Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Informative links

Georgia peaches: 80 percent of state’s crop lost due to warm winter

Trained for the Culture Wars in Home School, Awaiting Someone Like Mike Pence as a Messiah

Inside the plot to bomb a soccer team to make money
Some people, like Trump and his supporter Robert Mercer, believe that a person's worth is shown by the amount of money they have.
By this standard, if this man had gotten away with his plan, it would have shown him to be of high worth as a human being.

Exxon Shareholders Approve Climate Resolution: 62% Vote for Disclosure

6 Reasons Why We Need Highly Sensitive People

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cicadas Emerge 4 Years Early

My guess was that the warmer temperatures is causing this directly. Their body processes will be running more cycles, which seems to me how they time their emergence. It would take a certain amount of metabolic activity to do whatever needs to be done to trigger their emergence. The scientists came to the same conclusion.

Scientists search for the mysterious cause, as millions of hatching bugs loudly buzz the night away
By Knvul Sheikh on May 26, 2017

Swarms of cicadas are unexpectedly crawling out from under trees from North Carolina to New Jersey. The red-eyed insects are almost impossible to miss; they fly around lazily, plunking into backyard barbeques and crashing into cars. They litter the ground with their crunchy husks as they molt. Most noticeably, they chirp en masse for their mates, producing a relentless, shrill buzz that is recognized as a song of summer. And within a month they are gone.

Different populations, or broods, of “periodical” cicadas emerge in distinct geographical regions during specific years, after spending a 13- or 17-year span growing underground. (Some “annual” species just emerge yearly.) Scientists were expecting to see Brood VI bugs in South Carolina and Georgia, which happened, but they got a surprise when Brood X cicadas also started appearing in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Ohio and Indiana last week—four years earlier than anticipated.

Experts suspect a warming climate, with more warm weeks a year during which the underground nymphs can grow, could be triggering some cicadas to emerge ahead of their brood. “Temperature is everything,” says Marlene Zuk, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota. “When temperature changes, insects don’t just feel hot or cold. Their whole body doesn’t function normally.” And cicada nymphs may be growing to a threshold size so quickly that their internal biological clock is miscalculating when it is time to emerge, says Keith Clay, a biologist and cicada expert at Indiana University Bloomington. To calibrate these clocks, periodical cicadas likely rely on a variety of environmental cues such as changing seasons and ground temperature, he says. Nymphs feed on the xylem fluid (sap) from tree roots, and changes in the fluid composition as trees leaf out each spring may also help them gauge the passage of time. Entomologists reached this conclusion back in 2000 when they artificially sped up the blooming cycle of peach trees supporting cicada nymphs that were in their 15th year and tricked the insects into emerging a year early.


Nymph growth is key. “They have to be a certain size to come out as adults,” says Chris Simon, a cicada biologist at the University of Connecticut. Nymphs go through five stages of development, called instars, which last an average of four years each, except for the first one. The nymph’s internal clock may synchronize to these four-year instars, she says, which may explain why this year’s premature arrivals are ahead of schedule by four years. Even if they grow at different rates, most cicada nymphs wait for the rest of their group to catch up before squirming out of the dirt, she adds. When the soil reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit in a given year, they all emerge together. Experts think evolution has favored this strategy as a way of overwhelming predators like birds and squirrels so cicadas can mate frantically and lay eggs before they die in a few weeks. But thousands of Brood X sightings implies the bugs are not waiting for their fellows. They are risking being eaten before they can reproduce, Simon notes.


Macadamia nuts, cashews recalled for possible listeria contamination

By Jen Christensen, CNN
May 30, 2017

Simple Truth Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts and Ava's Organic Cashews Roasted & Salted are the subject of unrelated recalls for possible listeria contamination, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The macadamia nuts were sold in six states: Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Indiana. Kroger, Bakers, Gerbes and Dillons stores carry the Simple Truth line.

The recalled macadamia nuts were sold in a clear 12-ounce plastic package and have a May 2, 2018, expiration date on the side. The UPC is 11110-02478.

Kroger said it has removed the macadamia nuts from its shelves. If you bought one of these packages, throw them away or take them back to the store for a refund or a replacement. Anyone with further questions can call 1-800-KROGERS.

Ava's brand Organic Cashews Roasted & Salted were sold in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The recalled product comes in 8-ounce tubs.

The cashews came from Hampton Farms, where an investigation found a contaminated piece of equipment. The cashews tested negative for listeria, but the nuts were recalled and pulled from shelves out of an abundance of caution, according to the FDA.

The recalled cashews have a best-by date of April 28, 2018. The UPC number is 8-10111-01035-1, and the lot number is 11817-L2.

No other Hampton Farms products were affected by this recall.
No illnesses have been reported in either recall, but listeria infections can be dangerous. About 1,600 cases of listeriosis are reported in the United States every year, and about 260 are fatal.


