Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Climate change could hurt babies' hearts, study says

By Jen Christensen, CNN
Updated 5:07 AM ET, Wed January 30, 2019

Heat and pregnancy do not mix. High temps don't just make a pregnant woman uncomfortable, the heat can actually hurt the health of her baby -- and with climate change, this will probably become a bigger problem.

A study in Wednesday's Journal of the American Heart Association found that a larger number of babies will probably be born with congenital heart defects between 2025 and 2035 due to their mothers' exposure to higher temperatures, triggered by climate change, while pregnant. This especially holds true for moms who were pregnant through spring or summer. Climate change could result in as many as 7,000 additional cases of congenital heart defects in the United States over an 11-year period, according to the study. The Midwest will probably see the biggest percent increase, followed by the South and Northeast regions of the United States.

Earlier research found that climate change could "halt and reverse" progress made in human health over the past century, but there's more limited research on the impact that has on pregnancy, the authors said. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects and can hurt a baby's overall health and potentially impact how their body works or develops.


This current research builds on earlier work that found when the temperature stays high, it can hurt a mother's chances of carrying a baby to term. Extreme heat also puts moms at risk to give birth early. Moms exposed to high heat have a bigger chance of having a baby that's small or underweight. Mothers who endure high temperatures early in their pregnancy have a much greater risk that their baby will have congenital heart problems, earlier research has found.


GOP votes against giving back pay to federal contractors

Robert Reich on Facebook
Jan. 30, 2019

House Democrats have introduced legislation to reimburse federal contract for their lost paychecks during the shutdown. Custodians, security guards, cafeteria workers and millions of other contract workers missed almost 10 percent of their annual pay because Trump's antics. But not a single Republican member of Congress has signed on to support the bill.

Instead Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are focused on lining the pockets of their wealthy donors. Earlier this week they proposed eliminating the estate tax, which currently only only applies to estates over $11 million per couple. Once again, Mitch McConnell and Republicans have placed the interests of their donors ahead of American workers.

Foxconn may not build $10B Wisconsin plant Trump touted

Jan. 30, 2019, 7:18 AM EST / Source: Reuters

Foxconn is reconsidering plans to make advanced liquid crystal display panels at a $10 billion Wisconsin campus, and said it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised.

Announced at a White House ceremony in 2017, the 20-million square foot campus marked the largest greenfield investment by a foreign-based company in U.S. history and was praised by President Donald Trump as proof of his ability to revive American manufacturing.

Foxconn, which received controversial state and local incentives for the project, initially planned to manufacture advanced large screen displays for TVs and other consumer and professional products at the facility, which is under construction. It later said it would build smaller LCD screens instead.


He said the company was still evaluating options for Wisconsin, but cited the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the United States, where labor expenses are comparatively high.

"In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.," he said in an interview. "We can't compete."


Earlier this month, Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple, reiterated its intention to create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, but said it had slowed its pace of hiring. The company initially said it expected to employ about 5,200 people by the end of 2020; a company source said that figure now looks likely to be closer to 1,000 workers.


Rather than manufacturing LCD panels in the United States, Woo said it would be more profitable to make them in greater China and Japan, ship them to Mexico for final assembly, and import the finished product to the United States.


Heavily criticized in some quarters, the Foxconn project was championed by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who helped secure around $4 billion in tax breaks and other incentives before leaving office. Critics of the deal, including a number of Democrats, called it a corporate giveaway that would never result in the promised manufacturing jobs and posed serious environmental risks.

The company’s own growth projections and employment goals suggest the taxpayer investment would take at least 25 years to recoup, according to budget think tank the Wisconsin Budget Project.

Does intensive blood pressure control reduce dementia?

Jan. 28, 2019

Intensive lowering of blood pressure did not significantly reduce dementia risk but did have a measurable impact on mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to the final, peer-reviewed results from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) Memory and Cognition in Decreased Hypertension (SPRINT MIND). SPRINT MIND secondary results are the first to show an intervention that significantly reduces the occurrence of MCI, which is a well-established precursor of dementia.


MCI is a condition in which people have more difficulty with cognition, thinking, remembering, and reasoning, than normal for people their age. Dementia is a more severe form of loss in cognitive functions that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common in persons over the age of 50 and a leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and a growing body of research suggests that it may increase risk for dementia later in life.


The authors emphasized that this is the first randomized clinical trial demonstrating that an intervention significantly reduces the occurrence of MCI, which is an established risk factor and often a precursor for dementia. An important conclusion from this research is that the intensive lowering of systolic blood pressure to <120 mmHg target — which reduces the risk of cardiovascular events and mortality — is safe for the brain.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Older Job Applicants Not Protected By Age Bias Law, Says U.S. Appeals Court

Ruth Umoh, Forbes Staff
Jan. 27, 2019

For decades, federal law has protected job seekers over the age of 40 from age discrimination. But in a major blow to older applicants on Wednesday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Public Appeals ruled that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only protects current employees and does not cover external applicants.

Attorney Dale Kleber, who was 58 at the time he applied for the job, claimed in a lawsuit that medical supply company CareFusion passed him over for a senior position in its law department. Instead, the company hired a less experienced 29-year-old candidate.

CareFusion’s job description required applicants to have between three to seven years of relevant legal experience but no more than seven years; Kebler had more than seven years. Represented by AARP, Kleber brought suit under Section 4(a)(2) of the ADEA, arguing that the company’s seven-year experience cap discriminates against older workers. In an 8-4 decision, the majority contended that the statute was meant to protect employees within the company from being denied employment opportunities due to age, not applicants seeking employment.


many older U.S. workers are pushed out of the labor force before they choose to retire, leading to “irreversible financial damage,” according to an analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute. Coupled with the recent ruling, this creates a vicious cycle for older American workers, who already face longer bouts of unemployment than younger workers.


Though age bias is prevalent across all industries, it is more pervasive in certain sectors, such as tech. In a wide-ranging annual survey of venture-backed tech founders, more than a quarter reported that age bias runs rampant, starting as early as age 36.

Much of the age burden is shouldered by women and minorities. One study found that women stop getting promoted into managerial positions at the same rate as men once they hit their early 30s, while a 2018 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw increases in reports of age discrimination filed by blacks and Asians.


[All buy two of the judges on this court were appointed by republican presidents.]



Wednesday’s majority opinion was written by Circuit Judge Michael Scudder, an appointee of President Donald Trump.


Circuit Judge David Hamilton, an appointee of President Barack Obama, dissented, saying extending ADEA protections to job applicants tracked the U.S. Supreme Court’s view of Title VII.


[Both of the judges appointed by Democratic presidents dissented: Diane Pamela Wood (appointed by Clinton), and David F. Hamilton (appointed by Obama).

Science Says: Get used to polar vortex outbreaks

January 28, 2019

It might seem counterintuitive, but the dreaded polar vortex is bringing its icy grip to parts of the U.S. thanks to a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic.

Get used to it. The polar vortex has been wandering more often in recent years.

It all started with misplaced Moroccan heat. Last month, the normally super chilly air temperatures 20 miles above the North Pole rapidly rose by about 125 degrees (70 degrees Celsius), thanks to air flowing in from the south. It’s called “sudden stratospheric warming.”

That warmth split the polar vortex, leaving the pieces to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston.

“Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air,” Cohen said.


