Sunday, May 31, 2020

In Some Cities, Police Officers Joined Protesters Marching Against Brutality

Good to see the media covering the good in people, not just the bad, not working to sow division among us.

Lisette Voytko Forbes Staff
May 31, 2020,10:42am EDT

As protests sparked by George Floyd’s death entered their chaotic fifth day, social media filled with images and video of police officers using batons, tear gas and rubber bullets to quell crowds⁠—but some squads joined in with Saturday protesters to express their stance against police brutality, and to show solidarity with the anti-racism movement.


Making a difference

May 31, 2020

I sent my local NPR station a msg the other complaining about their obvious deliberate suppression of any mention of the fact that there are Caucasian poor people, and that their working at division among the non-rich was a reason I don't donate to them. I noticed today that when they were talking about who is at risk, they finally did include "low-income people", not just talking about people of color.

This was my msg, sent on May 18:

I am on a limited budget, but would make a small donation if your station, and NPR in general, were not in the service of the power elite who give you big donations. Eg., you almost never admit there are Caucasian poor people. On the extremely rare occasions you do, it is during or right before a pledge drive. This is also about the only time you have programs that your rich donors would not care for, like inequality and the way the working class (of all races) have been losing ground financially. Listening to you, no one would know how the republicans blocked almost all of President Obama's attempts at fiscal stimulus, much less the reason, which there is no secret about, that they did it to try to make Obama look bad and get a republican as president. I could go on, but I know it will not have any effect. You are giving your big donors what they need, which is to help divide ordinary people into tribes that don't work together for their mutual benefit.

Your Covid-19 info is helpful, but does not make up for your overall effect, and I expect gives an excuse for not covering other things.


Most of the time it is just a matter of omission, but there have been several times when it was more obvious. Eg., twice in March, on a 1A program, they mentioned low-income whites, then said, something like that was not something they could discuss. Wish I had noted the dates & times to get the actual recording.

I discovered the difference between their coverage at pledge time some years ago, when I kept a log for at least a year and a half of their news coverage, to see if my observation of their non-coverage at that time of global warming was accurate. Because confirmation bias is normal. I found that not only was I right about that issue, I saw the difference in the coverage of other issues during or immediately before their pledge drives, which I hadn't noticed.

They did start covering global warming after the big oil companies, some of which are their donors, finally admitted that global warming is happening and is caused by humans. Before that, it was a complete blackout. I remember a program they had about hurricanes. They were interviewing someone who was supposed to be an expert on hurricanes. When he was talking about what causes them, there was no mention of warm water! He didn't sound happy in the interview, but I don't know if that was normal for him or not. I know NPR edits interviews, so maybe he mentioned the important role of warm water on hurricane formation and it was edited out?

Even after they started allowing global warming to be mentioned, it was only occasional for awhile. It still seems to me that they often/usually don't mention it when it seems appropriate, sometimes when even commercial media does.

A great person. Unlike the parasites who are buying up mobile home parks and continually raising the rents because they know people of stuck there.

Jason Auslander
March 7, 2018

When Harriett Noyes’ mother and father started the Phillips Trailer Park 50 years ago, the concept of affordable housing did not exist.

“I just don’t know if (my mother) ever thought of it that way,” Harriett said recently from her cozy kitchen as an early March snowstorm raged outside. “This was a cash cow to them.”

But when her mother’s health began failing in the late 1980s — her father died in 1985 — and Harriett returned to help run the family business between Woody Creek and Old Snowmass after decades in Utah, the concept was immediately obvious to her.


after 30 years, when Harriett’s health and age began telling her it was time to slow down, she said she never considered a retirement solution that didn’t include a future for her renters, most of whom work in Aspen.

“I’m 87 years old,” she said. “It’s getting too much for me to take care of. It’s not an easy job.”

The family could have chosen to sell the property on the open market, though that would have certainly spelled the end of the trailer park. Hyrum, who is 60, said a developer once offered him $35 million for the 76-acre property with the express demand that he get rid of the renters.

“If I had sold on the open market,” Harriett said, “a lot of people would be homeless.”

So instead of grabbing the big payoff, Harriett and Hyrum and the rest of their family recently sold the trailer park to Pitkin County for $6.5 million. The sale includes 35 mobile homes, four cabins, an old ranch house, three-quarters of a mile of river frontage on both sides of the Roaring Fork River and three irrigated pastures.

Hyrum, who helps run the park, and Harriett have raised the rent just twice in 25 years, Hyrum said. Current rent is $350 a month for those with their own trailers and $450 a month to rent a trailer owned by Hyrum and Harriett.

“I had a feeling for the underdog,” Harriett said. “And I had a feeling for the everyday workers of Aspen because Aspen didn’t take care of them.

“My heart went out to them.”


First cases of COVID-19 in New York City primarily from European and US sources

News Release 29-May-2020
American Association for the Advancement of Science

In New York City, the first confirmed COVID-19 cases arose mostly through untracked transmission of the virus from Europe and other parts of the United States, a new molecular epidemiology study of 84 patients reports.


The results indicate SARS-CoV-2 was introduced to New York City through multiple independent but isolated introductions mainly from Europe and other parts of the United States. Most of these cases appear associated with untracked transmission and potential travel-related exposures, the authors say. Very few of the cases were infected with a virus that looked to be introduced from Asia, and in those, the virus was most closely related to viral isolates from Seattle, Washington. The authors also found evidence that early spread of the virus in New York City was sustained by community transmission. Their data also point to the limited efficacy of travel restrictions in a place once multiple introductions of the virus and community-driven transmission have already occurred. The results also underscore the need for early and continued broad testing to identify untracked transmission clusters in communities.

Former top Justice Department official warns Trump may 'not cede power'

Suzanne SmalleyReporter
,Yahoo News•May 29, 2020

A former top Justice Department official told Yahoo News she is deeply worried that President Trump could “delegitimize a lawful election” this November “and not cede power.”

Vanita Gupta ran the civil rights division at the Department of Justice from 2014 to 2017 and is now part of an informal, bipartisan group that has spent the past year preparing for Trump to potentially contest the results of the election. She argued the president’s attacks on vote-by-mail programs signal that he intends to say the election was unfair and should not be considered legitimate if he loses.


The coronavirus pandemic makes the possibility of Trump disputing the election results all the more likely, Gupta said, and the media and other observers should resist the urge to call the election quickly. As Yahoo News has reported, the expansion of vote-by-mail in the coming months — an effort driven largely by the coronavirus outbreak, which may make in-person voting risky — could mean that results are delayed by a week or more due to the time it takes to count those ballots.

“In a country where the media wants to be the first to call the election, there's breaking news alerts at every moment, we may need to educate ourselves and the media and resist the urge to be the first out of the gate to call the winner because we aren’t going to be able to call the winner on election night,” Gupta said. “It’s going to take days ... so we’ve got to be setting the tone and the culture right now to anticipate that in order to have every ballot counted.”


Gupta was quick to add that her worst fears may not materialize, but she warned that it is critical for voters, election observers and members of the media to be ready. She said litigation is now under way to “preemptively take charge of this and to set the rules around how voting by mail systems are set up.”


Microsoft 'to replace journalists with robots'

30 May 2020

The curating of stories from news organisations and selection of headlines and pictures for the MSN site is currently done by journalists.

Artificial intelligence will perform these news production tasks, sources told the Seattle Times.

