newspaper logo
Last updated: Friday, June 23, 2017, 9:21 AM
Aggregated news of what corporate media minimizes for profit.
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S.exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451, $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

More and more people in the US are able to identify a friend, relative or neighbor who has succumbed to opioid addiction as it increasingly damages the nation.

It’s a frightening reality, but there are options available for people hoping to gain control of their condition and live a life that isn’t dictated by these potent drugs.

What are the routes to recovery from addiction? The Guardian explored that question and more as part of a series of pieces this week looking at survivors of addiction and how to tackle it.

Can opioid addiction be cured?

There is no cure for addiction, but the disease can be managed just like other chronic medical conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.

That’s one of the reasons people who are no longer addicted to drugs or alcohol might describe themselves as being “in recovery”. Recovery means different things to different people but generally describes someone who is able to live life without it being disrupted by addiction.

Ivana Grahovac, one of three people in recovery from opioid addiction profiled by the Guardian, said she knew she was in recovery when she woke up and “started to have thoughts of hope, excitement, of joy, ambition and to help others”.

Amanda Holpuch | The Guardian
Former US vice-president says green revolution is bigger than industrial revolution and happening at faster pace than digital revolution
Damian Carrington | The Guardian
World-first climate and health framework from 30 health and medical groups calls for recognition of citizens’ ‘right to health’

To save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars, Australia should rapidly phase out coal power stations and establish strong emissions reduction targets, according to a coalition of 30 major health and medical groups.

A world-first National Climate and Health Strategy framework launched after 12 months of consultation and development by the Public Health Association of Australia, the Royal Australian College of General Practice and the Australian College of Nursing, today launched their framework, which they say is needed to avert a health emergency which threatens to undermine 50 years of gains in development and health.

Many of the policy recommendations made by the coalition are “win-win”, which both reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as reducing the social and economic costs of sickness.

Michael Slezak | The Guardian
Move to block EU ban comes despite environment secretary Michael Gove saying, ‘I don’t want to water down’ EU protections

Conservative politicians are trying to stop a complete EU ban on bee-harming pesticides, despite the new environment secretary Michael Gove’s statement earlier this week, in which he said “I absolutely don’t want to water down” EU environmental protections.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides but have been banned on flowering crops in the EU since 2013. However, the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) found in 2016 that use of the pesticides on all crops poses a high risk to bees. As a result, the European commission has proposed a ban on all uses outside greenhouses, first revealed by the Guardian in March.

Damian Carrington | The Guardian
Top global banks still lend billions to extract fossil fuels [who holds the debt when the music stops?]
Analysis of world’s lenders reveals many claim green credentials while still financing fuels like tar sands, oil and coal

Some of the world’s top banks are continuing to lend tens of billions for extracting the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels, according to a report of top lenders.

Finance provided for these fossil fuels – tar sands and other unconventional oil and gas, as well as coal and liquefied natural gas – amounted to $87bn for the top 37 banks in 2016. That represented a slump of more than a fifth compared with the $111bn raised the previous year, and was also down on 2014’s total of $92bn.

However, the analysis, carried out by a group of NGOs including the Rainforest Action Network and Sierra Club, showed that multinational banks around the globe, including many household names, were trumpeting their green credentials while continuing to pour money into the dirtiest fuels.

The report, entitled Banking on Climate Change 2017, scored the institutions from A to F on their practices, including the banks’ policies, the nature of the investments, the size and type of transactions, and the impact on climate change.

Fiona Harvey | The Guardian
In the wake of Trump’s Paris withdrawal, California is taking the lead to fight emissions – and it’s rethinking how to get more out of its cap-and-trade program

California has one of the world’s most sophisticated and ambitious cap-and-trade programs, which are designed to provide financial incentives to big polluters, such as electricity providers and oil refineries, to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

The complex program, which began only in 2013, is a signature component of California’s plan to cut emissions in the midst of a controversial makeover by state policymakers, after they passed a landmark bill last year that created one of the world’s most aggressive climate change goals: to lower carbon emissions to 40% below the 1990 levels by 2030.

Katie Fehrenbacher | The Guardian
  • Oil giants among numerous firms to support conservative group’s plan
  • But Greenpeace says: ‘A PR exercise is no cure for decades of deception’

Oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total are among a group of large corporations supporting a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions in order to address climate change.

The companies have revealed their support for the Climate Leadership Council, a group of senior Republican figures that in February proposed a $40 fee on each ton of CO2 emitted as part of a “free-market, limited government” response to climate change.

The fossil fuel companies announced their backing for the plan alongside other major firms including Unilever, PepsiCo, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson.

In a full-page newspaper ad on Tuesday, the companies called for a “consensus climate solution that bridges partisan divides, strengthens our economy and protects our shared environment”. Exxon and the others were listed as founding members of the plan, alongside the green groups Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy.

“Climate change is already impacting our communities, our economy and our environment and those impacts will continue to grow and become worse if we don’t act now,” said Mark Tercek, chief executive of the Nature Conservancy. “We can’t afford to wait to have these conversations.”

