Sunday, January 31, 2021

Tropical Cyclone Ana: Fiji suffers second deadly storm in a month

Prime minister Frank Bainimarama, fiercely outspoken on the impacts climate change is having on on Pacific islands, said “forecasts put one more potential cyclone on TC Ana’s heels … that would be three storms striking Fiji in just over a month”.

“Today, my priority is on Fijians’ safety — but the rest of the world needs to wake up and reckon with why this is happening.”







Entrepreneurs are great, but it’s mom and dad who gave them their start

No surprise.

Gene Marks

Sun 31 Jan 2021 07.00 EST
Last modified on Sun 31 Jan 2021 07.02 EST

What do Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk really have in common? Sure, they’re all tech billionaires, super smart people, savvy innovators and successful entrepreneurs. But there’s another thing: they all had families who helped them at the very beginning.


Family money and background plays a critical role when it comes to starting up a business. In fact, it’s one of the primary sources of funding for startups, well ahead of other options like bank loans and venture capital. And the more money mom and dad have, the better. A new study confirms this.

“There is a strong connection between your parent’s income and your chances of becoming a startup entrepreneur, with those from a strong financial background having a higher chance of becoming entrepreneurs,” said Shira Greenberg, the chief economist Israel’s ministry of finance, in a recent report conducted by his agency and reported by the Jerusalem Post.

The study – which used demographic, academic and financial data from Israeli entrepreneurs between the ages of 25 and 35 and their families – found that the income of an entrepreneur’s parents was the most important factor towards the likelihood of starting up a business.


The Israeli study correlates to the 2013 findings of University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubenstein, who looked at the shared traits of entrepreneurs and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine told Quartz.

And even though having money is important, it’s not all that. It’s the family environment that has a big impact on the startup entrepreneur.


Being intelligent wasn’t a factor either. The Israeli study found that even those that scored lower on mathematic achievement tests but came from a family with higher income and wealth had more of a chance becoming an entrepreneur.

Obviously, none of this necessarily translates into success. There’s a difference between starting a business and actually making it profitable and valuable. Bezos, Gates, Musk and all the other billionaires who got help from their parents took advantage of that help and then used their brains, work ethic – and a little luck – to build great companies. But none of this would have happened if they didn’t at least start somewhere.


The richest 20% of America are the real pandemic supersavers


Denitsa Tsekova·Reporter
Thu, January 28, 2021, 12:24 PM

During the worst year for economic recovery since 1946, Americans socked away money at a historically high pace.

But those savings largely stayed in the pockets of higher earners, while everyone else held close to nothing by the end of 2020.

U.S. households accumulated around $1.6 trillion in excess savings over the last 10 months, according to an analysis by Oxford Economics. But the top 20% of earners — and to a lesser extent the second 20% —account for all the current accumulated cash. Meanwhile, the bottom 60% have spent most of the savings they accumulated in the pandemic from direct payments and unemployment benefits.


The top quintile  [20%] of households has saved an average of $50,000 since the pandemic started, while for the second quintile averaged $9,000, the analysis found. For the rest of the population, their savings are currently at their pre-pandemic levels or, in some cases, lower.


GOP lawmakers want to negotiate now that they are not in the majority

Media headline : GOP lawmakers urge Biden to meet with them on virus relief

Ten Republican senators on Sunday proposed spending about one-third of what President Joe Biden is seeking in coronavirus aid and urged him to negotiate rather than try to ram through his $1.9 trillion package solely on Democratic votes.


Deese indicated the White House could be open to negotiating on further limiting who would receive stimulus checks. Portman suggested the checks should go to individuals who make no more than $50,000 per year and families capped at $100,000 per year.

Under the Biden plan, families with incomes up to $300,000 could receive some stimulus money.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

FEMA is deploying or supporting vaccination sites in 11 states

Jan. 30, 2021, 5:33 PM EST
By Laura Strickler and Dennis Romero

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying or supporting vaccination sites in at least 11 states after President Joe Biden ordered the government to get on a war footing in his mission to vaccinate 300 million Americans by summer's end.