Microsoft said it was part of an evaluation of its business.

The US tech giant said in a statement: "Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, redeployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic."

Microsoft, like some other tech companies, pays news organisations to use their content on its website.

But it employs journalists to decide which stories to display and how they are presented.

Around 50 contract news producers will lose their jobs at the end of June, the Seattle Times reports, but a team of full-time journalists will remain.


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Lying by omission

May 30, 2020 3:27 am

A three person CNN crew were arrested at the protests -correspondent Omar Jimenez; Jimenez's producer, Bill Kirkos; and the cameraperson, Leonel Mendez. In the video CNN took, the first person speaking is presumably Jimenez. In to the video, Jimenez refers to "the four of us", so one person was not arrested. I notice that they don't try to record recognizable speech from the police. Their own statements are clear. Jimenez keeps saying things like "Tell us where to go", but the police reply is not recorded well enough to hear what the police are actually saying. Many reports note that Jimenez is a black Hispanic. Little note is taken of the other two men. I found that Bill Kirkos is apparently Caucasian, but various news media, including CNN have articles proclaiming that Jimenez, a person of color, was arrested. but another CNN reporter, in a location, who is Caucasian, was not. They don't mention that one of the people arrested with Jimenez is Caucasian.
It is the the shame of the news media that they work to promote division.
It our shame that we are so eager to let them.

U.S. high court rejects church challenges to state pandemic rules

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Andy Sullivan and Jan Wolfe
,Reuters•May 29, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected challenges on Friday to curbs on religious services in California and Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the California dispute, the nine justices split 5-4 in rejecting a bid by South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista to block the rules issued by Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberal justices in the majority.

Newsom ordered houses of worship closed to the public in March, but issued new guidelines this week limiting attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 people, whichever was lower.


There were no noted dissents as the court rejected a similar request by two churches in Illinois, seeking exemption from Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker's ban on services of more than 10 people, arguing that it infringed on the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.

In a brief statement, the court said the state Department of Public Health had removed those limits on Thursday.


People are accidentally throwing out their stimulus payments — because they look like junk mail

Ben Popken
,NBC News•May 28, 2020

Some Americans may be unwittingly throwing their long-awaited stimulus payments in the trash. That's because, starting last week, the Treasury Department and the IRS started sending out economic impact payments in regular white envelopes that could be confused for junk mail.

While some people have already received their payments as direct deposits or paper checks in the mail, almost 4 million people — including those for whom the agency does not have bank accounts on file — will be getting their stimulus payments in the form of prepaid debit cards. The only problem is that the debit cards come in envelopes that say "Money Network Cardholder Services" and do not bear any federal markings.

That has prompted some recipients to complain that they look too similar to unwanted credit card offers, leading some to accidentally throw the cards — which could contain as much as $3,400 for a family of four — in the trash.


Navy SEAL who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid says 'Batman and Superman are not coming' in a speech advising college graduates to become their own heroes

Worth reading the whole article

David Choi
,Business Insider•May 29, 2020

Retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven, the former head of US Special Operations Command and the commander who oversaw the military raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, told college graduates that they, not super heroes, must be the ones to "save the world" in an online commencement speech on Friday afternoon.


"After all these years, I came to realize that the heroes that we need are not the heroes that I've been searching for," McRaven said. "But as I grew up and traveled the world, and as I saw more of my fair share of war and destruction, I came to the hard truth that Captain America isn't coming to the rescue. There is no Superman, no Batman, no Wonder Woman, no Black Widow ... no Gandalf, no Harry Potter."

Despite the challenges facing the US and the world, McRaven said the graduates still had hope.

"If we are going to save the world from pandemics, war, climate change, poverty, racism, extremism, intolerance, then you, the brilliant minds of MIT, you are going to have to save the world," McRaven added.

McRaven offered up several qualities that the students ought to have in life to "save the world" — qualities that transcended their academic accomplishments.

"Physical courage has long been the hallmark of a warrior. But I would offer that the moral courage to stand up for what's right has an equal place in the pantheon of heroes," McRaven said.


McRaven also highlighted integrity and "always trying to do what is moral, legal, and ethical."

"It will not be easy," McRaven said. "And I dare say you will fail occasionally. You will fail because you are human. You will fail because life often forces you into an unseeingly untenable position. You will fail because good and evil are always in conflict.

"And when you fail to uphold your integrity, it should make you sick to your stomach. It should give you sleepless nights. You should be so tortured that you promise yourself never to do it again."


"I want you to promise me one thing," McRaven said. "Promise me that you will be the last class, the last class to miss a commencement because of a pandemic. The last class to miss a commencement because of war. The last class to miss a commencement because of climate change, unrest, tyranny, extremism, active shooters, intolerance, and apathy."

McRaven added: "Batman and Superman are not coming to save the world. It will be up to you."


Trump Vetoes Congressional Override Of DeVos Rule

Wesley Whistle Senior Contributor Education
writes about education, including policy, student debt, and more.
May 29, 2020,05:23pm EDT

Waiting until almost the very last minute on a Friday, President Trump issued his first veto of domestic policy legislation. This veto was of House Joint Resolution 76, sponsored by Representative Susie Lee (D-NV), a bill that would’ve prevented Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing her new rule determining how defrauded student borrowers could get loan forgiveness.

The “borrower defense to repayment” rule provides the Secretary of Education the authority to discharge student debt if student borrowers were defrauded by their college. In 2016, the Obama Administration issued a new regulation for the borrower defense rule after the floodgates opened with students claiming fraud from the now-defunct Corinthian College.

Secretary DeVos thought the Obama-era rule was too generous and recently rewrote this rule making it very hard for borrowers to receive loan forgiveness. Her new rule created a really high standard, placing a nearly impossible burden of proof on student borrowers.


Trump’s veto will likely angry many veterans across the country, just days after Memorial Day. In March, more than 30 military and veteran organizations – including the American Legion and Veterans Education Success — signed a letter urging President Trump to support the legislation. Just before Trump vetoed the measure, the American Legion tweeted a statement calling for the president to sign the legislation.

Many veterans have been the target of predatory colleges seeking to profit off of military and veteran education benefits. Veterans Education Success even ran an ad on Fox News targeting the president in hopes that it could sway him to support the legislation.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Climate concerns as Siberia experiences record-breaking heat

May 29, 2020, 6:11 AM EDT / Updated May 29, 2020, 12:46 PM EDT
By Luke Denne and Olivia Sumrie

One of the coldest regions on Earth has been experiencing a record-breaking heat wave in recent weeks amid growing fears about devastating wildfires and melting permafrost.

Khatanga, a town in Siberia’s Arctic Circle, registered highs of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit this week, according to Accuweather, far above the 59 degrees F historical average, as the whole of western Siberia basked in unseasonable warmth.

While locals flocked to popular spots to sunbathe, experts sounded alarms about the possible implications for the region’s wildfire season this summer, with some blazes already breaking out in recent months.


From January to April, Russia was 11 degrees F warmer than average, according to the climate science nonprofit Berkeley Earth.

“That's not only a new record anomaly for Russia. That's the largest January to April anomaly ever seen in any country's national average,” Robert Rohde, Berkeley Earth lead scientist tweeted.

The pace of global warming in Russia is over twice as fast as the global average, Russia's deputy U.N. envoy said last year. But the situation in the Arctic is even more stark with the region warming at over three times the global average.


