Thursday, October 31, 2019

FBI chief warns of possible 2020 interference from Russia, China

By Maggie Miller - 10/30/19 03:57 PM EDT

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday testified that he expects Russian actors to attempt to interfere in the 2020 elections, adding that he also expects countries like China to explore disinformation efforts.

“Some of the things that the Russians have tried in other countries we expect them to try to do here as well, it’s pretty common to test it out in other jurisdictions, thankfully we don’t have elections every year, so that gives us a little bit of time to plan ahead,” Wray testified in regards to potential attacks on U.S. elections to the House Homeland Security Committee.


Wray noted that while the FBI has not seen “any intention” from China, Iran and North Korea to attempt attacks on election infrastructure, these countries are “clearly interested in engaging in malign foreign influence” in regards to elections, such as through social media disinformation efforts.

“They all have different ways of going about it, but they are all taking pages out of each others’ playbooks, and as we project forward that is something that we have to be vigilant about,” Wray said of the three countries.


Mueller found that Russian individuals launched a sweeping attack on the 2016 elections that included both hacking and disinformation efforts and that was intended to benefit now-President Trump.

While there was no evidence that any votes were changed in 2016, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in volume one of its investigation that all 50 states were targeted by Russian cyber actors looking to interfere in the elections.


White House blocked effort to condemn Russia for seizing Ukraine ships, Congress told

Julian Borger in Washington
Wed 30 Oct 2019 16.46 EDT

The White House blocked the US state department from issuing a statement condemning Russia for seizing Ukrainian military vessels, according to a state department official, in the latest example of the strain the Trump administration is under in pursuing conflicting policies towards the two countries.

The revelation on Wednesday came from Christopher Anderson, who was a senior aide to the special envoy on Ukraine, Kurt Volker, in November 2018, when Russia fired on and captured three Ukrainian vessels in the Sea of Azov off the Crimean peninsula.

“While my colleagues at the state department quickly prepared a statement condemning Russia for its escalation, senior officials in the White House blocked it from being issued,” Anderson said in his prepared remarks to congressional committees holding impeachment hearings. “Ambassador Volker drafted a tweet condemning Russia’s actions, which I posted to his account.”

In the face of silence from the White House, the then US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, condemned Russian behaviour, after which the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, followed suit. Trump voiced concern but did not blame Moscow.


Laborers and domestic workers stay behind as thousands flee California wildfires

Vivian Ho in Oakland and Mario Koran in Santa Rosa
Wed 30 Oct 2019 16.48 EDT


In northern California, more than 185,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes and work sites over the weekend as the Kincade fire raged across the wine country hills. While many in the region were able to heed the warnings, many workers stayed behind.

“It’s an agricultural community and everything is very time-sensitive when it comes to harvesting the crops,” said Ariel Kelly, the chief executive of Corazón Healdsburg. “We have those visa workers on temporary agricultural visas and they’ll be concluding their stay because this is the end of the season. There’s this concern that ‘if I don’t finish the job, I won’t get paid’…I know that after the first wave of evacuations happened last Wednesday night and a number of them were at our shelter, they were still leaving to go back to work.”


“For a lot of day laborers and household workers, not having a day’s work often means the difference between houselessness or not,” said Maegan Ortiz, the executive director of el Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California. “Not having a day’s work is actually a big deal. Not working means not having money for medication for a chronic illness. Not working means not having money for food.”

In the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, several construction crews were at work on Tuesday, many of them rebuilding homes that burned down during the 2017 Tubbs fire that leveled the neighborhood.

Josh Strand was cruising the neighborhood, which he said had been “technically” evacuated in totality. He was emptying the portable toilets on construction sites along street. The air was thick with the smell of fire, but Strand said he wasn’t too worried. “Two years ago it was worse. I had to wear a mask. It’s not so bad this time.”

Advocates in southern California have similarly warned that workers are left exposed as wildfires rage in and near Los Angeles. “I’m hearing stories from Los Angeles where the owner just forgot to tell the worker not to come into work that day,” said Lucas Zucker, the policy and communications director for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. “You have safety exposures for workers where they may have less access to information about what’s going on and the risk they’re under, or they may be compelled to stay, whether it be their own economic necessity or their employer asking them to stay.”


Last year during the Woolsey fire, which charred up nearly 97,000 acres and killed three, Ortiz’s organization collected stories from more than 500 workers about having to work through the wildfire.

“The stories we heard last year were workers being given hoses and being asked, ‘Hey, keep the fire away’,” she said. “Families evacuating and saying, ‘Hey can you stay and watch my dogs?’”


“The homeowners have insurance and are able to rebuild or move to a different place,” Zucker said. “The worker has essentially nothing. With domestic workers, we saw people in really desperate situations, just people completely unemployed in a moment’s notice, with no unemployment benefits and no access to any government aid.”


NIH-funded study suggests acetaminophen in pregnancy linked to higher risk of ADHD, autism

News Release 30-Oct-2019
NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child's risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. The study was conducted by Xiaobing Wang, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and colleagues. It appears in JAMA Psychiatry.


The researchers classified the amount of acetaminophen and its byproducts in the samples into thirds, from lowest to highest. Compared to the lowest third, the middle third of exposure was associated with about 2.26 times the risk for ADHD. The highest third of exposure was associated with 2.86 times the risk. Similarly, ASD risk was higher for those in the middle third (2.14 times) and highest third (3.62 times).

The authors conclude that their results support earlier studies linking acetaminophen exposure in the womb with ADHD and ASD and underscore the need for additional research.


Opioid-related gifts from pharma companies linked to physician prescribing by specialty

News Release 30-Oct-2019
University of Pittsburgh

Physicians who received gifts from pharmaceutical companies related to opioid medications were more likely to prescribe opioids to their patients the following year, compared to physicians who did not receive such gifts, according to a new analysis led by health policy scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.


"For every 100 Americans, there were 58 opioid prescriptions written in 2017 -- that is a tremendous amount of prescribing in a country that is struggling with an opioid epidemic," said lead author Mara Hollander, a doctoral student in Pitt Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management. "Our research points to a potential motivator behind this prescribing that could be reduced through policy interventions."


When the team further examined the companies behind the gifts, they found that, while 18 different companies provided gifts related to opioids, two companies -- Insys and Purdue -- were responsible for nearly two-thirds of the value of those gifts. Both have settled lawsuits for hundreds of millions of dollars related to opioid promotion and Purdue stopped marketing opioids to physicians in 2018.


Study: Teens who have loving bond with mother less likely to enter abusive relationships

News Release 30-Oct-2019
University at Buffalo

A mother's warmth and acceptance toward her teenagers may help prevent those children from being in an abusive relationship later in life, even if her own marriage is contentious, according to a new University at Buffalo study.

Previous research shows that adolescents who are exposed to marital conflict at a young age are at an increased risk to experience abuse in their romantic relations. However, the new study discovered that the child's relationship with their mother serves as a buffer by potentially promoting the teen's feelings of self-worth, says Jennifer Livingston, PhD, lead investigator and associate professor in the UB School of Nursing.


Traffic exhaust at residential address increases the risk of stroke

News Release 30-Oct-2019
Karolinska Institutet

High levels of traffic exhaust at one's residence increases the risk of stroke even in low-pollution environments, according to a study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and other universities in Sweden. The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that it is mainly black carbon from traffic exhaust that increases the risk for stroke, and not particulate matter from other sources.


What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Bullying in Schools?

By Diana Divecha | October 29, 2019

All 50 U.S. states require schools to have a bullying prevention policy.

But a policy, alone, is not enough. Despite the requirement, there’s been a slight uptick in all forms of bullying during the last three years.


