Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bosnia indicts Serb army general over Srebrenica genocide

I remember when this was happening, the media almost never mentioned that the Serbs were attacking Muslims (as well as Croats), referring to the Muslims simply as Bosnians. So most people didn't know about this aspect of the situation.


December 31, 2019 / 10:17 AM

A Bosnian war crimes prosecutor on Tuesday indicted a Bosnian Serb former army general for taking part in the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, an atrocity described as genocide by two international courts.

Milomir Savcic, 60, is accused of commanding the Bosnian Serb Army headquarters 65 Protection Motorised Regiment, which included a military police battalion, to capture, kill and bury adult Muslim Bosniaks from the U.N.-protected eastern enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.

Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic attacked Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, separated men from women and children, and killed about 8,000 Muslims, who were then buried in mass graves.

The Srebrenica massacre is regarded as Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.


Louisiana investigates homeless killings amid concern over rise in violence

Trump has encouraged people to be angry, mean, and uncaring.


Edward Helmore and agencies
Tue 31 Dec 2019 09.53 EST

The killings of three homeless people this month in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, could be connected, and come at a time when the homeless are being subject to increasing violence and homeless issues are becoming a dangerous political football.


The deaths in Louisiana’s capital come as homeless advocates worry about an increase in violence against homeless people, and after Donald Trump used the homeless crisis in California as a political stick to try and attack top Democrats such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi and California governor Gavin Newsom.


Auto plant closures tied to surge in opioid overdose deaths


Lisa Rapaport
December 31, 2019 / 1:40 PM

Opioid overdose deaths have spiked in the wake of automotive assembly plant closures across the U.S. South and Midwest, a new study suggests.

Plant closures were associated with an 85% surge in opioid overdose mortality rates among working-age adults five years later, compared with what would have been expected if these factories had remained open, researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.


The findings may not be unique to the auto industry, Barnett added, although more research is needed to assess how much factory closures in other sectors might impact drug use or fatalities.

Drugmakers from Pfizer to GSK to hike U.S. prices on over 200 drugs


Michael Erman, Carl O'Donnell
December 31, 2019 / 4:00 PM

Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK.L) and Sanofi SA (SASY.PA) are planning to hike U.S. list prices on more than 200 drugs in the United States on Wednesday, according to drugmakers and data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

Nearly all of the price increases will be below 10%, and around half of them are in the range of 4 to 6%, said 3 Axis co-founder Eric Pachman. The median price increase is around 5%, he said.

More price increases are expected to be announced later this week, which could affect the median and range.


Many branded drugmakers have pledged to keep their U.S. list price increases below 10% a year, under pressure from politicians and patients.


Heroic effort saves Mogo Zoo after it was ringed by fire

Good news.

Thank you to the zookeepers.


Janet Fife-Yeomans, The Daily Telegraph
December 31, 2019 4:41pm

Zookeepers have saved the world famous Mogo Zoo on the state’s south coast after it was ringed by fire today.

A sanctuary to some animals that no longer exist in the wild and others that are on the endangered list, Mogo Zoo is home to Australia’s largest collection of primates as well as giraffes, zebras, cheetahs and its famous snow leopards.

Featherdale director of life sciences Chad Staples said no animals had been hurt because of the heroic work by staff who, for more than three hours, fought the flames and spot fires which burned right into the zoo.

“We had staff in every corner making sure everyone and every animal was safe,” Mr Staples told The Daily Telegraph.

“It was hell. You can still see the flames just across from us.”


Major Elephant Refuge Goes Entire Year Without a Single Poaching

Good news.


By Joe McCarthy
June 17, 2019

Not a single elephant has been poached over the past year in Mozambique’s Niassa wildlife reserve, a major achievement that puts an end to what had previously been considered a crisis, according to the Associated Press.

Thousands of elephants in the reserve were slaughtered for their tusks over the past few years to feed the underground ivory market, causing the area’s elephant population to decline by nearly 75%, the Associated Press reports.

The sudden reversal of the poaching rate reflects major investments in surveillance and deterrence efforts throughout the park and the swelling of political support for elephant safety that has taken place in recent years. Mozambique’s President Felipe Nyusi has become personally interested in the protection of elephants, and authorized an elite police unit to conduct patrols throughout the park and apprehend poaching suspects.


The 2000s Never Ended

For those who like to argue about such things.

My opinion on a Facebook argument about when a decade begins and ends:

Words are for communication, not for theory. If you want most people to understand you, then the decade began in 2000.


Amanda Mull
December 27, 2019

Of the many things worth arguing about in America, the number of years that constitute a decade is probably not among them. The word quite literally means “10 years.” But consider historical time, often referred to in decade-based shorthand, and all of a sudden the clear concept of a decade gets blurrier.

Most decades in America have a corresponding social and cultural narrative that’s an uneasy fit in the actual calendar. The ’50s are often stereotyped as an era of postwar domestic prosperity, but the trends cited as proof, such as the growth of the suburbs, reach well into the ’60s. That decade, in turn, cannot tidily hold the massive shifts attributed to it.


Here’s why you should never open videos you receive on Facebook Messenger

I have recently received several that appear to be from friends, which I did not open because of this.


Jasper HamillWednesday 3 Jan 2018 3:25 pm

You might be feeling very pleased that someone has chosen to brighten up your lonely existence by sending you a nice video on Facebook Messenger. But you’d be heartily advised to think before you click because that vid could be hiding a nasty virus. Tech experts have issued a warning about malware that’s spread using Facebook Messenger and designed to hijack people’s computers and put them to work mining bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. If you receive a YouTube link with a dodgy title like ‘this video is yours’ then you should make sure to avoid clicking it, because it’s probably designed to drag you onto a criminal website and take control of your computer. Some people who took the bait claim their Facebook accounts were compromised so they churned out spam posts designed to lure even more people into falling into hackers’ traps.


In a statement, Facebook said: ‘We constantly update our systems to help stop harmful links and files from appearing on Facebook and in Messenger. ‘We have already removed many of these links from our platform and will continue to do so if more appear. If we suspect your computer is infected with malware, we will provide you with a free anti-virus scan from our trusted partners. ‘We also share tips on how to stay secure and provide links to these scanners on facebook.com/help.’

Monday, December 30, 2019

Mixed feelings

Dec. 30, 2019

Horrible hearing the news about the wildfires in Australia. Anger and despair that they have chosen climate denialists as their leaders. We have a denialist president, but he lost the popular vote. I feel like someone who has a friend or relative who has self-destructive habits they were warned against.

The bushfires in Australia are so big they're generating their own weather — 'pyrocumulonimbus' thunderstorms that can start more fires


Jim Edwards
Dec. 30, 2019

The bushfires in Australia are now so big that they are generating their own weather, in the form of giant thunderstorms that start more fires, according to the Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria.

"Pyro-cumulonimbus clouds have developed to altitudes over 16km in East #Gippsland this afternoon. These fire-induced storms can spread fires through lightning, lofting of embers and generation of severe wind outflows," the bureau tweeted on Monday.


Scientists worry that "pyroCbs" are on the rise around the world, driven by warmer temperatures and more intense fires, Yale E360 reported. Their plumes are so strong that they can even shoot smoke into the stratosphere, 6 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface.


tags: extreme weather, severe weather

Trump’s pardon of Gallagher just got even more appalling


Dec. 29, 2019 at 4:31 p.m. EST

“FREAKING EVIL.” That is how Special Operator First Class Craig Miller described Eddie Gallagher, the chief of his Navy SEAL platoon. Then, he wept.

The New York Times last week revealed investigative video recordings of testimony from members of SEAL Team 7 who reported behavior from Chief Petty Officer Gallagher that they believed violated the spirit of their profession and the rule of military law. These agonizing accounts make even more appalling President Trump’s unprecedented decision to reverse Chief Gallagher’s demotion and pardon two other service members convicted of war crimes this fall, and to preserve Chief Gallagher’s Trident pin by preempting the plans of Navy commanders.