Monday, May 29, 2017

U.S. Daily Record Highs Outnumber Lows 5 to 1 since 2010

Christopher C. Burt · May 29, 2017

As detailed in the caption above, Galveston, Texas, has set an amazing number of heat records in the last few years. Blogger Matt Lanza (@mattlanza) recently wondered if any other city in the U.S. has broken so many heat records in the same span of time (since 2010). I decided to follow that line of inquiry and researched 60 cities in the contiguous U.S. that have National Weather Service NOWData online records going back to at least 1895. In addition, I looked at six sites in Alaska and Hawaii as well, although only two (Juneau and Honolulu) have periods of record (PORs) dating back to 1895.


After choosing these sites, I used the option in NOWData’s local search tool to search from January 1895 through April 2017 for daily temperature records set on each day of the year:

Tmax: highest temperature recorded on this date
Tmax/Min: highest minimum temperature recorded on this date (typically the warmest nighttime reading)
Tmin: lowest temperature recorded on this date
Tmin/Max: lowest maximum temperature recorded on this date (typically the coldest daytime reading)

Thus, four parameters for daily record temperatures were chosen for this report.



• Not a single site recorded more daily cold records than warm ones. Eureka, California came the closest with a heat-over-cold ratio of just 1.18 to 1.00, and Reno, Nevada had the greatest ratio with 24.13 to 1.00 warm records over cold records. The ratio at Reno was much larger than for any other station in my dataset from the contiguous U.S. Barrow, Alaska’s ratio was an astonishing 66.00 to 1.00, although its POR did not begin until 1921. I discussed the increasing warmth at Barrow in a Category 6 post in April.

• The average ratio of warm records over cold records for all 60 contiguous U.S. sites was 4.89 to 1.00 for the period of 2010 to 2017.

• Record warm nights (i.e. Tmax/Mins) were 29.5% more prevalent than record warm days (Tmaxs) and record cold days (Tmin/Maxs) were 22.2% more prevalent than record cold nights (Tmins).

• There was no indication that one region of the U.S. set more temperature records (either warm or cold) than any other region.

• A few sites had not recorded a single daily Tmin (coldest daily minimum) record since 2010. These included Reno, where the last Tmin record was set in 2004; Phoenix (last daily Tmin set in 2008); and Barrow (last daily Tmin set in 2007).

• Tampa, Florida recorded the most daily warm records (Tmax or Tmax/min) of any site researched with, 210 such days. This is just short of Galveston’s 216, so Matt Lanza may be correct in his hypothesis that Galveston has measured more daily heat records than any other first-order NWS site in the U.S. with a POR going back to at least 1895.


Mudslides in Sri Lanka have killed at least 169 and left 102 missing.

Global warming is causing more incidents of heavy precipitation.

Sri Lankan rescuers pulled out more bodies under enormous mudslides on Sunday as the death toll climbed to 169 with 102 others missing. Two days of torrential rains have caused massive flooding, and more rain is in the forecast Monday, threatening to cause more problems for over 100,000 displaced persons.

Authorities battling to rescue those still stranded have warned of the possibility of crocodile attacks as rising waters give the reptiles more and more territory, CNN reports.

"I have never seen such floods though I have spent my entire lifetime in Matara," Banakiyanage Gnanawathie, who lives in the badly hit town, told CNN by phone. "We have lost all our belongings and remain in the clothes we wore. I am still happy we escaped the floods and even the crocodiles."


Health minister Dr. Rajitha Senarathna said 102,218 displaced people were being sheltered in 339 relief centers. Special medical teams have been sent to the affected areas, while medicine has been sent by air to hospitals for which access has been cut off, he said.


There were still difficulties in reaching some areas to deliver emergency aid, so the air force has been lowering supplies from the air.


Muslim fishermen from the nearby coastal town of Beruwala came with their boats to help evacuate those stranded while observing the Ramadan fast.

Sri Lanka's government appealed to the United Nations as well as other countries for help with rescue and relief measures.

Mudslides have become common during the monsoon season in Sri Lanka, a tropical Indian Ocean island nation, as land has been heavily deforested to grow export crops such as tea and rubber.


