Sunday, June 30, 2019

Notes on Excessive Wealth Disorder

After I made a comment about how the U.S. media that I looked at didn't mention the reason for the fact that insulin costs a huge amount more in the U.S. than in Canada, namely that Canada regulates drug prices, I saw this article, on the policy preferences of the immensely rich, and the methods they use to influence policy.

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:

Paul Krugman

By Paul Krugman
June 22, 2019


While popular discourse has concentrated on the “1 percent,” what’s really at issue here is the role of the 0.1 percent, or maybe the 0.01 percent — the truly wealthy, not the “$400,000 a year working Wall Street stiff” memorably ridiculed in the movie Wall Street. This is a really tiny group of people, but one that exerts huge influence over policy.

Where does this influence come from? People often talk about campaign contributions, but those are only one channel. In fact, I’d identify at least four ways in which the financial resources of the 0.1 percent distort policy priorities:

1. Raw corruption. We like to imagine that simple bribery of politicians isn’t an important factor in America, but it’s almost surely a much bigger deal than we like to think.

2. Soft corruption. ...

3. Campaign contributions. Yes, these matter.

4. Defining the agenda: Through a variety of channels — media ownership, think tanks, and the simple tendency to assume that being rich also means being wise — the 0.1 percent has an extraordinary ability to set the agenda for policy discussion, in ways that can be sharply at odds with both a reasonable assessment of priorities and public opinion more generally.


The example I have in mind was the extraordinary shift in conventional wisdom and policy priorities that took place in 2010-2011, away from placing priority on reducing the huge suffering still taking place in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and toward action to avert the supposed risk of a debt crisis. This episode is receding into the past, but it was extraordinary and shocking at the time, and could all too easily be a precursor to politics in the near future.

Let’s talk first about the underlying economic circumstances. At the beginning of 2011, the U.S. unemployment rate was still 9 percent, and long-term unemployment in particular was at extraordinary levels, with more than 6 million Americans having been out of work for 6 months or more.


Textbook economics offered very clear advice about what to do under these circumstances. This was exactly the kind of situation in which deficit spending helps the economy, by supplying the demand the private sector wasn’t. Unfortunately, the support provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the Obama stimulus, which was inadequate but had at least cushioned the effects of the slump — peaked in mid-2010 and was in the process of falling off sharply. So the obvious, Economics 101 move would have been to implement another significant round of stimulus. After all, the federal government was still able to borrow long-term at near-zero real interest rates.
Republicans blocked most of Obama's efforts at stimulus.

Somehow, however, over the course of 2010 a consensus emerged in the political and media worlds that in the face of 9 percent unemployment the two most important issues were … deficit reduction and “entitlement reform,” i.e. cuts in Social Security and Medicare. And I do mean consensus. As Ezra Klein noted, “the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit.” He cited, for example, Mike Allen asking Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles “whether they believed Obama would do ‘the right thing’ on entitlements — with ‘the right thing’ clearly meaning ‘cut entitlements.’”

So where did this consensus come from?


voters tend to place a relatively low priority on deficits as compared with jobs and the economy. And they overwhelmingly favor spending more on health care and Social Security.

The rich, however, are different from you and me. In 2011 the political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright managed to survey a group of wealthy individuals in the Chicago area. They found striking differences between this group’s policy priorities and those of the public at large. Budget deficits topped the list of problems they considered “very important,” with a third considering them the “most important” problem. While the respondents also expressed concern about unemployment and education, “they ranked a distant second and third among the concerns of wealthy Americans.”

And when it came to entitlements, the policy preferences of the wealthy were clearly at odds with those of the general public. By large margins, voters at large wanted to expand spending on health care and Social Security. By almost equally large margins, the wealthy wanted to reduce spending on those same programs.


In their recent book “Billionaires and Stealth Politics,” Page, Seawright, and Matthew Lacombe point out the enduring effects of plutocratic political influence on the Social Security debate: “Despite the strong support among most Americans for protecting and expanding Social Security benefits, for example, the intense, decades-long campaign to cut or privatize Social Security that was led by billionaire Pete Peterson and his wealthy allies appears to have played a part in thwarting any possibility of expanding Social Security benefits. Instead, the United States has repeatedly come close (even under Democratic Presidents Clinton and Obama) to actually cutting benefits as part of a bipartisan ‘grand bargain’ concerning the federal budget.”


Search for cheaper medication takes U.S. caravan to Canadian birthplace of insulin

I notice most U.S. sources don't mention the reason for the difference, although the BBC ( British) radio program I heard yesterday did, as does this Canadian one.

Jeremiah Rodriguez
June 28, 2019

Skyrocketing U.S. insulin prices are driving a caravan of Americans with diabetes to the Canadian birthplace of the life-saving medication.

Organizer and diabetes advocate Quinn Nystrom said up to 45 people with Type 1 diabetes are expected to make the weekend trip to London, Ont., by bus or car from different U.S. cities.

“This is a crisis of epic proportions here in America. People are desperate and people are dying because they can’t afford insulin,” she told in a telephone interview, before her 25-person group from Minneapolis, Minn. left Friday.

U.S. insulin prices have soared over the past two decades. An American Diabetes Association spokesperson told the average price of insulin has nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013.

When Nystrom was diagnosed 20 years ago, she said insulin was around US$16 per vial. Now, it costs her US$340 -- roughly 10 times the price in Canada.


Amie Criego from East Lansing, Mich. has gone on stretches in the past without health insurance. During those times, she recalls asking friends for insulin because she couldn’t afford it.


Canadian insulin prices can be approximately a tenth of those in the U.S. When Nystrom crossed the border the first time, she ended up paying US$300 for insulin, which would have cost US$3,300 stateside.

Fellow traveller Souther, who was diagnosed more than 45 years ago, uses three vials of insulin that each cost US$380 each month. In Canada, each vial is under US$40.


“There’s a lot of people who can’t make it to Canada and they’re actually losing their lives … and having to ration their insulin.”



The reason for the discrepancy is because Canada regulates drug prices through the quasi-judicial Patented Medicine Prices Review Board designed to prevent gouging.

In the U.S., market forces are the lay of the land. But Nystrom said this needs to change for the sake of her and people affected by crippling drug prices.

While four states including Florida have passed legislation allowing for wholesale or individual imports of medications, advocates like Nystrom say it won’t be enough until there’s a plan for the entire country.


Saturday, June 29, 2019

2 Signs That Instantly Identify Someone With Bad Leadership Skills

By Marcel Schwantes Founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core

Egomaniacs are on the rise, especially within the leadership ranks of companies across the world, which is detrimental to good business outcomes.

Leadership and management expert and best-selling author Ken Blanchard warns us:

The ego is one of the biggest barriers to people working together effectively. When people get caught up in their egos, it erodes their effectiveness. That's because the combination of false pride and self-doubt created by an overactive ego gives people a distorted image of their own importance. When that happens, people see themselves as the center of the universe and they begin to put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those affected by their thoughts and actions.


So how can we curtail the mechanisms that keep feeding egomaniacs into the higher echelons of corporate society? The answer is not so simple. It will require a systemic shift not only in our leadership selection processes but in our collective minds.
Stop rewarding two typical male traits

What we think true leadership is is far from the truth. Psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup and a professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University, points out that we've historically equated leadership with personality traits statistically more likely to be found in men: confidence and charisma.

In his phenomenal and alarming book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It), he explains how these same two characteristics can later backfire as overconfidence, narcissism, and even psychopathy, resulting in disaster.


Confidence is often disguised and falsely perceived as a leadership competency. In my interview with Chamorro-Premuzic on the Love in Action podcast, he points out that while most people look at a confident person and assume the person is also competent, there is in fact no relationship between confidence and competence.

