Friday, May 31, 2019

The preachers getting rich from poor Americans

By Vicky Baker BBC News in Texas and Alabama
29 May 2019


Televangelists are not as talked about today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when many rose to fame and fortune through mushrooming cable channels.

But they have never gone away. Even after numerous press exposés, the rogue elements have often bounced back. Some have got even richer. Many have taken their appeals on to social media.

A number of those making the most persistent pleas for money tap into something called the prosperity gospel, which hinges on a belief that your health and wealth are controlled by God, and God is willing you to be prosperous. Believers are encouraged to show their faith through payments, which they understand will be repaid - many times over - either in the form of wealth or healing.

For followers, it is a way to make sense of sickness and poverty. It can feel empowering and inspiring amid despair. The hard-up donors are often not oblivious to the preachers' personal wealth - though they may not know the extent of it - but they take the riches as a sign of a direct connection with God. If seed payments have worked for them, maybe they can work for you too?

And if the seeds never flourish? Some are told their faith is not strong enough, or they have hidden sin. In Larry's case, he often interpreted small pieces of good fortune - a gift of groceries from a neighbour, or the promise of a few extra hours of work for his wife, Darcy - as evidence of fruition.


Pete says that just over a decade ago there was great excitement within the foundation, when the US Senate's Finance Committee began to question whether evangelists were taking advantage of their tax-exempt status to break Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines.

While other tax-exempt organisations - notably charities - must at least fill in a basic form, known as the 990, churches don't have to. This means they are not required to detail their top employees' earnings or list how much is spent on philanthropic projects. Their inner workings can be entirely unknown.


"There is a peculiar thing about people turning the TV on in the middle of the night," says Pete, adding that this is when many pastors broadcast their pleas for seed donations. "They are lonely or hurting. They might have medical condition or be unemployed."


Both Ole and Pete says the work they do often falls flat - and not through a lack of effort at their end. They once helped a woman get her $1,000 donation back from a ministry, only for her to donate it all over again. "She called us afterwards, asking to get it back again," recalls Pete, saying they had to decline the second time. "My feeling is she was addicted. She just got hooked back on to the TV and believing what they said."


New docs show census citizenship question is GOP election plot

Should be no surprise to anybody who is not very naive/

May 30, 2019, 2:52 PM EDT / Updated May 30, 2019, 7:42 PM EDT
By Pete Williams

Trump administration witnesses were deliberately misleading when they testified about the origins of a plan to include a citizenship question on the coming census, opponents of the idea said Thursday, citing recently discovered evidence.

While the government has maintained that adding the question was intended to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the driving force was actually a desire to get more Republicans elected to state legislatures and the House of Representatives, the ACLU said in new court filings.

The Supreme Court is now considering whether the Commerce Department acted properly in ordering the Census Bureau to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census form that goes to every U.S. household, despite warnings from populous states that doing so would actually make the count less accurate.


The ACLU said the new evidence reveals that the idea originated with Thomas Hofeller, a Republican redistricting specialist, who wrote in letters and memos that the question would create an electoral advantage for "Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites." He helped ghostwrite a draft of the Justice Department letter, which adopted his rationale and some of the actual wording, the ACLU said.

Getting better citizenship data, Hofeller argued in newly disclosed documents, would help Republican legislatures create legislative and congressional district maps with fewer Latinos, who tend to vote for Democrats.


Both the Trump administration and the challengers agree that adding the citizenship question will reduce the census response rate, especially in immigrant communities. But when the case was argued in April, the court's conservative majority seemed prepared to rule that Ross had acted within his authority to add it, because no method is guaranteed to produce an accurate count.

A census is required every 10 years by the Constitution, and the results determine how many members of Congress each state gets in the House of Representatives. The data is also used to calculate a local government's share of funds under many federal programs.

The conservatives on the supreme court are either fools, or traitors to our democracy. I think it's more the latter. If they rule to allow the question now, they will prove themselves to be the latter.

It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?

By Geoffrey A. Fowler
May 28, 2019


Our data has a secret life in many of the devices we use every day, from talking Alexa speakers to smart TVs. But we’ve got a giant blind spot when it comes to the data companies probing our phones.

You might assume you can count on Apple to sweat all the privacy details. After all, it touted in a recent ad, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.” My investigation suggests otherwise.

IPhone apps I discovered tracking me by passing information to third parties — just while I was asleep — include Microsoft OneDrive, Intuit’s Mint, Nike, Spotify, The Washington Post and IBM’s the Weather Channel. One app, the crime-alert service Citizen, shared personally identifiable information in violation of its published privacy policy.

And your iPhone doesn’t only feed data trackers while you sleep. In a single week, I encountered over 5,400 trackers, mostly in apps, not including the incessant Yelp traffic. According to privacy firm Disconnect, which helped test my iPhone, those unwanted trackers would have spewed out 1.5 gigabytes of data over the span of a month. That’s half of an entire basic wireless service plan from AT&T.


n a world of data brokers, Jackson is the data breaker. He developed an app called Privacy Pro that identifies and blocks many trackers. If you’re a little bit techie, I recommend trying the free iOS version to glimpse the secret life of your iPhone.

Yes, trackers are a problem on phones running Google’s Android, too. Google won’t even let Disconnect’s tracker-protection software into its Play Store. (Google’s rules prohibit apps that might interfere with another app displaying ads.)


Metadata is the biggest little problem plaguing the music industry

By Dani Deahl@danideahl May 29, 2019,

Recently, a musician signed to a major indie label told me they were owed up to $40,000 in song royalties they would never be able to collect. It wasn’t that they had missed out on payments for a single song — it was that they had missed out on payments for 70 songs, going back at least six years.

The problem, they said, was metadata. In the music world, metadata most commonly refers to the song credits you see on services like Spotify or Apple Music, but it also includes all the underlying information tied to a released song or album, including titles, songwriter and producer names, the publisher(s), the record label, and more. That information needs to be synchronized across all kinds of industry databases to make sure that when you play a song, the right people are identified and paid. And often, they aren’t.


Entering the correct information about a song sounds like it should be easy enough, but metadata problems have plagued the music industry for decades. Not only are there no standards for how music metadata is collected or displayed, there’s no need to verify the accuracy of a song’s metadata before it gets released, and there’s no one place where music metadata is stored. Instead, fractions of that data is kept in hundreds of different places across the world.


It’s critical that metadata is distributed and entered accurately, not just for a song or album’s discoverability, but because metadata helps direct money to all the folks who made that music when a song is played, purchased, or licensed. Documenting everyone’s work is also important because, “That attribution could be how someone gets their next gig,” says Joshua Jackson, who leads business development for Jaxsta, an Australian company that authenticates music information.


It’s possible to correct metadata errors afterward, but that’s reliant on someone catching that error and then correcting it in every database where it appears. Even if it does get fixed, that doesn’t mean an artist gets all the payments they’re due — every company and collection society has different rules about how long they hold on to unclaimed royalties. The musician who was owed $40,000 missed out because a glitch between two databases removed many of his credits. It wasn’t the musician’s fault, but too much time had gone by before anyone noticed. The companies involved declined to pay him.

“We take it for granted that we can look up movie or TV credits on IMDb and see everything, down to production assistants,” says Jackson, who recently hosted a standing-room-only panel on metadata at the Music Biz 2019 conference in Nashville. “But the changes to music metadata and the standards are so slow.”


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Robert Mueller’s statement on the Russia investigation

From the full transcript at the following link:

05/29/2019 11:33 AM EDT

Let me begin where the appointment order begins, and that is interference in the 2016 presidential election. As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.

The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber-techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.


That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government's effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.


The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work.

And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

The introduction to the Volume 2 of our report explains that decision. It explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.

A special counsel's office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.


First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.


