest 10% hold 76% of the wealth

http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/18/pf/wealth-inequality/

by Jeanne Sahadi @CNNMoney August 18, 2016

•••••

The top 10% of families -- those who had at least $942,000 -- held 76% of total wealth. The average amount of wealth in this group was $4 million.

Everyone else in the top 50% of the country accounted for 23% of total wealth, with an average of $316,000 per family.

That leaves just 1% of the total pie for the entire bottom half of the population.

•••••

What a difference 25 years made

Changes in wealth over time was also very uneven across groups.

Families at the 90th percentile saw their wealth grow by 54% between 1989 and 2013.

Those at the 50th percentile only experienced a 4% rise during the same period.

And those at the 25th percentile actually saw their wealth drop by 6%.

What's more, the top tenth of families saw their share of the total wealth pie grow from two-thirds to more than three quarters over the 25-year period, while everyone else saw their slice shrink.

•••••

Climate Change To Reduce Global Yields Of Staple Crops 23% By 2050s

https://cleantechnica.com/2017/05/22/climate-change-reduce-global-yields-staple-crops-23-2050s/

May 22nd, 2017 by James Ayre

Global production of the 4 most important staple crops in the world — maize/corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans — will be reduced by around 23% by the 2050s as a result of worsening anthropogenic climate change, according to new research published in the journal Economics of Disasters and Climate Change.

Notably, even by the 2030s — not that long from now — production of the staple crops mentioned above are expected to fall by ~9%, owing to rising temperatures (both rising minimums and maximums), increasingly extreme weather, and drought.

It should be noted that the findings don’t take into account rising soil depletion/erosion problems, the possibility of synthetic fertilizer shortages, or the possibility of large-scale wars or social breakdown. In other words, things could get notably worse than the figures above, which are already quite extreme.

Climate Central provides more: “The negative impacts of climate change to farming were pretty much across the board in the new analysis. There were small production gains projected for Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine in the 2030s, but by the 2050s, the models ‘are negative and more pronounced for all countries,’ the researchers wrote in the study.”

That matches the findings of many earlier studies.

•••••

It should be realized that, as with the ICCT’s climate change predictions, these estimates may well be underestimates, depending on how fast anthropogenic warming and associated changes occur over the coming decades.

It should also be realized here that there are already some ~2 billion people around the world who subsist on diets that result in a nutrient-deficient state of health — as this problem worsens in the coming years owing to dropping crop yields, nutrient deficiencies will become even more common, and so will a wide variety of diseases and infections as a result.

•••••

Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-asked-intelligence-chiefs-to-push-back-against-fbi-collusion-probe-after-comey-revealed-its-existence/2017/05/22/394933bc-3f10-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html?utm_term=.46bdc39c223b

By Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima May 22, 2017

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials.

•••••

Trump budget seeks huge cuts to disease prevention and medical research departments

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/05/22/trump-budget-seeks-huge-cuts-to-disease-prevention-and-medical-research-departments/?utm_term=.d2e56fa044f2

By Joel Achenbach and Lena H. Sun May 22, 2017

resident Trump's 2018 budget request to Congress seeks massive cuts in spending on health programs, including medical research, disease prevention programs and health insurance for children of the working poor.

The National Cancer Institute would be hit with a $1 billion cut compared to its 2017 budget. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute would see a $575 million cut, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would see a reduction of $838 million. The administration would cut the overall National Institutes of Health budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion.

•••••

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be slashed by at least 20 percent for the next two fiscal years. According to the budget document, the administrator favors a renewal of CHIP, a program created 20 years ago for the children of lower-working class families and which currently insures 5.6 million children.

•••••

The president's budget seeks an $82 million cut at the center that works on vaccine-preventable and respiratory diseases, such as influenza and measles. It proposes a cut of $186 million from programs at CDC’s center on HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis prevention. One of the biggest cuts, $222 million, is to the agency’s chronic disease prevention programs, which are designed to help people prevent diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and obesity.

•••••

The agency’s center on birth defects and developmental disabilities also gets a 26 percent cut to its budget at a time when researchers have yet to understand the full consequences of Zika infections in pregnant women and their babies.

The budget calls for a 17 percent cut to CDC’s global health programs that monitor and respond to disease outbreaks around the world. It also cuts about 10 percent from CDC’s office of public health preparedness and response.