Much of the Arctic region is covered by permafrost — carbon rich soil that should remain frozen throughout the year — and rapid warming is causing it to melt, said Thomas Smith, an assistant professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics.

Permafrost, he said, stores vast amounts of carbon, which means that when it melts, planet-warming greenhouse gasses are emitted.

“That can further drive climate change and global warming,” he said.

“The second problem is that if the land is thawed out, and if it dries out with these high temperatures, then that soil is actually available to burn as a fuel for a fire,” he added.

These fires that emit greenhouse gases can smolder for weeks or months, “even when it has rained,” Smith said.


Trump announces end of US relationship with World Health Organization

By Jason Hoffman and Maegan Vazquez, CNN
Updated 7:17 PM ET, Fri May 29, 2020

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization, a move he has threatened throughout the coronavirus pandemic and one that earned quick criticism from both sides of the aisle.


The President had previously announced a temporary halt of funding to the WHO and sent a letter to the agency earlier in May saying that the US would permanently pull funding if the WHO did not "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days."
In that letter, Trump included a false description of when information about the virus was published in The Lancet, prompting the prestigious medical journal to publicly dispute his claims.
Trump's decision to permanently terminate the US relationship with the WHO follows a years-long pattern of skepticism of world organizations, with the President claiming in nearly every circumstance that the US was being taken advantage of.
The President has questioned US funding to the United Nations and the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization, withdrawn from the Paris climate accords and repeatedly criticized the World Trade Organization.


But health experts, US lawmakers and world leaders have expressed concern over defunding the organization amid a pandemic.
Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, assailed Trump's announcement Friday as "senseless" with "significant, harmful repercussions."

"COVID-19 affects us all and does not respect borders; defeating it requires the entire world working together," Harris said in a statement. "In the strongest terms possible, the American Medical Association urges the President to reverse course and not abandon our country's leadership position in the global fight against COVID-19."

Trump's announcement also received pushback within the Republican party. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said, "I disagree with the president's decision."

"Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it," Alexander said in a statement.

His comments were echoed by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat who has often shown a willingness to work with Trump and Republicans.

"The United States cannot eliminate this virus on our own and to withdraw from the World Health Organization -- the world's leading public health body -- is nothing short of reckless," Manchin said in a statement. "Throughout our nation's history, the United States has always risen to lead the world through crisis and I believe we must continue to do that now.
"I strongly urge the President to reconsider this decision and I urge all my Congressional colleagues to speak out. It's time for us to stand tall," he continued.

In April, more than 1,000 organizations and individuals including charities, medical experts and health care companies from around the world signed a letter urging the Trump administration to reverse course and maintain funding.
And when Trump issued his letter in May, European leaders -- including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen -- delivered messages of support for the WHO while speaking at the World Health Assembly.

"This pandemic has highlighted our vulnerability and made it clear that we need one another," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. "That's why more than ever we must be united."

Wearing face masks at home might help ward off COVID-19 spread among family members

News Release 28-May-2020

Wearing face masks at home might help ward off the spread of COVID-19 infection among family members living in the same household, but only before symptoms develop, suggests a study of Chinese families in Beijing, accepted for publication in BMJ Global Health.

This practice was 79% effective at curbing transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected, but it wasn't protective once symptoms had developed, the study shows.


Daily use of disinfectants, window opening, and keeping at least 1 metre apart were associated with a lower risk of passing on the virus, even in more crowded households.

But daily contact and the number of family members wearing a face mask after the start of symptoms in the first person to develop them were associated with a heightened risk.

Of all the behavioural and hygiene factors, four were significantly associated with secondary transmission of the virus.

Diarrhoea in the first person to become infected and close daily contact with them increased the risk of passing on the virus: diarrhoea was associated with a quadrupling in risk, while close daily contact, such as eating meals round a table or watching TV together, was associated with an 18-fold increased risk.

Frequent use of bleach or disinfectants for household cleaning and the wearing of a face mask at home before symptoms emerged, including by the first person to have them, were associated with a reduced risk of viral transmission.

A face mask worn before symptoms started was 79% effective, and disinfection 77% effective, at stopping the virus from being passed on.

The authors acknowledge some limitations to their study: telephone interviews are subject to recall and the strength of household disinfectants and bleach used wasn't recorded.


Increased activity not always the best advice for neck and back pain

News Release 28-May-2020
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The study primarily includes industrial workers and employees in jobs with a lot of physical activity, such as nurses, cleaners and people in service professions who are required to stand a lot.

Moving more and sitting less has been the ongoing mantra, but this study comes to some different conclusions.

"Regular physical activity is still an important key to good health and disease prevention. Our message is that people who have physical work may benefit from taking rest breaks during the work day," says Cecilie K. Øverås. She is a PhD candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Public Health and at the University of Southern Denmark's Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics.

"This could reduce the risk of neck and back pain, which is one of the leading causes of disability and impaired quality of life," she says.


The type of physical activity is key. A lot activities are good for the back, but others can put a strain on it.

"We're seeing that physical activity at work doesn't necessarily reduce the risk of neck and back pain - on the contrary. On the other hand, physical activity in people's leisure time seems to have a positive effect," says Øverås.

This discrepancy can be explained by the type of physical activity people do at work and in their leisure time.

"In jobs with a lot of physical activity, the pattern of movement is often repetitive and the intensity low - like repeated lifting, or standing and walking for long, continuous periods. Leisure activity often has greater variety, it's fun-filled, and you have control over the duration and intensity," she says.

"In order to safeguard our health, it's important to find the right balance between physical activity at work and in our free time," says Øverås, who is the lead author of the article.


New study: Stroke patients are significantly delaying treatment amid COVID-19

News Release 28-May-2020
Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery

New research published today in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery (JNIS) shows ischemic stroke patients are arriving to hospitals and treatment centers an average of 160 minutes later during the COVID-19 pandemic, as compared with a similar timeframe in 2019. These delays, say stroke surgeons from the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS), are impacting both survival and recovery.


Autism severity can change substantially during early childhood

News Release 28-May-2020
University of California - Davis Health

During early childhood, girls with autism tend to show greater reduction and less rise in their autism symptom severity than boys with autism, a UC Davis MIND Institute study has found.


"We found that nearly 30% of young children have less severe autism symptoms at age 6 than they did at age 3. In some cases, children lost their autism diagnoses entirely," said David Amaral, a distinguished professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, faculty member at the UC Davis MIND Institute and senior author on the study.

"It is also true that some children appear to get worse," Amaral said. "Unfortunately, it is not currently possible to predict who will do well and who will develop more severe autism symptoms and need different interventions."


One possible explanation for this difference is the girls' ability to camouflage or hide their symptoms, according to Waizbard-Bartov. Camouflaging the characteristics of autism includes masking one's symptoms in social situations. This coping strategy is a social compensatory behavior more prevalent in females diagnosed with ASD compared to males with ASD across different age ranges, including adulthood.

"The fact that more of the girls appear to have decreased in autism severity may be due to an increasing number of girls compared to boys who, with age, have learned how to mask their symptoms," Waizbard-Bartov said. "We will explore this possibility in future studies."


The study also found that IQ had a significant relationship with change in symptom severity. Children with higher IQs were more likely to show a reduction in ASD symptoms.