Now, before I step away, I want to thank the attorneys, the FBI agents, the analysts, the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner.

These individuals who spent nearly two years with the special counsel's office were of the highest integrity. And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election.

And that allegation deserves the attention of every American. Thank you. Thank you for being here today.

Stalled jet stream has caused two weeks of tornadoes in the US

May 29, 2019
By Chelsea Whyte

A stalled weather pattern over the middle of the US has resulted in tornadoes running through several states every day for nearly two weeks. Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio and northern Texas have been hit hardest, and millions of people in these states and neighbouring regions are under a state of emergency due to flooding and severe storms.

Much of the damage is in a region known as Tornado Alley, where tornadoes are most common in the US. But the frequency of twisters – at least 8 storms have been reported each day over 12 days – is so high even by Tornado Alley standards that it breaks a 40-year record. Tornado warnings have also been issued as far east as New York City, far to the east of Tornado Alley, which is unusual.

“A deep trough or southward dip in the jet stream has been in place over the western part of the country for a very long time,” says Jennifer Francis at Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. The fact that it’s so persistent is due to another feature in the jet stream out in the Pacific – a ridge where the jet stream shoots way northward, has been in that configuration for most of the winter, she says.

She says that ridge is becoming more common and strengthening due to sea ice loss in the Arctic as the region warms.

These storms are part of months of unusual weather across the entire country, driven by the persistence of the jet stream pattern. “This is actually much broader than just the tornadoes. There are also the unusual rains in California, recent snow in Denver, and the heat wave in the southeast. These things are all connected,” she says.


How Many Steps A Day You Really Need To Boost Longevity

May 29, 20192:09 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Allison Aubrey


women who took 4,400 steps per day, on average, were about 40 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period of about four years compared with women who took 2,700 steps. The findings were published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Another surprise: The benefits of walking maxed out at about 7,500 steps. In other words, women who walked more than 7,500 steps per day saw no additional boost in longevity.


Another thing Janz notes is that this study only measures walking. It didn't measure things that many of us do that don't require steps, things like gardening, swimming or biking. And it's safe to assume some women in the study were doing these other things that can influence health as well.

And Janz says to remember the federal exercise guidelines call for 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, which includes all kinds of daily movement, not just steps.


The richest 10% of households now represent 70% of all US wealth

Please read the whole article at the following link for some of the causes of the increasing transfer of wealth to the top.

Mark DeCambre
May 30, 2019

The rich are getting richer. It is a refrain that certainly has been uttered before, and likely will be again, as Deutsche Bank Securities’ chief economist points out that the gap between the haves and have-nots in the U.S. is, indeed, widening.

Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Sløk says that the distribution of household wealth in America has become even more disproportionate over the past decade, with the richest 10% of U.S. households representing 70% of all U.S. wealth in 2018, compared with 60% in 1989, according to a recent study by researchers at the Federal Reserve.

The study finds that the share of wealth among the richest 1% increased to 32% from 23% over the same period.

To make a finer point, Fed researchers say the increase in wealth among the top 10% is largely a result of that cohort obtaining a larger concentration of assets: “The share of assets held by the top 10% of the wealth distribution rose from 55% to 64% since 1989, with asset shares increasing the most for the top 1% of households. These increases were mirrored by decreases for households in the 50-90th percentiles of the wealth distribution,” Fed researchers said.


[The bottom 50% has such a small part of the wealth that they hardly show up at the bottom of the graph.]


Billionaire Ray Dalio said capitalism is no longer working for most Americans, adding that the expanding wealth gap is creating a volatile environment with disturbing parallels to the economic and social upheaval of the 1930s, he said in a blog on LinkedIn last month.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Plastic waste dumped in Malaysia will be returned to UK, US and others

By Ushar Daniele and Helen Regan, CNN
Updated 6:30 PM ET, Tue May 28, 2019

Malaysia will return 450 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste to the countries that shipped it, in a refusal to become a dumping ground for the world's trash.
Nine shipping containers at Port Klang, west of Kuala Lumpur, on Tuesday were found to contain mislabeled plastic and non-recyclable waste, including a mixture of household and e-waste.
Yeo Bee Yin, minister of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change, said the plastic was shipped from the US, the UK, Australia, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Singapore.


Last year, China banned plastic waste imports as part of an initiative to clean up its environment. That move caused a ripple effect through global supply chains, as middlemen sought new destinations for their trash, including Malaysia.


The row over plastic waste imports is also playing out in the Philippines, where Canada recently missed a May 15 deadline to take back tonnes of its garbage. That prompted a diplomatic spat with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, which saw him recall his ambassador to Ottawa.

After Duterte said he was prepared to "declare war" on Canada over the issue, the Canadian government said it would cover the full cost of the return operation and pledged that the garbage will be brought back before the end of June.


Extreme weather spans coast-to-coast with multiple tornadoes and severe storms plaguing the country

If the map of how states voted in the 2019 presidential election had the parties reversed, we would be hearing claims from some "Christians" that God was punishing them with the current weather problems for voting the way they did.

By Doha Madani and Associated Press
May 28, 2019

Severe storms have stretched across the nation on Tuesday, including tornadoes in Kansas and Pennsylvania, while catastrophic flooding puts other states at risk. It's only the latest outbreak of extreme weather that's been plaguing the U.S. for nearly two weeks.

Tuesday's violent weather marks the 13th consecutive day of such severe storms, coming a day after a series of devastating tornadoes hit western Ohio late Monday. That dangerous streak included an average of 27.5 tornadoes occurring each day.


In reversal from 2016, McConnell says he would fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy in 2020

No surprise. If he had tried to say otherwise, we would have known it was a lie.

By Ted Barrett, CNN
Updated 9:18 PM ET, Tue May 28, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday if a Supreme Court vacancy occurs during next year's presidential election, he would work to confirm a nominee appointed by President Donald Trump.
That's a move that is in sharp contrast to his decision to block President Barack Obama's nominee to the high court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

At the time, he cited the right of the voters in the presidential election to decide whether a Democrat or a Republican would fill that opening, a move that infuriated Democrats.

Speaking at a Paducah Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Kentucky, McConnell was asked by an attendee, "Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?"

The leader took a long sip of what appeared to be iced tea before announcing with a smile, "Oh, we'd fill it," triggering loud laughter from the audience.


David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said the difference between now and three years ago, when McConnell famously blocked Judge Merrick Garland's ascension to the Supreme Court, is that at that time the White House was controlled by Democrat and the Senate by a Republican. This time, both are controlled by the GOP.


Monday, May 27, 2019

AP FACT CHECK: Trump takes credit for Obama's gains for vets

See the whole article for more misstatements by Trump and his spokespeople about several topics.

[Associated Press]
,Associated Press•May 27, 2019

Boastful on the occasion of Memorial Day, President Donald Trump and his Veterans Affairs secretary are claiming full credit for health care improvements that were underway before they took office.

Trump said he passed a private-sector health care program, Veterans Choice, after failed attempts by past presidents for the last "45 years." That's not true. The Choice program, which allows veterans to see doctors outside the government-run VA system at taxpayer expense, was first passed in 2014 under President Barack Obama.

Trump's VA secretary, Robert Wilkie, also is distorting the facts. Faulting previous "bad leadership" at VA, Wilkie suggested it was his own efforts that improved waiting times at VA medical centers and brought new offerings of same-day mental health service. The problem: The study cited by Wilkie on wait times covers the period from 2014 to 2017, before Wilkie took the helm as VA secretary. Same-day mental health services at VA were started during the Obama administration under Wilkie's predecessor, David Shulkin.


Uber and Lyft increased traffic delays in San Francisco by 40 percent

No surprise to me. I was planning on opining on this when I had time. Uber and Lyft vehicles are going to spend some of their time on the road driving between clients, which would add to the total amount of driving time on the roads. I don't understand how anybody could think they would reduce congestion unless they were able to do enough multi-passenger trips of people who would otherwise take separate trips.

