March 18, 2018

US healthcare costs soar over other high-income countries

JAMA Network -  In 2016, the United States spent nearly twice as much as 10 high-income countries on medical care and performed less well on many population health outcomes. Contrary to some explanations for high spending, social spending and health care utilization in the United States did not differ substantially from other high-income nations. Prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals and devices, and administrative costs appeared to be the main drivers of the differences in spending.

Importance Health care spending in the United States is a major concern and is higher than in other high-income countries, but there is little evidence that efforts to reform US health care delivery have had a meaningful influence on controlling health care spending and costs.

Meanwhile. . .

According to someone close to Andrew McCabe, the fired FBI official has given memos of his conversations with Donald Trump to Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Russian links to Cambridge Analytics 

Cambridge Analytics gather informtion on 50 million Facebook users


New stody on binge drinking

Generic House poll

Jared Kushner's company routinely filed false New York City paperwork

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Guardian  -Cambridge Analytica is a company that offers services to businesses and political parties who want to “change audience behaviour”.

It claims to be able to analyse huge amounts of consumer data and combine that with behavioural science to identify people who organisations can target with marketing material. It collects data from a wide range of sources, including social media platforms such as Facebook, and its own polling.

With its headquarters in London, the firm was set up in 2013 as an offshoot of another company called SCL Group, which offers similar services around the world.

In an interview with the website Contagious, Cambridge Analytica’s founder, Alexander Nix said it had been set up “to address the vacuum in the US Republican political market” that became evident when Mitt Romney was defeated in the 2012 presidential election.

March 17, 2018

Study finds Trump connected hotel in Panama was used for drug money laundering

Newsweek -President Donald Trump made tens of millions of dollars in profits by allowing Colombian drug cartels and other groups to launder money through a Trump-affiliated hotel in Panama, according to a new investigation by the organization Global Witness.

In the early 2000s, Trump was having financial difficulties and began selling his high-profile name to real estate developers around the world, the report said. One of these developed Panama’s Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower.

The report said the drug cartels purchased hotel units to hide the origins of money earned through drug trafficking and other criminal activity, and Trump is estimated to have earned tens of millions of dollars from the deals.

The report said the Panama project is a textbook case of money laundering.

“Investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely,” the report noted. “Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere.”

27 women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct

Mnuchin wastes large sums of public money on air trips

Salon -A new report by a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group claims that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been spending taxpayer money on expensive flights using military and non-commercial aircraft — and completely avoiding commercial.

"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has billed taxpayers for the most expensive flight options available at every turn, appearing to never even consider flying commercial as his predecessors did," explained Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. ...

"The documents CREW obtained show that between the spring and fall of 2017, he took eight separate trips on military aircraft at a total cost of nearly $1 million," the report explained.

Democratic lawmaker offer McCabe a job

The Hill -Democratic lawmaker offered to hire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe in an effort to help McCabe qualify to receive his pension after being fired from the agency two days before he qualified to receive it.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) was responding to a tweet from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said the former FBI official might still be able to receive his pension if he’s hired by a member of Congress.

Key figure in Mueller probe once sentenced for child pornography

Newsweek -The Lebanese-Amrican businessman who features prominently in special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry was once sentenced to six months on child pornography charges in Virginia, Newsweek has learned.

George Nader, 58, has emerged as a key player in the investigation. An adviser to the Emirati crown prince, Nader is believed to have represented the kingdom’s interests in White House meetings, and frequently met with Jared Kushner during the early months of the Trump administration to discuss U.S. policies toward Persian Gulf states.

But before he reemerged as a Middle East power broker, the onetime publisher of a niche foreign policy magazine accrued a record of criminal charges. In 1985, federal authorities charged Nader for importing sexually explicit materials, including magazines and pictures that depicted “nude boys,” and other materials showing boys “engaged in a variety of sexual acts,” according to federal court records. The case was dropped shortly before trial. And in 2003 he was convicted on 10 counts of sexually abusing underage boys in the Czech Republic, the AP reported Thursday. Nader served one year in prison abroad for those charges.