Republican EPA chief ignores republican underfunding of Superfund cleanup

Note that Congress sets the federal budget, and that the author of the second article in The Hill doesn't mention that until near the end, when many/most readers would have stopped reading.
Authors: Kaley Beins and Stephen Lester
Contributions: Neggin Assadi, Vesta Davis and Lois Gibbs
Dec. 2015

Superfund 35th Anniversary Report


When Superfund was created on December 11, 1980 through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, a Trust Fund was set up with approximately $1.6 billionto pay for the cleanup of any site where a polluter could not be identified, was bankrupt, or refused to take action. Superfund was financed by polluter pays fees from the companies responsible for the hazardous chemical releases.
By 1995, Superfund had accumulated nearly $4 billion. However, the authorization to collect these fees ended that year and was not reauthorized by Congress. Consequently, in 2003 the program ran out of money and the entire financial burden of paying for the cleanup of the worst orphan toxic sites in America fell to the taxpayers. In the past five years, Congress has annually allocated approximately $1.26 billion of general revenues—taxpayer money—to the Superfund program.
Funding for Superfund has continued to decrease from approximately $2billion in 1999 toless than $1.1 billion in 2013(in constant dollars) according to a federal Government Accountability Office(GAO)report. This decrease has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of sites cleaned up. From 2001 to 2008, there was more than a 50% decrease in the number of sites cleaned up. This slide continued during the Obama Administration and recently under the direction of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy when there was a 40% further reduction in Superfund cleanups—from 20 in 2009 to a mere 8 in 2014.
The lack of polluter pays fees and the dependency on taxpayer revenues has led to a funding shortfall, which has weakened Superfund’s response to pressing environmental health concerns. In September 2015, the GAO issued a report that identified three problems linked to the lack of adequate funding of the Superfund program: (1) a decline in the number of remedial action completions; (2) a decrease in construction completions; and (3) a diminished efficiency in completing each project.
The agency has also started fewer cl eanups since the Trust Fund ran out of polluter pays fee money. [No surprise.]


EPA chief puts new spotlight on cleanup program (The Hill's headline)
By Timothy Cama - 05/29/17

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt is looking to make a key federal program focused on cleaning contaminated sites an integral part of his agenda at the agency.

With an eye toward expediting cleanups of contaminated sites and getting to work on languishing projects, Pruitt in recent weeks has formed a task force on the Superfund program and has issued a directive for the most expensive projects to go to him for approval.

Pruitt has also used the program's recent history to criticize the Obama administration, pointing out that the more than 1,300 sites on the EPA’s priority list for cleanups is bigger now than it was when former President Barack Obama took office.

Superfund – a key program under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 – has broad, bipartisan support in Congress and elsewhere, owing to its mission of cleaning up contaminated areas and making them usable for commercial development.
[But the republican Congress hasn't been willing to fund it as is needed.]

Pruitt’s focus on the program, therefore, could pay dividends for his political future – and he’s unlikely to face strong opposition. But experts familiar with the program warn that his Superfund agenda could be ineffective or short-sighted, since it could lead to cleanups that are faster and cheaper but less thorough.

The EPA chief's critics argue that the real problem with the Superfund is funding, owing in part to the expiration of a tax on the oil and chemical industries that has expired.
[Which the republican Congress refused to renew.]

The Trump administration could make the funding problem worse. President Trump’s budget proposal this week sought a $327 million cut – or 30 percent – to Superfund.

For the most part, the EPA uses the program to supervise cleanups funded by the companies responsible for the contamination. But if those companies are bankrupt or cannot pay, the EPA occasionally pays for the process, using taxpayer money, since the tax has expired.


Obama proposed each year he was in office to reinstate the Superfund tax on oil and chemical companies, which funded orphan cleanups and expired in 1995.

Numerous Democrats, like Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), have proposed bringing it back, but their push has gotten little traction.

“Every year, Congress has chosen not to pass that, and basically say that the taxpayers should pay for these, which I don’t think makes any sense,” Stanislaus said.





Most Chipotle restaurants hacked with credit card stealing malware

A cybersecurity attack that hit most Chipotle restaurants allowed hackers to steal credit card information from customers, the burrito chain confirmed.

The company first acknowledged the breach on April 25. But a blog post on Friday revealed the kind of malware used in the attack and the restaurants that were affected.

The list of attacked locations is extensive and includes many major U.S. cities. When CNNMoney asked the company Sunday about the scale of the attack, spokesman Chris Arnold said that "most, but not all restaurants may have been involved."

Chipotle (CMG) said in its blog post that it worked with law enforcement officials and cybersecurity firms on an investigation.

The breaches happened between March 24 and April 18. The malware worked by infecting cash registers and capturing information stored on the magnetic strip on credit cards, called "track data." Chipotle said track data sometimes includes the cardholder's name, card number, expiration date and internal verification code.


A list of the restaurants and times they were affected can be found on Chipotle's website.

The company recommended that customers scan their credit card statements for potentially fraudulent purchases. It also said victims should contact the Federal Trade Commission, the attorney general in their home states or their local police department.