When warm air invades the polar region, it can split the vortex or displace it, usually toward Siberia, Cohen said. Recently, there have been more splits, which increase the odds of other places getting ultra-cold, he said. Pieces of the polar vortex have chilled Europe, Siberia and North America this time. (It’s not right to call the frigid center of cold air the polar vortex because it is just a piece or a lobe, not the entire vortex, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.)

When the forces penning the polar vortex in the Arctic are weak, it wanders, more often to Siberia than Michigan. And it’s happening more frequently in the last couple decades, Furtado said. A study a year ago in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society looked at decades of the Arctic system and found the polar vortex has shifted “toward more frequent weak states.”

When the polar vortex pieces wander, warmth invades the Arctic, Alaska, Greenland and Canada, Masters said. While the Midwest chills, Australia has been broiling to record-breaking heat. The world as a whole on Monday was 0.7 degrees (0.4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1979-2000 average, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.


The lowest-paid shutdown workers aren’t getting back pay

By Danielle Paquette
January 29, 2019


Unlike the 800,000 career public servants who are slated to receive full back pay over the next week or so, the contractors who clean, guard, cook and shoulder other jobs at federal workplaces aren’t legally guaranteed a single penny.

They’re also among the lowest-paid laborers in the government economy, generally earning between $450 and $650 weekly, union leaders say.


Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, a labor union that represents 170,000 service workers on the East Coast, said reopening the government is a temporary fix for people on such shaky ground.

“Contracted workers are still in limbo,” he said in an email. “The men and women who clean and secure federal buildings have been living on the edge of disaster for five weeks. Many of these workers are facing eviction, power shut-offs, hunger and even going without lifesaving medications. And unlike direct federal employees, they may never be made whole.”

After the 16-day shutdown in 2013, approximately 850,000 federal workers collected compensation. About 1,200 cleaners, security guards and food-service workers in the Washington area, however, received no makeup pay.

A group of Democratic senators introduced a bill last month aimed at changing that. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have proposed legislation that would repay contractors up to $965 per week with public money and restore sick days used during the shutdown. (It’s unclear whether the bill will advance.)

The push for compensation comes at a time when only 4 in 10 Americans say they could cobble together $400 when faced with an emergency expense, according to the latest Federal Reserve data.

Julia Quintanilla, 55, who has worked for the past 27 years as a janitor at the Agriculture Department and other federal agencies, said she cashed in the last of her sick days during the shutdown to keep some income flowing.


Unemployment is low only because 'involuntary' part-time work is high

Jim Edwards
Jan. 27, 2019,

Unemployment is at record lows in both the UK and the US.
But "involuntary" part-time work is at least 40% higher in both countries than it was 10 years ago.
The structure of the labour market has fundamentally changed, and what we used to think of as "unemployment" has been replaced by mass part-time work, much of it unwanted. [They want full-time work.]
"Gig economy" jobs are to blame, according to Rob Valletta of the San Francisco Fed.


Pay rates no longer move upward as unemployment moves downward because companies like Uber, Amazon, Just Eat, and Deliveroo switch their demand for labour on and off, on a minute-by-minute basis. Self-employed folks making a living on Etsy, Airbnb, or eBay know their clients instantly go elsewhere if they raise their prices by even a few pennies.


How Putin's oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns

Ruth May

Editor's note May 8, 2018: This column originally published December 15, 2017. New allegations about $500k in payments from a Russian oligarch made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen have placed it back in the news.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia.

Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.


Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik's campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire.


In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik's political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.


Think You're Special? That Just Proves You're Normal

Of course, some people take it beyond normal.

The Guardian
By Oliver Burkeman
May 4, 2018


the brute statistical fact: on any given dimension, all else being equal, of course you’re probably normal. Shorn of any value judgment, that’s all the word “normal” means. Your intelligence, your creativity, your tastes in culture or romantic partners, the degree to which the world has mistreated you: the chances are they’re much less quirky or extreme than you think, especially since we’ve each got strong ulterior motives to believe otherwise. Or to put it another way: thinking you’re special is just one more way in which you’re normal. This is the famous Lake Wobegon phenomenon known as “illusory superiority”, which explains why most people think they’re above average at driving, at being unbiased, and various other things. Though it works the other way, too: imposter syndrome is a classic case of thinking you’re special, but in a negative way.

The trouble is that both the positive and negative forms of thinking you’re less normal than you are lead to misery – either by convincing you you’re unusually bad, or by turning life into an isolating, adversarial exercise in maintaining your sense of being unusually good. The latter also means that any aspect of your life or experience that’s just ordinary – which, by definition, is going to be most of them – feels like an affront to your identity. “Never forget that every mind is shaped by the most ordinary experiences,” wrote the French poet Paul Valéry. “To say that something is ordinary is to say it is of the kind that has made the biggest contribution to the formation of your most basic ideas.” To disdain the normal means disdaining most of what happens. Doing that is pretty normal, too, to be honest. But it’s a recipe for a joyless life.


Monday, January 28, 2019

All of the extremist killings in the US in 2018 had links to right-wing extremism, according to new report

John Haltiwanger
Jan. 24, 2019, 2:26 PM

Every extremist killing in the US in 2018 had a link to a right-wing extremism, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

The report zeroes in on incidents such as the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in October 2018.

There were at least 50 extremist-related killings in the US in 2018, according to the report, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.

"The extremist-related murders in 2018 were overwhelmingly linked to right-wing extremists," the report states. "Every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement, although one had recently switched to supporting Islamist extremism. White supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings, which is typically the case."


"The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017," the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a November 2018 report. "The recent pipe bombs and the October 27, 2018, synagogue attack in Pittsburgh are symptomatic of this trend."

Correspondingly, a November 2018 analysis from The Washington Post on global terrorism data showed that far-right violence has been on the rise since President Donald Trump entered the White House.


Relatedly, FBI data released in early November 2018 showed hate crimes rose 17% in 2017.


An October 2018 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed a majority of Americans agree that Trump has "encouraged white supremacist groups" with his decisions and behavior.

Federal employees back at work Monday, facing backlogs and IT issues

By Stephanie Ebbs
Jan 28, 2019

congressional sources estimate it will take at least a year for IRS to recover from unanswered taxpayer questions and other work that piled up during the shutdown.

The backlog of unanswered letters to IRS increased to 5 million pieces of mail during the shutdown and IRS is still receiving more than 700,000 pieces of a mail a day. The IRS told members of Congress last week that more than half of employees called back to work to start processing tax refunds those employees couldn't go back to work due to financial difficulties or were unreachable.

The IRS also told members of Congress 25 information technology staff left to look for other jobs every week during the shutdown.


Federal workers will also have some logistical hurdles on their first day back at work. Some agency heads tweeted that extra resources and IT support would be available to help employees who couldn't access their computer or email during the shutdown and may now be locked out due to expired passwords.

How to Use ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e.’


Most style guides suggest the use of a comma after both e.g. and i.e.
e.g. (exempli gratia)

e.g. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, meaning “for example.” This abbreviation is typically used to introduce one or more examples of something mentioned previously in the sentence and can be used interchangeably with “for example” or “such as.” The use of e.g. implies that there are other examples not mentioned in the list. Here are some examples:

“The Summer Olympics is composed of a variety of sports (e.g., gymnastics, swimming, and tennis).”


Note: because e.g. implies that other examples are being omitted, do not use etc. in the same list.

i.e. (id est)

i.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, meaning “that is.” This abbreviation is used when you want to specify something mentioned previously; it can be used interchangeably with “specifically” or “namely.” Here are some examples:

“Only one city, i.e., London, has hosted the Summer Olympics three times.”
“Every genetics student learns the two basic methodologies in the field, i.e., forward genetics and reverse genetics.”