Finland rated happiest nation

GuardianIf you can’t buy happiness, perhaps you should move to Helsinki. Finland has emerged from a 10-year economic depression to be ranked by the UN last week as the happiest place to live on the planet. The most important factor in Finland topping the UN’s happiness ranking is the country’s history of equality. It has managed to strike an amicable balance between the sexes, between workers and bosses, and within the education and welfare systems. An equal society can bond together to survive the bad times when so many countries pull themselves apart.


Trump names another task traitor

Mondoweiss  -Any day now, the Senate will consider President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus. This is a vote that could have widespread and lasting consequences for the safety and rights of students and faculty across the country, in particular those of people of color, women, and LGBTQ students.

Marcus has long opposed affirmative action, which seeks to correct past and present-day exclusion of Black students, as “racial prejudice” against white students. For Marcus, the fact that Black students are underrepresented at elite universities isn’t due to the legacy and persistence of racism, but the “cultural dysfunction” of Black families. This offensive racial stereotyping is not only factually incorrect but also downright offensive to the millions of Black students who excel in the sciences, art, business, law, etc. in schools across the country. Marcus cannot be entrusted with protecting the civil rights of students of color when he neither understands systemic racism nor respects people of color.

LGBTQ students and faculty can expect a similarly hostile response if they seek to challenge campus homophobia. When Marcus previously served at OCR as Assistant Secretary during the Bush Administration, he argued that universities that tried to address harassment of LGBTQ students were guilty of “religious discrimination.” Many LGBTQ students find it difficult to succeed in the face of harassment and other forms of discrimination on campus, but Marcus isn’t likely to be their ally. As Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), he opposed investigating violations of the rights of LGBTQ persons. This record is particularly concerning in light of the Department’s hostile actions to date toward LGBTQ students under President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.


Just a thought

Sam Smith - If what Stormy Daniels has said so far is worth $20 million in damages suggests that Trump is really worried about what else they might lead to.

March 16, 2018

Trump puts Andy Borowitz on his mark

 Recent Andy Borowitz articles

The Pentagon has turned down Donald J. Trump’s request for a grand military parade in Washington, D.C., citing a sudden outbreak of bone spurs that would prevent men and women in uniform from participating.

Calling the result “close but no cigar,” Vladimir Putin has conceded defeat in Tuesday night’s special congressional election in Pennsylvania. “Our social-media trolls did some of their finest work to put Rick over the top, but, in the final analysis, we were a day late and a ruble short,” the Russian President said.

Hours after an armed teacher in a Northern California classroom fired a gun and injured a student, the head of the National Rifle Association proposed placing a second armed teacher in every classroom, to shoot the first armed teacher before he or she can do harm.

73% of teachers oppose teachers and staff carrying guns in schools

What the establishment (including the media) is brushing off about Gina Haspel

Jefferson Morley, Alternet - A declassified CIA memo, obtained by the ACLU, details the torture techniques Haspel proposed for Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi member of al-Qaeda, arrested in Pakistan in 2002. They included:

“attention grasp, walling technique, facial hold, facial or insult slap, cramped confinement, wallstanding, stress position, sleep deprivation, waterboard ONE LINE REDACTED and mock burials. To this was added the placement of harmless insects in the confinement box (based on AZ’s apparent discomfort with insects).”

"Cramped confinement" means stuffing an adult male into a box 30 inches tall, 30 inches wide and 21 inches deep. After consulting with the Justice Department, Haspel eliminated “mock burial” as a torture technique and adopted all of the others, including the insects.

Haspel knew the torture might kill Abu Zubaydah and planned accordingly. In a memo attributed to her by Just Security, she wrote:

"If subject develops a serious medical condition which may involve a host of conditions including a heart attack or another catastrophic type of condition, all efforts will be made to ensure that proper medical care will be provided to subject. In the event that subject dies we need to be prepared to act accordingly keeping in mind the liaison equities involving our hosts. If subject dies, we plan on seeking [redacted] assistance for cremation of the subject."