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop

Shaurn Thomas Timeline

Man cleared of murder conviction after 24 years behind bars, with help of an ex-cop
By Tom Jackman May 23, 2017

Shaurn Thomas had claimed for 16 years that he didn’t kill a popular Philadelphia businessman in a street robbery. He was 16 then, and said he had been at a juvenile court proceeding for trying to steal a motorcycle when the daylight slaying occurred. But the courts weren’t buying it, and Thomas lost appeal after appeal. Convicted almost completely on the testimony of a co-defendant, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Then in 2009, Thomas sent a letter to the newly formed Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and a lawyer named James Figorski happened to open it. Figorski had spent 25 years as a Philadelphia police officer. He knew how the city’s juvenile system worked, and he sensed something wasn’t right. For the next eight years, Figorski volunteered countless hours investigating Thomas’s case, along with Innocence Project legal director Marissa Bluestine, and last year they began meeting with the Philadelphia district attorney’s Conviction Review Unit. And the prosecutors agreed: Thomas was almost certainly innocent. On Tuesday morning, prosecutors moved to vacate Thomas’s murder conviction, and he was released from prison Tuesday evening after nearly 24 years behind bars. On Tuesday night, he had his “first meal” outside of prison, the seafood combination at Red Lobster, his lawyers said.


“At every level, Shaurn was failed,” Bluestine said. “By his lawyers, by the prosecutors, by the courts. Ironically, it took a former police officer to dig in and prove he’s an innocent man.”

“It happened because he had no money or power,” Figorski said. “They had a cold case they wanted to solve. And they had somebody willing to say [Shaurn] did it.”


The case was cold for two years, even though there were a number of witnesses, pedestrians and other motorists, who saw the collision and shooting. Then in 1992, a man named John Stallworth confessed to his involvement and named his brother and Thomas as participants. Stallworth’s confession was shown to be false because one of the other participants he named was in prison at the time of the slaying, but Stallworth still was held. In 1993, facing the death penalty, Stallworth changed his story and eliminated the man who was in prison. Thomas was arrested, charged with murder and jailed in July 1993.

Stallworth and his brother William cut plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Thomas and his older brother, Mustafa Thomas. Shaurn Thomas’s lawyer tried to present evidence of his alibi, his arrest and processing at the juvenile center, but “it wasn’t presented with the strength and detail that we have now,” Martin said. Thomas did not take the stand in his defense, and in December 1994 a jury convicted him of second-degree murder, which in Pennsylvania brings a mandatory life sentence without parole.


In looking at the trial record, Figorski realized that prosecutors had described one car to the jury in opening statements as the suspects’ car, then presented photos of a different car during the trial, after tests done during the trial showed the first car couldn’t have been involved. The tests weren’t turned over to the defense, Figorski said.


Then in 2011, Bluestine visited William Stallworth in prison. He told her he hadn’t actually seen Shaurn Thomas at the scene because Stallworth hadn’t been at the scene. He lied at trial to help his brother avoid the death penalty, Bluestine said. William Stallworth was later denied parole because he refused to accept responsibility for the crime to which he’d pleaded guilty. And he had been the only witness to place Thomas at the murder scene at trial.

Thomas’s appeals in state and federal court were going nowhere. So Figorski and Bluestine began meeting with a prosecutor from the district attorney’s Conviction Review Unit in November 2016. Members of the unit reviewed the case and interviewed William Stallworth, who again recanted his trial testimony that Thomas had been involved in the homicide.

Shaurn Thomas’s brother Mustafa did not have similar appeal issues and remains incarcerated.

The prosecutors also found 36 pages of witness statements that had not been turned over to the defense during Shaurn Thomas’s trial, some with information implicating other suspects.


[More details on the case}

October 19, 2013


FEAR & UNbalanced: Confessions of a 14-Year Fox News Hitman

Tobin SmithFollow
Founder ChangeWave Research &, 14 Year Fox News Pundit, investment newsletter and NYTimes Best-Selling Author, humble.
May 26, 2017 ·15 min read


in 2000 when I started at Fox as a paid contributor (aka “hitman’) and asked my new boss (like my pal Joan Walsh from asked him in 2000 as well) “So Roger tell me…who is your Fox News target audience and what turns ’em on?”

What he told me . . . of course “off-the-record” . . . should not be shocking. But now that he is gone, it’s time to be real and tell the truth about Fox News . . about everything I lived and experienced in my 14 years as a paid contributor and part-time anchor on Fox Business Network.

According to Roger:

“Toby . . . I created a TV network for people 55 to dead,” Ailes said.

“What does our viewer look like?

“They look like me…white guys in mostly Red State counties who sit on their couch with the remote in their hand all day and night.”


. . . he perpetrated the biggest TV scam ever . . . against the most vulnerable and gullible senior Americans . . . one that makes the game show fixing scandal of the late 50’s look like a tea party.