The budget document highlights $35 million that the CDC spends on childhood lead poisoning prevention. But the overall spending on environmental health would under Trump's plan be cut by $60 million, down to $157 million, according the document.

•••••

Recalls of food due to possible health risks

See link below for more info.

https://www.foodsafety.gov/recalls/recent/listeria.html

CRF Frozen Foods Recalls Voluntary Recall to Include All Frozen Vegetable and Fruit Products Due to Possible Health Risk
June 2, 2016

Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. Recalls Meat and Poultry Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
May 11, 2016

Garland Ventures LTD Recalls Poultry Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
May 10, 2016

La Autentica Foods, LLC Firm Recalls Meat Tamale Products Due To Possible Listeria Contamination
May 7, 2016

Hy-Vee Voluntarily Recalls Frozen Hy-Vee Vegetable Fried Rice and Frozen Hy-Vee Chicken Fried Rice Due to Possible Health Risk
May 13, 2016

Updated: Ajinomoto Windsor Recall of Products Related to CRF Frozen Vegetable Recall
May 9, 2016

Updated: CRF Frozen Foods Expands Voluntary Recall to Include All Frozen Vegetable and Fruit Products Due To Possible Health Risk
May 5, 2016

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Air pollution linked to poor sleep, study finds

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/21/air-pollution-linked-to-poor-sleep-study-finds

Nicola Davis
May 21, 2017

Air pollution might be linked to poor sleep, say researchers looking into the impact of toxic air on our slumbers.

The study explored the proportion of time participants spent asleep in bed at night compared with being awake – a measure known as sleep efficiency.

The results reveal that greater exposure to nitrogen dioxide and small particulates known as PM 2.5s are linked with a greater chance of having low sleep efficiency. That, researchers say, could be down to the impact of air pollution on the body.

“Your nose, your sinuses and the back of your throat can all be irritated by those pollutants so that can cause some sleep disruption as well as from breathing issues,” said Martha Billings, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and co-author of the research. Billings added that pollutants entering the blood could have an effect on the brain and hence the regulation of breathing.

•••••

After taking into account a host of factors including age, smoking status and conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, the team found that those who were exposed to the highest levels of air pollution over five years were more likely to be in the bottom group for sleep efficiency than those exposed to the lowest levels.

More specifically, high levels of nitrogen dioxide increased the odds of having low sleep efficiency by almost 60%, while high levels of PM2.5s increased the odds by almost 50%. Higher levels of pollution were also linked to greater periods of time spent awake after going to sleep.

•••••

Scott Weichenthal, an epidemiologist from McGill University in Canada who was not involved in the study, said the research did not prove that air pollution caused poor sleep, but he added: “There is certainly increasing evidence that air pollution affects our body in ways that we didn’t appreciate before.”

Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health at the University of Birmingham, said a link between pollution and sleep was not unexpected. “Previous research has shown associations between nitrogen dioxide exposures and effects upon various physiological and biochemical functions in the body, as well as hospital admissions and mortality,” he said. “It should therefore come as no surprise that such exposures also affect sleep patterns.”

Informative links


GOP Prepares to Make Case That Poor People Must Sacrifice So Rich Can Get Tax Cuts
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/will-gop-sacrifice-safety-net-programs-on-altar-of-tax-cuts.html?mid=fb-share-di

The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/05/the-great-climate-silence-we-are-on-the-edge-of-the-abyss-but-we-ignore-it

How lies work
http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2017/02/how-lies-work.html

400,000 were promised student loan forgiveness. Now they are panicking
http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/18/pf/college/betsy-devos-public-service-loan-forgiveness/

On same weekend as record-breaking arms deal, Saudis announced $100 million donation to Ivanka fund
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/5/21/1664578/-On-same-weekend-as-record-breaking-arms-deal-Saudis-announced-100-million-donation-to-Ivanka-fund


China crippled CIA by killing US sources
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39989142

There will be no miracles here
http://blog.ted.com/there-will-be-no-miracles-here-casey-gerald-at-ted2016/

Sometimes, Facts Can Actually Trump Ideology
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/sometimes-facts-can-actually-trump-ideology/

We Aren't Built to Live in the Moment
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/opinion/sunday/why-the-future-is-always-on-your-mind.html?smid=fb-share

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor
https://revolsen.com/2017/05/17/an-open-letter-to-rev-franklin-graham-from-a-small-church-pastor/

The Trump administration's plans to crack down on Wall Street are being called into question
http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-mnuchin-glass-steagall-wall-street-bank-regulation-2017-5

When bad arguments work

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2017/05/when-bad-arguments-work.html

May 17, 2017

•••••

Many of the most common arguments against [Great Britain] Labour’s policies are laughably bad

•••••

In pointing this out, however, people like me are missing something important – that even lousy arguments have the power to persuade.