... In hindsight, Obama’s decision in 2009 not to investigate or indict those who engaged in torture, perhaps understandable at the time, left a legacy of impunity that renders the unspeakable defensible and paves the way for torturers to return to positions of power.

Philadelphia's new DA redefines prosecution

Mother Jones -Newly minted Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was elected on a platform of bringing criminal justice reform to the office and attacking mass incarceration. Now Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, seems to be making good on his promise. He issued a remarkable memo to his assistant DAs that swaps the office’s traditional tough-on-crime approach in favor of one intended both to reduce the number of people in city jail and prisons, and to shorten the duration of their stays.

The memo instructs prosecutors to cease charging certain offenses entirely—including possession of marijuana, regardless of the weight carried, and prostitution in some circumstances. It also encourages assistant DAs to punish people with house arrest, probation, and alternative sentencing much more frequently, and to seek shorter probation sentences. Krasner’s subordinates must now get permission before seeking sentences of more than six months for a minor probation violation, or more than one year for a more serious one.

Krasner’s memo also directs prosecutors to offer plea deals with shorter sentences than suggested by state sentencing guidelines, and to get his permission before offering more-punitive deals—a crucial change, as more than 90 percent of criminal convictions nationwide are the result of a plea.

Americans can't save enough for retirement

CNBC -Despite a low unemployment rate and increasing wage growth, Americans still aren't saving much. That's according to a new survey from, which found that 20 percent of Americans don't save any of their annual income at all and even those who do save aren't putting away a lot.

Only 16 percent of survey respondents say that they save more than 15 percent of what they make, which is what experts generally recommend. A quarter of respondents report saving between 6 and 10 percent of their income and 21 percent say they sock away 5 percent or less.

Bankrate estimates that half of the American population won't be able to maintain their standard of living once they stop working. A report from GoBankingRates found similar results: Over 40 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for when they retire.

Word: Conor Lamb's victory in Pennsylvania

Kate Aronoff, In These Times -   Lamb’s victory isn’t an unambiguous sign that out-and-out progressives can sail to victory in areas carried by Trump. A former federal prosecutor, Lamb supports both coal and fracking, is “personally opposed” to abortion (though doesn’t support laws banning it), and rejects both Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage.

Yet at a time when organized labor faces existential threats at the federal level, Lamb’s heavily union-backed campaign also signals that Democrats running as explicitly pro-labor can win—even in the face of $14 million worth of Republican opposition. Lamb enjoyed hearty backing from Pennsylvania unions, including the United Steelworkers, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the United Mine Workers of America, and he ran on bread-and-butter economic issues such as protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Unions, in turn, got out the vote against Lamb’s avowedly anti-union opponent, state Rep. Rick Saccone. “Organized labor built Western Pennsylvania, tonight they have reasserted their right to have a major part in our future,” Lamb said in his victory speech.

March 15, 2018

Mueller subpoenas files from Trump Organization

NY Times -The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

Only about a half of Trump backers think charges of adultery are a problem

Huffington Post -Only about half of the people who voted for President Donald Trump say it would be immoral if he had an affair with pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels. The other half say it is not immoral, or they are not sure, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey.

Three-quarters of Trump voters also contend that, even if Daniels’ allegations are true, they are not relevant to Trump’s presidency. In fact, they claim to be barely concerned about a president’s private life at all: Seventy percent say an elected official who has committed an “immoral act” in his or her personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill duties in the public and professional sphere.

Study: Nearly all bottled water contains microplastics

Treehugger -It turns out that sea salt isn't the only grocery item to regularly contain particles of microplastics. A recent study by journalism non-profit Orb Media has found microplastics in 93% of the 250 bottled water samples it tested. Samples were purchased around the world, and from 11 different major brands.

Great moments with Larry Kudlow

Alternet - In 2010, Kudlow warned that the choice of Janet Yellen to become vice chair of the Federal Reserve risked unleashing a devastating wave of inflation. Her focus on reducing unemployment risked letting the money supply rise uncontrollably, dooming the recovery from the Great Recession.

