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Sunday, July 30, 2017

History of USA Healthcare Reform


"In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to ceaselessly roll a giant stone to the summit, only for it to roll back down. In trying to fix health care, we Americans are like Sisyphus — and it’s a little painful to witness the strenuous futility."

"First, let’s look back to see how our health care system evolved. Every U.S. president throughout the 20th century had universal health care high on his agenda."

• In the early 1900s, doctors organized to create the American Medical Association. Policymakers bowed to this deep-pocketed group that had a long tradition of killing legislation that changes health care. Unless the AMA was on board, health legislation was pretty much doomed.

• In 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt attempted mandatory health insurance, though the effort was sidelined by World War I.

• First fundamental change: In the 1920s, the cost of health care increased relative to other sectors — and two hospitals began to offer health insurance to groups of employees. That began the advent of third-party payers.

• Franklin Roosevelt tried to include health insurance in the Social Security Act of 1935, but opposition by the AMA resulted in its being dropped.

• During World War II, employers began to offer health insurance coverage to compensate for wage controls placed on employers.

• Harry Truman proposed a national health care system, but again, the AMA ostracized the plan calling it the S-word: “socialized medicine.”

• During Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, a 1954 law allowed contributions made by both employers and employees for private health insurance to be tax-free. Millions more Americans were able to gain private health coverage through their employer.

• John Kennedy proposed universal coverage, but when his presidency was tragically cut short, Lyndon Johnson picked up the mantle. He was unable to get universal care, but through tenacity and sheer legislative mastery he achieved insurance for the elderly, the very poor and the disabled. It was 1965, and they called it Medicare and Medicaid. The AMA was vehemently opposed to the legislation, but Johnson seduced them by allowing them to price their own services and procedures. This is when health care costs dramatically and momentously increased.

• In 1973, Richard Nixon signed the Health Maintenance Organization Act to help reduce costs.

• Health care got lost in the policy wilderness for the next 45 years. Then on March 23, 2010, Barack Obama achieved near universal coverage with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Fundamental change is inherently disruptive. Fury and acrimony ensued with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. For example, at the time, hospitals were segregated, but to receive Medicare funds, hospitals would have to become integrated. Imagine how well that went over in the overtly racist South.

But now Medicare and Medicaid are popular and well-accepted programs. Don’t believe me? Ask any senior to give up his or her Medicare and watch the reaction. For me, Medicare is far better than any employer insurance I’ve ever had.

The ACA was another disruptive fundamental change. Indeed, seven years later we are still in the eye of the storm, even though tens of millions of Americans have gained insurance. The ACA needs to be improved, not scrapped. Down the road, Obamacare will be as popular and well-accepted as Medicare and Medicaid.

Before we can achieve universal coverage like all the other industrialized nations, we must decide and demand as a society that health care is a right for everyone — not a privilege for some — and that providing universal coverage is a legitimate role of government. The American Medical Association must be on board.

Until that happens, we’re doomed to futilely toil like Sisyphus. Once we all come together with a shared philosophy, that stone we push will stay atop the summit.

From:
http://www.mystatesman.com/news/opinion/commentary-pursuit-health-care-reform-shouldn-sisyphean/Yzfz80Su4iqklawrjPFStK/
Also note:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_health_care_reform_in_the_United_States

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/news-analysis/a-brief-history-on-the-road-to-healthcare-reform-from-truman-to-obama.html

Friday, July 28, 2017

Fear and Climate Change Denial

"With climate change, people are afraid for two reasons. First, they are afraid there is nothing they can do about it. Humans hate to have threats that are beyond our control. We are more afraid of Ebola than heart disease. We are more afraid of flying than driving, we are more afraid of sharks than toasters. We are afraid of things we feel we cannot directly control."

"Secondly, we are also afraid of bad news. How often have you not checked your bank account because you don’t want the bad news? Have you ever known someone who didn’t go to a doctor because they just didn’t want to know what their ailment was? It is so much easier to pretend a problem doesn’t exist. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that people like to be lied to when it quiets their fear."

"So with respect to climate change, that puts the population into two groups. The first group knows that there is a problem, wants to face it head on, and solve it together. The second group cannot bear to look the problem honestly in the face and finds it easier to deny its existence."