However, other green groups dismissed the plan as a stunt designed to insulate fossil fuel companies that have sought to undermine or dismiss the science of global warming.

“ExxonMobil will try to dress this up as climate activism, but its key agenda is protecting executives from legal accountability for climate pollution and fraud,” said Naomi Ages, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “A nicely worded public relations exercise is no cure for decades of deception.”

Oliver Milman | The Guardian
Rising temperatures and southerly winds expected to bring toxic air to large parts of England and Wales on Wednesday

Experts warn that anyone with lung or heart problems should avoid or reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors. Older people or those with asthma should take particular care. They say the worst air quality in the capital is likely to coincide with temperatures of 34ºC (93ºF) in late afternoon.

Matthew Taylor | The Guardian
Researchers took a detailed look at the risks as sea level rises. Their conclusion? Get ready now.

....In a new study published Wednesday, researchers from Princeton and Rutgers universities warn that the current flooding predictions, including those widely used by policy makers, don't accurately reflect the frequency and types of floods that are likely to challenge American cities in the coming decades as global temperatures and sea levels rise.

Their research found that major coastal flooding—expected to occur only once every 100 years—will inundate coastal cities an average of 40 times more often by 2050, likely overwhelming the cities' abilities to protect themselves.

After 2050, the picture looks worse. Major flooding could slosh through the streets of New York City every other month by the end of the century, while major floods could sweep into Seattle nearly every week.

GEORGINA GUSTIN | Inside Climate News
Study shows risks have climbed steadily since 1980, and the number of people in danger will grow to 48% by 2100 even if emissions are drastically reduced

....Climate change has escalated the heatwave risk across the globe, the study states, with nearly half of the world’s population set to suffer periods of deadly heat by the end of the century even if greenhouse gases are radically cut.

“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” said Camilo Mora, an academic at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study.

High temperatures are currently baking large swaths of the south-western US, with the National Weather Service (NWS) issuing an excessive heat warning for Phoenix, Arizona, which is set to reach 119F (48.3C) on Monday.

....“Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked, it’s pure torture. The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone.”

....“Your sweat doesn’t evaporate if it is very humid, so heat accumulates in your body instead,” Mora said. “People can then suffer heat toxicity, which is like sunburn on the inside of your body. The blood rushes to the skin to cool you down so there’s less blood going to the organs. A common killer is when the lining of your gut breaks down and leaks toxins into the rest of your body.”

Global warming is a potent instigator of deadly heat, with research from University of California, Irvine this month finding the probability of a heatwave killing in excess of 100 people in India has doubled due to a 0.5C increase in temperature over the past 50 years.

“The impact of global climate change is not a specter on the horizon. It’s real, and it’s being felt now all over the planet,” said Amir AghaKouchak, UCI associate professor and co-author of that study.

Oliver Milman | The Guardian

We must embrace a despair that unflinchingly acknowledges the bleak future that will be created by climate change. We must see in any act of resistance, even if it appears futile, a moral victory. African-Americans understand, in a way perhaps only the oppressed can grasp, that our character and dignity will be measured by our ability to name and resist the malignant forces that seem to hold us in a death grip. Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Our technology and science will not save us. The future of humanity is now in peril. At best, we can mitigate the crisis. We cannot avert it. We are fighting for our lives. If we do not rapidly build militant movements of sustained revolt, movements willing to break the law and attack the structures of the corporate state, we will join the 99.9 percent of species that have vanished since life first appeared on earth.

“In these circumstances refusing to accept that we face a very unpleasant future becomes perverse,” Clive Hamilton writes in “Requiem for a Species.” “Denial requires a willful misreading of the science, a romantic view of the ability of political institutions to respond, or faith in divine intervention.”

Tens of millions of human beings, especially in the global south, are being herded into the climate furnaces for immolation. And we in the north are soon to follow....

....“The great danger in climate change is that at a certain point [you will see] the collapse of natural ecosystems, the dying of tropical forests, which are currently carbon sinks—they pull CO2 out of the atmosphere,” Parenti said. “But if they die and all that wood burns or rots, they can become net emitters of greenhouse gases. There are the huge deposits of methane, frozen methane in the Arctic. These are already beginning to come out.”

“The fear is that at a certain point we cross the line and there’s a tipping point,” he said. “The primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions will become the breakdown of these natural systems, and then it really is out of our control.”

We have the technology to build alternative energy and food systems, but the fossil fuel industry, the most powerful industry in the world, has blocked all meaningful attempts to curb fossil fuel extraction and reduce energy consumption. And meat, dairy and egg producers, responding to consumer demand, are responsible for the emission of more greenhouse gases than the entire global transportation sector. Livestock generates enormous amounts of methane, which is 86 times more destructive than CO2. Livestock also produces 65 percent of nitrous oxide resulting from human activity, a gas that has 296 times the “Global Warming Potential” of carbon dioxide. The massive animal agriculture industry, like the fossil fuel industry, receives billions of dollars in subsidies from the U.S. government. And corrupt and pliant politicians who do the bidding of these industries receive millions in return from lobbyists. It is legalized bribery. And it won’t stop until this political system is destroyed.

