Friday, August 31, 2018

Aug. 29, 2018
A pharmaceutical company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of a popular blood pressure medication, hydrochlorothiazide, after a lot of the company's product was found to be mislabeled, the Food and Drug Administration said this week.
The labels of the Accord Healthcare bottles say they contain 100 12.5-milligram tablets of hydrochlorothiazide, but they actually contain 100 25-milligram tablets of spironolactone, a drug used to treat heart, liver and kidney failure, the FDA said in a statement issued Monday.
For the fourth consecutive year, rates of several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise across the U.S, according to preliminary data presented at the National STD Prevention Conference, organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Washington this week. Just this past year, nearly 2.3 million cases of these STIs were diagnosed.
Three STIs, in particular, are on the rise: syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
https://qz. com/quartzy/1368716/revel-in-the-joy-of-doing-things-you-will-never-master/
Aug. 25, 2018
Revel in the joy of doing things you will never master
We need to care about our work, and our relationships, and the consequences of our aggregate actions over time. And indeed, mastery of a skill or craft—whether that happens to be tied to a salary, or not—can be immensely satisfying over a lifetime.
But what we don’t need to do is make sure that every single thing we spend our time on has a measurable and quantifiable outcome. We don’t need to have ambitions to become master potters to take a pottery class, or have a gig in two weeks to spend an afternoon strumming the guitar, or a plan to run a marathon to enjoy a run round the park. We can dabble, meander, dip our toes in projects they have no business being in—and not feel the need to tell anyone about how much we did or didn’t accomplish.
Aug. 30, 2018
Has the federal pay raise been cancelled? It depends on who is talking
President Trump said Thursday that he’s rescinding a Jan. 1, 2019, 2.1 percent pay raise for civilian federal workers, including the big federal workforce of Alaska — but Congress has other thoughts.
If Trump prevents the raise, it could be harmful for a state like Alaska, which depends on the economic power of its federal workforce.
“It’s always been a huge player in Alaska,” said Neal Fried, a state labor economist.
But Karina Borger, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said Trump may not get the chance to cut worker pay increases because the latest appropriations bill has a 1.9 percent civilian pay hike — and it’s virtually untouchable.
Trump’s message came in a letter to Congress on Thursday, published on the White House website. Trump said he is using his authority under federal law to reset the raises to zero. The law allows such authority if he determines a “national emergency” or “serious economic conditions” exist.
Trump said the national deficit required him to act, blocking cost-of-living increases that average 25.7 percent, or about $25 billion. He didn’t say how much the treasury would save from the 2.1 percent raises alone.
“Specifically, I have determined that for 2019, both across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” Trump wrote.
The financial services appropriations with the 1.9 percent pay raise passed the Senate Aug. 1 by a 92-6 vote, Borger said — a bipartisan number which makes it virtually veto-proof. She said she expected the raise to get through the conference committee intact.
Trump’s budget proposal, submitted in February, contained virtually the same message about federal salaries as his letter, Borger said. But the Senate chose to pass the increase when it decided that federal workers needed the raise.
“The president proposes, Congress disposes,” Borger said.
Aug. 27, 2018
In a colorful decision that managed to invoke the Boston Tea Party, Lady Macbeth and Jesus of Nazareth, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” The decision revives a challenge brought by a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, which sued Fort Lauderdale, Florida for requiring a permit to share food in public parks.
Thanks to the city's ordinance, Fort Lauderdale has become infamous for cracking down on compassion. In 2014, police arrested a 90-year-old man and two ministers who were simply trying to share food with the homeless.
https://www .adweek. com/brand-marketing/the-key-to-changing-rural-hearts-and-minds-being-respectful-even-when-opinions-are-polarized/
Aug. 22, 2018
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a science communicator, it is that the quickest way to get someone to stop listening to you is to call them stupid.
Not only is it mean, but it’s inaccurate and counterproductive to science education. The reasons for science denial are far more nuanced than “lack of education.” And if we refuse to address this nuance, then the level of scientific literacy in our country will never change.
the coal industry as a whole is shoveling money—and coal propaganda—into classrooms. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants have been given to teachers who are willing to implement coal lessons created by the coal industry. You can imagine how unbiased these lessons are. Unfortunately, this is a very appealing offer for West Virginia teachers who are ranked 48th in the country when it comes to teacher’s pay, meaning they often don’t have sufficient funds to buy the classroom supplies they need. In fact, West Virginia teachers made national headlines when they went on a state-wide strike to fight for better pay and benefits, a situation that the coal industry is clearly taking advantage of.
Aug. 30, 2018
The FBI has arrested a man accused of making threatening calls to a newspaper that criticised President Donald Trump's attacks on the media.
The FBI says Robert Chain, 68, called the Boston Globe about a dozen times and threatened to shoot reporters.
He allegedly called journalists the "enemy of the people", using a phrase which has been frequently invoked by Mr Trump, who last tweeted it on Thursday.
Aug. 30, 2018
Google's new hardware security key was made by a Chinese company
Aug. 30, 2018
Insects are going to love it when the world turns hotter in the coming years. Not only will they spread more disease — they will eat more crops, researchers reported Thursday.
That’s because as temperatures rise, insects become more active and reproduce more, which makes them hungrier, the researchers reported in the journal Science.
These increasingly voracious insects will hit North America and Europe right in the breadbasket, the researchers predicted.
Wheat, corn and rice crops will all be damaged — to the tune of 10 percent to 25 percent for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees F) that average global temperatures rise, according to the report.
Public health experts have noted an increase in insect-borne diseases, from Zika, West Nile and chikungunya viruses spread by mosquitoes, to a rise in infections such as Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks.
Things could get even worse than what’s predicted by the study, said Markus Riegler of the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in Australia.
“For example, many insect pests are vectors of plant pathogens that also cause crop losses,” Riegler, who was not part of the research team, wrote in a commentary.
“Predictions based on population growth and metabolic rates may thus underestimate crop damage due to insect vectors under global warming.”
Aug. 30, 2018
Kids should ride in rear-facing car safety seats until they reach the highest height and weight their seat can hold, a leading pediatricians' group now says.
Aug. 30, 2018
Adopting Mediterranean diet in old age can prolong life, study suggests
Aug. 28, 2018
California’s ‘megafires’ are making a demanding job even harder, say firefighters mourning their colleagues
Stoke was one of five firefighters, in addition to a contract bulldozer operator and a mechanic, who have died fighting California wildfires in the past year, setting a deadly record even in a state where wildfires are a fact of life.
According to the California Fire Foundation, this is the first time since record keeping began in 2000 that so many firefighters have died in so many fires and in so short a span of time.
As the climate shifts, California has been swept by “megafires” of unprecedented size and ferocity. The state’s fire season now lasts 78 days longer than it did 50 years ago, encompassing most of the year, from early spring until late December. “It used to be a 10,000-acre fire was a big fire,” said Gabriel Lauderdale, a firefighter in San Mateo county, south of San Francisco. But the Carr fire that killed Stoke has burned over 200,000 acres, and the Mendocino Complex fire 200km north of San Francisco, recently topped 400,000 acres, making it the largest in California’s history.
Firefighters are pushing themselves to their physical and emotional limits to battle these blazes, staying awake for days, sleeping in the dirt, working away from their homes for more than a month. They are doing so even as their colleagues die, and they are grappling with grief and a profound exhaustion that some in the field believe may have contributed to those deaths.
At the height of California’s firefighting efforts this summer, there were 14,000 firefighters from 17 states, as well as Australia and New Zealand, deployed in the field. Even at the best of times, theirs is an all-consuming job.
A Cal Fire spokesperson emphasized that each death took place in a unique situation with complicated circumstances. But Allen connects the recent spate of deaths both to this new breed of extreme fires and to the exhaustion that results from fighting them. “Guys have been out for weeks on end, working non-stop,” he said. “That’s definitely going to wear on folks, and you’re not going to be as attentive.”
Aug. 30, 2018
California could face an almost 50% increase in the number of wildfires that burn more than 25,000 acres, and the average area burned across the state would rise by 77% by the end of the century if emission trends are not reversed, the report found.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Global warming is intensifying El Niño weather

John Abraham

Wed 29 Aug 2018 06.00 EDT
Last modified on Wed 29 Aug 2018 07.00 EDT

As humans put more and more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth warms. And the warming is causing changes that might surprise us. Not only is the warming causing long-term trends in heat, sea level rise, ice loss, etc.; it’s also making our weather more variable. It’s making otherwise natural cycles of weather more powerful.