"IQ is considered to be the strongest predictor of symptom severity for children with autism," Waizbard-Bartov said. "As IQ scores increased from age 3 to age 6, symptom severity levels decreased."

The researchers could not identify a relationship between early severity levels and future symptom change. Surprisingly, the group of children with increased symptom severity at age 6 showed significantly lower severity levels at age 3, and their severity scores were less variable than the other groups.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Police chiefs condemn knee-on-neck killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis cop

Dylan StablefordSenior Writer
,Yahoo News•May 28, 2020

Police chiefs around the country publicly condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officer who was seen in a video kneeling on the neck of a prone black man who struggled and gasped for breath for nearly eight minutes. The man, George Floyd, 46, who was unarmed and surrounded by police as he lay on the ground, died in custody on Monday.

The footage triggered near-universal outrage, including among law enforcement officials. Four Minneapolis officers were fired the next day, as local and federal authorities launched an investigation. Minneapolis was rocked by protests that turned violent.


William Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said he “can’t see any legal justification, any self-defense justification or any moral justification” for Chauvin’s actions.


Floyd, who worked as a security guard at a nightclub, was handcuffed and on the ground. Police had been called to the scene by a store owner who believed a customer was trying to pass a counterfeit bill.

“I haven’t heard anybody justify this,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told the Wall Street Journal, adding that he couldn’t recall such unanimous condemnation of an officer’s actions by fellow police officers.


Protests in Minneapolis turned deadly overnight, with a fatal shooting and stabbing, widespread looting and fires in the city. Police deployed tear gas in an attempt to control the rioting, and National Guard troops were called in.


Pennsylvania Dems accuse GOP lawmakers of hiding colleague's COVID diagnosis

By Ivan Pereira
May 28, 2020, 2:06 PM

Democratic state leaders in Pennsylvania are accusing GOP counterparts of endangering everyone at the statehouse after a representative, who'd attended meetings, announced he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Rep. Andrew Lewis, who represents Dauphin County, revealed on Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19 on May 20 after he experienced flu-like symptoms two days earlier.


The Pennsylvania state Democrats said they and some Republicans were not informed about Lewis's diagnosis until recently, and they're accusing the house GOP of covering up his condition.

"If he truly cared about the well-being of those he may have exposed, he should have been transparent from day one," Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman Brendan Welch said in a statement.


Republicans’ latest proposed tax cut for the rich could permanently hobble future presidents

By  Catherine Rampell
May 25, 2020 at 6:36 p.m. EDT

At this point it’s almost a pathology. Whatever the crisis, whatever the state of the economy, Republicans crave another tax cut for the rich.

The latest proposal is for a temporary “holiday” on capital gains taxes, as White House adviser Kevin Hassett pitched Sunday on CNN and President Trump had earlier proposed via tweet. A one-time, temporary capital gains tax holiday would do little to stimulate the economy, even according to the GOP’s usual line that tax cuts goose growth. The move could, on the other hand, permanently hobble the ability of future presidents to fund the government.

A “capital gain” refers to how much the value of an asset (such as a stock) has increased over time. Taxes on capital gains are triggered only when the asset is sold. So if you bought a few shares of Apple stock when it IPO’d in 1980, your shares would be worth a fortune today — but you don’t owe Uncle Sam a penny until you cash out.

And perhaps not even then.


The great majority of this taxable investment income accrues to the very richest Americans. Last year, for instance, the top 1 percent of households received three-quarters of all long-term capital gains. So that’s the population who’d primarily benefit when the White House suggests further capital gains tax cuts.

In fact, the government has already created other ways to help wealthy people avoid paying these taxes.


Even before the pandemic, the White House was proposing additional capital gains tax off-ramps. Now Hassett suggests this new iteration: For some temporary, to-be-determined length of time, rich people could sell their assets, realize whatever gains they’ve accumulated over the decades, and never pay taxes on the income.

Why is the GOP so fixated on capital gains tax cuts?

One possible explanation is self-interest: Some important Republican constituents live off their wealth rather than the sweat of their brows. The GOP is hardly the only party pushing tax breaks that benefit high-income constituents: The Democratic House’s latest coronavirus-relief bill, while weighted overall toward lower-income Americans, nonetheless included a tax break that almost exclusively helps high-income, blue-state residents.


a one-time, temporary capital gains holiday would only reward past investment decisions. It would not actually increase incentives to make new investments. Sure, the lucky guy who bought Apple stock in 1980 can now cash out tax-free. But the policy would do little to change future investment decisions and increase capital accumulation.


It would, however, make budgeting more difficult for whoever’s in the White House when the holiday ends.

That’s because anyone with any unrealized gains today would use the holiday to sell and book those gains now, tax-free, thereby denying the government the ability to ever collect revenue on them. You can’t unring the bell. Absent some sort of (possibly unconstitutional) wealth tax, the holiday would deprive the treasury of taxes on the past 50 years or so of accumulated, unrealized capital gains.

This would permanently increase deficits, which in the long run would drag economic growth, according to University of Pennsylvania economist and Penn Wharton Budget Model director Kent Smetters.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Strong convictions can blind us to information that challenges them

News Release 27-May-2020
University College London

When people are highly confident in a decision, they take in information that confirms their decision, but fail to process information which contradicts it, finds a UCL brain imaging study.

The study, published in Nature Communications, helps to explain the neural processes that contribute to the confirmation bias entrenched in most people's thought processes.


"While psychologists have long known about this bias, the underlying mechanisms were not yet understood.

"Our study found that our brains become blind to contrary evidence when we are highly confident, which might explain why we don't change our minds in light of new information."


In a previous, related study, the research team had found that people who hold radical political views - at either end of the political spectrum - aren't as good as moderates at knowing when they're wrong, even about something unrelated to politics.


Doxycycline ineffective at shrinking aortic aneurysms in two-year study

News Release 27-May-2020
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Patients with a vascular condition called abdominal aortic aneurysm did not benefit from taking the common antibiotic doxycycline for two years to shrink the aneurysm when compared to those who took a placebo, according to a Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a swelling or ballooning that occurs in the major blood vessel (aorta) that supplies blood from the heart to the lower half of the body. It affects about 3 percent of older Americans, most commonly men and smokers.


Training bystanders to intervene will help to prevent domestic violence and abuse, study shows

News Release 27-May-2020
University of Exeter

Empowering people to intervene when they witness unacceptable behaviour can help to prevent domestic violence and abuse, a new study has found.

Specific training for bystanders makes them "significantly" more confident to take action when they see or hear wrongdoing related to domestic abuse in their community, according to the research.

A total of 81 per cent of participants reported being more likely to intervene when they saw wrongdoing after the training, this increased to 89 per cent four months later.


Study shows domestic violence reports on the rise as COVID-19 keeps people at home

News Release 27-May-2020 University of California - Los Angeles A UCLA-led research team has found an increase in the incidence of domestic violence reports in two cities, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, since stay-at-home restrictions were implemented in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scholars, who are leaders in applying mathematics to interpret and make sense of police crime data, predict that the incidence should gradually decrease as people return to normal routines, but would likely increase again if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections that prompts new stay-at-home orders.


Republicans cast doubt on future of House bills passed by proxy

Reuters•May 27, 2020

Republicans warned on Wednesday that legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives during the coronavirus pandemic may not become law if lawmakers are allowed to cast votes remotely under a new voting system.