The nonprofit Project Drawdown, which compiles research from an international coalition of scientists, says that “a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.” Adopting such a diet should be our first act of revolt. The second should be carrying out civil disobedience to disrupt the extraction of fossil fuels, along with massively reducing our consumption of those fuels. The third, through mass mobilization, should be to overthrow the corporate state and nationalize the energy sector, the banking industry, utilities and public transportation in addition to dismantling a war machine that in waging futile and unwinnable wars consumes nearly half of all government expenditures. It is a lot to demand. But if we do not succeed, the human race will disappear.

Governments, if they were instruments of the common good, would end subsidies to the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries, retrofit government vehicles and buildings to use clean energy, ban the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries from public lands, end the externalization of the true costs of these industries, and impose taxes so heavy that extraction of fossil fuels would be unprofitable and the purchase of animal food products economically unsustainable—just as those foods are environmentally unsustainable. But with state power being held captive by corporations, short-term profit takes precedence over human health and even human survival.

“The technology exists to strip CO2 out of the atmosphere,” Parenti said. “The problem is it’s extremely expensive. And how do you store it? As a gas, it can leak out. But it can also be turned into basically baking soda. But the costs are so expensive. So this technology currently exists. It’s proprietary. Private companies are using it to facilitate further oil extraction. If civilization was serious about survival, governments will seize or buy that technology. Make it open source. And invest in whatever was necessary to strip CO2 out of the atmosphere artificially, along with [extraction by] plants and forests etcetera.”

Chris Hedges | Common Dreams
Forget the GDP, it’s time for our leaders to pay attention to metrics that matter: GFN

Four days after President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) reported that Earth Overshoot Day 2017 will fall on August 2. Most Americans likely have no idea what that means.

The basic point is quite simple: From January 1 to August 2, the world’s 7.5 billion people will have used as much of Earth’s biological resources—or biocapacity—as the planet can regenerate in a year. During the remaining five months of 2017, our human consumption will be drawing down Earth’s reserves of fresh water, fertile soils, forests, and fisheries, and depleting its ability to regenerate these resources as well as sequester excess carbon released into the atmosphere.

Stated slightly differently, humans are depleting living Earth’s capacity to support life.

The GFN methodology can also generate an ecological footprint for individual cities, states, and nations, based on the burden each generates relative to its local biocapacity. It can also compare a personal footprint generated by a distinctive lifestyle to both national and global averages.

The U.S. has a relatively abundant per capita biocapacity compared to most other nations. We are also one of the world’s highest per capita consumers. Consequently, the net outcome is a total national biocapacity deficit second only to that of China—a country with a population roughly four times ours.

Knowing that, collectively, the world is consuming far more than the planet can sustain, how do we bring ourselves into balance with Earth’s capacities? GFN outlines four critical global priorities:

  1. Decarbonization
    Humanity’s carbon energy use accounts for 60 percent of the global ecological footprint. By GFN’s estimate, “Reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by 50 percent would get us from consuming the resources of 1.7 Earths down to 1.2 Earths, or move the date of Overshoot Day forward by 89 days, or about three months.” That would place Overshoot Day on October 30.
  2. Population
    “We cannot ignore population growth if we are truly committed to people having secure lives in a world of finite resources,” noted Susan Burns, GFN co-founder. She urges empowering women and assuring that every child is wanted. By GFN’s analysis, reducing the current global average family size by half a child would push back Overshoot Day by 31 days.
  3. Food production and consumption
    By GFN’s calculation, sourcing food locally, avoiding highly processed foods, reducing meat consumption, and cutting food waste by half could move Overshoot Day forward by 11 days.
  4. Urban built environment
    GFN estimates that increasing the energy efficiency of the urban built environment through measures such as efficient mass transit could advance Overshoot Day by 2 days.

If we achieved all four of these priorities, we would bring Overshoot Day to December 13 and almost be in balance with Earth’s capacity to sustain us.

There is considerable truth to the adage that we can manage only what we measure. Measure the wrong thing, and the consequences can be catastrophic.

David Korten | Common Dreams

Over the past three years, the monsoon – the rainy season that runs from June through September, depending on the region – has been weak or delayed across much of India, causing widespread water shortages.

....The decline in per capita availability of water is projected to deepen in coming years as the population grows. India, which currently has 1.3 billion people, is set to overtake China by 2022 and reach 1.7 billion in 2050.

Water scarcity is also exacerbated by a growth in water-intensive industries, such as thermal power production, extraction and mining, as India seeks to feed and power its growing population. In addition to affecting biodiversity, these activities also alter natural water systems.

Asit K. Biswas, Cecilia Tortajada and Udisha Saklani | The Conversation

Recent years have seen outbreaks of preventable diseases once thought controlled, what is this backlash against vaccination all about?
dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up onthe parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, whichbuild up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | ClimateProgress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would notonly spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annualoutput
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian |Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on thebrain. The July/AugustMother Jones cover story chronicled the research connectingneurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirtyair we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed toexhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers whobreathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones| Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world percapita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug &medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New YorkTimes | Ref.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


  • Progressives insist Ossoff’s ‘Republican-lite’ message turned voters off
  • ‘He didn’t have a core progressive message. He didn’t stand for anything’

....Key figures in the progressive movement said Ossoff had lost because he ran a “Republican-lite” campaign – instead of embracing progressive issues.