El Niño cycles have been known for a long time. Their influence around the world has also been known for almost 100 years. It was in the 1920s that the impact of El Niño on places as far away as the Indian Ocean were identified. Having observed the effects of El Niño for a century, scientists had the perspective to understand something might be changing.

For example, in 2009–2010, intense drought and heat waves gripped the Amazon region – far greater than expected based on the moderate El Niño at the time. In addition, from 2010 to 2011, severe drought and heat waves hit the southern USA, coinciding with a La Niña event. Other extreme weather in the US, Australia, Central and Southern America, and Asia stronger than would be expected from El Niño’s historical behavior have raised concerns that our El Niño weather may be becoming “supercharged.”


It means if you live in an area that is affected by an El Niño or La Niña, the effect is likely becoming magnified by climate change. For instance, consider California. There, El Niño brings cool temperatures with rains; La Niña brings heat and dry weather. Future El Niños will make flooding more likely while future La Niñas will bring more drought and intensified wildfire seasons.

Unsurprisingly, we’re already seeing these effects, with record wildfires in California fueled by hot and dry weather. We are now emerging from a weak La Niña, so we would expect only a modest increase in heat and dryness in California. But the supercharging of the La Niña connection is likely making things worse. We would have California wildfires without human-caused global warming, but they wouldn’t be this bad.


In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, prosecutors are arguing that 30-year-old Samantha Jones killed her 11-week-old son, R.J., by breastfeeding while using drugs.
According to the criminal complaint, R.J. died from ingesting a "combination of fatal drugs through breast milk" and is being charged with criminal homicide.
Aut. 29, 2018
I was deluded. You can't beat fake news with science communication
Jenny Rohn

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

July 19, 2018
Underpaid teachers who buy their own classroom supplies
Target’s sale is a nice idea, education advocates say. But the need for a discount also reveals the systemic problem of classrooms buoyed by the personal finances of teachers who say they are already vastly underpaid — an issue that has triggered teacher walkouts and demands for wage increases across the country.
According to federal data, nearly all public school teachers use their own money to gather school supplies, at an average cost of $479 a year, The Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit reported in May. About 7 percent of educators spend more than $1,000 a year on supplies.
“The wave of teacher walkouts this spring made it clear that educators don’t get paid appropriately for the job they do,” Weingarten told The Post, adding that many teachers take second and even third jobs.
Elementary and secondary teachers are about 30 percent more likely to work at a second job, compared with workers in other professions, according to the Brookings Institution, citing Labor Department data.
… teachers in 38 states make less on average now than they did nine years ago, Weingarten said.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said she supports higher wages for teachers, though she has criticized walkouts and protests demanding such increases. DeVos referred to a teacher strike in West Virginia as “adult squabbles” in February.
That state ranks 48th in teacher salary among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, The Post’s Sarah Larimer reported.
The effects of buying supplies on a modest salary are felt more sharply in areas racked by poverty. The May report prepared by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics found that teachers spent $554 a year in schools where most children qualified for free lunch.
Schools in poor areas or with high concentrations of low-wage earners — such as Fresno, which has some of the most pronounced areas of poverty in the nation — are already underfunded, meaning teachers have to dig deeper from smaller salaries, compared with teachers at more affluent schools, said Bonilla, president of the Fresno Teachers Association.
Bonilla said teachers often pay for their own supplies as a result of inadequate funding as well a disconnect between what they say they need and what is provided at the local, state and federal level.
Teachers qualify for a $250 tax credit when they buy their own supplies, but that doesn’t go nearly far enough, Weingarten and Bonilla said.
Some educators have gone to extreme lengths to fund their classrooms.
Teresa Danks, a teacher in Tulsa, resorted to panhandling to help raise money for her classroom. She said she spends $2,000 a year on supplies.
Aug. 27, 2018
The federal official in charge of protecting student borrowers from predatory lending practices has stepped down.
In a scathing resignation letter, Seth Frotman, who until now was the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says current leadership "has turned its back on young people and their financial futures." The letter was addressed to Mick Mulvaney, the bureau's acting director.
In the letter, obtained by NPR, Frotman accuses Mulvaney and the Trump administration of undermining the CFPB and its ability to protect student borrowers.
"Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting," it read. "Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America."
Aug. 27, 2018
This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, "nearly 240 schools ... reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting." The number is far higher than most other estimates.
But NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government's Civil Rights Data Collection.
We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.
In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn't confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn't meet the government's parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn't respond to our inquiries.
A separate investigation by the ACLU of Southern California also was able to confirm fewer than a dozen of the incidents in the government's report, while 59 percent were confirmed errors.
The biggest discrepancy in sheer numbers was the 37 incidents listed in the CRDC for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Roseann Canfora, the district's chief communications officer, told us that, in fact, 37 schools reported "possession of a knife or a firearm," which is the previous question on the form.
The number 37, then, was apparently entered on the wrong line.

