Saturday, September 30, 2017


Katrina Commander Swears On Live TV Over Puerto Rico Response

Text-only news sites are slowly making a comeback. Here's why.

‘Art Of The Deal’ Co-Author: Trump’s Not Crazy Like A Fox, ‘He’s Just Crazy’

Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars

Why Is College So Expensive if Professors Are Paid So Little?

Russian-funded Facebook ads backed Stein, Sanders and Trump

Methane emissions from cattle are 11% higher than estimated
Bigger livestock in larger numbers in more regions has led to methane in the air climbing faster than predicted due to ‘out-of-date data’

We are all at risk from poisonous mercury. It's time to take action

Climber Killed by Rockfall at Yosemite’s El Capitan Was Trying to Save Wife, Family Says

Standing too much at work may be even worse for your health than sitting

Ex-CIA Director Brennan Defends NFL Protests, Says Trump Should Focus on Puerto Rico

Trump's tweets

Trump and his followers keep saying he is misquoted. And I have seen some articles where the headlines didn't represent the article very well. So I checked his twitter feed myself. His comments on the mayor of San Juan are reported accurately.

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 16h16 hours ago

...want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.
29,688 replies 13,840 retweets 57,665 likes

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 16h16 hours ago

...Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They....
49,872 replies 13,528 retweets 46,951 likes

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 16h16 hours ago

The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.


One relief worker gave Politico a particularly dire take. “We have to think of this as societal collapse: no power, no water, no food, no nothing,” the official said. “We came in thinking this would be a traditional model of disaster response. … Civil society is pretty much gone, and we didn’t realize that until like 36 or 48 hours ago. And who knows when it’s going to end.”

This is why San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, has desperately tried to draw more urgency to the crisis. “This is a ‘people are dying’ story,” she told CNN on Friday morning, adding, “not a good news story.”

“I will do what I never thought I was going to do,” Cruz said in a press conference on Friday afternoon. “I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”

This was a direct rebuke to acting secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke’s remarks on Thursday that only a “limited number of deaths … have taken place,” and, overall, Puerto Rico was “a good news story.” As my colleague Julia Belluz explained, there’s a good chance that Duke simply has the facts wrong — and the death toll she relied on to make those comments was outdated. The most recent official figures at the time had the toll at 16, but reporters on the ground have suggested the number is now in the dozens and perhaps more than a hundred.

On Saturday, Cruz posted her own tweet an hour after Trump’s, saying that her only goal is “saving lives.”


As the reality of the situation in Puerto Rico became more apparent, Trump was golfing, working on his travel ban, starting a feud with NFL players who protest during the national anthem, and escalating a war of words with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Abby Phillip, Ed O'Keefe, Nick Miroff, and Damian Paletta gave a telling example in the Post:

Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said.


Carmen Yulín Cruz‏Verified account @CarmenYulinCruz 15h15 hours ago

The goal is one: saving lives. This is the time to show our "true colors". We cannot be distracted by anything else.

'Our desire for goods is at the heart of this': Why Bruce Parry wants us all to live more sustainably

We could reduce all of our environmental problems by using less stuff and energy.

Jonathan Watts
Friday 29 September 2017 08.03 EDT

Bruce Parry has made a career out of going native. The Royal Marine-turned-celebrity explorer may not yet be as fully-fledged an institution as David Attenborough, but if the British public were to nominate anyone to paddle up a crocodile-infested creek, tuck into a wriggling dinner or liberate their mind with shamanistic drugs, Parry would surely rank near the top.

So it is worthy of note that this affable and – until now – mainstream film-maker has been forced to part ways with the BBC for his latest project, a documentary that stresses environmental defence begins on the home front.

Due for release from Friday, Tawai: A Voice From the Forest is an empathetic, sumptuously filmed homage to indigenous groups, particularly the Penan, a Bornean community that is held up by anthropologists as a model of a peaceful and egalitarian society.
Tawai: A Voice from the Forest review – Bruce Parry's earnest odyssey to the heart of Borneo
Veteran film-maker Parry hangs out with a tribe of hunter-gatherers and seeks wisdom with Indian gurus in a well-meaning but woolly documentary
Read more

Parry does not just laud their virtues. He also says we – the viewers in Europe, the US and other wealthy nations – should learn from them and consider changing our consumption patterns and lifestyle values. Instead of blaming environmental destruction on foreign criminals or corrupt governments, Parry asks the viewer to consider their own responsibility.

In an interview with the Guardian, he speculates this may have been why his proposal was rejected by BBC commissioning editors.

“We’re not just challenging individual identity but national and cultural identity and all pillars of society. The things I learned from my time with indigenous people put me in a state where I wanted to shout at society,” he says. “When I pitched this to the BBC, I didn’t do such a good job of hiding that and they were understandably put off.”

Indigenous groups and protected reserves are under more pressure than ever, whether it is pollution of rivers, illegal logging of forests, encroachment by miners or infrastructure development. “They are all struggling,” Parry says. “There is nowhere with a pristine, isolated ecosystem.”


Parry has previously spent time with illegal loggers, miners and cocaine producers. “Most are people just trying to get by,” he said. Simply blaming them for environmental destruction misses the broader point.
Why land rights for indigenous peoples could be the answer to climate change
Bruce Parry
Read more

“It’s like slapping a plaster on a gaping wound. You’re dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes. In a sense that’s why I made this film,” he says. “My hope is that it inspires a new state of awareness. It’s a kind and gentle invitation for us to reflect on ourselves. Until we look at ourselves, those things will continue.

“Globalised trade and our desire for goods is at the heart of this. It’s hard to acknowledge that, really hard. But until we do, I don’t think there is a solution. We need to think before we get hardwood furniture, or put a beautiful ring on our loved one’s finger, or buy a new phone or fill our car with petrol.”


He is not naive about indigenous communities. He has seen how most want modern material trappings and some have embraced change with self-destructive consequences.

But the longer he has spent with remote communities, the more he has come to appreciate the lessons they have to offer at a time of climate change, mass extinctions and alarming levels of waste and pollution.

Is he still hopeful? “I am, but I think massive change needs to happen. I want to be part of that, but at the same time I’m learning to forage. I’m learning the skills to survive.”

Whole Foods says customer payment information was hacked

Sept. 29, 2017

Whole Foods says the credit and debit card information of customers who bought meals or drinks at its in-store restaurants or bars was exposed to hackers.

The grocer, which was recently acquired by Seattle-based online retailer Inc., says the data breach did not affect its main checkout registers or any shoppers.