Why are glasses so expensive?

By David Lazarus
Jan 22, 2019


Prescription eyewear represents perhaps the single biggest mass-market consumer ripoff to be found.

The stats tell the whole story.

The Vision Council, an optical industry trade group, estimates that about three-quarters of U.S. adults use some sort of vision correction. About two-thirds of that number wear eyeglasses.

That’s roughly 126 million people, which represents some pretty significant economies of scale.

The average cost of a pair of frames is $231, according to VSP, the leading provider of employer eye care benefits.

The average cost of a pair of single-vision lenses is $112. Progressive, no-line lenses can run twice that amount.

The true cost of a pair of acetate frames — three pieces of plastic and some bits of metal — is as low as $10, according to some estimates. Check out the prices of Chinese designer knockoffs available online.

Lenses require precision work, but they are almost entirely made of plastic and almost all production is automated.


for years a single company, Luxottica, has controlled much of the eyewear market. If you wear designer glasses, there’s a very good chance you’re wearing Luxottica frames.

Its owned and licensed brands include Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue and Versace.

Italy’s Luxottica also runs EyeMed Vision Care, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical.

Just pause to appreciate the lengthy shadow this one company casts over the vision care market. You go into a LensCrafters retail outlet, where the salesperson shows you Luxottica frames under various names, and then the company pays itself when you use your EyeMed insurance.


And Luxottica is even bigger after merging last fall with France’s Essilor, the world’s leading maker of prescription eyeglass lenses and contact lenses. Do you have Transitions lenses in your frames? You’re an Essilor customer.

The combined entity is called EssilorLuxottica.


The high cost of frames reflects a market that is woefully lacking in meaningful competition. Warby Parker recognized this as a business opportunity.


Glacial melts in the Canadian Arctic reveal land that hasn’t been seen in more than 40,000 years

Rosie McCall
Jan. 28, 2019

Melting ice is exposing hidden landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that haven't been seen in more than 40,000 years, new research published in Nature Communications reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the study suggests climate change is the driving force behind this record-breaking glacial retreat and with Arctic temps rising at increasing speed thanks to strong positive feedback loops in the polar regions, we can expect things to heat up even quicker in the near future. According to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Canadian Arctic may be seeing its warmest century in as many as 115,000 years.

"The Arctic is currently warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, so naturally, glaciers and ice caps are going to react faster," Simon Pendleton, lead author and a doctoral researcher in CU Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), said in a statement.


Trump EPA won't limit 2 toxic chemicals in drinking water


The Trump administration will not set a drinking water limit for two toxic chemicals that are contaminating millions of Americans' tap water, two sources familiar with the forthcoming decision told POLITICO.

The expected move is yet another sign of the administration's reluctance to aggressively deal with the chemicals, which have been used for decades in products such as Teflon-coated cookware and military firefighting foam and are present in the bloodstreams of an estimated 98 percent of Americans. And it comes less than a year after the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency faced criticism for delaying publication of a health study on the chemicals, which a White House aide had warned could trigger a "public relations nightmare."

EPA's decision means the chemicals will remain unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to sources familiar with a still-unreleased draft plan that acting administrator Andrew Wheeler signed off on in late December. That means utilities will face no federal requirements for testing for and removing the chemicals from drinking water supplies, although several states have pursued or are pursuing their own limits.


The chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, hypertension and other ailments. Major chemical companies like 3M as well as the Defense Department would face billions of dollars in liability from aggressive efforts to regulate and clean up the chemical, which has contaminated groundwater near hundreds of military bases and chemical plants.


During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Wheeler told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the plan had initially been scheduled for release in late January — but he refused to promise that it would set a drinking water standard for the chemical.

"I cannot make that commitment," Wheeler told Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware.


Federal scientists last summer concluded that PFOA and PFOS pose dangers at extremely low concentrations in a health assessment that POLITICO reported Trump administration officials initially sought to block.

EPA-mandated testing has found the chemicals at unsafe levels in at least 16 million Americans' tap water, but activists say the problem is even more widespread.


A number of the political appointees at EPA come from industry backgrounds, including the No. 2 political official in the chemical safety office, who previously worked for the chemical industry's main lobbying group. The No. 2 official in the agency's Office of Research and Development came to the agency last fall from Koch Industries.


Internal emails show that Pentagon officials last year raised alarm with the White House over a draft study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found the chemicals cause harm at far lower levels than EPA had said were safe. And POLITICO reported earlier this month that the Defense Department sought to hire a scientist with a reputation for downplaying chemicals' risks to work on PFOA and PFOS, even though his prior work on the chemicals was so controversial that even Republicans had opposed his nomination for an EPA post.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Climate Forecast: World Is “Sleepwalking into Catastrophe”

By Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News on January 17, 2019

Climate change is the biggest threat to the planet, the World Economic Forum said yesterday in a sweeping catalog of global risks.

The institution’s annual analysis of economic dangers worldwide named extreme weather, natural disasters, man-made environmental disasters, biodiversity loss and failure to adapt to climate change as the chief perils to society.

Of all the risks to the globe, “it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe,” the WEF said in its Global Risks Report. “The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear.”

The report noted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October analysis that “bluntly said ... we have at most 12 years to make the drastic and unprecedented changes needed to prevent average global temperatures from rising” 1.5 degrees Celsius, roughly 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Limiting global temperature increase to that amount is the goal of the international Paris Agreement.


The Trump administration’s Fourth National Climate Assessment in November, meanwhile, said that “without significant reductions in emissions,” average global temperatures could rise 9 F by the turn of the century.


Climate change as well is increasing strain on the global food system through changes in temperature, precipitation and extreme weather events, along with higher carbon emissions. The last four years have been the hottest on record, it said.

Sea-level rise is another peril. An estimated 800 million people in more than 570 coastal cities are vulnerable to oceans rising 1.6 feet by 2050.

Higher waters are already hitting home in the United States, the report said. Cities like Norfolk, Va.; Baltimore; Charleston, S.C.; and Miami experience flooding on sunny days due to rising sea levels. Rising water threatens roads, railways, ports, sanitation systems, tourism, agriculture, power plants and underground cables that connect the internet.


Whole Foods recalls products with baby spinach for possible salmonella contamination

By Michael Brice-Saddler
January 25, 2019

The grocery chain Whole Foods on Wednesday announced a voluntary recall of numerous prepared food items containing baby spinach because of possible salmonella contamination.

Whole Foods said in a notice the potentially contaminated products were sold in eight states and contain baby spinach and mesclun from Satur Farms — a Cutchogue, N.Y., supplier that initiated the recall. Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, whose founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

“The affected products, including salads, pizza, sandwiches and wraps, were sold at stores in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. A complete list of the affected products, which have a Whole Foods Market scale label, is available online.


Australia's Extreme Heatwaves Have Killed a Million Fish, Dozens of Horses

by Becky Ferreira
Jan 25 2019

Australians are suffering sweltering heatwaves that are wreaking havoc on people and wildlife.

On Thursday, Adelaide experienced the warmest weather on record for an Australian city at 46.6ºC (115.9ºF) while temperatures in the town of Port Augusta soared to 49.1ºC (120.4ºF), making it the hottest spot in the country.

