Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The wealth of America's three richest families grew by 6,000% since 1982

Oct. 31, 2018
Chuck Collins

The top three wealthiest billionaires in the US – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – now have as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population combined.

This is possible because the bottom fifth of US households are underwater, with zero or negative net worth. And the next fifth has so few assets to fall back on that they live in fear of destitution.

“We’re developing into a plutocracy,” said the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.

One troubling indicator that we are drifting toward a society governed by the wealthy is the expanding fortunes of multi-generational wealth dynasties.

The three wealthiest US families are the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars candy family and the Koch brothers, heirs to the country’s second largest private company, the energy conglomerate Koch Industries. These are all enterprises built by the grandparents and parents of today’s wealthy heirs and heiresses.

These three families own a combined fortune of $348.7bn, which is 4m times the median wealth of a US family.

Since 1982, these three families have seen their wealth increase nearly 6,000%, factoring in inflation. Meanwhile, the median household wealth went down 3% over the same period.

The dynastic wealth of the Walton family grew from $690m in 1982 (or $1.81bn in 2018 dollars) to $169.7bn in 2018, a mind-numbing increase of more than 9,000%.


Several dynastic families have used their considerable clout to stage just such an intervention, spending millions to save themselves billions.

They’ve lobbied Congress to tip the rules in favor of dynastic wealth, including tax cuts and public policies that will further enrich their enterprises. In the early 2000s, the Mars, Walton and Gallo families actively lobbied to abolish the federal estate tax, a tax paid exclusively by multimillionaires and billionaires. The Koch brothers have since organized their famous donor network to lobby for tax cuts for the rich and to roll back regulations on the energy industry, the source of their wealth.

Others aggressively use dynasty protection techniques to hide wealth and transfer it to heirs. They hire armies of tax accountants, wealth managers and trust lawyers to create trusts, shell corporations and offshore accounts to move money around and dodge taxation and accountability.


What billionaires want: the secret influence of America’s 100 richest

Please consider donating to The Guardian so they can continue their independent investigative reporting

Benjamin I Page, Jason Seawright, Matthew J Lacombe
Wed 31 Oct 2018 02.00 EDT


In recent years, investigative journalists have also brought to public attention Charles and David Koch, mega-donors to ultra-conservative causes. But given the great prominence of several left-of-center billionaires, this may merely seem to right the balance, filling out a picture of a sort of Madisonian pluralism among billionaires.
How the Koch brothers built the most powerful rightwing group you've never heard of
Read more

Unfortunately, this picture is misleading. Our new, systematic study of the 100 wealthiest Americans indicates that Buffett, Gates, Bloomberg et al are not at all typical. Most of the wealthiest US billionaires – who are much less visible and less reported on – more closely resemble Charles Koch. They are extremely conservative on economic issues. Obsessed with cutting taxes, especially estate taxes – which apply only to the wealthiest Americans. Opposed to government regulation of the environment or big banks. Unenthusiastic about government programs to help with jobs, incomes, healthcare, or retirement pensions – programs supported by large majorities of Americans. Tempted to cut deficits and shrink government by cutting or privatizing guaranteed social security benefits.


billionaires who favor unpopular, ultraconservative economic policies, and work actively to advance them (that is, most politically active billionaires) stay almost entirely silent about those issues in public. This is a deliberate choice. Billionaires have plenty of media access, but most of them choose not to say anything at all about the policy issues of the day. They deliberately pursue a strategy of what we call “stealth politics”.

We have come to this conclusion based on an exhaustive, web-based study of everything that the 100 wealthiest US billionaires have said or done, over a 10-year period, concerning several major issues of public policy


Most of the wealthiest US billionaires have made substantial financial contributions – amounting to hundreds of thousands of reported dollars annually, in addition to any undisclosed “dark money” contributions – to conservative Republican candidates and officials who favor the very unpopular step of cutting rather than expanding social security benefits. Yet, over the 10-year period we have studied, 97% of the wealthiest billionaires have said nothing at all about social security policy. Nothing about benefit levels, cost-of-living adjustments, or privatization. (Also nothing about the popular idea of shoring up social security finances by removing the low “cap” on income subject to payroll taxes and making the wealthy pay more.) How can voters know that most billionaires are working to cut their social security benefits?


Our study ferreted out quiet activity by 12 of the wealthiest billionaires – including the Kochs and (perhaps unsurprisingly) several wealthy inheritors of the Walton and Mars fortunes – aimed specifically at cutting or abolishing the estate tax. They gave money to policy-oriented organizations seeking to abolish the tax, or founded such organizations, and served on their boards. Not a single billionaire took such activity to support the estate tax.


Both as individuals and as contributors to Koch-type consortia, most US billionaires have given large amounts money – and many have engaged in intense activity – to advance unpopular, inequality-exacerbating, highly conservative economic policies. But they have done so very quietly, saying little or nothing in public about what they are doing or why. They have avoided political accountability. We believe that this sort of stealth politics is harmful to democracy.


Oct. 30, 2018
NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which discovered more than 2,680 exoplanets orbiting distant stars and allowed scientists to statistically show billions more must exist across the Milky Way, has finally run out of fuel, bringing one of NASA's most scientifically productive projects to an end after an extended nine-and-a-half year mission, mission managers said Tuesday.
"Before we launched Kepler, we didn't know if planets were common or rare in our galaxy," he said. "But now we know ... that planets are more common than stars in our galaxy. Now we know there are billions of planets that are rocky like the Earth and are orbiting their stars in the habitable zone, or the Goldilocks zone, where their temperatures might be conducive to water on the surface."
Oct. 29, 2018
An armed man stopped a potential mass shooting at a Birmingham, Ala. McDonalds Saturday afternoon.
The unidentified man was leaving the restaurant with his two sons as a masked gunman entered and began firing. The father drew his pistol and returned fire, killing the gunman, but not before he and one of his teenage sons were shot.
The father and son sustained non-life threatening injuries in the shoot out, according to police.
Children who were vaccinated in recent years significantly lowered their chances of dying from the flu, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Using data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014, researchers found that flu vaccinations reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds among healthy children.
Fewer than four out of 10 adults in the United States got flu shots last winter, the lowest rate in seven seasons and one likely reason why the 2017-’18 season was the deadliest in decades.
Oct. 29, 2018
Poisonous air is having a devastating impact on billions of children around the world, damaging their intelligence and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, according to a report from the World Health Organization.
The study found that more than 90% of the world’s young people – 1.8 billion children – are breathing toxic air, storing up a public health time bomb for the next generation.
The WHO said medical experts in almost every field of children’s health are uncovering new evidence of the scale of the crisis in both rich and poor countries – from low birth weight to poor neurodevelopment, asthma to heart disease.
The WHO study found that children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because pollutants are often more concentrated nearer to ground level. It added that their developing organs and nervous system are also more susceptible to long-term damage than those of adults.
“Air pollution is stunting our children’s brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director of public health and the environment.
Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable, with dirty air linked to premature and underweight children. Air pollution also increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
Oct. 30, 2018
Abstaining from cannabis for a month can boost the memory performance of regular users, according to a study of young people who used the drug at least once a week.
Researchers found that four weeks without cannabis led to a “modest but reliable” improvement in users’ memory test scores, which could be sufficient to raise students’ grades at school.
tags: drug use, drug abuse