Public Release: 25-Aug-2018
Too much of a good thing? Very high levels of 'good' cholesterol may be harmful
European Society of Cardiology
Very high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol may be associated with an increased risk of heart attack and death, according to research presented today at ESC Congress 2018.
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Sleeping 5 hours or less a night associated with doubled risk of cardiovascular disease
European Society of Cardiology
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Short and fragmented sleep linked to hardened arteries
European Society of Cardiology
Sleeping less than six hours or waking up several times in the night is associated with an increased risk of asymptomatic atherosclerosis, which silently hardens and narrows the arteries, according to results of the PESA study1 presented today at ESC Congress 2018.2
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Bleeding in patients treated with anticoagulants should stimulate search for cancer
European Society of Cardiology
"In patients with stable coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease, the occurrence of major gastrointestinal bleeding predicts a substantial increase in new gastrointestinal cancer diagnoses, while major genitourinary bleeding predicts a substantial increase in new genitourinary tract cancer diagnoses."
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Blood pressure and cholesterol lowering drugs continue to improve survival after a decade
European Society of Cardiology
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Fish oils do not prevent heart attack or strokes in people with diabetes
European Society of Cardiology
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Cooking with coal, wood, or charcoal associated with cardiovascular death
European Society of Cardiology
Public Release: 26-Aug-2018
Patients with high blood pressure unlikely to reduce salt
More drugs needed to treat hypertension due to increased salt intake
European Society of Cardiology
Lack of adherence to recommended lifestyle changes is leading to higher salt intake for hypertensive patients, more medications needed to treat their condition and more side effects from those medications, according to lead author Dr Kazuto Ohno, Enshu Hospital, Hamamatsu, Japan.
"Patients may be able to improve this vicious cycle by restricting salt intake," Dr Ohno said. "In consequence, they may avoid diseases caused by hypertension, such as heart attacks, stroke and heart failure. Moreover, they may be able to avoid side effects from antihypertensive drugs, such as dizziness and fainting."
Public Release: 27-Aug-2018
ACA associated with decrease in cost-related medication nonadherence among survivors of stroke
JAMA Neurology
Bottom Line: Implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was associated with a decrease in cost-related nonadherence to medication by adult survivors of stroke (ages 45 to 64), as Medicaid coverage increased and uninsurance decreased in this group.
Public Release: 27-Aug-2018
Marijuana found in breast milk up to six days after use
Researchers report 63 percent of breast milk samples from mothers using marijuana contained traces of the drug
University of California - San Diego
Public Release: 27-Aug-2018
Diet has bigger impact on emotional well-being in women than in men
Binghamton University
Women may need a more nutrient-rich diet to support a positive emotional well-being, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University at New York
Public Release: 27-Aug-2018
As CO2 levels climb, millions at risk of nutritional deficiencies
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activity are making staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious and could result in 175 million people becoming zinc deficient and 122 million people becoming protein deficient by 2050, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases.
Public Release: 27-Aug-2018
Ant-y social: Successful ant colonies hint at how societies evolve
Princeton University
detailed empirical observations of the clonal raider ant (Ooceraea biroi).
The scientists found that ant groups with as few as six individuals experienced significant benefits from group living, as measured by better-surviving and faster-growing babies. Their results appear in the journal Nature.
Small insect groups are more successful than solitary individuals for two main reasons, said Tokita, a co-author on the Nature paper. "First, there are 'more hands to do work,' so to speak," he said. "Important tasks don't slip through the cracks, because chances are there's always an individual to do the task."
Second, and unexpectedly, "incipient division of labor emerges already in these tiny groups of nearly identical individuals," added Tarnita.
The researchers studied ant groups ranging in size from one to 16 individuals. They chose this species because of its unusually simple social organization: colonies have no queens, just genetically identical workers that reproduce simultaneously.
At the outset, the researchers had assumed that the incipient division of labor was the key to success in their larger groups, a common assumption among modern economists as well. They were surprised to find that this was not completely true. Division of labor contributed to but was not necessary to produce the observed increase in fitness with group size, said Tokita. "Instead, we showed theoretically that increases in group size alone, even in the absence of division of labor, could create benefits for these small colonies."
In addition, their findings challenge a popular belief about group dynamics, that strong groups require strong leaders. "Complicated behaviors, like the division of labor, can self-organize," Tokita said. "The ant species we used does not have a leader at all. Instead, all group members are workers and they each lay their own eggs."
Public Release: 27-Aug-2018
Food insecurity leads to higher mortality risk, a new study finds
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
A wide array of negative health outcomes have been associated with food insecurity including diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
In a new study published in PLOS ONE, Gundersen and his co-authors find that household food insecurity is strongly associated with mortality rates in adults.
Researchers found that the more severe level of food insecure of an individual, the higher the risk of mortality. "We know that those with more severe levels of food insecurity have worse health outcomes and we found the same with mortality."
"Fortunately, there are proven methods to reduce food insecurity in the U.S. - the most critical being the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program. And this is one of the most effective ways we can reduce mortality rates, along with other social safety-net programs."
In light of the proven benefits of SNAP in reducing food insecurity and its consequences, Gundersen argues that a reconsideration of the costs associated with SNAP should be revisited. "When we think about the cost associated with SNAP, of course there's a dollar figure to how much it costs to get people SNAP, but we also have to think about the benefits of it: people living longer because they are getting sufficient levels of food."
Aug. 6, 2018
In expensive cities, rents fall for the rich — but rise for the poor
U.S. cities struggling with soaring housing costs have found some success in lowering rents this year, but that relief has not reached the renters most at risk of losing their housing.
Nationally, the pace of rent increases is beginning to slow down, with the average rent in at least six cities falling since last summer, according to Zillow data.
But the decline is being driven primarily by decreasing prices for high-end rentals. People in low-end housing, the apartments and other units that house working-class residents, are still paying more than ever.
Since last summer, rents have fallen for the highest earners while increasing for the poorest in San Francisco, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, Washington and Portland, Ore., among other cities. In several other metro areas — including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and Miami — rents have risen for the poor and the rich alike.
City officials have said a boom in luxury housing construction would cause rents to fall for everyone else, arguing that creating new units for those at the top would ease competition for cheaper properties.
In part based on that theory, cities have approved thousands of new luxury units over the past several years, hoping to check high rents that have led more than 20 million American renters to be classified as “cost burdened,” defined as spending more than 30 percent of one’s income on housing.
Rising rents for the poor threaten to add to the nation’s homeless population, and put an additional severe strain on tens of millions of families, often forcing them to forgo other basic needs to avoid losing their housing.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Aug. 27, 2018
Hurricane Lane drenched parts of Hawaii with 3-4 feet of rainfall, with one weather station tallying the third-highest "total rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the United States since 1950," the National Weather Service says. The slow-moving storm caused floods and landslides as it moved west of the islands, back out over the Pacific Ocean.
On the Big Island, the town of Mountain View recorded 51.53 inches of rain from Wednesday to Sunday. That's the third-highest total ever measured from a U.S. storm, with the highest total being the 60.58 inches that fell on Nederland, Texas, over several days during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The weather service says the second-highest total is the 52 inches recorded during Hurricane Hiki's hit on Hawaii in 1950.
Hilo International Airport got 36.76 inches of rain, making it "the wettest four-day period ever observed at Hilo, with records dating back to 1949," the NWS says.
Aug. 27, 2018
About 25,000 years ago in Western Europe, the last cave bear drew its final breath and the species went extinct.
But a study published on Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution finds that some cave bear DNA lives on in modern brown bears, much like humans carry around a bit of Neanderthal.
It’s not clear why cave bears went extinct, Dr. Barlow said, although the timing roughly followed the migration pattern of anatomically modern humans from Africa into Europe. The last cave bears lived in western Europe, and at least one skeleton has been found with fragments of a human-made spear embedded in its vertebrae.
Aug. 27, 2018
AMVETS, one of the country’s largest veterans organizations, blasted President Donald Trump on Monday over his lackluster response to the recent death of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The organization, also known as American Veterans, tweeted that it was “deeply disappointed in the lack of traditional and appropriate respect in the White House’s reaction” to the decorated Vietnam veteran’s death.
“AMVETS is calling on the White House to show appropriate respect for the passing of Sen. McCain,” AMVETS tweeted. “He was a war hero, twice a presidential contender, and a national treasure who devoted his entire adult life to protecting and improving the American way of life.”
Aug. 27, 2018
One of Sen. John McCain’s final wishes was to tell the country not to “despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.”
John McCain wanted this statement read after his death
Aug. 27, 2018
In nearly three decades at the Justice Department, Mr. Ohr has made a career of supporting and facilitating important cases that targeted Russian organized crime. Now he is a target of President Trump, who has put his security clearance under review and attacked him publicly, and allies. They have cast Mr. Ohr and his wife — who worked as a contractor at the same research firm that produced a damaging dossier of information about Mr. Trump — as villains, part of a pro-Clinton cabal out to destroy the president.
But Mr. Ohr, 56, is far from corrupt, friends and former colleagues said. An experienced law enforcement official, he has a deep understanding of the underworld of Russian organized crime, they said, including raising concerns about at least one oligarch whose name has resurfaced amid the scrutiny of contacts between Trump associates and Russia.
Aug. 27, 2018
A federal court ruled on Monday that North Carolina Republicans illegally drew up U.S. congressional districts in the state to benefit their party, suggesting that new lines be crafted before November's election.
The three-judge panel for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina said in a 321-page opinion that Republican legislators responsible for the map conducted unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering to dilute the impact of Democratic votes.
“That is precisely what the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly sought to do here," the opinion said.
The panel gave parties until Thursday to file their recommendations to fix the problem.
The Republican lawmaker in charge of the plan said it was crafted to maintain Republican dominance because "electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats."
Republicans in 2016 won 10 of the 13 House districts - 77 percent of them - despite getting just 53 percent of the statewide vote, nearly the same result as in 2014.
"If this opinion stands ... the court may well order new districts be drawn in time for the 2018 elections," Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, wrote on his election law blog.
"North Carolina’s gerrymandering was one of the most brazen in the nation, where state legislative leaders proudly pronounced it a partisan gerrymander," he wrote.
Harvard Business Review
September–October 2018 Issue
The Business Case for Curiosity
Most of the breakthrough discoveries and remarkable inventions throughout history, from flints for starting a fire to self-driving cars, have something in common: They are the result of curiosity. The impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities is a basic human attribute. New research points to three important insights about curiosity as it relates to business. First, curiosity is much more important to an enterprise’s performance than was previously thought. That’s because cultivating it at all levels helps leaders and their employees adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures:
although leaders might say they treasure inquisitive minds, in fact most stifle curiosity, fearing it will increase risk and inefficiency. In a survey I conducted of more than 3,000 employees from a wide range of firms and industries, only about 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.
Aug. 27, 2018
Air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence, according to new research, indicating that the damage to society of toxic air is far deeper than the well-known impacts on physical health.
The research was conducted in China but is relevant across the world, with 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education.
“Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,” said Xi Chen at Yale School of Public Health in the US, a member of the research team. “But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education. If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education.”
The damage in intelligence was worst for those over 64 years old, with serious consequences, said Chen: “We usually make the most critical financial decisions in old age.” Rebecca Daniels, from the UK public health charity Medact, said: “This report’s findings are extremely worrying.”
Air pollution causes seven million premature deaths a year but the harm to people’s mental abilities is less well known. A recent study found toxic air was linked to “extremely high mortality” in people with mental disorders and earlier work linked it to increased mental illness in children, while another analysis found those living near busy roads had an increased risk of dementia.
Air pollution was seen to have a short-term impact on intelligence as well and Chen said this could have important consequences, for example for students who have to take crucial entrance exams on polluted days.
Aug. 27, 2018
British consumers are facing a hike in food prices of at least 5% as a result of extreme weather this year, economists warn.
Extended spells of frigid and baking weather seen during the winter and summer will likely increase household food bills by an estimated £7.15 a month, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) says.
The cold snap brought on by the Beast from the East has already been blamed for a slump in the economy at the start of the year, while some industries were adversely affected by heatwave conditions over the summer.
The Cebr said domestic food production has been hit by weather extremes that have put “particular stress on farming costs and yields”.
Between March and July, the wholesale “farm gate” prices of some staples rocketed by up to 80%.
The price of wheat for bread rose by a fifth, strawberries by 28%, carrots by 41% and lettuce by 61%.
The farm gate price of carrots rose by 80%, according to European Commission figures used by the economists.
The Cebr said: “Summer 2018 has been one of the warmest in living memory, with above average temperatures recorded since April and dry spells lasting more than 50 days in parts of the country.
Aug. 1, 2018
New Research Shows Most Human Pregnancies End in Miscarriage
Previous research has found that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, or as many as 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in miscarriage, also known medically as spontaneous abortion.
Many women don't even know they're pregnant initially; and, since most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, many miscarry without even knowing it's happening.
It's these unknown miscarriages that make up the majority, according to Rice. In fact, he found that a woman in her 20s is just as likely to miscarry as carry the foetus to term.
And, because the miscarriage rate only rises with age, the number of miscarriages far outnumber live births, his analysis asserts.