Robert Cialdini gives us an example of this in Influence. He tells of an experiment in which a woman tries to jump queues to use a photocopier in a university library. When she merely asked to jump in, 60% of people in the queue complied. But the question “May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” got 93% to agree. Even a meaningless remark (why else would you want to use the copier?) elicited compliance.

What’s going on here is that the mere act of speaking has persuasive power.

•••••

Communication, especially the power of asking, greatly influences feelings of empathy and pro-social behavior.

The mere existence of messages, then, gets us to sympathize with the sender.

In this context, there’s a massive bias in the media. People earning over £80,000 might be only 5% of the population, but they account for much more than 5% of communication. This leads us to sympathize with them. Add in the fact that people tend to believe lies, and we get a big bias towards the rich.

It’s often said that many people oppose higher taxes on top earners because they hope (mostly wrongly) to become one themselves. But this is only part of the story. We sympathize with the rich not (just) because we hope to become rich ourselves, but because we hear so damned much from them.

There’s a nasty flipside to this. If we don’t hear from people, we tend not to sympathize with them.

•••••

This might well have political effects. Because the worst-off have less voice, we are relatively ignorant of their suffering and so less sympathetic to them. Support for benefit cuts isn’t based solely upon outright untruths, but upon a lack of sympathy for them caused by their relative lack of voice.

Most of us, I guess, can name far more people who are in the top 5% of the income distribution than in the bottom 5%. This introduces a bias towards the rich.

My point here is that the media’s bias isn’t merely conscious and deliberate. There are more subtle ways in which it serves the interests of the well-off.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Increased cancer rate in US linked to bad environment

I saw this in the May 13-10, 2017 print issue of New Scientist

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2130086-increased-cancer-rate-in-us-linked-to-bad-environment/

By Helen Thomson
May 8, 2017

Improving the worst environments in the US could prevent 39 in every 100,000 cancer deaths.

That’s according to the first study to address the impact of cumulative exposure to environmental hazards on cancer incidence in the US, which found strong links between poor environmental quality and increased rates of cancer.

•••••

Jyotsna Jagai at the University of Illinois and her colleagues investigated these links by comparing data from the Environmental Quality Index – a measure of cumulative environmental exposures between the years of 2000 and 2005 – with cancer incidence across the US from 2006 to 2010.

The results showed increases in cancer incidence with decreasing environmental quality. The link was clearest with prostate and breast cancer.

•••••

Even so, the data compiled by Jagai’s team can at least help identify which communities are most vulnerable to high cancer rates. However, this may be hampered by new legislative proposals, introduced in January, that seek to rein in federal collection of local area data.

Jagai and her team also warn that a bill introduced in February to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency, which provided the environmental data used in the study, will severely harm researchers’ abilities to further investigate the factors that contribute to disease.

Nearly 700 vacancies at CDC because of Trump administration’s hiring freeze

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/05/19/nearly-700-vacancies-at-cdc-because-of-trump-administration-hiring-freeze/

By Lena H. Sun May 19, 2017

Nearly 700 positions are vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of a continuing freeze on hiring that officials and researchers say affects programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.

The same restriction remains in place throughout the Health and Human Services Department despite the lifting of a government-wide hiring freeze last month. At the National Institutes of Health, staff say clinical work, patient care and recruitment are suffering.

Like HHS, the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have maintained the freeze as a way of reducing their workforces and reshaping organizational structures after a directive last month from the Office of Management and Budget that said all federal agencies must submit a plan by June 30 to shrink their civilian workforces. HHS, State and EPA also face significant cuts in the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The administration, which unveiled a “skinny budget” for fiscal 2018 in March, is scheduled to release its full budget next week.