By Chelsea Whyte
May 8, 2019

Uber and Lyft drivers are on strike to demand regulated fares and livable wages, in the lead-up to Uber’s initial public offering on the stock exchange on 10 May. Now there is some more bad news for these services: they haven’t lived up to claims of reducing traffic congestion.

In San Francisco, rides through these two services increased traffic delays by 40 per cent over a six-year period, according to a new study.

“We collected information on where and when exactly these trips occur and found they are at the most congested parts of the city and the most congested times of day,” says Greg Erhardt at the University of Kentucky.


“The authors did not take into account the vehicle occupancy,” he says, adding that his own work found that the number of people per car increases on the weekends and in the evenings. But he says that we need more research to understand if those trips are replacing rides on mass transit or people driving their own cars.


A spokesperson for Uber says, “While studies disagree on causes for congestion, almost everyone agrees on the solution. We need tools that help ensure sustainable travel modes like public transportation are prioritized over single occupant vehicles.”

A Solution for Loneliness

By Kasley Killam on May 21, 2019


Loneliness is rampant, and it’s killing us—literally. Anywhere from one quarter to one half of Americans feel lonely a lot of the time, which puts them at risk for developing a range of physical and mental illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression. This is a public health problem that needs to be addressed on a wide scale.


In a recent survey of over 10,000 people in the UK, two-thirds reported that volunteering helped them feel less isolated. Similarly, a 2018 study of nearly 6,000 people across the US examined widows who, unsurprisingly, felt lonelier than married adults. After starting to volunteer for two or more hours per week, their average level of loneliness subsided to match that of married adults, even after controlling for demographics, baseline health, personality traits, and other social involvement. These benefits may be especially strong the older you are and the more often you volunteer.


Millions of senior citizens can’t afford food — and they’re not all living in poverty

By Jeanette Settembre
Published: May 19, 2019 10:40 a.m. ET

Senior citizens are struggling to afford enough food in the U.S. and the problem appears to be getting worse.

An alarming 1 in 12 seniors aged 60 and older — 5.5 million or 7.7% of the senior population — didn’t have enough food in 2017, the latest year for which data was available, according to a new study by Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that operates more than 200 food banks.

Economic constraints lead some seniors to eat less or skip meals, an epidemic that will negatively affect more than 8 million food-insecure seniors in the U.S. by 2050, according to “The State of Senior Hunger in America” report.


Two-thirds of all hungry seniors (65.3%) have incomes above the federal poverty line ($12,140 a year, or $1,012 per month for a single person household in 2017). And younger seniors — aged 60 to 64 — are twice as likely to be food insecure as seniors who are 80 or older.

See Also
Why bitcoin tycoon Barry Silbert thinks bitcoin will replace gold
While food insecurity is associated with income, it isn’t just limited to people living in poverty, researchers found. Some seniors end up skipping meals due to the high cost of health care, housing, utilities and transportation, the study suggests.

There’s a number of economic factors that could be contributing: A staggering 3 million senior citizens aged 65 and up are paying off their student loans, totalling up to $86 billion, CBS news reported. And many are having their Social Security benefits wiped out to pay off their debt.


About 40% of middle-class Americans will live close to or in poverty by the time they reach age 65, according to a study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Pollution Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math

By Lisa Friedman
May 20, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, a shift that would make it easier to roll back a key climate change rule because it would result in far fewer predicted deaths from pollution, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans.

The E.P.A. had originally forecast that eliminating the Obama-era rule, the Clean Power Plan, and replacing it with a new measure would have resulted in an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year. The new analytical model would significantly reduce that number and would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted.

The proposed shift is the latest example of the Trump administration downgrading the estimates of environmental harm from pollution in regulations. In this case, the proposed methodology would assume there is little or no health benefit to making the air any cleaner than what the law requires. Many experts said that approach was not scientifically sound and that, in the real world, there are no safe levels of the fine particulate pollution associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

Fine particulate matter — the tiny, deadly particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream — is linked to heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disease.


The E.P.A., when making major regulatory changes, is normally expected to demonstrate that society will see more benefits than costs from the change. Experts said that, while benefits would appear on paper in this case, the change actually disregards potential dangers to public health.


To put the matter in perspective, most scientists say particulate matter standards are like speed limits. On many highways, a limit of 65 miles per hour is considered reasonable to protect public safety. But that doesn’t mean the risk of an accident disappears at 55 m.p.h., or even 25.

Jonathan M. Samet, a pulmonary disease specialist who is dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said the most recent studies showed negative health effects well below the 12-microgram standard. “It’s not a hard stop where we can say ‘below that, air is safe.’ That would not be supported by the scientific evidence,” Dr. Samet said. “It would be very nice for public health if things worked that way, but they don’t seem to.”


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

May 15, 2019

In the spring of 2019, floodwaters overwhelmed levees across the Midwest, drenching towns and causing billions of dollars in infrastructure and crop damage. Record downpours in Tennessee provoked a state of emergency and led to mudslides. In California, heavy precipitation damaged thousands of buildings. Extreme rain events have devastated communities around the nation — and the frequency and severity of such events are expected to worsen in a warming world.

Human-caused climate change intensifies the heaviest downpours. More than 70% of the planet’s surface is water, and as the world warms, more water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and soils. Every 1°F rise also allows the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor. So when weather patterns lead to heavy rain, there is even more moisture available for stronger downpours, increasing the risk and severity of flooding.

Floods often happen on the rainiest day of the year — the single calendar day with the most precipitation. Climate Central tracked how these wet days are trending over time, analyzing data for 244 cities around the country. In most areas, rainfall extremes have intensified as the climate has warmed.

Since 1950, the wettest day of the year has gotten wetter in 79% of the cities analyzed. For 32 cities, that day’s extreme precipitation has increased by an inch or more, based on an analysis of the linear trend (detailed methodology below). Houston, Texas tops the list with an additional 2.78 inches of rain, followed by Greenville, North Carolina (2.44 inches), Hattiesburg, Mississippi (1.94 inches), and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1.91 inches). All four are located in the Southeast, the wettest part of the nation, where cities average 50-70 inches of rainfall annually.

In addition to getting stronger, extreme downpours are happening more frequently than in the past. In 80% of the cities analyzed, the top 1% of rain events have been recorded disproportionately recently. This recent swell is strongest in Clarksburg, West Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; and Marquette, Michigan.

All-time records for rainfall have also surged recently. Nearly all the cities analyzed have data since 1950; 78% have data going back at least a century. If there were no trend in extreme rainfall, the all-time records would be evenly distributed across that century or more. However, 35% of cities have set their rainfall records since 1990. The most recent records in our analysis come from Hurricane Harvey, which dumped one-day totals of 16 inches in Houston and an astounding 26 inches in Beaumont, Texas.


2019 Mississippi River Flood the Longest-Lasting Since the Great Flood of 1927 in Multiple Locations

By Brian Donegan
May 22, 2019

Mississippi River flooding has been ongoing for three months or longer in some locations, making it the longest-lasting flood there since the Great Flood of 1927, the worst flood in modern history on the lower Mississippi River.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the river first rose above flood stage in the first week of January, and has been above that threshold ever since, a record-long stretch that could extend well into June, topping the longevity record from 1927.


Upstream, the Mississippi River went above flood stage in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Feb. 17, and has remained in flood ever since. The National Weather Service said this is the longest continuous stretch above flood stage since 1927 at Vicksburg.


The Mississippi River at the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois observed its longest stretch above major flood stage on record. The river was in major flood stage for 51 consecutive days from March 23 through May 12. The previous record was 31 days from mid-April to mid-May 2001, according to the NWS.