The states are Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, according to a FEMA official. A site was also being set up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the official said.

Four of those states, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Washington, were home to nine federally supported vaccination sites running since Wednesday, the agency said in a statement. FEMA personnel were being deployed to multiple other states, the agency said.


Last week Biden ordered FEMA to begin setting up vaccination sites.


Empty seas: Oceanic shark populations dropped 71 percent since 1970

Jan. 28, 2021, 10:21 AM EST
By The Associated Press


Scientists have known for decades that individual shark species are declining, but a new study drawing on 57 global datasets underscores just how dramatically worldwide populations have collapsed in the past half century.

Globally, the abundance of oceanic sharks and rays dropped more than 70 percent between 1970 and 2018, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

And 24 of the 31 species of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, while three species — oceanic whitetip sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks and great hammerhead sharks — are considered critically endangered.

“The last 50 years have been pretty devastating for global shark populations,” said Nathan Pacoureau, a biologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada and a co-author of the study.


Sharks and rays are both fish with skeletons made of cartilage, not bone. In contrast to most other kinds of fish, they generally take several years to reach sexual maturity, and they produce fewer offspring.

“In terms of timing, they reproduce more like mammals – and that makes them especially vulnerable,” said Pacoureau. “Their populations cannot replenish as quickly as many other kinds of fish.”

The number of fishing vessels trolling the open ocean has risen steeply since the 1950s, as engine power expanded ships’ range. And while climate change and pollution also imperil shark survival, increased fishing pressure is the greatest threat for every oceanic shark species.

“When you remove top predators of the ocean, it impacts every part of the marine food web,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University, who was not involved in the study. “Sharks are like the lions, tigers and bears of the ocean world, and they help keep the rest of the ecosystem in balance.”

Recompose, the first human-composting funeral home in the U.S., is now open for business

I'd rather be buried in the woods.  Closer to nature, and should be much cheaper, but this is better than most alternatives.

By Brendan Kiley, The Seattle Times
Published: January 24, 2021, 6:00am

Somewhere in Kent, tucked anonymously into acres of warehouses and light-industrial workshops, the first full-service human-composting funeral home in the United States is operational.

After nearly a decade of planning, research and fundraising — not to mention a successful campaign to change state law — Recompose is finally converting people into soil.


The first bodies were “laid in” on Dec. 20, 2020, a landmark moment on a nearly 10-year journey for Recompose founder and CEO Katrina Spade. She first began mulling funerary alternatives during a minor mortality crisis of her own, as an architecture student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a partner and two young children.

Spade researched her options, which were limited to traditional burial (too toxic and expensive), cremation (too carbon-intensive) and rural green burial (too rare and inconvenient for most city dwellers). She started thinking about composting as a kind of soil-based cremation and, in 2013, finished her Master’s thesis: “Of Dirt and Decomposition: Proposing a Place for the Urban Dead.”


In 2020, two other NOR competitors emerged: Herland Forest, a natural-burial cemetery in Klickitat County with one vessel (which it calls a “cradle”) and Return Home, which plans to open its Auburn facility with dozens of vessels in April.

Recompose costs $5,500 for everything: the body pickup (in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties), the paperwork, the process itself and an optional service. (Body transport from further away can be arranged, for an extra fee, and Recompose has already accepted bodies from California and the East Coast.)


Friday, January 29, 2021

Russia has been cultivating Trump as an asset for 40 years, former KGB spy says

This is credible, because it is something that Russia is known to do, and it fits with Trump's actions.  It may be that Trump didn't know he has been manipulated.



Thomas Colson

Jan. 29, 2021

The KGB cultivated Donald Trump as an asset for 40 years, and he proved a highly valuable asset in repeating anti-Western Russian propaganda in the United States, a former KGB operative told The Guardian.

Yuri Shvets is a key source in "American Kompromat," a new book detailing the decades-long relationship between Trump and Russia by the journalist Craig Unger.