'Blacktivist' account linked to Russia raised suspicion among Baltimore activists

Alison Knezevich and Justin FentonContact ReportersThe Baltimore Sun
Sept. 29,2017

When a Facebook page called Blacktivist promoted a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray last year, some Baltimore activists were immediately suspicious.

A Twitter account with the name @FreddieGrayAnn linked to the post about the march and attempted to engage local residents, including community organizers.and reporters at The Baltimore Sun and other news organizations. The account at some point changed its name to @BlacktivistDave.

“No one had ever heard of Blacktivist before,” recalled Brittany Oliver, a community advocate. “The way they were responding to us was really off.”

Now, the social media campaign has been linked to Russia. Citing unnamed sources, CNN reported this week that the Blacktivist effort had ties to the Russian government and used both Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to heighten racial tensions during the 2016 presidential campaigns.


The Sun reported Thursday that a social media advertisement that targeted Baltimore users in the months following the 2015 riots was likely part of a broader effort by Russia to sow discontent and deepen racial tension, according to cyber security analysts.


Analysis: Tax plan would cost $2.4T, benefit wealthy most

By Naomi Jagoda and Niv Elis - 09/29/17 02:00 PM EDT

The tax framework that President Trump and congressional Republicans rolled out this week would reduce federal revenues by $2.4 trillion in its first 10 years and provide the biggest tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, according to an analysis released Friday by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC).

The plan would also cost $3.2 trillion in its second decade, the TPC said.

The group’s analysis is preliminary, as the revenue and distributional effects may change as Congress fills in the details of the tax framework.


Every income group, on average, would see a reduction in their tax bill in the first year under the plan, according to the TPC, but the nation’s wealthiest would get the lion’s share of savings.

The bottom 95 percent of earners would see on average an increase in their after-tax income of 1.2 percent or less. The top 1 percent, meanwhile, would see an 8.5 percent increase, TPC said.

In the plan's first year, taxpayers on average would receive a tax cut of $1,570, while those in the top 1 percent would see their taxes decrease on average by about $130,000. About 12 percent of taxpayers would see their taxes go up that year — including more than one-third of people making between about $150,000 to $300,000, largely due to the repeal of many itemized deductions, TPC said.

Over time, the effect of the tax changes would decrease on the lower end of the income spectrum.

“About 80 percent of the total benefit would accrue to taxpayers in the top 1 percent, whose after-tax income would increase 8.7 percent” by 2027, the report said.

By that point, about 25 percent of taxpayers would see their taxes go up, particularly among the middle and upper-middle class. Almost 30 percent of earners with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 would see their tax bill go up, as would 60 percent of those making between $150,000 and $300,000, TPC said.

In 2027, taxpayers would receive a decrease in taxes of almost $1,700, but those in the top 1 percent would see an average cut of more than $200,000 and those in the top 0.1 percent would see a average reduction of more than $1 million, according to TPC. Taxpayers in the middle fifth of income would on average see a reduction in taxes of $660.


US air force academy chief delivers stirring speech telling racists to 'get out'

The superintendent of the US air force academy in Colorado Springs addressed a direct message to those who left racist graffiti at the academy’s preparatory school earlier this week.
We should have seen Trump coming
Read more

“If you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect then you need to get out,” said Lt Gen Jay Silveria, before encouraging the assembled academy of more than 4,000 cadets and staff to take out their phones and record him saying it again.

“You keep these words, and you use them, and you remember them, and you share them, and you talk about them,” Silveria said.

He was responding to a report in the Air Force Times that five black cadet candidates at the preparatory academy had had the words “go home nigger” written on the whiteboards outside their dorm rooms.

“If you’re outraged by those words then you’re in the right place. That kind of behavior has no place in the United States air force,” Silveria said. “You should be outraged not only as an airman but as a human being.”


Silveria said that some of the recent high-profile racist incidents in the US had influenced his decision to speak out.

“We would be naive to think that we shouldn’t discuss this topic. We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL,” he said.


Revealed: Johnson & Johnson's 'irresponsible' actions over vaginal mesh implant

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent
Friday 29 September 2017 12.11 EDT

A vaginal mesh implant made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was launched without a clinical trial, and then marketed for five years after the company learned that it had a higher failure rate than their two earlier devices.

Internal company emails disclosed in a US court case, in which a 51-year-old woman was awarded a record $57m in damages this month, also show that senior executives even briefly considered suppressing unfavourable data that “could compromise the future” of the device.
Analysis What does pelvic mesh do and why are women suing over it? – explainer
Urogynaecological mesh is used to treat stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse – and its use has triggered class actions in the US, UK and Australia
Read more

J&J’s Ethicon unit was found by a US court to be liable for the serious injuries Ella Ebaugh suffered after receiving a mesh implant to treat urinary incontinence. The mother of five said she was left with a mangled urethra, bladder spasms and continual pelvic pain after an unsuccessful procedure that led to three revision surgeries to remove mesh that had cut into her urethra and migrated to her bladder.

But documents submitted to the court show J&J staff had raised concerns about the “spinning of data” in emails and male executives are seen bantering about a suggestion that sex with an earlier patient with mesh complications must be “like screwing a wire brush”.

When it emerged from initial data that the success rates for a new device looked to be “way below” those seen for previous products, Ethicon’s director of sales, Xavier Buchon, suggested in an email “stop[ping] for a while such publications that could compromise the future”.

The J&J implant, used to treat urinary incontinence, was launched in 2006. Despite the early indications of a high failure rate, it was only withdrawn in 2012 after being used in thousands of operations in the US, the UK and Australia. The documents raise uncomfortable questions for the manufacturers of vaginal mesh products, which are the subject of growing controversy.

The implants, which reinforce tissue around the urethra, are widely used to treat incontinence, and for the majority of women the procedure is quick and successful. However, some women have suffered debilitating complications, including severe pelvic pain, the mesh eroding through the vaginal wall or perforating organs.

Class action law suits are underway in Australia and the US, where lawyers claim that patients have been exposed to unacceptable risks; in England, NHS data suggests as many as one in fifteen women later requires full or partial removal of the implant.


