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Thursday, April 18, 2019

"Don't Listen to Barr—Read Mueller's Words Yourself"

Though heavily blacked out, report presents a damning picture
Image result for mueller reportAttorney General William Barr delivered a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress and posted the special counsel's findings online Thursday morning.

The document's publication followed a Justice Department press conference that critics and Democratic lawmakers denounced as an effort to spin Mueller's findings and protect President Donald Trump.

"Before the American people can read it themselves, Barr is trying to spin a report he knows will damage his boss," tweeted Rep. Barbara Lee during Barr's morning press conference. "Don't listen to Barr—read Mueller's words yourself."

Though Democrats demanded the full report, the findings delivered to Congress were redacted. 

During his press conference, Barr insisted that none of the redactions were the result of "executive privilege."

Click here to read Mueller's report (pdf).  

According to the New York Times, Justice Department officials had "numerous conversations" with White House officials ahead of the Mueller report's release.

Our little King of Orange

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

It adds up

Herding cats

Hello, kitty: Cats recognize their own names, according to new Japanese research
University of Tokyo

cute cat GIFPet cats can recognize their own names if their names are used regularly by their owners, according to new results by a team of researchers in Japan.

The research was performed largely within the lab of Professor Toshikazu Hasegawa from the University of Tokyo with Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., first author of the research paper. Saito is now an associate professor at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Evolution of social cats

This is the first project to study cats' ability to understand human voices. 

Other research projects have discovered that apes, dolphins, parrots, and dogs can understand some words spoken by humans.

Saito speculates that mammals like dolphins and apes are naturally social animals and are therefore more inclined to interact with humans and respond to human cues.

"In comparison to those other species, cats are not so social. Cats interact with us when they want," said Saito.

Science not complete yet on harm to health caused by marine microplastics

Microplastics in the Ocean – Separating Fact from Fiction
Image result for plastics in the OceanLast year, Gizmodo ran a story reporting on evidence that microplastics – plastic fragments less than five millimeters size (roughly a quarter inch) – are moving through the marine food web to top predators. 

The study, published by researchers at the University of Exeter, showed that when mackerel consumed microplastics and were later fed to seals, the plastic bits could be detected in the seals’ fecal samples.

While the story reinforced a logical concept—that microplastics consumed by smaller marine animals may eventually end up in larger ones—it touched on the question of how harmful microplastics are to marine life and humans, if at all. One scientist, who was not involved in the study, commented, 

Can the government force vaccination? Can the government enforce quarantine?

Measles outbreaks show legal challenges of balancing personal rights and public good
Katherine Drabiak, University of South Florida

Related image

The measles outbreaks continue to spread, with New York City declaring a public health emergency and requiring people in four ZIP codes to have their children vaccinated or face penalties, including a fine of US$1,000 and or imprisonment.

Since September 2018, 285 measles cases have been reported in Brooklyn and Queens, mainly in neighborhoods where ultra-Orthodox Jews have chosen to not have their children vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that from Jan. 1 to April 4, 2019, 465 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 19 states. This is the second-highest number of cases since the CDC declared measles eliminated in 2000; in 2014, 667 cases occurred.

Cases have still been occurring each year, often brought into the United States from international travelers. Officials believe that to be the cause of the outbreak in Rockland County, New York, where 168 cases were reported as of April 8, 2019.

Rockland public health officials issued a ban that would keep unvaccinated children out of public places, but a judge overruled that on April 5. On April 9, county officials said they would appeal.

But there are limits to what health care providers, public health officials and legislators can do.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Is there any limit?

HunterDaily Kos Staff

Image result for trump marshmallow PeepsDonald Trump is still a liar. He still lies about everything, big and small, in nearly every appearance. 

He lies about things he's lied about before. He lies about new things. 

The press catches him numerous times a day, because he lies about unsubtle things, such as how many people fit into a stadium or what his own publicly stated administration policies are.

This isn't new, and that's the point. Trump has fully embraced the authoritarian practice of declaring reality to be whatever is most convenient at the time. 

He's likely doing so due to mental illness, not as a coherent political plan. Is that better, or worse?