Competence is how good you are at something. Confidence is how good you think you are at something. "Decades of research suggest that on virtually any dimension of ability, we tend to assume that we are better than we actually are," says Chamorro-Premuzic


According to Chamorro-Premuzic, "Charisma clouds people's evaluations of how leaders actually perform. Rather than being objective, we are less judgmental about leaders' performance when we see them as charismatic, and we are more critical when we don't."

He also points out that charisma, when combined with narcissism and psychopathy, is a lethal combination. However, research has shown when followers have more information on a leader, the importance of charisma declines.


According to Chamorro-Premuzic, the best leaders combine IQ (intellectual intelligence) with EQ (emotional intelligence), which enable personal effectiveness and self-awareness. While both males and females are equal when it comes to IQ, studies show that women have greater EQ and, in general, perform better as leaders.


To bring this discussion home, it's crucially important to remember that the very traits that propel more men into leadership are the same traits that get them fired. In other words, what it takes to get a leadership role is nearly opposite of what it takes to do it well and keep the role.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told House panel he had to condense issues for inattentive Trump

Deirdre Shesgreen
,USA TODAY•June 28, 2019

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a House committee that he had to condense foreign policy issues for an inattentive President Donald Trump and faced repeated diplomatic end-runs by Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law.

According to a newly released transcript of the closed-door interview in May, Tillerson told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Trump’s refusal to read briefing papers and policy documents prompted Tillerson to make short presentations and try to focus on one point in his meetings with the president.


Tillerson defended the decision to allow Trump to meet at length with Putin on July 7, 2017, when the two leaders were in Germany for a broader summit of world leaders, and to limit other participants. Besides Trump and Putin, only Tillerson, Russia’s foreign minister and two interpreters attended the session.


Putin engaged in a detailed discussion of items on a “list of irritants” that Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had drawn up – items that had caused friction between the two countries and that they hoped to address to improve relations.

Tillerson said the list was mostly classified, but he disclosed one thing: Russia wanted to regain control of two diplomatic compounds the Obama administration had seized in New York and Maryland, in response to the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.


France endures its hottest day ever as Europe swelters in heat wave

By Ivana Kottasová, CNN
Updated 2:32 PM ET, Fri June 28, 2019

France recorded its highest-ever temperature on Friday as continental Europe continues to struggle with an intense heat wave.
The mercury reached 45.1 degrees Celsius (113.2 Fahrenheit) just before 3 p.m. local time in Villevieille, in the Gard department in southern France, according to the French national weather service Météo-France.
This is 1 degree higher than the previous record from 2003.


French authorities have taken a number of radical steps this week to prevent a repeat of the tragic consequences of the 2003 heat wave that left around 14,000 people dead.


Climate scientists have warned that heat waves such as this one are becoming more frequent and increasingly severe because of the climate crisis. Météo-France said the frequency of such events is expected to double by 2050.


In Spain, firefighters have been battling a 15,000-acre wildfire near Tarragona in the country's northeast since late on Wednesday. According to the Catalan Fire Brigade, the fire likely started after an improperly stored pile of manure spontaneously combusted, causing sparks. The firefighters said the blaze was one of the worst in Catalonia in the last 20 years.


Earlier this week, French national weather service Météo-France linked the country's increasingly frequent heatwaves with greenhouse gas emissions, warning that, without significant cuts to emissions, heat waves could be stronger and last longer than in the past.

According to Stefan Rahmstorf, co-chairman of Earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and professor at Potsdam University in Germany, mounting heatwaves are exactly what climate scientists predicted as a result of rising global temperatures caused by increases in greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.
"Heat waves are on the rise," Rahmstorf said in a statement earlier this week, comparing recent extreme heat with 500 years of records. "The hottest summers in Europe since the year 1500 AD all occurred since the last turn of the century: 2018, 2010, 2003, 2016, 2002."

Investors with $34 trillion demand urgent climate change action Simon Jessop, Nina Chestney

Simon Jessop, Nina Chestney
June 25, 2019 / 7:09 PM

Investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world’s invested capital, are demanding urgent action from governments on climate change, piling pressure on leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meeting this week.


Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sold His Guitars for $21.5 Million—And Donated Everything to Fight Climate Change

June 26, 2019
David Beard

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, stirred by the message of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, wanted to do something to improve the world.

But what could he do?

Last week, Gilmour auctioned off his guitars, including the black Fender Stratocaster that helped create Dark Side of the Moon and Shine On You Crazy Diamond. He said goodbye to the 12-string Martin behind Wish You Were Here. In all, he raised $21.5 million—that’s right, $21.5 million.

He gave the proceeds from the most valuable auction of musical instruments in history to a nonprofit that fights climate change.

“The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face,” Gilmour tweeted. “We need a civilised world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.” And then, in a video, he strummed a placid instrumental.

Gilmour donated to a charity called ClientEarth, which takes legal steps to combat climate change.


The heat wave in Europe is so intense that a weather map of France looks like a screaming heat skull of death

I'm not usually into such dramatic headlines, but this one was too good to pass up.

Sinéad Baker
June 27, 2019


A forecast map for Thursday, first created June 20, showed France's scorching temperatures creating a giant, screaming face over the country as the country braced itself for the hottest temperatures since a 2003 heat wave killed 15,000 people in the country.


Areas of France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Spain have experienced record-breaking temperatures this week, with some areas seeing heat of more than 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 Fahrenheit. Temperatures could still rise further as the weekend approaches.


At least three people have died as a result of the heat wave, according to the regional French newspaper Midi Libre. It reported that the people died of cold shock after jumping into cold water to escape the heat.


Alabama: pregnant woman shot in stomach is charged in fetus's death

Miranda Bryant
Thu 27 Jun 2019 16.18 EDT
Last modified on Thu 27 Jun 2019 19.57 EDT

A woman from Alabama who was shot in the stomach while pregnant – with the bullets killing the fetus – has been charged with manslaughter.

Marshae Jones was reportedly five months pregnant when she was shot by another woman in December outside a shop in Pleasant Grove, near Birmingham.

On Wednesday, Jones, 27, was indicted by a Jefferson county grand jury on a manslaughter charge and is expected to be held in Jefferson county jail on a $50,000 bond, while the woman accused of shooting her walked free, reported

The case has raised alarm among pro-choice groups who say it is shocking evidence of how the state’s restrictive abortion laws are now being used against pregnant women.

“The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ said Lt Danny Reid of Pleasant Grove police following the shooting, reported in December. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”


Alabama is one of 38 states with fetal homicide laws that recognize a fetus as a potential victim.

It is also a “stand-your-ground” state, which means people are allowed to use physical force to defend themselves if their reason is considered “justifiable”.


By Holly Yan and Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Updated 7:35 PM ET, Thu June 27, 2019


Authorities say the dispute involved the baby's father, reported.
"It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby," Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid told shortly after the shooting.
He said the fight caused the other woman, Ebony Jemison, to react and defend herself. He would not describe Jones, the pregnant woman, as a shooting victim.


Jemison, the accused shooter, initially faced a charge of manslaughter, reported. But a grand jury declined to indict the 23-year-old.


FDA once again expands recall of blood pressure drugs

June 27, 2019, 5:29 PM EDT
By Linda Carroll

The Food and Drug Administration has once again expanded its recall of widely prescribed blood pressure drugs because of contamination with a chemical linked to cancer.

The latest recall, announced Wednesday, targets 32 lots of the drug losartan sold by Macleods Pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical company said that it would voluntarily recall the affected batches.


Monday, June 24, 2019

'Tax us more,' US billionaires say

AFP•June 24, 2019

"Tax us more!" was the message on Monday from about 20 super-wealthy Americans who urged presidential candidates to back higher taxes on the wealthiest to confront climate change and other priorities.