A senior CDC official said unfilled positions include dozens of budget analysts and public health policy analysts, scientists and advisers who provide key administrative support. Their duties include tracking federal contracts awarded to state and local health departments and ensuring that lab scientists have the equipment they need.

Though HHS has exempted many positions from the freeze, including physicians and personnel who respond to cybersecurity and public health emergencies, many support personnel who often play critical roles have been affected.

“It’s all the operational details,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because CDC staff are not permitted to comment publicly without approval from HHS. The situation has been made worse, the official said, because the agency has been operating without a permanent director since Tom Frieden stepped down in January. That job is considered one of the most crucial public health positions in the government given the CDC's role in tracking and stopping infectious disease outbreaks in the United States and worldwide.

•••••

Friday, May 19, 2017

April 2017: Earths 2nd Warmest April on Record

https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/april-2017-earths-2nd-warmest-april-record

Dr. Jeff Masters · May 18, 2017

April 2017 was the planet's second warmest April since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Thursday; NASA also rated April 2017 as the second warmest April on record. The only warmer April was just last year, in 2016. April 2017 ranked as the eighteenth warmest month (expressed as the departure of temperature from average) of any month in the global historical record in the NASA database. The extreme warmth of January 2017 (thirteenth warmest month of any month in NASA’s database), February 2017 (sixth warmest), March 2017 (fifth warmest) and now April gives 2017 an outside chance of becoming Earth’s fourth consecutive warmest year on record--if an El Niño event were to develop this summer and continue through the end of the year, as some models are predicting. It's more likely, though, that 2016 will remain as the warmest year in Earth's recorded history. For the year-to-date period of January–April 2017, Earth's temperature was 0.95°C (1.71°F) above the 20th century average of 12.6°C (54.8°F). This was the second highest such period since records began in 1880, behind 2016 by 0.19°C (0.34°F.)

Global ocean temperatures last month were the second warmest on record for any April, and global land temperatures were the fourth warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the fifth warmest for any April in the 39-year record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH).

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Arctic sea ice: lowest extent on record for the seventh consecutive month

Arctic sea ice extent during April 2017 was tied with April 2016 for the lowest April extent in the 38-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Arctic sea ice has set record-low monthly extent records from October 2016 – April 2017. The record low ice extent has been due to a combination of very warm air temperatures plus unusually warm waters invading the Arctic from the south, beneath the ice. Arctic sea ice extent will likely not set a record for May, as the extent has been dropping at a slightly lower pace than usual over the last couple of weeks. However, the total volume of the ice could still be at record low levels for May, based on the huge deficit depicted by the PIOMAS sea ice volume model at the end of April.
Antarctic sea ice no longer setting all-time lows--barely

Sea ice surrounding Antarctica has been at unprecedented lows in recent months, setting an all-time monthly minimum extent record each month during the five-month period November 2016 – March 2017. However, monthly Antarctic sea ice extent in April 2017 was the second lowest for April on record, just behind the record set in 1980.

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This is not rhetoric: approving the Adani coal mine will kill people

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/this-is-not-rhetoric-approving-the-adani-coal-mine-will-kill-people-20170518-gw7nv9.html

The Sydney Morning Herald

Ian Dunlop
Ian Dunlop was an international oil, gas and coal industry executive, chairman of the Australian Coal Association and chief executive of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a member of the Club of Rome.
May 18, 2017

Rarely have politicians demonstrated better their ignorance of the risks and opportunities confronting Australia than with Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan and other ministers' recent utterances on Adani and Galilee Basin coal, along with their petulant foot-stamping over Westpac's decision to restrict funding to new coal projects.

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Nowhere in the debate is the critical issue even raised: the existential risk of climate change, which such development now implies. Existential means a risk posing large negative consequences to humanity that can never be undone. One where an adverse outcome would either annihilate life, or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.

This is the risk to which we are now exposed unless we rapidly reduce global carbon emissions.

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Dangerous climate change, which the Paris agreement and its forerunners seek to avoid, is happening at the 1.2-degree increase already experienced as extreme weather events, and their economic costs, escalate. A 1.6-degree increase is already locked in as the full effect of our historic emissions unfolds.