"Many people are afraid. Afraid of change, afraid of the future, afraid of people who are not just like us, afraid of terrorism, just plain afraid. For those people it is so easy to buy the lie that the president will build a wall, bring the jobs back, stop the terrorism, and make everything perfect."

"We know intellectually this is all false, but facts don’t matter. Speaking to our fears is what matters. So, the psychological forces that bring people to deny climate change are, in my opinion, the same factors that bring people to support Trump. These factors don’t mean climate deniers are stupid, nor are Trump supporters. It doesn’t mean that they are bad people or immoral in any way. Rather, it tells me that their brain handles fear differently than mine and yours.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/jul/17/surrendering-to-fear-brought-us-climate-change-denial-and-president-trump

Fear Is The Mind Killer:
http://samslair.blogspot.com/2017/07/global-warming-fear-is-mind-killer.html?m=1

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

No Such Thing As Not Voting


Far too many Americans are illiterate in power — what it is, how it operates and why some people have it. As a result, those few who do understand power wield disproportionate influence over everyone else. “We need to make civics sexy again,” says civics educator Eric Liu. “As sexy as it was during the American Revolution or the Civil Rights Movement...."

TED Talk - 15 minutes
I suggest clicking on Transcript and reading along moving highlight while listening to audio:
https://ted.com/talks/eric_liu_there_s_no_such_thing_as_not_voting?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tedspread

How To Understand Power- 7 minutes
https://youtu.be/c_Eutci7ack

The Rules for Rulers (19 minutes)
CGP Grey 
https://youtu.be/rStL7niR7gs

Monday, July 24, 2017

Anti-science: Not Sole Domain of Trumpsters

"Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

"An anti-intellectual is a person who believes that intellect and reason are less important than actions and emotions in solving practical problems and understanding reality."

The definition of 'conscience' => is an inner feeling (or voice) viewed as an acting guide to the rightness or wrongness of one's actions. Thus, if one discounts intellect and reason, then their level of consciousness operates at the emotional and physical level. The conscience follows.

Note: By giving too much sway to one's emotional being, one allows the subconscious too much influence, clout, influence, power, weight, authority, control. By giving too much weight to one's mental being, one risks becoming an intellectual idiot. There's no substitute for common sense when it comes to maintaining balance....

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Putin Attempts Populist Spin to Make Russia Great Again


"During a question and answer session last week, Putin tried to cast doubt on historical accounts that Ivan the Terrible killed his own son.... Putin said the version in which first Russian tsar killed his offspring was created by a Vatican emissary to Moscow in order to discredit the Russian leader."

“Many researchers think that [Ivan] didn’t kill anyone at all,” Putin said, “and that this [story] was concocted by the Papal emissary who came to Russia for negotiations and wanted to turn Orthodox Russia into Catholic Russia.”

"It is widely believed that in a fit of rage and paranoia the tsar murdered his son. The incident instigated a succession crisis that plunged the country into prolonged chaos and civil war."

“But after Ivan refused and told him to get lost — several legends began to spring up," Putin continued. "They began to label him `Ivan the Terrible’ — the super cruel person.”

"Putin’s comments came during his explanation for why Russia’s history is regularly tarnished abroad."

“What concerns the distortion of our history? This has been a trend throughout the entirety of our history. Why? Because, as Alexander III wrote, ‘our vastness is feared by everyone.’”

"Ivan, who ruled from 1530 to 1584 remains one of Russia’s most divisive rulers. Under his reign Russia transformed from a medieval state into a vast empire."

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/putin-offers-revisionist-spin-on-ivan-the-terrible-58403

"An overwhelming majority of Russians positively evaluate the historical role of Tsar Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible. According to a poll carried out by the Public Opinion Foundation, 71 percent of respondents had a positive opinion of Ivan the Terrible, while only 13 percent had a contrary view. The most positive opinions came from the 18-30 year old demographic."

"The pollsters also found that more than half of Russians were unaware that the first official monument in honor of Ivan the Terrible was unveiled in Orel in late October. While only 19 percent knew that the monument had been unveiled, 65 percent approved of it."