"America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more," said the group, which included George Soros, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, descendants of Walt Disney and the owners of the Hyatt hotel chain.

"A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic."

Signers pointed out that fellow billionaire Warren Buffett has said he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary.

The letter alluded to support among Democratic presidential candidates for higher taxes on the super-wealthy, including Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke.

But the letter noted broad bipartisan support for taxing the super-wealthy, saying "some ideas are too important for America to be part of only a few candidates' platforms."


The letter was signed by 18 people representing 11 families, plus one anonymous person. Many in the group have been associated with progressive initiatives on issues such as climate change and the growing wealth gap.

Of about 40 countries, the United States is the sixth highest in terms of wealth concentration, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.


Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change

06/23/2019 05:04 PM EDT

Updated 06/23/2019 10:37 PM EDT

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.

All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.


POLITICO found that in the case of the groundbreaking rice study USDA officials not only withheld their own prepared release, but actively sought to prevent dissemination of the findings by the agency’s research partners.


Researchers at the University of Washington had collaborated with scientists at USDA, as well as others in Japan, China and Australia, for more than two years to study how rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect rice — humanity’s most important crop. They found that it not only loses protein and minerals, but is also likely to lose key vitamins as plants adapt to a changing environment.


“Why the hell is the U.S., which is ostensibly the leader in science research, ignoring this?” said one USDA scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid the possibility of retaliation. “It’s not like we’re working on something that’s esoteric … we’re working on something that has dire consequences for the entire planet.”

“You can only postpone reality for so long,” the researcher added.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Why You Can’t Trust Yourself

Even when you think you know for sure, think again.
Mark Manson

Bertrand Russell famously said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Over the years, I’ve hammered on the importance of becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, in questioning all of your most cherished beliefs and dreams, on practicing skepticism, and doubting everything, most importantly yourself. Throughout these posts, I’ve hinted at the fact that our brains are fundamentally unreliable, that we really have no clue what we’re talking about, even when we think we do, and so on.

But I’ve never given concrete examples or explanations. Well, here they are. Eight reasons you can’t trust yourself, as demonstrated by psychology.

1. You Are Biased and Selfish Without Realizing It


Steven Pinker refers to this as the “Moralization Gap.”2 It means that whenever a conflict is present, we overestimate our own good intentions and underestimate the intentions of others. This then creates a downward spiral where we believe others deserve more severe punishment and we deserve less severe punishment.

This is all unconscious, of course. People, while doing this, think they’re being completely reasonable and objective. But they’re not.


2. You Don’t Have A Clue about What Makes You Happy (or Miserable)

In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert shows us that we suck at remembering how something made us feel in the past and guessing how something will make us feel in the future.


3. You Are Easily Manipulated Into Making Bad Decisions


4. You Generally Only Use Logic and Reason To Support Your Preexisting Beliefs


Motivated reasoning and confirmation bias run rampant when we don’t acknowledge the difference between what we actually know and what we just feel like we know.


5. Your Emotions Change Your Perceptions Way More Than You Realize


It turns out that just avoiding making important decisions while emotional isn’t good enough. It turns out that emotions influence your decision making days, weeks or even months later, even after you’ve chilled out and “analyzed” the situation further. What’s more surprising and more counterintuitive is that even relatively mild and short-lived emotions at one point in time can have long-term impacts on your decision making down the road.


6. Your Memory Sucks


Not only do our memories of events fade with time, they also become more susceptible to false information as time passes.
Warning people that their memories might contain false information doesn’t always help eliminate the false information.
The more empathetic you are, the more likely you are to incorporate false information into your memories.
Not only is it possible for memories to be altered with false information, it’s possible for entire memories to be planted. We’re especially susceptible to this when family members or other people we trust are the ones planting the memories.


7. ‘You’ Aren’t Who You think You Are

Consider the following for a moment: The way you express and portray yourself on, say, Facebook probably isn’t exactly the same as the way you express and portray yourself when you’re “offline.” The way you act around your grandma is probably pretty different from the way you act around your friends. You have a “work self” and a “home self” and a “family self” and an “I’m all alone self” and many other “selves” that you use to navigate and survive a complex social world.


8. Your Physical Experience of the World Isn’t Even That Real


The light we’re able to see is a laughably small band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Birds and insects can see parts of it that we can’t. Dogs can hear and smell things that we don’t even know exist. Our nervous systems aren’t really data collection machines so much as data filtering machines.

On top of all of that, your conscious mind only seems to be able to handle about 60 bits of information per second when you’re engaged in “intelligent” activities (reading, playing an instrument, etc.).15

So, at best, you’re only consciously aware of about 0.000005454% of the already heavily modified information that your brain is receiving every single second you’re awake.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education

James Ellsmoor
Jun 15, 2019, 04:03pm

A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers.


The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.


Buckle’s analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.


Trump EPA finalizes rollback of key Obama climate rule that targeted coal plants

By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis
June 19 at 11:36 AM

The Trump administration finalized its biggest climate policy rollback Wednesday, requiring the U.S. power sector to cut its 2030 carbon emissions 35 percent over 2005 levels — less than half of what experts calculate is needed to avert catastrophic warming of the planet.

The Affordable Clean Energy rule, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, demands much smaller carbon dioxide reductions than the industry is already on track to achieve, even without federal regulation. As of last year, the U.S. power sector had cut its greenhouse gas emissions 27 percent compared with 2005.


Several of the industry’s biggest players have pledged to cut emissions from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2030, including American Electric Power, DTE, Duke Energy and Southern Co.


The U.S. electricity sector needs to cut its emissions 74 percent over 2005 levels by 2030 to avoid hitting the 2-degree mark, according to the International Energy Agency. Overall, the country must slash greenhouse gas emissions 48 percent by 2030, according to the IEA’s Brent Wanner, with the deepest cuts coming from the power sector because cheap alternatives to coal are readily available.


In a Colony of 40,000, Just Two Penguin Chicks Survived This Year

The planet is sounding all sorts of alarms—including with the mass death of birds.
By Charles P. Pierce
Jun 17, 2019

Here's a cheery thought to start the week. All over the world, for the past few years, birds have been starving to death.


They've been starving in Alaska. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The birds, all of a species known as the common murre, appear to have starved to death, federal wildlife officials say, suggesting disruptions to the supply of herring and other fish that make up the birds' diet. A survey by wildlife officials over the weekend counted more than 8000 dead murres on the shores of one beach near Whittier, about 100 kilometres south-east of Anchorage. Local news video showed bodies of the black-and-white birds scattered on the beach and floating in the water offshore.


They've been starving in Antarctica. From the Guardian:

The awful news that all but two penguin chicks have starved to death out of a colony of almost 40,000 birds is a grim illustration of the enormous pressure Antarctic wildlife is under. The causes of this devastating event are complex, from a changing climate to local sea-ice factors, but one thing penguins, whales and other marine life don’t need is additional strain on food supplies.


They've been starving in Australia. From the BBC:

Seabirds are starving to death on the remote Lord Howe Island, a crew filming for the BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic has revealed. Their stomachs were so full of plastic there was no room for food..."These birds are generalist predators," explained marine biologist Jennifer Lavers who works with the shearwater colony. "They'll eat just about anything they're given. That's what's allowed them to thrive - a lack of pickiness. "


They've been starving in the Netherlands. From

On the line was a coast-watch volunteer calling to tell him of reports of hundreds of dead guillemots washing up along the country's shores. "The next morning, my phone rang red-hot from callers all over reporting dead birds," Leopold, based at Wageningen University's marine research department in the northern port city of Den Helder, told AFP. "Alarm bells started ringing." Since early January, more than 20,000 dead guillemots have washed up dead on Dutch beaches—from the northern Wadden Islands to southwestern Zeeland..."All the birds show signs of severe starvation and we don't know why," said Leopold.