While people get snowed in from blizzards across North America, Australians are taking shelter from the heat of the Southern Hemisphere summer. But some of the nation’s iconic animals have nowhere to hide, and are dying from exposure to the extreme conditions.

Roughly 90 feral horses were found dead in the Ltyentye Apurte Community of the Australian Outback this week near a dried-up waterhole, having perished of thirst. The Central Land Council, which represents Aboriginal peoples in this region, decided to euthanize more than 50 additional horses because they were suffering and unlikely to recover.


“With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them,” said CLC director David Ross in a statement.

Though the current temperatures are breaking records, it’s not the first heatwave this summer to deal serious damage to Australian wildlife. From November 26 to 27, temperatures exceeded 42ºC (108ºF) in northern Australia. Scientists estimate this spike killed a staggering 23,000 spectacled flying foxes—about a third of the nation’s entire population of this large bat species.

Meanwhile, about 10,000 black flying foxes, a close relative of the spectacled bat, also died from the heat.


Aquatic species are also vulnerable to the extreme conditions. Droughts and alleged water mismanagement resulted in the deaths of up to a million fish in the Murray-Darling River basin in southeast Australia this month.


With water levels abnormally low and fluctuations in temperatures unusually high, algal blooms began to form more readily, which deprived waterways of oxygen that fish need to live. Hundreds of thousands of fish, mostly herring and perch, suffocated.

The Australian government has resorted to pumping oxygen into the river with aerators to build safe breathing havens for fish. But this is just a “Band-Aid solution,” said Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair, according to The New York Times.


as experts pointed out, this is a problem that is will only to get worse as global temperatures rise in the coming years and decades.

Stealing from the Poor and Giving to the Rich in the Workplace

Leigh Anne Schriever
Jan. 23, 2019

For more than 80 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has provided essential legal protections like minimum wage and overtime laws for workers in the United States. And yet, employers flagrantly violate the FLSA’s wage protections throughout the country.

A recent report by Philip Mattera and Adam Shah demonstrates that all kinds of employers violate federal laws and regulations governing wage standards. Small companies may have difficulty understanding the laws and may not understand what compliance with the laws entail. But Mattera and Shah point out that large companies—from Walmart to Microsoft—are often the culprits, despite the fact that they have legal teams and plenty of resources. For example, Mattera and Shah identified 1,200 successful actions, each with multiple workers involved, against large companies since 2000. In total, these employers paid more than $8.8 billion to the workers they had shortchanged.
Of course, many employees will not risk losing their jobd by reporting this. I have been in this position.

Wage theft—including overtime violations, forcing workers to labor off-the-clock, misclassifying workers as independent contractors, and stealing tips from tipped workers—has been a significant problem for low-wage workers for a long time, including for those who work at large companies. Most of these violations happen primarily to low-wage workers who have hourly rates and may not know their rights. Also, wage theft disproportionately impacts women and people of color. Experts have estimated that as much as $50 billion a year is stolen from workers, much of which workers never report or recover. For instance, one report stated that workers only recovered roughly $1 billion each year in 2015 and 2016.

Mattera and Shah’s report demonstrates that many companies treat wage theft as part of their business model. Wage laws can be complicated, and small businesses may run low on money from time to time. But Mattera and Shah argue that large firms with millions of dollars of profit and in-house legal staff presumably understand the laws and can follow them. Mattera and Shah found, for instance, that several of the largest companies with verdicts or settlements against them for wage violations were repeat players: Some of these companies had over 50 cases against them, and one company had over 150 since 2000. As Mattera and Shah put it, “Wage theft may have been part of their business model, but it does not need to be—and should not be.”


Low-wage workers, who are the most likely to be exploited, have always had a hard time using private litigation, such as the cases that Mattera and Shah analyzed, because they often cannot afford the time off of work that it would require nor can they often raise the money to hire an attorney. Government enforcement instead of private litigation is even more important, however, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that workers can be made to sign class-action waivers and mandatory arbitration clauses, which will make it more difficult for workers to bring these claims by themselves.

For state governments in particular, Mattera and Shah recommend enacting legislation similar to California’s. California has both enacted stronger wage and hour protections, such as higher minimum wages and meal and rest breaks, and created a mechanism for individuals to bring enforcement actions on behalf of the state attorney general. The California Private Attorney General Act allows individuals to circumvent the mandatory arbitration and class action waiver clauses in contracts and bring suit against employers, while also allowing the state to collect civil penalties.

Mattera and Shah also advocate for workers organizing as another critical method for combatting wage theft.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Officials rejected Jared Kushner for top secret security clearance, but were overruled

Jan. 24, 2019, 8:14 PM EST / Updated Jan. 24, 2019, 10:17 PM EST
By Laura Strickler, Ken Dilanian and Peter Alexander

Jared Kushner's application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner's was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top-secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline's arrival.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.


After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top-secret clearance, Kushner's file then went to the CIA for a ruling on SCI.

After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions balked, two of the people familiar with the matter said. One called over to the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top-secret clearance, the sources said. Top-secret information is defined as material that would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if disclosed to adversaries.

The sources say the CIA has not granted Kushner clearance to review SCI material. That would mean Kushner lacks access to key intelligence unless President Donald Trump decides to override the rules, which is the president's' prerogative.


The Washington Post, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, reported last February that officials in at least four countries had privately discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.

Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage, according to the current and former officials, were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the Post reported.


How Coalitional Instincts Make Weird Groups and Stupid People

Timothy Taylor
July 30, 2018

John Tooby, a professor of anthropology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, has written about what he calls "Coalitional Instincts" in a short piece for (November 22, 2017). Tooby argues that human brains have evolved so that we have "a nearly insuperable human appetite to be a good coalition member." But to demonstrate clearly that we are part of a coalition, we are all drawn to "unusual, exaggerated beliefs ... alarmism, conspiracies, or hyperbolic comparisons."


"The primary function that drove the evolution of coalitions is the amplification of the power of its members in conflicts with non-members. This function explains a number of otherwise puzzling phenomena. For example, ancestrally, if you had no coalition you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, preexisting and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership. This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird. Since coalitional programs evolved to promote the self-interest of the coalition’s membership (in dominance, status, legitimacy, resources, moral force, etc.), even coalitions whose organizing ideology originates (ostensibly) to promote human welfare often slide into the most extreme forms of oppression, in complete contradiction to the putative values of the group. ...

"Moreover, to earn membership in a group you must send signals that clearly indicate that you differentially support it, compared to rival groups. Hence, optimal weighting of beliefs and communications in the individual mind will make it feel good to think and express content conforming to and flattering to one’s group’s shared beliefs and to attack and misrepresent rival groups. The more biased away from neutral truth, the better the communication functions to affirm coalitional identity, generating polarization in excess of actual policy disagreements. Communications of practical and functional truths are generally useless as differential signals, because any honest person might say them regardless of coalitional loyalty. In contrast, unusual, exaggerated beliefs—such as supernatural beliefs (e.g., god is three persons but also one person), alarmism, conspiracies, or hyperbolic comparisons—are unlikely to be said except as expressive of identity, because there is no external reality to motivate nonmembers to speak absurdities.

"This raises a problem for scientists: Coalition-mindedness makes everyone, including scientists, far stupider in coalitional collectivities than as individuals.