The economy was improving under President Obama, although it would have done so faster if the republicans hadn't DELIBERATELY blocked most of Obama's attempts to stimulate the economy. They did it to try to turn people against Obama in hopes of winning the presidency. And a lot of people were taken in by this con game.
Oct. 5, 2018
How Trump got rich by support from his father, and tax evasion.
Through those tens of thousands of business records, tax returns, property deeds and other documents compiled by the New York Times, we learn that over the years, Donald was funneled a fortune of at least $400 million in inflation-adjusted dollars by his father. We learn that whenever Donald faltered and stumbled, even into middle age, his father was there to pull him to his feet and quietly clean up the mess.
The continuing flow of millions of dollars from Fred to Donald is well-documented by Trump family records obtained by the Times, including some 200 tax returns filed by Fred Trump or companies he owned.  Those records also document how, through a variety of shams and scams, the Trump family succeeded in evading hundreds of millions of estate and gift taxes that by law should have been paid.
Oct. 29, 2018
North Carolina would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025 under an ambitious statewide goal set by Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday.
With Cooper’s signing of the executive order, North Carolina joins states like Colorado, California and others that have set statewide targets for reducing emissions of gases that are associated with global warming and climate change. In 2006, California set a 40 percent reduction goal by 2030 from 1990 levels, while Colorado has set a goal of cutting emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels. Cooper prefaced his announcement by saying that powerful hurricanes and other consequences of climate change are forcing government to respond. He noted that Hurricane Florence, which soaked the state last month, was the third 500-year flooding event in the state in the past 19 years and the second in the past 23 months.
Oct. 30, 2018
Scientists in Canada have warned that massive glaciers in the Yukon territory are shrinking even faster than would be expected from a warming climate – and bringing dramatic changes to the region.
The accelerating melt of the glacier has resulted in major shifts to water sources at lower elevations.
In 2016, the meltwaters of the glacier shifted dramatically away from the Slims river, cutting off critical water supplies to Kluane Lake – a Unesco world heritage site. Since the diversion, water levels at the lake have dropped more than 6.6ft – stranding thousands of fish from their natural spawning rivers.
Dust storms have begun to flare up along sections of the well-travelled Alaska Highway – at times halting traffic, the result of a dry river bed covered in glacial silt. The events at Kluane Lake are a precursor of what can be expected elsewhere, said Hik.
The dramatic changes to the landscape come amid predictions that the Arctic region is slated to experience far quicker – and potentially devastating –warming in the coming years.
Oct. 30, 2018
Prominent market technician Ralph Acampora says the stock market is in bad shape and it’s worse than many on Wall Street investors appreciate.
A pioneer in the field of chart-based trading, Acampora said the technical damage that has resulted in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.77% and the S&P 500 index SPX, +1.57% erasing all of their gains for 2018, and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.58% falling into correction territory—usually characterized as a decline of at least 10% from a recent peak—will take months to repair.
July 30, 2018
U.S. household debt, which declined between 2008 and 2013, has rebounded sharply. By the first quarter of 2018, it was at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion. The composition of our debt has changed, and we've been better able to manage our obligations, thanks in substantial part to an extended period of low interest rates. But the crisis did not teach us a lesson about the perils of borrowing too much.
Nor did it lead us to place more value on savings. Between 1960 and 1984, the U.S. personal savings rate — which is savings as a percentage of disposable personal income — never fell below 8%. That level of national thrift is far out of reach today. In December 2017, the personal savings rate dropped to 2.4%, its lowest level since the debt-fueled boom of the mid-2000s.

From NASA:
Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree*: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources. …

An analogy to help understand the ramifications of climate disruption:
Oct. 16, 2018
The height of a balloon above the ground is not proportional to the amount of hot air you put into the envelope.1 In fact, when you first start filling a balloon all that happens is that the hot air causes the envelope to lift off of the ground, applying tension to the basket and its occupants, but there is no upward motion of the balloon at that point. You pump in more and more hot air, and if select US Senators were standing by they would likely proclaim that there is absolutely no effect of hot air on the balloon.
The problem, of course, is that a huge amount of hot air must be injected into the balloon just to overcome the weight of the envelope, the basket, and its occupants. As long as the upward force is less than the downward, restraining force, nothing happens. But once the upward force overcomes the downward force, up you go, and any small addition of hot air2 at this point causes you to accelerate faster and faster skyward.
Oct. 24, 2018
Working-class people are underrepresented in politics. The problem isn’t voters.
Our government is run by rich people — and it benefits them the most.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The unseen driver behind the migrant caravan: climate change

Oliver Milman in New York, Emily Holden in Washington and David Agren in Huixtla, Mexico
Tue 30 Oct 2018

Thousands of Central American migrants trudging through Mexico towards the US have regularly been described as either fleeing gang violence or extreme poverty.

But another crucial driving factor behind the migrant caravan has been harder to grasp: climate change.

Most members of the migrant caravans come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – three countries devastated by violence, organised crime and systemic corruption, the roots of which can be traced back to the region’s cold war conflicts.
'God will decide if we make it': Central American caravan presses northward
Read more

Experts say that alongside those factors, climate change in the region is exacerbating – and sometimes causing – a miasma of other problems including crop failures and poverty.

And they warn that in the coming decades, it is likely to push millions more people north towards the US.

“The focus on violence is eclipsing the big picture – which is that people are saying they are moving because of some version of food insecurity,” said Robert Albro, a researcher at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University.

“The main reason people are moving is because they don’t have anything to eat. This has a strong link to climate change – we are seeing tremendous climate instability that is radically changing food security in the region.”

Migrants don’t often specifically mention “climate change” as a motivating factor for leaving because the concept is so abstract and long-term, Albro said. But people in the region who depend on small farms are painfully aware of changes to weather patterns that can ruin crops and decimate incomes.


Lara said he thought that changing weather patterns had a lot to do with the problem, though he also blamed his plight on greedy bosses and coffee dealers. “I didn’t leave my country because I wanted to. I left because I had to,” he said.


Climate change is bringing more extreme and unpredictable weather to the region: summer rainfall is starting later and has become more irregular. Drought fuelled by El Niño has gripped much of Central America over the past four years, but the period has been occasionally punctuated by disastrous flooding rains.

As a result, more than 3 million people have struggled to feed themselves.

“Coffee and maize are sensitive to temperature and rainfall changes,” said Albro. “If a coffee crop fails you can’t just turn on a dime and do something else, it takes a long time to recover. There have been several lost crops in a row and it’s caused tremendous hardship for small-scale farming.”


Climate change is bringing more extreme and unpredictable weather to the region: summer rainfall is starting later and has become more irregular. Drought fuelled by El Niño has gripped much of Central America over the past four years, but the period has been occasionally punctuated by disastrous flooding rains.

As a result, more than 3 million people have struggled to feed themselves.

“Coffee and maize are sensitive to temperature and rainfall changes,” said Albro. “If a coffee crop fails you can’t just turn on a dime and do something else, it takes a long time to recover. There have been several lost crops in a row and it’s caused tremendous hardship for small-scale farming.”