The planet is sounding all sorts of alarms, and the effects of the climate crisis are only the loudest. Birds are starving, all over the world.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Photograph lays bare reality of melting Greenland sea ice

Alison Rourke and Fiona Harvey
Mon 17 Jun 2019 19.56 EDT

Rapidly melting sea ice in Greenland has presented an unusual hazard for research teams retrieving their oceanographic moorings and weather station equipment.

A photo, taken by Steffen Olsen from the Centre for Ocean and Ice at the Danish Meteorological Institute on 13 June, showed sled dogs wading through water ankle-deep on top of a melting ice sheet in the country’s north-west. In the startling image, it seems as though the dogs are walking on water.

The photo, taken in the Inglefield Bredning fjord, depicted water on top of what Olsen said was an ice sheet 1.2 metres thick.

His colleague at the institute, Rasmus Tonboe, tweeted that the “rapid melt and sea ice with low permeability and few cracks leaves the melt water on top”.


Melting events such as the one pictured would normally not happen until later in the summer, in late June or July. Mottram said it was too soon to say what role global warming had played, because although these temperatures were unusual, the conditions were not unprecedented and “still a weather-driven extreme event, so it’s hard to pin it down to climate change alone”.

In general, however, she said: “Our climate model simulations expect there to be a general decline in the length of the sea ice season around Greenland, [but] how fast and how much is very much dependent on how much global temperature rises.”


On Saturday, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang said European weather models showed that temperatures over parts of Greenland peaked at 22.2C (40F) above normal last Wednesday, the day before the photo was taken.

Above-average temperatures over nearly all of the Arctic ocean and Greenland during May have led to an early ice retreat, with the second-lowest extent of ice in the 40-year satellite record being registered, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

The centre said that Arctic sea ice for May was 12m square kilometres (4.7m square miles), 1.13m square kilometres below the 1981-2010 average.

Air temperatures at the end of May along the western Greenland coast were as much as 7C [12.6F] above the 1981–2010 reference average for the month, the centre said. It also recorded Arctic ocean temperatures of 2-4C [3.6-7.2F] above the average.

“The melting is big and early,” Jason Box, an ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told the Washington Post.

At a local level, the sea ice melt provides significant problems for communities in Greenland, who rely on it for transport, hunting and fishing.


Fourth suspect identified in unsolved 1965 Selma murder of James Reeb

I remember those days. When I was in college, I tutored underprivileged African-American children in a program organized by a couple of ministers in Birmingham to tutor underprivileged children of all races. Those of us who tutored the African-American children didn't go around talking about it outside the group because it would literally have put our lives at danger if the Ku Klux Klan or other racists found out about it, just for tutoring children.

Miranda Bryant in New York
Tue 18 Jun 2019 14.54 EDT

The 1965 murder in Alabama of minister James Reeb provoked a national outcry and contributed to the passage, a few months later, of the Voting Rights Act. But more than 50 years on, the case remains unsolved.

However, an investigation by NPR has uncovered fresh evidence from the civil-rights era cold case – including the identity of an attacker who says he took part in the beating, but who was never charged.

Reeb, a white Unitarian church minister from Boston, was sevrely beaten along with two other ministers on a street corner in Selma, Alabama, where he travelled in support of black voting rights. Reeb, 38, was taken to hospital after the attack, but died from his injuries two days later.

A few months after Reeb’s death, Lyndon Johnson cited the minister’s name as he introduced the Voting Rights Act, the landmark piece of legislation designed to end discrimination that led to huge increases in the registration of black voters and black elected officials.

Three men were charged over Reeb’s death but were later acquitted by an all-white jury.


Flesh-eating bacteria becoming more common in Delaware Bay due to climate change, study finds

By Caitlin O'Kane
Updated on: June 18, 2019 / 10:03 AM

Flesh-eating bacteria becoming more common in Delaware Bay due to climate change, study finds

By Caitlin O'Kane

Updated on: June 18, 2019 / 10:03 AM / CBS News

A dangerous flesh-eating bacteria may be on the rise at some popular East Coast beaches due to warming water temperatures. In the past two years, five cases of Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacterial infection that is spread by handling or eating contaminated seafood, have been linked to Delaware Bay, according to a study.

Vibrio vulnificus usually occurs in high-salinity, brackish waters with surface temperatures above 13 degrees Celsius, or 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the study says. It has typically been found in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast and southern states like Louisiana and Texas, especially during the months from May to October.


The most common cause of infection is eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters.


The study notes that the past three decades have seen a significant increase in sea surface temperatures in many areas of the United States, resulting in "longer summer seasons and ... alterations in the quantity, distribution, and seasonal windows of bacteria" in the coastal ecosystem, providing "more favorable conditions for Vibrio."

"While the infection is still rare, it is being seen with more frequency in this region," Doktor explained.


"Water and wounds do not mix. Do not enter the water if you have fresh cuts or scrapes," the Florida Department of Health warns.

U.S. Government Announces 'Critical' Warning For Microsoft Windows Users

Davey Winder
Jun 18, 2019, 04:06am

The United States Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has gone public with a warning to Microsoft Windows users regarding a critical security vulnerability. By issuing the "update now" warning, CISA has joined the likes of Microsoft itself and the National Security Agency (NSA) in warning Windows users of the danger from the BlueKeep vulnerability.


The CISA alert appears to confirm this, stating that it has, "coordinated with external stakeholders and determined that Windows 2000 is vulnerable to BlueKeep." That it can confirm a remote code execution on Windows 2000 might not sound too frightening, this is an old operating system after all, it would be unwise to classify this as an exercise in fear, uncertainty and doubt. Until now, the exploits that have been developed, at least those seen in operation, did nothing more than crash the computer. Achieving remote code execution brings the specter of the BlueKeep worm into view as it brings control of infected machines to the attacker.

Research has already revealed that just under one million internet-facing machines are vulnerable to BlueKeep on port 3389, used by the Microsoft Remote Desktop feature. But that's just the tip of this insecurity iceberg. These are a million gateways to potentially many millions more machines that sit on the internal networks they lead to. A wormable exploit can move laterally within that network, rapidly spreading to anything and everything it can infect in order to replicate and spread. Here's the real stinger: that can include machines in an Active Directory domain even if there's no BlueKeep vulnerability to exploit. The machine running the vulnerable Remote Desktop Protocol is merely the gateway, once compromised the clever money is on an incident that could become as widespread as WannaCry was back in 2017.


While Windows 8 and Windows 10 users are not impacted by this vulnerability, Windows 2003, Windows XP and Windows Vista all are and the news that an exploit has been confirmed justifies the unusual step of the U.S. Government and its agencies getting involved in issuing these "update now" warnings.


The CISA alert advises users to install the patches that Microsoft has made available, which includes ones for operating systems that are no longer officially supported. It also suggests users should upgrade those "end of life" systems to Windows 10. This will not, unfortunately, be possible in all cases but the patching advice remains prudent.


Arctic permafrost now melting at levels not expected until 2090

Alessio Perrone
June 15, 2019

Permafrost hs begun thawing in the Canadian Arctic more than 70 years early because of climate change, according to new research.

A "series of anomalously warm summers” has dramatically accelerated melting rates at three sites despite average annual ground temperatures remaining low. Ponds and hillocks have formed as a result.

It had been thought that the permafrost - ground that remains frozen for at least two years - would remain until at least 2090.

But the study found thawing levels were above 150 to 240 per cent above historic levels.

