Thursday, November 30, 2017

Republican tax cuts will hurt Americans. And Democrats will pay the price

Bruce Bartlett worked as an adviser for Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush. His new book is The Truth Matters

Bruce Bartlett
Nov. 20, 2017

I think many Democrats and independent political observers are puzzled by the intensity with which Republicans are pursuing their tax cut. It’s not politically popular and may well lead to the party’s defeat in next year’s congressional elections. So why do it?

The answer is that Republicans are pushing the tax cut at breakneck speed precisely because they know they are probably going to lose next year and in 2020 as well. The tax cut, once enacted, however, will bind the hands of Democrats for years to come, forcing them to essentially follow a Republican agenda of deficit reduction and prevent any action on a positive Democratic program. The result will be a steady erosion of support for Democrats that will put Republicans back in power within a few election cycles.

The theory was laid out almost 30 years ago by two Swedish economists, Torsten Persson and Lars EO Svensson. In a densely written article for the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 1989, they explained why a stubborn conservative legislator would intentionally run a big budget deficit.

It has to do with what economists call time inconsistency – the consequences of actions taken today may not appear until the future, when a different political party will be in power. Thus the credit or blame will accrue to that party rather than the one that implemented the policy, because voters tend to attribute whatever is happening today to the party in power today even if that party had nothing to do with it.

Thus Barack Obama got blamed for a recession and resulting budget deficits he had nothing to do with originating. No matter how many times the Congressional Budget Office showed that the vast bulk of the budget deficits in his administration were baked in the cake the day he took office, Republicans nevertheless blamed him and his policies exclusively for those deficits.

Of course, another reason for those deficits is that Republicans systematically decimated the federal government’s revenue-raising capacity during the George W Bush administration with one huge tax cut after another. All of these were sold as necessary to get the economy growing again. The failure of the economy to respond positively was never taken as evidence of the failure of those tax cuts, but rather as showing the need for even more and bigger tax cuts.

By 2022, Republicans will be back in control of Congress and in the White House by 2024

The payoff for this orgy of tax-cutting came when Obama took office. All of a sudden, Republicans noticed that there were large deficits and insisted that Obama do something about them right this minute! They even made the nonsensical argument that spending cuts would stimulate growth by reducing the burden of government.


I believe that the same cycle will rerun over the next few years. Should Democrats get control of the House and/or Senate next year, Trump and his party will insist that deficit reduction be the only order of business. Automatic spending cuts resulting directly from the tax cut will start to bite, hurting the poor and middle class primarily, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and making them forget that they resulted from a huge tax give-away to the wealthy that increased the deficit by $1.5tn. Democrats will get much of the blame due to time-inconsistency.

It’s possible that Trump’s appointees to the Federal Reserve may be so alarmed by the inflationary potential of the growing deficits that they will raise interest rates in response. This could trigger a recession that will be blamed on a Democratic president taking office in 2021, just as happened with Obama. But that president may not be able to enact any stimulus at all because deficits crowd out any fiscal space. By 2022, Republicans will be back in control of Congress and in the White House by 2024. In 2025, they will demand still more tax cuts.


A Depression historian says the GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.

By Robert S. McElvaine November 30, 2017 at 9:17 AM
Historian Robert S. McElvaine teaches at Millsaps College. He is the author of "The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941" and currently at work on a novel.

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

That was more than three decades before the collapse of the economy in 1929. The crash followed a decade of Republican control of the federal government during which trickle-down policies, including massive tax cuts for the rich, produced the greatest concentration of income in the accounts of the richest 0.01 percent at any time between World War I and 2007 (when trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the hyper-rich, and deregulation again resulted in another economic collapse).

Yet the plain fact that the trickle-down approach has never worked leaves Republicans unfazed. The GOP has been singing from the Market-is-God hymnal for well over a century, telling us that deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and the concentration of ever more wealth in the bloated accounts of the richest people will result in prosperity for the rest of us. The party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy.

As a historian of the Great Depression, I can say: I’ve seen this show before.

In 1926, Calvin Coolidge’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, one of the world’s richest men, pushed through a massive tax cut that would substantially contribute to the causes of the Great Depression. Republican Sen. George Norris of Nebraska said that Mellon himself would reap from the tax bill “a larger personal reduction [in taxes] than the aggregate of practically all the taxpayers in the state of Nebraska.” The same is true now of Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other fabulously rich people.


When Bill Clinton proposed a modest increase in the top marginal tax rate in his 1993 budget, every Republican voted against it. Trickle-down economists proclaimed that it would lead to economic disaster. But the tax increase on the wealthy was followed by one of the greatest periods of prosperity in American history and resulted in a budget surplus. When the Republicans came back into power in 2001, the administration of George W. Bush pushed the opposite policies, which had invariably produced calamity in the past. Predictably, that happened again in 2008.


Just how disastrous would the proposed reincarnation of the failed Republican trickle-down policies of the past be for the American people and the future of the nation? A few ways:

  • Repealing the estate tax. •••
  • Eliminating deductions for state and local taxes. •••
  • Repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, •••
  • Extending the “pass-through” provision to noncorporate businesses, including some 500 entities Trump owns. •••
  • Ending the deductibility of large medical expenses.
  • Taxing waived tuition for college students, ending deductibility for student loan payments, and even disallowing teachers from deducting what they spend on school supplies for their students.
  • Ending the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would cause 13 million Americans to lose health insurance and result in much higher premiums for those who do get insurance through the exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that, if enacted, the Republican tax bill may force deep cuts in Medicare through a generally unknown budget rule that its deficits would trigger.


In the 1920s, Republicans were in full control of the federal government and used that power to pursue their objective to “make the well-to-do prosperous.” It didn’t “leak through on those below.” In that decade, the mass-production American economy became dependent on mass consumption. For it to work, the masses need a sufficient share of the national income to be able to consume what is being produced.

Republican policies in the ’20s instead pushed to concentrate more of the income at the top. Nine decades later, Republicans are rushing to do it again — and they are sprinting toward an economic cliff. Another round of Government of the People, by the Republicans, for the super-rich will be catastrophic. The American people must call a halt before it’s too late.

EPA hears worries about climate in heart of coal country

After more than four decades as a coal miner, Stanley Sturgill ambled into an ornate room at West Virginia’s state capitol Tuesday to deliver a stark message to the Trump administration: Climate change is real and continuing to burn the dirty fossil fuel hurts future generations.

He was among dozens who had their say at a public hearing over the intended repeal of an Obama-era plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency was holding the only scheduled hearing on the policy reversal in Charleston, capital of a state heavily dependent on coal mining. The hearing was expected to last two days.

There were warnings from the other side, too — that the regulations threaten to choke off livelihoods in coal country and drive up people’s energy costs. But despite the locale of the hearing, those concerned about climate change packed the hearing room.

Sturgill, who said he suffers from black lung disease, wanted the Clean Power Plan upheld for his three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He and his wife drove several hours from Lynch, Kentucky, to speak because “we may be old, but we still love living.”

“Now to be realistic, do I really think that the administration cares what this old worn coal miner has to say?” asked Sturgill, 72, who conceded that his pro-environment views were not popular in his hometown. “I don’t know. I really doubt it. But I had to be here, and as long as I can draw a breath, I’m going to keep working to fight climate change and protect the land and country I love.”


Environmental activist Vicki Mattson of Athens, Ohio, said her home county has four solar power installation companies. Clean energy will create well-paying new jobs, she said.