A day after filing a federal lawsuit to overturn rules allowing proxy voting, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said any bills approved under the new system may be unconstitutional and could be ignored by the Republican-led U.S. Senate.

The Democratic majority, which approved proxy voting on May 15 in a party-line vote, says the change will allow the House to function while observing social distancing guidelines.House members began casting proxy votes late Wednesday afternoon on a measure seeking sanctions on Chinese officials over a crackdown on minority Muslim Uighurs.


The suit is also part of a Republican strategy to reinforce President Donald Trump's push to fully reopen the U.S. economy, while accusing Democrats of trying to gain political advantage.

Top campaign advisor says Biden would sanction China over Hong Kong

Michael Martina May 27, 2020 / 9:04 PM

Joe Biden would sanction China if president for its plan to impose new national security rules on Hong Kong, his campaign said on Wednesday, and accused President Donald Trump of having “enabled” Beijing’s curbs on freedoms in the former British colony.


He said the former vice president would rally American allies to pressure China, leverage he said Trump had “forfeited,” and criticized the Republican president for praising leader Xi Jinping in the face of pro-democracy protests that shook the territory last year.

A Biden administration would “fully enforce” the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, “including sanctions on officials, financial institutions, companies and individuals,” Blinken said in a statement.


US revokes Hong Kong special status as furor grows on China law

Shaun Tandon with Jerome Taylor and Su Xinqi in Hong Kong ,AFP•May 27, 2020

The United States on Wednesday revoked Hong Kong's special status under US law, opening the way to strip trading privileges for the financial hub as Washington accused China of trampling on the territory's autonomy.

Hours before China's rubber-stamp parliament was set to take a key vote on a new Hong Kong security law that has sparked protests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress that Hong Kong "does not continue to warrant treatment" under US laws that it has enjoyed even after its handover to China in 1997.

Under a law passed last year to support Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, the US administration must certify that the territory still enjoys freedoms promised by Beijing when negotiating with Britain to take back the colony.

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," Pompeo said in a statement.

President Donald Trump will ultimately decide which actions to take, said David Stilwell, the top State Department official for East Asia.


Protests also broke out in Hong Kong on Wednesday over another controversial proposed law that criminalizes insults to the national anthem with up to three years in jail.

Under the "one country, two systems" model agreed before the city's return from Britain to China, Hong Kong is supposed to be guaranteed certain liberties until 2047 that are denied to those on the mainland.
Any body who really thought China would abide by this is out of touch in reality.

Beijing has been infuriated by Hong Kongers -- especially football fans -- booing the national anthem to signal dissatisfaction with China.

The anthem bill will likely be approved next week after further debate following its second reading on Wednesday.


Judge who told woman to ‘close your legs’ to prevent assault is removed from bench

Gino Spocchia ,The Independent•May 27, 2020

A New Jersey judge who said closing your legs could prevent sexual assault has been barred from presiding over a courtroom and dismissed from the State Supreme Court bench. The unanimous decision on Tuesday cited “repeated and serious acts of misconduct” by state superior court judge John Russo Jr. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote that it would be “inconceivable” for Mr Russo to preside over domestic violence or sexual assault matters after making those comments.


The report by the three-judge panel noted four instances of misconduct — including a matrimonial matter for which he did not recuse himself even though he knew someone involved.

The panel added that he had “lacked candour, fabricated after-the-fact explanations for events, and displayed a lack of integrity that is unworthy of judicial office”.

Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared.

Rob Toews May 25, 2020,11:54pm EDT


Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do. A combination of the phrases “deep learning” and “fake”, deepfakes first emerged on the Internet in late 2017, powered by an innovative new deep learning method known as generative adversarial networks (GANs). Several deepfake videos have gone viral recently, giving millions around the world their first taste of this new technology:


The amount of deepfake content online is growing at a rapid rate. At the beginning of 2019 there were 7,964 deepfake videos online, according to a report from startup Deeptrace; just nine months later, that figure had jumped to 14,678. It has no doubt continued to balloon since then. While impressive, today's deepfake technology is still not quite to parity with authentic video footage—by looking closely, it is typically possible to tell that a video is a deepfake. But the technology is improving at a breathtaking pace. Experts predict that deepfakes will be indistinguishable from real images before long.


A handful of websites dedicated specifically to deepfake pornography have emerged, collectively garnering hundreds of millions of views over the past two years. Deepfake pornography is almost always non-consensual, involving the artificial synthesis of explicit videos that feature famous celebrities or personal contacts.

From these dark corners of the web, the use of deepfakes has begun to spread to the political sphere, where the potential for mayhem is even greater.


Even more insidiously, the mere possibility that a video could be a deepfake can stir confusion and facilitate political deception regardless of whether deepfake technology has actually been used. The most dramatic example of this comes from Gabon, a small country in central Africa.


“People are already using the fact that deepfakes exist to discredit genuine video evidence,” said USC professor Hao Li. “Even though there’s footage of you doing or saying something, you can say it was a deepfake and it's very hard to prove otherwise.”


To give one example, in 2018 researchers at the University of Albany published analysis showing that blinking irregularities were often a telltale sign that a video was fake. It was a helpful breakthrough in the fight against deepfakes—until, within months, new deepfake videos began to emerge that corrected for this blinking imperfection.

“We are outgunned,” said Farid. “The number of people working on the video-synthesis side, as opposed to the detector side, is 100 to 1.”


Kudlow: $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits won't 'survive the next round of talks'

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that he doesn't think that the $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits will be extended in subsequent coronavirus relief legislation, suggesting that a future package would instead include alternatives to encourage people to go back to work.


Democrats are largely supportive of the increased benefits, with House Democrats passing a bill earlier this month that would extend the $600 weekly boost through January 2021. But Republicans argue that the increase is creating a disincentive for people to go back to work, since some people are receiving more in unemployment benefits than they were in wages before they lost their jobs.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), have floated the idea of a "back to work bonus," in which people who reenter the workforce could keep some portion of their unemployment benefits for some amount of time. 

Kudlow said that this idea is something that the White House is "looking at very carefully."


Women surgeons are punished more than men for the exact same mistakes, study finds

November 28, 2017

Using data on physicians' referrals to surgical specialists, I find that referring physicians view patient outcomes differently depending on the performing surgeon's gender. Physicians become more pessimistic about a female surgeon's ability than a male's after a patient death, indicated by a sharper drop in referrals to the female surgeon. However, physicians become more optimistic about a male surgeon's ability after a good patient outcome, indicated by a larger increase in the number of referrals the male surgeon receives. Physicians also change their behavior toward other female surgeons after a bad experience with one female surgeon, becoming less likely to refer to new women in the same specialty. There are no such spillovers to other men after a bad experience with one male surgeon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trump Team Killed Rule Designed To Protect Health Workers From Pandemic Like COVID-19

And now the republicans are trying to pass legislation protecting employers from being sued in connection to Covid-19.

May 26, 20201:38 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
Brian Mann

When President Trump took office in 2017, his team stopped work on new federal regulations that would have forced the health care industry to prepare for an airborne infectious disease pandemic such as COVID-19. That decision is documented in federal records reviewed by NPR.

"If that rule had gone into effect, then every hospital, every nursing home would essentially have to have a plan where they made sure they had enough respirators and they were prepared for this sort of pandemic," said David Michaels, who was head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration until January 2017.