The book, which is based on interviews with former Russian and US operatives, details the KGB's attempts in the 1980s to cultivate dozens of unwitting businesspeople in the United States as useful Russian assets.


Unger added: "Trump was the perfect target in a lot of ways: his vanity, narcissism made him a natural target to recruit. He was cultivated over a 40-year period, right up through his election."


Marjorie Greene pushed an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in 2018 that a space laser ignited California's worst wildfire of all time


When I saw people posting about this on Facebook yesterday, I thought it must be satire.  How disturbing that such a person could be elected and be in Congress.  Worse than Trump, even, it seems


Azmi Haroun

Jan. 28, 2021


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene [republican] is in a renewed spotlight due to recently uncovered social media posts where she supports a galactic and anti-Semitic conspiracy that a Jewish-financed laser beam ignited wildfires in California.

And according to the left-leaning Media Matters for America, one of the anti-Semitic conspiracies she shared alleged that the record 2018 "Camp Fire" wildfire in California was orchestrated by California politicians and wealthy Jewish bankers via a space laser beam, in order to clear a path for a high-speed railway.


Scientists have confirmed that California's wildfire season is becoming longer and more brutal due to climate change.


The post follows a CNN report which exposed that, "Greene repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress."

After CNN's report, Greene deleted old Facebook posts, which included musings that 9/11, and the Parkland and Sandy Hook school shootings were hoaxes.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Target giving all hourly workers $500 bonus after 'a year unlike any other'


By Cameron Jenkins - 01/26/21 03:22 PM EST


Target announced on Monday that it will give all of its hourly workers a $500 bonus as a thank-you for their efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"To show our gratitude as we wrap a year unlike any other, Target is giving $500 bonuses to all hourly team members in stores, distribution centers and our headquarters and field-based offices," the retailer said in a press release.

Store directors and other salaried leaders at the company will also be getting bonuses ranging between $1,000 and $2,000, according to the release.


This will mark the fifth time the retail giant has recognized its employees with a monetary thank-you since the beginning of the pandemic.

The company also said that it has committed to moving to a $15 starting wage, according to the release.

In July 2020, Target began to increase employees' minimum wage from $13.


Slow posting

 Jan. 28, 2021

Making progress on getting certified to do Tax-Aide this year.  Passed the major test.  Congress should be required to do their own taxes.

In some countries, the government figures the taxes for most people, and they can sign off if they see all the info is right.  When that has been proposed here, it hasn't gone anywhere because the paid tax preparers fought it, because they don't want to lose business.

Jan. 22, 2021

If youJ see fewer posts from me for a couple weeks, it's because I am working on my Tax-Aide certification.

Sad that this year those of us in my area will be working remotely, because it is a high Covid area, so won't be able to do as much as usual, and probably not for some of the people that need us most, but of course, if we don't protect our health from Covid this year, we won't be able to serve people in the future.  If the Covid situation in our area improves, we might be able to modify this.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Climate crisis: world is at its hottest for at least 12,000 years – study


 Damian Carrington Environment editor
Wed 27 Jan 2021 11.00 EST

The planet is hotter now than it has been for at least 12,000 years, a period spanning the entire development of human civilisation, according to research.

Analysis of ocean surface temperatures shows human-driven climate change has put the world in “uncharted territory”, the scientists say. The planet may even be at its warmest for 125,000 years, although data on that far back is less certain.


“This means that the modern, human-caused global warming period is accelerating a long-term increase in global temperatures, making today completely uncharted territory. It changes the baseline and emphasises just how critical it is to take our situation seriously.”

The world may be hotter now than any time since about 125,000 years ago, which was the last warm period between ice ages. However, scientists cannot be certain as there is less data relating to that time.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Air pollution linked to higher risk of irreversible sight loss


Damian Carrington Enviroment editor
Tue 26 Jan 2021 01.00 EST

Small increases in air pollution are linked to an increased risk of irreversible sight loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a large UK study has found.