“We all need to look at solar and wind,” Mattson said. “Clean power is the future. We can join the rest of the world or be left behind.”

Sturgill, the retired miner, said the EPA under the Trump administration was protecting fossil-fuel industry profits at the expense of the environment and the health of Americans who have to breathe polluted air.

He recounted a Native American proverb, and urged the policy makers at EPA to take it to heart: “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, only then will you realize you cannot eat money.”

Monster heat wave reaches Greenland, bringing rain and melting its ice sheet

NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission warns the ice sheet is more at risk to global warming than we knew.

Joe Romm
Nov 29, 2017

It’s been unusually warm in the United States in recent days, with records being set across the country. But it’s been scorching in Greenland, with temperatures as much as 54° above normal, which means above freezing in many places.

And this comes on the heels of new research from NASA’s aptly-named Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission, which finds that the enormous ice sheet is far more unstable than we realized. That’s bad news because the Greenland ice sheet contains enough land-locked ice to raise sea levels by over 20 feet.

The heat wave began out west last week, with large parts of California sweltering in the 90s. As but one example, the National Weather Service Los Angeles tweeted on Nov. 22 that the 99°F reading at Camarillo Airport in Ventura County not only broke the record for that day (by 9°F), but broke the record for any day that month.

The heat wave moved east after Thanksgiving, and by Tuesday it was blanketing most of the country, as meteorologist and Grist writer Eric Holtaus pointed out on Twitter:


in a place like Greenland, a monster heat wave this time of year pushes temperatures above freezing. It hit the upper 30s in many coastal towns — with rain forecast in some — which means actual melting over parts of the great ice sheet that should be adding ice right now, not losing it.


The bottom line is that over half of the entire ice sheet may be at risk from this underwater melting. We knew that global warming is leading to more of the kind of monster heatwaves that intensify and extend the surface melt season on Greenland — the kind it is now experiencing. But we are learning that global warming poses a potentially larger risk to underwater melt from warming ocean waters.



‘Art of the Deal’ co-author: Trump ‘losing his grip on reality’

Program for offenders with mental health or addiction issues produces positive results

Study shows lower lung cancer rates in communities with strong smoke-free laws

Low vitamin D levels at birth linked to higher autism risk
[Note that too much vitamin D is also harmful]

Preventing psoriasis with vanillin

Osteoarthritis patients who received a steroid injection in the hip had a significantly greater incidence of bone death and collapse compared with control groups

UNM researcher finds stress during pregnancy affects the size of the baby

Synthetic cannabis-like drug reduces sleep apnea

Vomiting Syndrome on the Rise in Heavy Pot Smokers

Living in a 'war zone' linked to delivery of low birthweight babies

Marriage may help stave off dementia

2017 U.S. Hurricane Damage Estimate of $206.6 Billion: Highest on Record

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

These days, even janitors are being required to sign non-compete clauses

Sophie Quinton, Pew/Stateline Published 8:28 a.m. ET May 27, 2017

When Krishna Regmi started work as a personal care aide for a Pittsburgh home health agency in 2015, he was given a stack of paperwork to sign. “They just told us, ‘It’s just a formality, sign here, here, here,’ ” he said.

Regmi didn’t think much of it. That is, until he quit his job nine months later and announced his decision to move to a rival agency — and his ex-employer sued him for violating a noncompete clause Regmi says he didn’t know he had signed. The agreement barred Regmi from working as a personal care aide at another home health agency for two years.

Big companies often ask top executives who have access to confidential business information to sign noncompete agreements. But low-wage, unskilled laborers such as janitors, landscapers and entry-level health workers are often asked to sign them, too.

Employers say the agreements help them retain their workers in a tight labor market and protect their business interests — from secret formulas to client lists. And, they say, workers who sign them sometimes get additional training or higher pay in return, because their employer knows they won’t leave for a competitor.

But advocates for workers say it’s ridiculous to ask employees who don’t have specialized skills or secret knowledge to give up their freedom to work for a rival company. They say noncompete agreements reduce social mobility and clog up the labor market by preventing businesses from hiring the workers they want and preventing workers from taking the jobs they want. And for many workers, just being threatened with legal action is enough to make them back away from their career and look for different jobs instead.


This year, legislation has been introduced in at least six states that would tighten the legal standards the agreements have to meet in order to be enforced, or make certain types of them illegal outright. Four states passed laws on the issue last year, including Illinois, which prohibited noncompete agreements for employees who earn $13 an hour or less.

Bills in Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts would restrict noncompete agreements that involve low-wage employees; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, is pushing for the same change in his state. Proposals in Massachusetts and Washington would also restrict the agreements for other types of workers, such as temporary employees and independent contractors.

Such bills face an uphill struggle, however, often because of stiff opposition from business. “Non-compete agreements are essential to the growth and viability of businesses by protecting trade secrets and promoting business development,” the Maryland Chamber of Commerce said in written testimony opposing a bill Carr introduced that would have voided agreements signed by workers who earn less than $15 an hour. The bill passed the House in February but died in the Senate.


They calculate that about 38 percent of U.S. workers have signed a noncompete agreement at some point in their careers and 18 percent of workers are currently bound by one. High earners are more likely to sign such agreements, but about a third of workers earning under $40,000 have done so.


Brendan Lynch, an attorney for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, says his low-income clients usually have no idea that they agreed to a noncompete clause. They find out after they’ve left a company, when their ex-employer slaps them with a court order or sends a threatening message to a prospective future employer.

Lynch represented a clerk at a home care agency, for instance, who signed a five-page employment contract that, according to court records, prohibited her from serving any of the agency’s clients within a 35-mile radius for five years. It also required her to pay the company’s legal fees if they ever went to court.

Lynch says the noncompete agreements he sees are often written too broadly and wouldn’t survive a lawsuit. But most workers obey initial threats rather than going to court over them, he said. “I think there are people who have been affected by this, and it doesn’t even occur to them to get a lawyer,” Lynch said.


In recent years, the New York attorney general’s office has reached settlements with three companies over their use of noncompete agreements, including Jimmy John’s, a national fast food chain. Some Jimmy John’s franchises in New York had forbidden employees from working for other sandwich shops in a 3-mile radius for two years after leaving the company. Under the terms of the settlement, the company agreed to stop giving franchisees sample noncompete agreements and to tell franchisees to void existing agreements. Illinois also reached a settlement with Jimmy John’s last year.


How Noncompete Clauses Keep Workers Locked In

Restrictions once limited to executives are now spreading across the labor landscape — making it tougher for Americans to get a raise.

By Conor Dougherty
June 9, 2017


Employment lawyers say their use has exploded. Russell Beck, a partner at the Boston law firm Beck Reed Riden who does an annual survey of noncompete litigation, said the most recent data showed that noncompete and trade-secret lawsuits had roughly tripled since 2000.


Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think

By Nicholas Fitz on March 31, 2015

In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, "Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets." The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become.


The average American believes that the richest fifth own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%. The reality is strikingly different. The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%. The Walton family, for example, has more wealth than 42% of American families combined.

We don’t want to live like this. In our ideal distribution, the top quintile owns 32% and the bottom two quintiles own 25%. As the journalist Chrystia Freeland put it, “Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden. And they would like to live on a kibbutz.” Norton and Ariely found a surprising level of consensus: everyone — even Republicans and the wealthy—wants a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.