“I’m not surprised. I knew he would lose,” said Winnie Wong, who co-founded People for Bernie, an independent activist group with more than a million supporters. “My feeling on the failure of this campaign goes back to the way that Democratic party prioritizes the needs of the consultant class rather than listening to what the voters want.”

Ossoff’s campaign raised $23.6m, with a substantial amount coming from out-of-state individual donors, representing an enthusiasm for his efforts nationally. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee contributed millions more in a race that Democrats pushed as a referendum on Trump’s presidency.

Wong said: “He didn’t have a core progressive message and that ultimately is why he lost. The Democratic party could spend $100m and he would still lose. Because he didn’t stand for anything.

“This is a massive failure of the DNC leadership. They enabled the same old pattern and the same old way of doing things. It was a re-entrenchment. It was like act two of 2016.”

Adam Gabbatt | The Guardian
Even though the rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States, the study noted.

According to a new study, the 1 percent in the U.S. will control 70 percent of the nation’s private wealth by the year 2021, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm.

Currently, an estimated 18 million households hold at least $1 million in assets –revealing the staggering rate at which the disparity between the rich and poor is widening.

The study also stated that an estimated 70 million people were found to control 45 percent of the world’s US$166.5 trillion in wealth, linking the skyrocketing gap to economic and political instability.

It noted that even though the rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States.

A 2014 study by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center warned that rising inequality could lead to an unsustainable use of resources and the “irreversible collapse” of global industrial civilization, according to Mint Press News.

....The U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth, while their share of national wealth is also growing much faster than the global average.

Overprotective parenting is a threat to democracy.

American childhood has taken an authoritarian turn. An array of trends in American society are conspiring to produce unprecedented levels of supervision and control over children’s lives. Tracing the effects of childrearing on broad social outcomes is an exercise in speculation. But if social scientists are correct to posit a connection between childrearing and long-term political outcomes, today’s restrictive childhood norms may portend a broader regression in our country’s democratic consensus.

Since the early 1980s, American childhood has been marked by a turn toward stringent adult control. Support for “free range” childhood has given way to a “flight to safety” characterized by unprecedented dictates over children’s routines.

More so than any other generation, parents and educators have instilled in millennials the idea that, as Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt put it, “life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm.” Indeed, strong social pressures have so hardened against parents who believe in the value of a free, unsupervised childhood that psychologist Peter Gray likens them to past Chinese norms on foot binding.

Hard numbers illustrate these trends:

  • The amount of free time school-aged children enjoyed plummeted from 40 percent in the early 1980s to 25 percent by the mid 1990s.
  • The time young children spend in school jumped from 5-6 hours in the early 1980s to almost 7 hours beginning in the early 2000s.
  • By 2006, some 40 percent of schools had either eliminated recess or were considering doing so.
PRATIK CHOUGULE | The American Conservative
While baker's dozen of Republicans' all-male, all-white legislative team draft bill in secret, analysis reveals giving of insurance and pharmaceutical industries

As a group of 13 Republican senators—all of them both white and male—continue to craft in secret their version of a major healthcare overhaul bill, a new analysis shows these lawmakers have received approximately double the amount of campaign contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries than their Senate colleagues who have been so far excluded from the process.

According to Maplight, a watchdog that tracks campaign spending, those chosen by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to draft the Senate's version of Trumpcare legislation have collected, on average, $214,000 from companies that will be directly affected by major changes to the nation's healthcare system. That compares to an average of just $115,000 bestowed upon members not participating in the closed-door negotiations. Four of the 13 have received more than $300,000 from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries between November 2010 and November 2016, the timeframe covered by the analysis. Both McConnell and Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah have received well over $400,000 during that time period.

Here's the breakdown: [table]

While it was reported that the Senate group would release as a draft their bill on Thursday, the secretive process—in addition to trickles of information about what the bill may contain—has been the source of public outrage and protest.

As Maplight notes, "The lack of transparency and public information about the bill makes it impossible to analyze the impact on the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but indications from stock prices earlier this year showed investors were betting GOP legislation would be a boon for pharmaceutical companies and health insurers."

Common Dreams staff | Common Dreams
"Paul Ryan is not serious about tax reform. He's serious about tax giveaways—for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations."
Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
American healthcare is at a crossroads. Where is the Democrats' bold vision? [must we all emigrate to get excellent universal single-payer healthcare at an efficient price?]
Republicans are promising to make healthcare worse for the people who need it most. Democrats are left with a mealy-mouthed defense of the status quo

....Bernie Sanders was a folk hero to millennials during the 2016 campaign, yet no other powerful Democrat has seen fit to start aping his message wholesale. No one has said the Democrats will run on single-payer healthcare in 2018, promise to make college tuition free in 2018, or form a coherent anti-war platform in 2018.