Farmers first migrate to urban areas, where they confront a new set of problems, which in turn prompt them to consider an international odyssey.

“There’s an internal movement where someone will go to, say, Guatemala City and then perhaps get extorted by a gang and then move to the US,” said Leutert. “When they get here they will say they’ve moved because of violence – but climate change was the exacerbating factor.”


“If your farm has been dried to a crisp or your home has been inundated with water and you’re fleeing for your life, you’re not much different from any other refugee,” said Michael Doyle, an international relations scholar at Columbia University. “The problem is that other refugees fleeing war qualify for that status, while you don’t.”


Links - health
Public Release: 26-Oct-2018
Concussion and college football: how many hits to the head is too much?
New analysis supports evidence that concussions in some American football athletes could occur following repetitive head impact exposure rather than after a single severe hit to the head
Public Release: 26-Oct-2018
Frequent home hemodialysis linked to lower mortality risk vs. traditional hemodialysis
American Society of Nephrology
Public Release: 26-Oct-2018
Proinflammatory diet linked to higher risk of kidney disease progression
American Society of Nephrology
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Oral curcumin shows no benefit in reducing inflammation following vascular surgery
Randomized controlled trial
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Naps help some preschoolers learn, but may hinder learning in children with down syndrome
University of Arizona
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Relying on Dr. Google to diagnose eye problems may be dangerous to your health
Study shows popular online symptom checker was incorrect 74 percent of the time, often assesses symptom severity incorrectly
American Academy of Ophthalmology
A study examining the diagnoses generated by WebMD Symptom Checker showed the online tool was correct only 26 percent of the time. And the recommendation for the top diagnosis was often inappropriate, at times recommending self-care at home instead of going to the emergency room.
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Unapproved therapies cause significantly more patient injuries than reported
Incident of three women blinded in Florida are merely the tip of the iceberg, researchers say
American Academy of Ophthalmology
A team of ophthalmologists went looking for scientific evidence in support of commercially available "cell therapy" for eye diseases. Not only did they find virtually none; they instead discovered a growing number of patients are being irreparably harmed by unapproved cell therapies.
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Can attending a top high school reduce teens' marijuana abuse?
For boys, risk cut in half by 11th grade
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Students from lower-income neighborhoods who attended one of five high-performing Los Angeles County high schools were less likely to abuse marijuana than those who weren't offered admission, UCLA researchers found.
Admission to the public schools was based on a random lottery system, which is designed to equalize applicants' chances of being admitted.
tags: drug abuse, drug use
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Casino lights and sounds encourage risky decision-making
University of British Columbia
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
At least one year between pregnancies reduces risks for mother and baby
University of British Columbia
Twelve to 18 months seems to be the ideal length of time between giving birth and getting pregnant again, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Consequences-focused cognitive training may promote healthier habits
Association for Psychological Science
Interventions aimed at reducing unhealthy behaviors often focus on retraining people's mental associations, but a series of studies suggests that showing people the consequences of the behaviors may be more effective.
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Study: Coal power plant regulations neglect a crucial pollutant
Rice University researchers determine Texans would be healthier with stronger limits on sulfur dioxide
HOUSTON - (Oct. 29, 2018) - Cleaning up or replacing coal-fired power plants that lack sulfur pollution controls could help Texans breathe cleaner, healthier air, according to researchers at Rice University.
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Severity of crime increases jury's belief in guilt
Evidence matters more to lawyers and judges than to jurors
Duke University
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
New study: reduced screen time for young highly recommended for well-being
The new study indicates that more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in those aged 2 to 17, though the association is larger for adolescents than for younger children
San Diego State University
Public Release: 30-Oct-2018
Suicide more prevalent than homicide in US, but most Americans don't know it
University of Washington
In the United States, suicide is twice as common as homicide -- and more often involves firearms -- but public perception is just the opposite.
Public Release: 30-Oct-2018
Bigger brains associated with greater cancer risk
The more brain cells you have, the higher your risk of brain cancer
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
The study also shows that more men than women develop brain tumours.
"Men have a larger brain than women because men's bodies are generally larger. It doesn't mean that men are smarter, but you need to have more brain cells to control a large body. This is also the case with animals. In bigger bodies, organs like the heart, lungs and brain are also bigger," says Fyllingen.
Yet it turns out that women with big brains have a greater risk of developing brain tumors compared to men with big brains.
Public Release: 29-Oct-2018
Our microbes are starving, and that's a good thing
High-protein diet, antibiotics make gut a festering swamp
Duke University
Scientists have discovered that hosts starve their microbial denizens of nutrients, essentially enslaving the microbes in their gut so that they are forced to do our bidding.
The findings also indicate that the modern diet and overuse of antibiotics could undermine our position as benevolent overlords, putting the odds in favor of the microbes.

Oct. 16, 2018
Nate Silver — the closest thing there is to a celebrity in the arcane field of statistical journalism — is not wildly optimistic about that.
“Media understanding about probability, margin of error and uncertainty is very poor,” Silver said Monday afternoon when I stopped by the Manhattan office of his for a pre-election chat.
“I get nervous about how people overstate things” he told me.
So while lots of people think they know exactly what’s going to happen — and are more than willing to hold forth as if they’re infallible — there’s still a lot of uncertainty, given the numbers.
“People should not be that surprised by a Democratic Senate or a Republican House,” Silver told me. “We’re in dangerous territory from a predictive/assumption standpoint.”