The media obsesses on the obvious: it’s not just that in Roger’s alternative world “visuality” mattered; the competition was audio-only conservative talk radio so adding another media dimension was core strategy. But what mattered most at Fox was to create an entertainment product out of political/military/economic news and opinion that

By careful design and staging Fox News manipulated (and ultimately addicted) the most vulnerable people in America to the most powerful drug cocktail ever: Visceral gut feelings of outrage relieved by the most powerful emotions of all . . . the thrill of your tribe’s victory over its enemy and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

Sure women in Roger’s world were mostly blonde and wore short tight skirts and lower cut tops with makeup and hair right from a high end strip club. “Visuality” as Roger always said counts big for TV ratings.

Many times when I was on set Roger would call down from his 2nd floor office packed with TV screens to tell female anchors during breaks (“I have a call for you from the Second Floor) to “tart it up — tits up and necklines down.”


The outcomes for Fox’s “panel debates” have ALWAYS been carefully fixed by the producers so that the home team (i.e, the conservative panelists like me) ALWAYS won.

MORE simply: The staged gladiatorial-like rhetorical fight to the death the Fox viewer loves to watch are ALWAYS fixed by the show producers for the conservative actor to win…always.

Just like pro-wrestling, the panel opinion programs are carefully staged and choreographed by Fox producers so the viewers home team (in WWE language the “Baby Face”) always wins over the “Heel” aka the poor pathetic “libtard.”

“Fair & Balanced” was not just an ironic tagline…the opinion debate segments have always been a staged scam. . . with a scripted narrative and story line almost exactly like pro wrestling.


The other reality of Fox opinion programming is even more diabolical than simply fooling old people into believing they are watching a “fair fight”:

The goal at Fox News is explicit: Produce outrage inducing partisan performance art in sufficient emotional intensity to produce enough pleasure/dopamine to get their dopamine addicted viewer the high the need until the NEXT Fox News opinion program.

Neuroscience has known for years that “news junkies” or “political junkies” were in fact addicts…junkies…who got their addictive dopamine hit from the emotional roller coaster of unbridled outrage followed by the dopamine releasing experience derived from the thrill of watching the victory/denouement of the ideological apostate.


Yes one part of the Fox News strategy is the tried and true conservative media narrative to insulate their audiences from opposing views — in part, by continually denouncing the mainstream media(i.e., other news sources) 24/7/365 as “liberal, biased, and not to be trusted.”


But Fox News takes their viewer addiction strategy and techniques to a much more unseemly level (that the academic liberal “studies” like this Yale news release miss). At Fox it’s not just turning politics and partisan tribalism into performance art — the Fox programming scam is WAY more contrived and even sinister: Their game is to simply manipulate the emotions and trust of their elderly and gullible senior audience.

To sell Fox New’s “Big Lie”, Fox manipulates and stages everything it does in opinion programming to create/facilitate actual addiction. The master Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would be impressed at the lengths Fox goes to in staging their partisan performance art aka propaganda-like programming.


Informative links

Bernie Sanders' Campaign Faced A Fake News Tsunami from Russia

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Confessions of an overconfident, mediocre man

By Darren Saunders
Posted May 28, 2017


a growing body of research shows my masculine mettle is actually costing men, women and organisations dearly.

Thanks in large part to their brazen over-confidence, mediocre men are being promoted to senior roles — in science and other fields — ahead of vastly more qualified women, damaging productivity, research excellence and stunting everyone's performance as a result.

The good news, however, is that a reckoning is coming: evidence suggests the days of the mediocre man running the show are numbered.


Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have coined this measurable effect — that is, the notion that men are more self-assured than women — the confidence gap.

Success, they write in their book, The Confidence Code, "correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence".

In other words, confidence has somehow become a proxy for competence as a basis for success.

Indeed, numerous studies support their thesis. A 2011 study on The Emergence of Male Leadership in Competitive Environments found that men have a natural tendency to overrate their past performance on maths tasks by 30 per cent.

Ernesto Reuben, one of the study authors, almost apologetically described this behaviour as honest overconfidence.

Men aren't deliberately trying to fool anyone, he says, they honestly believe their performance is better than it really is.

Similarly, a 2016 study of over 1,500 undergraduate biology students showed that being male was a prerequisite for "celebrity student" status.

The most renowned students in every class studied were male, and males tended to overestimate the performance of their male classmates.

So we don't just rate our own performance better, we're also biased to the performance of other men.

Importantly, this honest overconfidence has a huge influence on how we identify and promote leaders.

The same 2011 study showed that male overconfidence is a key reason why qualified women are not selected as leaders as often as they should be.

There's ample empirical evidence of the absence of women in senior leadership across many fields, and the negative impacts it has on decision-making, financial performance and other key outcomes.


Notions of equity aside, this is also problematic from the perspective of ensuring good leadership.