The company hoped that the new device, which was smaller and required fewer incisions, would reduce complications seen with its earlier devices. But getting to market ahead competitors, who had similar offerings in the pipeline, was described as “priceless” in company documents. It was approved for use without a trial under US and European equivalence rules, which allow this when a new device is similar to existing ones.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Consumer group warns against common flame retardant

By Susan Scutti, CNN
Updated 8:23 PM ET, Thu September 28, 2017

The Consumer Product Safety Commission published guidance in the Federal Registry Thursday that serves as a warning for consumers not to buy products containing a commonly-used class of toxic flame retardants, called organohalogen chemicals.
They have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, infertility, and neurological [brain] deficits in children, according to the commission's guidance document. Some studies, cited in this commission report, substantiate these claims.
The chemicals are especially hazardous to pregnant women and young children, studies find.

The commission, a government agency charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of consumer products, also recommended manufacturers stop using these chemicals in products where they are currently found. These include upholstered furniture, mattresses, electronic cases, and children's toys.

Commissioner Bob Adler said there's a "whole host of dangers" these organohalogen flame retardants carry.
"These chemicals are added to products to keep them from catching fire in smolder or open flame situations," said Adler.
He acknowledged, though, that the commission has not yet done careful and exhaustive studies of every single chemical within this class, but "every (chemical) that we've done careful and exhaustive study of has proven to be toxic -- and hazardously toxic -- to consumers."


Bryan Goodman, a spokesperson for the North American Flame Retardant Alliance, said because these regulations help promote public safety "there is a need for international, national and regional code consistency." He said it is fortunate the guidance is non-binding and the new action merely constitutes "a recommendation." He added that the association will communicate to members that this is guidance and does not need to be followed.


"What our staff has told us -- and what a number of academic experts and a number of health experts said -- is that the concentration of these flame retardants in things like furniture and children's products are not great enough to do very much to protect us from fire or smoldering hazards," said Adler.

Too small maybe to prevent fires, but still large enough to cause health hazards, he said.
Fire safety, though, is not just about chemistry, said Goodman. Product designers typically take a multi-layered approach, he said. "There is no one, single fire safety tool."
And not all products are the same, said Goodman. Some pose a greater fire risk than others.


Confirmed: New all-time record for U.S. rainfall from a tropical cyclone

Bob Henson · September 29, 2017, 3:23 PM EDT


A phenomenal 64.58” of rain observed at the Texas town of Nederland during Hurricane Harvey is the new rainfall record during a tropical cyclone at any U.S. location, according to new data released Wednesday by the National Weather Service. The 64.58” beats out the 52” recorded at a ranger station on Kauai, Hawaii, during Tropical Cyclone Hiki in August 1950.

To date, officials have found seven reliable sites that recorded more during Hurricane Harvey than the previous U.S. record. "The flooding Harvey caused from the rainfall was a historic event. For that reason alone, we need to make sure we get the rainfall amounts correct and understand how much rain actually fell," NWS forecaster Scott Overpeck told the Houston Chronicle.

Runners-up to Nederland in the most recent rainfall data compiled by NWS offices in Houston-Galveston, TX, and Lake Charles, LA, include 60.54” near Grove, LA; 56” at Friendswood, TX; and 54” near Santa Fe, TX.

Ice Loss and the Polar Vortex: How a Warming Arctic Fuels Cold Snaps

By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Sep 28, 2017

When winter sets in, "polar vortex" becomes one of the most dreaded phrases in the Northern Hemisphere. It's enough to send shivers even before the first blast of bitter cold arrives.

New research shows that some northern regions have been getting hit with these extreme cold spells more frequently over the past four decades, even as the planet as a whole has warmed. While it may seem counterintuitive, the scientists believe these bitter cold snaps are connected to the warming of the Arctic and the effects that that warming is having on the winds of the stratospheric polar vortex, high above the Earth's surface.

Here's what scientists involved in the research think is happening: The evidence is clear that the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the planet. That warming is reducing the amount of Arctic sea ice, allowing more heat to escape from the ocean. The scientists think that the ocean energy that is being released is causing a weakening of the polar vortex winds over the Arctic, which normally keep cold air centered over the polar region. That weakening is then allowing cold polar air to slip southward more often.

The polar vortex has always varied in strength, but the study found that the weaker phases are lasting longer and coinciding with cold winters in Northern Europe and Russia.

"The shift toward more persistent weaker states of the polar vortex lets Arctic air spill out and threaten Russia and Europe with extreme cold," said the study's lead author, Marlene Kretschmer, a climate scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "The trend can explain most of the cooling of Eurasian winters since 1990."

Some other scientists aren't as sure that melting sea ice affects the polar vortex so strongly. They think other factors, like long-term variations in sea surface temperatures like El Niño, and changes in the tropics, might play bigger roles.
[Note that they aren't denying this effect, they are saying there is a combination of causes.]


Treasury Removes Paper at Odds With Mnuchin’s Take on Corporate-Tax Cut’s Winners

By Richard Rubin, Wall Street Journal
Sept. 28, 2017

The Treasury Department has taken down a 2012 economic analysis that contradicts Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s argument that workers would benefit the most from a corporate income tax cut.

The 2012 paper from the Office of Tax Analysis found that workers pay 18% of the corporate tax while owners of capital pay 82%. That is a breakdown in line with many economists’ views and close to estimates from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office.

The JCT, which will evaluate tax bills in Congress, estimates that capital bears 75% of the long-run corporate-tax burden, with labor paying the rest.

But Mr. Mnuchin has been arguing the opposite, citing other papers that attribute more of the burden to labor. The point is central to Mr. Mnuchin’s argument that workers would benefit from the corporate tax cut the administration is proposing, and switching that assumption would significantly alter the estimates of who would benefit from the Republican tax policy framework released on Wednesday.


The paper was available on the Treasury website during the summer, and it wasn’t clear when it was removed or whether Treasury intended to publish a new analysis. Other technical papers from 2008 through 2016 remain on its site, along with working papers dating back to 1974.

“This yet another example of how the Trump administration is executing a middle-class con job with their tax scam,” said Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, commenting on the removal of the paper. “History has shown most of the pockets lined by corporate tax cuts are found in wealthy shareholder suits. It is disturbing the Treasury Department is burying research proving that trickle-down economics harms American workers.”


I helped create the GOP tax myth. Trump is wrong: Tax cuts don’t equal growth.

By Bruce Bartlett September 28, 2017
Bruce Bartlett was a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of “The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform — Why We Need It and What It Will Take."