To truly slay Trump’s majority and remain in power for years to come, Democrats must not only stand for something but justify their existence in concrete ways to people of all races and classes who will benefit from a rational federal government.

Strangely, Democrats aren’t doing this. Out of power, their argument is still simply: we aren’t Trump, we’re not crazy. The DNC still hasn’t performed an autopsy report on the 2016 election. Beyond Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, no Democrat seems especially concerned with articulating a rationale for the party, a reason millions of Americans should continually vote Democratic.

There’s a certain comfort to being a minority party, an impotent oppositional faction scoring points on Twitter for holding the floor of the Senate. It’s easy. It’s even fun. Trump is a clown, Trump is a maniac, Trump is a Putin stooge – Democrats always win the late night shows, the internet, the memes. MSNBC is a ratings king. Everyone is buying resistance merchandise.

The Democratic party is the younger party, the hipper party, the one that will tell you, again and again, in ever more creative ways, just how destructive Trump is. It just won’t tell you much else.

Ross Barkan | The Guardian

....Susan Collins of Maine, the most moderate senator in the G.O.P., is expected to be one of them. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska could well be another because the bill would take a huge toll on people in her state, which has very high health care costs.

Other Republican senators who ought to be particularly alarmed include Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio and Dean Heller of Nevada.


....While political observers turned the Georgia race into an early referendum on the Donald Trump administration, the race’s result will further complicate the struggle inside the Democratic Party, still deeply divided about how to move forward after historic defeats in November that gave the Republicans the White House, both chambers of Congress and 32 state legislatures.

Ossoff’s loss will likely fuel criticism by the party’s Sanders-led progressive wing that the Democratic establishment is too corporate and conservative to serve as a viable alternative to Republicans, and that only by presenting a progressive platform can the party regain relevance.

Ossoff explicitly campaigned against single-payer healthcare and tax increases for the rich, and was rewarded by Democratic donors with $24 million in donations and another $8 million in outside spending. By contrast, Democratic special election candidates in Montana and Kansas campaigned on more progressive platforms and were outspent by large margins.

....That leaves Democratic strategists to ask, why—with far less funding from the Democratic Party establishment—were Thompson, Quist, and to a lesser extent, Parnell, able to close the gap in white working-class states while Ossoff, with more advantages, struggled to move the needle?

The U.S.'s lax gun control laws may negatively affect other countries

....As an academic exercise, one might speculate whether law could play a constructive role in reducing the number or deadliness of mass shootings.

Most other advanced nations apparently think so, since they make it far harder for someone like your typical American mass killer to get his hands on particularly lethal weapons. Universal background checks are common features of gun regulation in other developed countries, including:

  • Germany: To buy a gun, anyone under the age of 25 has to pass a psychiatric evaluation. Presumably, 21-year-old Charleston shooter Dylann Roof would have failed.
  • Finland: Handgun license applicants are allowed to purchase firearms only if they can prove they are active members of regulated shooting clubs. Before they can get a gun, applicants must pass an aptitude test, submit to a police interview and show they have a proper gun storage unit.
  • Italy: To secure a gun permit, one must establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm and pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records.
  • France: Firearms applicants must have no criminal record and pass a background check that considers the reason for the gun purchase and evaluates the criminal, mental and health records of the applicant.
  • United Kingdom and Japan: Handguns are illegal for private citizens.

While mass shootings, as well as gun homicides and suicides, are not unknown in these countries, the overall rates are substantially higher in the United States than in these nations.

While NRA supporters frequently challenge me on these statistics, saying that this is only because American blacks are so violent, pointing to the type of wildly incorrect claims about the percentages of whites killed by blacks that Dylann Roof spouted and Donald Trump tweeted, it is important to note that white murder rates in the U.S. are well over twice as high as the murder rates in any of these other countries.

Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996

The story of Australia, which had 13 mass shootings in the 18-year period from 1979 to 1996 but none in the succeeding 21 years, is worth examining.

The turning point was the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, in which a gunman killed 35 individuals using semiautomatic weapons.

In the wake of the massacre, the conservative federal government succeeded in implementing tough new gun control laws throughout the country. A large array of weapons were banned — including the Glock semiautomatic handgun used in the Charleston shootings. The government also imposed a mandatory gun buy-back that substantially reduced gun possession in Australia.

The effect was that both gun suicides and homicides fell. In addition, the 1996 legislation disallowed self-defense as a legitimate reason to purchase a firearm.


Various | Google News
You Do Not Think Alone [be selective of what and who influences your "hive mind"]
A new book argues that thought and knowledge are community efforts

....Human reasoning takes a couple of forms. Most of the conclusions we come to are the products of intuition. Intuitive processes can be identified because we have no introspective access to how they work; we are only conscious of their output. For instance, intuitive processes deliver stored conclusions from memory. We can’t introspect to see how memory retrieves information; it just serves it up to consciousness.