In addition, we all feel a need to do something a little whacky and extreme to show our group affiliation, but again, we have some degree of choice and agency over what actions and messages define our group. Wearing the colors of a professional sports team, for example, is a different kind of whackiness than sending vitriolic social media messages. Humans want to join coalitional groups, but we can at least consider whether the way a group expresses solidarity is a good fit with who we want to be.

tags: tribes, tribalism, tribal

Mexican woman jailed for miscarriage released after conviction is overturned

David Agren in Mexico City
Fri 25 Jan 2019 04.00 EST

A Mexican woman who was sentenced to 16 years in jail after suffering a miscarriage in a department store bathroom has walked free after a court in the central state of Querétaro overturned her homicide conviction.

Prosecutors had accused Dafne McPherson, 29, of murdering her newborn, but an appeal court judge found that the scientific evidence used to convict her was flimsy.

The case highlights the criminalisation of women who suffer miscarriages in parts of Mexico with intensely conservative and Catholic cultures.
Dafne McPherson was convicted in July 2016 of murdering her baby who died in a miscarriage.
Dafne McPherson was convicted in July 2016 of murdering her baby who died in a miscarriage. Photograph: Supplied

Mexico City decriminalised abortion a decade ago, but it remains illegal in much of the country, and women who suffer complicated births or spontaneous abortions are often targeted for prosecution.


Nazi blueprint for North American Holocaust acquired by Canada archive

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Fri 25 Jan 2019 02.00 EST

A book once owned by Adolf Hitler, which scholars suspect was a blueprint for a Holocaust in North America, has been acquired by Canada’s national archive.


Published in 1944 by the German researcher and linguist Heinz Kloss, Statistics, Media, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada is a disturbingly thorough catalogue of Jewish residents in the two countries and reflects Nazi plans in the event they gained control over the continent.

“[The book] demonstrates that the Holocaust wasn’t a European event – it was an event that didn’t have the opportunity to spread out of Europe,” Michael Kent, a curator at Library and Archives Canada, told the Guardian. “It reminds us that conflicts and human tragedies that seemed far away could find their way to North America.”


The book highlights Nazi plans for an eventual presence in North America. They made larger strides than is often realized: in 1943, the year before Kloss’s book was published, the Germans established an automated weather station in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are also numerous wartime stories in eastern Canada of German U-boats making headway up the St Lawrence river.
What to do about Hitler's Berghof? Museum challenges far right interest
Read more

Kent likens the library’s recent acquisition to the Black Book, a list of prominent British residents identified as potential targets, in the event of a successful Nazi invasion of the United Kingdom.


The acquisition by the national archive comes at a time when scholars have warned of rising ignorance among Canadians about the Holocaust.


The verdict follows a study that found more than half of Canadian adults were unaware that more than 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and as many as two-thirds of young respondents failed to demonstrate knowledge of the event.


Mega-storms the size of England on the rise in North Africa

Sarah Newey, Global Health Security correspondent
21 January 201

Mega-storms the size of England are increasingly savaging countries across the Sahel, a five-year project backed by the UK government has found.

Already a troubled region, the Sahel – which hugs the Saharan desert from Senegal to Eritrea – has seen a threefold increase in mega-storms over the last 35 years.

The ferocious storms – which produce roughly the same amount of energy in 12 hours that the entire UK consumes in a year – can devastate everything in their path with powerful winds and torrential rain. They can grow as high as 16km [10 miles], satellite images show.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

North American glaciers melting much faster than 10 years ago

Emily Holden in Washington
Sat 19 Jan 2019 01.00 EST

Glaciers in western North America, excluding Alaska, are melting four times faster than in the previous decade, with changes in the jet stream exacerbating the longer-term effects of climate change, according to a new study.

The retreat hasn’t been equal in the US and Canada. The famous alpine ice masses in the Cascade Mountains in the north-west US have largely been spared from the trend.

“The losses we would expect were reduced because we got a lot of additional snow,” said David Shean, a co-author at the University of Washington. “Moving forward we may not be so lucky.”

Global warming has caused increased moisture in the atmosphere, which might be contributing to the increased snowfall.

The jet stream – the currents of fast-flowing air in the atmosphere that affect weather – has shifted, causing more snow in the north-western US and less in south-western Canada, according to the study released in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Changes in the northern hemisphere jet stream are increasingly firmly linked to global warming.

That warming from humans burning fossil fuels is also expected to continue to melt alpine glaciers, even under scenarios for more moderate greenhouse gas levels.

While some of the fourfold increase in the melting rate in western North America is related to manmade climate change, the researchers can’t say with certainty how much.


Alaskan glaciers get much of the attention in North America because Alaska is warming faster than the continental US. Mount Hunter in Denali national park, is seeing 60 times more snow melt than it did 150 years ago.

The North American glaciers analyzed in the new study are far smaller than those in Alaska, Asia and elsewhere, so they won’t contribute much to sea-level rise as they melt. The authors say they offer critical lessons for water management, fisheries and flood prevention.

With shrinking glaciers, less water will be available for nearby river systems when rainfall is low. In some parts of the world, millions of people could lose their primary water supplies.

In the Pacific north-west US, if glaciers melted entirely, that could reduce the flow of certain watersheds by up to about 15% in dry months of August and September, Shean said.

“In our case that will have an impact, especially if we’re having a drought year … but in general at least for the foreseeable future we should be OK here in Washington,” he said.

Snow pack changes will be more important than glacier melt for water planners in the western US, Shean said.

Still, changes in water temperature could pose problems for fish. And the sediment that comes with melting glaciers could fall to the bottoms of riverbeds, making them overflow during heavy rains.


General Mills Gold Medal Unbleached Flour recalled over salmonella fears

Jan. 24, 2019, 11:37 AM EST
By A. Pawlowski
The recall is a reminder that anything you make with flour must be cooked or baked before eating.

General Mills has issued a voluntary national recall of some of its bags of Gold Medal Unbleached Flour.

The decision was made “to prevent potential illnesses” after salmonella was discovered during the sampling of products, the company announced on Wednesday. No one has been sickened so far, it noted.

The affected flour comes in five-pound bags and has a “better if used by” date of April 20, 2020.


Here are the specific package details to look for:

Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose 5LB Flour
Package UPC: 000-16000-19610-0
Recalled Better if Used by Date: 20APR2020KC


“This recall does not involve any other flour products, and we are continuing to educate consumers that flour is not a ‘ready to eat’ ingredient. Anything you make with flour must be cooked or baked before eating,” said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills Meals and Baking Division, in a statement.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against eating or tasting raw dough, or letting children play with it, noting that flour is a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs.

To minimize risk, bake or cook food made with flour at the proper temperature, wash your hands after handling flour and clean any surfaces, bowls and utensils it touched.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Yet another blood pressure medication has been recalled over cancer-causing impurity

Mike Wehner
January 22nd, 2019

Last year, the FDA announced a whole bunch of recalls related to blood pressure medication over fears that an impurity created during the manufacturing process could lead to cancer. The compound in question was found in dozens of prescription medications that contained the active ingredient valsartan, prompting several distributors and manufacturers to issue voluntary recalls affecting countless heart patients.

Now, additional medications containing a similar blood pressure drug, irbesartan, have been found to contain the same impurity, and a new round of recalls is upon us. Solco Healthcare LLC is now asking anyone with potentially contaminated medication to stop taking the drug.

The impurity responsible for this and many other recalls is the presence of N-Nitrosodiethylamine, or NDEA. It can be naturally occurring but it’s also a byproduct of manufacturing processes and is thought to be a human carcinogen, meaning that it likely promotes cancer.