Four decades ago, while working for Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), I had a hand in creating the Republican tax myth. Of course, it didn’t seem like a myth at that time — taxes were rising rapidly because of inflation and bracket creep, the top tax rate was 70 percent and the economy seemed trapped in stagflation with no way out. Tax cuts, at that time, were an appropriate remedy for the economy’s ills. By the time Ronald Reagan was president, Republican tax gospel went something like this:

The tax system has an enormously powerful effect on economic growth and employment.
High taxes and tax rates were largely responsible for stagflation in the 1970s.
Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which was based a bill, co-sponsored by Kemp and Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), that I helped design, unleashed the American economy and led to an abundance of growth.

Based on this logic, tax cuts became the GOP’s go-to solution for nearly every economic problem. Extravagant claims are made for any proposed tax cut. Wednesday, President Trump argued that “our country and our economy cannot take off” without the kind of tax reform he proposes. Last week, Republican economist Arthur Laffer said, “If you cut that [corporate] tax rate to 15 percent, it will pay for itself many times over. … This will bring in probably $1.5 trillion net by itself.”

That’s wishful thinking. So is most Republican rhetoric around tax cutting. In reality, there’s no evidence that a tax cut now would spur growth.

The Reagan tax cut did have a positive effect on the economy, but the prosperity of the ’80s is overrated in the Republican mind. In fact, aggregate real gross domestic product growth was higher in the ’70s — 37.2 percent vs. 35.9 percent.

Moreover, GOP tax mythology usually leaves out other factors that also contributed to growth in the 1980s:


Finally, I’m not sure how many Republicans even know anymore that Reagan raised taxes several times after 1981. His last budget showed that as of 1988, the aggregate, cumulative revenue loss from the 1981 tax cut was $264 billion and legislated tax increases brought about half of that back.

Today, Republicans extol the virtues of lowering marginal tax rates, citing as their model the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which lowered the top individual income tax rate to just 28 percent from 50 percent, and the corporate tax rate to 34 percent from 46 percent. What follows, they say, would be an economic boon. Indeed, textbook tax theory says that lowering marginal tax rates while holding revenue constant unambiguously raises growth.

But there is no evidence showing a boost in growth from the 1986 act. The economy remained on the same track, with huge stock market crashes — 1987’s “Black Monday,” 1989’s Friday the 13th “mini-crash” and a recession beginning in 1990. Real wages fell.

Strenuous efforts by economists to find any growth effect from the 1986 act have failed to find much. The most thorough analysis, by economists Alan Auerbach and Joel Slemrod, found only a shifting of income due to tax reform, no growth effects: “The aggregate values of labor supply and saving apparently responded very little,” they concluded.


The flip-side of tax cut mythology is the notion that tax increases are an economic disaster — the reason, in theory, every Republican in Congress voted against the tax increase proposed by Bill Clinton in 1993. Yet the 1990s was the most prosperous decade in recent memory. At 37.3 percent, aggregate real GDP growth in the 1990s exceeded that in the 1980s.

Despite huge tax cuts almost annually during the George W. Bush administration that cost the Treasury trillions in revenue, according to the Congressional Budget Office, growth collapsed in the first decade of the 2000s. Real GDP rose just 19.5 percent, well below its ’90s rate.

We saw another test of the Republican tax myth in 2013, after President Barack Obama allowed some of the Bush tax cuts to expire, raising the top income tax rate to its current 39.6 percent from 35 percent. The economy grew nicely afterward and the stock market has boomed — up around 10,000 points over the past five years.


There are good arguments for a proper tax reform even if it won’t raise GDP growth. It may improve economic efficiency, administration and fairness. But getting from here to there requires heavy lifting that this Republican Congress has yet to demonstrate. If they again look for a quick, easy victory, they risk a replay of the Obamacare repeal fight that wasted so much time and yielded so little.

After-tax corporate profits are high

Heard a radio interview with a republican and Democrat about the proposed tax changes. When they asked the republican how it would help the average person, all he could come up with was that it would lead to more growth. The top 0.01% are taking an increasingly large percentage of income and wealth. Corporate after-tax profits are high. History shows that cutting them in such a case NEVER leads to growth that helps most of us.

Corporate Profits After Tax (without IVA and CCAdj)

Corporate Taxes After Tax with Inventory Valuation Adjustment (IVA) and Capital Consumption Adjustment (CCAdj)

The Trump Administration Is Targeting Anti-Trump Facebook Users

David Meyer
Sep 28, 2017

The Justice Department is trying to force Facebook to disclose information about thousands of people who "liked" a page opposing president Donald Trump.

The DoJ wants to access all the information from the profiles of three activists connected to the "DisruptJ20" protests on the day of Trump's January inauguration. The protests turned violent in part and, with a couple hundred people having been charged over the Washington, D.C. riots, the authorities are going after online information relating to DisruptJ20.

One of the three being targeted by the DoJ, Emmelia Talarico, was an administrator and moderator for the DisruptJ20 Facebook page, since renamed "Resist This." According to a legal filing by the D.C. branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the information being sought about that page would include personal details of thousands of other Facebook users who interacted with it.

The page was "liked" by an estimated 6,000 people before Feb. 9, when the DoJ secretly hit Facebook with search warrants. Although the page was public, the department is also after details of those who said they might attend events organized through the page, or who merely reacted to content shared from the page.

The ACLU is representing Talarico and the other two activists, Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour, in the case. It argues that the DoJ is after too much information about the three — their entire Facebook activities covering a 90-day period — and is trying to share this information too widely within the government.

Trump's Economic Advisor says a typical American family earns $100,000 a year

The median is the point where half make less, half make more. The "average" ts apparently the arithmetic average, where you add up everybody's income and divide by the number of people. Since the super-rich have so much higher incomes, the "average" is far above what is typical.

Ester Bloom
Sept. 29, 2017

Trump Economic advisor Gary Cohn told reporters on Thursday that a typical four-person American family bringing in $100,000 a year would save $1,000 under the Republicans' proposed tax reform effort, which they could use to pay for a new car or a kitchen.

In actuality, the average American family makes $74,000 a year before taxes, or about $30,000 less than that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The median American family income is roughly half of Cohn's estimate, or only about $55,000.

And some critics are seizing on Cohn's assertion that, with $1,000, a family "could renovate their kitchen, they could buy a new car."


Gary Cohn is one of the most successful self-made people in America.

He ran Goldman Sachs and amassed an estimated net worth of $266 million before becoming Trump's leading economic adviser.