The SEALs’ descriptions portray a fighter unhinged from the military’s mission of defending the nation and dedicated instead to his own desire to spill blood. Chief Gallagher, SEALs said, purposely exposed his soldiers to enemy fire and thought casualties in his platoon could win him a Silver Star. They said he bragged that “burqas were flying” when he shot at women and boasted after an operation that he had killed four of them — with the excuse that he had fired warning shots first. Other members of the platoon, they said, began to spend their days trying to “save civilians from Eddie.”


These men broke the customary code of silence maintained by the SEALs because they thought Chief Gallagher’s behavior violated something more sacred: the duty of the men and women who fight for the United States to fight for it honorably. It’s this sacred duty that the president ridicules by allowing “Fox & Friends” and other right-wing media to lobby him into excusing — even rewarding — ethical lapses. What does this say to any soldier who wants to speak up about wrongdoing? Those who tried to hold Chief Gallagher to account are suffering insults on national television, while the petty officer, now retired with full honors, is palling around with the president at Mar-a-Lago.


Listeria concerns prompts ramen recall


Posted: Dec 30, 2019 / 11:54 AM EST / Updated: Dec 30, 2019 / 11:54 AM EST

Veggie Noodle Co. said this weekend it was voluntarily recalling its Cece’s brand Fresh Veggie Ramen with Chicken Broth due to concerns the egg contained in the package may be contaminated with listeria.

Veggie Noodle gets its hard-boiled eggs from Georgia-based Almark Foods, which recalled its hard-boiled eggs earlier this month. Almark has expanded its recall twice to involve even more products.

The recall impacts all expiration dates of the Fresh Veggie Ramen, but no other products, the company said.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Report links recommended physical activity levels to lower risk of seven cancers


News Release 26-Dec-2019
American Cancer Society

A pooled analysis of nine prospective studies involving more than 750,000 adults finds that recommended amounts of leisure-time physical activity were linked to a lower risk for seven cancers, with several cancer types having a 'dose/response' relationship. The study was led by investigators at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.


They found engaging in recommended amounts of activity (7.5 to 15 MET hours/week) was associated with a statistically significant lower risk of seven of the 15 cancer types studied, with the reduction increasing with more MET hours. Physical activity was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in men (8% for 7.5 MET hours/week; 14% for 15 MET hours/week), female breast cancer (6%-10%), endometrial cancer (10%-18%), kidney cancer (11%-17%), myeloma (14%-19%), liver cancer (18%-27%), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (11%-18% in women). The dose response was linear in shape for half of the associations and nonlinear for the others.


Moscow resorts to fake snow in warmest December since 1886


Andrew Roth in Moscow
Sun 29 Dec 2019 06.52 EST

Moscow has been so warm this December that the government has resorted to sending trucks filled with artificial snow to decorate a new year display in the city centre.

Videos of the delivery for a snowboarding hill went viral as observers noted the irony of bringing snow to a city that spends millions each year on its removal.


The Moscow region is in the throes of one of its warmest winters since temperatures began to be systematically recorded 140 years ago. The temperature in the Russian capital rose to 5.4C on 18 December, topping the previous record for the month set in 1886.


Concerns are growing about the effects of global heating on Russia. Permafrost under the country’s northern towns is slowly melting, and receding Arctic ice is driving hungry polar bears to forage in urban areas. The thaw in the northern permafrost has even set off a “gold rush” for mammoth ivory by making the tusks previously buried in ice more accessible to prospectors.


Russia is a signatory to the Paris agreement to combat global heating, and Vladimir Putin said during a televised press conference last week that the crisis was a direct threat to Russia. The country was warming 2.5 times faster than the average for the planet, he noted.

At the same time, Russia recently abandoned plans to set greenhouse-gas emissions targets for business after lobbying by a powerful Russian industry association. In his remarks, Putin cast doubt on the science, however, and omitted any discussion of greenhouse gases. He suggested the climate could be changing because of a shift in Earth’s axis.

“Nobody really knows the causes of climate change, at least global climate change,” he said, adding that people should nevertheless make their “best efforts to prevent dramatic changes in the climate”.

'Remarkable' high as Scottish temperature record is broken

They describe the meteorological conditions that are the immediate cause. It has happened before, because it has a name. But the occurrences of this condition in the past did not cause such a high overnight temperature.


Clea Skopeliti
Sun 29 Dec 2019 17.37 EST
Last modified on Sun 29 Dec 2019 19.10 EST

Northern Scotland registered a “remarkable” overnight temperature of 16.8C (62.2F) in the early hours of Sunday – a record high for this time of year.

North-eastern England and northern Wales were also unusually warm, with 13.3C recorded in Chillingham Barns, Northumberland, and 11.5C in Rhyl.

The Scottish figure, recorded by the Met Office at 3am on Sunday in Cassley in Sutherland, is the highest on record for 29, 30 or 31 December.


Alex Burkill, a meteorologist for the Met Office, said it was extremely rare to see such high temperatures overnight this late in the year.

“Getting temperatures of 16 or 17 degrees in December isn’t all that unusual but it’s remarkable that this was during the night,” he told the BBC.


The biggest business con of 2019: fleecing workers while bosses get rich


Robert Reich
Sun 29 Dec 2019 04.00 EST
Last modified on Sun 29 Dec 2019 04.29 EST

Until his ouster, Muilenburg was a director of the Business Roundtable, an association of 192 CEOs of America’s largest corporations. With great fanfare last August, it announced a “fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders” (emphasis in the original) and not just their shareholders.

The Roundtable’s commitment came in response to growing public distrust of big corporations, and proposals from several Democratic candidates to rein them in


Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is another member of the Business Roundtable. Just weeks after he made the commitment to all his stakeholders, Whole Foods, an Amazon subsidiary, announced it would be cutting medical benefits for its entire part-time workforce.

The annual saving to Amazon from this cost-cutting move is roughly what Bezos – whose net worth is $110bn – makes in two hours. (Bezos’s nearly completed DC mansion will have 2 elevators, 25 bathrooms, 11 bedrooms, and a movie theater.)


Instead of a holiday bonus this year, Walmart offered its employees a 15% store discount. Oh, and did I say? Walmart saved $2.2bn this year from the Trump tax cut.

The tax cut itself was a product of the Roundtable’s extensive lobbying, lubricated by its generous campaign donations. Several of its member corporations, including Amazon and General Motors, wound up paying no federal income taxes at all last year.

Not incidentally, the tax cut will result in less federal money for services on which Americans and their communities rely.


Americans know this. In the most recent Pew survey, a record 73% of US adults (including 62% of Republicans, and 71% of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year) said they believed major corporations had too much power. And 65% believed they made too much profit


Record Hit for Most Ice to Melt in Antarctica in One Day, Data Suggests: "We Are in a Climate Emergency"



By Kashmira Gander On 12/27/19 at 7:22 AM EST

The record in recent decades for the highest level of ice to melt in Antarctica in one day was reached on Christmas Eve, data suggests.

Around 15 percent of the continent's surface melted on Monday, according to the Global Forecast System (GFS) by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The data comes from the Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR), a model used for meteorological and climatic research.

Xavier Fettweis, a climatologist at the University of Liège in Belgium, who tweeted the data on Friday, said this is the highest melt extent in Antarctica in the modern era, since 1979. He added the production of melt water is a record 230 percent higher than average since November this year. That's despite the melting season not yet being over.


Asked whether climate change is to blame, he said: "As for most of the anomalies observed on these last months over the Earth (e.g. in Australia), the signal coming from global warming can not be ignored here."