Of course, none of that happened. Inflation has been on average below target since 2009. Yellen became the Fed chair in 2014, and her policies helped spur the steady economic growth and low unemployment rate for which Trump thinks he deserves all the credit.

As Jonathan Chait explains, Kudlow was seeing signs of economic recovery in July 2008 — after evidence of the housing crisis had long been apparent, but well before the country sank to the greatest depths of the recession.

Chait also chronicles Kudlow's long history of supporting the Republican dogma that all tax cuts are good, completely ignoring the reams of evidence to the contrary.

Using the Nuremberg defense for Trump's CIA choice

Intercept - During the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, several Nazis, including top German generals Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, claimed that they were not guilty of the tribunal’s charges because they had been acting at the directive of their superiors.

Ever since, this justification has been popularly known as the “Nuremberg Defense,” in which the accused states they were “only following orders.”

The Nuremberg judges rejected the Nuremberg Defense, and both Jodl and Keitel were hanged. The United Nations’ International Law Commission later codified the underlying principle from Nuremberg as, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

Many members of the Washington, D.C. elite are now stating that it in fact is a legitimate defense for American officials who violate international law to claim they were just following orders.

Specifically, they say, Gina Haspel, a top CIA officer whom President Trump has designated to be the agency’s next director, bears no responsibility for the torture she supervised during the George W. Bush administration.

Haspel oversaw a secret “black site” in Thailand, at which prisoners were waterboarded and subjected to other severe forms of abuse... John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative who helped capture many Al Qaeda prisoners, recently said that Haspel was known to some at the Agency as “Bloody Gina” and that “Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.” 

The new Democratic public works plan

March 14, 2018

Details about torturer Trump has named as CIA chief

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s choice for the CIA’s number two position, was more deeply involved in the torture of Abu Zubaydah than has been publicly understood, according to newly available records and accounts by participants.  The Story

Since EPA is no longer doing its job, its top officials can also work elsewhere

Think Progress -The Environmental Protection Agency is giving top officials permission to moonlight for private companies in their off-time, a practice that could conflict with their official duties at the federal agency.

Two of the most prominent EPA officials currently under scrutiny are John Konkus, who serves as the EPA’s deputy associate administrator for the Office of Public Affairs, and Patrick Davis, an EPA senior adviser.

Konkus received approval from ethics officials at the EPA to work outside the agency as a media consultant. He was approved to advise clients on “strategy, mail and media production,” according to an ethics form signed last August, E&E News reported Monday. The EPA is refusing to disclose Konkus’s clients, raising more questions about potential conflicts of interest with his official and outside work.

Davis, a top official in the EPA’s Denver office and former director of Trump’s presidential campaign in Colorado, was given approval in February 2017 to work as the sales director for Telephone Town Hall Meeting, which does outreach for legislators and political campaigns.

Israel invokes right to strip Palestinians in Jerusalem of right to live there

Portside -The Israeli parliament has passed a law that allows the minister of interior to revoke the residency rights of any Palestinian in Jerusalem on grounds of a "breach of loyalty" to Israel.

Under the new measure, Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas, will be able to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian whom he deems a threat.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, described the law as "an extremely racist piece of legislation.

"By unethically stripping the residency of Palestinians from Jerusalem and depriving the rights of those Palestinians to remain in their own city, the Israeli government is acting in defiance of international law and is violating international human rights and humanitarian laws," said Ashrawi, according to a statement published on Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.

Despite Israel's claims that occupied East Jerusalem is part of its "eternal, undivided" capital, the Palestinians who are born and live there do not hold Israeli citizenship, unlike their Jewish counterparts.

Palestinians in the city are given "permanent residency" ID cards and temporary Jordanian passports that are only used for travel purposes. They are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo - they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine.

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said such residency revocations, which force Palestinians out of Jerusalem, "could amount to war crimes" under the treaty of the International Criminal Court .