Reality check

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

Another dangerous caravan

How does Game of Thrones compare to medieval history?

URI history professor uses ‘Game of Thrones,’ other fantasy stories to help students understand medieval history
windy game of thrones GIF“You will never find a medieval historian who has not read fantasy,” says medieval historian Joëlle Rollo-Koster.

The University of Rhode Island history professor shares that interest.

In her narrow third-floor office in Washburn Hall, a “Star Wars” X-wing fighter and a Darth Vader figure decorate overflowing bookshelves. “I love ‘Star Wars,’” says Rollo-Koster, of South Kingstown. “‘Star Wars’ is mythology. I used to teach King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, using Luke Skywalker.”

And of course, she’s a fan of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” – the mammoth medieval fantasy, which returns April 14 for its final season.

In its eighth season, “Game of Thrones” is a favorite of millions, especially among medieval studies scholars, its global reach credited with energizing the field, inspiring scholarship, courses, and enrollment.

Like “Star Wars,” Rollo-Koster has used “GOT” in class to explain aristocratic feuds of 12th and 13th century France and England, including this semester in Western Europe in the High Middle Ages. 

Simply, she wonders if students’ ability to follow the labyrinth of shifting alliances in “Game of Thrones” can be transferred to following the dynastic intricacies of medieval Europe.

“Who’s married to whom, why they are married, why alliances are created, who’s allied with whom against whom,” she says, “this is the juice of history.”

But beware. Despite author George R.R. Martin’s liberal use of the Middle Ages as a touchstone, “Game of Thrones” is not a mirror image – there are dragons after all. It’s a work of medievalism, depictions of the medieval world influenced by the time in which it is created. “It’s not the work of historians but of fantasy writers,” she says.

To help students separate fact from fiction, Rollo-Koster offers examples of the show’s historical hits and misses:

Think the tick threat grows with the grass?

Not necessarily!
USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station

Image result for ticks and tall grassWhen Susannah Lerman talked with fellow researchers and friends about her study of the effects of less frequent lawn mowing to improve habitat for native bees, the response she heard most had nothing to do with bees. 

"The first thing people said was that letting the grass get longer would invite ticks," said Lerman, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station. 

"It was clear that before we could make the case for promoting lawns as bee habitat, we had to understand the tick risk."

In a study published  in the journal PLOS ONE, Lerman and her Northern Research Station colleague, Research Entomologist Vince D'Amico, report on their quest to get to the bottom of a common assumption about the urban landscape: ticks like long grass. 

In the waters off our coast, in the sanctuary Trump wants to destroy

New Deep-Sea Coral Species Discovered in Atlantic Marine Monument
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

New species of coral found in Lydonia Canyon
A bubblegum coral (Paragorgia spp.) similar to,
but distinct from, the new species identified in Lydonia Canyon.
(Photo by Ivan Agerton, OceanX)
DNA analysis recently confirmed that Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists and their collaborators at OceanX, the University of Connecticut (UConn), and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) discovered two new species of deep-sea corals during a September 2018 expedition in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, located about 100 miles from the Northeast U.S. coast.

The research team was led by deep-sea biologist Tim Shank of WHOI and included co-PIs Taylor Heyl (WHOI), Rachel O’Neill (UConn), and John Leichty (JPL). Utilizing OceanX’s research and exploration vessel Alucia, the team explored and surveyed several of the unique deep-sea habitats in the monument, which includes three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Image result for trump and Atlantic Marine Monument
During the two-week expedition, the scientists collected a total of 29 coral samples in Lydonia Canyon at depths between 369 meters (1,211 feet) and 903 meters (2,963 feet) using the submarine Nadir. These were the first human-occupied submersible dives in this canyon since 1982 and only the third deep-submergence mission to Lydonia Canyon.

"Through ongoing genetic barcoding, we have identified at least two corals so far that represent genetically different species," Shank said. "They don’t show sufficient genetic similarity to be any species that is currently known in the world’s repository for DNA sequences."

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Two Days in Tennessee in 1953

A Racial Memory
By Gerald Scorse, Progressive Charlestown guest columnist

Image result for jim crow and baseballMemories can last forever. This is one of my forevers, still touching me deep after 66 years.