Our current path commits us to a 4 to 5-degree temperature increase. This would create a totally disorganised world with a substantial reduction in population, possibly to less than one billion people from 7.5 billion today.

The voluntary emission reduction commitments made in Paris, if implemented, would still result in a 3-degree increase, accelerating social chaos in many parts of the world with rising levels of deprivation, displacement and conflict.

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Climate change has moved out of the twilight period of much talk and limited action. It is now turning nasty. Some regions, often the poorest, have already seen major disasters, as has Australia.

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The uncertainties, regularly thrown up as reasons for inaction, relate not to the basic science but to the speed and extent of climate impact, both of which have been badly underestimated.

The most dangerous aspect is that the impact of fossil-fuel investments made today do not manifest themselves for decades to come. If we wait for catastrophe to happen, as we are doing, it will be too late to act. Time is the most important commodity; to avoid catastrophic outcomes requires emergency action to force the pace of change. Australia, along with the Asian regions to our north, is now considered to be "disaster alley"; we are already experiencing the most extreme impacts globally.

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In these circumstances, opening up a major new coal province is nothing less than a crime against humanity. The Adani mine by itself will push temperatures above 2 degrees; the rest of the Galilee Basin development would ensure global temperatures went way above 3 degrees. None of the supporting political arguments, such as poverty alleviation, the inevitability of continued coal use, the superior quality of our coal, or the benefits of opening up northern Australia, have the slightest shred of credibility. Such irresponsibility is only possible if you do not accept that man-made climate change is happening, which is the real position of both government and opposition.

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The first priority of government, we are told, is to ensure the security of the citizens. Having got elected, this seems to be the last item on the politician's agenda, as climate change is treated as just another issue to be compromised and pork-barrelled, rather than an existential threat.

We deserve better leaders. If the incumbency is not prepared to act, the community need to take matters into their own hands.

Climate Change Is Turning Antarctica Green

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-is-turning-antarctica-green/

A new study has found a steady growth of moss in Antarctica over the last 50 years
By Scott Waldman, ClimateWire on May 19, 2017

Plant life on both poles is growing rapidly as the planet warms.

A new study has found a steady growth of moss in Antarctica over the last 50 years as temperatures increased as a result of climate change. The study, published yesterday in the journal Current Biology, shows that Antarctica will be much greener in the future, said lead author Matt Amesbury, a researcher at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

The continued retreat of glaciers will make the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been warming at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, a much greener place in the future, Amesbury said.

“It’s a clear sign that the biological response to climate warming is pervasive around the globe,” he said. “The Antarctic Peninsula is often thought of as a very remote and possibly even untouched region, but this clearly shows that the effects of climate change are felt here.”

Amesbury and his fellow researchers used cores of the moss bank to arrive at their conclusion. They looked at 150 years’ worth of data and found clear “changepoints” in the last 50 years that showed the increase of moss cover. Amesbury described the moss growth as a powerful signifier that the region is already undergoing change.

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That echoes research published earlier this year that also shows an increase of plant growth in the Arctic. Scientists once thought tiny marine plants known as phytoplankton could not thrive under sea ice in the frigid Arctic ocean. But thinning ice has allowed them to thrive to such an extent that green patches of ice have been observed. The thinner ice lets sunshine in to previously dark areas, which allows the plankton to grow, and has the potential to dramatically change the ecosystem as animals migrate to the area earlier in pursuit of food.

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The globe experienced its second warmest April in recorded history, second only to last year, and sea ice cover in both the Arctic and Antarctic is near record lows, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday. Antarctic sea ice cover was 18.2 percent, or 520,000 square miles, below the 1981-2010 average, NOAA also said yesterday. That is the second lowest April sea ice extent since record-keeping began in 1979. In the Arctic, sea ice cover was down 6.9 percent, or 394,000 square miles. That’s tied for the lowest ever recorded, with April 2016.

More people infected by recent WCry worm can unlock PCs without paying ransom

See the link below for details on how to obtain and use the tool.

People are getting very rich from these scams. According to some, like Robert Mercer & Donald Trump, it indicates that they are superior people.



A tool released on Friday decrypts PCs running a fuller suite of Windows versions.
Dan Goodin - 5/19/2017

New hope glimmered on Friday for people hit by last week's virulent ransomware worm after researchers showed that a broader range of PCs infected by WCry can be unlocked without owners making the $300 to $600 payment demand.