Aug. 22, 2018
Crop damage mounts for EU farmers after torrid summer
The severe weather in Europe has coincided with adverse growing conditions in other major grain producing zones such as Russia and Australia, raising the risk that supplies in exporting countries will be eroded to their smallest in years.
The latest harvest estimates have underlined the impact of drought and heatwaves in northern Europe. Germany’s farmers’ association DBV on Wednesday forecast a 22 percent plunge in grain production this year in the European Union’s second-largest cereal grower.
Germany endured its highest summer temperatures in over a century as extreme weather gripped northern Europe from Britain to the Baltic states.
The combination of poor harvest yields and shriveled grassland has led to spiraling costs for animal feed, putting pressure on livestock farms.
Aug. 23, 2018
Europe is facing a growing threat of tropical disease outbreaks, as rising temperatures linked to climate change cause illnesses brought by travellers to spread more easily, health experts warned.
This summer has seen a sharp spike in West Nile virus infections in Europe, following soaring temperatures, compared with the past four years. Until the middle of August, 400 cases of the disease, which is carried by mosquitos, were recorded in Europe, with 22 fatalities, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Countries affected include Italy, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Romania, all of which have recorded cases of the tropical infection in the past.
The spike was due to an early start to the transmission season, caused by high temperatures followed by wet weather, conditions ideally suited to mosquito breeding, according to the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe.
Aug. 22, 2018
Oil companies want tax payers to protect their facilities from the effects of the climate change they caused.
Aug. 25, 2018
Case in point: Israa al-Ghomgham, a 29-year-old Shiite rights activist who was arrested, along with her husband, Moussa al-Hashem, in December 2015 and has been in pretrial detention ever since without legal representation. She had been a leader of anti-government protests in restive Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia since the Arab Spring of 2011, calling for an end to discrimination against Shiites and for the release of political prisoners. Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni Muslim, as is the monarchy.
Ms. Ghomgham’s transgressions were “participating in protests in the Qatif region,” “incitement to protest,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” “attempting to inflame public opinion,” “filming protests and publishing on social media” and “providing moral support to rioters,” according to Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia’s rulers are intolerant of dissent and punish it harshly, with imprisonment and public lashings. On Aug. 6, a prosecutor asked for the death penalty for Ms. Ghomgham, her husband and four others. If carried out, she would be the first woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia for nonviolent protest, although the punishment is used often for violent crimes. The prosecutor’s request was made before the Specialized Criminal Court, a counterterrorism tribunal that is increasingly being used as a bludgeon against dissent. A judge is due to consider the death-penalty request Oct. 28; if upheld, it would be reviewed by the king before being carried out.
Beheading a rights activist for nonviolent protest is barbaric, whether the victim is a woman or a man. Saudi Arabia recently bristled at criticism of its dismal human rights record by Canada, claiming interference in its internal affairs. But it is impossible to look the other way at such medieval practices, or should be. It would be heartening if the United States, the world’s most powerful democracy, could muster a stronger voice against the abuses.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