Fettweis said Antarctica had been "protected" by global warming, due in part to a stronger polar vortex over this last decade than usual. But he said this no longer seems to be the case, and climate anomalies observed at the continent can no longer be used by climate skeptics to deny global warming is occurring.


Last month, scientists urged world leaders to take urgent action to tackle climate change, as "abrupt" and "irreversible" climate tipping points that threaten human civilization may have already started.

Tipping points are thresholds that, once passed, can trigger rapid changes to climate systems. These were first described by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) two decades ago. At that time it was thought they would likely happen if global warming exceeded pre-industrial levels by 5 C. But since then, new research has indicated the events could happen even with 1 C to 2 C of warming, the scientists said.

In an article published in the journal Nature, scientists highlighted if the likely interconnected tipping points are met, a domino-effect of "long-term irreversible changes" to the planet could be triggered.

"Evidence that tipping points are underway has mounted in the past decade," the experts wrote.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

West Virginia poverty gets worse under Trump economy, not better


By Aimee Picchi
September 28, 2018 / 12:10 PM

West Virginia has a growing poverty problem, and experts there who study the issue say Americans in every state should pay attention.

The Appalachian state is, along with Delaware, just one of two states where poverty rose last year, bucking the national trend of growing incomes and declining hardship, according to U.S. Census data released earlier this month. West Virginia's poverty rate climbed to 19.1 percent last year from 17.9 percent, making it just one of four states with a poverty rate above 18 percent.


Jobs in low-wage industries have grown 14.5 percent since 2001 in West Virginia, compared with a decline of 2.8 percent in jobs that pay higher wages during the same time, according to the WVCBP's figures. The state has about 22,000 people employed in mining and logging, compared with 131,000 education and health care workers and 155,000 government workers, two of the biggest industries in the state, according to government data.

West Virginia's dismal trends point to an economic issue that's impacting states across the country: Workers at the bottom of the pay scale aren't benefiting from the growing economy. Their issues range from low pay to unstable and scanty work hours, which makes it difficult to earn a living wage. Almost one in four West Virginians is employed in a low-wage job, the WVCBP found.

"It's cashiers, retail sales people, service employees -- those are our fastest growing jobs, but those jobs don't pay very well," O'Leary notes.

At the Manna Meals soup kitchen, more people are coming in for nourishment, said its executive director, Tara Martinez. The Charleston soup kitchen served almost 10,800 meals in August, compared with about 9,700 in January.


West Virginia's poor residents will face another burden beginning in October, when work requirements for food stamps go into effect across the state. Martinez said she believes the measure, which requires able-bodied adults without dependents to work, volunteer or receive job training for at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps, will push more into poverty and ramp up demand for her soup kitchen's services.


She added, "You have huge companies, corporations that do really well and make a substantial profit and paying their employees as little as possible -- and their employees are on food stamps or other benefits."


Navy pulls plug on climate task force after Pentagon deems climate change a ‘national security issue’


By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 28, 2019

A decade-old Navy task force that researched the effects of and possible adaptations to climate change closed in March, but the news didn’t break until this month.

On Aug. 7, E&E News Greenwire reported the service had “quietly” shuttered its Task Force Climate Change five months prior with little public notice.

A Navy spokesperson told the online publication, which covers energy and environmental issues, the program ended because its “functions have been transitioned to existing business processes.”


The task force’s closure came two months after a Jan. 10 Defense Department report on climate change effects on defense issues. In the report, the department deemed the phenomenon a “national security issue with potential impacts to DoD missions, operational places and installations.”

It listed recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires and thawing permafrost as climate-caused events that Defense Department installations could be vulnerable to in the coming 20 years. In the Navy alone, the January report said 16 installations are suffering from recurrent flooding, 18 from drought and seven from wildfires.


A former director of Task Force Climate Change, retired Rear Adm. John White, told E&E News that a task force typically releases a culminating report on its accomplishments or where the group’s responsibilities will be assigned before its closure. But no such report was released.

The Navy’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change website has been almost completely scrubbed. Three small boxes with links remain on the bottom right of the site, leading to pages for “energy,” “environment” and “climate change” – the latter of which is blank, aside from a broken link to “climate change fact sheets.”

Emptying the webpage follows a trend of disappearing mentions of climate change-related terms on federal environmental websites since President Donald Trump took office, according to a July 2019 report by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.

“Over the thousands of websites we monitor, use of the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘clean energy,’ and ‘adaptation’ dropped by 26% between 2016 and 2018,” the initiative reported. “[T]he Trump administration has removed climate change from federal agency websites, a clear policy indicator in line with withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and revoking the Clean Power Plan.”


Military and intelligence officials warn of climate risk as Trump dismisses it


By: Eric Tucker, The Associated Press   June 5, 2019

Senior U.S. officials warned Wednesday that climate change is an increasing threat to national security, a message at odds with a broader Trump administration effort to downplay the threat from global warming.

Military and intelligence officials outlined a range of long-term threats arising from climate change, including food and water shortages that can produce political turmoil and land disputes as well as melting ice in the Arctic that Russia and other adversaries could exploit for commercial gain.

"Climate change effects could undermine important international systems on which the U.S. is critically dependent such as trade routes, food and energy supplies, the global economy, and domestic stability abroad," Rod Schoonover, a senior State Department analyst focusing on global issues, told members of the House Intelligence Committee. "Most countries, if not all, are already unable to fully respond to the risks posed by climate-linked hazards under present conditions.



by Nafeez Ahmed
Oct 24 2019, 9:00am

According to a new U.S. Army report, Americans could face a horrifically grim future from climate change involving blackouts, disease, thirst, starvation and war. The study found that the US military itself might also collapse. This could all happen over the next two decades, the report notes.

The senior US government officials who wrote the report are from several key agencies including the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, and NASA. The study called on the Pentagon to urgently prepare for the possibility that domestic power, water, and food systems might collapse due to the impacts of climate change as we near mid-century.

The report was commissioned by General Mark Milley, Trump's new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the highest-ranking military officer in the country (the report also puts him at odds with Trump, who does not take climate change seriously.)

The report, titled Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army, was launched by the U.S. Army War College in partnership with NASA in May at the Wilson Center in Washington DC. The report was commissioned by Gen. Milley during his previous role as the Army’s Chief of Staff. It was made publicly available in August via the Center for Climate and Security, but didn't get a lot of attention at the time.

The two most prominent scenarios in the report focus on the risk of a collapse of the power grid within “the next 20 years,” and the danger of disease epidemics. Both could be triggered by climate change in the near-term, it notes.


Sea level rise, which could go higher than 2 meters by 2100 according to one recent study, “will displace tens (if not hundreds) of millions of people, creating massive, enduring instability,” the report adds.


But without urgent reforms, the report warns that the US military itself could end up effectively collapsing as it tries to respond to climate collapse. It could lose capacity to contain threats in the US and could wilt into “mission failure” abroad due to inadequate water supplies.

What Kind of World

What Kind of World
© copyright 2016 Patricia M. Shannon

What kind of world do we want to leave the future?
What will they say about us when we are gone?
Will they thank us? Will they curse us?
Will there be anybody left to care at all?
Will they thank us? Or will they curse us?
Will there be anybody left to care at all?
Will there be anybody left to care at all?

We have learned much, risen from the muck.
Will we throw it all away?
We could continue on so far, maybe even to the stars,
if we don't throw it all away, if we don't throw it all away.


(verse 2)
When we take a stand, we can heal the land,
if we work together now.
We could get power from the sun, prevent our own extinction,
if we would work together now,
if we just work together now.


(verse 3)

[Wrote this verse the evening of Sept. 12, 2017, the day after tropical storm, formerly super hurricane Irma, came thru the metro Atlanta area.]

We've known a long time we're committing a grave crime
if we refuse to change our ways.
Now the time has come to pay: drowning, burning, blown away.
Because we wouldn't change our ways.
We just refused to change our ways.