As we discovered, not all approaches to bullying prevention are equally effective. Most bullying prevention programs focus on raising awareness of the problem and administering consequences. But programs that rely on punishment and zero tolerance have not been shown to be effective in the U.S.; and they often disproportionately target students of color. Programs like peer mediation that place responsibility on the children to work out conflicts can increase bullying. (Adult victims of abuse are never asked to “work it out” with their tormentor, and children have an additional legal right to protections due to their developmental status.) Bystander intervention, even among adults, only works for some people—extroverts, empaths, and people with higher social status and moral engagement. Many approaches that educators adopt have not been evaluated through research; instead, educators tend to select programs based on what their colleagues use.

We found two research-tested approaches that show the most promise for reducing bullying (along with other forms of aggression and conflict). They are a positive school climate, and social and emotional learning.


Schools can’t do this alone

Families matter, too. Bullying in schools sometimes arises from harsh parenting practices or sibling bullying at home.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door.

Not just business organizations, also families and schools, our whole culture.

Good article, I suggest reading the whole thing.

Aeon | André Spicer


Smart young things joining the workforce soon discover that, although they have been selected for their intelligence, they are not expected to use it. They will be assigned routine tasks that they will consider stupid. If they happen to make the mistake of actually using their intelligence, they will be met with pained groans from colleagues and polite warnings from their bosses. After a few years of experience, they will find that the people who get ahead are the stellar practitioners of corporate mindlessness.


Sometimes, following industry best practice can result in worse outcomes. An example of this is companies giving ever-higher pay to their chief executive officers. One analysis found that US companies would pay above-average salaries for top new appointments in the hope of attracting above-average candidates. But, ultimately, the high pay had no impact on a firm’s performance. All it did was ratchet up the amount that companies across the economy were willing to spend on senior executives.


However, there are times when it’s impossible to hide the rotten fruits of the collective stupidity. This is what happened at Nokia. Between 2007 and 2013, managers at the telecommunications firm were encouraged to be relentlessly positive. One middle-manager described how ‘if you were too negative, it would be your head on the block’. As a result, employees wanted to give senior managers only ‘good news’ but ‘not a reality check’. Naysayers found their divisions starved of resources, while upbeat corporate yes-men were given ever more responsibility. When there was a genuine problem with Nokia’s new smartphones, developed to compete with Apple’s iPhone, few dared to speak up. This meant that senior management took more than a year to realise they were on a losing streak. By that time, Apple and Samsung were well on their way to dominating the smartphone market.


In a world where stupidity dominates, looking good is more important than being right.


Competing views

A conservative friend posted something a day or two ago from FOX about the economy being great. Heard today that the Fed is lowering interest rates because of slowing economy. I have noticed from Trump fans that when there is something that might reflect badly on Trump, they often post a link or meme that claims the opposite situation from what is happening. It appears to me that the Trump machine, including his media supporters, are creating such fake news, knowing that people tend to believe the first thing they hear, even if it is contradicted by later facts.
If the economy were really so great, the Fed wouldn't have to be keeping interest rates so low.


The Commerce Department data put GDP growth at 1.9% during the three months, ahead of the 1.6% predicted.

Consumer spending held up better than expected, offsetting a fall in business investment and lower public spending.

But the growth was still the slowest for 2019, and comes hours before the Federal Reserve is due to make its latest interest rate announcement.


Paul Davidson, USA TODAY Published 2:07 p.m. ET Oct. 30, 2019 | Updated 4:51 p.m. ET Oct. 30, 2019

For the third time in three months, the Federal Reserve lowered its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point, to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, in a bid to head off a possible recession.


Daylight saving time ends Sunday

By Brian Oct 28, 2019, 8:00am EDT

On Sunday, November 3, at 2 am, we’ll turn our clocks back one hour, heralding the end of daylight saving time for much of the country.


Nearly 40 million people are living in poverty in America

Ellen Cranley
,Business Insider•October 29, 2019


Though poverty has slightly declined in recent years, the US Census Bureau found last year that nearly 40 million people are living in poverty in America.


Vietnam Seizes $4.3B in Falsely Labeled Chinese Aluminum

Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen
,Bloomberg•October 29, 2019

Vietnamese customs discovered and seized about $4.3 billion of Chinese aluminum falsely labeled “Made-in-Vietnam” before being shipped mostly to the U.S., the Dan Tri news website reported, citing Nguyen Van Can, head of the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

The aluminum was imported from China by a company based in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau that tried to sidestep U.S. tariffs, according to the report that didn’t give the company’s name. Vietnamese customs worked with American authorities during the investigation.


Rising sea levels on track to destroy the homes of 300 million people by 2050

Easy to predict that will cause housing to cost more, and lead to more homelessness.

Sea level rise is one of the best known of climate change’s many dangers. As humanity pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the planet warms. And as it does so, ice sheets and glaciers melt and warming sea water expands, increasing the volume of the world’s oceans. The consequences range from near-term increases in coastal flooding that can damage infrastructure and crops to the permanent displacement of coastal communities.


Based on sea level projections for 2050, land currently home to 300 million people will fall below the elevation of an average annual coastal flood. By 2100, land now home to 200 million people could sit permanently below the high tide line.

Adaptive measures such as construction of levees and other defenses or relocation to higher ground could lessen these threats. In fact, based on CoastalDEM, roughly 110 million people currently live on land below high tide line. This population is almost certainly protected to some degree by existing coastal defenses, which may or may not be adequate for future sea levels.

Despite these existing defenses, increasing ocean flooding, permanent submergence, and coastal defense costs are likely to deliver profound humanitarian, economic, and political consequences. This will happen not just in the distant future, but also within the lifetimes of most people alive today.


Missouri's state health director says he tracked Planned Parenthood patients' periods

By John Bowden - 10/29/19 06:27 PM EDT

Missouri's state health director testified Tuesday that he had kept a spreadsheet tracking the periods of women who visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in the state as a means of identifying patients who had undergone failed abortions.

Dr. Randall Williams, head of Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services, told a state hearing that he kept a spreadsheet at the request of investigators looking into Planned Parenthood's records of failed abortions in the state, according to the Kansas City Star.

Investigators eventually identified four patients who had to return to Planned Parenthood clinics in order to receive successful surgical abortions, the Star reported.


A Michigan produce company is recalling apples in eight states for possible listeria contamination

By Scottie Andrew, CNN
Updated 12:54 PM ET, Tue October 29, 2019

A Michigan produce company has recalled nearly 2,300 cases of fresh apples that could be contaminated with listeria.
North Bay Produce said the recall affects branded bags of Red Delicious, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Jonathan and Jonamac apples and in non-branded white and plastic bags.
The varieties were shipped between October 16 and 21 to Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The super rich elite have more money than they know what to do with

by Rex Nutting
Oct 28, 2019 5:45 a.m. ET


While the working class and the impoverished families of America — half of our country! — have less real wealth than they had 20 years ago, the super rich top 1% have doubled theirs in a generation, according to a new data set recently released by the Federal Reserve.

The top 1% of U.S. households — about 1.2 million families — had aggregate net worth of $35 trillion as of the end of June. That’s 32% of the total, up from 27% at the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the Fed reports.

The top 10% had $74 trillion — 69% of all wealth.


So for all the rhetoric about how wealth creation has been “democratized” by the rise of 401(k) plans, cheap trading fees, and all the financial news you could want, a tiny sliver of American society is grabbing greater and greater shares of the bounty while an increasing number of families are falling behind.


Capital is the secret sauce of building wealth: You don’t need to work hard for your money if your money works hard for you. If you have enough capital, you don’t need to work at all.

For every dollar of capital owned by one of the 60 million struggling households at the bottom, the typical family at the top of the heap had $730. Those two families might as well be on different planets, or living in different millennia. Their daily lives have little in common.


Probably the most astonishing fact I encountered while poring over the finances of the wealthy elite is this: The top 1% have about $4.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents, idling in bank accounts and earning next to nothing.

Remember that the next time a plutocrat tells you that we cannot possibly tax the wealthy because they can’t afford it.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

U.S. Air Quality Was Improving. Now It’s Getting Worse

By Eric Roston
October 22, 2019, 4:00 AM EDT

After years of decline, a spike in air pollution may have taken the lives of almost 10,000 additional Americans over two years.