"Supporters of the monument claim that Ivan the Terrible was a defender of Russia and an important historical figure. Opponents, however, see him as a paranoid despot."
https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russians-evaluate-the-role-of-ivan-the-terrible-56046

The Moscow Times is:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moscow_Times

Comment: It seems that Russia has a stronger 'populist movement' than we do. The truth is that Ivan the Terrible earned this name for far more than just murdering his son. To believe otherwise is 'naïveté' -- the first prerequisite for becoming a populist.

Also read:
In the new history textbook just released for schoolchildren, Ivan the Terrible is a "reformer," Stalin is a "modernizer," the democratic achievements of Gorbachev and Yeltsin are ignored, and Putin is a hero who restored Russia's greatness.

Putin's Distorted History
https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/putins-distorted-history-29683

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Russia Increases Trade With North Korea

"As China responds to President Trump's call to pressure North Korea to curb its rogue weapons programs, Russia has stepped in to help the hermit nation stay connected to the rest of the world."

"Russia and North Korea have reached a labor immigration agreement to expand a program that already employs 40,000 North Korean laborers in Russia’s timber and construction industries, a major source of foreign currency for Kim Jong Un’s government."

"Also, note that trade between Russia and North Korea increased by 73% during the first two months of 2017 compared to the same period the year before."

"And while Russia’s trade with North Korea appears to be rising, at $130 million annually it is still tiny compared to China’s $6.6 billion in annual trade, Noland said."

"Even so, Russia could cause mischief in North Korea for the U.S. and its northeast Asian allies South Korea and Japan, Noland said. “Yes, it is plausible that Russia will try to increase trade to increase its geopolitical influence.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/06/05/russia-boosts-trade-north-korea-china-cuts/102389824/

Note: "The North Korean currency, the won, has been stable so whatever is going on is not having a big effect."

Note: China and Russia both hire tens of thousands of North Koreans slaves that provide N. Korea with hundreds of millions and millions of hard cash. Both China and Russia are profiting from corrupt practices such as this while enabling North Korea's offensive weapon development while saying that they want to stop such.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/rex-tillerson-blasts-china-for-hiring-slaves-from-north-korean-government/article/2627249

Friday, July 21, 2017

Reincarnation Humor and Quotes

If a child is either presented with the standard creation story in Genesis or else a story that says, "after millions and millions of years of mutations, extinctions, devastating diseases and violent death, God saw all that He had evolved and behold, it was good", which do you think they will prefer? Is it any wonder that there are so many creationists in the world.
http://images.shoutwiki.com/badwebcomicswiki/8/85/Aftereden2.gif

https://answersingenesis.org/media/cartoons/after-eden/

Or, if you either decide to choose between the belief of one lifetime on Earth followed by a heavenly afterlife or else the belief of many successive lifetimes before attaining nirvana, which is the more expedient choice?

Reincarnation cartoons:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/54/48/b5/5448b568955661f1df02bb93ad6bc254--past-life-of-life.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/fc/f7/42/fcf742bef393f8025a698e2a98a6e80d--funny-shit-funny-stuff.jpg

http://cdn.csectioncomics.com/csectioncomics/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2010-04-10-reincarnation-1.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c5/0b/29/c50b29118012dad6851ced11ad1d82da--sarcastic-quotes-humorous-quotes.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ba/a4/8f/baa48f852a1dfbe87d57558608a63e21--halloween-humor-halloween-cartoons.jpg

Reincarnation quote:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/74/18/c4/7418c416ba7b380274067aaff1883bc5.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/8f/81/45/8f814587972619aa14eeeff80ce0b034--reincarnation-quotes-eternal-soul.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/70/95/cd/7095cdfbbb4a198d447fb51706a1d672--spiritual-awakening-spiritual-quotes.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ba/cf/f9/bacff940507615a59b7ef5deb717e6df--old-soul-quotes-daily-inspiration-quotes.jpg

Comment: Who is more likely to provide better stewardship of the planet Earth, God's creation? Creationists or Reincarnationists?
I'm thinking that those who believe they'll have live with the consequences of poor stewardship will generally make the better caretakers.

Note: The notion that you could reincarnate into the animal kingdom from the human kingdom is a fallacy. Fundamentalists of all religions have strange notions.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quotes for July 2017

You can't unring the bell.

"Americans learn only from catastrophe, not from experience."      
Teddy Roosevelt

If we are not regularly embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge has not begun.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.

Fat doesn't make you fat. Sugars make you fat.