[Global warming is leading to extreme rainfall events being more frequent and more severe.]
Aug. 25, 2018
Rainfall amounts were titanic, but damage appears to be limited, after Tropical Storm Lane pulled rainband after rainband across Hawaii from a perch well southwest of the islands. Peak rainfall totals on the eastern Big Island topped 40” at three stations, adding up to amounts that are among the highest ever observed in a tropical cyclone in the 50 U.S. states. Fortunately, wind shear disrupted Lane’s core circulation before the hurricane had a chance to plow directly into any of the islands, and Lane stalled out just far enough to the southwest to keep its central showers and thunderstorms (convection) mostly offshore.
The following rainfall totals were recorded by automated gauges from noon HST Wednesday, Aug. 22, through 4 AM HST Saturday, Aug. 25. All rainfall totals below for Lane are preliminary, pending final quality control.
Island of Hawaii
Waiakea Uka:  45.80”
Piihonua:  44.68”

[I see way too much simplistic, all-or-none thinking by people, including on all sides of the political spectrum.]
Aug. 23, 2018
Edmund Burke, who wrote:
Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.
These considerations mean it is perfectly coherent to argue that the UK needs more socialism whilst Venezuela needs more capitalism.
Why, then, do so few do this? The answer might lie in a distinction made by Burke as described (pdf) by Jesse. He distinguished between “embodied” reason – which proceeds from concrete actually-existing conditions – and abstract reason which began from theory. Those who give blanket, worldwide support to either capitalism or socialism are perhaps too prone to abstract reason and too little to embodied reason.
In practice of course most countries are some mixtures of capitalism and socialism (and even feudalism). I’m thinking here of a spectrum between capitalism and socialism, not a sharp distinction.
24 things that are considered 'normal' in the US but the rest of the world finds weird
Aug. 21, 2018
Using money that is all the same color.
Putting a lot of ice in our drinks.
Using "America" or "Americans" to describes ourselves, our customs, and our country.
Writing the date beginning with the month.
Advertising prescription drugs all over the place.
Hanging American flags everywhere.
The fact that our pharmacies sell so many things.
Eating bread that almost always tastes sweet.
Using the imperial system of measurement instead of the metric system.
The constant commercials on TV.
Expecting free refills everywhere we get a drink.
Using a lot of water in the toilet bowls.
Putting giant gaps in between bathroom stalls.
Some people from other countries can't believe how large the spaces are between bathroom stalls. It was brought up in many comments in the Reddit thread, with users saying they found the "massive" gaps to be an invasion of privacy and just plain strange.
[Seems to me like they are really talking about the large spaces below and above the stall doors.]
Drinking huge coffees while we walk around.
Taking leftover food home from a restaurant. [This is a good thing, reduces food waste.]
Eating giant portions.
Paying sales tax on pretty much everything we buy.
Tipping waiters and waitresses and other service professionals.
Chatting with strangers and making small talk.
One thing many Reddit users noted is that they found it strange that Americans chat with strangers so often. While some found it odd in a weird way, others found it nice.
Reddit user CompleteWoks said, "The hospitality, generosity and kindness to strangers, the friendliness and welcoming warmth is paralleled nowhere in the world."
Using red cups to drink alcohol out of.
Wearing swimsuits to the beach.
Going into debt in order to go to college. A lot of other countries offer free college educations, and they can't believe how much we spend on ours.
Throwing baby showers.
Working constantly with very little vacation time.

Aug. 26, 2018
Program on Bernie Madoff on a local public radio station, on Reveal. He is in prison for life. They ask if there are other Ponzi schemes going on, and note the roll back of regulations. I'm wondering, am I the only one who sees that our whole economic system is a Ponzi scheme, depending on an ever-increasing population. And our tax system, racking up debt to be paid by future generations. And our plunder of the earth's resources.
I also note that executives of firms who hide the fact that their products are killing people, are almost never held accountable.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Aug. 25, 2018
John McCain, the six-term Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, died on Aug. 25 at his Arizona ranch with his family after a battle with brain cancer. He was 81.
McCain had recently decided to discontinue medical treatment. Though McCain had "surpassed expectations for survival," the family said in an Aug. 24 statement about the decision that "the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict." 

[I'm sad for him and his family. I disagreed with much of his politics, but I honored his decency and true patriotism.]
Aug. 24, 2018
Sen. John McCain has decided to stop treatment for the brain cancer he has been battling for over a year, his family said Friday in an announcement that precipitated a rare moment of bipartisan empathy in honor of the Vietnam war hero and Republican political veteran.
Oct 13, 2014
Secular Societies Fare Better Than Religious Societies
Aug. 21, 2018
A 289-page EPA report released Tuesday provides details on the impact of the Trump administration's Affordable Clean Energy rule, which would reverse Obama-era cuts to power plant carbon pollution. The EPA acknowledges that the proposed plan is expected to "increase emissions of carbon dioxide" and "increase the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health," as compared to the projections for Obama's plan.
The report includes tables showing that, by the EPA's own analysis, the most likely outcome of the new rule would result in 470 to 1,400 additional premature deaths annually by 2030.
The increase in pollutants is also expected to bring up to 96,000 new cases of exacerbated asthma by 2030, the EPA's figures show. Air pollution-related health problems could cause up to 48,000 lost work days and 140,000 lost school days per year, the report says.
Aug. 20, 2018
The reference to Kavanaugh’s work as Bush’s White House staff secretary is important because it offers a behind-the-scenes peek: the Senate GOP leader apparently saw this part of Kavanaugh’s background as the sort of thing that would be scrutinized as part of a confirmation process. And yet, soon after, Senate Republicans agreed that this part of Kavanaugh’s professional background would be excluded from the Judiciary Committee’s document request.
So what happened? Evidently, a White House meeting happened.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), on Friday, asked White House Counsel Don McGahn for information on a pivotal July 24, 2018, meeting with Judiciary Committee Republicans that shaped their document request. Prior to the private meeting, Republican leadership seemed poised to request records that Judge Kavanaugh authored, generated, or contributed to as White House Staff Secretary.
In an abrupt change of course after the meeting, Republicans refused to request any of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from his three years as Staff Secretary and Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley omitted all of Kavanagh’s Staff Secretary records from his request to the National Archives.
Senator Leahy believes the American people deserve to know why certain staff secretary records were fair game going into the private meeting and off the table coming out.

Joke seen on Facebook:
If 666 is evil, then technically, 25.80697580112788 is the root of all evil.
Aug. 22, 2018
Dealing with Disappointment
Aug. 25, 2018
A federal judge struck down significant sections of three executive orders on government workers, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump's attempts to curtail the power of labor unions representing federal employees. 
In an opinion Saturday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump exceeded his authority because Congress has established collective bargaining rights for federal employees through the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act.
Aug. 25, 2018
David Pecker, the CEO of AMI [American Media Inc., whose publicationsns include the National Enquirer], has been granted immunity by prosecutors investigating Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, who last week pleaded guilty to a number of federal charges, including making or abetting campaign finance violations.
Pecker, a longtime friend of the president’s, reportedly possessed a safe full of damaging stories on Trump that the company had purchased the rights to and “killed” in the months ahead of the 2016 election.
Cohen told prosecutors that he "cause[d]" an illegal campaign contribution in 2016, around the same time that AMI, allegedly in coordination with Cohen, reportedly paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 in a separate catch-and-kill agreement about an affair she claimed to have with Trump.
Cohen also admitted to making an "excessive" campaign contribution on the same day he arranged a $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels. He said that he made the payment at the request of the candidate for federal office [Donald Trump].
Aug. 24, 2018
One of the consequences of climate change is the ongoing retreat of glaciers.
“In the Alps, the glacier surfaces have shrunk by half between 1900 and 2012 with a strong acceleration of the melting processes since the 1980s,” says Jacques Mourey, a climber and scientist who is researching the impact of climate change on the mountains above Chamonix.
The most dramatic demonstration of glacial retreat is shown by the Mer de Glace, the biggest glacier in France and one of Chamonix’s biggest tourist hotspots which would now be unrecognisable to the Edwardian tourists who first flocked there.
“The Mer de Glace is now melting at the rate of around 40 metres a year and has lost 80m in depth over the last 20 years alone,” says glaciologist Luc Moreau.
A stark consequence of the melting Mer de Glace is that 100m of ladders have now been bolted onto the newly exposed vertical rock walls for mountaineers to climb down onto the glacier.
“A 1970s climbing and mountaineering guidebook to the 100 best routes around Mont Blanc isn’t useable any more as most of the routes have changed and can’t be used,” he says.