Previous work had already found a link between dirty air and glaucoma and a link to cataracts is suspected. The scientists said the eyes have a particularly high flow of blood, potentially making them very vulnerable to the damage caused by tiny particles that are breathed in and then flow around the body.

The study is the first to assess the connection between air pollution and both diagnoses of AMD that the patients said they had been given, and measurements of harmful changes in the retina. It found a small increase in exposure to tiny pollution particles raised the risk of AMD by 8%, while small changes in larger pollution particles and nitrogen dioxide were linked to a 12% higher risk of adverse retinal changes.


The biggest risk factors for AMD are genetics and poor physical health issues, such as smoking and obesity. But as lifestyles become healthier, the impact of air pollution will become more important, the researchers said, and, unlike genetics, levels dirty air can be reduced with the right policies.

Air pollution is being linked to an increasingly wide range of diseases, and the World Health Organization says 90% of the world population live with dirty air. A global review in 2019 concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ in the human body, as inhaled particles travel around the body and cause inflammation.

“There is an enormously high flow of blood [to the retina] and we think that as a consequence of that the distribution of pollutants is greater to the eye than to other places,” said Prof Paul Foster, at University College London, UK, and who was part of the study team. “Proportionately, air pollution is going to become a bigger risk factor as other risk factors are brought under control.”

“It’s important to keep things in context – people shouldn’t be looking outside their door and thinking: ‘I can’t go out because it is polluted out there’,” he said. “The study gives people information that they can use to alter their lifestyle choices. For example, it may be another reason why we might consider going for an electric car, instead of buying a diesel.”


The air pollution data used were levels of outdoor pollution but Foster said levels inside homes were likely to be important. “We suspect there’s a lot more that is relevant going on inside the house,” he said. “Anything that produces smoke is likely to be driving some of the risk.”


Monday, January 25, 2021

480,000 people killed by extreme weather in last 20 years, analysis shows


January 25, 2021 / 11:04 AM 


Almost half a million people have died in natural disasters linked to extreme weather events in the last 20 years, according to a new assessment of the direct threat posed to humanity by climate change. The mortality burden of climate-related catastrophes such as storms, flooding and heatwaves is overwhelmingly borne by developing countries.

At the start of the Climate Adaptation Summit, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the think tank Germanwatch calculated that these disasters have cost the global economy a staggering $2.56 trillion this century.

An analysis of more than 11,000 extreme weather events showed nearly 480,000 fatalities since 2000, with Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti the worst hit areas, it said.

Under the 2015 Paris climate deal, wealthier nations are supposed to provide $100 billion every year to help poorer states mitigate temperature rises and adapt to the changing climate.

But recent research suggests the true amount of funding available to developing countries for climate action is vastly lower.


She said countries such as Haiti, the Philippines and Pakistan were hit nearly constantly by extreme weather events, leading them no time to fully recover from one disaster before the next strikes.


tags: severe weather, extreme weather,

Thousands died at a nursing home chain. Its CEO got a $5 million bonus


By Kate Gibson
January 25, 2021 / 12:42 PM / MoneyWatch

As COVID-19 took a deadly toll among residents of Genesis Healthcare facilities, the financially troubled company gave CEO George Hager Jr. a $5.2 million "retention payment."

At the helm of the large U.S. nursing home chain during a pandemic that has killed more than 1,500 of its residents and threatens to push it into bankruptcy, Hager received the bonus in late October. He then resigned from the for-profit company, where he had served as chief executive for 17 years, less than three months later, earlier this month.


The toll at Genesis reportedly nearly doubled in the second half of 2020, with 14,352 confirmed cases among its residents and 2,812 deaths as of December 20, according to the Washington Post. An analysis of Medicare data by the news outlet found almost all of Genesis' nursing homes running short on personal protective equipment up until late November, after the company's board had signed off on Hager's bonus.


With Hager continuing as a consultant, board chairman Robert Fish has taken over as Genesis CEO.