Researchers called this a “truly remarkable amount".


When permafrost thaws, it releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases stored in or beneath it into the atmosphere.

There in turn, cause temperatures to rise and create a perpetual cycle where more permafrost melts.

Pharmacy warns FDA of cancer-causing chemical found in widely used heart pill

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
June 18, 2019

A pharmacy warned the Food and Drug Administration that it found a chemical believed to cause cancer in a widely used blood pressure medication, according to a filing from the federal agency.

Valisure, an online pharmacy company licensed in 37 states, told the FDA last week that high levels of dimethylformamide were found in valsartan, a drug produced by Swiss drugmaker Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies. The drug is used to treat hypertension in adults. The World Health Organization classifies dimethylformamide, or DMF, as a probable human carcinogen.

Valisure ask that the medication be recalled and requested that the FDA review and significantly lower the acceptable intake of DMF from its current level of 8,800,000 nanograms to less than 1,000 nanograms. The online pharmacy said it found the cancer-causing chemical in valsartan produced by five companies.


Several blood pressure drugs have already been recalled due to concerns about other cancer-causing chemicals. Earlier this month, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals said it would expand a recall of its heart medication, losartan potassium, after a carcinogen known asN-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NMBA was detected. Torrent Pharmaceuticals in April said it would also recall losartan and Camber Pharmaceutical told the FDA in February it would recall the drug.

How Your Insecurity Is Bought and Sold

Mark Manson


Meanwhile, Bernays went on to pull off these kinds of cultural coups regularly throughout the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. He completely revolutionized the marketing industry and invented the field of public relations in the process. Paying celebrities to use your product? That was Bernays’ idea. Creating fake news articles that are actually subtle advertisements for a product? Also his idea. Staging controversial public events as a means to draw attention and notoriety for one of his clients? His idea as well. Pretty much every form of marketing or publicity we’re all subjected to today began with Bernays.

But here’s something else surprising about Bernays: he was Sigmund Freud’s nephew.

Freud’s theories were some of the first to argue that most human decision making was primarily unconscious and irrational. Freud was the one who realized that people’s insecurities drove them to excess and overcompensation. Freud was also the one who understood that people are, at heart, animals and are easily manipulated, especially in groups.

Bernays just applied these ideas to selling products and he got rich in the process.

Through Freud, Bernays understood something nobody else in business ever understood before him: that if you can tap into people’s insecurities — if you can needle at their deepest feelings of inadequacy — then they will buy just about any damn thing you tell them to.


When I first studied marketing when I started my first business, I was told to find people’s “pain points” and then subtly make them feel worse. Then turn around and tell them my product will make them feel better.


In our culture today, marketing often is the message. The vast majority of information that we’re exposed to is some form of marketing. And so if the marketing is always trying to make you feel like shit to get you to buy something, then we’re essentially existing in a culture designed to make us feel like shit and we’ll always want to overcompensate in some way.


Genius hid a Morse code message in song lyrics to prove Google was copying them

Chris Smith @chris_writes
June 17th, 2019 at 6:50 AM

Did you ever notice how you tend to Google the lyrics of a song and then you don’t bother clicking through to Genius’s website because Google displays them right on the search results page? Well, Genius alleges that Google has been copying its lyrics for years and posting them directly on Google Search, thus preventing visitors from going to its own site. And here’s the best part: Genius says it hid a Morse code message within some lyrics on its site to prove Google has been stealing them and reposting them word for word.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Blood pressure drug recall: Teva pulls losartan tablets tainted with possible carcinogen

Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY Published 6:06 p.m. ET June 13, 2019

Teva Pharmaceuticals this week expanded its recall of losartan potassium tablets after detecting a possible human carcinogen in the blood pressure medication.

The Israel-based drugmaker recalled six more lots of losartan potassium that contained unacceptable levels of a nitrosamine impurity. In April, Teva pulled 35 lots of the drug after detecting the same impurity, N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid, or NMBA.


Consumers affected by the recall should continue taking their medication and ask their doctor or pharmacist about alternatives or replacement drugs. Discontinuing a medication without a replacement could cause a patient more harm than continuing the drug.

Since July, two dozen drug companies have recalled hundreds of lots of commonly-prescribed blood pressure and heart medications losartan, valsartan and irbesartan after testing revealed some versions had small amounts of suspected carcinogens. The recalls of the class of drugs called angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) have highlighted the complex international drug supply chain with 80 percent of drug ingredients consumed by U.S. residents made at factories overseas.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

You could be swallowing a credit card's weight in plastic every week

By Isabelle Gerretsen, CNN

Globally, we are ingesting an average of 5 grams of plastic every week, the equivalent of a credit card, a new study suggests.
This plastic contamination comes from "microplastics" -- particles smaller than five millimeters -- which are making their way into our food, drinking water and even the air.
Around the world, people ingest an average of around 2,000 microplastic particles a week, according to the study by the University of Newcastle, in Australia.

These tiny particles can originate from a variety of sources, including artificial clothes fibers, microbeads found in some toothpastes, or bigger pieces of plastic which gradually break into smaller pieces when they're thrown away and exposed to the elements.


The largest source of plastic ingestion is drinking water, according to the research, which reviews 52 existing studies to estimate plastic ingestion around the world.


A separate study this month found that Americans eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles each year, and those who exclusively drink bottled water rather than tap water can add up to 90,000 plastic particles to their yearly total.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Strict US anti-abortion laws forced a woman to give birth to a baby without a skull

Carly Cassella, ScienceAlert
Jun. 7, 2019, 12:30 PM


Recently published under the title " The Myth of Choice", this doctor's harrowing essay is a vivid reflection on one such experience, when a heavily pregnant woman was forced to give birth to an infant with no skull.

Known as anencephaly, this fatal birth defect affects only 1,206 pregnancies a year in the US, and at the severity this doctor detected — with no brain or skull at all, and only a brain stem — it has absolutely no survivors.


According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, abortions made in the third trimester are extremely rare, account for less than one percent of all cases, and usually involve fetal anomalies, such as anencephaly, which are deemed "incompatible with life."


Study says warming may reduce sea life by 17%

June 13, 2019

The world’s oceans will likely lose about one-sixth of their fish and other marine life by the end of the century if climate change continues on its current path, a new study says.

Every degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) that the world’s oceans warm, the total mass of sea animals is projected to drop by 5%, according to a comprehensive computer-based study by an international team of marine biologists. And that does not include effects of fishing.

If the world’s greenhouse gas emissions stay at the present rate, that means a 17% loss of biomass — the total weight of all the marine animal life — by the year 2100, according to Tuesday’s study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But if the world reduces carbon pollution, losses can be limited to only about 5%, the study said.


Tittensor pointed to lobsters off Maine and North Atlantic right whales as examples of creatures already being hurt by global warming hitting the ocean.


India is witnessing its worst-ever heat wave

All India | Edited by Anindita Sanyal | Updated: June 11, 2019 22:11 IST

The country is witnessing its worst-ever heat wave, with four cities in north India on a record high. Starting with national capital Delhi, Churu in Rajasthan and Banda and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh have witnessed temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius and above.

Churu has crossed 50 degrees [122F] twice in the last week -- a whopping 8 degrees [14.4F] above its normal temperature at this time of the year.

Banda is close behind at 49.2 degrees [120.6F], Allahabad at 48.9. Delhi touched 48 degrees -- a record high for June -- on Monday.

Heat wave is declared when temperature remains at 45 degrees Celsius and above for two days running. It gets a "severe" tag when mercury touches 47 degrees [116.6F}.

Heat waves have been becoming increasingly frequent over the last years.