Thursday, September 28, 2017


How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science

Price to pay $52K out of estimated $400K in travel costs

Climate Shocks May Cost U.S. $1 Billion a Day

Donald Trump Fought the NFL Once Before. He Got Crushed
[Considering his usual patterns, this is a very possible reason for his obsessive tweets against the NFL recently. ]

In Puerto Rico, Containers Full Of Goods Sit Undistributed At Ports, problem is getting them to the interior

Each county in the United States, ranked by economic distress
[Georgia is ranked #1 for business, ranks high in economic distress. ]

Equifax CEO Richard Smith Who Oversaw Breach to Retire with $90 Million


How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science

Price to pay $52K out of estimated $400K in travel costs

Climate Shocks May Cost U.S. $1 Billion a Day

Donald Trump Fought the NFL Once Before. He Got Crushed
[Considering his usual patterns, this is a very possible reason for his obsessive tweets against the NFL recently.]

In Puerto Rico, Containers Full Of Goods Sit Undistributed At Ports, problem is getting them to the interior


Trump defaulted on payments for his Puerto Rico golf course, leaving the territory with a $33 million tax debt

What every American needs to know about Puerto Rico’s hurricane disaster
Certain US policies have contributed to Puerto Rico’s economic deterioration. One of them is the Jones Act (different from the Jones-Shafroth Act mentioned above), an antiquated law that forces Puerto Ricans to pay nearly double for US goods through various tariffs, fees, and taxes. The act stipulates that any goods shipped from one American port to another must be on American-made-and-operated ships. As Matthew Yglesias explains, it means shipping to Puerto Rico is more costly because there’s little competition among freighters.

US military sends ships, aircraft to Puerto Rico

Sonic breach exposes millions of customers’ data

Trump Administration ‘Can’t Guarantee’ Middle Class Won’t Pay Higher Taxes

Shipping risks rise as Antarctic ice hits record low
An honor guard composed of one or more branches of the United States Armed Forces, presents the flag to the next of kin. The presenter, if possible a member of the same service as the deceased, will generally kneel while presenting the folded flag, with the straight edge of the flag facing the recipient.

Does Trump benefit from proposed tax cuts? 'Let me count the ways'

One in six new HIV patients in Europe are seniors

Health App Developer Who Faked And ‘Cured’ Cancer Fined $320K For Her Lies

The 'doubled standard deduction' in the GOP tax plan is a lie

Puerto Rico's supply deliveries break down in the wake of Maria's devastation

A House Republican explains why deficits don’t matter anymore
"It's a great talking point when you have an administration that's Democrat-led," said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of about 150 conservative House members. "It's a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration."

Wealth of millionaires surges more than 8 percent to $63.5 trillion, new research says

It increasingly looks like Russian hackers may have affected actual vote totals.

[It's hard-working manual labor that is cleaning it up.]
Houston after Harvey: city faces huge hurdle to recovery

State Dept. NOT requiring Puerto Rico evacuees to pay transportation costs
[I'm including this because inaccurate info is being passed around Facebook.]

The Trump Administration Just Confirmed That It Is Sabotaging Obamacare

From a comment on a Facebook post re. Puerto Rico
Mark Wilder : We have zero plane shortage. We have a runway shortage. People flying private planes for private missions are a problem (not a solution).

Correcting something I have seen on Facebook. The Trump administration is not blocking lawmakers from visiting Puerto Rico. He is is restricting lawmakers in both parties from visiting storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands aboard military aircraft this weekend in order to keep focused on recovery missions there, according to multiple congressional aides.
Already at least two lawmakers have visited Puerto Rico — Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who was born on the island but represents parts of Brooklyn, visited on Friday as part of an official delegation from New York state led by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) flew aboard U.S. Coast Guard aircraft on Monday to meet with officials in San Juan and get an aerial view of some of the destruction.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who is Puerto Rican, represents Puerto Rican constituents in Chicago and owns a home on the island, is planning to visit the island this weekend, but he will travel there aboard private commercial aircraft, not on government jets, according to a spokesman.

Trump Keeps Talking About a ‘Hospitalized’ Senator That Doesn’t Exist

The Trump Administration is Disrupting the 2020 Census

“Taking a knee”: Simple phrase, powerful—and changing—meaning
We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.

New evidence emerges that Russia infiltrated Facebook to sow political chaos in the US

Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering

“Interspiritual Contributions to Social And Ecological Sustainability”
You Are Invited!

From dinner on Friday evening, October 20th, until after lunch on Sunday, October 22nd, 2017.

On the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, at the University of British Columbia in beautiful Vancouver BC.

We’re excited to bring spiritually-and-environmentally interested peacebuilders together with interfaith delegates from the United Religions Initiative (URI), all of whom are active in the bioregion. We hope this meeting will strengthen ecological leadership and interspiritual connection from Campbell River at the north end of Vancouver Island to Seattle and surrounding areas in the south.

The Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering will focus on turning the negative climate change narrative into a story of public hope and commitment. The task of the meeting will be to re-imagine how to live here in this bioregion in a carbon-constrained future, and in harmonious and just relationships with other peoples, other species, and the life-support processes of Earth. We’ll root climate solutions in our common humanity and our intrinsic connection with the natural world. And we’ll start to colour-in a practical picture of the benefits that lie in store when we’ve retooled our communities to support authentic partnerships with the peoples and natural ecosystems of this place.

Hosts and Sponsors:
The Salish Sea Bioregional Gathering will be jointly hosted by URI North America and the InterSpiritual Centre of Vancouver Society, a URI Cooperation Circle based in Vancouver. A growing list of co-sponsors including the Multifaith Action Society, Vancouver School of Theology, the Vancouver Unitarians, and two local Cooperation Circles in the metro area (Clergy for Global Harmony and the Surrey Interfaith Council) will assist with practical and logistical support.


Russian Trolls Using NFL Protests to Sow Discord Online, Republican Senator Says

Poll: Majority says Trump not 'fit to serve as president'

Senate passes bipartisan Medicare reform bill

The top 1% of Americans now control 38% of the wealth
America's top 1% now control 38.6% of the nation's wealth, a historic high, according to a new Federal Reserve Report.

Target's move to $15 an hour 'blows up' this myth about raising minimum wage

Atlanta police officer helps save life of suspected carjacker who shot at him

Russian-bought Black Lives Matter ad on Facebook targeted Baltimore and Ferguson
New descriptions of the Russian-bought ads shared with CNN suggest that the apparent goal of the Russian buyers was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos, though not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another.
"In many cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout," he told reporters.

Trump's hiring freeze shrank National Weather Service staff before hurricanes hit

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It’s a problem that an iceberg over twice the size of Paris just broke off Antarctica

Zoë Schlanger
September 27, 2017

A piece of ice two and a half times the size of Paris (or roughly four-and-a-half Manhattans) broke off from West Antarctica over the weekend. It’s not unprecedented, but it has ice scientists worrying.