Don't try and make life complicated. It's more simple than you "think".

You make your dying by how you live. Live a good life!

Even though there is no such thing as a secret, that's no reason to be a gossip.

Not being wrong does not make you right.

Numbers don't lie. 
People do.

If we were all completely virtuous, it wouldn't matter what type of government we had. As it is though, a democratic republic is our best bet.

"Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results."

"You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way!"

"Do not fear what has been blown up. 
If you must, fear the unexploded."

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
                                          Plato

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. 
                         George S. Patton

Truth exists.
Lies are invented.

Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.

http://asteroidsclub.org/quotes/

Filter Bubbles Skew Your World

"With the Internet, it has become possible to connect with people who share your own worldview and experience enormous reinforcement. It is also very easy to become ideologically isolated online with search engines silently adapting to your search behavior and showing you material that the search engine algorithm has predicted that you want to see. This is ultimately done to monetize the preferences of individuals, but has the disturbing side effect of reducing the amount of divergent information that a person will see. It is like a form of technological confirmation bias. On social media, you also get to decide who you follow and who to block, further strengthening ideological isolation. Technological and social filter bubbles skew their world."

"So you have now realized that you are trapped in an ideological filter bubble. What can you do about it? You start by understanding that they exist. You cannot solve a problem if you do not know (or even deny) that it exists. You also need to accept that it is not just something other people have, but that you might be just as affected by it as your ideological opponents. Finally, you must take many active steps to prevent, lessen or eliminate the technological filter bubbles that are being applied to you."

What to do:
Know that they exist....
Know that you have them too....
Use another search engine....
Make other social media accounts....
Expand diversity of sources....
Actively seek out disconfirming information....
Counter misinformation....
Consistent skepticism....

Read:
https://debunkingdenialism.com/2017/01/11/how-to-defeat-technological-filter-bubbles-that-skew-your-world/

https://debunkingdenialism.com/2017/07/05/why-bother-debunking-flat-earthers/

Also listen to "How common threats can make common ground":
https://youtu.be/v3o-F94S4FI

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Avoiding Anthropogenic Global Warming?

In the worst case scenario for global warming, at least the bulk of the human population fails to survive the confluence of its negative effects that come together in a "perfect storm"! 
There is no best case scenario; because, we blew past that in 1979 when the OPEC oil crisis failed to wake us up to what the World Climate Conference revealed about climate change. It's, also, the year that Alaskans reported the melting of their permafrost. If we had pursued developing and expanding renewable energy technology half as diligently as we did in oil discovery and extraction methods, then we'd have been able to mitigate the situation by now.

As it stands now, we know if we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate then the worst case scenario will happen sooner rather than later. To the degree we reduce our emissions, we can delay the inevitable. But, stop it we cannot-- unless we stabilize the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, which is highly unlikely due to the collective short comings of the human condition. 

My personal guess is that we will eventually experience another 6 degrees Celsius of temperature increase before atmospheric levels stabilize. By then, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse aka  Conquest, War, Famine, and Death will have curtailed our ability to further destroy our biosphere.

Note: The Lord our God promised not to destroy mankind with another flood; but, he never promised to keep us from destroying ourselves.

Conclusion: Each person must decide how to best protect their loved ones in our tenuous future. Logic would dictate that a stringent internationally  cooperative approach would be best (which is the opposite of what most hierarchical thinkers support). At the personal level, one choice might be to avoid further procreation and to support environmental action groups. [Also, avoid wasting any time or energy on global warming deniers (they're so full of reactionary fear that you'll only entrench them even deeper than they already are -- they can't be helped, only pitied).]

Serious Effects of Global Warming:
http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/GlobalWarmingEffects.php

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-warming-101

Search: Global Warming Facts






Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Is Milankovitch Cycle Tempering Global Warming?

"The brilliant Serbian mathematician Milutin Milankovitch explained how our world warms and cools on roughly 100,000-year cycles due to its slowly changing position relative to the Sun. Milankovitch’s theory suggested Earth should be just beginning to head into its next ice age cycle. The surface temperature data gathered seemed to agree; the record showed that Earth experienced a period of cooling (by about 0.3°C) from 1940 through 1970....."