A meta-analysis of 45 studies of leadership styles showed that women tend to exhibit many of the character traits associated with effective leadership — such as effective communication, a tendency to empower subordinates, and creative problem solving — and are more likely to adopt effective leadership styles than men.

Are we picking the wrong kinds of leaders?

But our counterproductive tendency to exclude the most effective leaders raises a broader question. What if the traits on which we select leaders are not the ones that actually make them effective at the job?

This plays out in politics, when effective opposition leaders sometimes struggle to transition into successful prime ministers.

In sport, where strategy, motivation, courage, and vision are just as important for leadership as skill or talent, the most successful player on a team isn't always the most effective captain.


But in placing so much emphasis on selecting the most productive people, are we unintentionally selecting against empathy, ethics, courage, and other traits of successful leaders?

Clearly, in science and other fields, performance metrics need to be broadened and aligned with desired leadership qualities to recognise and promote all aspects of good leadership.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of Columbia University has suggested that instead of focusing on the obstacles impeding women aspiring to leadership, we should instead be addressing the lack of obstacles for incompetent men.

The result of not doing so, he writes, "is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence while punishing women for their competence, to everybody's detriment."

A more direct approach that should shake the confidence of blokes everywhere (but probably won't) is the example of the crisis of the mediocre man.

The adoption of gender quotas in Swedish politics in 1994 — and the consequent displacement of mediocre male leaders — saw an overall increase in the competence of politicians.

Analysis of this effect identified a 'virtuous cycle of higher competence', breaking a trend for mediocre leaders to maintain power by surrounding themselves with mediocre followers.


Informative links

Be wary of a Trump feeding frenzy

The book that uncovered 'wealthfare'

Fake news, hacking threat to democracy now on 'unseen scale', report says,-hacking-threat-to-democracy-now-on-unseen-scale/8567834

Sri Lanka floods leave at least 151 dead, aid agencies warn half a million displaced

Global warming is causing more flooding around the world.

By South Asia correspondent James Bennett
Updated May 29, 2017 06:43:03 (May 28, 2017 in the U.S.)

Sri Lankan rescuers yesterday continued the grim task of retrieving more bodies, buried beneath deadly mudslides triggered by monsoonal downpours which dumped a month's rain in single

The confirmed death toll now stands at 151.

Authorities said there was now little hope for the 100 or more people still missing, meaning the death toll for disaster may equal floods in 2003 that claimed 250 lives.


Sri Lanka's Government has asked for international help and aid agencies say the situation is alarming.

"It is very very serious," said Borjan Kolundzija, Sri Lanka director for charity Oxfam's Sri Lanka.


"For at least 100,000 of them, we can safely assume that they lost their homes and their livelihoods."

Save the Children's country director in Sri Lanka, Chris McIvor, said that the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka was "alarming".

"The impact of these early monsoon season downpours has been far more devastating than what we'd normally expect this time of year," he said.

Mr Kolundzija said getting survivors sustenance, clean water and shelter was critical.


Listing the most urgently-needed items, he said: "It is food, it is water and sanitation support, water storage facilities, temporary latrines and temporary housing."

The United Nations has promised to donate water purification tablets, tents and other supplies for the displaced.

India sent a shipload of goods, while the United States and Pakistan also promised to send relief supplies.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the ABC in a statement Australia has offered search and rescue teams and is working with the authorities in Colombo and the UN to determine what other assistance might be needed.

Oxfam's Borjan Kolundzija warned last night the situation was likely to worsen today.

"The forecast for the next two days is also heavy raining, so the numbers [of people affected] … may increase in a couple of days time," he said.

Compounding the misery, when the water does recede, Sri Lankans are also being warned to expect a jump in cases of the mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue fever.


Young men falling to the bottom of the income ladder

But men still make more than women.

By Katie Johnston Globe Staff May 22, 2017

Over the past few decades, young women have been climbing the economic ladder. As more of them go to college and join the workforce, their incomes rise steadily.

Young men have been faring far worse.

The share of young men making between $30,000 and $100,000 a year shrank significantly over the past four decades, despite the fact that they are better educated and working full time at the same rate. Many of them have fallen to the bottom of the income scale, according to a new analysisby the US Census Bureau, and this shift is having a major impact on the rest of their lives.

The loss of blue-collar jobs, many of which are now performed by machines or by workers overseas, is forcing more men into low-wage service jobs, and in some cases causing them to drop out of the workforce altogether.

The jobs that are growing the fastest, on the other hand, are concentrated in female-dominated professions, such as health care.

Men have also fallen behind academically, and, combined with the fact that manufacturing and other lower-skilled jobs have disappeared, this has created a “riptide that is carrying so many young men out to sea economically,” said Neil Sullivan, executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, a workforce development nonprofit.