NASA image of all the dust, fires, and storms in the air in one day

All around you, there are tiny particles suspended in the air, known as aerosols. When you zoom out and look at the world as a whole, these aerosols can paint a picture of what's going on across the earth's atmosphere, from weather patterns to natural and man-made events.
That sort of picture is what you can see here in these composite images from NASA, representing the world as it was on August 23. The pretty clouds of blue, purple and red are representations of different kinds of aerosols in the atmosphere, gathered from NASA satellite data and measurements taken on the ground.
According to NASA's description of the images, the blue is sea salt, the red is black carbon (like you would see from a fire) and the purple is dust. By looking at the patterns of these three aerosols, you can make out some major weather and climate events: hurricanes, where the blues tightly gather; heavy winds and dust storms in the clouds of purple; and red smudges of carbon over wildfires.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The radical moral implications of luck in human life

By David Aug 21, 2018

Recently, there was a minor uproar when Kardashian scion Kylie Jenner, who is all of 21, appeared on the cover of Forbes’s 60 richest self-made women issue. As many people pointed out, Jenner’s success would have been impossible if she hadn’t been born white, healthy, rich, and famous. She built a successful cosmetics company not just with hard work but on a towering foundation of good luck.


These episodes illustrate what seems to be one of the enduring themes of our age: socially dominant groups, recipients of myriad unearned advantages, willfully refusing to acknowledge them, despite persistent efforts from socially disadvantaged groups. This is not a new theme, of course — it waxes and wanes with circumstance — but after a multi-decade rise in inequality, it has come roaring back to the fore.

Of course, socially dominant groups have every incentive to ignore luck. And they have found a patron saint in President Trump, who once claimed, “My father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars.”

These recent controversies reminded me of the fuss around a book that came out a few years ago: Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, by economist Robert Frank. (Vox’s Sean Illing interviewed Frank last year.) It argued that luck plays a large role in every human success and failure, which ought to be a rather banal and uncontroversial point, but the reaction of many commentators was gobsmacked outrage. On Fox Business, Stuart Varney sputtered at Frank: “Do you know how insulting that was, when I read that?”


Building a more compassionate society means reminding ourselves of luck, and of the gratitude and obligations it entails, against inevitable resistance.


Both nature and nurture happen to you

Of course it is true that you have no choice when it comes to your genes, your hair color, your basic body shape and appearance, your vulnerability to certain diseases. You’re stuck with what nature gives you — and it does not distribute its blessings equitably or according to merit.

But you also have no choice when it comes to the vast bulk of the nurture that matters.

Child development psychologists tell us that deep and lasting shaping of neural pathways happens in the first hours, days, months, and years of life. Basic dispositions are formed that can last a lifetime. Whether you are held, spoken to, fed, made to feel safe and cared for — you have no choice in any of it, but it more or less forms your emotional skeleton. It determines how sensitive you are to threat, how open you are to new experience, your capacity to exercise empathy. [Also, whether you were deprived of oxygen when you were born, your nutrition and exposure to pollutants before you were born.]

Children aren’t responsible for how they spend their formative years and the permanent imprint it makes upon them. But they’re stuck with it.


Here, a distinction made famous by psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his seminal Thinking, Fast and Slow is helpful. Kahneman argues that humans have two modes of thinking: “system one,” which is fast, instinctual, automatic, and often unconscious, and “system two,” which is slower, more deliberative, and emotionally “cooler” (generally traced to the prefrontal cortex).

Our system one reactions are largely hardwired by the time we become adults. But what about system two?

We do seem to have some control over it. We can use it, to some extent, to shape, channel, or even change our system one reactions over time — to change ourselves.


There are two reasons why system-two thinking can’t get us out of the luck trap: Both the capacity and the need for system-two thinking are inequitably distributed.

First, the capacity.

Using system two to regulate system one is difficult. Exercising the kind of self-discipline necessary to override system one reactions with deliberative, system-two choices is effortful. It drains energy. (See Brian Resnick’s fascinating discussion of the famous “marshmallow test” for more on this.)

Doing it requires certain conditions: a degree of self-possession, a degree of freedom from more basic physical needs like food and shelter, some training and habituation. Even with those advantages, it’s difficult. There’s an entire “life hacking” genre devoted to tricks and techniques that system-two thinking can use to counteract system one’s predilections for salty snacks and procrastination.

And the thing is, not everyone has equal access to those conditions. Whether and how much you have the ability to exercise system two in this way is largely — you guessed it — part of your inheritance. It too depends on where you were born, how you were raised, the resources to which you had access.

Even our desire and ability to alter our trajectory is largely determined by our trajectory.

Second, the need.

Some people don’t much need the ability to self-regulate, because their failures of self-regulation are forgiven and forgotten. If you are, say, a white male born to wealth, like Donald Trump, you can blunder about and fuck up over and over again. You’ll always have access to more money and social connections; the justice system will always go easy on you; you’ll always get more second chances. You could even be president someday, without being required to learn anything or develop any skills relevant to the job.


Neither the capacity nor the need for self-regulation is distributed evenly or fairly. In a dark irony, we demand much more of it from those — the poor, the hungry, the homeless or housing-insecure — likely to have the least access to the conditions that make it possible. (Just one more way it’s expensive to be poor.)

Your capacity for self-regulation and self-improvement, and your need for them, are both part of your inheritance. They come to you via life’s lottery. Via luck.


Of course, people aren’t nearly as eager to take credit for their failures and flaws. Psychologists have shown that all humans are subject to “fundamental attribution error.” When we assess others, we tend to attribute successes to circumstance and failures to character — and when we assess our own lives, it is the opposite. Everyone’s relationship with luck is somewhat self-interested and opportunistic.


Acknowledging luck — or, more broadly, the pervasive influence on our lives of factors we did not choose and for which we deserve no credit or blame — does not mean denying all agency. It doesn’t mean people are nothing more than the sum of their inheritances, or that merit has no role in outcomes. It doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be held responsible for bad things they do or rewarded for good things. Nor does it necessarily mean going full socialist. These are all familiar straw men in this debate.

No, it just means that no one “deserves” hunger, homelessness, ill health, or subjugation — and ultimately, no one “deserves” giant fortunes either. All such outcomes involve a large portion of luck.

The promise of great financial reward spurs risk-taking, market competition, and innovation. Markets, properly regulated, are a socially healthy form of gambling. There’s no reason to try to completely equalize market outcomes. But there’s also no reason to allow hunger, homelessness, ill health, or subjugation.