Records for most consecutive days above major flood stage were also set at New Boston, Illinois; Keithsburg, Illinois; and Burlington, Iowa.

Where it joins the Mississippi River, the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, set a flood longevity record, as well, originally set during the spring 1973 flood.


April 2019: Earth's 2nd Warmest April on Record

Dr. Jeff Masters · May 22, 2019, 6:05 AM EDT

April 2019 was the planet's second warmest April since record keeping began in 1880, said NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Monday. NASA also rated April 2019 as the second warmest April on record, behind 2016. Minor differences in rankings between NASA and NOAA can arise because of how they handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic, where few surface weather stations exist. April 2019 was tied for having the 11th highest monthly temperature departure from average for any month in the NOAA record, and was the 12th warmest month in the NASA record (out of 1672 months). The top twelve hottest months on record have all occurred since 2015.

April 2019 was tied for having the 11th highest monthly temperature departure from average for any month in the NOAA record, and was the 12th warmest month in the NASA record (out of 1672 months). The top twelve hottest months on record have all occurred since 2015.

Global ocean temperatures during April 2019 were the second warmest on record, according to NOAA, and global land temperatures were the third warmest on record. The January through April year-to-date period was the third warmest on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures in April 2019 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the third warmest in the 41-year record, according to the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and RSS.


Arctic sea ice extent during April 2019 was the lowest in the 41-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and was at record-low levels every day of the month. The previous low April extent occurred in 2016.


Antarctic sea ice extent during April 2019 was the second lowest in the 41-year satellite record, behind the record-low year of 2017.


Among global stations with a period of record of at least 40 years, 14 set new all-time heat records in April and 0 set all-time cold records.


Highest minimum temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere: 35.9°C (96.6°F) at Noona, Australia, 18 January. The record was beaten again on 26 January, with a minimum temperature of 36.6°C (97.9°F) recorded at Borrona Downs, Australia. This is also the highest minimum temperature on record for the globe for the month of January.

Highest temperature ever recorded in the world in March: 48.1°C (118.6°F) on 10 March at Roebourne, Australia.

Highest temperature ever recorded in Asia in March: 46.9°C (116.4°F) at Kapde, India, 25 March. The data comes from a state (not central government) station, and may not be officially recognized, but is supported by data from several nearby stations.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Earthworms are in steep decline

Jules Howard
Mon 20 May 2019 10.16 EDT
Last modified on Mon 20 May 2019 14.49 EDT


If earthworms had feathers, wings or fur, or eyes that looked mournful – or eyes at all – perhaps they would fare better in the public’s affections. This is a clutch of species facing as much pressure from the ecological abuse of their habitats as any other – yet unlike, say, bees (which have their own UN day of celebration today), the decline of worms rarely makes the news. This is a shame. We need to talk more about worms. The health of our earth may depend on it.

Earthworms are not doing very well at the moment. This year, a scientific study found that 42% of fields surveyed by farmers were seriously deficient in earthworms; in some fields they were missing altogether. Particularly hard-hit were deep-burrowing worms, which are valuable in helping soil collect and store rainwater, but were absent from 16% of fields in the study.

The cause of these earthworm declines? The usual. An overstretched environment, creaking at its seams from the demands of modern Homo sapiens.


If the needs of earthworms are met, the land becomes, as if by magic, more fertile. Though modern farming practices are contributing to worms’ decline, farmers are, encouragingly, coming to understand that worms are allies, not enemies.

This is one of many reasons why we need to keep flying the flag for worms. Though we share very little with these organisms, we do share a rocky planet that is covered in a sprinkling of soil that they churn up for us, mixing up the nutrients upon which many millions of species depend.


Monday, May 20, 2019

The Other Reasons Kids Aren't Getting Vaccinations: Poverty and Health Care Access

May 20, 20195:52 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Selena Simmons-Duffin


The little girl is catching up on some vaccines she's behind on: missing doses of the DTaP and polio vaccines. She's over two years old — both of those shots are supposed to happen at a baby's six-month check up.

"It happens a lot," Siefman says. The Unity Health Care clinic, where Siefman practices, serves mostly low-income, mostly African-American patients. She says her patients often miss vaccinations because of struggles in their parents' lives. The reasons include: "transportation, couldn't get off work, didn't have insurance and didn't know that they could come in without insurance."


Data from the CDC shows the connection between poverty and vaccination rates bears out nationally.

"We see large coverage gaps among children who are living below the poverty line compared to those at or above poverty and among children who have no insurance," says Hill. "The highest disparity is among the uninsured compared to those with private insurance."

For instance, CDC data shows that in 2017 only 75% of uninsured children age 19 to 35 months had gotten at least one dose of MMR, the vaccine for measles. That compares to 94% of privately insured children, and 90% of those on Medicaid.


Hill co-authored a CDC study published online in 2016 that examined which specific factors related to poverty correlated to whether children were up-to-date on their vaccines or not. Up-to-date children "tended to live in households with fewer children, higher incomes and less mobility, compared to children who were not [up-to-date]."

When it comes to mobility, it can be challenging for doctors to piece together vaccination histories for children whose families move a lot, the paper concludes.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Senate Is Giving Trump Loyalist Judges to Shield Him From the Law

Voters were warned before the 2016 election about the fact that more than 100 lifetime judge positions, including one on the supreme court, were open because they had been blocked by the republican Congress. Enough chose to ignore this and vote for third party candidates that Trump was able to win the electoral college vote. And they knew from GW Bush's first election that it was very feasible for someone to lose the popular vote but win the electoral college vote.

By Dahlia Lithwick
May 17, 20193:25 PM

President Donald Trump seated his 40th circuit court appointee this week. It is the continuation of a long, slow march toward a judiciary made largely in the image of the most extreme elements of the Republican Party, e.g., the present-day Republican Party. The consequences of this march are profound beyond most Americans’ current comprehension.

Kenneth Lee was confirmed on Wednesday, along a party-line vote, to the Ninth Circuit. The vote came despite the fact that neither of his home state senators returned a blue slip on his nomination, making him the fifth circuit court judge confirmed this year with zero blue slip approval. It’s safe to say there is no “blue slip” process anymore for circuit court judges, an extraordinary shift that has accelerated the radicalization of the federal bench. Before this year, no circuit court judge had been elevated without the approval of at least one home state senator. Respecting the veto of home state senators is part of the reason President Barack Obama left office with so many judicial vacancies, many of which have been subsequently filled by Trump with the most radical contenders he could plausibly push through.


He’s after all just one of 27 Trump judicial nominees who have declined to endorse the landmark ruling declaring school segregation unconstitutional, a commitment Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh had no trouble making at their own hearings.


Not only has Trump broken records in filling judicial vacancies, but he is also on track to fill every vacancy left on the federal circuit courts


If you think that these judges will not act to protect their president, think about how they got their jobs. They are the types of nominees who would hide their most biased and grotesque thoughts and words and then insist when discovered that they were just kidding around. The fact that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are seating judges willing to do or say anything to protect their careers should scare us almost more than anything else. These are the people who will be willing to do or say anything to protect the president who nominated them when the time comes.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Outsourced Pollution - It’s Real, and Tough to Tally Up

By Brad Plumer
Sept. 4, 2018

Over the past decade, both the United States and Europe have made major strides in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions at home. That trend is often held up as a sign of progress in the fight against climate change.

But those efforts look a lot less impressive once you take trade into account. Many wealthy countries have effectively “outsourced” a big chunk of their carbon pollution overseas, by importing more steel, cement and other goods from factories in China and other places, rather than producing it domestically.

Britain, for instance, slashed domestic emissions within its own borders by one-third between 1990 and 2015. But it has done so as energy-intensive industries have migrated abroad. If you included all the global emissions produced in the course of making things like the imported steel used in London’s skyscrapers and cars, then Britain’s total carbon footprint has actually increased slightly over that time.