It’s 1953 and I’m 17, a cub sports reporter for the Jamestown (NY) Post-Journal.  A close friend breaks into professional baseball down South. The paper sends me off to work up a feature story.

Come with me now to Maryville, Tennessee, to an America I never knew existed. Join me on the bus as I meet Jim Crow—up close and personal, then out the window, in this country I’d never seen before.

I don’t remember the name of the place where it happened. I just remember sitting down and the bus driver walking back and telling me to move. “You can’t sit here,” he said, “only coloreds sit back here.” 

It was my first time ever in the South, and already I’d broken a supreme law: Whites don’t mix with blacks. They don’t sit together on buses, they don’t drink from the same water fountains, they don’t use the same rest rooms.

Separate rest rooms and water fountains were unheard-of to me, and I had my first sighting out the bus window. There stood two fountains, starkly unequal, marked in big capital letters “WHITE” and “COLORED”. The signs laid down the rules, and they were meant to be obeyed.

When the bus driver told me to change seats, I changed seats. Just two years later, Rosa Parks made civil rights history by breaking the rules.

I love baseball, and I really loved somebody else picking up my expenses, so the rest of the trip was sweet.  I heard an echo at the end though, and you will too.

Trump science

For more cartoons by Mike Luckovich, CLICK HERE.

Preview of Barr's version of Mueller Report

Pic of the Moment

How climate change is already changing our coastal waters

Citizen science shows that climate change is rapidly reshaping Long Island Sound
Hannes Baumann, University of Connecticut

In the summer of 1973, Joe Hage was in the seventh grade. Together with his peers, he boarded the old Boston Whaler from Project Oceanology just as dawn began to shimmer from behind the trees of Bluff Point.

He remembers how instructors led the crowd into knee-deep waters, the velvety green marsh, eel grass tickling their mud-stuck legs, the crabs and snails and fish that flailed around in a beach seine.

To Joe, this was heaven. He was hooked for life.

More than 45 years later, the nonprofit Project Oceanology continues its mission to teach schoolchildren about the ocean. The organization shows students how to measure temperature, pH and oxygen, and lets them sift through trawl catches of fish and crabs. Next year, Project Oceanology will welcome the millionth student on board its bright blue boats.

The project did more than teach students about the ocean: It routinely collected data for more than four decades. On every boat trip, on every excursion, students scribbled their measurements onto protocol sheets. These records went into steel cabinets, which obliviously guarded a growing treasure, waiting to be lifted.

Charlestown is a tree pollen Red Zone this week


Progress on bill to expand food donations

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Image result for food gleanersIt may get a lot easier to donate excess food, as a bill that allows institutions to give away food cleared its House committee with the backing of many key stakeholders.

After resisting similar bills in previous years, the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH), the Rhode Island Food Dealers Association, and the Rhode Island Hospitality Association all support the legislation to reduce food waste and curb hunger.

“We want to make sure food goes to its highest and best use and that is feeding people,” said Eva Agudelo, founder of Hope’s Harvest RI, a “gleaner” service of volunteers who deliver excess agricultural products from farms to hunger-relief organizations.

The bill (H5322) is the result of the 2018 Task Force on Food Donation and Food Waste. The House commission found that a fear of lawsuits prevented restaurants, schools, and makers from donating excess food.

Fighting for our lives

How a 'missing' movement made gun control a winning issue
Aimee Huff, Oregon State University and Michelle Barnhart, Oregon State University

Image result for anti-gun movementThirty-three Republicans and all but one Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to pass additional restrictions on gun ownership as part of a renewed Violence Against Women Act earlier this month. 

This move came on the heels of the February passage of two gun control bills: the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act, all of which were opposed by the NRA.

As the first gun control legislation to pass either the House or Senate since the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the recent bills mark a historic shift in American politics.

We have studied contemporary American gun culture for the past four years, tracing the foundation of the emerging gun control movement. Our research offers insight into the ways that gun violence prevention groups have promoted cultural shifts around guns, and why so many legislators are now willing to broach this contentious issue.