More US voters than ever care about climate – but will they go to the polls?

If we don't take care of the environment, nothing else will matter.


Emily Holden in Washington
Thu 26 Dec 2019 02.00 EST

A growing share of voters list climate and the environment as their top priority, according to a new poll from the Environmental Voter Project.

Of the registered voters surveyed, 14% named “addressing climate change and protecting the environment” their No 1 priority over all other issues, compared with 2% to 6% before the 2016 presidential election.

Climate and environment voters are also the most motivated to vote in 2020, saying they are willing to wait in line an average of an hour and 13 minutes at the polls.


“That’s like four times the number of NRA members. It’s enormous, and a lot of that growth has happened over the last two to three years.”


A quarter of infrequent voters were not aware they could vote early, and 29% weren’t aware they could vote absentee. Voting by mail could also increase environment voter turnout.


The poll also confirmed that while Donald Trump is unpopular with a majority of Americans, his supporters are the most reliable voters.


Why a corporate lawyer is sounding the alarm about these common chemicals


Carey Gillam
Fri 27 Dec 2019 06.20 EST
Last modified on Sat 28 Dec 2019 11.16 EST


According to Bilott, we face a “unique health threat” from a class of industrial chemicals that most Americans have never heard of. These chemicals are widely used in everyday products such as non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, even though science shows they are linked to a range of deadly diseases, reproductive problems and other ailments. Powerful corporations are fighting to protect the use of these profitable chemical compounds, Bilott says, and US regulators are doing next to nothing to stop them.

It’s worth listening to what Bilott has to say. He has spent the last two decades advocating for people in West Virginia and Ohio whose water was contaminated with one of these toxins, a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.


Bilott achieved a class-action settlement with DuPont in 2004, part of which paid for a six-year health study. That study found links between PFOA and high cholesterol, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, pregnancy-induced hypertension and thyroid disease.


Bilott’s battle against DuPont, documented in a memoir, has been made into the feature film Dark Waters, released to theaters across the country this month. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters tells of Bilott’s journey from a chemical industry defense attorney to a plaintiffs’ champion who uncovered evidence that DuPont knowingly hid the dangers of PFOA, even as its manufacturing facility near Parkersburg, West Virginia, was spilling the toxin across the landscape.

DuPont’s own lawyers and scientists raised concerns about the local community’s exposure to PFOA, Bilott told me. “Unfortunately what we saw was decisions made for business purposes to continue using the chemical, releasing it, and exposing people to it,” Bilott says.


Bilott says scientific research shows that PFAS chemicals accumulate in the human body and in the environment, creating a “ticking time bomb” in anyone exposed. He asserts that the companies “maliciously conspired” to conceal the dangers of PFAS while contaminating the bodies of people around the country.

As is the case with PFOA, studies link PFAS exposure to a range of human health problems, including a suppression of the human immune system, liver dysfunction, and adverse birth outcomes. The chemicals have been used since the 1940s in a range of products such as non-stick cookware, stain-repellents, food packaging, firefighting foam and other products.


Georgia doesn’t have to put almost 100,000 voters back on its rolls, a federal judge ruled Friday


Associated Press
Sat 28 Dec 2019 10.01 EST

Georgia doesn’t have to put almost 100,000 voters back on its rolls, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The US district judge Steve C Jones ruled that a voting rights advocacy group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams is improperly asking him to interpret state law. Jones also said the group hasn’t proved that people who have been removed had their constitutional rights violated.

However, Jones also ordered Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to do more to warn people that they had been removed. The judge is especially singling out a south-west Georgia state House district where a 28 January special election is scheduled. Voters there who have been removed have only until Monday to re-register.

Raffensperger in October released a list of over 313,000 voters whose registrations were at risk of being canceled. Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group, had asked for the purge to be halted.

Voter purges in Georgia became a hot-button issue during last year’s race for governor between Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, who won the race. Kemp served as secretary of state before being elected governor and oversaw aggressive voter purges during his tenure. Over 1.4m voter registrations were canceled in Georgia between 2012 and 2018.


Interior Department removes 'sexual orientation' from anti-discrimination guideline


December 27, 2019

President Trump’s Interior Department removed “sexual orientation” from a statement in the agency’s ethics guide regarding workplace discrimination.


Australia's heat wave is so bad a dehydrated koala flagged down a cyclist for water


kmclaughlin@businessinsider.com (Kelly McLaughlin)
,INSIDER•December 27, 2019

A group of cyclists found a koala in the middle of the road, looking dehydrated and confused on Friday. In what appeared to be a cry for help in the heat, the koala climbed on to one of the cyclist's bikes.

The cyclist, identified by The Independent as Anna Heuseler, filmed the koala drinking her water just outside Adelaide in southern Australia, and posted the video on Instagram.


Some parts of Australia are facing a "severe" fire danger warning, CNN reported. Deadly bush fires have been burning across Australia over the last two months, killing at least 9 people and destroying nearly 800 homes.

The mid-north coast of New South Wales is home to 15,000 to 28,000 koalas. Ecologists fear up to 9,000 koalas may have died in the recent bushfires, according to The Independent.


Mother who injected feces into son with cancer's IV during chemo sentenced to 7 years


Kellie Hwang and Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star
,USA TODAY•December 28, 2019

An Indiana woman who admitted injecting her son's IV with fecal matter has been sentenced.

Tiffany Alberts of Wolcott, was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison and five years probation for six counts of aggravated battery and one neglect charge, according to the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. In September, Alberts was acquitted of an attempted murder charge.


tags: child abuse

Google employee says she was fired for sending internal pop-ups about labor rights


By Colin Lecher@colinlecher Dec 17, 2019, 9:00am EST

Google has fired another employee following a showing of internal activism, marking the latest in a series of controversial terminations at the search giant.

Kathryn Spiers, a security engineer at Google, told The Verge she was fired from the company last week after two years. As part of her duties at Google, Spiers was responsible for sending web browser notifications within the company. While Google employees navigated the web, relevant informational pop-ups would appear as employees viewed certain sites. Spiers, who worked on internal data security, had deployed similar notifications to discourage employees from acting irresponsibly with data, among other projects.

After news broke last month about Google employing a law firm known for its anti-union activities and firing four employees involved in internal activism, Spiers took it upon herself to set up a new notification for employees. When Googlers visited the law firm’s website or Google’s internal worker guidelines, they were sent a new message through a browser pop-up: “Googlers have the right to participate in protected concerted activities.” The message included a link to a labor rights notice Google was mandated to post.

Spiers says she was put on administrative leave hours after releasing the message and was told on Friday that she was being fired from the company. Google management, she says, argued that she had sent the code without proper approval and had endangered company security. She says she had proper approval for sending the code, and she disputes that it introduced any security concerns.


Friday, December 27, 2019

Republicans’ fear of Trump keeps others off primary ballots


By Jay Bookman -
December 26, 2019

If any Georgian Republicans are feeling a little queasy about Donald Trump and the direction that he’s taking their party and their country, they won’t have a chance to express it at the primary ballot box. That option has been slammed shut.

In a quiet decision earlier this month, the state GOP’s executive committee rejected requests from William Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, and Joe Walsh, a former GOP congressman from Illinois, to appear on the 2020 presidential primary ballot. The only name allowed to appear on the ballot, the only choice that Georgia Republicans will have, is Donald J. Trump.

Similar steps are being taken all over the country, as part of a concerted effort to silence what remains of dissent in the party. So far, Republicans in ten states have ensured that primary voters will have no opportunity to express displeasure against their nominee. Minnesota, like Georgia, allowed only Trump’s name to be entered into nomination. Eight other states, including South Carolina, have canceled Republican primaries or caucuses altogether to prevent opposition from surfacing.