From a Facebook comment by Dan Benbow
There is a small but very vocal segment on the left flank who have good values, and generally good brains, who simply don't grasp (or choose to ignore) really important details of any mature political calculus. Hedges is in this camp, as is Thomas Frank, as was Howard's pretty much the Nader 2000 coalition.
For one, they're terrible at math. Hillary consistently won Democrats of color, often by big margins, while Bernie's strength was white liberals, young voters, and indies who voted in open primaries. Anyone who looks at the primary map knows that many primaries are closed, that young people vote in smaller numbers, that no Democrat can win the nomination primarily with white voters. The people who claim the DNC 'rigged' the primary make the classic error of mixing causation and correlation: yes, the DNC supported Hillary, but fact is she won by four million votes; nothing they did had remotely the impact that primary demographics had.
Two, they fail to realize just how conservative big swaths of the country are or how peoples' brains process politics. The Dems do well in urban centers, but land-mass wise, there are enormous stretches of red. Candidates have to win urban liberals, suburban soccer moms, and 35-40% of conservative-leaning blue collar men. Surging to the left galvanizes the base but alienates other parts of the coalition, and thinking that all those lazy-ass people who don't vote could be 'converted' if only the Dems told a better story is the height of naivete: in Bill Clinton and Barack Obama we had two of the best speakers ever, and they both lost Congress and failed to change the national narrative.
Three, they don't understand how legislation works and don't pay close attention to day-to-day policy movement. Think of how many attacks you've seen on Obama for not pushing single payer, yet he only got the ACA by one vote. He couldn't even get a public option while maintaining that 60-vote coalition. For decades, the GOP has played hardball. These leftists acknowledge that, but ignore the fact that THAT is why we've fallen so far behind. Other than during the handful of months between when Franken was seated and when Scott Brown took office, the Dems have not had a filibuster-proof majority (necessary to pass major legislation) in eons.
Four, they blame the player, rather than the game. Due to Citizen's United (which wouldn't have happened were it not for Nader helping elect Bush), campaigns are expensive. Other than Dems in deep blue districts, most candidates have to raise gobs of money to stay in office. It's a fact. Yet a big portion of these clowns calls them 'sellouts' when they make necessary compromises with business interests. The attitude seems to be that Dems should unilaterally disarm and appeal to the common wisdom of everyday people just waiting to be exploited. Only problem with that is that it's complete bullshit. Unilaterally disarming just means that the R pummels you with negative ads, defines you, and wins, guaranteed, unless you're in a deep blue district.
To a one, my belief is fuck these people. Not a one of them has participated in a winning campaign. Politics is the art of the possible. Ideals and values have meaning only in so far as they are applied in the real world, helping real people. All the far left does is divide the left, confuse young people who haven't learned about trade-offs, and help perpetuate the right-wing and the very ideas they claim to despise.
He has an excellent post in his own blog about this, with more data.
Oct. 28, 2018
A month after announcing his departure from the Republican Party, Ohio billionaire and former GOP mega-donor Les Wexner has reportedly started giving money to Democrats.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Wexner has donated at least $20,000 to Ohio Democrats since disclosing last month that he was “no longer a Republican” but an independent. “I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party,” he said at a September leadership summit.
Oct. 29, 2018
Raging wildfires have killed seven people including a baby and a pregnant woman in a farming settlement along South Africa's famed Garden Route, disaster management services said Monday.
Firefighters have been battling to quell the blazes that started last week along the southern tourist trail.
Oct. 29, 2019
Trump and His Children Accused of Investment Scams in Lawsuit
In all three alleged schemes, Trump stamped his well-known name on a product he didn’t research or understand, solicited investments from average Americans and then walked away as the products fizzled, all while keeping the cash he got for his pitches, the suit claims. The scam caused "devastating and life-altering" losses, it says.
Oct. 29, 2018
Amid cratering passenger figures, Greyhound will discontinue all service in Canada’s western provinces on 31 October. The cuts will eliminate routes that have existed for nearly a century and sever the only transit link for dozens of towns where the British-owned company has endured even as other businesses have trickled away.
A Seattle-Vancouver route, operated by the company’s American counterpart, will continue as usual, and a new company, Rider Express, is poised to take over some routes from Calgary to Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Oct. 10, 2018
In 1939, the German American Bund organized a rally of 20,000 Nazi supporters at Madison Square Garden in New York City. When Academy Award-nominated documentarian Marshall Curry stumbled upon footage of the event in historical archives, he was flabbergasted. Together with Field of Vision, he decided to present the footage as a cautionary tale to Americans. The short film, A Night at the Garden, premieres on The Atlantic today.
Oct. 29, 2018
Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.
The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

[I hope this is an indication that the supreme court does care about Democracy, and are not just ruling this way to keep from scaring voters away from republicans in the midterm election.]
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case brought by Republican officials in Pennsylvania challenging the state Supreme Court’s ability to redraw their congressional redistricting plan. 
The state court tossed out the 2011 legislatively enacted plan in 2017, finding that it violated the state Constitution by enhancing the Republican Party’s representation in Congress.
Oct. 26, 2018
Super Typhoon Yutu left major damage on the Northern Mariana Islands after a direct hit.
The entire island of Saipan suffered damage and it may take weeks to restore power to everyone.
The governor's office confirmed one death and at least 133 injuries in Saipan.
Oct. 28, 2018
A crowdfunding campaign organized by the Muslim American community has raised more than $150,000 for the victims of the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The shooting, which claimed the lives of 11 people Saturday during a morning service, “made me sick to my stomach,” said Tarek El-Messidi, a Muslim American speaker and activist who started the fundraising effort as soon as he heard about the attack. In the first six hours, the effort, called Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue, reached its initial goal of $25,000.
On the fundraising page, he wrote: “We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action.” He also quotes the Koran as saying, “Repel evil by that which is better.”
Oct. 23, 2018
The Library of Congress has unveiled its new National Screening Room, a free collection of digitized historical films, commercials, newsreels and other clips. According to the library, most of the movies are in the public domain and are available for downloading; others are only available to stream.

Monday, October 29, 2018

How Trump’s Hateful Speech Raises the Risks of Violence

By Cass R. Sunstein
October 28, 2018

Is President Donald Trump responsible, in some sense, for the mailing of bombs to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders? Is he responsible, in some sense, for the slaughter at the Pittsburgh synagogue?

If we are speaking in terms of causation, the most reasonable answer to both questions, and the safest, is: We don’t really know. More specifically, we don’t know whether these particular crimes would have occurred in the absence of Trump’s hateful and vicious rhetoric (including his enthusiasm for the despicable cry, “Lock her up!”).

But it’s also safe, and plenty reasonable, to insist that across the American population, hateful and vicious rhetoric from the president of the United States is bound to increase risks of violence.


To see why, we should investigate one of the most striking findings in modern social psychology that has been replicated on dozens of occasions. It goes by the name of “group polarization.”

The basic idea is that when people are listening and talking to one another, they tend to end up in a more extreme position in the same direction of the views with which they began. Groups of like-minded people can become radicalized.


For example, New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro, a Trump supporter, said in a radio interview that “Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” Roger Stone, a Trump adviser, tweeted, “Hillary must be brought to justice — arrested, tried and executed for murder.”

If people are talking that way, there is an elevated risk that sooner or later, someone is actually going to try to kill her – and others whom the president treats as enemies of the people.

The problem is compounded by the contrast between the president’s demeanor in two different situations: when he is speaking of national unity and when he is on the attack against his supposed enemies.

When he speaks of unity, he seems scripted and insincere. He reads from a text. He is working. When he is on the attack, he is in his element. He needs no text. He is having fun. Everyone can see that.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Nov 4, 2018 - Daylight Saving Time Ends
When local daylight time is about to reach
Sunday, November 4, 2018, 2:00:00 am clocks are turned backward 1 hour to
Sunday, November 4, 2018, 1:00:00 am local standard time instead.
Sunrise and sunset will be about 1 hour earlier on Nov 4, 2018 than the day before. There will be more light in the morning.
Also called Fall Back and Winter Time.
Oct. 27, 2018
Researchers had previously thought that the clock change, particularly in spring, caused people to suffer minor jet-lag style symptoms for a couple of days after the change. They now think, according to the Bundestag report, that the effects can last up to four weeks, and that “for some people the process of adaptation itself takes place only insufficiently or not at all”.
Oct. 26, 2018
Cesar Sayoc, the suspect arrested Friday in connection with more than a dozen potential explosive devices mailed to critics of President Donald Trump, had a long history of promoting right-wing conspiracy theories and attacking Democrats on Twitter, including some of his alleged targets.
Oct. 26, 2018
Some Texas voters are complaining that machines flipped their straight-ticket selections to the other party in key races during early voting, especially the much-watched Senate battle between Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O'Rourke.
The secretary of state's office said Friday that there have been reported issues with Hart eSlate voting machines, which are used in around 30 percent of counties statewide and feature a wheel for selecting candidates and buttons to move from screen to screen. But it says they are caused by voters themselves and often occur when they complete and submit ballots too quickly.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Oct. 26, 2018
Cesar Soyac Jr., the man suspected of sending explosives in the mail over the past week, regularly posted slews of pro-Trump and anti-Democratic content on social media channels.
Soyac was extremely plugged into fringe right-wing media and posted heavy amounts of hoax theories and misinformation.