Dr. Hasanbeigi is an author of a new report on the global carbon trade, which estimates that 25 percent of the world’s total emissions are now being outsourced in this manner. The report, written with the consulting firm KGM & Associates and ClimateWorks, calls this a “carbon loophole,” since countries rarely scrutinize the carbon footprint of the goods they import.


About 13 percent of China’s emissions in 2015 came from making stuff for other countries. In India, another fast-growing emitter, the figure is 20 percent.


The United States, for its part, remains the world’s leading importer of what the researchers call “embodied carbon.” If the United States were held responsible for all the pollution worldwide that resulted from manufacturing the cars, clothing and other goods that Americans use, the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions would be 14 percent bigger than its domestic-only numbers suggest.

Between 1995 and 2015, the report found, as wealthier countries like Japan and Germany were cutting their own emissions, they were also doubling or tripling the amount of carbon dioxide they outsourced to China.


China’s efforts to cut pollution in Beijing may make it worse overall

Wimpy people who are too delicate to bear the slightest inconvenience often claim the U.S. shouldn't have to cut back on pollution because other countries are creating a higher amount. They generally cite China, which is much bigger than the U.S. The fact is that we emit almost 3 times as much per capita as China. And this does not take into account the share of Chinese emissions that really belong to the U.S. because it is used to create goods for the U.S.

By Michael Le Page
April 24, 2019

Many rich countries that appear to have cleaned up their act environmentally have actually outsourced manufacturing to countries with laxer standards – resulting in more pollution overall. Now the same thing is happening within China itself.

The country is trying to reduce the dire air pollution in the capital region that includes Beijing. In this megalopolis of 110 million people, average particulate levels are 10 times higher than the safe limit according to the World Health Organization.
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Chinese officials are moving highly polluting industries to other regions, but Bin Chen of Beijing Normal University and colleagues found this will actually lead to more air pollution overall because of lower environmental standards and less efficient technologies in these regions. The calculated that the increase in harmful particulate emissions outside the capital region will be 1.6 times the emissions reduction in the capital region

What’s more, overall carbon dioxide emissions will be 3.6 times higher, and water consumption will be 2.9 times higher. “These environmental problems are linked together,” says Chen.


Wonkier source:

Extreme flooding in Indonesia and Mozambique increased by global warming

April 30, 2019

By Michael Le Page

It has been another week of extreme weather around the globe. In Indonesia, heavy rain led to flooding and landslides in the western part of the country. At least 29 people have died, including 22 in a single landslide in Bengkulu on the island of Sumatra. The clearance of forests to plant palm oil has increased the risk of landslides.

Two people also died in flooding in the capital Jakarta. This coastal megalopolis of 10 million people has long battled flooding, as the city is sinking fast due to the extraction of the groundwater beneath it. Most of the city could be underwater by 2050. This week, the government announced plans to move the capital elsewhere, though several previous plans to do this have come to nothing.

Meanwhile, in Mozambique at least 38 people have died, 35,000 homes have been destroyed and 160,000 remain at risk as flooding triggered by cyclone Kenneth continues to worsen. Category 4 Kenneth was one of the strongest tropical cyclones to strike Africa in terms of wind speed when it reached land. It flattened some villages on the coast and then stalled over the interior, dumping immense amounts of rain.

Kenneth struck just six weeks after cyclone Idai wreaked even more havoc, killing at least 1000 people. It is the first time Mozambique has ever been struck by two strong storms in one year.

Storms in the region are growing stronger due to climate change, says climate scientist Jennifer Fitchett at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. “We’re always very cautious not to pin one particular storm to climate change, but in terms of the pattern of Idai, and now Kenneth, there’s this regional intensification of storms that we are seeing quite clearly,” she says.

Other parts of the world are facing extreme heat. Vietnam recently recorded its highest ever temperature: 43.4°C [110 F]. The warm season usually peaks in July.

'Possible' More Counties Than Now Known Were Hacked In 2016, Fla. Delegation Says

May 16, 20192:50 PM ET
Miles Parks

Florida lawmakers were angry Thursday when they emerged from an FBI briefing that left them with unanswered questions about the two county election offices in their state that were breached by Russian cyberattacks in 2016.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis then confirmed on Monday, after his own briefing with the FBI, that Russian attackers actually breached two Florida counties.


Members of Congress and election officials both say they're frustrated that more than two years after the 2016 election — and after the release of the Mueller report — they're still learning about exactly what happened in the wave of interference.

Rep. Michael Waltz, a Republican who represents Florida's 6th District, was asked if he thought there were more U.S. counties breached in 2016 that the public still doesn't know about.

"It's possible," he said.

‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Thu 16 May 2019 18.00 AEST

Ice losses are rapidly spreading deep into the interior of the Antarctic, new analysis of satellite data shows.

The warming of the Southern Ocean is resulting in glaciers sliding into the sea increasingly rapidly, with ice now being lost five times faster than in the 1990s. The West Antarctic ice sheet was stable in 1992 but up to a quarter of its expanse is now thinning. More than 100 metres [328 ft] of ice thickness has been lost in the worst-hit places.

A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about five metres [16 ft], drowning coastal cities around the world. The current losses are doubling every decade, the scientists said, and sea level rise are now running at the extreme end of projections made just a few years ago.


In the recent past, snow falling on to Antarctica’s glaciers balanced the ice lost as icebergs calved off into the ocean. But now the glaciers are flowing faster than snow can replenish them.
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“Along a 3,000km [1,850-mile] stretch of West Antarctica, the water in front of the glaciers is too hot,” he said. This causes melting of the underside of the glaciers where they grind against the seabed. The melting lessens the friction and allows the glaciers then to slide more quickly into the ocean and therefore become thinner.


Separate research published in January found that ice loss from the entire Antarctic continent had increased six-fold since the 1980s, with the biggest losses in the west. The new study indicates West Antarctica has caused 5mm of sea level rise since 1992, consistent with the January study’s findings.


The expansion of the oceans as they warm and the vast melting in Greenland are the main current causes of the rising oceans, but Antarctica is the biggest store of ice. The East Antarctic ice sheet contains enough ice to raise sea levels by about 60 metres. It had been considered stable, but research in December found even this stronghold was showing signs of melting.

Without rapid cuts in the carbon emissions driving global warming, the melting and rising sea level will continue for thousands of years.


They froze the salaries of 20 executives – and it improved the lives of 500 employees

John Driscoll
May 15, 2019


I challenged the chief financial officer to see how deeply we would have to freeze wages in order to reach our goal of a base rate of $15 per hour.

The answer was that we did not have to go very deep. Over the last few decades executive salaries have skyrocketed. That translates into accelerated wage growth in the highest tiers of executives throughout American business, and it affects every company.

What that meant for our company was that if we just froze the wages of our most senior team – less than 20 executives – we could radically increase the wages and improve the lives of nearly 500 of our teammates.

The conversation with our executives was straightforward. We were in the midst of a turnaround. We were demanding much from every corner of the company. Small financial sacrifices from those at the top could be life changing for those at the bottom of our wage scale. We needed to do it to build a real sense of Team CareCentrix. They agreed. With joy, we announced in January 2015 that our minimum base pay for employees would go up to $34,000, or the equivalent of $15 per hour.


Ultra-Processed Foods more fattening

Ed Cara
May 16, 2019

A U.S. government-led trial may confirm the worst fears of anyone whose diet starts and ends in the frozen food aisle. It suggests that people who mostly eat ultra-processed foods will take in more calories and gain more weight than those who stick to mostly unprocessed foods—even if the two diets start off with the same amounts of fat, carbs, and other nutrients.