In a study published last year, Norton and Sorapop Kiatpongsan used a similar approach to assess perceptions of income inequality. They asked about 55,000 people from 40 countries to estimate how much corporate CEOs and unskilled workers earned. Then they asked people how much CEOs and workers should earn. The median American estimated that the CEO-to-worker pay-ratio was 30-to-1, and that ideally, it’d be 7-to-1. The reality? 354-to-1. Fifty years ago, it was 20-to-1. Again, the patterns were the same for all subgroups, regardless of age, education, political affiliation, or opinion on inequality and pay. “In sum,” the researchers concluded, “respondents underestimate actual pay gaps, and their ideal pay gaps are even further from reality than those underestimates.”


The researchers found Americans overestimate the amount of upward social mobility that exists in society. They asked some 3,000 people to guess the chance that someone born to a family in the poorest 20% ends up as an adult in the richer quintiles. Sure enough, people think that moving up is significantly more likely than it is in reality. Interestingly, poorer and politically conservative participants thought that there is more mobility than richer and liberal participants.


We may not want to believe it, but the United States is now the most unequal of all Western nations. To make matters worse, America has considerably less social mobility than Canada and Europe.


By overemphasizing individual mobility, we ignore important social determinants of success like family inheritance, social connections, and structural discrimination.


MacOS High Sierra bug: blank password let anyone take control of a Mac

See the article at the following link for how to deal with this.

Samuel Gibbs and Matthew Weaver
Wednesday 29 November 2017

A serious security flaw was found in the latest version of Apple’s macOS High Sierra that could allow anyone to access locked settings on a Mac using the user name “root” and no password, and subsequently unlock the computer.

The security flaw, discovered a couple of weeks ago and disclosed in an Apple developer support forum, has been shown to work within the software’s user preferences screen, among other locations. Once triggered, the same combination will also bypass the lock screen of Macs running Apple’s latest operating system.


Trump Races to Pick Judges Who Oversee Environment Cases

The president’s court picks could help his climate legacy endure long after Trump leaves office

By Robin Bravender, Scott Waldman November 27, 2017

President Trump has dismissed global warming as a hoax, snubbed the Paris emissions pact and scrapped U.S. EPA climate rules.

But executive actions can be fleeting—as the Trump administration has shown by moving swiftly to unravel many of President Obama's climate change policies.

Yet there's a major piece of Trump's climate legacy that could be more enduring: his court picks. The Trump administration has acted expeditiously to fill vacancies on top courts around the country, including the Supreme Court and powerful lower courts that could decide the fate of regulatory challenges and novel lawsuits, like localities suing oil companies for damages caused by sea-level rise. Those judges could be weighing in on climate change cases long after Trump leaves 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Trump's judicial appointments rank "pretty high" in terms of his climate change legacy, said Glenn Sugameli, who runs the Judging the Environment project, which tracks judicial nominees' environmental records.

"They're the ones that are going to determine whether the actions taken by the Obama administration, by states and local governments are justified, are legal, are sustainable," he said. And "they're the ones that are going to decide whether the actions taken by the Trump administration are legal."


"The reason why the courts play a big role right now is that, whether the executive branch is run by [President George W.] Bush or the executive branch is run by Obama, each time they're kind of stuck with old language," Lazarus said, noting that the 1970 Clean Air Act hasn't seen a major overhaul since 1990.

The Obama administration tried to use the existing language to support the administration's signature climate rule, the Clean Power Plan, and "you can expect that Trump judges would be more skeptical of those activities."


Beyond challenges to federal rulemaking, many of which are resolved in the D.C. Circuit court, there are other climate lawsuits underway across the country that could ultimately be heard by Trump appointees.

In California, for example, a city and two counties are suing oil companies, arguing that the companies' greenhouse gas emissions are pushing sea levels up. In another case at a federal district court in Oregon, a group of kids is suing the federal government over its contributions to climate change.

Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said he's also expecting to see "a lot more litigation about fossil fuel extraction, especially on federal lands and waters," as the Trump administration seeks to expand domestic energy production.


"What's interesting here is that this administration is moving more aggressively and more quickly than administrations usually do at the beginning of their terms, and that may be a cause or a consequence of the fact that the administration has not been able to do much else, certainly not legislatively," he said. "There is every reason to think this will be a lasting legacy of the Trump administration, but it takes awhile for that effect to really manifest itself."


Prehistoric women worked so much their arms were stronger than today’s female rowers

Tilling soil, harvesting, and grinding grain by hand
by Alessandra Nov 29, 2017

If you’re a hard-working lady, you probably already suspected what scientists have confirmed today: prehistoric women worked their butts off.

The bones of 94 women who lived in farming communities in Central Europe from 5300 BCE to around 850 AD reveal that prehistoric women had stronger arms than living women, including semi-elite female rowers. That’s likely because these farming women from the past worked incredibly hard — tilling soil, harvesting, and grinding grain by hand. And they probably started at a very young age, according to a study published today in Science Advances.

The findings show that prehistoric ladies didn’t leave the physical labor to the men. In fact, they toiled long hours and were a key “driving force” behind the social and cultural development of agricultural communities over almost 6,000 years, says lead author Alison Macintosh, an anthropologist at Cambridge University. “Now we can kind of see, actually there’s these thousands of years of rigorous manual labor that had been completely underestimated,” she tells The Verge. “It’s really important to be able to understand the contribution of women.”


The leg bones, however, told a different story: some prehistoric women had weaker legs than today’s women, while others had legs as strong as those of runners. “It suggests that women were doing a huge range of things,” Macintosh says. Some might have had very strong leg bones because they walked a lot, tending to grazing cows and fetching water over long distances, for instance, while other women might have been more sedentary, grinding grain all day to make flour.



Journalists turn the tables on undercover sting attempt

Shane Patrick Boyle Died After Fundraising to Pay for Insulin

Biotin, a common ingredient in supplements, can skew a test for heart and thyroid disease

Monday, November 27, 2017

Former intel chief Hayden slams Trump's CNN tweet: I've wasted 40 years if this is what we are

Former intel chief Hayden slams Trump's CNN tweet: I've wasted 40 years if this is what we are
By Brett Samuels - 11/26/17 05:01 PM EST

Former CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden on Saturday night ripped President Trump for attacking CNN and praising Fox News, calling it “an outrageous assault” on the First Amendment.

“If this is who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life,” tweeted Hayden, who directed intelligence under the last three presidents



Trump makes "Pocahontas" remark at Navajo code talkers event, referring to Sen. Warren

Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign

Rising seas caused by climate change are seeping inside a United States nuclear waste dump on a remote and low-lying Pacific atoll, flushing out radioactive substances left behind from some of the world’s largest atomic weapons tests.

Power really can corrupt people. Here’s what to do about it

I discovered this article in the print edition of New Scientist

By James Bloodworth
Nov. 9, 2017

Over recent weeks, the UK parliament has been beset by accusations about powerful men sexually harassing female MPs, journalists and party activists.

Those revelations followed hard on the heels of similar claims levelled against big names in Hollywood. Most recently, the leak of financial documents known as the “Paradise Papers” exposed a network of tax-avoidance schemes used by the world’s super-rich and famous.

A cascade of damning revelations about those in positions of authority, high-level instances of sleaze, avariciousness and dishonesty is hardly new of course. In 1887, the historian Lord Acton famously wrote: “Power tends to corrupt…”

This latest clutch of scandals seems another depressing example of the apparent connection between unethical behaviour and the holding of power. What is the truth about that relationship?
Unleash the beast


A 2012 study found that power simply exacerbated pre-existing ethical tendencies. When a participant thought of themselves as compassionate, fair and generous, granting them perceived power resulted in them making more community-centred choices.