Scientists say this is part of climate change that's becoming a worldwide phenomenon and is likely to become more frequent. Environmental activists have suggested that India put in place a plan to tackle heat waves that are costing hundreds of lives every year.

Since 2010, more than 6000 people have died in heat waves in the country, the Lok Sabha was told last year by health minister Harsh Vardhan.

On Tuesday, four people died on board a train, the Kerala Express, while it was passing through Jhansi. A railways spokesman said they suspected the heat to be a factor.


The Great Crime Decline

Interesting, but they ignore other possible/probable contributors to the widespread drop in violent crime,such as reduced exposure of lead in early life, fewer unwanted children due to birth control and abortion, fewer parents who spank their children.

Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace, talks to CityLab about how the drop in crime has transformed American cities.
CityLab | Richard Florida

Violence started to rise in the 1960s and stayed at an extremely high level from the ‘70s to the beginning of the ‘90s. That’s when violence started to fall. By 2014, the homicide rate was 4.5 per 100,000 people, and that was the lowest rate in at least 50 years. 2014 was really one of the safest years in the history of the U.S.

It happened because city spaces transformed. After years in which urban neighborhoods were largely abandoned, left on their own, a whole bunch of different actors came together and transformed urban neighborhoods. Part of that was the police. Law enforcement became more effective at what they were doing by using data about where police should be stationed, where the problems were arising. They started to shut down open-air drug markets to really end the crack epidemic, which was a major source of violent crime all over the country.

There were other changes, too. Private security forces expanded. Private companies started hiring private security guards. Home-owners started to install alarm systems and camera systems. Technology improved that made motor-vehicle theft much less successful. Cities started to install camera systems.

So it wasn’t just the police. It was about the transformation of urban spaces, about a set of changes that took place at the same time. Part of that was a very local mobilization against violence that was driven by residents and local organizations to retake parks, alleyways, city blocks, and to confront violence in a way that communities have always tried to do but that they did in a much more systematic and comprehensive way in the early 1990s. These local organizations had a causal effect on violence and their emergence should be seen alongside the expansion of police forces as one of the most important changes that took place in the 1990s.


The first study that I did looked at a survey of children who lived in the same neighborhoods, but as part of a large study they were given assessments of cognitive abilities at different points in time. And purely by chance, some kids were given this assessment just before a local homicide had taken place in their neighborhood, some right after. The timing was completely random, so it allowed me to look at kids who lived in the same exact place and isolate the impact of being exposed to that incident, a homicide, which can completely change the feel of public space in a neighborhood.

The results from that study were disturbing. The kids who took the assessment in the days after a local homicide had taken place scored as if they had regressed back to their level of academic skills from two years earlier. The effects were so large that I thought they were wrong. So we replicated it with an entirely different sample of children, and the magnitude of the second study was larger than the first.


Better Schools Won’t Fix America

I suggest reading the whole article at the link, or better yet support the magazine by buying it at your local book store, as I plan to do.

Nick Hanauer
Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first.
July 2019 Issue


All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.


Yes, there is a mismatch between the skills of the present and the jobs of the future. In a fast-changing, technologically advanced economy, how could there not be? But this mismatch doesn’t begin to explain the widening inequality of the past 40 years.

In 1970, when the golden age of the American middle class was nearing its peak and inequality was at its nadir, only about half of Americans ages 25 and older had a high-school diploma or the equivalent. Today, 90 percent do. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans attaining a college degree has more than tripled since 1970. But while the American people have never been more highly educated, only the wealthiest have seen large gains in real wages. From 1979 to 2017, as the average real annual wages of the top 1 percent of Americans rose 156 percent (and the top .01 percent’s wages rose by a stunning 343 percent), the purchasing power of the average American’s paycheck did not increase.


While 34 percent of Americans ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 26 percent of jobs currently require one. The job categories that are growing fastest, moreover, don’t generally require a college diploma, let alone a STEM degree. According to federal estimates, four of the five occupational categories projected to add the most jobs to the economy over the next five years are among the lowest-paying jobs: “food preparation and serving” ($19,130 in average annual earnings), “personal care and service” ($21,260), “sales and related” ($25,360), and “health-care support” ($26,440). And while the number of jobs that require a postsecondary education is expected to increase slightly faster than the number that don’t, the latter group is expected to dominate the job market for decades to come.


It’s worth noting that workers with a college degree enjoy a significant wage premium over those without. (Among people over age 25, those with a bachelor’s degree had median annual earnings of $53,882 in 2017, compared with $32,320 for those with only a high-school education.) But even with that advantage, adjusted for inflation, average hourly wages for recent college graduates have barely budged since 2000, while the bottom 60 percent of college graduates earn less than that group did in 2000. A college diploma is no longer a guaranteed passport into the middle class.


As Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, notes, poverty creates obstacles that would trip up even the most naturally gifted student. He points to the plight of “children who frequently change schools due to poor housing; have little help with homework; have few role models of success; have more exposure to lead and asbestos; have untreated vision, ear, dental, or other health problems; … and live in a chaotic and frequently unsafe environment.”


Educationism appeals to the wealthy and powerful because it tells us what we want to hear: that we can help restore shared prosperity without sharing our wealth or power. As Anand Giridharadas explains in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, narratives like this one let the wealthy feel good about ourselves. By distracting from the true causes of economic inequality, they also defend America’s grossly unequal status quo.


Fifteen monkeys ‘kill each other after becoming desperate for water during heatwave’

author Jimmy Nsubuga Sunday 9 Jun 2019 6:14 pm

Around 15 primates may have died after clashing over water in 45C temperatures in India, according to reports. Their carcasses were found in and around caves in a forest in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday. District forest officer PN Mishra told NDTV six groups of monkeys had to rely on a limited amount of water after a nearby river dried up. He said: ‘We’re probing all possibilities, including the possibility of conflict between groups of monkeys for water in the forest which led to the death of 15 monkeys from a 30-35-strong group of monkeys living in the caves.’ Mr Mishra said it was possible some of the smaller monkeys had died of dehydration after being scared away from the watering holes by larger primates.

Autopsies carried out on some of the corpses showed they may have died from heatstroke. Mr Mishra added: ‘This is rare and strange as herbivores don’t indulge in such conflicts.’ The heatwave in India has also led to groups of people clashing in Madhya Pradesh as they try to get to much needed water supplies. In total 17 people have died in the last month as a result of the heatwave, with temperatures hitting more than 50C in some places, according to local reports.

Siberia expects mass migration as it warms

June 7th, 2019, by Paul Brown

Siberia, currently one of the most sparsely populated places in the northern hemisphere, could become a target for mass migration as the climate warms.

By 2080, scientists report, melting permafrost and warming summer and winter temperatures will mean that agriculture could thrive and support between five and seven times the current population.

Lands to the south are becoming far less able to feed and sustain their existing populations, as heat makes crops harder to grow and cities untenable, and mass migration northward is likely, the scientists predict.

Their study, which is produced by the Krasnoyarsk Federal Research Centre in Siberia and the US National Institute of Aerospace, says the current problem of falling population in Russia will be reversed as conditions in Siberia become much better for growing food, and both summers and winters more pleasant to live in. It is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Elizabeth Warren and Jay Inslee team up to demand climate change debate in Democratic primary

Clark Mindock
June 7, 2019

Elizabeth Warren and Washington governor Jay Inslee have found some common ground in their calls for an official Democratic debate on climate change heading into the 2020 election.

The moment of agreement came online after Mr Inslee tweeted that he had been informed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) there would be no debate focusing on the topic.


In further tweets, Mr Inslee said his team had been warned participating in other, non-DNC forums would disqualify him from future official debates. He continued to say Democratic voters list climate change as a top issue.