The ice snapped off from the Pine Island Glacier, making it the second major ice-loss event for that glacier in the last two years. Pine Island is one of Antarctica’s biggest glaciers—and also one of the sites where ice loss has been most dramatic in recent years. This time, the iceberg that resulted from the split is roughly 103 sq miles, or 267 sq km, in size.


But it’s not the size of the iceberg that’s worrying, as Christopher A. Shuman, a research scientist at the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, explained to Gizmodo. Rather, it’s the fact that a string of recent losses leave the much-larger area of ice behind them more vulnerable to melt.

As the Verge points out, the calved iceberg itself won’t raise sea levels. It is already displacing as much water as it would if it were melted, exactly like how an ice cube floating in a glass of water doesn’t raise the water level when it melts. But ice shelves at the periphery of glaciers serve the important function of keeping the inner, land-bound glacier in place. When the outer blockade of ice shelves fall away (turning into icebergs that eventually melt), the chance of the inner glacier breaking up and melting goes up; because the glacier is on land, it is not currently displacing water. If it parts of it slide into the sea, it certainly will.


If all of Pine Island Glacier melted, it could raise sea levels by 1.7 feet, according to The Washington Post. As we’ve mentioned before, for every 360 billion tons of ice that reach the ocean, sea levels worldwide rise by 1 millimeter. For context, the average sea-level rise per year during the 20th century was 1.7 millimeters

Earlier this year, in a much bigger calving event, a trillion-ton iceberg snapped off from another area in Antarctica. Like this event, that part of the ice shelf was already floating in water and will not directly add to sea level rise—but, worryingly, it was part of an icy barrier that holds the massive Larsen-C ice shelf from sliding into the sea.


New STD cases hit record high in US, CDC says

By Sandee LaMotte,
Sept. 27, 2017

In 2016, Americans were infected with more than 2 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, the highest number of these sexually transmitted diseases ever reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.


The agency's annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report shows that more than 1.6 million of the new cases were from chlamydia, 470,000 were from gonorrhea and nearly 28,000 cases were primary and secondary syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease, according to the CDC. While all of these can be cured by antibiotics, many people go undiagnosed and untreated.


"If not treated, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can have serious consequences, such as infertility, neurological issues, and an increased risk for HIV," said Harvey.


However, the new data show that rates of this potentially deadly disease increased almost 18% between 2015 and 2016, with most of the cases in men who have sex with men. There was also a rise of the disease among women who pass it on to their newborns. There were 628 cases of congenital syphilis among newborns reported in 2016, with more than 40 deaths and severe health complications among the babies who survived.
"For the first time in many years, we are now seeing more cases of babies born with congenital syphilis than babies born with HIV," said Harvey. "It means that women are not getting access to prenatal care, testing and treatment for syphilis. It's an unconscionable situation in America today."


Europe's Hot, Fiery Summer Linked to Global Warming, Study Shows

By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Sep 27, 2017

Global warming made this summer's record heat across Southern Europe—with its wildfires and a heat wave so vicious it was nicknamed "Lucifer"—10 times more likely than it would have been in the early 1900s, scientists said today in a study published by the World Weather Attribution research group. If greenhouse gas emissions aren't cut soon, such heat waves will be the regional summer norm by 2050, the study concluded.

The scientists, from universities and research institutions in Europe and the United States, said they are more certain than ever that human-caused global warming is a key driver of the extreme heat.

As the average global temperature goes up, it becomes easier to pick out the climate change signal, said lead author Sarah Kew, a climate researcher with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.


The urgency of improving understanding of the heat-related health risks from global warming was made clear in 2003, when the most extreme European heat wave on record killed more than 70,000 people. The summer of 2003 is still the hottest on record for the whole of Europe, although 2017 was hotter in the Mediterranean region.

A landmark climate attribution study in 2004 determined that the buildup of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels made the extreme temperatures of 2003 at least twice as likely as they would have been a world with no human-caused greenhouse gases.

Since then, the global average temperature has increased by another quarter degree Celsius and Southern Europe summers are warming at twice that rate, according to the European Environment Agency. Scientific understanding of the influence of climate change has also advanced.


"We found that the 2017, heat was not all that rare anymore. Due to global warming, there's a 10 percent chance every year in many places," Kew said. The study's estimates of how global warming increases the likelihood of heat waves are conservative, she said.

In a world with no human-caused greenhouse gases, the chances of having a summer as warm as this one would approach zero, according to the study. With greenhouse gas emissions eventually raising temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times (about a half degree warmer than today), the chances increase to 24 percent. After 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the chances of a having summer like this rise to 42 percent.

French researcher Robert Vautard, who closely studied the deadly 2003 heat wave, said better climate simulations are making studies more accurate.


The other wealth gap—the 1% vs the 0.01%

The republicans plan to eliminate the estate tax will make this inequality even bigger.

The other wealth gap—the 1% vs the 0.01%
Robert Frank | @robtfrank
Published 2:11 PM ET Mon, 31 March 2014


From an economic perspective, the most dramatic wealth gap is between middling millionaires, who have seen only modest gains, and the booming billionaires, who now seem to defy economic gravity. It's between the guy making $300,000, who still feels poor, and the man who made $37 million a day for a year. Both are lumped together by politicians, the media and even economists as "the rich" or "the 1 percent," who are gaining at the expense of everyone else.

But a new study by a top economist gives us the clearest picture to date of the wealth gap among the wealthy.


First, there are those at the bottom of the 1 percent. Those are folks who are worth single-digit millions, around $7 million or so as of the latest Fed survey. The people between the top 1 to 0.5 percent have seen their share of national wealth remain flat for the past 20 years.

Their share of the wealth pie is the essentially the same as it was in 1995.

Even those who are between the top 0.5 percent to the top 0.1 percent have barely seen any increase in their share of wealth.

The big winners are those in the top 0.01 percent. These folks, who have a net worth of more than $100 million, have seen their share of wealth more than double since 1995, from around 5 percent to just under 12 percent. Over the past half century, they have nearly quadrupled their share of wealth.

In other words, the 0.01 percent is leaving the 1 percent in the dust.

How are they doing it? The top 0.01 percent are stock-market winners—CEOs, bankers, entrepreneurs—who are riding financial markets to outsize gains. The rest of the top 1 percent are often mere wage earners.