For the past 25 years, gun control has been the untouchable “third rail” of American politics. Even in the face of multiple mass shootings – Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando and Las Vegas, to name a few – very few politicians have declared themselves in favor of gun control. On the other hand, many successful politicians have positioned themselves as “pro-gun.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

No tax cut for you!

Tax Day 2019 Finds A Tax System Skewed to the Rich and Powerful
Image result for Trump-GOP tax cutsTax Day, when we settle our personal accounts with Uncle Sam, is also a good day to take account of our tax system overall. 

That’s especially true this year, when the first tax returns prepared under the new rules of the Trump-GOP tax law are due. We should be asking whether our system is fair, whether it raises the revenue we need, whether it promotes economic growth and equality.

The answer to all three questions is, unfortunately, no. The tax code, already full of loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, was laden with even more by the new tax law. 

That law will also add nearly $2 trillion to the national debt, endangering services like Medicare, Medicaid and education, as well as vital new initiatives like lowering healthcare costs and improving road and bridges.

And the Trump-GOP tax cuts is doing little to promote economic growth, but a lot to promote economic inequality, even as the gap between rich and poor reaches Gilded Age proportions.

Over 20% of the Trump-GOP tax cuts are estimated to have gone to the wealthiest 1% of Americans last year. And once the law is fully in effect eight years from now, the imbalance will get even worse: 83% of the benefits will go to One Percenters. 

Gotta love the Electoral College

For more cartoons by Tom Tomorrow, CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Footage emerges of Donald Trump's top advisor

To watch this video on YouTube:

Big Wal-Mart is watching you

New type of mobile tracking link shoppers' physical movements, buying choices
Carnegie Mellon University
Image result for mobile tracking of shoppers
Improvements in the precision of mobile technologies make it possible for advertisers to go beyond using static location and contextual information about consumers to increase the effectiveness of mobile advertising based on customers' location. 

A new study used a targeting strategy that tracks where, when, and for how long consumers are in a shopping mall to determine how shoppers' physical movements affect their economic choices. 

The study found that targeting potential customers in this way can significantly improve advertising via mobile phones.

Who jacked up the price of insulin?

Plenty of Blame to Go Around
By Phil Mattera for the Dirt Diggers Digest

Related imageCalled to testify before a Congressional committee about the soaring price of insulin, producers of the life-saving medication tried to give the impression that they were part of the solution rather than the source of the problem.

Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi pointed to their patient assistance programs to argue that help was available to anyone who needed it.

The tactic of offering selective discounts is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry but it seems to be losing its effectiveness as a way of blunting criticism of unjustifiable price boosts. 

In the hearing before a House investigative subcommittee, the manufacturers had to resort to another maneuver: blaming others in the supply chain. 

They argued that the real culprits were the big pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the rebates they demand from the producers.

Appearing at the same hearing were representatives of three big PBMs – Optum Rx, Express Scripts and CVS Health – who, not surprisingly, denied responsibility. “I have no idea why the prices are so high, none of it is the fault of rebates,” said Amy Bricker, a senior vice president for Express Scripts.

It remains to be seen whether this mutual finger-pointing will be successful. The truth is probably that both sets of parties deserve plenty of blame. You only have to look at their track records. Each of the companies has a history of breaking the rules.

"Too full?"

A country can never be too rich, too beautiful or too full of peopleJay L. Zagorsky, Boston University

File 20190409 2927 1qy0s7w.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1“Our Country is FULL!” U.S. President Donald Trump recently tweeted.

He was referring to immigrants, but the rhetorical tweet begs the question: Can a country ever be full?

Economists like me have been arguing for centuries about the question but also a closely related one: Is a growing population good or bad?

A country’s ‘carrying capacity’

The first economist to suggest there were limits to how many inhabitants a country could support was Thomas Malthus, who wrote his most famous work, “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” in 1798.

Malthus believed that each country had a “carrying capacity,” a maximum number of people it can support. When the population is above its carrying capacity, it is full.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

While you pay YOUR taxes, look who gets to pay NOTHING.