Billionaire wealth soars as 255 million of world's jobs lost in pandemic

By Aimee Picchi
Updated on: January 25, 2021 / 4:09 PM / MoneyWatch


The pandemic has worsened income inequality, with the world's richest people regaining their losses from COVID-19 shutdowns in nine months while the number of people living in poverty has doubled to more than 500 million, according to a new report from the anti-poverty group Oxfam.

Almost 9% of total working hours were lost last year when compared with the levels of employment at the end of 2019, before the pandemic shuttered the economy, according to a separate report from the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency. That's the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs lost across the globe, or about four times greater than the impact from the Great Recession of 2009, the analysis found.

The world's poorest could take a decade to regain their financial footing from the devastation wrought by the pandemic, according to the Oxfam study, which says the novel coronavirus has accelerated an ongoing trend toward widening income inequality. Oxfam's report was released to coincide with the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda, set to take place online this year rather than its traditional gathering of global movers and shakers in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos.


President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package, although it hasn't yet been taken up by Congress.


Economists in 79 countries who were surveyed by Oxfam said they projected their countries would experience an "increase" to a "major increase" in income inequality due to the pandemic. The economists who were surveyed included Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Jayati Ghosh of the at University of Massachusetts Amherst and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley.


"Women and marginalized racial and ethnic groups are bearing the brunt of this crisis. They are more likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry, and more likely to be excluded from healthcare," Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, said in the statement.


Global ice loss accelerating at record rate, study finds


Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Mon 25 Jan 2021 04.00 EST 


The melting of ice across the planet is accelerating at a record rate, with the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets speeding up the fastest, research has found.

The rate of loss is now in line with the worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on the climate, according to a paper published on Monday in the journal The Cryosphere.

Thomas Slater, lead author and research fellow at the centre for polar observation and modelling at the University of Leeds, warned that the consequences would be felt around the world. “Sea level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century,” he said.

About 28tn tonnes of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, which the authors of the paper calculate would be enough to put an ice sheet 100 metres thick across the UK. About two thirds of the ice loss was caused by the warming of the atmosphere, with about a third caused by the warming of the seas.

Over the period studied, the rate of ice loss accelerated by 57%, the paper found, from 0.8tn tonnes a year in the 1990s to 1.2tn tonnes a year by 2017. About half of all the ice lost was from land, which contributes directly to global sea level rises. The ice loss over the study period, from 1994 to 2017, is estimated to have raised sea levels by 35 millimetres.


Glaciers showed the next biggest loss of ice volume, with more than 6tn tonnes lost between 1994 and 2017, about a quarter of global ice loss over the period. The shrinking of glaciers threatens to cause both flooding and water shortages in some regions, because as large volumes melt they can overwhelm downstream areas, then shrunken glaciers produce less of the steady water flow needed for agriculture.


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Despite COVID-19, Amazon requests in-person unionizing vote for 'valid, fair and successful election'


Josh Rivera

Jan. 24, 2021

Amazon is asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to direct warehouse workers to cast unionizing votes in-person, rather than by mail.

The company filed a motion last Thursday to delay the union election at an Alabama facility.

The union election was set to begin on Feb. 8 by mail. The motion by Amazon intends to have the NLRB reconsider its decision on the method of voting and instead go for a one-day in-person event.


Been on Campaign’s Payroll

Bill Allison 

Jan 22, 2021

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign paid more than $2.7 million over two years to individuals and firms that organized the Jan. 6 rally that led to rioters storming the U.S. Capitol, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The payments, which span Trump’s re-election campaign, show an ongoing financial relationship between the rally’s organizers and Trump’s political operation. They were all made through Nov. 23, the most recent date covered by Federal Election Commission filings, which is before the rally was publicly announced.

Eight paid Trump campaign officials were named on the permit issued on by the National Park Service for the rally, including Maggie Mulvaney, the niece of Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former chief of staff who resigned his position as special envoy to Northern Ireland after the riot. Maggie Mulvaney was paid $138,000 by the campaign through Nov. 23.


How to find Covid vaccination sites

CVS has a way to let you look for Covid vaccination sites by state.

For Georgia, it gives a Georgia Dept. of Public Health site, which has info for various sites