Following a 24% drop between 2009 and 2016, particulate matter air pollution in the U.S. increased 5.5% in 2017 and 2018, according to a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data by two Carnegie Mellon economists.

The working paper published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research may signal a deadly change in U.S. environmental health.


KGB recruitment

I have been thinking about the fact that Russia and some other countries doubtless have tried to recruit U.S. politicians and news people, and the number available, I expect they have had some success. I would expect them to prefer conservatives, because they would be a better disguise. So I was interested in this article.

My Double Life as a KGB Agent

The Guardian |
Shaun Walker


In the 1980s, Barsky’s most interesting potential recruits were radical rightwing ideologues; here, Soviet agents would pose as activists from the radical right. “There was one individual I reported on who I’m convinced would have fallen for that, because he was so strongly rightwing,”


[And of course, more recently:]

By Jim Heintz
Published Oct 26, 2019 at 4:56 AM

The Russian woman convicted in the United States of being a Russian agent returned to Moscow on Saturday and declared that she has no desire to go back to America.

Maria Butina was deported Friday by the United States after serving a prison sentence,


Butina, a gun rights activist, sought to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups and promote Russia's agenda around the time that Donald Trump rose to power. She had been in custody since her arrest in July 2018.


The former American University graduate student pleaded guilty last December to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent for Russia. She admitted that she and a former Russian lawmaker worked to leverage contacts in the National Rifle Association to pursue back channels to American conservatives.


Vladimir Putin is looking unstoppable after a string of victories that Trump handed to him on a plate

Alexandra Ma
,Business Insider•October 26, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin went on a victory lap this week, replacing the US as chief power broker in Syria, and gaining a closer ally in Europe's backyard.

This is a far cry from the Putin of 2014, who became an international pariah after promoting civil unrest in Ukraine and annexing Crimea.

President Donald Trump effectively handed him these victories by pulling out of Syria, diminishing the US interest in Ukraine's security, and inviting Putin back to the world stage.

Trump's Syria withdrawal, in particular, made "Russia look like a major world power on the world stage," said James Nixey, head of Chatham House's Russia and Eurasia program.

The European Union, too internally divided to agree on a coherent Russia policy, has also failed to rein in Putin.


Ram Recalls 107,898 Diesel Pickups Due to a Fire Risk

Keith Barry and Jeff Plungis
,Consumer Reports•October 25, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is recalling 107,898 diesel pickups after discovering cracked emissions-control components that can cause fires.


Kansas prosecutor retires amid protests over murder case

Associated Press•October 25, 2019

A Kansas prosecutor is retiring amid calls for her to step down after a Missouri judge overturned the double murder conviction of a man whom she helped send to prison more than two decades ago.


McGowan had been the subject of recent protests by the KC Freedom Project after a judge found that, while working in the Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor's office, she failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in Ricky Kidd's case. He was freed from prison in August after a judge found clear and convincing evidence that he was wrongfully convicted of the February 1996 deaths of George Bryant and Oscar Bridges in Kansas City, Missouri. Prosecutors subsequently decided not to retry him.

"She should be disbarred," Kidd told The Kansas City Star's Editorial Board in September.

McGowan also was accused of withholding evidence in the case against Richard Buchli II, a Kansas City attorney who spent about five years in prison in the 2000 death of his law partner before his conviction was overturned. Charges later were dismissed.


The Douglas County prosecutor's office previously defended McGowan in a statement, saying that while she did make errors in Kidd's case, the verdict was overturned primarily because the main witness recanted.

"False and grossly misleading rumors are being spread that Ms. McGowan was 'found guilty,' 'convicted,' and 'disciplined,'" the statement said. "Ms. McGowan has never been convicted nor disciplined by the Missouri Court System or the Kansas Supreme Court."

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Raking leaves again this fall? Stop right now

Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY Published 7:00 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2019 | Updated 10:17 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2019


Environmental experts say raking leaves and removing them from your property is bad not only for your lawn but for the planet as a whole.

Although people often rake fallen leaves and send them to a landfill to prevent their lawns from being smothered and to make yards look better, in most cases, you're fine not moving them.


Leaves and yard waste take up space in landfills


Leaves take up space and they also can break down with other organic waste to create methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change, he added.


"Leaves cover up root systems, preserve soil moisture, suppress weeds and other plants. They also slowly break down and ... return (essential) nutrients to plants," Mizejewski said. "It's a perfect system. Nothing is wasted in nature."


Butterflies and songbirds alike depend on leaf litter, according to Mizejewski.

"Over winter months, a lot of butterflies and moths as pupa or caterpillar are in the leaf litter, and when you rake it up you are removing the whole population of butterflies you would otherwise see in your yard," he said.

Without the insects in the leaf litter, you also risk driving away birds that might have come to your yard looking for food to feed their offspring in the spring.


Sorochan, at University of Tennessee, said that keeping leaves on your lawn also has the added benefit of reducing fertilizer runoff.

Algal blooms can kill wildlife and harm human health, and they often form when excess fertilizer runs into waterways. Because leaving leaves on your lawn serves as a fertilizer, if no other fertilizers are added, it will reduce runoff, Sorochan said.


If you do remove your leaves, the best thing to do is cut them up and drop them in a plant or flower bed or another part of your lawn that doesn't get leaf cover, Mizejewski said.

That will provide a natural fertilizer and mulch for those parts of your yard. If you're worried the leaves will blow away (though they should be fine), lightly water them, Mizejewski said.

If you don't have a plant or flower bed or have too many leaves, start a compost bin, he and Sandor advise.

Some municipalities also have compost programs, which allow you to send your leaves off and get mulch back, Mizejewski said, but composting at your house is better so you don't have the added pollution of trucks and off-site machines taking and processing the leaves.


DUI suspect swore he hadn’t been drinking; researchers found his body produced alcohol

Posted 8:12 AM, October 26, 2019, by Tribune Media Wire

When a man in North Carolina was pulled over on suspicion of driving drunk, police didn’t believe him when he said he hadn’t had any alcohol.

The man, in his late 40’s at the time, refused to take a breathalyzer test and was taken to a hospital, where his initial blood alcohol level was found to be 0.2% — about 2.5 times the legal limit and the equivalent of consuming 10 drinks an hour. Despite the man swearing up and down that he hadn’t had anything to drink, doctors didn’t believe him either.

But researchers at the Richmond University Medical Center in New York eventually discovered that the man was telling the truth. He wasn’t downing beers or cocktails — instead, there was yeast in his gut that was likely converting carbohydrates in the food he ate to alcohol.


Auto-brewery Syndrome (Gut Fermentation)

Kelly Painter; Barbara Cordell; Kristin L. Sticco.

Last Update: October 9, 2019.

Auto-brewery syndrome or gut fermentation syndrome is a condition in which ethanol is produced through endogenous fermentation by fungi or bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Patients with auto-brewery syndrome present with many of the signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication while denying an intake of alcohol and often report a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet.

The production of endogenous ethanol occurs in minute quantities as part of normal digestion, but when fermenting yeast or bacteria become pathogenic, extreme blood alcohol levels may result. Auto-brewery syndrome is more prevalent in patients with co-morbidities such as diabetes, obesity, and Crohn disease [1][2] but can occur in otherwise healthy individuals.[3] Several strains of fermenting yeasts and rare bacteria are identified as the pathogens. While auto-brewery syndrome is rarely diagnosed, it is probably underdiagnosed.[4]


At Least 20 Billionaires Behind ‘Dark Money’ Group That Opposed Obama

Michela Tindera
Forbes Staff
Oct 26, 2019, 12:08pm

A nonprofit group with a bland name, Americans for Job Security, spent $5 million supporting Republicans in the 2010 midterms and $15 million denouncing former President Obama in the 2012 election, but until this week, the group never had to file disclosures showing where its money was coming from.

“This is the first time in the Citizens United-era that a dark money group was forced to disclose their donors in a certain time period,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokersperson for nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court case that wiped away previous restrictions on political spending.