To illustrate, most of us believe that there was a great revolution in France in the late 18th century. How do we justify that belief? Most of us aren’t historians; we just dredge up the fact from memory. We can’t really justify it except by appealing to our own memories, and we can’t even say much about how we retrieved the memory. It just comes to mind. Intuitive processes are capable of more than just memory though. They are also capable of pretty sophisticated pattern recognition. If you ask me to reconstruct what I know about the French revolution, I can tell a story. The story will be pretty superficial and miss a lot of facts—really important facts—but it’ll be largely coherent because my intuitive system is sophisticated enough to have some sense of how the world works. For example, I don’t remember the name of the king, but I can tell you he was captured before his head was chopped off because you can’t chop someone’s head off unless you’ve captured the person. And, truth be told, I’m just guessing his head was chopped off because my memory tells me that lots of people had their heads chopped off in that period. So intuition is pretty powerful, it can tell a really good story. But it’s very limited in its factual basis. The cognitive scientist Thomas Landauer calculated that humans can only retain about 1 gigabyte of information, a fraction of what a modern flash drive can hold.

Beyond intuition, we can also reason by deliberating, thinking things through carefully. But we don’t do that very much and we’re not very good at it as individuals. We need a lot of help. We often use things in the world to help us, like whiteboards and computers. But more than anything, we use other people. Most thinking involves collaborating with other people. That’s why scientists have lab meetings, why doctors consult with specialists, and why it’s important to have someone to talk to when you’re confused or upset. Individuals can’t justify their beliefs, but groups are great at justifying things (though not necessarily justifications that would pass muster with a philosopher). A little social support can generate a lot of confidence.


The main reason is mere curiosity. We are told to “know thyself” and what could be a more important thing to know than what we are capable of mentally? Moreover, knowing that we’re more ignorant than we think should make us more humble and give us greater respect and gratitude for others and the knowledge they bring to the table. This is important in all our human relationships, whether at home, at work, or elsewhere. And it’s also important to live with others in a just and peaceful society.


People fail to distinguish the knowledge that’s in their own heads from knowledge elsewhere (in their bodies, in the world, and—especially—in others’ heads). And we fail because whether or not knowledge is in our heads usually doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have access to the knowledge. In other words, the knowledge we use resides in the community. We participate in a community of knowledge. Thinking isn’t done by individuals; it is done by communities. This is true at macro levels: Fundamental values and beliefs that define our social, political, and spiritual identities are determined by our cultural communities. It is also true at the micro-level: We are natural collaborators, cognitive team-players. We think in tandem with others using our unique ability to share intentionality.

Individuals are rarely well-described as rational processors of information. Rather, we usually just channel our communities.

Gareth Cook | Scientific American
All Signs from Trump Point to a Coming Conflict with Iran [war doesn't "fix" anything; it can only make more war]
Behind all of Trump’s boneheaded policies in the Middle East is an unmistakable urge for confrontation with Iran.

The Saudi war in Yemen is really directed at...Iran. Donald Trump’s first overseas visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel was specifically targeted at...Iran. The Saudi-led isolation of Qatar is actually about...Iran.

The escalation of U.S. military actions against the Syria government is... well, do I really need to spell this out any further?

Donald Trump has identified several number-one enemies to target. Throughout the campaign, he emphasized the importance of throwing the full weight of the Pentagon against the Islamic State. More recently, his secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, identified North Korea as “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security.”

Other threats that have appeared at one time or another in the administration’s rotation include China, Cuba, the mainstream media, former FBI director James Comey, and Shakespeare (for writing Julius Caesar and then somehow, from the grave, persuading the Public Theater to run a scandalous version of it).

Through it all, however, Iran has loomed as the primary bogeyman of the Trump crowd. Fear of Iranian influence has prompted the administration to all but cancel the 2015 nuclear deal, intensify a number of proxy wars, consider pushing for regime change in Tehran, and even intervene in the mother of all battles between the Shia and Sunni variants of Islam.

You’re worried about Trump and the nuclear football? The prospect of blowback from an all-out U.S. assault on the Islamic State keeps you up at night? A preemptive strike against North Korea, which Mattis acknowledges would be disastrous, has you rethinking that upcoming trip to Seoul?

Sure, those are all dystopian possibilities. But if I had to choose a more likely catastrophe, it would be a direct confrontation between the United States and Iran. After all, everything seems to be pointing in that direction.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, seems to be championing a single cause: Israel.

When Haley speaks about Israel, her language is not merely emotive nor tailored to fit the need of a specific occasion. Rather, her words are resolute, consistent and are matched by a clear plan of action.

Along with Haley, the rightwing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is moving fast to cultivate the unique opportunity of dismissing the United Nations, thus, any attempt at criticizing the Israeli Occupation.

Unlike previous UN ambassadors who strongly backed Israel, Haley refrains from any coded language or any attempt, however poor, to appear balanced. Last March, she told a crowd of 18,000 supporters at the Israel lobby, AIPAC's annual policy conference, that this is a new era for US-Israel relations.

....But Israel, not the Palestinians, is the occupying power which refuses to honor dozens of UN resolutions and various international treaties and laws. By making that decision, and, indeed, following through to ensure its implementation, the US managed to sideline the UN as an ‘irrelevant’ institution.