The real Mike Pompeo

You'd never guess it from the subservient coverage of the mass media,  but Mike Pompeo is a considerable danger to the United States, aggressively ignorant about climate change, a religious extremist, and pro-tortur.e Here's more about the nominated Secretary of State from Wikipedia:

Military and national security


Pompeo supports the surveillance programs of the National Security Agency, referring to the agency's efforts as "good and important work". Pompeo stated, "Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed."


In a 2013 speech on the House floor, Pompeo said Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam are "potentially complicit" in the attacks. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on him to revise his remarks, calling them "false and irresponsible".


Pompeo opposes closing Guantanamo Bay detention camp

He criticized the Obama administration's decision to end secret prisons and its requirement that all interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws.


Pompeo worked to undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran that was supported by the Obama administration. Referring to the agreement, he stated, "I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism." He also stated that a better option than negotiating with Iran would be to use "under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces."

Energy and environment

Speaking about climate change in 2013, Pompeo said: "There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There's some who think we're warming, there's some who think we're cooling, there's some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment."

He has stated, "Federal policy should be about the American family, not worshipping a radical environmental agenda." He has referred to the Obama administration's environment and climate change plans as "damaging" and "radical". He opposes the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the United States, and supports eliminating the United States federal register of greenhouse gas emissions


Pompeo opposed the Affordable Care Act. Pompeo has been criticized for saying that he supports funding for certain programs that are part of the ACA, yet he opposes them when they are a part of the ACA.

Social issues

Pompeo has stated that life begins at conception and believes that abortions should be allowed only when necessary to save the life of the mother. In 2011 he voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would have banned federal health coverage that includes abortion. Also in 2011, he voted for a prohibition on funding the United Nations Population Fund.

He opposed same-sex marriage and had sponsored bills to let states prevent same-sex couples from marrying.


He is a lifetime member of, and has been endorsed by, the National Rifle Association.

Pompeo opposes requiring food suppliers to label food made with genetically modified organisms. He introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 to block states from requiring mandatory GMO food labeling.

DC mayor signs bill for publicly financed campaigns

Washington Post - D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has signed a law that will create publicly financed elections, reversing her previous opposition to a plan that advocates say will help curb money’s influence in District politics.

The law, which will first affect elections in 2020, will steer millions annually toward the campaigns of local candidates and is aimed at reducing their reliance on deep- pocketed donors.

Under Washington’s voluntary program, candidates who accept public financing must agree to smaller contribution limits for their donors. In exchange, they receive matching funds at a rate of $5 for every $1 raised from a District resident.  Depending on the office, candidates must also raise a threshold sum of money from a certain number of contributors to qualify for the program.

Students at almost 3000 schools walk out over gun issues

USAToday -Thousands of students across the nation were walking out of classrooms Wednesday to mark one month since the bloody rampage at a Florida high school that shocked the world and fueled a dynamic youth movement demanding an end to gun violence.  Students from almost 3,000 schools were marking National Walkout Day, most by leaving their classrooms at 10 a.m. local time to show solidarity for the 17 killed in the Valentine's Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Trump's military parade faces counter-march

Global Research -A coalition of anti-war, peace and justice groups is organizing to oppose the [Trump mlitary] parade . Their goal is to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, DC around Veterans Day weekend in November to protest the parade—and to call for solidarity actions around the world. According to Dr. Margaret Flowers, one of the countermarch organizers,
“We are going ahead with our organizing to protest the military parade, no matter what form it takes. We would like to stop the glorification of war and the expensive and polluting flyovers. We will have a strong response to oppose militarism and expose the cost of wars, and the impacts of the war economy abroad and at home.”
Dr. Flowers is a pediatrician, Green Party activist, and co-founder of the news website Popular Resistance.
“Veterans, active duty GI’s and their families are paying a high price for these endless U.S. wars,” explained Gerry Condon, president of Veterans For Peace, a member of the #NoTrumpMilitaryParade coalition. “We are inviting our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in the U.S. military to march with us in Washington, DC on November 11, Armistice Day.”