The increasingly fractured economy is affecting workers of all ages. Wages have stagnated, while the cost of living and student debt have skyrocketed, and college graduates are taking lower-level jobs than in the past. But men are being hit particularly hard, as many of them are forced to take contract or part-time work.


Sullivan said, noting that the falling fortunes of men could have a profound psychological impact on them. “It’s hard when society expects you to be a provider and you can’t bring home much.”

Many young men — defined by the Census Bureau as ages 25 to 34 — are starting out their working lives at a distinct disadvantage, compared with previous generations. And as more of them live at home and delay marriage, young adulthood has started looking much different than it used to.

“This has an effect on their entire lives,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, who recently coauthored a report on new high school and college graduates. “Those first jobs are going to set you up for your lifetime of earnings.”


Although young women’s median income has risen, while men’s has declined, women still make less than men overall. That is despite the fact the education levels of young women are also rising.

In Massachusetts, the high school graduation rate is 85 percent for boys and 90 percent for girls; the six-year completion rate at public colleges is 63 percent for women and less than 58 percent for men.


Downturns tend to hit men harder, largely due to the fact that more men work in industries that suffer during recessions, such as construction and manufacturing, and the effects have lingered.


Even men with college degrees are less successful than they used to be. The unemployment rate for recent male college graduates (age 21-24) is 7.1 percent, up from 4.1 percent in 2000. Recent female college graduates, however, have made a full recovery, back to the 4.4 percent unemployment rate they had in 2000.

In Boston, women who graduated from college in the past two years are finding jobs more quickly than their male counterparts, are more likely to be employed full time, and are earning higher salaries, according to a new study by the professional services company Accenture. Nearly 40 percent of female graduates are making more than $40,000 a year, vs. just 16 percent of male grads.

Women are benefiting from the fact that many of the fastest-growing jobs that pay stable middle-class wages are in industries that employ a lot of women, such as health care and professional services. Men are often reluctant to take jobs in these professions, said Harvard economics professor Lawrence Katz, and the result is a “gender divergence” between men’s expectations of fulfilling occupations and the types of jobs that are growing.


“People from elite colleges moving to Wall Street and top law firms and to tech companies are doing perfectly fine, in fact they’re doing much better than comparable people in their parents’ generation,” Katz said. “But for the typical young man, they’re doing substantially worse economically than their father.”

Brave and selfless Oregon stabbing victims hailed as heroes for standing up to racist rants

By Amy B Wang May 28, 2017

Even before their names were released, one word repeatedly came up to describe the men who were killed in a stabbing Friday on a light-rail train in Portland, Ore.: heroes.

They had tried to intervene, police said, after another passenger began “ranting and raving” and shouting anti-Muslim insults at two young women.

That’s when the ranting passenger turned his anger toward those who sought to calm him down. He fatally stabbed two men and seriously injured a third, police said, before fleeing the train on foot.

“Two men lost their lives and another was injured for doing the right thing, standing up for people they didn’t know against hatred,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement Saturday. “Their actions were brave and selfless, and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all. They are heroes.”

Police on Saturday identified the two slain victims as 53-year-old Ricky John Best and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche.

The third victim, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, is being treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

“They were all attacked because they did the right thing,” Wheeler said.

Police arrested 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian, of north Portland. Local media reports described Christian as a “known white supremacist” in the area, and his Facebook page showed a long history of posting racist and extremist beliefs.

According to witnesses, a white male passenger riding an eastbound MAX train early Friday afternoon began yelling what “would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” police said. Some of the slurs were directed at two female passengers, one of whom was wearing a hijab, according to police.


By Saturday afternoon, a GoFundMe campaign called “Tri Met Heroes” set up for the victims’ families had raised more than $30,000. A GoFundMe spokesman confirmed to The Post that the company would ensure that the funds are sent to the victims’ families.


“We don’t know if [the suspect] has mental-health issues or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or all of the above,” Simpson said Friday. “With this incident, we’re obviously in early stages of the investigation.”


The attack prompted outrage among residents and lawmakers in Oregon, as well as nationwide.

What if US quits climate deal? Doesn't look good for Earth

Associated Press Sunday, May 28, 2017

Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That's because America contributes so much to rising temperatures.

President Donald Trump, who once proclaimed global warming a Chinese hoax, said in a tweet Saturday that he would make his "final decision" this coming week on whether the United States stays in or leaves the 2015 Paris climate change accord in which nearly every nation agreed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

Leaders of seven wealthy democracies, at a summit in Sicily, urged Trump to commit his administration to the agreement, but said in their closing statement that the U.S., for now, "is not in a position to join the consensus."


In an attempt to understand what could happen to the planet if the U.S. pulls out of Paris, The Associated Press consulted with more than two dozen climate scientists and analyzed a special computer model scenario designed to calculate potential effects.