“Power isn’t corrupting; it’s freeing,” Joe Magee, a power researcher and professor of management at New York University, recently told The Atlantic. “What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge,” Magee added. In other words, power removes the social filter through which we tend to moderate our behaviour. A person who goes on to use power for corrupt ends was probably corrupt before he or she obtained power.

Part of the problem may be that the less altruistic are perhaps inclined to seek power more single-mindedly than more altruistic people.


Power can corrupt; yet there is nothing inevitable about the process. Those currently being dragged over the coals for wrongdoing are being brought low by their own choices.

Power didn’t make them do it; but it may have led them to believe they could get away with it. The answer is not to do away with power, but to redouble efforts to ensure those at the top have no hiding place.

J Appl Psychol. 2012 May;97(3):681-9. doi: 10.1037/a0026811. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Does power corrupt or enable? When and why power facilitates self-interested behavior.
DeCelles KA1, DeRue DS, Margolis JD, Ceranic TL.
Author information

Does power corrupt a moral identity, or does it enable a moral identity to emerge? Drawing from the power literature, we propose that the psychological experience of power, although often associated with promoting self-interest, is associated with greater self-interest only in the presence of a weak moral identity. Furthermore, we propose that the psychological experience of power is associated with less self-interest in the presence of a strong moral identity. Across a field survey of working adults and in a lab experiment, individuals with a strong moral identity were less likely to act in self-interest, yet individuals with a weak moral identity were more likely to act in self-interest, when subjectively experiencing power. Finally, we predict and demonstrate an explanatory mechanism behind this effect: The psychological experience of power enhances moral awareness among those with a strong moral identity, yet decreases the moral awareness among those with a weak moral identity. In turn, individuals' moral awareness affects how they behave in relation to their self-interest.

Weight reducing diets may reduce risk of early death for adults with obesity

Nov. 2017
British Medical Journal

Weight reducing diets, mostly low in fat, may reduce risk of early death in adults with obesity, finds a study published in The BMJ. However, the researchers were unable to show if there was any effect of weight reducing diets on heart disease and cancer.

The research provides further evidence of the clinical benefits associated with weight reducing diets, which have already been shown to prevent of type 2 diabetes.

Adults with obesity have an increased risk of early death, heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and many other diseases.


Although not always adequately described, all but one of the trials included weight loss diets with sufficient information to establish that a reduction in fat intake was prescribed. Study design and quality of evidence were taken into account in the interpretation of findings.

The researchers identified high quality evidence from 34 trials that showed that weight reducing diets decrease all cause early death for adults with obesity – an 18% relative reduction in early death, corresponding to six fewer deaths per 1000 participants.


Climate change blamed for Arabian Sea’s unexpected hurricanes

By Aylin Woodward
Nov. 13, 2017

In the last four years the Arabian Sea has experienced unprecedented storms, and a new study reveals that climate change has made such events more likely to strike.

The Arabian Sea sits between Yemen, Oman and India. Cyclones are rare there – yet in 2014, cyclone Nilofar caused flash-floods in north-east Oman, killing four people. A year later, two cyclones hit back-to-back for the first time. Chapala and Megh both made landfall in Yemen as “extremely severe cyclonic storms” – with winds as strong as hurricanes – killing 26 people and displacing tens of thousands.

These events puzzled Hiroyuki Murakami at Princeton University in New Jersey. He says storms this severe typically occur in spring, months before the monsoons. Yet the three deadly cyclones all hit in October and November, late in the monsoon season.

Wondering if climate change might be changing cyclone behavior, Murakami and his colleagues used a sophisticated climate model to compare conditions in 2015 to conditions in 1860, when humanity’s carbon footprint was much smaller. They found that, in 2015, 64 per cent of the increased hurricane risk in the Arabian Sea was down to climate change.

“We’re seeing that human activity affects not only climate, but shorter events like rainfall and cyclones,” says Murakami.


They tracked the births and paths of hundreds of such storms and found that they are shifting towards the poles: further south in the Southern Hemisphere and farther north in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only are they forming further from the equator, they are covering greater distances. That means they are creeping closer to continents like Europe.

Researchers have also found that more hurricanes could reach Europe in the future, and that the west coast of the United States and the UK may see more extra-tropical storms.

The trouble with bitcoin and big data is the huge energy bill

John Naughton
Nov. 26, 2017


very service that Google provides is provided via its huge data centres, which consume vast amounts of electricity to power and cool the servers, and are therefore responsible for the emission of significant amounts of CO2. Since the advent of the modern smartphone in about 2007 our reliance on distant data centres has become total, because everything we do on our phones involves an interaction with the “cloud” and therefore has a carbon footprint.

The size of this footprint has been growing. At the moment, about 7% of the world’s electricity consumption is taken by our digital ecosystem but this is forecast to rise to 12% by 2020 and is expected to grow annually at about 7% through to 2030.

The big internet companies are acutely aware of this. Electricity costs money and they are fanatical about reducing costs. And they are desperate to avoid the PR downsides of being perceived as energy hogs. So they have responded to a challenge issued by the environmental group Greenpeace some years ago – to commit to having all of their activities powered by renewable sources. Facebook, Apple and Google made this “100% renewable” commitment four years ago and have now been joined by nearly 20 other internet companies.

The trouble is that server farms and networks account for only 50% of the electricity consumption of our networked world. The devices we use consume another 34% and the industry that manufactures them takes up the remaining 16%. Making environmental progress on these fronts will be much harder. A desktop PC running eight hours a day, for example, emits 175kg of CO2 in a year. So you can imagine the carbon footprint of a large city office block that has thousands of desktop PCs running for the whole of a working day. Multiply that by all the office blocks in the centre of London and you get an idea of the environmental impact of even the humble PC.


According to one estimate, bitcoin mining is now consuming more electricity than 159 countries, including Ireland, Bahrain and the Slovak Republic. The same source reckons that it’s currently taking as much electricity as would be required to power 2.7m US households and that it’s responsible for 0.13% of global electricity consumption. If things go on like this, bitcoin mining will require all of Denmark’s electricity consumption by about 2020.

So here’s your starter for 10: is bitcoin a bubble? Answers on the back of a postage stamp, please.

Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than Ireland
Network’s estimated power use also exceeds that of 19 other European countries, consuming more than five times output of continent’s largest windfarm.


Man who survived Las Vegas shooting killed in hit-and-run, wife says

Time Inc. Sells Itself to Meredith Corp., Backed by Koch Brothers

Archbishop of Canterbury 'genuinely' baffled by Christians backing Trump

A spectacular fall from space: Rocket meltdown over Prairie provinces confirmed by U.S. Strategic Command
Fireball from Antares rocket body witnessed in Alberta and Saskatchewan on Friday

Indiana nurse sparks fury after tweeting that 'white women raise terrorist, rapist, racist, killer sons' and says 'every one should be sacrificed to the wolves'

Fears for world's rarest penguin as population plummets
Commercial fishing blamed for the crash in numbers of yellow-eyed penguin on a sanctuary island in New Zealand

America’s Retailers Are Closing Stores Faster Than Ever

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Schroedinger’s Tax Hike

Paul Krugman
Nov. 24, 2017


There are many amazing things about the Republican tax pitch, where by “amazing” I mean terrible. But possibly the most amazing of all is the attempt to have it both ways on the question of middle-class taxes.