Here Are the Ways Trump Cashes In on Being President

Eric Schaal
January 14, 2019


The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending and politicians’ finances, published Trump’s financial disclosures in late 2017. From the public records and other reports, it’s clear where and how Trump is making money off the office.

Here are the ways Trump is cashing in on the presidency.
1. Trump’s hotels


2. Trump campaign events at Trump properties.


3. Golf club memberships


5. Republican fundraisers


6. New real estate investors


7. The Trump online store


8. Holiday parties [at his properties]


Brace for the Polar Vortex; It May Be Visiting More Often

By Kendra Pierre-Louis
Jan. 18, 2019

Find your long johns, break out the thick socks and raid the supermarket. After a month of relatively mild winter weather, the Midwest and the East Coast are bracing for what is becoming a seasonal rite of passage: the polar vortex.

The phrase has become synonymous with frigid temperatures that make snowstorms more likely. A blast of arctic air heralded the vortex’s arrival on Monday.

If it seems as if these polar freezes are happening more often, you’re right. “They are definitely becoming more common,” said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. “There have been a couple of studies that have documented that.”

The cold snap may feel especially shocking after an unusually warm few weeks. Colder temperatures have been arriving later in winter over the past few years, according to Judah Cohen, a climatologist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a weather risk assessment firm. But because of changes to the polar vortex, when wintry weather does arrive, it’s often more intense — witness the four back-to-back nor’easters last year.

“I’ve been making that argument that winter is shortening, but you’re getting these more intensive periods in that shorter winter,” Dr. Cohen said.


While the expression became broadly popular during an unusually cold winter in 2014, the vortex was known to meteorologists long before that.


The term refers to circular bands of winds near the poles that are strongest in wintertime and well above the jet stream in the stratosphere. The stratosphere is an atmospheric layer that extends roughly seven to 31 miles above the earth.

Usually, those circular bands act as walls that keep the teeth-chattering cold air locked at the poles. But, every so often, the winds break down and allow the cold air to escape. That’s what happened at the beginning of this month, when the polar vortex split into three separate bands.


It’s this escaping polar air that is dropping temperatures in the Midwest and the East — there’s a lag time between the atmospheric event and when we experience the effects. The broken vortex is also sending icy temperatures to much of Europe in what some call the “Beast From the East.”

Some researchers, including Dr. Francis and Dr. Cohen, say they suspect that the more frequent polar vortex breakdowns can be tied to climate change.

While climate change is warming the earth, not all parts of the earth are warming at the same rate; the Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the world average. That warming has led to historically low levels of sea ice in the region. The melting sea ice, particularly in an area near the Barents and Kara Seas off Siberia, may be linked to the changes in the polar vortex.

“When we lose a lot of ice in that particular area in the summer, it absorbs a lot of extra heat from the sun,” Dr. Francis said. This is because the darker open ocean absorbs more heat than reflective ice. “And so we see a very persistent, hot spot there in terms of temperature differences from what they should be.”

Research suggests that the hot spot, along with changes in the jet stream driven by climate change, cause the polar vortex to break down in mid- to late winter.

“As the Arctic gets warmer and warmer, the severe weather picks up,” Dr. Cohen said.


In October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a milder than average winter, but that is not necessarily at odds with the coming chill.

“There’s a difference between some seasonal outlooks such as NOAA’s that look at the whole three-month period and others that may be breaking it down month by month,” Mr. Henson said. “It’s quite possible the winter will average warm for December through February. But that may well manifest as the extreme warmth we’ve seen over the last month followed by some much colder and colder than average conditions into February.”

Climate Change Is Key Part of Understanding Migration, GAO Tells Trump Administration

By Neela Banerjee
Jan. 19, 2019

As the movement of refugees strains countries worldwide and becomes fuel for political clashes in the United States, the Trump administration has eliminated guidelines that the government once gave to American diplomats about how to plan for the impact of climate change on migration and global security.

In a report released Thursday, the Government Accountability Office recommended the State Department restore the guidelines so U.S. diplomats are prepared for major population shifts that could destabilize a country or region.

"Without clear guidance, State may miss opportunities to identify and address issues related to climate change as a potential driver of migration," the report said.


The State Department offered a contradictory response to the GAO's recommendation. It said it would "update" the guidelines, but did not go into detail as to how. At the same time, the State Department wrote that it will consider recommending that climate change be further scrubbed from its priorities, which would mean asking Trump to rescind yet another executive order.

The report's co-author, David Gootnick, said that such a response was unusual. "After the GAO put the spotlight on the fact that they've dropped two executive orders, their response is to say, 'Okay, we might drop the third,'" Gootnick said. "To drop this executive order would be a potentially controversial thing to do."


Further, the IOM found that since 2008, an average of 25.3 million people have been newly displaced annually, the vast majority due to disasters rather than violence. In 2016, 97 percent of people fled their homes because of "disasters triggered by climate and weather-related hazards," the IOM said.

In the U.S., the national security apparatus has described climate change for years as a "threat multiplier"—the extra pressure that could destabilize countries where resources such as water and arable land are limited and governance is weak. In a 2015 report to Congress, the Pentagon pointed to the Syrian civil war as an example of how climate change can aggravate the fragility of a nation already beset by tensions and unpopular leaders.


The GAO has written in past reports that climate change exposes the U.S. to profound fiscal risks. In February 2017, it recommended a "cohesive strategic approach" to planning for climate risks across the federal government.





Pentagon Fears Confirmed: Climate Change Leads to More Wars and Refugees

By Jonathan Tirone
January 23, 2019

The most comprehensive study done to assess the link between climate change, war and migration has confirmed that the warming planet is fueling conflicts that lead to more refugees.

The conclusions published Wednesday in a scientific journal underscore the rising levels of anxiety that global warming has among leaders. Attendees at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the inability to adapt to higher temperatures is the biggest global risk. A Pentagon report published on Tuesday in Washington warned that rising seas and more frequent wild fires threaten U.S. security.


The research bolsters previous warnings from defense and intelligence agencies that climate change could trigger more conflicts severe enough to uproot populations.

While a changing climate won’t always lead to armed conflict, the regional conditions in the Middle East in 2010 were just right to feed a spiral of violence. Migration resulting from those rifts stretched from Syria to Sudan, according to Raya Muttarak, one of the study’s co-authors from the U.K.’s University of East Anglia.

“It takes a perfect storm,” Muttarak said, pointing out that political conditions play an outsize role. “If it’s too authoritarian or too democratic the results are different.”


Porn, opioids and a freezer full of cigarettes: what one cleaner saw in America’s homes

People like her allow those she serves the time to enjoy life, and to make more money for themselves.

Slan Cain
Jan. 23, 2019

As a single parent caught in the welfare trap, Stephanie Land got the only job she could, tidying homes for the comfortably well-off. Now she has turned her experiences into an acclaimed new book


People such as Land are perhaps the biggest threat to the myth of the American Dream: someone who worked hard, yet found her very country pitted against her success. Her new book, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, is both a memoir of her time working as a cleaner in middle-class households, and a dismantling of the lies the US tells itself about the poor: namely, that they don’t work. As Land puts it, she was “overwhelmed by how much work it took to prove I was poor”.

“The country lives by the myth that if you work hard enough, you’ll make it,” she says. “For me, I felt like if I wasn’t making it, I wasn’t working hard enough.”


Searching for work in an economy that was still raw from the global financial crisis, Land began working as a cleaner for a private firm; $6 (£4.65) an hour for tidying up houses she could only dream of affording.