Scientists said it would worsen an already bad problem and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold.

Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

"If we lag, the noose tightens," said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change.


Even with the U.S. doing what it promised under the Paris agreement, the world is likely to pass that 2 degree mark, many scientists said.

But the fractions of additional degrees that the U.S. would contribute could mean passing the threshold faster, which could in turn mean "ecosystems being out of whack with the climate, trouble farming current crops and increasing shortages of food and water," said the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Kevin Trenberth.


Android Malware ‘Judy’ Hits as Many as 36.5 Million Phones

David Z. Morris
May 28, 2017

The security firm Checkpoint on Thursday uncovered dozens of Android applications that infected users’ devices with malicious ad-click software. In at least one case, an app bearing the malware was available through the Google Play app store for more than a year.

While the actual extent of the malicious code’s spread is unknown, Checkpoint says it may have reached as many as 36.5 million users, making it potentially the most widely-spread malware yet found on Google Play. Google removed the apps after being notified by Checkpoint.


Lack Of Sleep May Cause Your Brain To 'Eat' Itself

Health | Press Trust of India | Updated: May 28, 2017

Burning the midnight oil can lead your brain to 'eat' up its connections, worn-out cells and debris, say scientists who found that lack of sleep may increase risk of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders.

Researchers from Marche Polytechnic University in Italy compared the brains of two groups of mice.

One group had been allowed to sleep for as long as they wanted or had been kept awake for eight hours. Another group were kept awake for five days in a row - mimicking the effects of chronic sleep loss.

The team looked at a type of glial cells called astrocytes which prune unnecessary synapses in the brain to remodel its wiring.

Another type, called a microglial cell, prowls the brain for damaged cells and debris, researchers said.

They found that after an undisturbed sleep, astrocytes appeared to be active in around six per cent of the synapses in the brains of the well-rested mice.

However, astrocytes seemed to be more active in sleep- deprived mice - those that had lost eight hours of sleep showed astrocyte activity in around eight per cent of their synapses, while the cells were active in 13.5 per cent of the synapses of the chronically sleep-deprived animals, researchers said.

This suggests that sleep loss can trigger astrocytes to start breaking down more of the brain's connections and their debris, reported 'New Scientist'.

"We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss," said Michele Bellesi of the Marche Polytechnic University.

"In the short term, this might be beneficial - clearing potentially harmful debris and rebuilding worn circuitry might protect healthy brain connections," said Bellesi.

"But it may cause harm in the long term, and could explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at risk of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders," he added.

Blue Whale Found Dead On Northern California Beach Likely Struck By Ship

79-foot female suffered blunt force trauma and several broken bones.
By Mary Papenfuss
May 28, 2017

A blue whale that washed ashore in northern California was struck by a ship, experts believe.

The female whale, 79 feet long, washed ashore Friday at Agate Beach in Bolilnas, about 13 miles north of San Francisco. Scientists from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences conducted a necropsy on site Saturday and took blood and tissue samples.

The carcass had major blunt-force trauma along its left side.


The entire left side of the whale was damaged from a boat strike, and the whale had 10 broken ribs and 10 fractured vertebrae from close to its tail to mid-body, according to Halaska.

The whale was identified through photographs of its tail in a database of the Cascadia Research Collective. It was spotted 11 different years beginning in 1999, most often off Santa Barbara.


Blue whales are the largest creatures on Earth. There are as many as 9,000 of them around the globe, and an estimated 2,800 off the California Coast.


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

Coroners unable to agree on what caused a person's death

Vitamin D in pregnancy may help prevent childhood asthma

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

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?


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.

Tropical milkweed is not good for monarch butterflies

Twelve Native Milkweeds for Monarchs

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

GoFundMe page:

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?


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

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.


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

Amazon made a change to the way it sells books, which will result in authors not being paid

We tracked the Trump scandals on right-wing news sites. Here’s how they covered it.

China grants Trump another trademark - this time for clothes

Plan to save monarch butterflies backfires

CBO predicts some with pre-existing conditions will lose coverage under GOP plan

When Dogs Hear a Growl, They Know What to Do

Informative links

The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville’

Murphy’s 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

How exercise -- interval training in particular -- helps your mitochondria stave off old age

DeVos doesn't rule out federal funds for private schools that discriminate

Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America

Why You Should Absolutely Never Drink Bottled Water Again

They Went to Manchester Arena as Homeless Men. They Left as Heroes.

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.

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.

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

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’

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

Human-induced deforestation is causing an increase in malaria cases

U.S. accuses Fiat Chrysler of trying to mask emissions in 100,000 vehicles

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.

Fox News retracts controversial story on Seth Rich’s death

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:

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

Date: May 19, 2017
Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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.