Corporate Tax Avoidance Remains Rampant Under New Tax Law
60 Profitable Fortune 500 Companies Avoided All Federal Income Taxes in 2018
By Matthew Gardner, Steve Wamhoff Mary Martellotta, Lorena Roque for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

Image result for corporate tax breaksFor decades, profitable Fortune 500 companies have manipulated the tax system to avoid paying even a dime in tax on billions of dollars in U.S. profits.

This ITEP report provides the first comprehensive look at how corporate tax changes under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affect the scale of corporate tax avoidance.

The report finds that in 2018, 60 of America’s biggest corporations zeroed out their federal income taxes on $79 billion in U.S. pretax income.

Instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes at the 21 percent statutory corporate tax rate, these companies enjoyed a net corporate tax rebate of $4.3 billion.

Companies Represent Diverse Economic Sectors

The companies avoiding income taxes in 2018 represent a range of segments of the U.S. economy:
Computer maker International Business Machines (IBM) earned $500 million in U.S. income and received a federal income tax rebate of $342 million.

The retail giant Amazon reported $11 billion of U.S. income and claimed a federal income tax rebate of $129 million.

The streaming service Netflix paid no federal income tax on $856 million of U.S. income.

Beer maker Molson Coors enjoyed $1.3 billion of U.S. income in 2018 and received a federal income tax rebate of $22.9 million.

Automaker General Motors reported a negative tax rate on $4.3 billion of income.

All 60 companies’ effective federal income tax rates for 2018 are shown in the table below.

William Barr as a schoolboy

For more cartoons by Ruben Bolling, CLICK HERE.

Taxes, explained

Tragedy may lead to better Rhode Island 911 training

After Baby’s Death, Rhode Island 911 Operators May Receive Enhanced Training
By Lynn Arditi, The Public’s Radio and ProPublica

Col. James M. Manni on Friday confirmed that he is asking Gov. Gina Raimondo to have all 34 telecommunicators and eight supervisors in the 911 emergency center certified in emergency medical dispatch, or EMD.

EMD certification is required for people who answer emergency medical calls in every other New England state.

Manni’s efforts follow a story by The Public’s Radio and ProPublica last month about a 6-month-old baby in Warwick who was the subject of an emergency 911 call last year. 

Can you make fries out of them?

By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor

Sea potatoes are native to the coasts of Korea and Japan.During a class field trip to Mackerel Cove in Jamestown, R.I., in 2017, University of Rhode Island student Jacob Reilly picked up an unusual brown seaweed that looked like a hollow ball and asked his professor what it was. The answer was a surprise.

Reilly had stumbled upon the first appearance in Rhode Island of what has come to be called sea potatoes (Colpomenia peregrina), an invasive seaweed native to the coast of Korea and Japan that grows on top of other seaweeds.

Odds of tax audits on rich people plummet, while audits of working poor skyrocket

Lawmakers Confront the IRS Over Tax Audits That Target the Poor
Related imageOver the past six months, ProPublica has detailed the myriad ways the IRS has been gutted and how that has impacted its ability to do its job. In sum: The wealthy escape scrutiny while the working poor, an easier target, are audited at high rates.

This week, Congress, in two separate hearings, confronted IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig with the findings.

“How can the Congress stand by a tax-enforcement system that punishes working people and gives the wealthy a green light to cheat?” asked Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, during his opening statement on Wednesday.

Wyden was referring to a ProPublica investigation last week into the fate of the elite unit the IRS formed to keep up with the complicated tax-avoidance schemes of the wealthy. Faced with staff cuts and blowback from the wealthy and their tax representatives, the effort fumbled and was scaled way back.

Wyden demanded that Rettig produce a plan within 30 days on how his agency will change a system that is “stacked in favor of the wealthy” and “against the most vulnerable.” Rettig promised to do so.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The price of a civilized society

Do you have a moral duty to pay taxes?
Brookes Brown, Clemson University

Image result for oliver wendell holmes on taxesIt’s tax season. Americans will pay an average of US$10,489 in personal taxes – about 14 percent of the average household’s total income.

Most will do so because they think it is their civic duty. Many believe they are morally obliged to obey the law and pay their share. But as tax day approaches, many Americans will bemoan their tax bill and complain that it is unfair.