There are still no specific federal regulations protecting health care workers from deadly airborne pathogens such as influenza, tuberculosis or the coronavirus. This fact hit home during the last respiratory pandemic, the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. Thousands of Americans died and dozens of health care workers got sick. At least four nurses died.

Studies conducted after the H1N1 crisis found voluntary federal safety guidelines designed to limit the spread of airborne pathogens in medical facilities often weren't being followed. There were also shortages of personal protective equipment.

"H1N1 made it very clear OSHA did not have adequate standards for airborne transmission and contact transmission, and so we began writing a standard to do that," Michaels said.


But making a new infectious disease regulation, affecting much of the American health care system, is time-consuming and contentious. It requires lengthy consultation with scientists, doctors and other state and federal regulatory agencies as well as the nursing home and hospital industries that would be forced to implement the standard.

Federal records reviewed by NPR show OSHA went step by step through that process for six years, and by early 2016 the new infectious disease rule was ready. The Obama White House formally added it to a list of regulations scheduled to be implemented in 2017.

Then came the presidential election.

In the spring of 2017, the Trump team formally stripped OSHA's airborne infectious disease rule from the regulatory agenda. NPR could find no indication the new administration had specific policy concerns about the infectious disease rules.

Instead, the decision appeared to be part of a wider effort to cut regulations and bureaucratic oversight.

"Earlier this year we set a target of adding zero new regulatory costs onto the American economy," Trump said in December 2017. "As a result, the never-ending growth of red tape in America has come to a sudden, screeching and beautiful halt."


The federal government reports that at least 43,000 front-line health care workers have gotten sick, many infected, while caring for COVID-19 patients in facilities where personal protective equipment was being rationed.


Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-May that would do so, but the Republican-controlled Senate has blocked the measure, and the White House still opposes the rules.


The hospital industry also opposes the new safety rules. Nancy Foster with the American Hospital Association said voluntary guidelines for airborne pandemics are adequate.

"You're right; they're not regulations, but they are the guidance that we want to follow," Foster said. "They set forth the expectation for infection control, so in a sense they're just like regulations."

But the infectious disease standard would have required the health care industry to do far more. It sets out specific standards for planning and training. It would also have forced facilities to stockpile personal protective equipment to handle "surges" of sick patients such as the ones seen with COVID-19.

NPR also found the lack of fixed regulations allowed the Trump administration to relax worker safety guidelines. Federal agencies did so repeatedly this spring as COVID-19 spread and shortages of personal protective equipment worsened.

As a consequence, hospitals could say they were meeting federal guidelines while requiring doctors and nurses to reuse masks and protective gowns after exposure to sick patients.

Study: Children may not always grow out of being picky eaters

News Release 26-May-2020
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

If your preschooler often pushes their dinner plate away or wages battles against taking another bite of a vegetable they don't like, they may not grow out of it anytime soon.

By age four, children could be established picky eaters, a new study suggests. And the more parents try to control and restrict children's diets, the more finicky they may become, according to findings published in Pediatrics.


But there's a silver lining for worried parents - while fussy eaters have a lower body mass index, most are still in the healthy range and not underweight, researchers found. They may also be less likely to be overweight or experience obesity than peers.

"We still want parents to encourage varied diets at young ages, but our study suggests that they can take a less controlling approach," Pesch says. That being said "we need more research to better understand how children's limited food choices impact healthy weight gain and growth long term."


US judge rules Florida felons can vote without paying legal fees

Of course, it is common for repressive governments to put their opponents in prison.

Associated Press
Sun 24 May 2020 23.29 EDT
Last modified on Sun 24 May 2020 23.31 EDT

A law in Florida requiring felons to pay legal fees as part of their sentences before regaining the vote is unconstitutional for those unable to pay, or unable to find out how much they owe, a federal judge has ruled.

The 125-page ruling, issued by US district court Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee on Sunday, involves a state law to implement a 2016 ballot measure approved by voters to automatically restore the right to vote for many felons who have completed their sentence.

The Republican-led legislature stipulated that fines and legal fees must be paid as part of the sentence, in addition to serving any prison time.

Hinkle has acknowledged he is unlikely to have the last word in the case, expecting the administration of Republican governor Ron DeSantis to launch an appeal.


The judge called the Florida rules a “pay-to-vote system” that were unconstitutional when applied to felons who were otherwise eligible to vote but genuinely unable to pay the required amount.

A further complication was how to set the exact amount in fines and other kinds of legal fees owed by felons seeking the vote. Hinkle said it was unconstitutional to bar any voter whose amount owed “could not be determined with diligence”.

Hinkle ordered the state to require election officials to allow felons to request an advisory opinion on how much they owe, essentially placing the burden on election officials to seek that information from court systems. If there was no response within three weeks, then the applicant should not be barred from registering to vote, the ruling said.

Hinkle said the requirement to pay fines and restitution as ordered in a sentence is constitutional for those who are able to pay if the amount can be determined.

So can the state not allow people to vote if they owe taxes?


The 2018 ballot measure, known as amendment four, does not apply to convicted murderers and rapists.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Meatpacking plant employee dies from coronavirus a week before retirement

By: Cox Media Group
Updated: May 23, 2020 - 5:47 PM

An Iowa meatpacking plant employee died from the coronavirus a week before he would have retired from the job.

Jose Andrade-Garcia, who worked at a JBS meatpacking facility in Marshalltown, tested positive for the coronavirus and died on a ventilator, KCCI reported.

"I was mad," his daughter, Maria Andrade, told KCCI. "I was. I had a lot of anger toward (JBS)."

The company started screening its employees, distanced workers and offered personal protective equipment after nearly 300 workers at its Colorado facility tested positive, KCCI reported.

JBS told KCCI that it will continue to support Andrade-Garcia’s family and that he was a “committed team member and a friend to many.”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

As Workers Get Sick & Die from COVID-19, McConnell Demands Corporate Immunity in New Stimulus Bill

May 04, 2020


As meatpackers around the U.S. face increasingly dire conditions, overwhelmingly immigrant and people of color, Republican lawmakers are ramping up their defense of corporate interests in the companies where workers are falling ill.


Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is demanding Congress use the next stimulus bill to protect corporations from liability from workers who get sick with the coronavirus. This is McConnell speaking on Fox News.

MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL: We have brave healthcare workers battling this virus, entrepreneurs who will reopen their economy, all of whom deserve, in my view, strong protections from the opportunistic lawsuits that are being planned all over America, all over America. The lawyers, trial lawyers, are sharpening their pencils to come after healthcare providers and businesses, arguing that somehow the decision they made with regard to reopening adversely affected the health of someone else.

AMY GOODMAN: Democrats have said they’ll oppose McConnell’s push for widespread corporate immunity.


ROBERT WEISSMAN: Mitch McConnell is talking about trying to have total immunity for big corporations for really anything that’s remotely connected to the coronavirus crisis. He’s reconvening the Senate today, he says, for the purpose of granting immunity to big corporations, and he says won’t let the next to stimulus-slash-relief bill go through unless it includes provisions to protect big corporations from lawsuits.