It's not just Trump who makes actions like bombing Trump political opponents. His followers who come out in support of his hateful words and lies also encourage this mentality.
The Physics Behind Traffic Jams
Once upon a time, years ago, I was driving through a number of stop/go traffic waves on I-520 at rush hour in Seattle. I decided to try something. On a day when I immediately started hitting the usual "waves" of stopped traffic, I decided to drive slow. Rather than repeatedly rushing ahead with everyone else, only to come to a halt, I decided to try to drive at the average speed of the traffic. I let a huge gap open up ahead of me, and timed things so I was arriving at the next "stop-wave" just as the last red brake lights were turning off ahead of me. It certainly felt weird to have that huge empty space ahead of me, but I knew I was driving no slower than anyone else. Sometimes I hit it just right and never had to touch the brakes at all, but sometimes I was too fast or slow. There were many "waves" that evening, and this gave me many opportunities to improve my skill as I drove along.
I kept this up for maybe half an hour while approaching the city. Finally I happened to glance at my rearview mirror. There was an interesting sight.
It was dusk, the headlights were on, and I was going down a long hill to the bridges. I had a view of miles of highway behind me. In the other lane I could see maybe five of the traffic stop-waves. But in the lane behind me, for miles, TOTALLY UNIFORM DISTRIBUTION. I hadn't realized it, but by driving at the average speed, my car had been "eating" traffic waves. Everyone ahead of me was caught in the stop/go cycle, while everyone behind me was forced to go at a nice smooth 35MPH or so. My single tiny car had erased miles and miles of stop-and-go traffic. Just one single "lubricant atom" had a profound effect on the turbulent particle flow within the "tube."

Each raid released the energy of at least 300 lightning strikes, Scott said, and historical accounts from the ground attest to the far-reaching power of bombs like the 22,000-lb. (10,000 kilogram) British "Grand Slam."
When the researchers looked at the ionosphere-response records around the time of 152 large Allied air raids in Europe, they found that the electron concentration significantly decreased due to the shock waves from the bombs. The findings were published today (Sept. 25) in the journal Annales Geophysicae.
"I was able to see an effect in the U.K. ionospheric records from bombing over 1,000 km [620 miles] away," Scott said. "I was surprised by that."
Ingo Mueller-Wodarg, a planetary scientist at Imperial College London who was not involved in the study, said the research is "a neat demonstration of how the ionosphere is affected by activity on the ground, despite being many tens to hundreds of kilometers above the ground."
Oct. 23, 2018
Americans over 50 are worse than younger people at telling facts from opinions, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.
An earlier study by the American Press Institute also found that older Americans were more confident than younger ones in their ability to discern fact from opinion.
But the real correlation with poor performance is exposure to television news, which has fallen off among young people but remains very high among older people.
In 1987, the Reagan administration repealed the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine. That paved the way for the rise of right-wing talk radio, brilliantly chronicled by David Foster Wallace for this magazine. Describing a talk-radio host, John Ziegler, Wallace noted that it was not his job “to be responsible, or nuanced, or to think about whether his on-air comments are productive or dangerous, or cogent, or even defensible.” He has only to be “stimulating.”

[This is the kind of thing for which I originally started my blog, to point out possibilities for studies such as this that people didn't think about. My thought about this is that in more equal societies, men might feel a greater need to differentiate themselves from women.]
Oct. 19, 2018
In their study involving 76 countries and 80,000 people, they found greater national wealth and gender equality are tied to bigger differences in preferences between men and women rather than to stronger similarities [see “Rich and Equal Mean Men and Women Make Different Career Choices”].

Trump is a genius. People in Guatemala and Honduras are fleeing to our country because of bad conditions. So Trump wants to help make conditions there even worse, causing more to flee, which he will use to rouse his base to vote.
Oct. 25, 2018
Three more devices were found in Delaware and New York, the F.B.I. said Thursday morning. Two were addressed to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware resident, and a third to the actor Robert De Niro, who lives and works in Lower Manhattan.
Oct. 25, 2018
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said Thursday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul was premeditated, reversing course yet again on Saudi's account of what happened.
Oct. 25, 2018
Of the countries included in the study, 30 have passed laws fully banning physical punishment of children, both in schools and in homes. The rates of fighting among adolescents were substantially lower than the 20 countries with no bans in place: by 69 percent for adolescent males and 42 less for females.
The other 38 countries in the study — which include the United States, Canada, and the U.K. — have partial bans, in schools only. In those countries, adolescent females showed a 56 percent lower rate of physical fighting, with no change among males.

[I was keeping an open mind about this because any group has its loonies, but the odds were on the side of it being a Trump supporter. Given this man's history, I wonder how much his anger stemmed from blaming Democrats for his economic problems in the past, although the fact is that it was the republicans who worked to hold down the economy while Obama was president, for their own political gain, which the media chose not to pay much if any attention to.]
Oct. 26, 218
Mr. Sayoc, a registered Republican, has a lengthy criminal history in Florida dating back to 1991 that includes felony theft, drug and fraud charges, as well as being accused of threatening to use a bomb, public records show.
Oct. 26, 2018
After Cesar Sayoc, a Donald Trump supporter, was arrested at an auto parts shop in Florida, federal agents at the location removed a van covered in political stickers celebrating Republicans and denouncing the president’s opponents. As the van was being transported by the FBI, wind blew the tarpaulin off
Oct. 25, 2018
Did low vaccination rates help make the last flu season so deadly?
“Flu vaccination coverage among adults was 37.1 percent, a decrease of 6.2 percentage points from the previous flu season,” the CDC said in its latest report.
The result: More than 79,000 people died, close to 1 million ended up in the hospital and 48 million people got sick. Adult flu deaths are estimated but the CDC counts every child who dies of flu. Last season, 183 children died of influenza, the final numbers show.
studies also show that even if flu vaccines do not completely protect against infection, they do lower the severity if someone does get sick, and significantly reduce the risk of death.
"We don't give the vaccine sufficient credit," Schaffner said. "It does have the capacity to make the illness that you are having less severe. You are less likely to get the complications of pneumonia and having to go to the hospital, and you are less likely to die."
Oct. 26, 2018
Facebook has uncovered and deleted dozens of accounts and pages originating in Iran that were intended to provoke division in the US and the UK.
The accounts, which posed as US and UK residents, posted frequently about politically divisive subjects, including race relations, opposition to Donald Trump, and immigration. More than a million Facebook users had engaged with the 82 pages, groups, and accounts that were identified, most of them in the US, and Gleicher said they were created to deliberately “sow discord”.
Twice over the summer, Facebook uncovered fake accounts being used by foreign actors to affect American opinions. In July, the social network removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram, with ties to a Russian agency. A month later, Facebook removed 652 fake accounts and pages, created as part of four separate campaigns, that were found to have ties to both Russia and Iran.
Oct. 26, 2018
In eight cities across the US, almost 8,000 Marriott hotel employees are walking picket lines demanding better wages, workplace safety, and a seat at the table for technology changes in the latest strike organized among America’s low-wage workers.