"But other scientists forecasted global warming... they had also observed the three-decade cooling trend... and predicted the cooling would soon switch to warming due to rising human emissions of carbon dioxide.... thus expressing the notion that humans could override nature and force the globe to warm..."

http://asteroidsclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/CO2-levels-chart-James-Balog.png

Earth is cooling... No, It's Warming
https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GISSTemperature/giss_temperature2.php

Milankovitch Cycles and Glaciation
http://www.indiana.edu/~geol105/images/gaia_chapter_4/milankovitch.htm

Milankovitch Cycles
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles

Monday, July 17, 2017

Africa Gags on Trump's Republican "Global Gag Rule"

"Africa has to find a way to rein in its runaway population growth. The latest U.N. projection shows the continent’s population will double by 2050. Of the nine countries that will collectively account for half of the world’s population growth, five are in Africa—and they are some of the poorest: Nigeria, Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. It doesn’t have to be that way. If African girls got access to contraceptives and family-planning advice, the continent could reap a “demographic dividend,” as delayed pregnancy leads to better education and better health for women. That in turn will fuel economic growth for everyone. Get reproductive health care to the girls and save the future."

"Unfortunately, the Trump administration has just made that a lot harder. For decades, the U.S. had been the world’s largest funder of family planning. But when Trump took office, he halted all funding for the U.N. Population Fund and allocated no money for international family planning in his proposed budget. He also reintroduced the Reagan-era “global gag rule,” which bars U.S. funding of any international health-care provider that even mentions abortion. Already, family-planning programs across Africa and Asia have been forced to close for lack of funds—just as the largest generation of girls in human history is reaching adolescence. Limiting those girls’ options isn’t just bad for their countries, it also poses a security threat for rich countries, including the U.S. Rampant population growth in the poorest areas of Africa will only “aggravate the current migration crisis.”

"Ironically, the misguided Trump policy will end up causing more abortions.... But thanks to U.S. aid cuts, Nigerian clinics are running out of contraceptive implants. Over the next three years, some 10,000 women worldwide are expected to die of complications from unwanted pregnancies."

"Nigeria’s population is expected to nearly double in just over 30 years, to surpass that of the U.S.... will become the third-largest country in the world, after India and China. Given that Nigeria cannot even boast of 5 percent of the resources available to the U.S., how can they possibly feed and educate so many people... guarantee them access to clean water, in order to prevent massive outbreaks of disease? [Remember Ebola?!]  Boko Haram and other extremist groups already press children into militias. Even more “idle and illiterate” children will mean bigger, nastier armed factions—and a greater likelihood of conflict."
THE WEEK July 21, 2017

Trump's global gag rule implementation will devastate healthcare in poor countries:
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-global-gag-rule-20170522-story.html


My Comment: As climate change expands desertification around the world and especially in Africa, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be in the news more and more and on a greater and greater scale. Overpopulation is still the #1 cause of the world's ills / and I'm not just talking about poor people.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back-to-the-basics in Global Warming: Greenhouse Effect Demonstrations

Without the greenhouse effect, our planet would be too cold for us to survive. It is greenhouse gases that keep us warm enough to survive. However, too much of a good thing will raise Earth's temperature into the other extreme. Nature had established a balance that we are upsetting by artificially pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

What is the greenhouse effect?
Two minute video:
https://youtu.be/BPJJM_hCFj0

Greenhouse Gases: Climate Change
Two minute video:
https://youtu.be/3JX-ioSmNW8

CO2 and Greenhouse Effect
Eight minute video:
https://youtu.be/HS0So6lOE-8

The Greenhouse Gas Demonstration is a short, but very effective and dramatic demo to show the effect on temperature of increased levels of carbon dioxide.
Four minute video:
https://youtu.be/kwtt51gvaJQ

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Larsen Ice Shelf C Calves Huge Iceberg

The Larsen ice sheet has lost 75% of its mass since 1995. In 1995, a 580-square-mile piece of the Larsen A section of the ice sheet crumbled away; in 2002, the Larsen B section lost 1,255 square miles. The Larsen C iceberg (625 feet thick) represents a larger loss than either of those events.
Antarctic Ice Shelves Map:
https://nsidc.org/sites/nsidc.org/files/images//moa_iceshelves.jpg

Ice shelves are found where glaciers meet the ocean and the climate is cold enough to sustain the ice as it goes afloat. Located mostly around Antarctica, these floating platforms of ice a few hundred meters thick form natural barriers which slow the flow of glaciers into the ocean and thereby regulate sea level rise. In a warming world, ice shelves are of particular scientific interest because they are susceptible both to atmospheric warming from above and ocean warming from below.

