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Well, this sucks. (climate change, debt growth, school shootings, and more) August 7, 2018

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“This two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.” They’re…not kidding. It’s heartbreaking.

“By almost every measure, the U.S. economy is booming. But a look behind the headlines of roaring job growth and consumer spending reveals how the boom continues in large part by the poorer half of Americans fleecing their savings and piling up debt.

Twice as many students have been killed in school shootings [in 2018] as have members of the military who were on deployment.”

“Terrorist attacks committed by Muslim extremists receive 357% more US press coverage than those committed by non-Muslims, according to new research from the University of Alabama. […] The disparity in media coverage is particularly out of sync with the reality given that white and rightwing terrorists carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Muslim extremists between 2008 and 2016.

“Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men’s prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man.” This one has turned up some awful comments about “well, he deserved the death penalty, regardless of how he got it.” No. Stop. You really think this problem will only affect “the bad ones” and leave “the good ones” alone? Because that’s Not How It Works. See previous link. Or, alternately, all of history.

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Seaweed, marshmallows, phantom hands, and other science tidbits July 9, 2018

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How a mistakenly-hired seaweed scientist helped win WWII. (Bletchley Park tried to recruit a cryptogramist…well, a cryptogamist is a biologist who studies seaweed, mosses, and ferns.)

According to my mother, my missing pectoral muscle was noticed almost immediately by the doctor who delivered me. There was no diagnosis of any cause for the defect, and I’m not sure if she even asked. It was just missing, and I accepted that absence as a simple fact for most of my childhood.”

“RN’s case is interesting because the hand that was amputated only had three fingers to begin with. One would expect that her phantom limb would be a replica of the hand she lost. But that’s not what happened. RN reported feeling five fingers on her phantom hand. They weren’t five normal fingers—her thumb and index finger felt shorter than the rest—but there were definitely five.

“While students of all categories suffered from class-induced jet lag, the study found that night owls were especially vulnerable, many appearing so chronically jet-lagged that they were unable to perform optimally at any time of day.”

“Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”

And the laptop Negroponte was pitching in 2005 simply didn’t exist. [One Laptop Per Child]’s prototype was little more than a mockup. It hadn’t signed a manufacturer, let alone priced out a sub-$100 product. Groundbreaking technologies like the crank and mesh networking system were still mostly theoretical.”

“Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.

“Avoid unkind generalizations like equating the jailing of ethnic minorities with some malevolent form of fascism.” July 6, 2018

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Talking about imprisoned immigrants at the protest last week, a Jewish woman read this poem.

So yeah, I’ve sent $18 each to HOLA Ohio, Kids In Need Of Defense, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, and the Ohio ACLU.

“The medical staffing shortage is of particular concern. This week, initial tests for tuberculosis came back positive for some new arrivals, and further testing will be required to determine whether they might be contagious. Other immigrants have arrived with rashes and skin legions, which are “basically being put on hold because we don’t have the medical staff to treat them,” says Kostelnik.

“A week later, Mr. Garcia was still being held by immigration officials, and his family was preparing to spend Father’s Day without him. […] Mr. Garcia’s case appears to show just how sweeping ICE can be in making arrests regardless of an immigrant’s legal status or how long ago their criminal case was resolved.

The service members affected by the recent discharges all enlisted in recent years under a special program aimed at bringing medical specialists and fluent speakers of 44 sought-after languages into the military.” This is so transparently, blatantly not about making us safer.

Civility tips from The Onion: “Avoid unkind generalizations like equating the jailing of ethnic minorities with some malevolent form of fascism.”

Guys, imagine what they would say if Hillary compulsively ripped up all her papers. Just IMAGINE. July 4, 2018

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White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law.”

A combined 20 people have died in the Sodini, Rodger, and Minassian attacks. None of it was hard to see coming. The radical misogynist ideology behind the incel attacks was not remotely obscure.”

“But no matter whose fault it is, giving birth to a child with a terminal disease is something I did do. This is just as obvious as it is important: I am the one who was pregnant and gave birth to Dudley. That I continued my pregnancy under mistaken pretenses feels like an irreparable violation, one that I don’t think any man — including the one who loves Dudley as much as I do — is capable of understanding.

“Tell me again how much God hates abortion. Here, he’s giving the recipe for a drink that induces one.” (Numbers 5:11-31)

“While some claim targets for the inclusion of underrepresented groups lead to the promotion of individuals that do not deserve it, economists at the London School of Economics found that the reverse is true. Quotas can work to weed out incompetent men.