Americans for Job Security had previously claimed it was not a political organization and therefore did not have to disclose its donors. But after years of litigation, CREW convinced the Federal Election Commission otherwise. AJS filed a list of its backers and beneficiaries from 2010 to 2012 on Thursday.


Avoiding stuff made in China

I have bought several glass water bottles from Sprouts. Glass bottle is made in France, silicon sleeve in U.S., cap in Poland.

Pentagon chief: 'Mechanized forces' to protect Syrian oil fields

Does a great country let its allies be slaughtered but defend foreign oil fields?

By Ellen Mitchell - 10/25/19 02:24 PM EDT

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday confirmed that the United States will send some “mechanized” reinforcements into eastern Syria to protect against possible attacks by ISIS fighters on oil fields held by U.S. partner forces.

“The United States will maintain a reduced presence in Syria to deny ISIS access to oil revenue as we reposition for the next phase of the defeat ISIS campaign,” Esper said at a NATO defense meeting in Brussels.

Esper said that the military is “considering how we might reposition forces in the area in order to ensure we secure the oil field,” currently held by Syrian Kurdish fighters, and is working to “strengthen our position” at Deir Ezzoir. He added that the reinforcements “will include some mechanized forces.”

He would not go into details as to the number of troops to be sent, but a mechanized force would likely include tanks and other combat vehicles and several hundred more military personnel. The U.S. presence in Syria up until this point has not included such equipment.


Exxon sowed doubt about climate crisis, House Democrats hear in testimony

I haven't been to an Exxon station in decades.

Emily Holden in Washington
Wed 23 Oct 2019 13.43 EDT

House Democrats on Wednesday laid out four decades of evidence that oil behemoth Exxon knew since the 1970s that the burning of fossil fuels was heating the planet and intentionally sowed doubt about the climate crisis.

The testimony came in a hearing in a House oversight subcommittee on civil rights just a day after ExxonMobil began a trial in New York City over misleading investors on the business risks from government rules meant to address the climate crisis.

Exxon’s role in hiding the mounting emergency has been widely publicized for four years, since the publication of an investigation by InsideClimate News, the Los Angeles Times and the Columbia Journalism School. Court proceedings and additional reporting have found more proof of Exxon’s longtime knowledge of the problem.

I haven't been to an Exxon station in decades.


Air pollution and the impacts of the climate crisis from fossil fuels disproportionately harm people of color, as Democrats noted in stories from their districts.

Westboro Baptist Church. Twitter Helped Her Leave It.

I'm not very good at handling such people. I admire those who are.

Lyz Lenz
Oct. 21, 2019

Megan Phelps-Roper’s conversion began on Twitter. Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas. Westboro is infamous for its anti-queer protests at the sites of military funerals and other tragedies, deploying church members to hold up signs that say, “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “God blew up the troops,” “Thank God for 9/11,” and “God hates America.”


In her memoir, Unfollow, Phelps-Roper tells the story of her life in the church and how the dialogue she encountered on Twitter caused her to leave her family and her entire way of life.


I gave a TED Talk a couple of years ago detailing the strategies that helped change my mind. If you want to reach people on the other side, don’t assume bad intent on their part — they came to these beliefs based on a lifetime of experiences. Instead, ask questions.

One of the positive things about looking at extreme beliefs is that it highlights the fundamental problem with thinking that way. Taking these beliefs to their somewhat logical extension, people can see the parallels; they can see the similarities and realize, “Wow, that is not what I believe.” That’s the experience I’ve had too.

That was the difference between the people who changed my mind on Twitter — the people who were willing to listen, have a conversation with me versus the people who just wanted to shame me. And again, I completely understand why people wanted to shame me. I was doing really shameful things, but I couldn’t see that they were shameful because of the environment that I was in.

I heard someone define shame as the feeling that we get when we violate the norms of our community. For me, that was a huge aha moment. I had grown up learning to celebrate death and tragedy because that’s how Westboro responded to bad things that happened. When I look back, how absolutely disgusting and backward is that? When I went on Twitter and all these people were trying to shame me, I knew I wasn’t part of their community. I felt like they were evil.

This dynamic is now playing out across our polarized country. We’re not recognizing that if you try to shame people, they’re not going to be moved by your shame to feel shame. They’re going to be motivated by your shaming to keep doing what they’re doing. It really just pushes them deeper into these beliefs and into their own communities. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to be willing to empathize with a person in a moment when they seem not to deserve it the most.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Scientific Integrity Act Passes Out of Committee with Unprecedented Bipartisan Support

Michael Halpern, Deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy | October 17, 2019, 3:01 pm EDT

Today, the remarkable happened: the Scientific Integrity Act passed the House Science Committee with support from both Republicans and Democrats. Six Republicans joined all 19 Democrats in attendance to vote the Scientific Integrity Act out of Committee. This is the first time this kind of legislation has passed out of a House committee. This is also the first time this kind of legislation has received public support from Republicans still in office.

Bipartisan support for scientific integrity reform has grown in recent months. In July, I testified before this committee about the Scientific Integrity Act and was encouraged by the level of agreement among witnesses and members of Congress about the need for independent scientific analysis. Witnesses invited by both Democrats and Republicans agreed that scientific integrity legislation was both important and necessary.


The ‘Nobel Prize of Math’ Has Been Won By A Woman For The First Time Ever

June 19, 2019

Greetings with some good news for the women’s world. Just recently, one of the most prestigious mathematics prizes in the world – The Abel Prize was awarded to a woman for the first time ever. Yes! Karen Uhlenbeck is a mathematician and a professor at the University of Texas and is now the first woman to win this prize in mathematics. You go Karen!

The award, which is modeled by the Nobel Prize, is awarded by the king of Norway to honor mathematicians who have made an influence in their field including a cash prize of around $700,000. The award to Karen cites for “the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” This award exists since 2003 but has only been won by men since.


Sun-Yung Alice Chang, a mathematician at Princeton University who was in the prize committee says about her: “She did things nobody thought about doing, and after she did, she laid the foundations of a branch of mathematics.”


Chemicals in consumer products during early pregnancy related to lower IQ

News Release 24-Oct-2019
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy to mixtures of suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in consumer products is related to lower IQ in children by age 7, according to a study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Karlstad University, Sweden, published in Environment International in October. This study is among the first to look at prenatal suspected endocrine-disrupting chemical mixtures in relation to neurodevelopment.


As large chains grow to dominate dialysis, patient outcomes decline

News Release 23-Oct-2019
Duke University

As large, for-profit dialysis chains acquired more than 1,200 smaller providers across the U.S. from 1998 to 2010, they cut skilled medical staff, increased patient volumes, altered drug regimens and adopted other practices that hurt patient health, according to new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

The researchers examined patient and facility data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and identified specific changes in practice after clinics were acquired by large firms. Highly skilled nurses were replaced with less-skilled technicians to reduce labor costs, patient loads per employee were increased by 11.7% and the number of patients treated at each dialysis station grew by 4.5%.

The Duke study has been peer-reviewed and posted online as a working draft by the Quarterly Journal of Economics.


Stress-related disorders linked to subsequent risk of severe infections

News Release 23-Oct-2019

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other stress related disorders are associated with a subsequent risk of life threatening infections such as meningitis and sepsis, finds a large Swedish study published in The BMJ today.

The risk was particularly high among people diagnosed at a younger age and those with other psychiatric conditions.

Despite a relatively low absolute risk for individuals, the high mortality from these infections calls for increased clinical awareness among health professionals caring for patients with stress related disorders, especially those diagnosed at a younger age, say the researchers.

Stress related disorders - severe conditions triggered by a significant life event or trauma - are common and linked to poor mental and physical health.


New flame retardants, old problems

News Release 22-Oct-2019
University of Toronto

New flame retardants escaping from our TVs, other electrical and electronic products, and children's car seats are just as toxic as the flame retardants they're intended to replace, according to a peer-reviewed study published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The authors found that the replacement chemicals, called organophosphate flame retardants, have been associated with lower IQ in children, reproductive problems, and other serious health harms.