GOP officials in North Carolina and Michigan have also tried to bar his opponents from the ballot, but have so far failed. Even in Massachusetts, where Weld holds the record for largest margin of victory in a governor’s race, officials in his own party tried hard but failed to keep him off the primary ballot.


A hard-boiled egg recall expands to products sold at Walmart and Trader Joe's following a deadly listeria outbreak


By Scottie Andrew, CNN
Updated 9:44 AM ET, Wed December 25, 2019

A hard-boiled egg recall has expanded to products sold at Walmart and Trader Joe's following a deadly listeria outbreak.

Almark Foods broadened the recall to include all hard-boiled egg products manufactured at its facility in Gainesville, Georgia, due to potential listeria contamination.
The listeria outbreak has been linked to seven cases, including one death and four hospitalizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The outbreak is contained to five states, but the recalled products were shipped nationwide.

The expanded recall includes popular brands and organic fare, like Egglands Best, Pete & Gerry's and Vital Farms.

Trader Joe's egg and potato salads were recalled, too, because Almark Foods provided broken egg whites used in their production.
Affected products have a "Best If Used By" date that starts with a G, which means the product was manufactured at the Gainesville facility and should not be consumed, the Food and Drug Administration said.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Those Amazon packages arriving for Christmas? They come at the expense of workers' rights.


Erica Smiley, Opinion contributor
,USA TODAY Opinion•December 25, 2019

Prime members were a big part of Amazon’s $11.2 billion in profits last year — on which the corporation, incidentally, paid $0 in income taxes. So can’t we, the people, demand more from Amazon — with Prime members leading the way?

In fact, arguably for Prime members who are both pushing and benefitting from the leading innovations of Amazon, speaking out for more just business practices is our duty. Amazon’s convenience comes at a high cost to working people. People working at Amazon face strenuous, sometimes impossible, demands inside warehouses, delivering packages, and even working as independent contractors.

Warehouse workers are required to meet impossible quotas for how many items they “pick” every shift. They often receive few — if any — real breaks on the job, and the demands are so great, warehouse workers around the world have succumbed to exhaustion and some have even died on the warehouse floor. Drivers race against a tight clock to deliver an enormous amount of packages, putting their own — and the safety of others — on the road at risk. Amazon increasingly relies on contractors to make these deliveries, which limits the company’s liability if something goes wrong and lets Amazon avoid paying overtime or benefits, while drivers use their own cars to make deliveries.

That’s bad enough, but as Amazon expands its data services empire, its unjust business practices are setting the standard for the entire economy. And instead of using its profits to reward the working people who make Amazon work, the corporation pays politicians to do its bidding — rigging the rules of the economy to be better for Amazon but worse for our communities. The end result will be almost instantaneous delivery of a race-to-the-bottom economy that is bad for all of us.


Do unto others

Dec. 26, 2019

The way we treat others helps to create a world in which others treat us that way. The kind of businesses we choose to buy from help create a world in which their business practices are the norm, and we are treated the same way.

Unless you are so poor your choice is buying from Walmart or starving, don't expect sympathy from me if your employer treats you badly.

Unless you really need an item you can't buy elsewhere, don't buy from Amazon, then expect sympathy from me if you lose your job because your business can't compete with them.

Actions speak louder than words

Dec. 26, 2019

Don't use several paper towels to dry your hands then expect me to believe the reason you skip school for a climate protest is that you are concerned about the climate crisis and your future.

'm at Barnes and Noble. Ladies room has light activated paper towel dispenser. Each towel is big. Saw several teenagers (and older) using two, even three of those large paper towels, then throwing them away.

The Northeast warms ahead of rest of USA: 'Our winters now are not like our winters before'


Kyle Bagenstose, USA TODAY Network
,https://www.usatoday.com/news/•December 26, 2019

For one scientist, climate change in the Northeast announces itself in the abnormal appearances of warm-water fish – an abundance of mahi-mahi and unprecedented sightings in January of Gulf Stream flounder and juvenile black sea bass in shallow waters off New England.

“Nobody had ever seen that before,” said Glen Gawarkiewicz, an oceanographer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

For another scientist, the phenomenon materializes in ocean temperatures, which have been rising for more than a generation, influencing coastal weather and pushing snowfall farther inland.

“Our winters now are not like our winters before,” said Lenny Giuliano, the state meteorologist in Rhode Island.


Politics Editor at Evangelical Publication The Christian Post Resigns Over Pro-Trump Editorial


Madeleine Carlisle
,Time•December 25, 2019

Napp Nazworth, a politics editor at evangelical Christian newspaper The Christian Post, announced on Monday that he had resigned from his job after learning The Post planned to publish an editorial in support of President Donald Trump.

“I was told by our managing editor that they were going in the direction of being a ‘pro-Trump publication,’ and that they were [going] to publish an editorial that I could not support,” Nazworth tells TIME in an interview Tuesday, following a series of tweets in which he announced his resignation. “So it was sort of a mutual decision… we can no longer work together basically.”


“They’ve chosen to represent a narrow (and shrinking) slice of Christianity. That might be a good business decision, short term at least. But … it’s bad for Democracy, and bad for the Gospel,” he wrote in subsequent tweets. “It means there will be one more place where readers can go for bias confirmation, but one less place where readers can go to exercise their brains on diversity of thought.”

Nazworth, who had worked at The Christian Post for eight and a half years, says he would have been fine publishing the pro-Trump piece as an op-ed.

“As the politics editor of The Christian Post I have always welcomed diverse voices. I’ve published many op-eds I disagreed with,” he tells TIME. It was only once he learned the paper planned to publish the piece as an editorial, making it the position of the newspaper as a whole, versus that of an individual writer, that he felt he had to resign.


Public support for Trump conviction at all-time high, poll finds


Zoe Tidman
,The Independent•December 26, 2019

Public support for Donald Trump‘s removal from office is the highest it has ever been, according to a new poll.

Fifty-five per cent of those asked said they were in favour of the US president’s conviction by the Senate, a figure which has shot up from 48 per cent the week before.

Meanwhile, the number of people against Mr Trump’s removal has dropped to an all-time low, according to the MSN poll.

On Christmas Day, 40 per cent were opposed to the Senate voting to convict the president, who has been impeached over his dealings with Ukraine and an alleged subsequent attempt to obstruct congress.

The gap between the two views has become much wider since last week, when there was little to divide them (48 per cent in favour of Mr Trump's removal, 47 per cent against).


Americans’ near-record levels of credit card debt help bolster banking industry

I have been wondering how much consumer debt has been helping the economy. We've been thru this before, with debt fueling the economy, ending in an economic crash.

I use my credit card instead of debit card when I make a purchase too big for cash because if someone steals the credit card info, they can't clean out my checking account, as happened to several of my friends. This created a big problem for them until the bank was able to get it cleared up.


By Renae Merle
Dec. 26, 2019 at 10:55 a.m. EST

Americans have accumulated near-record levels of credit card debt over the past year as card companies have increased interest rates and fees.

The booming market is helping drive record banking industry profits but could become increasingly costly for consumers who don’t pay off their bill every month or miss a payment, industry experts say.


To be sure, despite increasing debt loads, delinquency rates remain relatively low. About 6 percent of consumers were late on a payment this year compared with 15 percent in 2009, according to WalletHub. And consumers have yet to balk at the relatively high interest rates, industry experts say.

Credit card debt as a share of disposable income has been flat for the past six years, and many consumers pay off their bill every month, the American Bankers Association said in a November report. “Consumers appear to be well-positioned to meet their financial obligations in the months ahead,” Dan Smith of ABA said in a statement.


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

AT&T promised 7,000 new jobs to get tax break—it cut 23,000 jobs instead


Jon Brodkin - 5/14/2019, 11:41 AM

AT&T has cut more than 23,000 jobs since receiving a big tax cut at the end of 2017, despite lobbying heavily for the tax cut by claiming that it would create thousands of jobs.