A new publicly available tool is able to decrypt infected PCs running Windows XP and 7, and 2003, and one of the researchers behind the decryptor said it likely works for other Windows versions, including Vista, Server 2008, and 2008 R2. The tool, known as wanakiwi, builds off a key discovery implemented in a different tool released Thursday. Dubbed Wannakey, the previous tool provided the means to extract key material from infected Windows XP PCs but required a separate app to transform those bits into the secret key required to decrypt files.

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Scam alert: Do not answer calls or texts from these area codes

People are getting very rich from these scams. According to some, like Robert Mercer & Donald Trump, it indicates that they are superior people.

The following link to the article contains a list of area codes to beware of, and a link to a bigger list.

http://clark.com/scams-rip-offs/one-ring-scam-area-codes/

If you receive a call or text message on your cell phone from an unfamiliar area code, proceed with caution!

Inc.com reports that the “one ring scam” Clark.com has told you about over the years has resurfaced once again — and it’s coming after your money.

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Consumers face no danger by receiving the message, but calling or texting back can be quite costly.

Although the area codes may look domestic, they’re international calls to premium phone numbers, which are like 900 numbers. Victims have been hit with an international call fee, plus an expensive per-minute charge.

Sometimes the scammers will reportedly play hold music or ads in an attempt to keep victims on the line.

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Informative links


To regain power, Democrats need to focus on the long game — starting with these six races
The battle for 2020 redistricting — and all the advantages that mapmaking confers for an entire decade — could well be decided by Election Day in November 2018. By 2020, it will be over.
http://www.salon.com/2017/05/02/forget-the-georgia-sixth-to-regain-power-democrats-need-to-focus-on-the-long-game-starting-with-these-six-races/

How the GOP’s redistricting master plan brought us Trumpcare — even though most people hate it
http://www.salon.com/2017/05/06/gerrymandering-did-this-how-the-gops-redistricting-master-plan-brought-us-trumpcare-even-though-most-people-hate-it/

Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/uonc-art051817.php

New Technology May Help Ease Sleep Apnea
http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/new-technology-may-help-ease-sleep-apnea-n760391

Colon Cancer Survivors Live Longer With Healthy Habits
http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/colon-cancer-survivors-live-longer-healthy-habits-n761231


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Informatice links


NASA Space Probes Have Detected a Human-Made Barrier Surrounding Earth
https://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-space-probes-have-detected-a-human-made-barrier-shrouding-earth

AT&T and DirecTV face thousands of complaints linked to overcharging, promotions
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/complaints-att-directv-bundled-services-directv-customers-promotions-overcharging/?ftag=COS-05-10aaa0h&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_content=591d3d8919694a0007f4256a&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook

The “fake but accurate” climate change news delivered to Trump? It’s fake all the way down.
https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/5/16/15645466/trump-fake-climate-news

EPA asked the public which regulations to gut — and got an earful about leaving them alone
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/16/epa-asked-the-public-which-regulations-to-gut-and-got-an-earful-about-leaving-them-alone/?utm_term=.d09791fdcd24

El Niño Again? This Is Why It’s Hard to Tell
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/el-nino-again-why-its-hard-to-tell-21451

Teacher cites Bible in letter to school paper, says gay people 'deserve to die'
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/mcclatchys-america/article149916022.html

Eating tree nuts may cut risk that colon cancer will return: study
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-cancer-nuts-idUSKCN18D2P8

I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/05/16/i-wrote-the-art-of-the-deal-with-trump-his-self-sabotage-is-rooted-in-his-past/?utm_term=.af5cfe3cd824&wpisrc=nl_most-draw14&wpmm=1

Blood tests significantly underestimated lead levels, FDA and CDC warn
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/05/17/blood-tests-significantly-underestimated-lead-levels-fda-and-cdc-warn/?utm_term=.07f9755bcc9d

Putin offers transcript to prove Trump did not pass Russia secrets
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-putin-idUSKCN18D1EA

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump Tax Plan Would Give 400 Highest-Income Americans More Than $15 Million a Year in Tax Cuts

Under the current tax system, those in the top income groups are already gaining an increasing share of income and wealth. How are they suffering?