Strikingly, all her fellow cleaners were women and a huge proportion were single mums. Now 39, Land’s explanation for this is simple: “It is flexible, most of the cleaning happens during school hours, you can bring your kid, and it is a job no one wants to do. As long as you are willing to get on your knees to scrub a toilet, you will always be able to find work. And no one is as desperate as a single parent.” Eighty percent of the US’s 12m single-parent households are headed by mothers – and 40% live below the poverty line.

On such low income, money became a relentless weight: every car journey had to be weighed up against the cost of petrol. Providing food for Mia often meant going without herself, bolstering her stomach with instant coffee and, on the good days, a peanut butter sandwich. She would shop for groceries at night, to avoid the gaze of fellow shoppers; one man, after seeing the food stamps in her hand, shouted: “You’re welcome,” as if he was personally paying for her to eat. In one of their homes, a tiny humid studio in Skagit valley, Washington, a relentless black mould continually resurfaced, making Mia constantly ill; kind hospital nurses tending to Mia gave her a dehumidifier.


After Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, much was made of the power of the disgruntled working poor. Yet Land encountered the most aggression from those on the other side of the “welfare cliff”: those not quite poor enough to receive benefits. She straddled the line a few times: a few dollars more a month meant she could suddenly lose hundreds in benefits: “I was penalised for working more, for working harder. Why, as an example, do some states require you to have less than $1,000 [£775] in savings? They are actively discouraging people from saving. Some people work really hard and still have no food in the fridge, while the wealthy are just getting wealthier while promoting this rhetoric that poor people are the ones taking all the money. And we still think they’re the ones making the best decisions. Hell, I thought that when I went into their houses.”

Later on, when Land “came out” as poor, some of her own friends told her that they were on food stamps or using Medicaid. “I had no idea how many friends were struggling. We need to have an honest conversation about the face of welfare. I think that poor people are scary for a lot of people, because they represent what could happen to them.


While Land’s book is set during Barack Obama’s presidency, she is watching Trump’s welfare and tax policies with trepidation. “They are making it harder to be on welfare – raising the age to qualify or allowing states to require more paperwork. They are clinging to this idea that poor people don’t work.” She cried when Trump was elected: “It felt scary. Suddenly, everyone felt emboldened to do whatever they wanted. Trump’s election gave trolls a platform to treat people horribly. That is a scary feeling for a mum of two daughters.”


Children Aren't the Enemy - modified 10/30/2018

I hope to record this some day, when I have the money.

Children Aren't the Enemy
copyright 2000 Patricia M. Shannon

What kind of country do we live in
where children are the enemy,
except when they are just reflections of their parents,
or targets of the ads on MTV?

When adults treat their children with unkindness,
we say that they are not to blame;
they'r only doing what they've learned from their own parents,
how can we expect them to know a better way?

But when children have been tortured by their parents
for years and years, until they finally break,
we say, "For shame, there's no excuse, ever;
why didn't they figure out a better way?"


Forgive your parents the beatings and the harsh words
that made your childhood years a misery;
displace your anger on your children and employees,
and those not in your own identities.

Children today start out the same as we did,
genetically there hasn't been a change;
if we'd been brought up in the same world that they live in,
for sure we would have turned out just the same.


Growing Up or Growing Down?

Growing Up or Growing Down?
copyright 1987 Patricia M. Shannon

Most people I know are like ants in a hill,
not thinking, just acting as part of the mass.
Like half-alive puppets they walk in a daze,
when they try to converse, they just talk in cliches.

They say they worship different gods,
sometimes none at all.
But their gods are all the same,
"everybody else" and monetary gain.

Mixed feelings I have when I play with a child,
so eager to learn and so ready to grow;
such sorrow I feel when I see how we crush children's spirits
in order to make them like us.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Court Rules ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Criminalizing Undercover Reporting Violates the First Amendment

By Esha Bhandari, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
January 22, 2019

In a win for freedom of the press, a federal court this month struck down an Iowa law making it a crime to lie about your intentions when accessing an agricultural production facility.

The “ag-gag” law, which was aimed at undercover journalists and activists, essentially prevented undercover investigations of the agricultural industry. The court rightly found that the law violates the First Amendment.

This welcome ruling joins a host of other court decisions finding similar laws in other states to be unconstitutional — and for good reason. Undercover reporting is a critical tool to inform the public about corporate wrongdoing.


Iowa was one of many states that passed ag-gag laws criminalizing various activities essential to undercover investigations aiming to expose animal cruelty and other illegal or unsafe activities. These laws were passed after several high-profile undercover investigations revealed various abuses, such as sick cows being repeatedly shocked with electric prods in California and young calves being kicked and skinned alive at a Vermont slaughterhouse. Such investigations have prompted large-scale meat and egg recalls. That is why the ag-gag laws sparked opposition from press freedom and civil liberties groups as well as animal rights, environmental justice, and food safety advocates.

One major area of constitutional concern is that ag-gag laws often make it a crime to be untruthful when gaining access to an industrial farm or similar place — for example, by not disclosing that you are an investigative journalist or activist when applying for a job.

Why is it a constitutional problem to outlaw lying? Because the First Amendment protects false speech where there is no legally recognizable harm. The Supreme Court has held that while certain limited categories of false speech, such as perjury, are inherently harmful and can be outlawed, the First Amendment does not permit outlawing all lies — even distasteful lies that have no social benefit.

When it comes to undercover investigations, however, lying is done in service of the public good — and not only in the agricultural industry. The enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, for example, has long relied on undercover audit testing of landlords and employers to ensure they do not treat housing or job applicants differently based on protected class status such as race, gender, or disability.

Such testing often requires false speech, for example when submitting identical, false resumes to an employer that vary only by the name of the applicant, or when a housing tester misrepresents her intention to actually rent a home. The federal government and the courts have recognized for decades that these tactics are a critical part of upholding civil rights protections.


The World's Top 26 Billionaires Now Own as Much as the Poorest 3.8 Billion, Says Oxfam

By Casey Quackenbush
January 21, 2019

Global wealth inequality widened last year as billionaires increased their fortunes by $2.5 billion per day, anti-poverty campaigner Oxfam said in a new report.

While the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth dwindle by 11%, billionaires’ riches increased by 12%. The mega-wealthy have also become a more concentrated bunch. Last year, the top 26 wealthiest people owned $1.4 trillion, or as much as the 3.8 billion poorest people. The year before, it was the top 43 people.

Oxfam’s annual study, released as political and business leaders prepare to descend on Davos for the World Economic Forum, emphasized that this growing inequality is compromising the fight against poverty.


Since the financial crisis almost a decade ago, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled, with a new one created every two days between 2017 and 2018. At the same time, the mega-rich and wealthy corporations are enjoying lower tax rates than they have in decades, the report said.

“Governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy,” Oxfam said.

Women and girls are hit hardest by the growing wealth gap, according to Oxfam. “Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn’t available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail,” it said.


In last year’s wealth report, Oxfam found that the richest 1% took in 82% of wealth created in 2017.

Unpaid government workers can't afford gas to get to work

Jan. 22, 2019
Day 32 of the partial government shutdown.

Some TSA Workers are Relying on Donated Food During the Government Shutdown
By Michael Herzenberg Queens
PUBLISHED 10:11 PM ET Jan. 18, 2019


The single mother from Canarsie says she's doing whatever she can to put food on the table now that she's not getting paid because of the partial government shutdown.