The corporate tax cut was subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The tax cut reportedly gave AT&T an extra $3 billion in cash in 2018.

But AT&T cut capital spending and kept laying people off after the tax cut. A union analysis of AT&T's publicly available financial statements "shows the telecom company eliminated 23,328 jobs since the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in late 2017, including nearly 6,000 in the first quarter of 2019," the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said yesterday.


"AT&T's annual report also shows the company boosted executive pay and suggests that after refunds, it paid no cash income taxes in 2018 and slashed capital investments by $1.4 billion," the CWA wrote.


Trump personally stepped in to cut health funding for Puerto Rico in new spending deal, report says

Note that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.


Chris Riotta
Wednesday 18 December 2019 23:30

Donald Trump stepped in to cut Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico by more than half of the original amount that was agreed to during bipartisan negotiations, according to a new report.

Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to provide the US territory with $12bn (£9.2bn) over the next four years as part of a $1.4tn (£1.07tn) spending bill, averting another government shutdown and sending crucial health funding to Puerto Rico after it was ravaged by Hurricane Maria two years ago.

Puerto Rico has continued rebuilding itself after the hurricane and in spite of enormous political uproar this year, when the island’s residents successfully protested for the resignations of its top leaders, including ex-Governor Ricardo Rossello, who stepped down in August.

Despite all that, the president reportedly intervened to remove $6.3bn (£4.8bn) in funding from Puerto Rico in the budget before it went up for a vote and was passed by the House earlier this week.


You've been charging your smartphone all wrong


(Antonio Villas-Boas)
,Business Insider•December 24, 2019

All smartphone batteries have a limited lifespan, but the common habit of charging phones overnight could actually be shortening that lifespan, according to a battery-technology expert.


Is a 9 year old an adult?

What kind of depraved country do we have where we can charge a 9 year old with murder? Do you know any 9 year olds? Do you think they are old enough to be considered adults? If you do, then I assume you think they should be allowed to vote, drive, buy guns, marry, etc.


Associated Press•December 25, 2019

A 9-year-old boy charged in a central Illinois fire that killed five people, including family members, will be evaluated by a child trauma expert to determine if he’s fit to stand trial.

The boy’s attorney, Peter Dluski, sought the expert to see if the child understood the charges and the consequences, among other things, according to The Chicago Tribune.

“Based on my interaction and conversations with (the boy), as well as his age, I have a bona fide doubt as to his fitness to stand trial,” Dluski wrote in a Woodford County filing this month.


His mother has said he suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder.


Charging such a young child is rare, but not unprecedented.

Earlier this year, a Michigan judge dismissed a murder charge against a 9-year-old accused of fatally shooting his mother in their home near Sturgis. The judge ruled that, under Michigan law, the boy was presumed incompetent for trial because he wasn't yet 10.

Juvenile justice experts have criticized charging the Illinois boy in the first place.


‘You’re not a serial killer, right?’ she texted before she died. Prosecutors say that’s exactly what he was.


By Antonia Noori Farzan
November 11, 2019 at 6:08 a.m. EST

According to prosecutors, Wheeler-Weaver targeted young black women who turned to sex work while coping with mental health issues or homelessness. His thinking, authorities say, was that no one would notice if they disappeared. “They were viewed as somehow less than human, less valuable,” Essex County assistant prosecutor Adam Wells said last month, according to NJ.com.


Authorities found Wheeler-Weaver had conducted a slew of disturbing online searches before meeting Butler, including “How to make homemade poisons to kill humans” and “What chemical could you put on a rag and hold to someone’s face to make them go to sleep immediately.” He had reportedly researched how household chemicals like bleach and ammonia could be used to kill someone, and if it was possible to erase your phone data and avoid being tracked, the Record reported.

Another search, for a practice test for the police entrance exam, suggested Wheeler-Weaver, who had been working as a grocery store security guard, hoped to become a police officer.



New Jersey Serial Killer Khalil Wheeler-Weaver Convicted Of Murdering 3 Women, Attempting To Kill 4th Victim

December 23, 2019 at 10:34 pm

A 23-year-old New Jersey serial killer, charged in the murders of three women and the attempted murder of a fourth, has been convicted on all counts.

An Essex County jury deliberated for just two hours last Thursday before convicting Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, who now faces a potential sentence of life plus 80 years in prison.


If it's cold for you, it's cold for them: Here's how to keep dogs safe in frigid weather


Joshua Bote and Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
,USA TODAY•December 24, 2019

It’s worth repeating: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.

Being mindful of Fido is especially true this winter, as blasts of Arctic air have brought record-breaking lows across the nation, including to places less well-equipped to handle the freeze.

Just because your furry companion has a layer of built-in warmth doesn't mean they're winter-ready.

“Don’t assume that your dogs’ fur protects them from the weather like your insulated jacket does," says Kitty Block, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "No pet should be left outside for long periods of time in freezing weather.”

Here are some tips for taking care of your canine friend when the mercury plummets:


Charged With Murder Without Killing Anyone

I notice they never use these laws against executives of companies whose knowing negligence causes the deaths of others, like Boeing.


By Christie Thompson

In 2012, four teenagers and their 21-year-old friend decided to burgle a house in their hometown of Elkhart County, Ind. No one in the group had any weapons, and they picked a house they thought was unoccupied. The homeowner was actually asleep upstairs — and armed. When the five kicked down the back door, Rodney Scott came downstairs and fired his gun, killing 21-year-old Danzele Johnson and hitting another in the leg.

The surviving members of the group, who came to be known as the “Elkhart Four,” were soon facing up to 55 years in prison for a murder they didn’t plan, intend, or commit. The sentences were the result of a complicated and controversial statute called “felony murder.” Most states have some version of a “felony murder” law in their criminal code. Such statutes allow for defendants to be convicted of murder — and in some cases face execution — if a death occurs because of a felony they commit, even if they were not the direct killer.

The Indiana Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions for three of the Elkhart Four last week, finding that “there was simply nothing about the appellant's’ conduct or the conduct of their cohorts that was clearly the mediate or immediate cause of their friend’s death.” (The fourth had plead guilty to the crime, and has filed his own petition.)


Because of the intricacies of plea deals, appeals, and criminal histories, people convicted of felony murder can receive harsher sentences than those directly responsible for the killing. In 1996, Steven Hatch wasput to death for felony murder. He and a friend, Glen Ake, invaded a home in Oklahoma, raped the daughter, and tormented the family. Later, Hatch waited in the car as Ake shot the family and killed the parents. Ake appealed his capital sentence on the grounds that he received inadequate support for his initial insanity plea. His sentence was downgraded to life with the possibility of parole.


Felony murder laws are especially controversial when it comes to children, because, lawyers and advocates claim, they can be easily manipulated into playing a role in an older offender’s crime. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found that 26 percent of the juveniles sentenced to life without parole had been convicted of “felony murder.”


Boeing's fired CEO could walk away with a $60 million golden parachute


By Jackie Wattles, CNN Business
Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT) December 24, 2019

Boeing's ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg left behind a long list of problems at Boeing, but he's walking away with a sizable golden parachute.
The exact amount of money that he will leave with isn't yet clear. That will depend on his negotiations with Boeing (BA), including how the company labels his departure — for example, was it a retirement? A resignation? A layoff?
But public filings show Muilenburg could be entitled to a benefit plan worth more than $30 million and, potentially, a severance payment of about $7 million. Muilenburg also has another $20 million-plus worth of vested stock and a pension package totaling more than $11 million.


Answers from an actual lawyer: Can I use that music, image, or clip?

See the following link for a flowchart


19 April 2019
Podcast Help

Living in a Kafka world

Dec. 25, 2019

Anybody else feel like we're living in a Kafka story?

The first several debates were moderated held by mass media organizations, and allowed almost no discussion of the climate crisis.