There’s some debate as what exactly qualifies as an ultra-processed food. But Hall and his team decided to abide by guidelines developed by the United Nations, which take into account the different types of industrialized processing a food or ingredient goes through before it ends up on our plate. An example of an ultra-processed breakfast, highlighted by the authors, might include pancakes, sausages, and hash browns, while a mostly unprocessed breakfast would contain blueberries, raw nuts, and oatmeal.


Dietitians created the meals for each diet, and designed them to roughly match in terms of total calories, macronutrients like fat and sugar, sodium, and fiber. But importantly, the volunteers were told to eat as much or little as they wanted. Together with freely available snacks, each person had the option to eat up to twice as many daily calories as they would likely need to stay at their current weight, based on a preliminary screening.

The team’s final results were striking. On the ultra-processed diet, the volunteers ate an average of 500 extra calories a day, gained body fat and about a pound of weight by the two-week mark; on the unprocessed diet, they lost body fat and dropped that same pound.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Flynn told Mueller people tied to Trump and Congress tried to obstruct probe

May 16, 2019, 6:20 PM EDT
By Tom Winter, Adiel Kaplan and Rich Schapiro

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people linked to the Trump administration and Congress reached out to him in an effort to interfere in the Russia probe, according to newly-unredacted court papers filed Thursday.


“The defendant informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could’ve affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation,” the court papers say.

Flynn even provided a voicemail recording of one such communication, the court papers say.


No other details were provided in the filing, but the Mueller report noted that President Donald Trump's personal lawyer left a voicemail message for Flynn in late November 2017 that addressed the possibility of him cooperating with the government.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

POURING IT ON: How Climate Change Intensifies Heavy Rain Events

May 15, 2019

In the spring of 2019, floodwaters overwhelmed levees across the Midwest, drenching towns and causing billions of dollars in infrastructure and crop damage. Record downpours in Tennessee provoked a state of emergency and led to mudslides. In California, heavy precipitation damaged thousands of buildings. Extreme rain events have devastated communities around the nation — and the frequency and severity of such events are expected to worsen in a warming world.

Human-caused climate change intensifies the heaviest downpours. More than 70% of the planet’s surface is water, and as the world warms, more water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and soils. Every 1°F rise also allows the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor. So when weather patterns lead to heavy rain, there is even more moisture available for stronger downpours, increasing the risk and severity of flooding.

Floods often happen on the rainiest day of the year — the single calendar day with the most precipitation. Climate Central tracked how these wet days are trending over time, analyzing data for 244 cities around the country. In most areas, rainfall extremes have intensified as the climate has warmed.


In addition to getting stronger, extreme downpours are happening more frequently than in the past. In 80% of the cities analyzed, the top 1% of rain events have been recorded disproportionately recently.


Finally, most cities have recently observed more storms with an inch of rain or more, causing threats of flooding to spike upward. The national frequency of 1”, 2”, and 3” storms has markedly increased since 1950.


The U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report provides a clear example. If greenhouse emissions continue unchecked, the frequency of a once-in-five-years rain event could increase two-to-threefold by late century. But if the world makes significant emissions cuts — roughly in line with the pledges from the Paris Agreement — the increase in frequency could be cut in half. In a waterlogged world, that difference would be critical.

2019 Mississippi River Flood the Longest-Lasting Since the Great Flood of 1927

Got a sample of how people remember things to fit their beliefs when I talked yesterday to a conservative relative who lives in this area that has gotten so much rain recently. She's a nice person, but she is fitting her memories to her political beliefs. She says yes there has been a lot of rain recently, but that it's no different than usual. I've lived long enough to know that weather is definitely not the same as it used to be.

2019 Mississippi River Flood the Longest-Lasting Since the Great Flood of 1927
By Brian Donegan
May 13, 2019

Mississippi River flooding has been ongoing for three months or longer in some locations, making it the longest-lasting flood there since the Great Flood of 1927, the worst flood in modern history on the lower Mississippi River.

Take Vicksburg, Mississippi, for example.

The Mississippi River went above flood stage there on Feb. 17, and has remained in flood ever since. The National Weather Service said this is the longest continuous stretch above flood stage since 1927 at Vicksburg.


The Mississippi River at the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois observed its longest stretch above major flood stage on record. The river was in major flood stage for 51 consecutive days from March 23 through May 12. The previous record was 31 days from mid-April to mid-May 2001, according to the NWS.

Records for most consecutive days above major flood stage were also set at New Boston, Illinois; Keithsburg, Illinois; and Burlington, Iowa.


The 12 months spanning May 2018 through April 2019 were the wettest year-long period in the United States in records dating back to 1895, according to the monthly U.S. climate summary issued May 8 by the NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.



Low-fat diet helps reduce risk of dying from breast cancer, study finds

May 15, 2019, 5:17 PM EDT
By Erika Edwards

Eating a low-fat, plant-based diet could help significantly lower a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer, and the key appears to be changing eating habits before tumors have a chance to develop, according to a study released Wednesday.

The new findings are from a long-term analysis of the federally funded Women's Health Initiative, and included data on more than 48,000 postmenopausal women across the U.S.When the WHI study began in 1993, the women were in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and had never been diagnosed with breast cancer.


The women were tracked for 20 years, through 2013. Researchers from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center who analyzed the data found that women who stuck to the low-fat, plant-based diet had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer.


The new study did not find a significant drop in breast cancer cases overall, although it's unclear why. It's too soon to say that a low-fat, plant-based diet does not protect a women from developing breast cancer, experts note.

"It could be that we need more follow-up, or that the effect on cases would have been stronger if the diet was continued for a longer period of time," said Dr. Neil Iyengar, who studies the relationship between diet and cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He was not involved in the new research.


Researchers took a close look at the women's metabolic risk factors, such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. The more metabolic risk factors a women has, the higher her risk for developing cancer.


Women in the study were told to consume no more than 20 percent of daily calories from fat. Not many were able to achieve that, but it didn't matter. Benefits were significant even if women were only able to reduce fat intake to 24.5 percent of their daily calories.


Carbon dioxide hits a level not seen for 3 million years. Here's what that means for climate change — and humanity

May 14, 2019, 4:39 AM EDT
By Denise Chow

In the latest bit of bad news for a planet beset by climate change, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has climbed to a level last seen more than 3 million years ago — before humans even appeared on the rocky ball we call home.

On Saturday, sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii indicated that concentrations of the greenhouse gas — a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels — had reached 415 parts per million (ppm), meaning that for every 1 million molecules of gas in the atmosphere, 415 were of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide traps heat from the sun, and higher levels are associated with higher global temperatures and other effects of climate change, such as rising seas and unusual weather patterns.

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen an average of 2.5 ppm per year over the past decade, reaching 400 ppm in 2013 — and the level appears likely to go higher from here.


The last time levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide were this high came during the Pliocene Epoch, which extended from about 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago. During that period, average sea levels were about 50 feet higher than they are today and forests grew as far north as the Arctic, said Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University. “Earth was a very different place,” he said. “You would hardly recognize the land surface, and my gosh, we don’t want to go there.”


If the current trajectory continues, levels of CO2 could hit 500 ppm within 30 years, a number that could mean an increase in global temperatures of at least 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“At the present pace, we could reach that well within a lot of people’s lifetimes,” Keeling said of the grim milestone ahead.


Chickenpox, shingles and vaccines: USC expert shares what you need to know

BY Connie Sommer
August 21, 2018


“Almost everyone born before 1980 tests positive for exposure to varicella,” Orrange said. That’s why the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices considers people born before 1980 immune to the varicella virus. Even if you never broke out in the telltale rash, if you’re 38 years old or older, you almost certainly have the virus lying dormant in your system.


if you’re 50 or older, you can and should get the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, whether or not you remember getting chickenpox in childhood. It’s given as a shot in two doses, two to six months apart.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Patience exhausted: UK drivers who sit with engines idling could face instant fines

Mattha Busby
Tue 14 May 2019 03.17 EDT

Drivers who repeatedly leave their engines running while parked could receive instant fines under proposals being considered by the government to give local authorities more power to reduce pollution.