Flame retardants pose a particularly grave threat to children. Babies are born with the same level as their mothers and are further exposed through hand-to-mouth behavior. Young children can have 3 to 10 times the flame retardant levels of adults, or even more. This can harm their developing brains and reproductive organs at the most vulnerable time.


Flame retardant chemicals aren't necessary, or even effective, for reducing fire hazard in many products. These chemicals are added to meet flammability regulations. But research shows they often delay ignition only a few seconds, and make fires more dangerous.


Fox radio silly lies

Oct. 24, 2019

I was changing radio stations today, listened to Fox right-wing 550 AM in Atlanta for a few minutes. Whoever was talking was spouting a combination of lies and illogic about the Trump/Ukraine/Biden situation. For one thing, he flat-out lied, said Trump had not blocked aid to Ukraine that Congress had appropriated. He claimed that Ukraine was getting the aid at the time of Trump's phone call, and that Trump threatened to stop it if Ukraine didn't investigate Biden's son. He said that meant it was not a "quid pro quo", which is just plain silly. To promise to continue the aid is obviously an offered favor.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Jeffrey Toobin expresses regret over 'mistakes' in Clinton email coverage

NPR harped over and over on this non-issue before the 2016 election, reporting charges by Trump with no mention that his charges had already been found to be untrue.

By Michael Calderone
,Politico•October 21, 2019

The New Yorker and CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin now says he devoted too much attention in 2016 to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, becoming the first big-name journalist to acknowledge having second thoughts about the story since a State Department probe cleared Clinton of serious breaches of rules on Friday.

Toobin told POLITICO he has been flooded with responses since his surprise admission Monday morning on CNN. The feedback has largely fallen into two categories, he said: “Thank you for saying this” and “You’re a jerk, you shouldn't have done it in the first place.”


In his POLITICO interview, Toobin said he doesn’t regret any specific thing he said about Clinton’s email use, but believes the volume of coverage he gave to the issue was disproportionate to its importance. Toobin said the experience shows you “can make mistakes in news coverage without making factual mistakes.”

“I think I got into the trap of false equivalence during the 2016 campaign,” Toobin said. “Comparing Donald Trump’s record of ethical problems with Hillary’s emails lent a misleading impression. And I have to say, I am determined not to do that again to the extent that I can. I am going to try to look at corruption and ethics issues each on their own rather than trying to create some sort of equivalence that isn’t there.”

More recently, Toobin said, he’s covered the Ukraine scandal “with the Hillary story in mind” given “that there is nothing comparable in magnitude between whatever Hunter Biden did and whatever Donald Trump did.”


“For months, @nytimes put stories of Hillary Clinton’s email on its front pages,” Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione tweeted Saturday. “The final investigative report clearing all of wrongdoing? That is on page 16 today.”


Climate change making stronger El Ninos, study finds

,Associated Press•October 21, 2019

Climate change is making stronger El Ninos, which change weather worldwide and heat up an already warming planet, a new study finds.

Scientists examined 33 El Ninos — natural warming of equatorial Pacific that triggers weather extremes across the globe — since 1901. They found since the 1970s, El Ninos have been forming farther to the west in warmer waters, leading to stronger El Ninos in some cases.

A powerful El Nino can trigger drought in some places, like Australia and India. And it can cause flooding in other areas like California. The Pacific gets more hurricanes during an El Nino and the Atlantic gets fewer.

El Nino makes winters milder and wetter in the United States, which generally benefits from strong El Ninos. They're devastating elsewhere. The 1997-98 event caused thousands of deaths from severe storms, heat waves, floods and drought, costing between $32 billion and $96 billion, according to a United Nations study .


The shift for the origin of El Nino by hundreds of miles from the east of the International Dateline to the west of that point is important because the water to the west is naturally warmer, said study lead author Bin Wang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Hawaii.

Before 1978, 12 of the 14 El Ninos formed in the east. After 1978, all 11 were more central or western, according a study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

Researchers did not study La Ninas, the cooler flip side to El Nino.

Wang said there have been three "super" El Ninos, starting in 1982, 1997 and 2015 and all started in the west. During each of those El Ninos, the world broke new average temperature records.


Russia’s Troll Farm

Kevin Poulsen
,The Daily Beast•October 21, 2019

Facebook on Monday removed nearly 200 newly discovered fake accounts linked separately to Iran and to Russia’s Internet Research Agency [IRA]. The takedowns demonstrate that foreign influence operations are already targeting the 2020 election, but provide evidence that Russia’s notorious troll farm is struggling to regain anything close to the influence in held in 2016.

The new wave of takedowns targeted separate networks of deceptive accounts created by Iran and Russia, including dozens of fake Facebook organization pages.


As tallied by Graphika, the personas are the usual Russian mix of accounts pretending to be arch-conservatives in the heartland, and a roughly equal number pretending to be African American activists. A smattering of accounts were focused on more specific issues, like gun rights on the right or LGBTQ rights on the left.

The accounts were largely devoted to sowing division, but when they directly addressed the 2020 election, they followed the IRA’s 2016 playbook to the letter. The “conservative” accounts attacked liberals and heaped praise on Donald Trump, while “liberal” accounts derided the president while vocally supporting Bernie Sanders over Democratic frontrunners. Joe Biden is singled out for criticism in much the same way as Clinton in 2016.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Ocean acidification can cause mass extinctions, fossils reveal

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Mon 21 Oct 2019 15.00 EDT

Ocean acidification can cause the mass extinction of marine life, fossil evidence from 66m years ago has revealed.

A key impact of today’s climate crisis is that seas are again getting more acidic, as they absorb carbon emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists said the latest research is a warning that humanity is risking potential “ecological collapse” in the oceans, which produce half the oxygen we breathe.

The researchers analysed small seashells in sediment laid down shortly after a giant meteorite hit the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs and three-quarters of marine species. Chemical analysis of the shells showed a sharp drop in the pH of the ocean in the century to the millennium after the strike.


The researchers found that the pH dropped by 0.25 pH units in the 100-1,000 years after the strike. It is possible that there was an even bigger drop in pH in the decade or two after the strike and the scientists are examining other sediments in even finer detail.

Henehan said: “If 0.25 was enough to precipitate a mass extinction, we should be worried.” Researchers estimate that the pH of the ocean will drop by 0.4 pH units by the end of this century if carbon emissions are not stopped, or by 0.15 units if global temperature rise is limited to 2C.
Countries must triple climate emission cut targets to limit global heating to 2C
Read more

Henehan said: “We may think of [acidification] as something to worry about for our grandchildren. But if it truly does get to the same acidification as at the [meteorite strike] boundary, then you are talking about effects that will last for the lifetime of our species. It was hundreds of thousands of years before carbon cycling returned to normal.”


Phil Williamson, at the University of East Anglia, who was not involved in the research, said: “It is relatively easy to identify mass extinction events in the fossil record, but much harder to know exactly what caused them. Evidence for the role of ocean acidification has generally been weak, until now.”

He said caution was needed in making the comparison between the acidification spike 66m years ago and today: “When the asteroid struck, atmospheric CO2 was naturally already much higher than today, and the pH much lower. Furthermore, large asteroid impacts cause prolonged darkness.”

Williamson added: “Nevertheless, this study provides further warning that the global changes in ocean chemistry that we are currently driving have the potential to cause highly undesirable and effectively irreversible damage to ocean biology.”

Henehan said the generally lower ocean pH 66m years ago might have made shelled organisms more resilient to acidification. “Who knows if our current [marine] system is as well set up to cope with sudden acidification?”

Supreme Court throws out challenge to Michigan electoral map

The republicans plan to destroy democracy is working. If you didn't vote for Hillary in 2016, you helped bring about this supreme court.