The one a week ago was moderated by PBS & Politico, and finally allowed a real discussion of the climate crisis. Tom Steyer said he would start deal with it from day one.

So when I look at how the mass media refers to the debate, including NPR (no surprise) and The Guardian (real disappointment with them), I see little if any mention of this, no mention of Steyer. What they cover is a brief, silly spat between a couple of candidates over having a fund raiser in a "wine cave".

The power elite, the real deep state, is obviously working through the mass media that funds them, to herd us away from dealing with this issue, to protect their wealth.

Republicans to purge over 500,000 voters in two key 2020 states


Clark Mindock
,The Independent•December 17, 2019

Republicans are set to purge more than 500,000 voters from the books in two potentially key 2020 states, with court victories in both Georgia and Wisconsin favouring right-wing groups.

The measures would see voter purges of nearly 234,000 voters in Wisconsin, and around 300,000 in Georgia. If the efforts are successful, the purges would amount to around 7 per cent and 4 per cent of those states’ electorates, respectively.

In Wisconsin, 55 per cent of the voting roll purge letters that have been sent went to districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 over Donald Trump, including college towns and the state’s two largest cities (Mr Trump won the state by just over 22,000 votes). The current governor of the state, a Democrat, won his election by less than 30,000 votes.


In Georgia, meanwhile, the most recent election was decided by just under 55,000 votes. The state has voted for Republicans for decades, but has slowly been moving into swing state status, thanks in part to demographic changes and Mr Trump’s negative approval rating in the state — meaning, a voter purge of the magnitude being undertaken could play a decisive role in who wins the state in 2020.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Ocean Acidification Could Eat Away at Sharks’ Teeth and Scales


By Rachel Nuwer on December 19, 2019

Sharks are some of the world’s most formidable predators, but their place at the top of the marine food chain may be threatened by ocean warming and acidification. As carbon dioxide levels in the oceans increase, upping the acidity of the water, shark teeth and scales may begin to corrode, compromising their ability to swim, hunt and feed, according to research published today in Scientific Reports.

Ultimately, sharks could be displaced as apex predators, disrupting entire ocean food webs, says the study’s senior author Lutz Auerswald, a fisheries biologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and the nation’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. “Some of the bigger species, like great white sharks, are also already highly endangered, so this might wipe them out.”


The impacts, however, would likely vary between species, Auerswald says. Puff adder shy sharks are sedentary predators that ambush their prey, so corroded scales might not impact their ability to hunt. But for larger species that swim in open water, such as great white sharks, scales play an important role in hydrodynamics. One study found that shark denticles are responsible for an up to 12 percent increase in swimming speed. Thus, damaged denticles could slow sharks down and make it more difficult for them to catch prey. Scales also protect females from male biting during courtship and help some shark species defend against other predators. Likewise corrosion to teeth could hit some species harder than others.


“A lot of animals have survived even more acidic conditions in the ancient past, but we also know that a lot of species were wiped out,” Auerswald says. “One lesson is that you have to test species by species.”

Poverty in America is rising. We need a plan to fight it


Andre M. Perry
Monday, December 23, 2019

Here is a rarely publicized fact about our booming economy: Despite stock market highs and low unemployment, poverty in the U.S. is pervasive. The number of people earning less than $25,750 for a family of four is rising in both Republican and Democratic districts, and across racial and geographic lines.

According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by Stateline, a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts, poverty increased in 30% of all U.S. counties between 2016 and 2018. Researchers found that poverty cut across racial and geographic boundaries “from 97% white and solidly Republican-voting Carter County in Kentucky to black-majority, Democratic Bullock County in Alabama.”


Economic distress between political districts deserves attention. Incomes in Republican-voting districts have declined from $55,000 to $53,000 since 2008, according to Brookings analysis. Democratic districts, however, have seen median household income rise from $54,000 in 2008 to $61,000 in 2018.


“We live in a nation that makes sure they put a basketball and a football in the hands of every Black boy before the age of four,” engineer Calvin Mackie told me
for a column I wrote for the Hechinger Report. Mackie runs STEM NOLA, an organization that seeks to engage community members in STEM fields.

“We have to put STEM in the hands of all of our children,” said Mackie. “From the time they are born, we have to introduce [children] to science and technology so they can see themselves as a participant in the 21st century.”

By “participant,” Mackie means employable.


Rising heat knocks the crown off Tunisia's 'queen of dates'


Layli Foroudi
Dec. 23, 2019


this year, much of the deglet nour harvest is dull, dry and wrinkled.

Some dates came off the tree waxy yellow, a characteristic of fruit that never matures enough to become sweet, semi-soft and, in the best cases, transparent enough to see the pip.

Date experts say the culprit is rising extreme heat in Tunisia, a symptom of a warming planet.

“It’s not just a one-off heatwave, (it is) the manifestation of climate change,” said Nabila Kadri, head engineer at the Kebili Technical Centre of Dates, a state institution that supports farmers.

Tunisia is the world’s biggest exporter of dates by value, with sales contributing more than $260 million dollars to the Tunisian economy last year, according to the National Observatory of Agriculture (ONAGRI).

But 40-45% of the harvest of deglet nour dates - which make up 90% of dates cultivated in Tunisia - was lost this year due to high temperatures that lasted day and night, Kadri said.


There are three main ways that climate change is affecting the deglet nour, according to Hamza Hamadi, a researcher at the Institute for Arid Regions, a state research body in Tunisia.

In October, temperatures were much higher than usual, which led to a loss of about 30% of the crop, with the dates that were harvested of lower quality, he said.

Excessive heat not only dries out the dates but also feeds the growth of an acarid mite that buries itself in the flesh of the date, rendering it inedible.


Changes in temperature have also shifted the palms’ flowering and pollination periods, causing the male and female plants to fall out of sync.

Farmers pollinate dates manually to maximize production but increasingly there are shortages of pollen because “either the male tree is too advanced, or the other way round,” explained Kadri of the Technical Centre for Dates.


Obesity in pregnant moms linked to lag in their sons' development and IQ


News Release 20-Dec-2019
University of Texas at Austin

A mother's obesity in pregnancy can affect her child's development years down the road, according to researchers who found impaired motor skills in preschoolers and lower IQ in middle childhood for boys whose mothers were severely overweight while expecting them. A team of nutrition and environmental health researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University found that the differences are comparable to the impact of lead exposure in early childhood.


It Seemed Like a Popular Chat App. It’s Secretly a Spy Tool.


By Mark Mazzetti, Nicole Perlroth and Ronen Bergman

Dec. 22, 2019
It is billed as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text message with friends and family, even in a country that has restricted popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype.

But the service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.


ToTok amounts to the latest escalation in a digital arms race among wealthy authoritarian governments, interviews with current and former American foreign officials and a forensic investigation showed. The governments are pursuing more effective and convenient methods to spy on foreign adversaries, criminal and terrorist networks, journalists and critics — efforts that have ensnared people all over the world in their surveillance nets.


The U.A.E. is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against Iran and a close counterterrorism partner. Its ruling family promotes the country as an example of a modern, moderate Arab nation, but it has also been at the forefront of using surveillance technology to crack down on internal dissent — including hacking Western journalists, emptying the banking accounts of critics, and holding human rights activists in prolonged solitary confinement over Facebook posts.


More atmospheric CO2 could reduce cognitive ability, especially in children

This is something I have thought about. Seems pretty obvious.


byAlexandru Micu
December 20, 2019

New research from the University of Colorado Boulder, the Colorado School of Public Health, and the University of Pennsylvania found that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 in the future could lead to cognitive issues.

A new study found that higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could negatively impact our cognitive abilities — especially among children in the classroom. The findings were presented at this year’s American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting.