The Senate bill, as written, tries to be long-run deficit-neutral — allowing use of the Byrd rule to bypass a filibuster — by offsetting huge corporate tax cuts with higher taxes on individuals, so that by 2027 half the population, and most of the middle-class, would see taxes go up. But those tax hikes are initially offset by a variety of temporary tax breaks.

Now, Republicans are arguing that those tax breaks won’t actually be temporary, that future Congresses will extend them. But they also need to assume that those tax breaks really will expire in order to meet their budget numbers. So the temporary tax breaks need, for political purposes, to be both alive and dead.


Frog goes extinct, media yawns

Jeremy Hance
Oct. 27, 2017

On 26 September, staff with the Atlanta Botanical Garden found a frog dead in his enclosure. The frog had big brown eyes, massive feet with thick webs between the toes, and brownish skin speckled with little yellow dots. His name was Toughie. He was big for a frog and he didn’t like it when humans handled him. He’d lived a long time: 12 years.

And he was the last of his kind.

On 26 September 2016, the world very likely lost Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) to extinction. The species, only discovered by scientists in 2005, lived in Panama before it was wiped out in the wild by habitat destruction and the amphibian disease, chytridiomycosis. The last one was heard calling in the wild in 2007. But before this, a small number of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog had been taken into zoological facilities for captive breeding. Unfortunately, the attempt failed. Toughie was the last to die.

Despite the fact that we can actually trace the extinction of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog to an exact date, it occurred with very little media interest. Sure, the species’ demise was covered by many standard science media sites, such as Scientific American, National Geographic, and Mongabay.

But the list of what media outlets thought the story not interesting enough is perhaps more notable, including the BBC, the Sun, and CNN. Even this outlet, the Guardian, did not devote a full article to the extinction.

Many news sites simply reprinted the Associated Press’s story, which spilled 264 words on the extinction of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog (in contrast, the AP wrote three times as many words, 798, on Taylor Swift’s concert at Formula One). The New York Times at first only carried the AP article, though it later published a beautiful op-ed by one of the researchers.


This begs the question: how could the public care about global mass extinction if they aren’t even told about its victims? How can we care if we don’t grieve?

Scientists have repeatedly warned that if we don’t change our ways we could see a mass extinction event with potentially hundreds of thousands, even millions, of species wiped out by human actions.

The impact – and scale – is impossible to imagine. The last time the Earth suffered such a mass extinction event was when an asteroid slammed into it, killing off all the non-avian dinosaurs. We didn’t show up for another 64m years.

Despite this, most media outlets chose to ignore a story that could not only inform readers of the loss of one distinct species, but also connect them to a global crisis that rarely makes its way on to the front page – or any page for that matter.

I don’t know why so many outlets ignored the story – but it may be because the species that went extinct was a frog and not a big mammal like the baiji (which also didn’t get the coverage it deserved when it vanished, but got plenty more than Toughie’s species).

Still, Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog was truly amazing. Living in the canopies of Panama’s cloud forests, this species glided through the air via the webbing connecting it toes. Scientists also believe that it was the only frog species to feed its tadpoles by allowing them to nibble at the skin of adults.

If a frog such as this is not noteworthy, what does that mean for the reptiles, fungi, plants, insects or fish that vanish? What does that say about any species that doesn’t grip the public’s imagination – are they somehow lesser for not having evolved (or vice versa) to be easily loved by us?

Amphibians are the canary in the coalmine for our current biodiversity crisis. Having been around for 370m years, amphibians make dinosaurs look babyish. But experts believe we may have lost more than 150 species in the last few decades alone, many of them to chytridiomycosis. On top of this amphibian plague, amphibians are being hard hit by deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, the illegal wildlife trade for pets and even consumption and yes, of course, climate change (which may be exacerbating the stunning death tolls of chytridiomycosis).

Unfortunately, Toughie will not be the last frog to vanish or the last species. How many more will depend on us. But it’s hard to imagine anything changing when a story like Toughie’s is so easily swept aside. We can’t care about what we don’t know.

The fate of Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in Antarctica is in the balance — and so is that of all our cities

TWO enormous glaciers could soon irrevocably reshape our future. They’re melting. They’re fragmenting. And a cataclysmic collapse of an entire Antarctic ice sheet may be just decades away.

Jamie Seidel
News Corp Australia NetworkNovember 25, 201711:55am

PINE Island. Thwaites.

These two names are likely to become increasingly familiar in future years.

They’re among Antarctica’s biggest and fastest-melting glaciers.

But what makes these different is that they’re fed from ice sitting on solid ground.

This ice does not displace the ocean.

That means all the water that melts off them must be added to the total mass forming the world’s seas.

Current calculations put that at roughly 3.4 meters [11 feet].

According to US meteorologist Eric Holthaus, that’s enough to inundate every coastal city on our planet.

“There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms,” Holthaus writes. “The vital question is when.”

And that’s the thing.

Scientists used to think it would take thousands of years for Antarctica’s ice sheets to melt under a warming atmosphere.

But new evidence shows it could happen within a few decades.


Traces remain of the last time Earth underwent a major climate-change event — the end of the most recent ice age 11,000 years ago.

That evidence points to a rapid collapse of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers.


The cause is in the region’s geology.

The sea gets deeper beneath the glaciers’ outflow.

So every new iceberg exposes taller and taller cliffs.

“Ice gets so heavy that these taller cliffs can’t support their own weight,” Holthaus writes. “Once they start to crumble, the destruction would be unstoppable.”

Given the unabated rise in carbon emissions, the study concluded that a 2m rise in sea levels was now much more likely than the 1m predicted under earlier models. But a worst-case carbon-atmosphere model shows a full 3.4m could be unleashed if West Antarctica’s ice reserves were unlocked.


A one-metre rise in sea levels would cause frequent flooding in almost all coastal settlements. At 2m, some of the worlds biggest cities — including Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City — would simply be swallowed by the sea.

At 3.4m, the majority of the planet’s fertile — and densely habited — coastal regions would be inundated.

Such scenarios are just decades away.

Holthaus says these key glaciers could conceivably collapse within 20 to 50 years.

“The new evidence says that once a certain temperature threshold is reached, ice shelves of glaciers that extend into the sea, like those near Pine Island Bay, will begin to melt from both above and below, weakening their structure and hastening their demise, and paving the way for ice-cliff instability to kick in.”

Iceberg after iceberg would break away in an unstoppable chain-reaction.

And the landlocked ice sheet behind them — no longer contained by a floating ice shelf — would start to slip faster and faster.


“A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet ...”

Such an event would unleash a human tide of refugees unlike anything seen in history — hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising seawater.


The science isn’t yet certain. Not enough is understood about the mechanics of glaciers or the physics of ice to be sure. But climate researchers agree the new evidence is pointing in a deeply disturbing direction.

“Next to a meteor strike, rapid sea-level rise from collapsing ice cliffs is one of the quickest ways our world can remake itself,” Holthaus says. “This is about as fast as climate change gets.”


Colorado pastor arrested for allegedly impregnating 14-year-old girl

Hackers stole information from 1.7 million Imgur accounts in 2014

The article that changed his view … of humanity's impact on the planet

Ocean acidification affects mussels at early life stages

Cool lizards are better at learning socially

Leaving the house every day may help older adults live longer

Autism Spectrum Disorder was increased in second and later-born children who were conceived less than 18 months or 60 or more months after the mother's previous birth. Other developmental disabilities were not associated with birth spacing.