And there’s no reason we shouldn’t ask everyone, especially those who have benefited most from luck — from being born a certain place, a certain color, to certain people in a certain economic bracket, sent to certain schools, introduced to certain people — to chip in to help those upon whom life’s lottery bestowed fewer gifts.

And it is entirely possible to do both, to harness market competition while using the wealth it generates to raise up the unlucky and give them greater access to that very competition.

“If you want meritocracy,” Chris Hayes argued in his seminal book Twilight of the Elites, “work for equality. Because it is only in a society which values equality of actual outcomes, one that promotes the commonweal and social solidarity, that equal opportunity and earned mobility can flourish.”


We cannot eliminate luck, nor achieve total equality, but it is easily within our grasp to soften luck’s harsher effects, to ensure that no one falls too far, that everyone has access to a life of dignity. Before that can happen, though, we must look luck square in the face.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Aug. 21, 2018
Climate change is advancing. Snowpack is decreasing, and summers are hotter and drier. A century’s worth of fire suppression is leaving forests overloaded with fuel. All of that is creating the conditions for wildfires to spread quickly and widely and burn huge trees along with the underbrush. Fire seasons are now 105 days longer in the western U.S. than they were in the 1970s. And longer wildfire seasons means more smoke pouring into cities and towns.
So even while air quality has generally been improving across the U.S. since the passage of the Clean Air Act, air quality is getting worse in large swathes of the West during fire season. That is a major threat to public health, because air pollution aggravates conditions like asthma and emphysema, and it can also harm those who were previously healthy.
People with lung conditions are more likely to refill their prescriptions, go to the doctor, and be hospitalized during wildfire smoke events. Researchers with the EPA say that, between hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and premature deaths, wildfire smoke exposure costs the U.S. between $11 billion and $20 billion per year.
People with pre-existing conditions aren’t the only ones who are affected. Children are also vulnerable because their lungs are developing. Low-income people are at risk as well, in part because they’re less likely to have well-sealed homes and air conditioning.
When pregnant mothers are exposed to wildfire smoke, there’s a “small but significant decline in birth weight,” says Colleen Reid, a geography professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder who researches the public health effects of wildfire smoke.
Floods in inland areas are the most common type of natural disaster in the United States, and one of the most harmful to people and property. In 2017 alone 25 people lost their lives trapped in floods, and more than 3 billion dollars were lost in property damages and ruined crops.
Global warming is shifting rainfall patterns, making heavy rain more frequent in many areas of the country. With human alteration of the land—like the engineering of rivers, the destruction of natural protective systems, and increased construction on floodplains—many parts of the United States are at greater risk of experiencing destructive and costly floods.
Aug. 21, 2018
Microsoft said Monday that it had identified yet another attempt to hack political organizations, and that the attack came from what it suspects is a group of professional hackers working for the Russian government. The tech giant spotted and neutralized websites that were attempting to impersonate the sites of conservative think tanks.
If this all sounds familiar, that's because Microsoft recently stopped similar attempts to collect login information from staffers of Democrats running for office, including someone working for Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. It's all part of what US intelligence officials and cybersecurity experts say is an ongoing attempt to influence US elections by hacking politicians and sparking discord online.
Aug. 21, 2018
Searchers on Tuesday recovered the body of a man who was wrenched away from would-be rescuers during flash flooding that forced evacuations around Wisconsin's capital city and cut power to many homes.
More than 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain fell overnight in places in or around Madison, according to the National Weather Service. The worst of the weather seemed to have passed by midday Tuesday, with the forecast calling for dry conditions Tuesday night and sunshine on Wednesday and Thursday.
Aug. 21, 2018
At least 10 people died Monday in flooding caused by heavy rain in the southern Italian region of Calabria, a spokesman for the Italian Civil Protection told CNN.
Aug. 21, 2018
Monday’s storms and heavy rain created problems in the Chicago area.
Aug. 21, 2018
Storms swept through the Washington region yet again ahead of the evening commute, forcing several roads to close because of floods.
As much as an inch and a half of rain fell inside the Beltway on Tuesday afternoon, with heavier pockets dumping up to three inches of water along Interstate 66, around Centreville and Clinton, according to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
Aug. 21, 2018
Governor activates Guam National Guard in response to flooding
Storms throughout central and southern Utah are causing flooding and flash flood warnings for roads and recreation areas Tuesday afternoon.
Utah Emergency Management officials tweeted that flash flooding was likely for many parts of southern and central Utah Tuesday.

A lot of floods going on around the world.

How to help Indian flood victims

See link below for organizations that are helping.

By Ryan Prior, CNN

Updated 1:59 PM ET, Tue August 21, 2018

The worst floods in nearly a century have ravaged India's southwestern state of Kerala, leaving more than 300 dead and forcing hundreds of thousands to take shelter in relief camps.
CNN has identified several charities on the ground assisting those hit hardest by this flood. You can support their efforts by clicking the button below [at link above]or by going directly to the Public Good campaign here.

India's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) reports a "40-50% excess" of monsoon rains this year. The unrelenting downpours are overwhelming dams and triggering landslides.
Over the last two weeks, many of Kerala's rivers overflowed their banks, ruining hundreds of thousands of homes. Rescue workers are using boats and helicopters to find thousands who are still trapped.

Aug. 21, 2018
The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.
This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.
One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.
The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet.
But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s.

[What happens when religion is allowed to rule society.]
Aug. 21, 2018
A woman in Muslim-majority Indonesia was sentenced to 18 months in jail Tuesday for complaining about the volume of a mosque's call to prayer -- the latest conviction under a controversial blasphemy law.
Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, was found guilty of insulting Islam for asking her neighbourhood mosque to lower its sound system because it was too loud and "hurt" her ears.
There are some 800,000 mosques across the archipelago, with the five-times-a-day call to prayer heard everywhere in the biggest cities and smallest towns.
Tuesday's verdict will likely fuel fears that Indonesia's moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.
Aug. 21, 2018
Taiwan lost another ally to Beijing on Tuesday when diplomatic ties with El Salvador were severed, in another political victory for China as it attempts to isolate the self-ruled island on the global stage.
The break with the Central American nation leaves Taiwan now with formal relations with just 17 countries worldwide, many of them poor nations in Central America and the Pacific like Belize and Nauru. 
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Tuesday said his government was refusing to compete with China in buying diplomatic support, condemning what he called Beijing’s campaign of luring away Taiwan’s allies with promises of vast financial aid and investment.