By Harper Neidig - 10/21/19 12:01 PM EDT

The Supreme Court, in another defeat for gerrymandering reformers, overturned a lower court's ruling that Michigan's electoral districts are overly partisan and need to be redrawn.

Monday's order follows a June decision from the nation's top court that found that questions related to partisan gerrymandering are not under the jurisdiction of federal courts.

The new order returns the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. A three-judge panel in that court had ruled that 34 state legislative and congressional districts needed to be redrawn because they were designed to favor Republicans.

The League of Women Voters and a group of Michigan voters had argued that GOP officials in the state had "engaged in a concerted effort to redraw district lines to benefit Republican candidates while disadvantaging their opponents."

The three-judge district court panel agreed, writing, "Federal courts’ failure to protect marginalized voters’ constitutional rights will only increase the citizenry’s growing disenchantment with, and disillusionment in, our democracy, further weaken our democratic institutions, and threaten the credibility of the judicial branch."

The case had been put on hold by the Supreme Court as it considered similar challenges in Maryland and North Carolina, which led to the sweeping decision earlier this year and all but guaranteed that the challenge in Michigan would fail.

The decision in June was decided by the court’s 5-4 majority of Republican-appointed justices. Their opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, argued that questions about redistricting should be left to politicians and not federal judges.


In their dissent, the four liberal justices accused their colleagues of abdicating the court’s responsibility of safeguarding the democratic process.

“These gerrymanders enabled politicians to entrench themselves in office as against voters’ preferences,” they wrote. “They promoted partisanship above respect for the popular will. They encouraged a politics of polarization and dysfunction. If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.”


Clinton’s email practices were risky but not malicious, State Department finds

Of course, republicans, esp Trump, will continue to lie about this.

By Riley Beggin Oct 19, 2019, 4:56pm EDT

A multi-year State Department investigation into the private email server that haunted Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign is complete.

After reviewing 33,000 emails sent to or from Clinton, investigators found that the former secretary of state’s practice of using a private email server for official work presented a security risk, but said there was no “systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information” by Clinton or her associates, according to a State Department report presented to Congress this week.


NOAA: Last Month Tied as Warmest September on Record Globally

Bob Henson · October 16, 2019, 12:38 PM EDT

In its global State of the Climate report issued Wednesday, NOAA reported that last month was tied with September 2015 as the warmest September on record in data going back to 1880. Other agencies agreed that last month was near the top, although their placements varied slightly. Minor differences in rankings can arise because of how the various agencies handle data-sparse regions such as the Arctic, where few surface weather stations exist.

—NASA ranked last month as the second warmest September on record, just behind 2016 and ahead of 2015.

—The Japan Meteorological Agency found last month to be slightly cooler than 2015 and warmer than 2016, making it the second warmest September on record globally.

—The European Union’s Copernicus EU program placed last month as the warmest September on record in data extending back to 1979.

The bottom line is that last month was among the three warmest Septembers globally in 140 years of recordkeeping. As NOAA pointed out in a news release, “The 10 warmest Septembers have all occurred since 2005, with the last five years (2015-2019) being the five warmest Septembers on record.”

Last month’s global warmth is especially noteworthy given the absence of an El Niño event, which normally acts to boost global temperatures by transferring large amounts of heat from ocean to atmosphere. One of the strongest El Niño events ever observed pushed global temperatures to record levels in 2015-16.

For the year to date (January-September), NOAA ranks 2019 as the second warmest year on record, behind only the first nine months of 2016—which, again, were heavily influenced by the intense El Niño of 2015-16. The most likely outcome by year's end is that 2019 will be the second warmest full year on record, going back toFor the year to date (January-September), NOAA ranks 2019 as the second warmest year on record, behind only the first nine months of 2016—which, again, were heavily influenced by the intense El Niño of 2015-16. The most likely outcome by year's end is that 2019 will be the second warmest full year on record, going back to 1880.

The current warmth is right in line with ongoing long-term warming related to human-produced greenhouse gases.


By Jeff Masters on October 16, 2019


This near-record global warmth in 2019 is all the more remarkable since it is occurring during the minimum of the weakest solar cycle in 100+ years, and during a year when a strong El Niño has not been present (though a weak El Niño was present in the first half of 2019, ending in July). Record-warm global temperatures typically occur during strong El Niño events, and when the solar cycle is near its maximum. The near-record warmth of 2019 is thus a testament to how greatly human-caused global warming is impacting the planet.


Green areas in cities promote wellbeing

News Release 17-Oct-2019
Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

Green areas in the inner city can directly improve the wellbeing of urban citizens. This is the result of an interdisciplinary study, in which Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) was involved. According to the study, people with a reduced brain capacity to self-regulate negative feelings benefit most from the green areas.

Green areas in the inner city can directly improve the wellbeing of urban citizens. This is the result of an interdisciplinary study, in which Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) was involved. According to the study, people with a reduced brain capacity to self-regulate negative feelings benefit most from the green areas.


Frequent drinking is greater risk factor for heart rhythm disorder than binge drinking

News Release 17-Oct-2019
European Society of Cardiology

Drinking small amounts of alcohol frequently is linked with a higher likelihood of atrial fibrillation than binge drinking, according to research published today in EP Europace, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

'Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency,' said study author Dr Jong-Il Choi, of Korea University College of Medicine and Korea University Anam Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea. 'Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation.'

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder and raises the risk of stroke by five-fold.2 Symptoms include palpitations, racing or irregular pulse, shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and dizziness.3


Scores more heart attacks and strokes on high pollution days

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Sun 20 Oct 2019 19.01 EDT

Scores of children and adults are being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment on days of high pollution in cities across England, figures show.

Each year emergency services see more than 120 additional cardiac arrests, more than 230 additional strokes and nearly 200 more people with asthma requiring hospital treatment on days of high pollution compared with the average on days of lower pollution.


Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: “These new figures show air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks, so it’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency. Since these avoidable deaths are happening now, not in 2025 or 2050, together we need to act now.”


Friday, October 18, 2019

Sallie Mae execs flew over 100 employees to Hawaii to celebrate record $5 billion in student loans

By Jessica Campisi - 10/18/19 03:25 PM EDT

Student loan company Sallie Mae flew more than 100 sales team employees to Hawaii earlier this year to celebrate $5 billion in student loans, as the student debt crisis has reached $1.6 trillion.

In August, Sallie Mae brought the employees to Maui’s luxury Fairmont resort on Wailea beach as it celebrated a record-high year in sales, NBC News reports.

The $5 billion in student loans went to 374,000 borrowers, totaling nearly $13,400 per person.


Student loan debt and the cost of college have continued to climb, leading to lawmakers and advocates pushing for solutions to the crisis.

2020 Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have pushed for proposals that would allow for tuition-free college.

In a recent poll, a majority of voters reported that they support the idea of free state college and canceling student debt.

A homeless man was sentenced to 15 years after pleading guilty to cocaine possession — but it turned out to just be powdered milk

Kelly McLaughlin
,INSIDER•October 16, 2019


A homeless man in Oklahoma was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to trafficking cocaine, but his case was dismissed after the substance turned out to be powdered milk.

Cody Gregg, 29, had his case in Oklahoma City dismissed on Friday, days after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, The Oklahoman reported.

Gregg told a judge that he initially pleaded guilty because he wanted to get away from poor conditions in the Oklahoma County Jail, which is plagued with overcrowding, chronic mold, and a high suicide rate, according to the Washington Post.


According to a ProPublica investigation from 2016, thousands of people are jailed every year because roadside drug tests produce false positives. In Gregg's case, the powder later was proved to be powdered milk.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

CIA spy whose cover was blown by Bush administration warns Trump over chilling effect of outing whistleblower

Given Trump's rhetoric and the attitudes and actions of some of his followers, the lives of Trump's whistleblowers might be in danger.

Rozina Sabur
,The Telegraph•October 14, 2019

The whistle blower who sparked Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry will have his life turned upside down when his identity is inevitably revealed, according to a former CIA agent.