So, how are we to know if paying taxes is the right thing to do? Perhaps philosophy has some clues?

Repeal and replace

Smart, very smart

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, meme and text

Durability Vs. Recyclability

Dueling Goals in Making Electronics More Sustainable

fast food cooking GIF by Javier ArrésThe falling cost of solar power has led to a boom in recent years, with more and more photovoltaic panels popping up on rooftops and backyard solar farms around the world.
But what happens to all of those solar panels in a couple of decades when they reach the end of their useful life? And what about electronic devices with even shorter life spans?

Those questions are at the heart of new research released by a team at Georgia Institute of Technology, where researchers looked into the impact of government policies put in place to reduce the amount of electronics waste filling up landfills.

“There is a lot of concern in sustainability circles that manufacturers are making things with shorter and shorter life spans, and products are perhaps even intentionally made to become obsolete to induce replacement purchases,” said Beril Toktay, a professor at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business.

News and views on the Stop & Shop strike

Please DO NOT cross workers’ picket lines
By Aaron Regunberg and Common Creams

Thousands of Stop & Shop workers in Rhode Island and across New England are on strike for a fair contract.

I ask you to join me in standing in solidarity with these hardworking Rhode Islanders by honoring the strike until Stop & Shop offers its employees a fair contract.

I visited three store branches in Providence to speak with striking workers, and I was inspired by their united, brave commitment to stand up for themselves and their families.

These are mothers, fathers, and professionals - many of whom have been loyal employees of Stop & Shop for 20 or 30 years. Yet right now they are facing draconian cuts that threaten their basic economic security.

Stop & Shop's parent company made over $2 billion in profits last year, and recently received a $225 million tax cut from Trump. Yet they are demanding that their workers accept deep cuts to their pensions, health benefits, sick days, and take home pay. It's simply not right.

American workers are struggling with stagnating wages, while the wealth of those at the very top continues to increase exponentially. That's what this fight is about. And that's why it's so important we back our fellow Rhode Islanders until they secure the fair contract they and their families deserve.

Shop Stopped: Grocery Store Strike of 31K Workers Receives Support From Warren, Sanders
"We really decided there had to be a labor action and stand up to this corporate greed."

Workers on strike at Stop & Shop in New England.Some 31,000 workers walked off the job at Stop & Shop stores across New England Thursday in response to the company cutting wages and benefits, a strike that prompted the support and praise of prominent Democrats and left wing activists. 

The strike is the result of a March vote by store union members to walk off the job if a fair contract between the union and the grocery corporation could not be reached during negotiations.

Even though the labor action was not unexpected, the size of the strike was notable, as HuffPost reporter Dave Jamieson pointed out.

We've seen this reality show before

Nixon and Reagan tried closing the border to pressure Mexico – here's what happened
Aileen Teague, Brown University

File 20190405 180029 8r970h.gif?ixlib=rb 1.1
Richard Nixon closed the US-Mexico border in 1969. Here's what happened.
Just a week ago, President Donald Trump appeared poised to take the drastic step of closing the U.S.-Mexico border to both trade and travel. 

He said he wanted to stop the flood of Central American migrants entering the United States but also punish Mexico for failing to do so.

But on April 4, the president backpedaled and instead gave Mexico a year to stop the flow of drugs across the border. 

If that didn’t happen, he threatened, auto tariffs would be imposed – and the president suggested he might still close the border if that didn’t work.

If Trump ever follows through on his threat and puts up a closed sign at the southern border, it wouldn’t be the first time. Twice in the last half-century the U.S. has tried to use the border to force Mexico to bend to America’s will. The ruse failed both times.

I studied these incidents while researching for a book on the origins of U.S. drug control policies and militarized policing techniques in Mexico from the 1960s to the 1990s. The history suggests that threats of border closure may be politically useful but are never a real answer to human tragedy.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Trump is nuts: what can be done about it?

Why it's hard to remove, or even diagnose, mentally ill or unstable presidents
John Rogan, Fordham University and Joseph J. Fins, Cornell University
For more cartoons by Mike Luckovich, CLICK HERE.