Ms Warren, a 2020 rival, then responded, saying that she agreed with the governor that a debate on the issue was of pressing importance.


As it turns out, several presidential candidates in addition to Ms Warren and Mr Inslee have agreed that a climate change debate would be beneficial and important before voters cast their ballots starting next year.

Beto O’Rourke, who has released one of the most ambitious climate change proposals, has called for such a debate. Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, and Julian Castro have all also backed the idea in some form or another.


Study counters narrative that street homeless are 'service resistant'

News Release 10-Jun-2019
New York University

A team of researchers from the NYU Silver School of Social Work has found that bureaucratic barriers rather than personal intransigence lead many street homeless people in New York City to refuse outreach workers' offers of shelter.


The researchers found other barriers, including the exclusion of pets from city shelters and a lack of accommodations for homeless people with physical disabilities. "Given the prevalence of disabilities and complex healthcare needs among people living on the street, it is shocking how few options are open to them, leaving them no alternative to a hospital emergency room," said Professor Padgett.


Exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping and women's weight

News Release 10-Jun-2019
JAMA Internal Medicine

Bottom Line: Exposure to artificial light at night, especially sleeping with a light or television on in the room, was associated with increased risk of weight gain and overweight and obesity among a large group of women studied. However, researchers were quick to point out that exposure to artificial light at night can be indicative of socioeconomic disadvantage or unhealthy behaviors, which could contribute to weight gain and obesity. This observational study included nearly 44,000 women in its analysis.


Drinking alcohol even at conception might damage placenta development

News Release 10-Jun-2019
The Company of Biologists

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been linked to poor growth of the placenta, causing conditions such as fetal growth restriction and low birth weight. Although most women cease drinking once they know they are pregnant, the effect of alcohol during the initial stages of pregnancy, even as early as around the time of conception, is less well understood. Now, Dr Jacinta Kalisch-Smith together with Professor Karen Moritz at the University of Queensland in Australia have investigated the impact of alcohol consumption on the placenta early in pregnancy. They show that the growth of the placentas of rats that consumed alcohol around the time of conception was reduced significantly, providing new evidence for how pregnancy-related conditions develop. This research has just been published in the scientific journal Development at


Millions of cardiovascular deaths attributed to not eating enough fruits and vegetables

News Release 8-Jun-2019
American Society for Nutrition

Preliminary findings from a new study reveal that inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption may account for millions of deaths from heart disease and strokes each year. The study estimated that roughly 1 in 7 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit and 1 in 12 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables.

Low fruit intake resulted in nearly 1.8 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010, while low vegetable intake resulted in 1 million deaths, according to researchers. Overall, the toll of suboptimal fruit intake was almost double that of vegetables. The impacts were most acute in countries with the lowest average intakes of fruits and vegetables.


The nicotine in e-cigarettes appears to impair mucus clearance

News Release 7-Jun-2019
American Thoracic Society

June 7, 2019--E-cigarette vaping with nicotine appears to hamper mucus clearance from the airways, according to new research published online in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


Mucociliary dysfunction is a feature of many lung diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis. Specifically, the study found that vaping with nicotine impairs ciliary beat frequency, dehydrates airway fluid and makes mucus more viscous or sticky. These changes make it more difficult for the bronchi, the main passageways to the lung, to defend themselves from infection and injury.

The researchers note that a recent report found that young e-cigarette users who never smoked were at increased risk to develop chronic bronchitis, a condition characterized by chronic production of phlegm that is also seen in tobacco smokers.

Dr. Salathe said the newly published data not only support the earlier clinical report, but help explain it. A single session of vaping can deliver more nicotine to the airways than smoking one cigarette. Moreover, according to Dr. Salathe, absorption into the bloodstream is lower, possibly exposing the airways to high nicotine concentrations for prolonged periods of time.


Billboard to Launch Weekly Top Songwriters and Top Producers Charts

June 6, 2019

Billboard is expanding its chart offerings by introducing Top Songwriters and Top Producers rankings based on weekly activity on the Billboard Hot 100 and other “Hot”-named genre song charts that blend streaming, airplay and sales data.

The charts will debut in the Billboard issue dated June 15, and in the Billboard Bulletin email blast delivered to subscribers on June 13. Top 10 charts for Hot 100 songwriters and producers will be featured each week, joined by a rotating set of charts from two other genres among R&B/hip-hop, rap, R&B, country, rock, dance/electronic, Latin, Christian and gospel. (Top songwriter and producer rankings have been presented annually as part of year-end chart menus for various genres and occasionally for special features.)


The charts are based on total points accrued by a songwriter or producer for each attributed song that appears on the respective charts. As done with Billboard’s yearly recaps, multiple writers or producers split points for each song equally. The dividing of points will lead to occasional ties for some rankings.


Kroger recalls some of its frozen berries after FDA warns about possible Hepatitis A contamination

Casey Smith
,USA TODAY•June 9, 2019

Kroger is recalling three varieties of frozen berries due to possible Hepatitis A contamination.

On Friday, the grocery chain said it's recalling Private Selection Frozen Triple Berry Medley (48 oz.), Private Selection Frozen Triple Berry Medley (16 oz.) and Private Selection Frozen Blackberries (16 oz.) manufactured by Townsend Farms.

Kroger was informed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that a sample of Private Selection frozen berries was tested by the FDA and found to be contaminated with Hepatitis A, according to a company announcement.

As of Friday, no customer illnesses had been reported, the FDA said.


Friday, June 07, 2019

Wettest 12 Months in U.S. History—Again

Bob Henson · June 6, 2019, 1:31 PM EDT

Propelled by a two-week siege of widespread severe weather and heavy rain in late May, the contiguous U.S. has once again broken its record for the wettest year-long span in data going back to 1895. According to the monthly U.S. climate summary released Thursday from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, last month was the second-wettest month in U.S. history, with the nationally averaged total of 4.41” just behind the 4.44” recorded in May 2015. All other months in U.S. precipition annals have been no wetter than 4.24”.

The year to date also ranks as the wettest January-to-May period in U.S. history. The nationally averaged total of 15.71” is well above the previous record of 15.13” from Jan.-May 1983. In fact, the difference of 0.58” is almost twice as big as the difference between any other two Jan.-May periods in the 125-year dataset, when arranged from dryest to wettest.

Four states—Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and South Dakota—are having their wettest year on record to date through May, as noted by's Brian Donegan.

The sodden May pushed the period June 2018-May 2019 into a clear first place for contiguous U.S. precipitation among all year-long time spans going back to 1895.


Russia's manipulation of Twitter was far vaster than believed

By Tim Starks, Laurens Cerulus and Mark Scott
,Politico•June 5, 2019

Russia's infamous troll farm conducted a campaign on Twitter before the 2016 elections that was larger, more coordinated and more effective than previously known, research from cybersecurity firm Symantec out Wednesday concluded.

The Internet Research Agency campaign may not only have had more sway — reaching large numbers of real users — than previously thought, it also demonstrated ample patience and might have generated income for some of the phony accounts, Symantec found.

Their research analyzed a massive data set that Twitter released in October 2018 on nearly 3,900 suspended accounts and 10 million tweets. It discovered that the average lag between account creation and first tweet was 177 days and the most retweeted account garnered 6 million retweets, and less than 2,000 of those came from within the IRA-linked network of accounts.

The huge delay between the creation of an account and the initial tweet points to a lot of patient preparation, and the retweets indicate that a lot of unaffiliated Twitter users were amplifying the IRA's message.


Enhanced Seismic Activity Observed in Alaska Due To Climate Change

I suspected that melting of sea ice could affect earthquakes.

June 6, 2019

With news breaking that Alaska just had its warmest March to May on record with a statewide average temperature of 32.6°F, 8.6°F above the long-term average – the previous warmest spring in Alaska was in 2016, one must ask how this performs in relation to seismicity.