Without Trump or Clinton on the ballot, Democrats are doing better

Ben Jacobs, Guardian - Barack Obama lagged far behind Hillary Clinton with moderate suburban voters. Hillary Clinton lagged far behind Obama among blue collar Democrats. Conor Lamb had none of those problems on Tuesday and it should frighten Republicans in November.

With Lamb holding a slight lead after the Pennsylvania special election but the race still too close to call, the Democrat managed to successfully woo both traditional Republicans repelled by Donald Trump and the traditional Democrats repelled by Hillary Clinton.

Democrats had overperformed in special elections throughout the Trump era. They picked up 40 legislative seats as well as a Senate seat in Alabama after the GOP nominated a candidate facing credible allegations of sexual assault in Roy Moore. However, they had yet to break through at the congressional level until now. Democrats had come closest in Georgia where Jon Ossoff could not pull off a win in a prosperous traditionally Republican district where voters were repelled by Trump.

March 13, 2018

Kentucky state police try to censor press

Activist Post - Local media outlets are speaking out after they received emails from a [Kenutcky] state police spokesperson demanding that they wait for a press release from the police department before publishing stories about ongoing investigations, which implies that the outlets are prohibited from using a narrative that is different from the one chosen by police.

The Mountain Advocate newspaper and a Bell County radio station received an email from Kentucky State Police spokesman Shane Jacobs, in which he started out by writing that he personally has “a great working relationship with the media,” but that all of the inquiries he receives from media contacts take time away from his personal life and add to his apparently busy schedule.

Jacobs then demanded that the media outlets wait until an official press release is sent to them before including any details of an ongoing investigation in published stories, social media posts, or on the radio. He claimed the goal was to keep from spreading “inaccurate information from Sheriff’s or anyone else,” and threatened that if the media outlets did not follow his demands, they would be removed from his distribution list.
From this point forward when KSP is working an investigation, you are to wait until OUR (KSP) press release is sent out before putting anything out on social media, radio, and newspaper. No more posting inaccurate information from Sherrif’s or anyone else. I don’t care to confirm something and then get a release out later. Authority of my supervisors, if this continues, you will be taken off our media distribution list. Thanks Shane.

11 Mayors Refusing to Do Business With Companies That Don't Support Net Neutrality

Warming Arctic linked to extreme cold

USA TODAY  Extreme winter weather across the U.S. is linked to unusual warmth in the Arctic, according to a study published Tuesday.

That is especially true in the heavily populated eastern U.S., the study said, where extreme winter weather is two to four times more likely when temperatures in the Arctic are unusually warm.

Sorry to say...

We are not only in the midst of a 18"-20" blizzard but our too old computer suddenly has about a half dozen keys that don't work and our back up computer doesn't work at all. There have been no Russian spies around these parts, so it is probably due to excessive age. In any case cut and paste is still possible and our early period IPad still works well. 

Study: Wider Highways Won't Reduce Congestion

James Brasuell, Planetizen  - A new report  by Montreal-based engineering firm WSP has bad news for anyone who advocates for highway widening as a cure for congestion.

Dirk VanderHart shares news of the report by WSP, which was under contract with the Oregon Department of Transportation to analyze the effects of proposed highway widening projects in the Portland area. According to the report, "none of the dozen highway-widening projects that are currently being planned in and around Portland by state officials would be enough in coming years to stem the increasing congestion choking Portland highways."

Civil liberty defenders are raising alarm over TSA searches of personal electronic devices

Alternet - Civil liberty defenders are raising alarm over the Transportation Security Administration's increasingly common searches of domestic travelers' personal electronic devices, including laptops, tablets, and cell phones.
The TSA announced last October that it would begin using heightened procedures to screen electronics, but the details of how the policy is implemented and how agents decide which travelers can be subjected to a warrantless search of their devices remain "shrouded in secrecy," according to the American Civil Liberties Union

Recent poll: McCaskill up from loss to tie

Trump names torturer to head CIA

Intercept -President Donald Trump named Gina Haspel the new director of the CIA, announcing the news on Twitter. Mike Pompeo, the previous director, will be moved to the State Department to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson.