Mass media linked to childhood obesity

Diabetes foot care services may help avoid lower limb amputations

Alcohol consumption and metabolic factors act together to increase the risk of severe liver disease

The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time

Any physical activity in elderly better than none at all for reducing cardiovascular risk

Emergency department visits for self-inflicted injuries increase among young US females

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon

Lightning, with a chance of antimatter

Worldwide increase in methane bubbles due to climate change

Space dust may transport life between worlds, research suggests

Poison ivy an unlikely hero in warding off exotic invaders?

Air quality & health in US will improve from other nations' actions to slow climate change

High cognitive ability not a safeguard from conspiracies, paranormal beliefs

Public Release: 13-Nov-2017
High cognitive ability not a safeguard from conspiracies, paranormal beliefs
University of Illinois at Chicago


In an article published online and in the February 2018 issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, Tomas Ståhl reports on two studies that examined why some people are inclined to believe in various conspiracies and paranormal phenomena.

"We show that reasonable skepticism about various conspiracy theories and paranormal phenomena does not only require a relatively high cognitive ability, but also strong motivation to be rational," says Ståhl, UIC visiting assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

"When the motivation to form your beliefs based on logic and evidence is not there, people with high cognitive ability are just as likely to believe in conspiracies and paranormal phenomena as people with lower cognitive ability."


The first survey found that an analytic cognitive style was associated with weaker paranormal beliefs, conspiracy beliefs and conspiracy mentality. However, this was only the case among participants who strongly valued forming their beliefs based on logic and evidence.

Among participants who did not strongly value a reliance on logic and evidence, having an analytic cognitive style was not associated with weaker belief in the paranormal or in various conspiracy theories.


Artificially cooling planet 'risky strategy,' new research shows

Public Release: 14-Nov-2017
Artificially cooling planet 'risky strategy,' new research shows
University of Exeter

roposals to reduce the effects of global warming by imitating volcanic eruptions could have a devastating effect on global regions prone to either tumultuous storms or prolonged drought, new research has shown.

Geoengineering - the intentional manipulation of the climate to counter the effect of global warming by injecting aerosols artificially into the atmosphere - has been mooted as a potential way to deal with climate change.

However new research led by climate experts from the University of Exeter suggests that targeting geoengineering in one hemisphere could have a severely detrimental impact for the other.


Climate change impacts already locked in -- but the worst can still be avoided

Public Release: 16-Nov-2017
Climate change impacts already locked in -- but the worst can still be avoided
University of Exeter

Some impacts of global warming - such as sea level rise and coastal flooding - are already locked in and unavoidable, according to a major research project.

Global temperatures have already risen by around 1°C, and a further 0.5°C warming is expected. The full impacts of current warming have not yet been seen, since ice sheets and oceans take many decades to fully react to higher temperatures.

But more severe impacts can still be avoided if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.


Even with rapid cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions keeping warming below 2°C, sea levels could rise by 0.5m by the end of the 21st Century, particularly affecting small island states and low-lying countries. HELIX calculations suggest this could impact 2.5 million in Bangladesh.

However, if emissions continue and global warming exceeds 4°C, sea levels will rise further and could impact around 12 million people in Bangladesh if a storm surge from tropical cyclones adds further to the impact.
Increased rainfall is expected to further compound the flooding risk by raising river levels.

"A warmer atmosphere can hold more water, so rainfall would be more intense," said HELIX project leader Professor Richard Betts, of the University of Exeter.

"This would inevitably mean more flooding, and our research suggests the largest increase in flood risk would be in parts of America, Asia and Europe."

At 4°C, the researchers say most countries - nations accounting for 73% of world's population 79% of the global GDP - could experience a five-fold increase in river flood risk and flood damage (compared to a baseline period 1976-2005).


Professor Beets added: "This wetter climate should also mean fewer droughts in some areas, though droughts could become more common in other areas - for example some parts of Africa and southern Europe."


"Overall, worldwide food security would be more at risk, not just from changing crop yields but because extreme weather affects the people who grow the crops."


Added Arctic data shows global warming didn't pause

Public Release: 20-Nov-2017
Added Arctic data shows global warming didn't pause
Improved datasets show that Arctic warmed six times faster than the global average during 'global warming hiatus'
University of Alaska Fairbanks

NOTE TO MEDIA: This news release was updated as of November 20, 2017 with new content from the previous version posted on November 17, 2017.

Gaps in Arctic temperature data caused a misperception that global warming slowed from 1998 to 2012, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.


Zhang said their new estimates showed that the Arctic warmed more than six times the global average during that time period.


Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

This kind of manipulation of facts is what the fossil fuel industry is doing in regards to global warming.

Public Release: 21-Nov-2017
Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

Researchers Cristin Kearns, Dorie Apollonio and Stanton Glantz from the University of California at San Francisco reviewed internal sugar industry documents and discovered that the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) funded animal research to evaluate sucrose's effects on cardiovascular health. When the evidence seemed to indicate that sucrose might be associated with heart disease and bladder cancer, they found, the foundation terminated the project without publishing the results.


The results suggest that the current debate on the relative effects of sugar vs. starch may be rooted in more than 60 years of industry manipulation of science. Last year, the Sugar Association criticized a mouse study suggesting a link between sugar and increased tumor growth and metastasis, saying that "no credible link between ingested sugars and cancer has been established."

The analysis by Kearns and her colleagues of the industry's own documents, in contrast, suggests that the industry knew of animal research suggesting this link and halted funding to protect its commercial interests half a century ago.

"The kind of manipulation of research is similar what the tobacco industry does," according to co-author Stanton Glantz. "This kind of behavior calls into question sugar industry-funded studies as a reliable source of information for public policy making."


Earplugs unavoidable for musicians in the orchestra and at home

Public Release: 22-Nov-2017
Earplugs unavoidable for musicians in the orchestra and at home
TU Eindhoven study shows that own instruments are often responsible for excess noise levels
Eindhoven University of Technology

Many musicians suffer ear damage. Professional orchestras have therefore taken measures in recent years to reduce the sound levels. Studies now reveal that physical measures, like placing screens between sections or creating more space between them, have little effect. This is due to one's own instrument contributing just as much to the sound level that reaches the ear as all the orchestra's instruments together. So experienced musicians that play alone at home - whether professionals or amateurs - also produce excessive sound levels. The only solution that really helps is earplugs.

The eardrums of trumpet players and flute players are the most burdened. During loud passages they are subjected to average decibel levels of 95 to 100 dB(A), just from their own instruments. The violin and viola produce decibel levels in excess of 90 dB(A) for their players. These levels are similar to those of a rock concert. They also well exceed the 85 dB(A) limit that European regulations stipulate for the compulsory wearing of ear protection on the work floor.


The only thing that really helps is to play more quietly or to use earplugs. Musicians have long been advised to play using earplugs but now it has been proven that there is no other feasible measure that can be taken.

Wenmaekers, himself a musician, realizes that this is not really what the doctor ordered. "A musician with poor hearing risks losing his job. So to avoid this, earplugs are inevitable. At the same time, you want to perform as well as possible, so earplugs may hinder this. Musicians will have to get used to playing with earplugs from a young age because once you have a hearing problem you are too late."