Permafrost in Siberia and Alaska has started to thaw for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago, has caused by the recent rise in temperature over the past six decades. The melting rate of glaciers has become significantly higher, causing a noticeable rise (0.19meters) in the sea level globally. Climate change can trigger catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides due to melting glaciers and rising in sea level. The melting of glaciers driven by global warming warns us of a seismically turbulent future. When glaciers melt, the massive weight on the Earth’s crust reduces and the crust bounces back in what scientists call an “isostatic rebound“. The process can reactivate faults and lift pressure on magma chambers that feed volcanoes, hence increases seismic activity.

The author further writes..


Earthquake behaviour is chaotic and skills for forecasting them are limited, however the rise in the frequency of small earthquakes is arguable as glaciers melt and sea level rises. Due to tremendous increase in the low magnitude earthquake records since 21st century beginning, the correlation coefficient between temperature and minor earthquakes was expected to be the strongest among all others, however interestingly, it is not even significant which reflects the technological progression of recent seismic station network expansion by USArray all over U.S.

On the other hand, rise in temperature showed a strong positive correlation with moderate earthquake records, whereas its significant correlation with major earthquakes at P < 0.12 (medium confidence) was totally a surprise. Furthermore, a combined effect of both moderate and major earthquakes was also considered against the temperature variations that startlingly represented even greater correlation value r than its value for moderate earthquakes which warns that the rate of isostatic rebound driven by melting glaciers due to regional rise in temperature of Alaska has become high enough to influence the subsurface tectonic plates and can yield both moderate and major earthquakes by reactivating the subsurface faults.


Monday, June 03, 2019

Apple is officially killing iTunes

By Kaitlyn Tiffany Jun 3, 2019, 4:55pm EDT

At its annual developer’s conference today, Apple confirmed reports that it will break iTunes up into three separate apps: Apple Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV.

The news is not super surprising. These separate apps have already existed on iOS for a long time, with the iTunes Store reserved as a weird desktop-only clunker.


'Forever chemicals' found in seafood, meats and chocolate cake, FDA says

Oliver Milman and agencies
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Mon 3 Jun 2019 16.51 EDT

Significant levels of chemicals linked to an array of health problems have been found in seafood, meats and chocolate cake sold in stores to US consumers, the Food and Drug Administration has found.

The levels in nearly half of the meat and fish tested by researchers were at least double the federal advisory level for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a group of more than 4,700 synthetic chemicals used for a variety of industrial purposes.

Meanwhile, the FDA report found much higher levels in the chocolate cake, the Associated Press reported, with PFAS levels of more than 250 times the federal guidelines.


Public health groups have criticized the Trump administration for not acting more quickly to phase out the use of PFAS, with high levels of the chemicals on US military bases causing heightened concern and lawsuits in parts of the country.

Exposure to high levels of PFAS has been linked to cancers, liver problems, low birth weight and other issues.

The compounds have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they take thousands of years to degrade, and because some accumulate in people’s bodies.
A trail of toxicity: the US military bases making people sick
Read more

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier established a non-binding health threshold of 70 parts per trillion for two phased-out forms of the contaminant in drinking water.

The EPA has said it would consider setting mandatory limits instead after the toxicology report and after federally mandated PFAS testing of water systems found contamination. The administration has called dealing with PFAS a “potential public relations nightmare” and a “national priority”.


Climate crisis seriously damaging human health, report finds

Listening to the radio a few minutes ago, with interviews of Britains regarding Trump's visit there. Someone who likes him spoke approvingly of being focused on the well-being of one's own country. But our own well-being depends on the well-being of those in other countries. Pollution, including climate disruption, does not recognize country boundaries. Problems in other countries cause an increase in immigration to safer places. People in other countries can't buy our products if they are impoverished. The cure for things like cancer will come sooner if countries around the world are able to nurture scientists and future scientists.

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Mon 3 Jun 2019 12.57 EDT

A report by experts from 27 national science academies has set out the widespread damage global heating is already causing to people’s health and the increasingly serious impacts expected in future.

Scorching heatwaves and floods will claim more victims as extreme weather increases but there are serious indirect effects too, from spreading mosquito-borne diseases to worsening mental health.

“There are impacts occurring now [and], over the coming century, climate change has to be ranked as one of the most serious threats to health,” said Prof Sir Andrew Haines, a co-chair of the report for the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (Easac).


The World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned in November that climate breakdown was already a health crisis. “We cannot delay action on climate change,” he said. “We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.” In December, a WHO report said tackling the climate crisis would save at least a million lives a year, making it a moral imperative to act.


The scientists were also concerned by the effect of extreme weather on food production, with studies showing a 5-25% cut in staple crop yields across the Mediterranean region in coming decades. But the report said even small cuts in meat eating could lead to significant cuts in carbon emissions, as well as benefits to health.

The report anticipates the spread of infectious diseases in Europe as temperatures rise and increase the range of mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever and ticks that cause Lyme disease. Food poisoning could also rise, as salmonella bacteria thrived in warmer conditions, the report said. It even found research suggesting antibiotic resistance in E coli increases in hotter conditions.


“We are subjecting young people and future generations to these increasing [health] risks for many hundreds of years to come, if not millennia,” he said. “We have to try to minimise the effects and move towards a low-carbon economy.


We all smell the smoke, we all feel the heat. This environmental catastrophe is global
Alexis Wright
May 17, 2019

Why do rich people lie, cheat and steal more than those on low incomes?

Diarmuid Pepper
May 27, 2019

there is a significant body of research to support the idea that people driving expensive cars are more inconsiderate on the road.

Researchers at the University of California in Berkeley monitored motorist behaviour at a pedestrian crossing in California.

It is illegal for cars in California to not stop for a pedestrian at a zebra crossing but half of the drivers in expensive cars broke that law and didn’t stop for their fellow citizens who were waiting to cross the road.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in that survey is that the very oldest and least expensive vehicles were classified as ‘beater cars’ – In Ireland we would call them ‘bangers’.

Every single one of the people driving a banger stopped at the pedestrian crossing.

In another experiment researchers sat a jar of individually wrapped sweets in front of a group of people from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. The participants were explicitly told that the individually wrapped sweets were for children in a nearby laboratory but that they could take some if they wanted.

Were rich people more willing to take sweets meant for children? Of course, they were. Rich people took twice as many sweets as the people from the lower income groups.

Seven experiments produced similar results leading researchers to conclude that higher social class predicts unethical behaviour.


People who earned €14,000 a year gave 44% more money to strangers than people who earned over €130,000 a year.

That is in line with the results of numerous other studies which have repeatedly shown that people on low incomes give proportionately more to charity than rich people do.

Another study provided some insight into people’s inability to understand the nature of their privilege.

The participants played monopoly but the game was rigged. At the beginning of the game, a coin was flipped and the winner of that coin-flip was given twice as much monopoly money and was also allowed two rolls of the dice instead of one.

Of course, the participant who started out with twice as much money and also got to roll the dice twice on each turn eventually won the game.

You might expect the winner to be gracious in victory since they were afforded such a privileged starting position.

But the privileged players weren’t graceful at all, instead, they routinely bragged about their wealth and became fairly insufferable throughout the game.

Worse than that – after the game when they were asked why they think they won, most of them spoke of their brilliant tactics, their finesse at the game of monopoly and their daring moves.

This rigged game was played by more than a hundred different pairs and only a handful of the winners acknowledged that it was the flip of a coin that caused them to win the game. This was despite having been given incredible advantages over the other player.


the researchers found that greed is actually viewed more favourably in upper-class communities.