In the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, members of Congress set out to update the procedures for handling an unable president. They soon realized that some situations would be far more challenging than others.

Famed political scientist Richard Neustadt emphasized one of the most ominous of those situations when he testified before the Senate. “Constitutions,” he warned, cannot “protect you against madmen. The people on the scene at the time have to do that.”

Congress’ reform effort culminated with the 25th Amendment. It provides essential improvements to the Constitution’s original presidential succession provisions. But a novel released in 1965, the same year Congress approved the amendment, makes a strong case that Neustadt’s insight was spot on.

The recently reissued “Night of Camp David” by veteran D.C. journalist Fletcher Knebel illuminates the daunting challenges that arise when the commander in chief is mentally unfit and unwilling to acknowledge it.

Nice hat

Image may contain: text

VIDEO: A real Idiot's Guide to the Green New Deal

To watch this video on YouTube:

Who's the boss?

Pet owners want to be masters, not servants – which is why we value dogs more than cats
Colleen P. Kirk, New York Institute of Technology

Cat videos may rule the internet, but dogs possess mastery of their owners’ hearts – at least if spending is any guide.

Dog owners spend US$240 a month caring for their pets, compared with $193 for cats, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Products Association. The extra money goes primarily toward vet visits and kennel boarding, but dog owners also spend more lavishly on treats, grooming and toys.

My new paper, “Dogs Have Masters, Cats Have Staff,” shines some light on why.

Get up!

Sitting and diabetes in older adults: Does timing matter?
John Bellettiere, University of California San Diego; Andrea LaCroix, University of California San Diego, and Matthew Mclaughlin, University of Newcastle

Adults are sitting more than ever, and few pay attention to how they sit throughout the day.

Take a moment to think about all the reasons we sit. First off, you’re probably sitting while reading this.

Some of the most common sitting activities include eating meals; driving; talking on the phone; using a computer, television, or small device; and reading.

Now take another moment to think about all the sitting done across your lifetime.

The fact is, the amount of time spent sitting has increased over time. And with innovations such as Alexa, delivered groceries, and pre-made meal services, we expect many older adults will sit longer, and will do it more often. As of today, the average older adult spends between 56 percent and 86 percent of their waking day sedentary. That’s a lot of sitting.

Our research team studies healthy aging and is interested in how sitting too much might contribute to heart disease and diabetes. Our recent study suggests that the way older adults accumulate their sitting time might be important for aging without diabetes.

Court saves our coastline from Trump. For now.

A defeat on offshore drilling extends the Trump administration's losing streak in court

The Trump administration’s push to boost fossil fuel extraction has received a major setback.

On March 29, Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled invalid Trump’s order lifting a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the the Arctic Ocean and along parts of the North Atlantic coast.

Gleason held that the relevant law – the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – authorizes presidents to withdraw offshore lands from use for energy development, but not to reverse such decisions by past administrations.

If this ruling is upheld on appeal, it would bolster lawsuits contesting another controversial action by President Trump: Removing some 2 million acres from the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, which were created by Presidents Obama and Clinton respectively under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

As scholars of environmental and natural resources law, we believe that in both instances, the Trump administration has misconstrued statutes as affording it powers that Congress never gave to presidents.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Money laundering, fraud, tax evasion and more

Why Trump Wants the Mueller Report and His Taxes Kept Secret
By C. Collins

Donald Trump’s desperate efforts to both hide Special Prosecutor Robert S. Mueller’s findings, as well as his tax returns, take on new meaning in light of documents a federal judge unsealed at my request.

Together with a new lawsuit filed against Felix Sater, a Russian-born mobster and government informant who worked closely with Trump for years, the unsealed documents also help explain why Trump is so determined to discredit the FBI.

The bureau should have intimate knowledge of business dealings between the mobster and Trump, who despite being cut off by every major bank except one, was flush with cash after a few years of working with Sater. 

The one bank that kept loaning Trump money was Deutsche Bank, which has been fined more than $600 million for laundering money for Russians.

The Justice Department, long before Trump took office, credited Sater with “providing information crucial to national security.”