[A lot of them voted against regulating global warming, now they are dependent on government help.]
Oct. 26, 2018
Many who have returned since the storm are living in campers, tents or bunking with neighbors, and relying on portable toilets and boxed ready-to-eat meals provided by Fema, the Red Cross or other volunteers. The schedule for the return of utilities such as electricity, gas and internet service are being measured in months, not days or weeks. Many roads are still blocked across the area, commercial services minimal to none.
One utility linesman, Rick, descends from his cherry-picker, pulls the pop-top off a can of beans and sucks it down cold before cracking into a container of applesauce. “16-hour days” he says, unprompted. “At least 16 hours.”
He’s in from Oklahoma, like most of the crews working in this particular part of town, and says he has no idea how long before he’s able to go home. “‘Till it’s done I guess,” he said with a casual shrug.
Oct. 25, 2018
Spain is to shut down most of its coalmines by the end of the year after government and unions struck a deal that will mean €250m (£221m) will be invested in mining regions over the next decade.
Unions hailed the mining deal – which covers Spain’s privately owned pits – as a model agreement. It mixes early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and re-skilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Links - health
Public Release: 23-Oct-2018
Trauma researchers identify characteristics of communities where mass shootings occur
American College of Surgeons
A trauma research team has developed a profile of commonalities among communities where mass shootings have occurred. It includes a shortage of mental health professionals, a relative lack of socialization opportunities, higher rates of income inequality, and relatively high housing costs, according to findings presented today at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2018.
Public Release: 23-Oct-2018
Brain training app helps reduce OCD symptoms, study finds
University of Cambridge
Public Release: 23-Oct-2018
Genetic flaw causes problems for many with hypothyroidism
Popular medicine misses the mark for up to 15 percent of patients
University of Chicago Medical Center
Public Release: 23-Oct-2018
Breakthrough test screens for all known bacterial infections
The precision medicine platform developed at the Center for Infection and Immunity is 1,000 times more sensitive than conventional screening methods and can detect signs of antibiotic resistance
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Landmark study reveals no benefit to costly and risky brain cooling after brain injury
Monash University
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Stressed out? Study suggests it may affect memory, brain size in middle age
American Academy of Neurology
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
A healthy lifestyle cuts stroke risk, irrespective of genetic profile
Findings highlight potential of lifestyle interventions to reduce risk of stroke, even in those at high genetic risk
BMJ [British Medical Journal]
People at high genetic risk of stroke can still reduce their chance of having a stroke by sticking to a healthy lifestyle, in particular stopping smoking and not being overweight, finds a study in The BMJ today.
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Certain blood pressure drugs linked to increased risk of lung cancer
Risk for individuals still low, but could translate into large numbers of patients, say researchers
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Complementary approaches such as meditation help patients manage chronic pain
Some patients reported that they used the techniques in place of medication
Hospital for Special Surgery
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Free online casino games linked with higher risks of gambling problems for young people
New CAMH study finds nearly one in eight high school students played social casino games
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
The Lancet: Rates of premature mortality are two times higher in the most deprived areas of England, compared to most affluent
The Lancet
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Importance of infant diet in establishing a healthy gut
Newcastle University
child has until the age of two-and-a-half to establish healthy gut bacteria - with little change after this point, new research has revealed.
The study also reinforced the important role breastfeeding plays in providing good gut bacteria to babies during the early stages of their life.
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Air pollution and noise increase risk for heart attacks
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
Not only air pollution negatively impacts on health, but also car, train and aircraft noise increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, as previous research has demonstrated.
[No doubt amped up sound systems also do so.]
"Our study showed that transportation noise increases the risk for a heart attack by 2.0 to 3.4% per 10 decibels increase in the average sound pressure level at home." said Martin Röösli, Head of the Environmental Exposures and Health Unit at Swiss TPH, and lead author of the published research. "Strikingly, the effects of noise were independent from air pollution exposure."
The study also found that people exposed to both air pollution and noise are at highest risk of heart attack. Hence, the effects of air pollution and noise are additive.
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Digital device overload linked to how first impressions are formed
Rice University
Public Release: 24-Oct-2018
Cannabis pain relief without the 'high'
Canadian researchers pinpoint the mechanism of cannabidiol for safe pain relief without side effects
McGill University Health Centre
In the wake of cannabis legalization, a team of scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and McGill University have delivered encouraging news for chronic pain sufferers by pinpointing the effective dose of marijuana plant extract cannabidiol (CBD) for safe pain relief without the typical "high" or euphoria produced by the THC. The findings of their study have been published in the journal PAIN (The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain).

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Oct. 24, 2018
Remember how Trump and his enablers railed against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server? Well, it turns out that as president Trump routinely make calls on his unsecured cellphone, despite repeated warnings from aides. Intelligence officials now believe that Chinese and Russian spies are eavesdropping on his conversations, according to a new report.
Trump's hypocrisy knows no bounds. At the same time, congressional Republicans who led endless hearings and inquiries into Clinton's emails will undoubtedly ignore this development. I would be surprised if Fox News even covers it. You can almost hear the laughter in Moscow and Beijing.
Oct. 22, 2018
Conservative megadonors Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Adelson have doled out more than $100 million to aid Republicans in the midterm election, far outpacing their giving during the 2016 presidential cycle.
A new $25 million donation puts the billionaire benefactors’ total spending toward helping Republicans hold on to both chambers of Congress at $113 million, Bloomberg reported. The donation was to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
That total surpasses the $82.6 million the couple spent on the 2016 cycle. 
And it makes the Adelsons’ spending on this year’s midterms the new benchmark for the most any individual household has spent on one election — including campaign committees, parties and PACs — since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010, according to OpenSecrets. The rankings by OpenSecrets do not include donations through 501(c)(4) “dark money” groups.
Oct. 24, 2018
Earth's strongest storm of 2018, Super Typhoon Yutu, was pounding the U.S. Northern Mariana Islands late Wednesday morning (U.S. EDT) with sustained winds of 180 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). At 10 am EDT, the northern eyewall of Yutu was over Tinian Island, which will likely experience catastrophic damage. Yutu is Earth’s tenth Category 5 storm of 2018, an astonishing total that has only been exceeded only once on record (twelve, in 1997). Yutu is tied with Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which also had 180 mph winds, as the strongest storm of 2018.
The U.S. Northern Mariana Islands is a U.S. commonwealth, separate from the U.S. territory of Guam. Close to two-thirds of residents of the Northern Marianas are U.S. citizens, according to a 2015 report from the commonwealth government. The three main islands are:
Saipan: population 52,263 (2017 estimate)
Tinian: population 3,136 (2010 estimate)
Rota: population 2,477 (2010 estimate)
Yutu is a large typhoon, with typhoon-force winds that extent out up to 85 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds that extend out up to 240 miles.