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/05/trump-tax-plan-would-give-400-highest-income-americans-more-than-15-million-a-year-in-tax-cuts.html

http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/trump-tax-plan-would-give-400-highest-income-americans-more-than-15-million-a

May 17, 2017
by Brandon DeBot

President Trump’s tax plan contains specific, costly tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations but only vague promises for working families.[1] Even accounting for his proposal to restrict most itemized deductions, the top 1 percent would still receive annual tax cuts averaging at least $250,000 per household. But the tax cuts at the very top would be far larger. Their annual tax cuts would be more than five times the typical college graduate’s lifetime earnings. The 400 highest-income taxpayers — whose incomes average more than $300 million a year — would get average tax cuts of at least $15 million a year each, we estimate from IRS data. Their annual tax cuts would be more than five times the typical college graduate’s lifetime earnings.[2] (See Figure 1.) The total tax cut for these 400 households would be at least $6 billion annually.

The Trump plan prioritizes these tax cuts for the highest-income Americans over many worthy programs that need more resources. For example, $6 billion is more than the federal government spends on grants for major job training programs to assist people struggling in today’s economy. An additional annual investment of $6 billion could enable roughly 1.5 million adults each year to train for a new career.[3]

Also, $6 billion is roughly the cost of providing 600,000 low-income families with housing vouchers that would help them afford decent, stable housing. That additional investment could eliminate homelessness among impoverished veterans, families with children, and people with mental illness or other disabilities, and reduce housing instability among these and other at-risk groups.[4]

Yet, far from investing in these areas, President Trump has proposed to sharply cut the budget area (non-defense discretionary programs) that funds job training and housing vouchers, even as his tax plan delivers massive tax cuts to the top.

Our estimates are based on the tax cuts that the top 400 would receive from just two provisions of the Trump plan: reducing to 15 percent the tax rate on “pass-through” business income (income from businesses such as partnerships, S corporations, and sole proprietorships that is claimed on individual tax returns and is taxed at the same rates as wages and salaries) and repealing the 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income that high-income households receive.

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The top 400 would receive average tax cuts of at least $15 million annually from just these two provisions (assuming they have similar income levels and income sources as in 2014). This estimate likely significantly understates the tax cuts for the top 400 because it covers only two provisions that represent about one-third of the Trump tax plan’s overall cost.

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Informative links


Trump's disclosure endangered spy placed inside ISIS by Israel, officials say
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/trumps-disclosure-endangered-spy-inside-isis-israel-officials/story?id=47449304

Workers say Wal-Mart discriminated against thousands of pregnant women
http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/workers-say-wal-mart-discriminated-against-thousands-of-pregnant-women/ar-BBBapl3

Tips on fighting fake news from the people who debunk it for a living
https://qz.com/937056/tips-on-fighting-fake-news-from-the-people-who-debunk-it-for-a-living/

Americans Support Impeaching Donald Trump More Than They Oppose It, Poll Finds
http://www.newsweek.com/americans-support-impeaching-donald-trump-more-they-oppose-it-610155

Prison Stocks Soar Under Trump As Jeff Sessions Okays Private Jails
https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamsarhan/2017/02/24/prison-stocks-soar-under-trump-as-sessions-oks-private-jails-again/#3e7ade3310ce

Vice-president Henry Wallace predicted a president like Trump 73 years ago
I have been expecting the election of someone like Trump because of the downsliding of working people
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/opinion/american-fascism-trump.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

GOP Congressman Frelinghuysen Targets Activist in Letter to Her Employer
http://www.wnyc.org/story/frelinghuysen-targets-activsts-letter-boss/

Slow-Freezing Alaska Soil Driving Surge in CO2 Emissions
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/slow-freezing-alaska-soil-co2-emissions-21444

Warm Arctic Fuels Second-Warmest April globally on Record
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/warm-arctic-fuels-second-warmest-april-21449

Warmer Temperatures Drying the Rio Grande
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/warmer-temperatures-drying-rio-grande-21446

U.S. had 2nd wettest, 11th warmest April on record
http://www.noaa.gov/news/us-had-2nd-wettest-11th-warmest-april-on-record

38,000 people a year die early because of diesel emissions testing failures
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/15/diesel-emissions-test-scandal-causes-38000-early-deaths-year-study