A similar pattern is emerging with incomes—though it's not as dramatic. The share of income going to those between the top 0.1 percent to the top 0.01 percent has tripled since 1980. But the income share for those between the top 1 percent and the top 0.5 percent is up a far more moderate 50 percent.

Wealth and income are both becoming highly concentrated among the very tiny slice of the super, super rich.

We shouldn't feel sorry for this "lower upper class." But we also shouldn't lump all "1 percenters" in the same bucket, especially when it comes to setting policy or debating wealth in the media.


2017 Estate And Gift Tax Limits: The $11 Million Tax Break

Ashlea Ebeling
Oct. 25, 1016

For 2017, the estate and gift tax exemption is $5.49 million per individual, up from $5.45 million in 2016. That means an individual can leave $5.49 million to heirs and pay no federal estate or gift tax. A married couple will be able to shield just shy of $11 million ($10.98 million) from federal estate and gift taxes. The annual gift exclusion remains at $14,000 for 2017.

The federal estate and gift tax exemptions rise with inflation, and the Internal Revenue Service announced the new numbers here. Forbes' Kelly Phillips Erb has all the details on 2017 income tax rates here.


If you want to make gifts and not have to bother to keep track for gift tax purposes, you can make gifts for medical, dental, and tuition expenses for as many relatives (or friends) as you’d like so long as you pay the provider directly. These gifts don’t count towards any of the limits.

GOP Plan Would Cut Corporate and Individual Taxes, Repeal Estate Tax

by Leigh Ann Caldwell
Sept. 27, 2017


The highly anticipated proposal still has a long way to go before it can be voted on, but Republicans outlined their objectives in a nine-page document Wednesday morning.

The plan includes long-held Republican goals of reducing the corporate tax rate and simplifying the tax code. It lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent and eliminates four income tax brackets. It doubles the standard deduction and increases the child tax credit. It also repeals the estate tax but keeps the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving, all tax breaks that tend to affect high-income tax payers. But it is expected to cost trillions of dollars and Republicans haven't yet presented a clear way to pay for it.


But Democrats say that the plan will harm the middle class while giving major tax breaks to the wealthy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a “disappointment” because it “deviates” from Trump’s promise to benefit the middle class.

“They raise the bottom rate from 10 to 12 percent, the lowest rate on the poorest and working-class Americans,” Schumer said. “So what the plan does is, the top rate on the wealthiest comes down and the bottom rate on working-class families goes up. What kind of plan is this?”


Here is what is in the plan:

Individual Taxes

  • Repeals the estate tax.
  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for those filing jointly.
  • Reduces the number of tax brackets from seven to three with the highest being 35 percent and the lowest being 12 percent.
  • Increases the child tax credit to an unspecified amount over the current $1,000.
  • Adds a $500 credit for the care of nonchildren dependents.
  • Eliminates most deductions, including the state and local tax deduction.
  • Preserves the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable deduction, two of the most popular deductions that more often benefit wealthier Americans.
  • Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Corporate Taxes

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.
  • Caps the small business rate to 25 percent.
  • Transitions the global corporate tax to a territorial tax.
  • Aims to repeal the corporate AMT.


Cybercriminals Are Using Big Name Apps To Target Unwitting Consumers

Here’s a real-life, slimy example of Uber’s regulator-evading software

At Google, Employee-Led Effort Finds Men Are Paid More Than Women

How the Gig Economy Profits Off of Desperation

Attention, Bay Area Liberals: Stop Ignoring How Exploitative the Gig Economy Is

Love Your iPhone? Don’t Thank Apple. Thank the US Government.
Without public research funding, there’d be no iPhone — which makes Apple’s relentless tax dodging even more whack.

Silicon Valley’s Outsourcing Addiction

We Are All Part of One Gigantic A/B Test

How Silicon Valley Decimated the Middle Class and Fueled the Rise of Trump

He Went Undercover to a Trump Campaign Debate Party at Round Table Pizza, and Foresaw the End Times

Yes, Google Uses Its Power to Quash Ideas It Doesn’t Like

Rural America Is Building Its Own Internet Because No One Else Will

Want the rich to pay their taxes? Then publish their tax returns.

Will NPR report fairly on farm employment?

NPR is announcing they will have a piece on the farmworker shortage, and why they need immigrants to do the work. It will be astonishing if they ask the owners of the farms how much they pay their workers, because in other such pieces, they NEVER ask such questions. I have also never heard them bring up the fact that many farm workers are cheated out of their meager wages, and have horrible working conditions.

I will be happy if this piece is better than their usual, which caters to their big donors. When talking about things like wages, I have NEVER heard them ask how much the executives are making.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Trump defaulted on payments for his Puerto Rico golf course, leaving the territory with a $33 million tax debt

A groom jumped into a pond during his wedding photo shoot to save a boy from drowning
[This is a hero, a real man.]

Russian-funded Facebook ads backed Stein, Sanders and Trump

Price’s private-jet travels included visits with colleagues, lunch with son


Former Director of National Intelligence Clapper: Intelligence assessment 'cast doubt' on Trump's victory

Facebook's underclass: as staffers enjoy lavish perks, contractors barely get by

Hedge fund asks climate deniers to put their money where their mouth is

Monday, September 25, 2017

Links & comments

Puerto Rico is devastated in the wake of Hurricane Maria
[Puerto Rico is U.S. territory.]

It's embarrassing to be a member of the human race when the president of our country calls the leader of another country Rocketman, and the result is his favorability ratings go up.

It's disgusting that Trump is criticizing people for kneeling, when his actions are leading to severe damage, including death, for many because of his cutbacks on protections from pollution and climate devastation. And kneeling is a time-honored way of showing respect.

A friend is trying to help her brother who had a stroke. He lives in a rural area on the other side of the country. They have had a big hassle getting VA care. He was told he had to bring in his papers from 50 years ago. Luckily they finally found them. What if they had been lost in a fire or flood? The government should have the records. The VA will only pay for treatment at a nearby doctor if he gets authorization from the VA for each visit.
I consider this far more important than whether someone kneels at a football game.

Kushner used private email to conduct White House business
Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business.
[Being a great psychic, I predict that republicans will ignore this and continue to bring up Hillary's emails.]

Texas Republicans Quietly Eliminate Health Care For Disabled Children

11 Family Members, Including 2-Month-Old, Die During Baptism After Church Collapses in Deadly Mexico Earthquake

Happiness may be healthier for some cultures than others

Do you really need that MRI?