Valerie Plame, who was forced to quit her undercover role when her name was leaked by US government officials in 2003, said her "heart goes out" to the CIA operative who raised concerns about a phone call between the US president and his Ukrainian counterpart.

In his complaint, the unnamed whistleblower said multiple officials on the call had raised concerns that Mr Trump had pressured a foreign government to interfere in US elections.

Since then a second individual, who has also chosen to remain anonymous, has come forward claiming to have first hand knowledge of the allegations outlined in the original complaint.


The whistle blower who sparked Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry will have his life turned upside down when his identity is inevitably revealed, according to a former CIA agent.

Valerie Plame, who was forced to quit her undercover role when her name was leaked by US government officials in 2003, said her "heart goes out" to the CIA operative who raised concerns about a phone call between the US president and his Ukrainian counterpart.

In his complaint, the unnamed whistleblower said multiple officials on the call had raised concerns that Mr Trump had pressured a foreign government to interfere in US elections.

Since then a second individual, who has also chosen to remain anonymous, has come forward claiming to have first hand knowledge of the allegations outlined in the original complaint.


Monday, October 14, 2019

California power lines spark wildfires and prompt blackouts. Why not just bury them?

Janet Wilson, Palm Springs Desert Sun
,USA TODAY•October 12, 2019


It costs about $3 million per mile to convert underground electric distribution lines from overhead, while the cost to build a mile of new overhead line is less than a third of that, at approximately $800,000 per mile, according to a section on PG&E's website called Facts About Undergrounding Power Lines.


PG&E, the state's largest utility, maintains approximately 81,000 miles of overhead distribution lines and approximately 26,000 miles of underground distribution lines. It also has about 18,000 miles of larger transmission lines, the majority of which are overhead lines.

At a cost of $3 million per mile, undergrounding 81,000 miles of distribution lines would cost $243 billion. PG&E has 16 million customers; distributing that expense equally would amount to a bill of more than $15,000 per account.


Environmental concerns would also be high if thousands of miles of trenches were dug through forests or brushland habitat, Borenstein noted. Opposition could also arise from residents in existing neighborhoods confronted with the prospect of heavy-duty earth-moving projects.


But Borenstein and others noted that problems can occur underground as well. Animals can chew buried lines or lightning can short out ground connections, just as animals can damage lines overhead, or a dry tree branch can drop. The state's extremely varied landscapes are another challenge.


Borenstein agreed that vegetation management and hardening transmission and distribution lines are better, more easily implemented alternatives than burying 100,000 miles of lines.

"That means mowing, cutting trees, perhaps replacing wooden poles with concrete poles, and all the rusted transmission towers," he said. "They're trying to do these things, but they have a huge backlog of work."

Other possible measures include insulating exposed lines or installing sensors, including cameras or devices that can detect a spark or a short and even shut down a line automatically.


Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate action

Matthew Green
Oct. 12, 2019

Almost 400 scientists have endorsed a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing governments to take rapid action to tackle climate change, warning that failure could inflict “incalculable human suffering.”

In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne.


“We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law,” said Emily Grossman, a science broadcaster with a PhD in molecular biology. She read the declaration on behalf of the group.

“We therefore support those who are rising up peacefully against governments around the world that are failing to act proportionately to the scale of the crisis,” she said.

The declaration was coordinated by a group of scientists who support Extinction Rebellion, a civil disobedience campaign that formed in Britain a year ago and has since sparked offshoots in dozens of countries.

The group launched a fresh wave of international actions on Monday, aiming to get governments to address an ecological crisis caused by climate change and accelerating extinctions of plant and animal species.


While many scientists have shunned overt political debate, fearing that being perceived as activists might undermine their claims to objectivity, the 395 academics who had signed the declaration by 1100 GMT on Sunday chose to defy convention.

“The urgency of the crisis is now so great that many scientists feel, as humans, that we now have a moral duty to take radical action,” Grossman told Reuters.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

How We Judge Others is How We Judge Ourselves

Mark Manson
This article was originally published on January 9, 2014, by Mark Manson

Mark Manson is the author of Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope.


Months ago, I wrote an article about the ways that we choose to measure the value of our own lives. Some of us measure our life through money and accolades. Others measure it through beauty and popularity. Others measure it through family and relationships. Others measure it through service and good deeds.


In that article, I wrote that it’s important to measure ourselves by our own internal metrics as much as possible. The more external our metrics for our own value and self-worth, the more we screw everything up for ourselves.

But there’s more.

The way you measure yourself is how you measure others, and how you assume others measure you.

If you measure your life by your family relationships, then you will measure others by the same standard – how close their family is to them. If they’re distant from their family or don’t call home enough, you’ll judge them as deadbeats, ungrateful or irresponsible, regardless of their lives or their history.

If you measure your life by how much fun and partying you can have, then you will measure others by the same standard – how much fun and partying they have. If they prefer to stay home and watch Star Trek: Next Generation reruns every weekend, you’ll judge them as inhibited, scared of the world, lame and soulless, regardless of their personality or needs.


The yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world.

If we believe that we’re hard workers and we earned everything we have, then we will believe that everyone else earned what they have. And if they have nothing, it’s because they earned nothing.


Many of us adopt our own internal yardsticks not through conscious choice but through the shaming we’re subjected to. I love the quote, “Everyone is either trying to prove or disprove who they were in high school,” because for many of us, our yardsticks are defined by how people viewed us growing up. We develop a fixation in one area of our lives because it’s the area which we felt people judged us the most. The high school cheerleader who is afraid to lose her looks as an adult. The poor kid obsessed with becoming rich. The loser who wants to throw the biggest parties. The slacker who wants to prove to everyone how smart he is.

A big part of our development is to recognize our own fixation, to recognize how we measure ourselves and consciously choose our metric for ourselves.

But another big part of development is to recognize that everyone has their own metric. And that metric is likely not going to be the same as ours. And that’s (usually) fine. Most metrics people choose are fine. Even if they’re not the same metrics you would choose for yourself.


You may not accept a person’s ideas or behaviors.

But you must accept that you cannot change a person’s values for them. Just as we must choose our own measurement by ourselves and for ourselves. They must do it by themselves and for themselves.

Friday, October 11, 2019

George Conway, other conservative lawyers say Trump's acts 'threaten our democracy'

William Cummings, USA TODAY
,USA TODAY•October 10, 2019

A group of 16 prominent conservative lawyers that includes George Conway, husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, issued a statement Thursday that said President Donald Trump's "factually undisputed" requests for foreign governments to investigate his political opponents pose a threat to American democracy.

"In the past several weeks, it has become clear to any observer of current events that the president is abusing the office of the presidency for personal political objectives," they said.

The statement was signed by the co-founders of Checks and Balances, which calls itself a group of "conservative and libertarian lawyers standing up for the rule of law."


How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

Richard Florida
This article was originally published on March 21, 2019, by CityLab

Do the poor pay more for housing?

That’s the question at the heart, and in the title, of a detailed paper published in the American Journal of Sociology on the actual housing costs paid by Americans in low-income urban neighborhoods. Its two authors, Princeton’s Matthew Desmond—who wrote the award-winning 2016 book Evicted—and MIT’s Nathan Wilmers, track the rent burdens and levels of exploitation faced by those living in concentrated poverty. They also uncover the staggeringly high profit margins made by the landlords who own properties in these areas.


Ultimately, they find consistent evidence that the poor, and especially the minority poor, experience the highest rates of housing exploitation. In their most basic formulations, they find that renters in high-poverty neighborhoods experience levels of exploitation that are more than double those of renters in neighborhoods with lower levels of poverty. Neighborhoods with a poverty rate of less than 15 percent have an exploitation rate of 10 percent—meaning that rents cover 10 percent of the actual cost of that housing. (In other words, the actual cost of that rental housing can be paid off in 10 years.) But in high-poverty neighborhoods, those where 50 to 60 percent of residents live in poverty, the exploitation rate is 25 percent, meaning that 25 percent of the value of the property is paid back in a single year of rent.