[I've always driven manual transmission cars. I currently have a 2007 5-speed Toyota Yaris that gets more than 36 mpg.]
Aug. 20, 2018
With the arrival of the new 2019 Audi A4 saloon and A5 coupe models in the US, Audi's entire US lineup will be automatic, with not a single stick-shift option left.
It's mainly high-end vehicles that are going automatic-only for now, but it's not hard to imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when manual gearboxes will be almost unheard of. Land Rover, for example, dropped the manual versions of the Discovery and Range Rover some years ago, and there has never been a manual version of the Range Rover Sport.
Audi has been offering a six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option for the current 2018 versions of the A4 and A5 in the US, but the replacement 2019 models will be exclusively automatic.
Car and Driver recently reported that only 5 percent of A4 customers in the US chose a manual over an automatic transmission, so the move to drop manual gear boxes appears to be based on economics. Although there's no suggestion at the moment that Audi will do the same in markets like Europe, where the American market goes today, the rest of the world follows.
There are still some luxury brands offering manual gearboxes in the US, such as BMW, Genesis, Cadillac and Porsche, though Porsche limits the availability of manual gearboxes to its sports cars only.
Aug. 20, 2018
Cholesterol levels that are above the ideal—but below the usual threshold for medication therapy—may put healthy adults at a higher lifetime risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in Circulation.
The research, which tracked more than 36,000 people over an average of 27 years, found that those with low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) that was borderline high were somewhat more likely to die from heart attacks and strokes than those with the lowest LDL levels. And those with high or very high LDL levels were much more likely to die.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Aug. 20, 2018
Some 800,000 people have been displaced worst flooding in a century in southern India's Kerala state, as authorities rushed to bring drinking water to the most affected areas, officials said. Death tolls of more than 200 to 350 were reported by various news agencies.
Officials have called it the worst flooding in Kerala in a century, with rainfall in some areas well over double that of a typical monsoon season. Rains were finally diminishing in parts of Kerala state Monday morning.
The downpours that started Aug. 8 have triggered floods and landslides and caused homes and bridges to collapse across Kerala, a picturesque state known for its quiet tropical backwaters and beautiful beaches.
In several villages in the suburbs of Chengannur, one of the worst-affected areas, carcasses of dead cattle were seen floating in muddy waters on Sunday as water began receding.
Aug. 18, 2018
Scientists have worried for years that rising temperatures will free carbon trapped in frozen soil in the Arctic, accelerating the pace of climate change — but now they believe abrupt thawing below lakes is even more dangerous.
That's the finding of a new paper published as part of a 10-year NASA collaboration to study how climate change will play out in the icy Arctic region.
"We don't have to wait 200 or 300 years to get these large releases of permafrost carbon," lead study author Katey Walter Anthony, an ecologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said in a NASA statement about the research. "Within my lifetime, my children's lifetime, it should be ramping up. It's already happening but it's not happening at a really fast rate right now, but within a few decades, it should peak."
Here's the problem: When permanently frozen dirt melts, the bacteria trapped inside it become active again, munch through whatever organic material is in reach, and produce carbon dioxide and methane, which are both powerful greenhouse gases
But when that happens below thermokarst lakes, the process is even grimmer because the water at the surface speeds up the melting below. The released gases, built with carbon atoms between 2,000 and 43,000 years old, quickly rise up through the lake and into the atmosphere.
"Within decades you can get very deep thaw-holes, meters to tens of meters of vertical thaw," Walter Anthony said in the statement. "So you’re flash thawing the permafrost under these lakes. And we have very easily measured ancient greenhouse gases coming out."
Aug. 21, 2017
A sweeping study examining decades of research says that yields of the globe's most important crops—providing two-thirds of the world's calories—will plummet as temperatures rise.
For every degree Celsius that the Earth warms, corn yields will go down an average of 7.4 percent, according to the study, which focused on the effects of rising temperatures and did not directly examine other influences related to climate change.
Wheat yields similarly will drop by 6 percent on average for every degree Celsius that temperatures rise, rice yields by 3.2 percent, and soybean yields by 3.1 percent, according to the study. To put that in perspective, governments worldwide have set a goal of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century.
Myers and his colleagues released the results of a six year study examining the nutritional content of crops exposed to levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) that are expected to exist by mid-century. The conclusions were indeed troubling. They found that in wheat grains, zinc concentrations were down some 9.3 percent and iron concentrations were down by 5.1 percent across the seven different crop sites (in Australia, Japan and the U.S.) used in the study. The researchers also noted reduced protein levels in wheat and rice grains growing in the CO2-rich test environment.
According to Myers, the findings—published in June 2014 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature—are particularly troubling when one considers that some of the two to three billion people around the world who depend on wheat and rice for most of their iron and zinc already might not be getting enough of these essential nutrients. Zinc deficiency, which can exacerbate pneumonia, malaria and other health problems, is already linked to some 800,000 deaths each year among children under five. Meanwhile, iron deficiency is the primary cause of anemia, a condition that contributes to one in five maternal deaths worldwide.
Myers and company aren’t the only ones worried about global warming and nutrient losses. Another recent study by mathematical biologist Irakli Loladze analyzed data from thousands of “free-air CO2 enrichment experiments” on 130 different species of food plants and found that increased CO2 reduced overall mineral (nutrient) content across the board. “People don't need large quantities of the manganese or potassium they get from plants, but they do need some,” comments David Berreby on in response to Loladze’s findings. “And for billions of people, plants are their only source.”
Berreby is also bothered by another of Loladze’s conclusions, that higher levels of CO2 also spur increases in starches and sugars in the same plants that lose mineral content. “In other words, with increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, the valuable nutrients in these food crops are scarcer, and carbohydrates are more abundant—in effect, the nutrients are ‘diluted’,” he explains. This syncs with research out of the University of California at Davis, which estimates that the overall amount of protein we get from our food plants will drop some three percent in the coming decades given global warming’s expected arc.
Slowness rage is not confined to the sidewalk, of course. Slow drivers, slow Internet, slow grocery lines—they all drive us crazy. Even the opening of this article may be going on a little too long for you. So I’ll get to the point. Slow things drive us crazy because the fast pace of society has warped our sense of timing. Things that our great-great-grandparents would have found miraculously efficient now drive us around the bend. Patience is a virtue that’s been vanquished in the Twitter age.
“Why are we impatient? It’s a heritage from our evolution,” says Marc Wittmann, a psychologist at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany. Impatience made sure we didn’t die from spending too long on a single unrewarding activity. It gave us the impulse to act.
But that good thing is gone. The fast pace of society has thrown our internal timer out of balance. It creates expectations that can’t be rewarded fast enough—or rewarded at all. When things move more slowly than we expect, our internal timer even plays tricks on us, stretching out the wait, summoning anger out of proportion to the delay.
“The link between time and emotion is a complex one,” says James Moore, a neuroscientist at Goldsmiths, University of London. “A lot is dependent on expectation—if we expect something to take time then we can accept it. Frustration is often a consequence of expectations being violated.”
Aug. 20, 2018
Trump trillion-dollar-plus deficits are putting America on a path to fiscal ruin
Aug. 20, 2018
Summer weather patterns are increasingly likely to stall in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, according to a new climate study that explains why Arctic warming is making heatwaves elsewhere more persistent and dangerous.
Rising temperatures in the Arctic have slowed the circulation of the jet stream and other giant planetary winds, says the paper, which means high and low pressure fronts are getting stuck and weather is less able to moderate itself.
The authors of the research, published in Nature Communications on Monday, warn this could lead to “very extreme extremes”, which occur when abnormally high temperatures linger for an unusually prolonged period, turning sunny days into heat waves, tinder-dry conditions into wildfires, and rains into floods.
Circulation stalling has long been a concern of climate scientists, though most previous studies have looked at winter patterns.
Aug. 20, 2018
All-time record heat assaulted northern Europe, western Africa, portions of southern Asia, and California, helping make July 2018 the planet's fourth-warmest July since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Monday. NASA rated July 2018 as the third-warmest July on record, with the only warmer July months coming in 2016 and 2017. Occasional differences in rankings between NASA and NOAA arise mostly due to how they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic, wh
The year-to-date period of January – July now ranks as the fourth warmest on record, and it is increasingly likely that the five warmest years on record globally will be 2014 through 2018. If an El Niño develops later this year, as predicted, that will give 2019 a very good chance of joining the pack. Barring a massive volcanic eruption, global temperature seems to be headed in one direction, and it isn't downward.