This is not just about, although it’s especially about, protecting employers from lawsuits for endangering their workers; it’s also about lawsuits protecting companies from endangering their workers. It probably means protecting corporations from lawsuits over environment pollution, maybe even violations of the civil rights law, fair wage law and even more. This is a long-term agenda of the Chamber of Commerce and big business. Mitch McConnell sees an opportunity with the coronavirus to capitalize. And he’s trying to get broad immunity for corporations for all the kinds of wrongdoing they might commit during the period of the crisis.


in fact, for workers, workers don’t have much recourse anyway for dangers at the workplace. If you’re injured or become ill at the workplace, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation. It’s just a straight insurance system. So you get paid for your time off, some portion, and compensation for your healthcare and any injury you may suffer. But you can’t sue companies in court, normally. The only time you can sue a company in court for an injury or exposure to an illness is when they engage in egregious misconduct, reckless endangerment of the workers. So, when McConnell says he wants to protect the companies from lawsuits, he mostly means he wants to protect their right to engage in egregious misconduct.

There’s one case that’s going on right now in Missouri that’s slightly different, involving meatpacking workers. There, the workers are not suing for money damages. They’re suing for injunctive relief to force the Smithfield meatpacking plant to adopt the sensible, minimal standards needed to protect workers who are going to be required to go to work, to give them the protective equipment they need, to make sure there’s adequate sanitation, extended breaks, that they get adequate sick leave, that there’s testing and, crucially, that there’s sufficient distancing at the production line. That’s the lawsuit that is the primary one that companies and Mitch McConnell are focusing on. It doesn’t even ask for any money. It only asks Smithfield to protect its workers.


The World’s 25 Richest Billionaires Have Gained Nearly $255 Billion In Just Two Months

See the article at the link below for details.

May 23, 2020,07:00am EDT

The super rich are a whole lot richer than they were two months ago. Twenty five of the wealthiest people on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires are worth a whopping $255 billion more than when the U.S. stock market hit a mid-pandemic low on March 23.

Together these 25 folks–Forbes looked at just those on the list with fortunes tied to public stocks–are worth nearly $1.5 trillion, which is about 16% of the total wealth held by the world's billionaires.


Not a single top 25 fortune has fallen since March 23.


Hand sanitizer left in hot vehicles can explode, experts warn

In a couple of novels I read lately, there was a scene where alcohol splashed on a person in the presence of fire which caused the alcohol to catch fire.

May 22, 2020 / 11:26 AM

There's a hidden risk with keeping hand sanitizer in your car to help protect against COVID-19 and other illnesses, especially during the hot summer months. Flammable liquids and direct sunlight can make it explode, CBS Dallas warns.

"It's flammable and it's an irritant," retired Dallas firefighter Sherrie Wilson told the station. "When it's venting and if it's venting in a small space like a car, and vapor is released, it can explode."


Wilson said pump bottles pose a greater risk because vapors can leak into a hot car and create a combustible environment.

"What happens with flammables is they turn to vapor, and they vaporize into a confined space … a car. And then if there was any introduction of static electricity, (which) could simply be somebody getting in and pulling down on a sweater or jacket or anything like that," an explosion could result, Wilson explained.

There are also concerns that leaving hand sanitizer in a hot car could make it less effective.

"If the alcohol evaporates, the hand sanitizer is less efficient. It is the alcohol that kills the germs," said Dr. Mihaela C. Stefan, of The University of Texas at Dallas Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.


Bots account for nearly half of Twitter accounts spreading coronavirus misinformation, researchers say

by Jason Silverstein
May 21, 2020 / 12:57 PM / CBS News

About half of the Twitter accounts pushing misinformation about COVID-19 and calling for "reopening America" may be bots, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said Wednesday. The tweets appear to be aiming to sow division and increase polarization during the pandemic.

"Conspiracy theories increase polarization in groups. It's what many misinformation campaigns aim to do," Kahtleen Carley, a computer science professor, said in a statement about the ongoing research. "People have real concerns about health and the economy, and people are preying on that to create divides."


Since January, the researchers have collected more than 200 million tweets discussing COVID-19 and coronavirus. They found that 82% of the top 50 influential retweets are bots, and 62% of the top 1,000 retweeters are bots, too.

Bots have been spreading more than 100 types of inaccurate COVID-19 stories, such as information about unproven "cures." But they have largely dominated the discussions about "reopening America" and ending stay-at-home orders — issues that have led to real-life protests in states nationwide. Some of the tweets about reopening also spread baseless conspiracy theories


The researchers said 66% of accounts discussing "reopening America" are possibly humans with bot assistants, and about 34% are definitely bots.


Bots account for nearly half of Twitter accounts spreading coronavirus misinformation, researchers say

By Jason Silverstein

May 21, 2020 / 12:57 PM / CBS News

About half of the Twitter accounts pushing misinformation about COVID-19 and calling for "reopening America" may be bots, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said Wednesday. The tweets appear to be aiming to sow division and increase polarization during the pandemic.

"Conspiracy theories increase polarization in groups. It's what many misinformation campaigns aim to do," Kahtleen Carley, a computer science professor, said in a statement about the ongoing research. "People have real concerns about health and the economy, and people are preying on that to create divides."

She warned that the misinformation "will have a variety of real-world consequences, and play out in things like voting behavior and hostility towards ethnic groups."
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Since January, the researchers have collected more than 200 million tweets discussing COVID-19 and coronavirus. They found that 82% of the top 50 influential retweets are bots, and 62% of the top 1,000 retweeters are bots, too.

Bots have been spreading more than 100 types of inaccurate COVID-19 stories, such as information about unproven "cures." But they have largely dominated the discussions about "reopening America" and ending stay-at-home orders — issues that have led to real-life protests in states nationwide. Some of the tweets about reopening also spread baseless conspiracy theories, such as hospitals being filled with mannequins, or a supposed link between coronavirus and 5G towers.

The researchers said 66% of accounts discussing "reopening America" are possibly humans with bot assistants, and about 34% are definitely bots.

Bots can usually be detected in accounts that were recently created and appear to be tweeting copy-and-pasted messages, or putting out a series of tweets that are timed to promote a certain topic.

In addition, "Tweeting more frequently than is humanly possible or appearing to be in one country and then another a few hours later is indicative of a bot," Carley said.

The researchers have also started looking into posts on Facebook, YouTube and Reddit.

Carley said the misinformation campaigns look like "a propaganda machine" and match "the Russian and Chinese playbooks," but the research have not yet determined who is behind the bots. China and Russia have already been detected in spreading misinformation about the pandemic.


Carley said the misinformation campaigns look like "a propaganda machine" and match "the Russian and Chinese playbooks," but the research have not yet determined who is behind the bots. China and Russia have already been detected in spreading misinformation about the pandemic.


Air Force removes height restrictions for pilots

By Audrey McNamara
May 23, 2020 / 5:21 PM / CBS News

The U.S. Air Force announced this week that it is changing its height restrictions for pilots. Applicants below 64 inches (5'4") or above 77 inches (6'5") can now enter a cockpit without a waiver.

Under the Air Force's previous requirements, an Air Force pilot applicant — barring waivers — needed to have a standing height between 5'4" to 6'5" and a sitting height of 34-40 inches. That requirement eliminated about 44% of the U.S. female population between the ages of 20 and 29, according to the Air Force.


In place of the blanket height requirement, the Air Force will now use an "anthropometric screening process" to asses individual applicants "for placement in an aircraft they can safely fly."

Anthropometry is a science that "defines physical measures of a person's size, form, and functional capacities," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to measuring height, an anthropometric assessment also takes into account weight, body mass index, body circumferences (waist, hip, and limbs), and skinfold thickness.