[I suggest reading the whole article at the following link.]
Oct. 23, 2018
Fact checkers identify increasing rates of false claims by the president
At a Monday rally, President Trump made comments about a caravan of Central American migrants that had fact-checkers on the alert. Since the president took office, they’ve identified 2,915 claims that cannot be verified by the truth.
That is more than four false claims a day on average.
Daniel Dale:
Yes. We have quantified it.
And so, in 2017, he averaged 2.9 false claims per day. As of now, it's 4.5 false claims per day. So, it's more than five per day in 2018. And it's escalated even further as we have gotten closer to the midterms.
So, every successive month, June, July, August, and September, set a new record for the president's false claims. So over time, he's getting more dishonest.
Oct. 24, 2018
A piece of the United States has been dramatically wiped off the map after an island in Hawaii was washed away by a powerful hurricane.
East Island, a remote spit of gravel and sand that sat atop a coral reef, has vanished after having this misfortune to come into contact with Hurricane Walaka, an intense storm that surged past Hawaii earlier this month.
East Island was, at about half a mile long and 400ft wide, the second largest island in the the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll in the far western reaches of the Hawaiian archipelago. Until 1952, it hosted a US Coast Guard radar station.
Despite its size, the island played an important role for wildlife, including the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, a species that numbers just 1,400 individuals, with many of the seals raising their young on East Island. Green sea turtles, which are also threatened, and seabirds such as albatrosses, which often had their young preyed upon by circling tiger sharks, also depended on the island.
If conditions align, an atoll would always be at a small risk of being erased by a powerful hurricane. But climate change is causing the ocean and atmosphere to warm, making storms fiercer, while there’s evidence that hurricanes are moving further north into the latitudes where East Island once lay.
Rising sea levels are also eroding away low-lying islands, with several fragments of land in the Pacific vanishing in recent years.
Oct. 16, 2018
The Science of Inequality
How high economic inequality negatively impacts nearly every aspect of human well-being—as well as the health of the biosphere
Oct. 11, 2018
n Environmental Protection Agency panel that advises the agency’s leadership on the latest scientific information about soot in the atmosphere is not listed as continuing its work next year, an E.P.A. official said.
The 20-person Particulate Matter Review Panel, made up of experts in microscopic airborne pollutants known to cause respiratory disease, is responsible for helping the agency decide what levels of pollutants are safe to breathe. Agency officials declined to say why the E.P.A. intends to stop convening the panel next year, particularly as the agency considers whether to revise air quality standards.
Environmental activists criticized the move as a way for the Trump administration to avoid what they described as the panel’s lengthy but critical assessment of how much exposure to particulate matter is acceptable in the atmosphere.
Oct. 18, 2018
Newly available wage data for 2017 show that annual wages grew far faster for the top 1.0 percent (3.7 percent) than for the bottom 90 percent (up only 1.0 percent). The top 0.1 percent saw the fastest growth, up 8.0 percent—far faster than any other wage group. This fast wage growth for the top 0.1 percent reflects the sharp 17.6 percent spike upwards in the compensation of the CEOs of large firms: executives comprise the largest group in both the top 1.0 and top 0.1 percent of earners. The fast wage growth of the top 1.0 percent in 2017 brought their wages to the highest level ever, $719,000, topping the wage levels reached before the Great Recession of $716,000 in 2007. The wages of the top 0.1 percent reached $2,757,000 in 2017, the second highest level ever, roughly only 4 percent below their wages in 2007.
The growth of wages for the top 0.1 percent is the major dynamic driving the top 1.0 percent earnings as the top 0.1 percent more than tripled its earnings share from 1.6 percent in 1979 to 5.2 percent in 2017.

The American Economy Is Rigged And what we can do about it

This is from a section of
The Science of Inequality
How high economic inequality negatively impacts nearly every aspect of human well-being—as well as the health of the biosphere
October 16, 2018

By Joseph E. Stiglitz | Scientific American November 2018 Issue

Americans are used to thinking that their nation is special. In many ways, it is: the U.S. has by far the most Nobel Prize winners, the largest defense expenditures (almost equal to the next 10 or so countries put together) and the most billionaires (twice as many as China, the closest competitor). But some examples of American Exceptionalism should not make us proud. By most accounts, the U.S. has the highest level of economic inequality among developed countries. It has the world's greatest per capita health expenditures yet the lowest life expectancy among comparable countries. It is also one of a few developed countries jostling for the dubious distinction of having the lowest measures of equality of opportunity.

The notion of the American Dream—that, unlike old Europe, we are a land of opportunity—is part of our essence. Yet the numbers say otherwise. The life prospects of a young American depend more on the income and education of his or her parents than in almost any other advanced country. When poor-boy-makes-good anecdotes get passed around in the media, that is precisely because such stories are so rare.

Things appear to be getting worse, partly as a result of forces, such as technology and globalization, that seem beyond our control, but most disturbingly because of those within our command. It is not the laws of nature that have led to this dire situation: it is the laws of humankind.


America has long outdone others in its level of inequality, but in the past 40 years it has reached new heights. Whereas the income share of the top 0.1 percent has more than quadrupled and that of the top 1 percent has almost doubled, that of the bottom 90 percent has declined. Wages at the bottom, adjusted for inflation, are about the same as they were some 60 years ago! In fact, for those with a high school education or less, incomes have fallen over recent decades. Males have been particularly hard hit, as the U.S. has moved away from manufacturing industries into an economy based on services.

Wealth is even less equally distributed, with just three Americans having as much as the bottom 50 percent—testimony to how much money there is at the top and how little there is at the bottom.


In significant part because of high inequality [see “The Health-Wealth Gap,” by Robert M. Sapolsky], U.S. life expectancy, exceptionally low to begin with, is experiencing sustained declines. This in spite of the marvels of medical science, many advances of which occur right here in America and which are made readily available to the rich.


Since the mid-1970s the rules of the economic game have been rewritten, both globally and nationally, in ways that advantage the rich and disadvantage the rest. And they have been rewritten further in this perverse direction in the U.S. than in other developed countries—even though the rules in the U.S. were already less favorable to workers. From this perspective, increasing inequality is a matter of choice: a consequence of our policies, laws and regulations.

In the U.S., the market power of large corporations, which was greater than in most other advanced countries to begin with, has increased even more than elsewhere. On the other hand, the market power of workers, which started out less than in most other advanced countries, has fallen further than elsewhere. This is not only because of the shift to a service-sector economy—it is because of the rigged rules of the game, rules set in a political system that is itself rigged through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the influence of money. A vicious spiral has formed: economic inequality translates into political inequality, which leads to rules that favor the wealthy, which in turn reinforces economic inequality.


An account of how the rules have been shaped must begin with antitrust laws, first enacted 128 years ago in the U.S. to prevent the agglomeration of market power. Their enforcement has weakened—at a time when, if anything, the laws themselves should have been strengthened. Technological changes have concentrated market power in the hands of a few global players, in part because of so-called network effects: you are far more likely to join a particular social network or use a certain word processor if everyone you know is already using it.


In short, entry is hard and risky, which gives established firms with deep war chests enormous power to crush competitors and ultimately raise prices. Making matters worse, U.S. firms have been innovative not only in the products they make but in thinking of ways to extend and amplify their market power. The European Commission has imposed fines of billions of dollars on Microsoft and Google and ordered them to stop their anticompetitive practices (such as Google privileging its own comparison shopping service). In the U.S., we have done too little to control concentrations of market power, so it is not a surprise that it has increased in many sectors.