There is, however, one part of the orchestra that can get away with it in part, the cello and the bass sections. These instruments produce a relatively soft sound and thus present no risk by themselves. The sound that affects the ears of the cellists and bassists tends to be generally lower and comes mainly from the other orchestra sections. So for this group there may be other interventions that are effective apart from earplugs.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weight before pregnancy linked with children's neurodevelopment

Public Release: 22-Nov-2017
Weight before pregnancy linked with children's neurodevelopment

A recent Obesity Reviews analysis of published studies found that, compared with children of normal weight mothers, children whose mothers were overweight or obese prior to pregnancy had 17% and 51% increased risks for compromised neurodevelopmental outcomes, respectively.

Pre-pregnancy obesity was linked with a 62% increased risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a 36% increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder, a 58% increased risk of developmental delay, and a 42% increased risk of emotional/behavioral problems.


Global Warming Might Be Especially Dangerous for Pregnant Women

Ellie Kincaid Nov 21, 2017


A handful of researchers in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere are methodically accumulating evidence suggesting that higher temperatures could be linked to a higher risk of premature births, stillbirths, or other negative pregnancy outcomes. The findings in each case, while compelling, still raise as many questions as they seem to answer, and all the researchers say that much more work needs to be done. But they also suggest that enough evidence has already surfaced to warrant increased scrutiny—particularly as global warming is expected to drive average temperatures ever upward over coming decades.


Her research suggested that an increase of 10 degrees Fahrenheit in weekly average “apparent” temperatures—a combination of heat and humidity—corresponded to an 8.6 percent increase in premature births. That association was independent of air pollution.

Later, she turned her attention to stillbirths, doing a similar temperature analysis with a state registry of fetal death certificates. In March of 2016, Basu published the results from analyzing more than 8,500 stillbirths that occurred during a decade of California’s warm seasons: Stillbirth risk was 10.4 percent higher with a 10-degree Fahrenheit apparent-temperature increase.

After her research on premature birth, the stillbirth results were “pretty much on par with what I was expecting,” Basu said. “I would be shocked if there wasn’t an association.”

These findings have been echoed independently elsewhere. Looking at records of more than 5,000 stillbirths in Quebec over 30 years, Nathalie Auger of Quebec’s institute for public health found that with higher temperatures, stillbirth risk increased continuously for certain categories of stillbirths. For those considered full-term, happening after 37 weeks of pregnancy, the odds of stillbirth were 16 percent higher at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). The increase in odds of stillbirths between those two temperatures was 19 percent for stillbirths where the cause was marked in the registry as unknown, and 46 percent for those attributed to maternal complications.


In addition to their case-crossover study, the group examined the effects of chronic exposure to heat through the whole course of a pregnancy, and were surprised to find the odds of stillbirth were 3.7 times greater when women experienced temperatures that were in the top 10 percent of the range for their location.


Friday, November 24, 2017


Woman raises more than $250,000 for homeless man who helped her

Secret gay life of married 'family values' lawmaker was not so secret

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fake Data Scandal Hits Another Japanese Manufacturer

By Keiko Ujikane and Masumi Suga
November 23, 2017

Japan’s reputation for manufacturing prowess took another hit as Mitsubishi Materials Corp. admitted it faked data on some products just weeks after a similar scandal engulfed Kobe Steel Ltd.

Buyers of Japanese industrial goods from Boeing Co. to Airbus SE were once again scrambling to confirm whether safety had been compromised after Mitsubishi Materials said three of its units had faked data on products that may have been delivered to more than 250 customers. Its shares plunged as much as 11 percent in Tokyo, the most in eighteen months.

Mitsubishi Cable Industries Ltd. falsified data on rubber seals, while Mitsubishi Shindoh Co. misreported the strength of brass strips for auto parts, according to a statement Thursday. The products may have been shipped to 229 Mitsubishi Cable clients and 29 customers of Mitsubishi Shindoh. A third unit, Mitsubishi Aluminum Co. Ltd., also supplied non-conforming products, although it has already confirmed with customers that they are safe, the company said, adding that its investigation hasn’t uncovered any cases that raise the possibility of legal violations or safety issues.

The revelation is the latest in a series of scandals to dent the image of Japanese manufacturers and closely resembles recent admissions by Kobe Steel that it falsified data on the strength and durability of its products. In the auto sector, Nissan Motor Co. has said it conducted vehicle inspections that didn’t comply with regulations for almost four decades, while Subaru Corp. allowed uncertified workers to inspect vehicles before shipment. Takata Corp. filed for bankruptcy earlier this year because of faulty airbags.


Kobe blamed lax controls and too much focus on profit for its short-comings, including unrealistically high standards that exceeded clients’ expectations, which encouraged staff to disregard quality guidelines for a decade or more. The company was forced to abandon its profit forecasts and has lost quality assurance certification -- often demanded by customers as a condition of sale -- at seven of its 20 plants.

Aircraft maker Airbus SE said in a statement it doesn’t directly procure any materials from the Mitsubishi Materials companies and is investigating whether any of its suppliers are affected. Boeing Co. said it’s reviewing the matter.


Why Cyntoia Brown, who is spending life in prison for murder, is all over social media

By AJ Willingham, CNN
Updated 1:48 PM ET, Thu November 23, 2017

This week, the case of a woman named Cyntoia Brown went viral on social media, even though she has already been in jail for more than ten years.
Brown is serving a life sentence for the murder of a Nashville man in 2004. According to Brown, after a childhood marked by abuse and drugs, she was raped and forced into prostitution by a pimp, and ended up killing one of her clients out of self defense when she was just 16 years old. Despite her youth, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence.
The details of her crime and trial -- including the fact that the man who had paid for sex with her was 43 years old, have started circulating again, catching the attention of A-list celebrities and spawning the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. However, even before the renewed interest, her trial inspired a documentary and was a factor in a major change in how the state of Tennessee deals with child prostitution cases.


Brown's life sentence caught criticism in Tennessee, and in 2012, a US Supreme Court ruling offered her advocates new hope. The Supreme Court decision banned life without parole for juveniles, stating it was unconstitutional. However, Brown's conviction does carry the possibility of parole -- when Brown is 69 years old. Still, her advocates are hoping the change, and continued interest in her story, will inspire a change in Tennessee law.

Global firms accused of importing timber linked to Amazon massacre

Jonathan Watts
Nov. 23, 2017

More than a dozen US and European companies have been importing timber from a Brazilian logging firm whose owner is implicated in one of the most brutal Amazonian massacres in recent memory, according to a Greenpeace Brazil investigation.

The first-world buyers allegedly continued trading with Madeireira Cedroarana after police accused its founder, Valdelir João de Souza, of ordering the torture and murder of nine people in Colniza, Mato Grosso, on 19 April, claims the report by the NGO.

The state attorney alleges de Souza organised the assassinations to gain access to the forest where the victims – all smallholders – lived. Since the indictment on 15 May, the suspect has been on the run.

During this period, the fugitive’s company allegedly sold products to foreign firms who shipped them to the US, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and Japan.

Greenpeace alleges these shipments may be in contravention of the US Lacey Act, which bans trade in timber that violates any foreign law, and the European Union’s timber regulation, which obliges companies to conduct due diligence to ensure there is “no more than a negligible risk that it has been illegally harvested.”

It lists the 13 companies involved as Pine Products, Lacey Wood Products, Mid-State Lumber Corp, South Florida Lumber, Wood Brokerage International, Vogel Import & Export, Delfin Germany, Tiger Deck, Global Timber, Centre Import Bois Méditerranée, Derlage Junior Hout, Global Gold Forest and Houthandel van der Hoek.