Trump admin won't require nursing homes to count COVID-19 deaths that occurred before May 6

May 22, 2020, 5:43 PM EDT
By Laura Strickler

The Trump administration is not requiring nursing homes to provide data on COVID-19 deaths and cases that occurred prior to May 6, according to a public government document, limiting the accuracy of the federal data collection effort to measure the impact of the pandemic on older Americans.

The government encourages nursing homes to provide the data from before May 6, but does not mandate it. The limitations of the data collection effort were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

"I think that is outrageous," said Charlene Harrington, nursing professor emerita from the University of California San Francisco, who said the administration was aiding the nursing home industry by "helping them cover up the death rates."

"Not only do the high death rates look bad for the nursing home industry," she said, "but also for the administration."


Saturday, May 23, 2020

America's Renewable Energy Sources Have Produced More Electricity Than Coal Every Day for 40 Days Straight

By Jason Murdock On 5/5/20 at 6:39 AM EDT

Renewable sources including solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal-based plants every single day in April, a new report says.


The move away from coal for electricity generation in the U.S. accelerated in 2020 due to lower gas prices, warmer weather and a "significant amount" of new renewable capacity being connected to the grid late last year, the report suggested.

It acknowledged that lower power demands resulting from economic slowdown sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in coal's decline.

Preliminary data from the EIA's Hourly Electric Grid Monitor found that utility-scale solar, wind and hydro had collectively produced more electricity than coal-based plants for roughly 40 days straight, based on statistics between March 25 and May 3.


Are you arguing with a bot? Here's how to know.

By Jack Morse
Feb 20, 2018


Despite what basically any quick scan of Twitter or Facebook might suggest, however, the surest way to beat the bots isn't to argue with them. Rather, it's to see them for what they are — manufactured fictions designed to manipulate both you and the larger conversation in order to further unknown (and sometimes known) agendas.


These days bots are an inescapable part of online life. Just last year researchers estimated that Twitter alone was home to around 30 million of them. There are automated spam accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and pretty much everywhere else.

Some appear designed to intentionally rile us up or to support specific political candidates, while others have purposes less clear. While the goals of their creators may vary, there are telltale signs that many bots share. If you can identify these, you can better armor yourself against their onslaught.


The automated accounts that you need help uncovering are the ones that are actively trying to trick you. Accounts like the now-suspended @jenna_abrams, which many — including certain media outlets — thought to be the account of a real person named Jenna Abrams. Spoiler: It wasn't.

Thankfully, there are a few easy steps you can take to help you determine the authenticity of an account. Notably, none of these are foolproof, but a critical and discerning eye is something we're all going to need to develop and hone if we are to survive as a functioning society.


you don't need to knock a bot offline to beat it. Realizing it's an automated account out to deceive you takes away its power to do so. Feel free to mute or block the account after you've reported it and return to going about your daily online business.


EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey

By Rachel Frazin - 05/20/20 03:59 PM EDT

More than 250 employees have had concerns that a manager or senior leader at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) possibly interfered with science, according to an internal watchdog report.


It stated that common reasons for not reporting possible violations of the scientific integrity policy included fear of retaliation, belief that reporting wouldn’t make a difference and perceived suppression or interference by leadership or management.


EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey
© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

More than 250 employees have had concerns that a manager or senior leader at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) possibly interfered with science, according to an internal watchdog report.

The report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that almost 400 respondents in a 2018 survey who were "involved in science" said they had experienced but did not report potential violations of the EPA’s scientific integrity policy.

Of those, 251 reported that their concern involved “interference with science by a manager or senior Agency leader” and 175 reported that their concern involved “suppression or delay of release of scientific report or information.”

It stated that common reasons for not reporting possible violations of the scientific integrity policy included fear of retaliation, belief that reporting wouldn’t make a difference and perceived suppression or interference by leadership or management.

The employee survey also found that 51 percent of respondents with a basis to make judgements said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “senior leadership makes the basis for any policy decision accessible and transparent.”

The report said that common themes from comments provided by employees included “dissatisfaction with support for or understanding of” scientific integrity by senior leadership, belief that political appointees “do not value or adequately consider science in policy, rulemaking, or enforcement decisions” and the belief that leadership is “greatly influenced by political, industry, state, or regulated groups.”

Commenters also expressed concern or disagreement with how the agency handles climate science information and said they experienced or observed “suppression, changes, manipulation, or exclusion of scientific information, results, or research,” according to the report.


Last year, former Interior Department employees told lawmakers that they faced retaliation for the science work, and in the past, lawmakers have called for investigations into an employee’s claim that he was reassigned based on his work on climate change.

Dire Situation In Alabama Capital: ICUs Full, Coronavirus Cases Double In May

Nicholas Reimann
May 20, 2020,

The mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, says the city’s health care system has been “maxed out” as cases of coronavirus have more than doubled in May—a sharp contrast to the slowing coronavirus spread that’s taken place across much of the U.S.—while city businesses were allowed to reopen May 11, even as it appeared that Alabama hadn’t hit White House reopening guidelines.


Major hospitals in the Montgomery area have run out of ICU beds, Mayor Steven Reed said at a news conference Wednesday, while others only one or two beds left.

Patients in need of care are now instead being sent 90 miles away to Birmingham, Alabama, the mayor said, a step the city hasn’t had to take until now.


With cases quickly rising, the city was placed on an unreleased White House hotspot watch list on May 7, according to NBC News, which obtained a copy of the report.

But despite the rapid spread, businesses in the city were allowed to reopen starting May 11, after Governor Kay Ivey officially moved Alabama into Phase 1 of its reopening.

As of now, Montgomery is not expected to run out of ventilators, a city health official said at Wednesday’s news conference.


It Hit 80 Degrees in the Arctic This Week

Brian Kahn
May 22, 2020

This story will provide important context for the headline, and I encourage you to read it—but really, the headline tells you what you need to know: It was 80 degrees Fahrenheit above the Arctic Circle this week.

A little farther south, in Siberia—you know, the region of world we reference when we want to connote something cold—it was 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Arctic sea ice in the neighboring Kara Sea took the deepest May nose dive ever recorded. Oh, and random swaths of the region are on fire. Things are extremely wrong.

Let’s start with the heat above Arctic Circle. Mika Rantanen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, flagged a map showing blistering heat across western Siberia. The region has been the epicenter of an explosive heat wave that has rippled across the Arctic this week. Models forecast temperatures there will be as much as 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year. The heat could break a bit by the middle of next week, but widespread warmth will continue to grip the region.


On land, it means wildfires continue to spread. Pierre Markuse, a satellite monitoring expert, has kept an eye on the series of increasingly odd fires above the Arctic Circle, a place known more for ice than fire. Most of the blazes he’s documented are in the eastern portion of Siberia, which also dealt with its fair share of heat all year in addition to low snowpack. Seeing fires burn next to braided rivers and large patches of unmelted snow is truly a mood for our current era of climate destabilization.


These impacts are the latest in a litany of climate horrors for the Arctic as a whole. Last summer, it reached nearly 95 degrees Fahrenheit above the Arctic Circle in Sweden. The same summer, the mercury hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit at the northernmost settlement on the planet. Greenland also melted and burned. That’s just some of what happened last year. I could list the same for 2018. And 2017. And you get the point.