Sidelining the UN, then, also meant that the US would have complete control over managing the Middle East, but especially the situation in Palestine.

....The US has supported Israel quite blindly at the UN throughout the years. Haley seems to adopt an entirely Israeli position with no regard whatsoever for her country's allies, or the possible repercussions of dismissing the only international body that still serves as a platform for international engagement and conflict resolution.

Haley seems to truly think of herself as the new sheriff in town, who will "kick 'em every single time", before riddling the bullies with bullets and riding into the sunset, along with Netanyahu. However, with a huge leadership vacuum and no law to guide the international community in resolving a 70-year-old conflict, Haley's cowboy tactics are likely to do much harm to an already bleeding region.

Ramzy Baroud | Common Dreams

....Muslims injured by a white Christian man are not “worthy” of attention because they do not serve Trump’s larger project of the demonization of Muslims, refugees and immigrants: an indistinguishable human mass in the eyes of the US president. Nor do they serve the interests of portraying white Christian Europe (and, by association, white Christian America) as the bastion of all that is decent and good.

Christian Christensen | The Guardian
As UN figures show out-of-school rates unchanged since 2012, researchers say goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 is unlikely to be met for generations

Some 264 million children and young people were missing out on an education in 2015, according to Unesco, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation – a figure unchanged since 2012. Across the world, 9% of all primary school age children do not have access to a school place, with rates reaching 16% and 37% for those of lower and upper secondary ages, respectively.

Across all age groups, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the worst out-of-school rates. More than half of all young people between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school, as are more than a third of adolescents between 12 and 14 years and a fifth of children between the ages of six and 11.

Of the 61 million children of primary school age currently missing out on an education across the world, 17 million (28%) will never set foot in a classroom, if current trends continue. This is the case for one in three of the children out of school in sub-Saharan Africa, western Asia and northern Africa, and more than one in four of those in central Asia and southern Asia.

The lack of progress is down to a complex set of factors, said Anna Cristina D’Addio, senior policy analyst at Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring Report. “In some cases, we are not sure exactly what is happening. For example, we don’t have recent data from Nigeria and we don’t have any data from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But it is also the case that conflicts and the refugee crisis in places like South Sudan or Syria reverse any progress that might be taking place elsewhere.”

“In Africa, children, adolescents and youth face overlapping disadvantages related to their location, ethnicity, wealth and sex and the fact that policies are not addressing the handicaps they have in terms of poverty and malnutrition in their early years,” said D’Addio. Lack of infrastructure, unsafe learning environments, absence of teaching and learning materials, insufficiently prepared teachers and limited support at home all played a role, she added.

Rebecca Ratcliffe | The Guardian
Power Causes Brain Damage [The powerful could mentally put their OCD-for-power aside to have empathy (again?) if they tried]
Over time, leaders lose mental capacities—most notably for reading other people—that were essential to their rise.

....Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, studies brains..... And when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

That loss in capacity has been demonstrated in various creative ways. A 2006 study asked participants to draw the letter E on their forehead for others to view—a task that requires seeing yourself from an observer’s vantage point. Those feeling powerful were three times more likely to draw the E the right way to themselves—and backwards to everyone else (which calls to mind George W. Bush, who memorably held up the American flag backwards at the 2008 Olympics). Other experiments have shown that powerful people do worse at identifying what someone in a picture is feeling, or guessing how a colleague might interpret a remark.

....This is a depressing finding. Knowledge is supposed to be power. But what good is knowing that power deprives you of knowledge?

The sunniest possible spin, it seems, is that these changes are only sometimes harmful. Power, the research says, primes our brain to screen out peripheral information. In most situations, this provides a helpful efficiency boost. In social ones, it has the unfortunate side effect of making us more obtuse. Even that is not necessarily bad for the prospects of the powerful, or the groups they lead. As Susan Fiske, a Princeton psychology professor, has persuasively argued, power lessens the need for a nuanced read of people, since it gives us command of resources we once had to cajole from others. But of course, in a modern organization, the maintenance of that command relies on some level of organizational support. And the sheer number of examples of executive hubris that bristle from the headlines suggests that many leaders cross the line into counterproductive folly.

Less able to make out people’s individuating traits, they rely more heavily on stereotype. And the less they’re able to see, other research suggests, the more they rely on a personal “vision” for navigation. John Stumpf saw a Wells Fargo where every customer had eight separate accounts. (As he’d often noted to employees, eight rhymes with great.) “Cross-selling,” he told Congress, “is shorthand for deepening relationships.”

....Is there nothing to be done?

No and yes. It’s difficult to stop power’s tendency to affect your brain. What’s easier—from time to time, at least—is to stop feeling powerful.

Insofar as it affects the way we think, power, Keltner reminded me, is not a post or a position but a mental state. Recount a time you did not feel powerful, his experiments suggest, and your brain can commune with reality.

JERRY USEEM | The Atlantic

Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.