Councils have been calling for tougher laws to help tackle idling, with officers unable to impose penalties unless drivers ignore an initial warning and remain stationary for at least another minute.


The central London borough has urged the government to allow for the punishment of companies whose drivers are repeatedly caught idling with fines of more than £1,000, saying delivery drivers and commercial vehicles were the worst offenders.
Matt Hancock launches study into 'deadly poison' of air pollution
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“We need to change the way people think about engine idling,” said Westminster council leader Nickie Aiken, adding that it needlessly contributed to air pollution.

“Having spoken to more than 20,000 drivers so far, our air quality marshals found that most who idle, do so out of habit. Once they know the damage it causes, including the health risks, and they’re asked to switch off the engine, they do so and think twice before idling again. Fines should be a last resort – we prefer to ask nicely.”


According to Westminster council, an idling car produces enough exhaust emissions to fill 150 balloons a minute.


Without heart disease, daily aspirin may be too risky

Lisa Rapaport
May 13, 2019

For people without heart disease, taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes may increase the risk of severe brain bleeding to the point where it outweighs any potential benefit, a research review suggests.

U.S. doctors have long advised adults who haven’t had a heart attack or stroke but are at high risk for these events to take a daily aspirin pill, an approach known as primary prevention. Even though there’s clear evidence aspirin works for this purpose, many physicians and patients have been reluctant to follow the recommendations because of the risk of rare but potentially lethal internal bleeding.


For people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, the benefit of low-dose aspirin to prevent another major cardiac event is well established, researchers note in JAMA Neurology. But the value of aspirin is less clear for healthier people, for whom bleeding risks may outweigh any benefit, the study team writes.

Already, guidelines on aspirin for primary prevention of heart disease in the U.S., Europe and Australia have incorporated a need to balance the potential benefits against the risk of bleeding. For elderly people, who have a greater risk of bleeding than younger adults, the risks may be too great to recommend aspirin.


Microsoft warns of major WannaCry-like Windows security exploit, releases XP patches

By Tom Warren@tomwarren May 14, 2019, 2:41pm EDT

Windows 10 and Windows 8 are safe

Microsoft is warning users of older versions of Windows to urgently apply a Windows Update today to protect against a potential widespread attack. The software giant has patched a critical remote code execution vulnerability in Remote Desktop Services that exists in Windows XP, Windows 7, and server versions like Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2008. Microsoft is taking the highly unusual approach of releasing patches for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 even though both operating systems are out of support. Windows XP users will have to manually download the update from Microsoft’s update catalog.

“This vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction,” explains Simon Pope, director of incident response at Microsoft’s Security Response Center. “In other words, the vulnerability is ‘wormable’, meaning that any future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017.”


WhatsApp was breached: Here's what users need to do

Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY Published 8:36 a.m. ET May 14, 2019 | Updated 11:05 a.m. ET May 14, 2019

A cybersecurity breach in Facebook's messaging app WhatsApp left users unknowingly vulnerable to malicious spyware installed on their smartphones, WhatsApp admitted Monday.

The security vulnerability affects both iPhone and Android devices, and WhatsApp is urging users to update their apps as soon as possible.

WhatsApp, which is used by over 1.5 billion people, confirmed the vulnerability in a statement, but didn't name the perpetrator.

“WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” the company said in a statement .


The Financial Times reported that a loophole in WhatsApp allowed attackers to inject spyware on smartphones by calling targets using the app. The malicious code could be transmitted whether the user answered the call or not.

The Financial Times said the spyware was developed by Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group.

An NSO spokesperson told USA TODAY that the company's technology is "licensed to authorized government agencies for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror."


WhatsApp says the cyber threat was first discovered earlier this month and had been used to target a "select number" of users. The messaging company said it briefed human rights organizations on the discovery and notified U.S. law enforcement to help them conduct an investigation.

David Lee
May 14, 2019


How was the security flaw used?

It involved attackers using WhatsApp's voice calling function to ring a target's device.

Even if the call was not picked up, the surveillance software could be installed. According to the FT report, the call would often disappear from the device's call log.


Who has been targeted?

WhatsApp said it was too early to know how many users had been affected by the vulnerability, although it added that suspected attacks were highly-targeted.

According to the New York Times, one of the people targeted was a London-based lawyer involved in a lawsuit against the NSO Group.

Amnesty International, which said it had been targeted by tools created by the NSO Group in the past, said this attack was one human rights groups had long feared was possible.

"They're able to infect your phone without you actually taking an action," said Danna Ingleton, deputy programme director for Amnesty Tech. She said there was mounting evidence that the tools were being used by regimes to keep prominent activists and journalists under surveillance.


Thursday, May 09, 2019

California defies Trump to ban pesticide linked to childhood brain damage

Sam Levin in San Francisco
Wed 8 May 2019 15.06 EDT

California is banning a widely used pesticide that has been linked to brain damage in children, a major victory for public health advocates who have long fought to outlaw the toxic chemical in the agricultural industry.

The state ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, walnuts and other crops, follows years of research finding the chemical causes serious health effects in children, including impaired brain and neurological development. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had moved to ban the chemical under Barack Obama, but the Trump administration reversed that effort, rejecting the scientific conclusions of its own government experts.

“Countless people have suffered as a result of this chemical,” the California EPA secretary, Jared Blumenfeld, said in an interview on Wednesday. “A lot of people live and work and go to school right next to fields that are being sprayed with chlorpyrifos … It’s an issue of environmental health and justice.”


Epidemiological studies have linked chlorpyrifos to a number of health conditions. Pregnant women living near fields and farms that use the chemical have an increased risk of having a child with autism. Exposure to low to moderate levels of chlorpyrifos during pregnancy have also been associated with lower IQs and memory problems. California officials cited a recent review by a state panel on toxic air contaminants, which found the effects in children could occur at lower levels than previously understood.


Activists have accused the Trump administration of backing the interests of DowDuPont, a chlorpyrifos manufacturer whose predecessor donated to the president.


Climate change is expected to worsen pest challenges in agriculture, which means the need to find alternatives to toxic chemicals is urgent, said Blumenfeld: “It’s not just about chlorpyrifos. It’s making sure we have a more holistic and nature-based approach.”

Double jeaopardy for Trump?

Just heard an interview with journalist David Enrich on Trump's relationship with Deutsche Bank, and how he over-valued his property when applying for loans. The radio interview mentioned that Trump could be found guilty of bank fraud. A few days ago, learned how he under-valued his property to avoid taxes. Seems to me that his conflicting claims of values of his properties could also make him guilty of tax fraud.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease

News Release 7-May-2019
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. This structural change increases the risk for future heart problems. The findings are published online in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, an American Heart Association journal.


Maternal nut consumption during pregnancy linked to improvements in neurodevelopment in children

News Release 7-May-2019
Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)

Nuts are known to help reduce the risk of hypertension, oxidative stress and diabetes and they may exercise a protective effect against cognitive decline in older age. To this list of beneficial health effects, we can now add new evidence from a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institute supported by "la Caixa". The study, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, found links between a maternal diet rich in nuts during the first trimester of pregnancy and improved neurodevelopment in the child.


Analysis of the results showed that the group of children whose mothers ate more nuts during the first trimester of pregnancy obtained the best results in all the tests measuring cognitive function, attention capacity and working memory.


"The nuts we took into account in this study were walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts and hazelnuts. We think that the beneficial effects observed might be due to the fact that the nuts provided high levels of folic acid and, in particular, essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. These components tend to accumulate in neural tissue, particularly in the frontal areas of the brain, which influence memory and executive functions."