Three or more cups of coffee daily halves mortality risk in patients with both HIV and HCV

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

Study raises expectations for improved language skills in the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Metabolism directly impacts the odds of developing malaria

Breast cancer patients largely find radiation therapy experience better than expected

Big brains in birds provides survival advantage: Washington University study in Nature journal

Children who watched a PG-rated movie clip containing guns played with a disabled real gun longer and pulled the trigger more often than children who saw the same movie not containing guns

Adding radiation to chemotherapy may dramatically improve survival for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Fish have complex personalities, research shows

Sexual harassment by colleagues may be associated with more severe depression

Why Hard Facts Aren't Enough to Alter Our Beliefs

Iran-Linked Hackers Said to Be Attacking U.S. Companies

At Least 6 White House Advisers Used Private Email Accounts

Password-theft 0day imperils users of High Sierra and earlier macOS versions

CBO [The Congressional Budget Office ]: Number of insured 'reduced by millions' under GOP health bill

Fight for the right to repair

I saw this article in the July 29, 2017 print issue of New Scientist.

By: Matt Reynolds
Updated: Aug 1, 2017

Tech giants are making phones harder to repair, so we’re chucking them sooner, but a new movement wants this practice to end and give consumers more choice

The battle to create the perfect smartphone is a neverending struggle, involving some of the world's most famous tech companies, like Apple and Samsung. But the pursuit of thinner, faster, lighter designs has an ugly side. The devices we lap up with each big release are growing more expensive to repair. Phones, it seems, are becoming disposable by design.

It doesn’t have to be this way. An unlikely coalition of gadget fans and farmers is campaigning for the right to fix what we own.

This year, law-makers in 12 US states have proposed so-called “right to repair” bills that would force firms to release repair manuals and tools to the public. The European Parliament has also called on member states to put in place greater repair rights, with adebate due later this year.

The tech giants are fighting back, lobbying hard to keep these laws off the books. Is this just an issue for the hardcore tinkerers to worry about? Or should we all be demanding the right to fix our phones and other gadgets?


And it’s not just phone companies. Some faults in modern tractors can only be repaired using troubleshooting tools that manufacturers won’t sell to farmers. Their only choice is to pay the high call-out fees manufacturers and authorised repair shops charge.

Farmers in the US are also fighting for the right to repair their own equipment, but tractor-maker John Deere is lobbying against bills in Kansas and Wyoming, and it’s working. Despite support from Democrats and Republicans, right-to-repair bills have been shelved in every state where they were proposed.

Gay Gordon-Byrne of US advocacy group The Repair Association isn’t deterred. Many state legislators are planning on bringing right to repair back to the table next year, she says. And if one or two states pass a bill, that could be enough to encourage others to take the plunge.

She is hoping to recreate the success of a campaign that shook up the US car industry in 2012, when Massachusetts passed a right to repair law forcing vehicle makers to hand over diagnostic and repair information. Manufacturers later committed to doing the same in all 50 states.


Thankfully, there is an alternative – if you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty – with a growing number of people creating online repair manuals.

“Smartphones are a really integral part of our lives and they break all the time. Of course consumers are going to figure out how to fix them,” says Julia Bluff of iFixit, a website that hosts nearly 30,000 user-generated repair guides and sells suitable kits for thousands of gadgets.

Whenever a major smartphone is released, iFixit’s community of DIY repairers rush to disassemble it and publish a repair guide within days. Would-be menders have their work cut out, though. In June, iFixit partnered with Greenpeace on a report looking at which brands produce the most or least fixable gadgets. Only Fairphone, Dell and HP make spare parts and manuals available to the public, the report found.

Often the trickiest part of the repair is getting inside the device, Bluff says. Microsoft’s Surface laptops are notoriously difficult to crack. “They are glued together so they are not serviceable. You break the device apart in order to get into it,” she says.


The Repair Association, previously the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, was formed in 2013. The Association represents everyone involved in repair of technology—from DIY hobbyists and independent repair technicians, to environmental organizations and the aftermarket.

In addition to standing up for your interests in Washington DC, The Repair Association is a place where repair industry professionals can meet on common terms to discuss issues that relate to us all, network with other members, and move our businesses and our industry forward.

SNAP enrollment associated with reduced health care spending among poor

Public Release: 25-Sep-2017
SNAP enrollment associated with reduced health care spending among poor
The JAMA Network Journals

Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's largest program aimed at alleviating food insecurity, was associated with reduced health care spending by low-income adults in the United States over a two-year period, according to a new study published by JAMA Internal Medicine.


SNAP program participation was associated with about $1,400 in lower subsequent health care costs per year per person for low-income adults, according to the results.


Child abuse affects brain wiring

Public Release: 25-Sep-2017
Child abuse affects brain wiring
Impaired neural connections may explain profound and long-lasting effects of traumatic experiences during childhood
McGill University

  • For the first time, researchers have been able to see changes in the neural structures in specific areas of the brains of people who suffered severe abuse as children.
  • Difficulties associated with severe childhood abuse include increased risks of psychiatric disorders such as depression, as well as high levels of impulsivity, aggressivity, anxiety, more frequent substance abuse, and suicide.
  • Severe, non-random physical and/or sexual child abuse affects between 5-15 % of all children under the age of 15 in the Western world.
  • Researchers from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University's Department of Psychiatry, have just published research in the American Journal of Psychiatry that suggests that the long-lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences, like severe abuse, may be due to an impaired structure and functioning of cells in the anterior cingulate cortex. This is a part of the brain which plays an important role in the regulation of emotions and mood.
  • The researchers believe that these changes may contribute to the emergence of depressive disorders and suicidal behaviour.

For the optimal function and organization of the brain, electrical signals used by neurons may need to travel over long distances to communicate with cells in other regions. The longer axons of this kind are generally covered by a fatty coating called myelin. Myelin sheaths protect the axons and help them to conduct electrical signals more efficiently. Myelin builds up progressively (in a process known as myelination) mainly during childhood, and then continue to mature until early adulthood.


The researchers discovered that the thickness of the myelin coating of a significant proportion of the nerve fibres was reduced ONLY in the brains of those who had suffered from child abuse. They also found underlying molecular alterations that selectively affect the cells that are responsible for myelin generation and maintenance. Finally, they found increases in the diameters of some of the largest axons among only this group and they speculate that together, these changes may alter functional coupling between the cingulate cortex and subcortical structures such as the amygdala and nucleus accumbens (areas of the brain linked respectively to emotional regulation and to reward and satisfaction) and contribute to altered emotional processing in people who have been abused during childhood.