Other means of so-called rent extraction—the withdrawal of income from the national pie that is incommensurate with societal contribution—abound. For example, a legal provision enacted in 2003 prohibited the government from negotiating drug prices for Medicare—a gift of some $50 billion a year or more to the pharmaceutical industry. Special favors, such as extractive industries' obtaining public resources such as oil at below fair-market value or banks' getting funds from the Federal Reserve at near-zero interest rates (which they relend at high interest rates), also amount to rent extraction. Further exacerbating inequality is favorable tax treatment for the rich. In the U.S., those at the top pay a smaller fraction of their income in taxes than those who are much poorer—a form of largesse that the Trump administration has just worsened with the 2017 tax bill.


recent research, such as work done by Jonathan Ostry and others at the International Monetary Fund, suggests that economies with greater equality perform better, with higher growth, better average standards of living and greater stability. Inequality in the extremes observed in the U.S. and in the manner generated there actually damages the economy.


Morale is lower in unequal societies, especially when inequality is seen as unjust, and the feeling of being used or cheated leads to lower productivity. When those who run gambling casinos or bankers suffering from moral turpitude make a zillion times more than the scientists and inventors who brought us lasers, transistors and an understanding of DNA, it is clear that something is wrong. Then again, the children of the rich come to think of themselves as a class apart, entitled to their good fortune, and accordingly more likely to break the rules necessary for making society function. All of this contributes to a breakdown of trust, with its attendant impact on social cohesion and economic performance.


'Money and greed': how non-compete clauses force workers to fight for rights

Jared Bennet of the Center for Public Integrity
Wed 24 Oct 2018 06.00 EDT

Michael Kenny’s 13-day stint at Critical Intervention Services (CIS), a Florida private security company, was short but consequential. The employment contract he signed with CIS in January 2017 has blocked him from working as a security guard in Florida ever since – but Kenny’s contract was hardly unique.

In fact, the countersuits that Kenny and CIS subsequently filed against each other illuminate an argument about workers’ rights that is raging nationwide.


Traditionally, non-compete clauses were found in contracts for senior employees who might have access to trade secrets or develop personal relationships to clients. Non-compete clauses help protect companies that fear employees will leave and take those assets to a competitor.

But when the recession receded, non-compete clauses started appearing in contracts for workers in low-wage jobs such as sandwich makers. They remain a roadblock for everyone from hair stylists to house cleaners. Their reach is difficult to determine because many workers don’t realize theyhave signed a non-compete clause. And though many courts are reluctant to enforce such agreements, few low-income workers have the resources to legally challenge them.

Full employment, economists predicted, would allow employees to shop around for better pay or working conditions. As workers flexed new bargaining muscle, wages would rise and conditions would improve because employers would face increasing pressure to find and keep talent – or so the theory went.

But though unemployment fell to 3.7% in September, that scenario hasn’t fully played out. One reason, research suggests, is that restrictive contract clauses have limited workers’ mobility and their ability to advocate for higher pay.

As a result, said David Seligman, an attorney and director of Towards Justice, a not-for-profit legal organization that brought cases against fast-food restaurants over anti-competitive hiring practices, “the market for low-wage workers is not free”. Instead, he argues, “there’s all kinds of impediments to worker mobility”.


Oct. 22, 2018
Can’t sleep? Perhaps you’re overtired
Oct. 23, 2018
Jeff Flake Tells 'The View' He Doubted Brett Kavanaugh But Voted For Him Anyway
Oct. 22, 2018
A man who allegedly groped a woman during a flight told authorities after he was arrested that “the president of the United States says it’s OK to grab women by their private parts,” according to a complaint by the FBI.
Oct. 24, 2018
Crude pipe bombs targeting various prominent political figures including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder and congresswoman Maxine Waters were intercepted Tuesday night and Wednesday. Suspicious packages were also discovered at CNN's New York offices and at a Congressional mail sorting facility in Maryland.
Oct 24, 2018, 3:46 PM ET
What we know about the explosives and suspicious packages delivered in New York, DC
George Soros, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, The Time Warner Center which is home to CNN’s New York offices, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters : D-California
Oct. 24, 2018
suspicious package also addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan
Oct. 23, 2018
A concerted Russian hacking and online disinformation campaign in 2016 sought to tip the US presidential election toward Donald Trump. Two weeks ahead of midterm congressional elections, Moscow's operatives are at it again.
#MAGA -- Trump's rallying call to "Make America Great Again" -- remains the top hashtag among 18,000 tweets pumped out daily by hundreds of Russia-backed and allied Twitter accounts monitored by Hamilton 68, a tracking operation of the Alliance for Securing Democracy in Washington.
"Now the people sitting at the IRA in St Petersburg, they don't even have to create this stuff. It's created for them."
- Retweeting angry Americans -
One example, said Ben Nimmo, who runs the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, was the intense, two-week online battle over Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in September.
The massive amount of false reports and virulent personal attacks across social media came largely from American accounts, he said.
The Russians needed only stir the pot by retweeting and reposting them, which can be done with bots.
Oct. 23, 2018
The GOP systematically has pared voting rolls, required tougher proof of eligibility and shortened voting periods. There's a clear purpose: to hold down the votes of minorities and young voters, who tend to vote Democratic, under the pretense of preventing fraud.
Sometimes the restrictions come from Republican-controlled state legislatures, but often they're the handiwork of the state official who manages the electoral machinery, usually the secretary of state. Republicans control that office in 29 of the 46 states that conduct partisan elections, including the big swing states.
The tougher requirements aren't subtle in their partisan effect. In Texas, a permit to carry a concealed weapon entitles its bearer to vote, but a student ID does not. In North Dakota, the leaders of the Standing Rock Indian reservation say that the state's ID law requiring voters to show a current street address will make it hard for citizens on tribal lands to vote because they don't live on named-and-numbered streets.

[It's almost a certainty that these people were abused by their own parents.]
Oct. 24, 2018
A Kansas man has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the horrific abuse and slaying of a 3-year-old boy whose body was found encased in concrete in the laundry room of his home four months after his death.
Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses and presented more than 550 pieces of evidence during six days of trial, including parts of the concrete tomb found in the rental home where the boy had lived with his mother, Miranda Miller, and Bodine. Jurors saw videos and photos showing Evan being abused, including footage of him chained and naked in a basement, being berated by Bodine and Miller, and forced to stand in a corner for hours.
Carlo Brewer, Evan's father, celebrated the verdict but said his joy was tempered by sadness because of the cruelty his son had endured. Brewer had been fighting for custody of Evan in the months leading up to his death, and authorities had been alerted at least six times that Evan was being abused .
An autopsy couldn't determine the cause and manner of Evan's death because his body was so badly decomposed by the time he was chipped out of the block of concrete. He had Benadryl in his system, and Miller said she thinks Bodine sickened him in the days leading up to his death by force-feeding him large amounts of salt.
Bodine's own daughter, Samantha Johnson, also testified about the physical abuse she suffered from her father, saying her experience was similar to Evan's.
Brewer said he hopes his son's death will lead to more efforts to confront child abuse.
"Take a step back and question what you're doing as a parent, question if it's the right way to discipline or not or if it's abuse," Brewer said. "Because it's got to stop. It's got to stop."
tags: child abuse