The study also analysed the mothers' nut consumption during the third trimester of their pregnancy, but in this case either no associations were observed with the neuropsychological outcomes or the associations found were weaker.


Study finds lifestyle factors that could harden arteries

News Release 6-May-2019
University of Georgia

A new study from the University of Georgia pinpoints lifestyle factors that could lead to hardened arteries.

One of the largest of its kind, the study performed an untargeted metabolomics profile of over 1,200 participants of the Bogalusa Heart Study to identify metabolites linked to the hardening of arteries.

Hardening arteries, or arterial stiffness, is an independent risk factor for heart disease and death, and the mechanisms that contribute to arterial stiffening are not well understood.


"We were able to identify some environmental and lifestyle related-metabolites, build metabolite networks to shown how the body reacts to the environmental exposures, and more importantly, tested the effect of those metabolites on arterial stiffness," said Li.

The majority of these were associated with other known risk factors of arterial stiffness like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

But some of these metabolites are food additives and cooking ingredients found in many U.S. kitchens.

For example, the team identified two peptides - gamma-glutamylvaline and gamma-glutamylisoleucine - that are commonly used to enhance the savory taste of chicken broth.


Obesity reprograms immune cells in breasts to promote tumor formation

News Release 6-May-2019
Macrophages in fatty breast tissue promote triple-negative breast cancers
University of Chicago Medical Center

Smoking has long been the biggest cause of cancer in the United States, but obesity, now the second leading cause, has been gaining ground. A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago finds that women with breast cancer, the most common cancer among women, are at even higher risk from obesity.


Obesity has become "a global epidemic," Becker said. The prevalence in the United States is about 36 percent for ages 20 to 39, 43 percent for ages 40 to 59, and 41 percent for those 60 and older. The United States is ranked 12th worldwide for obesity.

"Current treatment of breast cancer patients ignores the ongoing obesity epidemic," said study co-author Marsha Rosner, PhD, the Charles B. Huggins Professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research. "In order to take this into consideration, we need to help patients lose weight or identify new drug targets that would be effective in obese cancer patients."

Unfortunately, once the cancer has been detected there may not be time to lose weight prior to treatment. "So our bottom line," Rosner said, is to "promote weight loss as a cancer prevention measure, incorporate weight loss as a component of therapy for patients with breast cancer, and develop specific drug targets that could be leveraged to address the obesity component of the disease."


Heart failure deaths rising in younger adults

News Release 6-May-2019
Northwestern University

6 million adults in U.S. have heart failure
Rise is likely due to obesity and diabetes epidemics
Life expectancy in U.S. is dropping, possibly due to heart failure rise
Heart failure is number one reason adults are admitted to hospital


Fitness may affect risk of lung, colorectal cancer and survival likelihood after diagnosis

News Release 6-May-2019
Fitness may affect risk of lung, colorectal cancer and survival likelihood after diagnosis

In a recent study, adults who were the most fit had the lowest risk of developing lung and colorectal cancer. Also, among individuals who developed lung or colorectal cancer, those who had high fitness levels before their cancer diagnosis were less likely to die compared with those who had low fitness levels.


Largest Tornado Outbreaks Getting Larger

April 24, 2019

After a relatively quiet 2018, this year’s tornado season is already making an impact. More than 200 tornadoes have already occurred in the U.S. in 2019. Even though a warming climate provides more energy for the thunderstorms that spawn tornadoes, it’s still unclear how climate change is affecting wind shear — the necessary spin that generates tornadoes. How tornadoes react to a changing climate continues to be vigorously researched, and some trends are surfacing.

There has been a subtle but detectable increase in tornado risk over the past few decades. Let’s be clear, tornadoes are not going away in the Plains and Upper Midwest, but more have been recorded east of the Mississippi. While there are connections to climate variability modes like ENSO, these overall trends are consistent with an eastward shift in the drier climate zone of the western U.S. and with climate change projections indicating that severe storm environments will become more common in the eastern U.S.

The number of tornadoes in large tornado outbreaks is also on the rise. In one study defining an outbreak as having six or more tornadoes in a six-hour period, there are about five more E/F1+ tornadoes in the largest outbreaks now than in the 1950s, and another study showed that the number of days with 30+ tornadoes has also been increasing. One possible reason for the increase is that the weather environments that produce severe storms are occurring more often.

In addition to the changing geography and number of tornadoes, there is a shift in the time of year they occur. On average, tornadoes are starting about a week earlierin the year in the tornado alley region from Nebraska to Texas, and summer tornadoes are declining nationwide. But in the colder months between November and February, tornado frequency has increased, especially in the Southeast. More troubling, nighttime tornadoes, which are more than twice as likely to cause fatalities, are more common during these colder months of the year. Given the complex, forested terrain and high density of mobile homes in the Southeast, this region is especially vulnerable to these overnight storms.

Trump would face obstruction charges if he wasn't president, prosecutors say

Tom McCarthy
Mon 6 May 2019 17.55 EDT

Hundreds of former federal prosecutors – and counting – signed an open letter published on Monday expressing their belief that Donald Trump would have faced “multiple felony charges of obstruction of justice” if he were not president.

Multiple aspects of Trump’s conduct described in a report of the Trump-Russia investigation submitted in March by special counsel Robert Mueller were probably criminal, the prosecutors write. Mueller had declined to weigh whether to charge Trump, citing justice department guidelines prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president.

But the letter’s signatories, which include prominent Republicans from administrations going back to Richard Nixon, said it was clear that Trump would have faced charges had he not been protected by the guidelines.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the prosecutors wrote in part.

Trump has claimed that the Mueller report was a “complete exoneration” of his conduct. But the prosecutors outline three main areas in which they said that conduct warranted criminal charges:

The president’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort

The president’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct

The president’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators investigating him and his campaign

The signatories include former prosecutors at all levels, from line attorneys to US attorneys to special prosecutors to former senior officials in the Department of Justice. The letter was originally published with more than 300 signatures but had more than 450 by Monday afternoon.


Monday, May 06, 2019

1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says

May 6, 2019 2:10 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Bill Chappell, Nathan Rott

Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity's burgeoning growth is putting the world's biodiversity at perilous risk.

Some of the report's findings might not seem new to those who have followed stories of how humans have affected the environment, from shifts in seasons to the prevalence of plastics and other contaminants in water. But its authors say the assessment is the most accurate and comprehensive review yet of the damage people are inflicting on the planet. And they warn that nature is declining at "unprecedented" rates and that the changes will put people at risk.

"Protecting biodiversity amounts to protecting humanity," UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said at a news conference about the findings Monday morning.


"The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever," Watson says. He emphasizes that business and financial concerns are also threatened. "We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide," he says.

The report lists a number of key global threats, from humans' use of land and sea resources to challenges posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species.

"Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities," Scott McArt, an entomology professor at Cornell University, says in a statement about the report.


Here's a short selection of some of the report's notable findings:

75% of land environment and some 66% of the marine environment "have been significantly altered by human actions."
"More than a third of the world's land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources" are used for crops or livestock.
"Up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss."
Between 100 million and 300 million people now face "increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection."
Since 1992, the world's urban areas have more than doubled.
"Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980," and from "300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge" and other industrial waste are dumped into the world's water systems.


Díaz and other experts portrayed humans as both the cause of the threat and a target of its risks. As humanity demands ever more food, energy, housing and other resources, they say, it's also undermining its own food security and long-term prospects.


The report found patterns of "telecoupling," which another co-chair, Eduardo S. Brondízio of Brazil and the U.S., describes as the phenomenon of resources being extracted and made into goods in one part of the world "to satisfy the needs of distant consumers in other regions."

That pattern, Brondízio says, makes it more complicated to avoid damage to nature through the usual avenues of governance and accountability.