Apparently the uptick in allergies over the past few decades can be traced, at least partly, to sex differences in post-Dutch-Elm-disease urban tree-planting patterns, beginning in the 1980s.

“Media attention to rape in film is targeted mostly at how audiences perceive the scenes and lamenting the studios’ sheer mass of sexual violence on screen. Many articles ask the question: Are these scenes gratuitous? But rarely do we think about the filmmakers, actors and crew who make on-screen rapes happen, like MacNair. How do they feel?

“The Erics who spoke up with change-oriented ideas were far more likely to be identified as leaders than Erics who simply critiqued their team’s performance. But Ericas did not receive a boost in status from sharing ideas even though they were exactly the same as the Erics’.”

“So the student researchers were surprised when their hypothesis proved false – code written by women was in fact more likely to be approved by their peers than code written by men. But that wasn’t the end of the story: this only proved true as long as their peers didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

I dread the day when the suffering of my fellow is none of my concern June 28, 2018

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I’ve had Grace Petrie’s “They Shall Not Pass” in pretty heavy rotation for a few days now, and wanted to share.

Stand up today that we might save tomorrow
Oh I know there’s a way that we might save tomorrow
Yes it’s late in the day but we might save tomorrow if we try

We shall not turn against each other, for our creed or for our colour
Nor the ones we choose our lovers, or our class
You that beckon us that way, you shall not pass

Guns in the hands of people who should not have guns. June 15, 2018

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People killed by police in the US, 2018. Currently at 524.

“For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.” The government is coming down hard on the background-checking employee who couldn’t log in. Buried in the article is the reveal that she never even asked for the job: “Wilde told the Times she had been working in the mailroom when she was given oversight of the database in 2013. ‘I didn’t understand why I was put in charge of it.’

At Gun World in Hilliard, Ohio, a dealer was found in 2016 to have repeatedly sold firearms to people who appeared to be prohibited from owning them, including a customer who self-identified as a felon. It is a federal crime for a felon to have a gun. An A.T.F. inspector recommended the store’s license be revoked. […] Gun World remains open. When reached by telephone, an employee at Gun World hung up.”

Guns will be barred during Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at an upcoming National Rifle Association convention to protect his safety.” So even the NRA won’t stand behind the NRA’s “more guns = more safety” claim.

Citigroup won’t do business with companies that don’t background-check their gun sales. As a commenter notes: “I have worked for several banks, and they all have criteria for determining who they will do business with. Unacceptable lines of business often are those engaged in marijuana/drug sales, adult retail or film industry, gambling.”

In Indiana, after the enactment of the [“red flag”] law [in 2005], we saw a 7.5 percent decrease in firearms suicides in the 10 years that followed […] We didn’t see any notable increase or decrease in non-firearms suicide.”

“According to a 2008 RAND Corporation study evaluating the New York Police Department’s firearm training, between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate during gunfights was just 18 percent. When suspects did not return fire, police officers hit their targets 30 percent of the time.

Two Gardena police officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of using their position to acquire firearms and illegally selling more than 100 of the weapons to others, including a convicted felon.”

Mueller’s investigation has obtained 5 guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments. So far. June 7, 2018

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“A majority of Americans — 59 percent — say in a new survey that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the 2016 campaign has not yet uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though in reality, Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments.

“Benjamin Franklin wrote that ‘perhaps I am partial to the complexion of my country, for such kind of partiality is natural to mankind.’ He favored ‘the English’ and ‘white people,’ and did not want Pennsylvania to become a ‘colony of aliens,’ who ‘will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.’ He was speaking of the Germans.”

“Their study finds a correlation between white American’s intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

“During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

I get a letter from the state saying I’m a witness against Lula Smart—for what? All I know is it’s a lie. Bottom line. She’s never brought me anything about voting. I’ve only seen that girl twice in the past five years. Racism’s all it is.”

Count up your assets, subtract your debt, get some data: “The [Boston] household median net worth was $247,500 for whites; $8 for US blacks (the lowest of all five cities); $12,000 for Caribbean blacks; $3,020 for Puerto Ricans; and $0 for Dominicans (that’s not a typo either.) ”

“When Kevin Smith was jailed on a drug charge in New Orleans in 2010, Blockbuster was still renting DVDs and President Barack Obama was still trying to pass his signature health care bill. Smith’s case never went to a jury.” They finally dismissed the charges, after nearly 8 years of holding this poor guy without a trial.

Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).”

We need to stop treating the NFL like anything other than what it is: a for-profit association of billionaires (the average franchise value is $2.5 billion) that produces a product that hundreds of millions of Americans pay for.”

Trashing our oceans, killing our power grids, burning down our buildings, and more May 22, 2018

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“In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

“The river is fed by 51 tributaries, some of them overflowing with plastic waste from squatter settlements that cantilever precariously over creek banks. A tributary near Chinatown, where rickety shanties are wedged between modern buildings, is so choked with plastic debris you can walk across it, forgoing the footbridge.

“A new report from the Rhodium Group on Puerto Rico’s ongoing blackout has found that Hurricane Maria has spawned the second-largest power outage in the world on record.

Fundraising for a Dallas LGBT community center that was intentionally set on fire last year. They’ve gotten enough to do a lot of rebuilding, but they can always use more.

In 2012 a call center in India was busted for making 8 million calls in eight months to collect made-up bills. The Federal Trade Commission has since broken up at least 13 similar scams. In most cases, regulators weren’t able to identify the original perpetrators because the data files had been sold and repackaged so many times. Victims have essentially no recourse to do anything but take the abuse.”

“For those of you who work in social media, I need to share the story of my friend who died, and I didn’t know because algorithms.

“The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing. [..] The Nazis realized they couldn’t beat the bot, so they started mass-reporting it to Twitter for “harassment.”

And to end this post on a not-totally-disheartening note…”In short, in fighting neo-Nazis/alt-right/white-male discontent / We are the Globo-Corpo-Homo-Judeo establishment

It’s the [Democrats being better for the] economy, stupid May 7, 2018

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Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.” The Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. Full stop.

The results of [raising taxes in Minnesota] continue to surprise and delight: unemployment is down to 3.7%, private sector earnings are up 1.5% to $891/week, 47,000 new jobs were added to the economy in the past year, and the state just declared a $1.8B budget surplus, even as Forbes ranked it 9th in its table of best states for business. But this is all the more remarkable when compared the fate of the Republican-run, austerity-fuelled neighboring states […] They are running deficits, the people there are earning less than their Minnesotan cousins, they’re adding fewer (and worse) jobs, and posting less growth.”

If you’re a part-time employee at Walmart, and all of a sudden you can get $15 an hour, work full time, and earn full benefits by working for the federal government — wouldn’t you? And, knowing that, wouldn’t Walmart try to increase wages to keep you?”

Study Confirms What Your Grandmother Already Taught You: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “Want a healthier population? Spend less on health care and more on social services.”

Canceling all the government-owned student debt would be good for the economy. I’ve said it before, but this time I’m saying it with all my own debt paid off.

Periodic reminder that SNAP is one of the most effective economic stimuli we have, where every dollar spent gets back $1.79.

Hey, did you know defective guns can’t be recalled? Not a joke. There are gun models that can go off when you drop ’em, and no product recalls. April 5, 2018

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People killed by police in the US, 2018. Currently at 333.

“Taurus sold almost a million handguns that can potentially fire without anyone pulling the trigger. The government won’t fix the problem. The NRA is silent.” Every time I think I’ve heard the most insane thing about the lack of gun regulation in this country, I get proven wrong. In the US you can freely sell defective guns and they won’t be recalled.

Beginning with Columbine in 1999, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours, according to a year-long Washington Post analysis. This means that the number of children who have been shaken by gunfire in the places they go to learn exceeds the population of Eugene, Ore., or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.”

“Marco Rubio […] wrote a letter to Ms. DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioning whether the [Obama-era racial discipline] guidance allowed the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, to evade law enforcement and carry out the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High. It was, on its face, an odd point: Mr. Cruz is white, and far from evading school disciplinary procedures, he had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas.

“These violent outbursts last year, and others like them, had key things in common. Chief among them: Long before the violence, the people identified as attackers had elicited concerns from those who had encountered them, red flags that littered their paths to wreaking havoc on unsuspecting strangers.”

“A north Georgia high school teacher was arrested on Wednesday after he barricaded himself in a classroom and fired a shot from his handgun out of a window, police said.” But sure, let’s give the teachers guns.

I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat. We used it because it was the most lethal — the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands.” A veteran and a Republican congressman. Will that make people more likely to listen?