The housing-exploitation rate is also higher in majority-black neighborhoods (20 to 25 percent) compared to minority-black neighborhoods (10 to 15 percent). These results are backed up by the study’s more high-powered statistical models.


Nationally, landlords in poor neighborhoods derive a median profit of $298 monthly, compared with $225 in middle-class neighborhoods and $250 in affluent ones. In Milwaukee, the profit differential is even greater, with landlords in poor neighborhoods raking in $319 per month, more than double the profit ($174 per month) of landlords with properties in non-poor neighborhoods.

And the same basic pattern holds when expenses including maintenance and repairs are factored in. Across the nation, landlords with units in poor neighborhoods average nearly $100 a month in net profit, compared to about $50 in affluent neighborhoods, and just $3 in middle-class areas. In Milwaukee, landlords again do even better, taking home about $150 per month, compared to roughly $20 a month in non-poor neighborhoods.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

What Japan can teach us about cleanliness

By Steve John Powell & Angeles Marin Cabello
7 October 2019


Most first-time visitors to Japan are struck by how clean the country is. Then they notice the absence of litter bins. And street sweepers. So they’re left with the question: how does Japan stay so clean?

The easy answer is that residents themselves keep it that way. “For 12 years of school life, from elementary school to high school, cleaning time is part of students’ daily schedule,” said Maiko Awane, assistant director of Hiroshima Prefectural Government’s Tokyo office. “In our home life as well, parents teach us that it’s bad for us not to keep our things and our space clean.”

Including this element of social consciousness in the school curriculum helps the children develop an awareness of, and pride in, their surroundings. Who wants to dirty or deface a school that they have to clean up themselves?

“I sometimes didn't want to clean the school,” recalled freelance translator Chika Hayashi, “but I accepted it because it was part of our routine. I think having to clean the school is a very good thing because we learn that it’s important for us to take responsibility for cleaning the things and places that we use.”

On arriving at school, students leave their shoes in lockers and change into trainers. At home, too, people leave their street shoes at the entrance. Even workmen coming to your house will remove their shoes and pad around in their socks. And as the schoolchildren grow, their concept of what constitutes their space extends beyond the classroom to include their neighbourhood, their city and their country.


Despite fall, former President Carter helps build home

by TRAVIS LOLLER | Associated Press
Monday, October 7th 2019

With a bandage above his left eye and a large, red welt below it, former President Jimmy Carter was greeted by a cheering crowd Monday morning as he prepared to help build a home with Habitat for Humanity in Nashville.

Carter fell at home on Sunday, requiring 14 stiches, but he did not let his injuries keep him from participating in his 36th building project with the nonprofit Christian housing organization. He turned 95 last Tuesday, becoming the first U.S. president to reach that milestone.


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Category 5 Hagibis Heads Towards Japan

Dr. Jeff Masters · October 7, 2019, 11:59 AM EDT

Super Typhoon Hagibis put on one of the most phenomenal displays of rapid intensification in tropical cyclone history overnight, intensifying from a tropical storm with 60 mph winds to a Category 5 super typhoon with 160 mph winds in the 24 hours ending at 8 am EDT Monday. A 100 mph increase in maximum sustained winds in just 24 hours like Hagibis just saw is a very rare rate of rapid intensification. NOAA's Hurricane Research Division lists only one Northwest Pacific typhoon that did so: Super Typhoon Forrest of 1983.

In the Western Hemisphere, where we have the Hurricane Hunters to more accurately quantify rapid intensification, the record holders are Hurricane Patricia of 2015 (off the Pacific coast of Mexico), which intensified by 120 mph in 24 hours, and the Atlantic’s Hurricane Wilma of 2005 (off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula), which intensified by 110 mph in 24 hours. Since we are relying only on relatively imprecise satellite estimates of Hagibis’ intensity, it is possible that a hurricane hunter aircraft might have found an even greater rate of intensification.


tags: extreme weather, severe weather

Help Kids Calm Down With a ‘Brain Game’

Meghan Moravcik Walbert
9/30/19 3:00pm

The thing about toddlers is that they’re mind-numbingly irrational. It’s not their fault, of course. It’s going to be a solid two decades before those brains are fully developed and able to offer up true logical reasoning to the world, but still. It’s frustrating.

No parent enjoys the tantrum management that comes with raising little kids, but it can be particularly frustrating when a tantrum starts over a miscommunication. By the time you realize that when you said, “We’re not going to the playground until after lunch,” all they heard was, “We’re not going to the playground,” it’s too late. They’re red-faced and screaming, their brains are flooded with emotion and they can’t hear our words anymore.

Amanda, a former children’s mental health counselor and writer at Messy Motherhood, discovered a way to interrupt the emotion-flood: Have them play a quick “brain game.”


However, before you can make a request like “point out five things that are blue,” you may have to do something to get their attention. They are, after all, wrapped up in their own emotions. Turn the lights off and on, jump up and down or make a silly noise. Then, ask them to play a game.

Depending on their ability, ask if they can find three things that start with the letter “c.” Or send them in search of four square items or 3 things that are soft.

Keep it simple, Amanda says, but get them thinking.

Trump firm 'refusing to pay' legal bill for windfarm case

Severin Carrell Scotland editor
Tue 8 Oct 2019 07.41 EDT

Donald Trump’s family firm is refusing to accept a legal bill worth tens of thousands of pounds after he lost a lengthy court battle against a windfarm near his Aberdeenshire golf course, according to the Scottish government.

A Scottish court ruled in February this year the Trump Organization had to pay the Scottish government’s legal costs after his attempt to block an 11-turbine windfarm in Aberdeen Bay ended with defeat in the UK supreme court in 2015.

The Scottish government has said Trump’s firm has refused to accept the sum it had put forward or reach an agreement on costs, so the case is now in the hands of a court-appointed adjudicator.


Trump’s critics claimed the property mogul was complaining about the windfarm to deflect attention from his financial problems in Aberdeenshire, and the dire impact of the 2008 global recession on its prospects.

Last month the company admitted the 2008 recession and the collapse in oil prices in 2014 had been the reason the resort was never developed in line with Trump’s original plans. The Trump International Golf Club posted a £1m annual loss for 2018 last week, the seventh loss in a row. Trump and his family firm have now loaned the business £43m and it has yet to turn a profit.

Unpaid bills pile up in Trump rallies’ wake

No surprise, This is Trump's habitual way.

10/08/2019 06:21 PM EDT

Donald Trump has raised record amounts of money as a presidential candidate. But he’s still left a slew of unpaid bills in his wake.

In city after city, across the nation, Trump has failed to pay local officials who provide thousands of dollars’ worth of security assistance to the president’s campaign during his Make America Great Again rallies.

In total, at least 10 cities have complained that the campaign has not reimbursed them for services provided by local police and fire departments, totaling more than $840,000, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity in June.


It isn’t the first time Trump, a businessman with a global real estate empire, has faced accusations that he didn’t pay his bills. The complaints from local governments echo decades of accusations by private contractors who claim that Trump didn’t adequately compensate them for their work before he was sworn into office.

At least 60 lawsuits and more than 200 liens detailed allegations that Trump and his companies failed to pay various businesses and scores of employees for their work, according to an investigation by USA Today in 2016. Those who claimed they were stiffed by the future president included bartenders, painters, real estate brokers and others.


“It is the U.S. Secret Service, not the campaign, which coordinates with local law enforcement,” Michael Glassner, the campaign’s chief operating officer, wrote in a statement. “The campaign itself does not contract with local governments for police involvement. All billing inquiries should always go to the Secret Service.”

But a Secret Service spokesman said the Secret Service does not pay for law enforcement overtime associated with protective visits. “The Secret Service is not funded to pay police overtime and we don’t have a mechanism to do so,” the spokesman said.


Trump isn’t the only candidate to not pay the bills. In 2016, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders left bills for campaign events unpaid in dozens of cities, according to the Center for Public Integrity.