Even before this year’s massacre, the report alleges these firms should have hesitated to do business with Madeireira Cedroarana because it had accrued about £130,000 in unpaid federal fines for stocking and trading illegal timber. There also appears to be evidence of widespread fraud, timber laundering and killings of forest defenders in Amazon states including Mato Grosso.

Greenpeace urged US and European authorities to consider Brazilian timber to be at high risk of coming from an illegal source, and thus to oblige companies to go beyond official paperwork and to carry out third-party field audits.

Anti-Trump protesters risk 60 years in jail. Is dissent a crime?

Nov. 23, 2017
One effect of this would be that if these people are convicted, even of a trivial crime, they will lose their right to vote.

Yael Bromberg and Eirik Cheverud
Wednesday 22 November 2017

On the morning of President Trump’s inauguration, police trapped and arrested more than 230 people. Some were anti-Trump demonstrators; some were not. The next day, federal prosecutors charged them all with “felony rioting”, a nonexistent crime in Washington DC. The prosecution then launched a sweeping investigation into the defendants’ lives, demanding vast amounts of online information through secret warrants.

Prosecutors eventually dropped a few defendants, like journalists and legal observers, but simultaneously increased the charges against everyone else. The most recent indictment collectively charged more than 200 people with felony rioting, felony incitement to riot, conspiracy to riot, and five property-damage crimes – all from broken windows.

Each defendant is facing over 60 years in prison.

The prosecution next obtained warrants focused on anti-Trump organizers. One sought a list of all visitors to a website that organizers used to promote Inauguration Day protests. A second sought information on all Facebook friends and related communications of two organizers, the host of a coalition Facebook page, and those who simply “liked” that page.
US government demands details on all visitors to anti-Trump protest website
Read more

Despite legal challenges, a court recently decided to enforce the warrants, requiring only that personally identifiable information be redacted for “irrelevant” material. This unprecedented prosecution follows a drastic change in local law enforcement’s response to protest.

The DC Office of Police Complaints issued a report critical of the mass arrest, noting the departure from standard operating procedure and the likelihood that police lacked individualized probable cause to arrest everyone. This is exactly the type of action new policies and statutes enacted in DC were meant to avoid, following a 2002 mass arrest that caused the District to pay over $10m in settlements.

Compare this crackdown with the government’s response to the pre-planned, armed violence and rioting by white supremacists and private militia groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There was no sweeping online dragnet to identify organizers who conspired to plan, promote, and carry out violence in Charlottesville – violence against people, not property.

Nor were all the participants in Charlottesville rounded up and charged with felony conspiracy to commit rioting – or charged as accessories to Heather Heyer’s murder. Instead, federal prosecutors have done little to nothing.


How do prosecutors decide when to dust off the rioting statutes and whom to charge? Apparently, the reasons for the alleged rioting are important.

Sports riots are “people letting off steam”. Riots by white supremacists evidently occur with no criminal consequences. And why should law enforcement behave differently? Neither scenario threatens the state itself.

When people stand in opposition to the government, like the demonstrators did on 20 January, the analysis changes; suddenly conduct becomes “rioting”, deserving of a lifetime in prison.


Trials for the inauguration protesters begin mid-November and will continue for a year. As media ramps up coverage, do not forget what these trials are about – not rioting, not broken windows, but punishing dissent.

Man convicted of 1978 California double murder pardoned after DNA test

Nov. 23, 2017

A California man was finally vindicated nearly 40 years after being wrongly convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her 4-year-old son after DNA tests proved his innocence.

Craig Richard Coley, 70, was immediately released from a state prison in Lancaster on Wednesday after Gov, Jerry Brown issued a pardon of the wrongly convicted man.

Brown wrote in his pardon that Coley has been a model inmate for 38 years, avoided gangs and violence, and dedicated himself to religion.

"The grace with which Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust incarceration is extraordinary," Brown wrote.

Coley has maintained his innocence throughout his nearly four-decade imprisonment.


Brown said he asked the state parole board to look into Coley's conviction more than two years ago, and former law-enforcement officials said they believed he was wrongfully convicted or framed.

Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone and Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten, who have supported Coley's request for clemency in past, said they cannot stand by the evidence used in his conviction.

Livingstone and Totten said they began reviewing the case last year after a retired detective raised concerns about Coley's guilt. The trial court had ordered evidence destroyed after Coley exhausted his appeals, but investigators retrieved records from Coley's relatives and located biological samples at a private lab.

Using advanced techniques not available at the time of his trial, technicians did not find Coley's DNA on one key piece of evidence used in the conviction, but they did find DNA from other people, whom authorities have not publicly identified.

"As district attorney, I must tell you I look forward to the day when I can shake Mr. Coley's hand, apologize to him for the injustice he suffered," Totten said at a news conference Monday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


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tags: extreme weather

Poor sperm quality linked to air pollution

Matthew Taylor
Nov. 22, 2017

High levels of air pollution are associated with poor sperm quality and could be partly responsible for the sharp drop in male fertility, according to a new study.

A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studied the sperm of nearly 6,500 men and found a “strong association” between high levels of fine particulate air pollution and “abnormal sperm shape.”

The report, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, said that although the effect is “relatively small in clinical terms” it might still lead to infertility for a “significant number of couples” given the extent of air pollution in cities around the world.

“We found a robust association between exposure to PM2.5 air pollution and low percentage of sperm normal morphology in reproductive-age men,” the researchers wrote.

“Although the effect estimates are small and the significance might be negligible in a clinical setting, this is an important public health challenge.”

Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the last 40 years although scientists are unsure of the cause. Fertility experts greeted the latest research with caution.


The scientists found a strong association between PM2.5 exposure and abnormal sperm shape. It was associated with a heightened risk of being in the bottom 10% of normal sperm size and shape, after taking account of potential factors, such as smoking and drinking, age and weight.

The study acknowledged that it was unclear how air pollution, which is known to contribute to millions of deaths around the world each year, could impair sperm development. But researchers said many of the components of fine particulate matter, such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, have been linked to sperm damage in previous experimental studies.


But Pacey said it was an important contribution to developing an understanding of the potential causes of male infertility.

“From this and other studies, I remain of the opinion that air pollution probably does have the potential to negatively influence male reproductive health.

“But the jury is still out about quite how and to what extent this impacts on male fertility, rather than measurable and small interesting changes in semen quality.”

Too right it's Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet

Please read the whole article at the following link:

George Monbiot
Nov. 22, 2017

Everyone wants everything – how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.


With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.


he ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care and people who don’t. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, says those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.


Why? Because environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impact on the planet but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the research found, mainly focused on behaviours that had “relatively small benefits”.

I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling any environmental savings a hundredfold. I’ve come to believe that the recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people they’ve gone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts.


Research by Oxfam suggests that the world’s richest 1% (if your household has an income of £70,000 or more, this means you) produce about 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. How, in a world in which everyone is supposed to aspire to high incomes, can we avoid turning the Earth, on which all prosperity depends, into a dust ball?


Those who justify this system insist that economic growth is essential for the relief of poverty. But a paper in the World Economic Review finds that the poorest 60% of the world’s people receive only 5% of the additional income generated by rising GDP. As a result, $111 (£84) of growth is required for every $1 reduction in poverty. This is why, on current trends, it would take 200 years to ensure that everyone receives $5 a day. By this point, average per capita income will have reached $1m a year, and the economy will be 175 times bigger than it is today. This is not a formula for poverty relief. It is a formula for the destruction of everything and everyone.