"Food banks, local pantries, anything that will help," she said.

On this day, her union filled a U-Haul with groceries to guarantee all 2,000 TSA workers at JFK Airport have food for the weekend.

"It's very helpful," TSA Officer Marco Cebie said. "Oh my God, it's hard. You have got to budget, you have go to find out how you're going to pay the bills, you have rent."

TSA officers make between $35,000 and $43,000 a year. They haven't been paid since December.


They also have to stay healthy and come to work or they can lose their jobs during the shutdown. But that's becoming more and more difficult for many.

On some days, the number of TSA agents calling out sick is more than twice the normal rate:


"It's not that they're calling out sick. It's a financial issue," TSA National Union President Hydrick Thomas told NY1. He explains that some of his 45,000 members can't afford gas or make their car payments now.

Thomas wants to know what the government expects people to do. He said he asked the TSA to help with his members' transportation costs, but the union was still waiting for an answer. Thomas warns that things will only get worse for the workers and the flying public.


By Ann E. Marimow, Deanna Paul, Katie Zezima and Spencer S. Hsu
January 15, 2019

A federal judge in Washington on Tuesday refused to force the government to pay federal employees who have been working without compensation during the partial government shutdown, rejecting arguments from labor unions that unpaid work violates labor laws and the Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said it would be “profoundly irresponsible” for him to issue an order that would result in thousands of federal employees staying home from work and not doing their jobs.

"At best it would create chaos and confusion,” Leon said. “At worst it could be catastrophic . . . I’m not going to put people’s lives at risk.”


Unionized employees have had to work without pay during the shutdown at agencies including the Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, the Agriculture Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission.


As an example, the unions said Tuesday after the ruling that the IRS plans to end furlough for more than half of its workforce to prepare for tax filing season, meaning as many as 46,000 IRS employees could be forced to go to work with no pay while the shutdown continues. Up to 2,200 aviation safety inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to be recalled by the end of the week and 500 FDA workers have been recalled to work and will be unpaid until the shutdown ends, among others.


Federal workers already have suffered “immeasurable losses,” the plaintiffs alleged, including being unable to pay for medical treatment or travel to funerals for family members; some have jeopardized their security clearances by missing court-ordered alimony payments, and others have failed to make loan repayments, incurring penalties.


“We want to send the message: Stop the shutdown,” Burakiewicz said. More than 5,000 people have emailed her law firm seeking to join the complaint or offering support, and she said they often hint at panic: “ ‘I’ve got 3 kids, I’ve got $200 left, and I can’t afford to keep working because I’m not getting paid.’ It breaks my heart.”

Richard Heldreth, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees, has worked in federal prisons since 1997, drawn to the work for the job security, good salary and benefits. But he and his colleagues at United States Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia have been working without pay since the government shut down on Dec. 22, sapping morale and leading to an uptick in violent incidents, he said.


Heldreth, president of the Local 420 union in West Virginia, was a plaintiff in the 2013 lawsuit. He said more than 60 employees called out sick at the prison on Saturday, exacerbating tensions among the staff and inmates, and there were four violent incidents in a four-day period. The prison is a remote maximum-security facility where three inmates, including the notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, were killed last year.

“There’s frustration because it causes division among the staff,” he said. “The ones that are going on are mad because the others called off, but the ones who called off, some of them live hours away and can’t afford the gas or child care. Some have medical issues they can’t afford right now. There’s a lot of desperation.”


By Matthew Haag and Niraj Chokshi
Jan. 21, 2019

Updated Jan. 22
Day 32: What’s been happening?

It has been a month since the first day of the government shutdown.

Furloughed federal employees have started part-time jobs with delivery and ride-hailing apps and applied for other opportunities, such as yoga-instructor positions, to try to make ends meet without a government paycheck.

Some of the most vulnerable Americans — including the homeless, the elderly and people one crisis away from the streets — are feeling the burden. Without payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, nonprofit groups that support low-income renters are also struggling. Many other social safety net programs are facing similar crises.

As a bone-chilling flash freeze swept through the Midwest and Northeast over the holiday weekend, hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain furloughed, and some continued to work without pay, including forecasters at the National Weather Service. Veterans of the emergency management field are worried about longer-term trouble, too


When it began, the shutdown left about 800,000 federal workers without pay, with just over half continuing to work, including members of the Coast Guard and food safety inspectors. The number of people working has grown as the Trump administration reinterprets longstanding rules, often to the benefit of the president’s base.


an irony of the shutdown: Federal jobs have long been seen as being among the most stable, even though now they are anything but.

Federal courts, which have been open and operating despite the shutdown, could be close to running out of money. Some courts have delayed civil cases, and court-appointed lawyers have not been paid at all.


Low-income Americans whose leases are subsidized by the government are worried about their rent because the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is closed, cannot make payments to landlords.


Legions of contractors are out of work and, unlike federal employees working without pay, they have no expectation of recovering the missed wages.

For American farmers, the shutdown has compounded concerns about Mr. Trump’s trade war with China. To ease their pain, the president created a $12 billion bailout fund, but that is frozen because of the shutdown. Last week, the Agriculture Department said that it would temporarily call back about 2,500 workers to help farmers and ranchers with existing loans and to provide them with necessary tax documents.


The Pygmalion Effect: Proving Them Right

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:


Could we be, at times, responding to subtle cues? Decades of research have provided consistent, robust evidence that the answer is yes. It comes down to the concepts of the self-fulfilling prophecy and the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect is a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area.


In the same way Pygmalion’s fixation on the statue brought it to life, our focus on a belief or assumption can do the same. The flipside is the Golem effect, wherein low expectations lead to decreased performance. Both effects come under the category of self-fulfilling prophecies. Whether the expectation comes from us or others, the effect manifests in the same way.


The concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy is attributed to sociologist Robert K. Merton. In 1948, Merton published the first paper on the topic. In it, he described the phenomenon as a false belief that becomes true over time. Once this occurs, it creates a feedback loop. We assume we were always correct because it seems so in hindsight. Merton described a self-fulfilling prophecy as self-hypnosis through our own propaganda.


Research by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson examined the influence of teachers’ expectations on students’ performance. Their subsequent paper is one of the most cited and discussed psychological studies ever conducted.

Rosenthal and Jacobson began by testing the IQ of elementary school students. Teachers were told that the IQ test showed around one-fifth of their students to be unusually intelligent. For ethical reasons, they did not label an alternate group as unintelligent and instead used unlabeled classmates as the control group. It will doubtless come as no surprise that the “gifted” students were chosen at random. They should not have had a significant statistical advantage over their peers. As the study period ended, all students had their IQs retested. Both groups showed an improvement. Yet those who were described as intelligent experienced much greater gains in their IQ points. Rosenthal and Jacobson attributed this result to the Pygmalion effect. Teachers paid more attention to “gifted” students, offering more support and encouragement than they would otherwise. Picked at random, those children ended up excelling. Sadly, no follow-up studies were ever conducted, so we do not know the long-term impact on the children involved.


We can’t do anything just because someone expects us to. Overly high expectations can also be stressful. When someone sets the bar too high, we can get discouraged and not even bother trying. Stretch goals and high expectations are beneficial, up to the point of diminishing returns. Research by McClelland and Atkinson indicates that the Pygmalion effect drops off if we see our chance of success as being less than 50%. If an endeavor seems either certain or completely uncertain, the Pygmalion effect does not hold. When we are stretched but confident, high expectations can help us achieve more.