....I’ve begun to think that elites who are driving us over the cliff are not at all irrational. Someone who’s had that same thought as well is climate scientist Ugo Bardi, who offers a lay person’s view of much of his current work at The Seneca Effect.

Bardi’s goal is to study, in his words, “why complex systems fail,” and further, why they often fail rapidly.

In a recent post, Dr. Bardi looked at the Maldive Islands, one of the most seriously threatened inhabited places in the world when it comes to climate change. According to the IPCC, 75% of the Maldive Islands could be under water by 2100.

Yet here’s what the rulers of the Maldives plan to do — stimulate development:

Full Guardian article here. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Actually it doesn’t. Dr. Bardi:

Is this an epidemics of brain disease? Or do the Gods really drive crazy those whom they want to destroy?

Maybe. But there is also a perfectly rational explanation for what’s happening. Imagine that you are part of the elite of the Maldives. And imagine that you are smart enough to understand what’s going on with the Earth’s climate. As things stand today, it is clear that it is too late to stop a burst of global warming that will push temperatures so high that nothing will save the Maldives islands. Maybe not next year but in a few decades, it is nearly certain.

So, given the situation, what is the rational thing for you to do? Of course, it is to sell what you can sell as long as you can find a sucker who will buy. Then you can say good riddance to those who remain.

Gaius Publius | Naked Capitalism
European commission to crack down on offshore tax avoidance [Trump is likely to further facilitate tax avoidance]
Draft law would force intermediaries to reveal cross-border financial schemes, though hard Brexit may exempt UK

Banks, accountants and law firms that facilitate offshore tax schemes face a Europe-wide crackdown, according to a leak of draft legislation.

Brussels will publish proposals this Wednesday to force financial intermediaries to automatically disclose any new cross-border tax schemes offered to clients. Those designing and promoting aggressive avoidance structures will have five working days to file details with their local tax authority, according to a leaked version of the proposals, drawn up by the European commission.

The clock will begin ticking as soon as the scheme has become available to a client. Where there are several intermediaries in the chain, one will be made to take responsibility for disclosure. And where all intermediaries in the chain are based outside European member states, the obligation to disclose will fall to the client.

“The ultimate objective”, according to the commission, “is to design a mechanism … that will dissuade intermediaries from designing and marketing such arrangements.”

The new rules will come into force in 2019 and are aimed at cross-border schemes that involve more than one country, so long as one of the jurisdictions involved is within Europe.

Since 2004, UK statute books have had legislation forcing those who market tax schemes to report them to Revenue & Customs. Portugal and Ireland have similar rules. However, the commission’s proposals would further tighten the screw on British-based intermediaries.

This is because all European member states will be obliged to share with each other, every three months, details of the tax schemes disclosed. A central directory of avoidance schemes will be created, to which all member states will have access.

It is possible the regulations will never be adopted by the UK. However, if Britain negotiates to remain part of the single market, it would be subject to the same tax and financial regulation as full members of the union.

Juliette Garside | The Guardian

How to Hide$400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes enabling vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine | Ref.

The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout ofthe financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch| Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
"President Trump and his administration can claim to oppose discrimination all they want, but actions speak louder than words," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

In a move decried as "more evidence of backward thinking" by the Trump administration, an internal memo from the Department of Education's office for civil rights lays out the agency's plan to roll back investigations into civil rights violations at public schools and diminish Obama-era rules requiring "schools and colleges to overhaul policies addressing a number of civil rights concerns," the New York Times reported on Friday.

"It's really a way of curtailing the way civil rights enforcement should be handled."
—Catherine Lhamon of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

According to the memo, "requirements that investigators broaden their inquiries to identify systemic issues and whole classes of victims will be scaled back," the Times noted. "Also, regional offices will no longer be required to alert department officials in Washington of all highly sensitive complaints on issues such as the disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses."

The directive, first published by ProPublica, was met with outrage from civil rights groups and activists, who portrayed it as part of a larger effort by President Donald Trump to undercut anti-discrimination provisions in public schools and dismantle laws that protect students from gender- and race-based abuse.

"It's really a way of curtailing the way civil rights enforcement should be handled," Catherine Lhamon, head of the United States Commission on Civil Rights and former chair of the Education Department's civil rights office, told the Times, adding that the administration's proposals are "stunning" and "dangerous."

"It's literally a stick your head in the sand approach," Lhamon concluded.

ProPublica's Jessica Huseman and Annie Waldman, bolstering the claims of civil rights advocates, highlighted a pattern of Trump administration actions that appear to be bent on incapacitating agencies responsible for enforcing laws designed to protect minorities from systemic abuses:

Elsewhere, Trump administration appointees have launched similar initiatives. In its 2018 fiscal plan, the Labor Department has proposed dissolving the office that handles discrimination complaints. Similarly, new leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed entirely eliminating the environmental justice program, which addresses concerns that almost exclusively impact minority communities. The Washington Post reports the plan transfers all environmental justice work to the Office of Policy, which provides policy and regulatory guidance across the agency.
Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams

Copyright © 2017 The Baltimore Chronicle and the SENTINEL. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.