However, what happens when the air outside also shows higher-than-usual CO2 levels? In an effort to find out, the team used a computer model and looked at two scenarios: one in which we successfully reduce the amount of CO2 we emit into the atmosphere, and one in which we don’t (a business-as-usual scenario). They then analyzed what effects each situation would have on a classroom of children.

In the first scenario, they explain that by 2100 students will be exposed to enough CO2 gas that, judging from the results of previous studies, they would experience a 25% decline in cognitive abilities. Under the second scenario, however, they report that students could experience a whopping 50% decline in cognitive ability.


This Christmas, We Don’t Need More Stuff. We Need More Love

I suggest reading the whole article.


If you’re reading this, you are incredibly lucky.


Because it means that you have enough to satisfy your basic human needs. That is, you have a roof to live under, nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink. Or, to put it differently, you have what billions of other people are lacking.

Sadly, many of us who’ve been brought up in affluent countries aren’t aware that we’re living in a tremendously unfair and cruel world. A world where the 9 richest people of our planet possess more combined wealth than the total held by the poorest 4 billion. A world where almost half of the human population lives on less than $2.50 a day. A world where 40 million people are enslaved.


Soon we have Christmas again. You know, that part of the year when we do nothing but exchange gifts in the form of products, an act that is marketed to us by big corporations as the only way to prove our love to our friends and family.

You see, in our crazy world even love has been commercialized. It is sold to us and we are more than willing to buy it — many times even with money we don’t actually have.

According to a recent report, 48 million Americans are paying off debt from last year’s Christmas shopping. But this won’t prevent them from going deeper into debt this year. In fact, it’s expected that the average shopper will spend $825 on gifts alone this holiday season — that is, about 50% more than just five years ago! (Should I pull out my hair now or better leave it for when I’m done writing this article?)


To me, if there’s anything we need more of, it’s intimate looks, warm hugs, kind words, and generous smiles. Not candy canes, scented candles and Christmas-themed socks. In other words, we need more of human connection and less of what humans can get for us.

Having said that, I’m not trying to suggest that offering material objects as gifts to people is bad or wrong. It can actually be a great thing, depending on what those gifts are and to whom we give them. If we give people things that can improve the quality of their lives, then that’s totally fine. But what’s the point of giving people stuff they don’t need and that will soon end up as waste in landfills? Would it not be much better if, for example, we spent our excess money to help those in need — the poor, the homeless, the underserved — whether directly or by supporting individuals and organizations that are trying to turn our world into a more beautiful place?


Taking certain vitamins during breast cancer chemo tied to recurrence, death


By Linda Carroll
,Reuters•December 23, 2019

Patients with breast cancer who use supplements during chemotherapy may be at an increased risk of recurrence and death, a new study suggests.

Use of dietary supplements that boost levels of antioxidants, iron, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids appeared to lower the effectiveness of chemotherapy, researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.


"It's thought that antioxidants might interfere with the ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells," Ambrosone explained. "One way chemotherapy works is by generating lots of oxidative stress. The thinking is that antioxidants may block oxidative stress and make chemotherapy less effective."

Doctors have been advising patients for a number of years not to take antioxidants during chemotherapy, Ambrosone said. "But there was no strong empirical data for that recommendation," she added.


"There has been ongoing theoretical concern about the fact that while antioxidants may protect normal cells from the toxic effects of chemo, we don't know that they don't also protect the cancer cells," Tiersten said in an email. "Now we have solid data to back up that concern. I am a bit surprised by the magnitude of the effect, a 41% increase in the risk of recurrence for patients taking these supplements. I have always told patients on chemotherapy that the best way to get their vitamins is through a well-balanced diet and will continue to do so given these data."

A 6-year-old girl found a disturbing handwritten note in a Christmas card that claimed foreign prisoners were being forced to work in China


Ellen Cranle
,Business Insider•December 22, 2019

Tesco, the massive UK-based grocery-store chain, has announced that it halted production at a factory in China over a claim that the factory used forced labor to produce Christmas cards.

Peter Humphrey broke the story at The Sunday Times that a 6-year-old girl in South London found a handwritten plea for help inside a Christmas card she bought from Tesco.

The front of the card was decorated with a kitten in a Santa hat, but the inside contained a disturbing message from someone claiming to be a prisoner who was forced to work.

"We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China," the message said in capital letters. "Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization."

The girl's father, Ben Widdicombe, told the Associated Press that the family initially thought the note was a "prank." They soon realized it was legitimate, however, and contacted Humphrey, who was requested by name in the note. Humphrey as a corporate investigator was detained for several years in China in the same prison.


Donald Trump promotes White House aide who refused to testify in impeachment inquiry


Michael Collins, USA TODAY
,USA TODAY•December 23, 2019

President Donald Trump has handed a promotion to a White House aide who refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry against him.

Trump, who is spending the holidays at his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., has named Robert Blair as the special representative for international communications policy, the White House announced Monday. Blair will lead U.S. efforts to promote a secure and reliable global communications system, the announcement said.


Police: Driver used SUV to strike black male before hitting Latina teen, raging at gas station


Danielle Gehr, Des Moines Register
Published 4:41 p.m. CT Dec. 23, 2019 | Updated 8:50 p.m. CT Dec. 23, 2019

Twice within an hour on the afternoon of Dec. 9, police say a Des Moines woman intentionally struck young pedestrians with her SUV, later telling authorities that she targeted a teenage girl because she was Latino.

Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, 42, is accused of hitting a 12-year-old boy with her SUV as he walked on a sidewalk within an apartment complex property in the 6000 block of Creston Avenue in Des Moines.

Franklin is charged with attempted murder in the incident, which occurred at 3:54 p.m. on Dec. 9, according to a news release from Des Moines police. Witnesses told police the SUV accelerated prior to striking the young male, who is black. He suffered minor injuries.


Clive Police Chief Michael Venema on Friday said Franklin told police that she targeted Miranda because the girl "is Mexican."

In an email to the Register on Monday evening, Parizek said the 12-year-old boy is black and that looking at the other two incidents, "the hate-filled motivation is apparent."


Monday, December 23, 2019

The Prophecies of Jane Jacobs about the fragility of democracy


The Atlantic | Nathaniel Rich
This article was originally published on November 11, 2016, by The Atlantic


In her comparative study of fallen empires, Jacobs identifies common early indicators of decline: “cultural xenophobia,” “self-imposed isolation,” and “a shift from faith in logos, reason, with its future-oriented spirit … to mythos, meaning conservatism that looks backwards to fundamentalist beliefs for guidance and a worldview.” She warns of the profligate use of plausible denial in American politics, the idea that “a presentable image makes substance immaterial,” allowing political campaigns “to construct new reality.” She finds further evidence of our hardening cultural sclerosis in the rise of the prison-industrial complex, the prioritization of credentials over critical thinking in the educational system, low voter turnout, and the reluctance to develop renewable forms of energy in the face of global ecological collapse.

No reader of Jacobs’s work would be surprised by the somewhat recent finding by a Gallup researcher that Donald Trump’s supporters “are disproportionately living in racially and culturally isolated zip codes and commuting zones.” These zones are latter-day incarnations of Higgins: marooned, amnesiac, homogenous, gutted by the diminishment of skills and opportunities. One Higgins is dangerous enough, for both its residents and the republic to which it belongs. But the nation’s Higginses have proliferated to the point that their residents have assumed control of a major political party.


Dark Age Ahead reminds us how many powerful, technologically advanced cities—and empires—have come before us, only to fade to dust. When they fall, they do not recover. The vanished way of life “slides into an abyss of forgetfulness, almost as decisively as if it had not existed.”


Thanks to workers

Dec. 23, 2019

It was cold and rainy yesterday, and the power kept going off for a few seconds or minutes. Finally went off for a few hours last night.

I thank the worker who went out in the cold, dark rain and got it back on.