In May 2013, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the head of the CIA’s clandestine service was being shifted out of that position as a result of “a management shake-up” by then-Director John Brennan. As Miller documented, this official — whom the paper did not name because she was a covert agent at the time — was centrally involved in the worst abuses of the CIA’s Bush-era torture regime.

As Miller put it, she was “directly involved in its controversial interrogation program” and had an “extensive role” in torturing detainees. Even more troubling, she “had run a secret prison in Thailand” — part of the CIA’s network of “black sites” — “where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques.” The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture also detailed the central role she played in the particularly gruesome torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah.

Beyond all that, she played a vital role in the destruction of interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees both at the black site she ran and other secret agency locations. The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as “obstruction” by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane. A special prosecutor and grand jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute.

BBC News  - As an intelligence officer, she was known for her harsh views: she ran a notorious black site in Thailand, a place where prisoners were waterboarded. She's now working for a president who's been ambivalent about the matter. He said in the past he wanted to bring back waterboarding. James Mattis, the defense secretary, convinced him otherwise.

Stormy weather update

Daily Beast -   Stormy Daniels turned on the speakerphone when President Trump called.

So says Keith Munyan, one of the four people Stormy Daniels included in the nondisclosure agreement she signed with Donald Trump’s lawyer. Munyan confirmed critical elements of the alleged romantic tryst between the porn star and the future president, and added new details to a tawdry saga that has rocked the White House.

Munyan, a longtime friend of Daniels, remembers eavesdropping on a half-dozen phone calls between her and the future president.

“He would call all the time. That man can talk about nothing for hours,” Munyan told The Daily Beast in a phone call Monday.

Word: Our good health is a collective matter

Pagan Kenned, NY Times  - Some of the biggest names in dieting, organic agriculture and preventive medicine died at surprisingly young ages. The wild-foods enthusiast Euell Gibbons was far ahead of his time in his advocacy of a diverse plant diet — but he died at age 64 of an aortic aneurysm. (He had been born with a genetic disorder that predisposed him to heart problems.) The nutritionist Adelle Davis helped to wake millions of people to the dangers of refined foods like white bread, but she died of cancer at 70. Nathan Pritikin, one of the foremost champions of low-fat diets, died at 69, nearly the same age as Dr. Robert Atkins, who believed in the opposite regimen.

Then there is Jerome Rodale, founder of the publishing empire dedicated to health. In 1971, Dick Cavett invited Mr. Rodale onto his TV show after reading a New York Times Magazine article that called him “the guru of the organic food cult.” Mr. Rodale, 72, took his chair next to Mr. Cavett, proclaimed that he would live to be 100, and then made a snoring sound and died. (The episode never aired.)

There are obviously things you can do to improve your health. Give up cigarettes and start walking — that kind of common-sense lifestyle redo can deliver good results. But there are diminishing returns. My travels in the obituary section convinced me that the more esoteric personal choices — and diets based on the latest scientific findings — have far less of an effect on our own health than we may think.

Even those pioneers who did everything “right” were buffeted by circumstances that they couldn’t control on their own — like bad genes, accidents or exposure to smog or pesticides.

It’s the decisions that we make as a collective that matter more than any choice we make on our own.


March 12, 2018

A good rundown on an unresolved issue: can a president be criminally indicted while in office?

GOP has bill that would have Secret Service going to voting centers

The Hill -A letter signed by 19 bipartisan secretaries of state to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) demands the Senate leave out a proposal from [pending] final legislation that would allow Secret Service agents to accompany lawmakers to polling places when they vote.

“This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers,” reads a letter obtained by The Boston Globe.

“There is no discernible need for federal secret service agents to intrude, at the direction of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined," the letter continues.

One of the letter's signatories, Democratic Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin called the DHS proposal "worthy of a Third World country."

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