Note: Since their discovery over a hundred years ago, shelves—Larsen A, B, C and D—remained fairly stable. However the sudden disintegrations of Larsen A and B in 1995 and 2002 respectively, and the ongoing speed-up of glaciers which fed them, focused scientific interest on their much larger neighbour, Larsen C, the fourth biggest ice shelf in Antarctica.

My Comment: Since us humans tend to be catastrophe oriented, we are fortunate to have such graphic physical events to help us focus our attention on the reality of global warming. Warmer oceans sped up the calving of ice shelves. All that remains is to understand why ocean water temperatures are demonstrably increasing.

Quick Facts On Ice Shelves
https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/quickfacts/iceshelves.html

What The Antarctic Ice Shelf Break Really Means
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-does-the-antarctic-ice-shelf-break-really-mean/

Contribution of Antartica to past and future sea level rise
https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7596/full/nature17145.html

Larsen Ice Shelf 
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larsen_Ice_Shelf

Larsen Shelf B Is Now Set to Completely Disintegrate
https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-study-shows-antarctica-s-larsen-b-ice-shelf-nearing-its-final-act

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Russia's Online Offensive

"Putin’s regime is weaponizing the internet to sow chaos, confusion, and discord across the West."

"What is Russia doing?
It’s conducting a global disinformation campaign of unprecedented scope. Russia’s interference in last year’s U.S. election—when hackers stole and released emails from high-profile Democrats—wasn’t an isolated incident. Kremlin-linked hackers have been active in French and German elections, promoting far-right parties."

"They are also believed to be behind the hack of Qatar’s state news agency last month, when made-up quotes from the country’s leader, expressing support for Israel and Iran, sparked a diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia. In addition to hacking, the Kremlin has also launched a relentless propaganda campaign, deploying armies of internet trolls to spread conspiracy theories and attack Russia’s critics."

"Foreign policy analysts believe President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative, wants to destabilize and divide the West so it cannot threaten his autocratic rule or expansionist ambitions. Defense Secretary James Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week that Putin is aggressively “trying to break any kind of multilateral alliance that is a stabilizing influence in the world” and disrupt “the international order.”

"Is this a new strategy?
Disinformation and propaganda have been around for decades: Moscow has in the past successfully spread rumors that the U.S. government ordered the killing of Martin Luther King and created the AIDS virus to kill gays and blacks. But new technology has made the process of spreading false information infinitely easier."

"Russia now has its own 24-hour news organization, RT, broadcasting in more than 100 countries; its sister outlet, Sputnik, churns out propaganda in more than 30 languages. (Sample headline: “Everyone I spoke with in Crimea wanted to secede from Ukraine.”) These organizations, backed by hundreds of unofficial Moscow-sponsored blogs, twist or fabricate stories to fit their anti-Western agenda. Their global reach is impressive: Since its launch in 2007, RT’s YouTube channel has had 1.8 billion views—more than CNN’s."

"What else is Russia doing?
The Kremlin has recruited an estimated 1,000 full-time online trolls to boost its propaganda efforts. In tandem with thousands of “botnets”—networks of computers that have been hijacked without their owners’ knowledge—these online provocateurs flood blogs, social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and the comment sections of news sites with Moscow’s messaging. These “troll farms” fiercely defend Russia from its critics, often by accusing the West of hypocrisy; spread lies and innuendo about mainstream politicians; and bolster anti-establishment figures such as Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and French right-winger Marine Le Pen. “The Kremlin doesn’t have a preference in terms of Right or Left,” says Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “It has a preference in terms of useful or hostile.” The Kremlin even uses Americans’ online footprints to target those who might be particularly susceptible to propaganda."

"How does it do that?
By harnessing the vast reams of user information collected by the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Much of this data—what an individual likes, or has a strong reaction to—is available commercially, allowing Russia to target people with opinion pieces or fake news stories that might appeal to them. U.S. soldiers, for ex shown footage of Russian troops acting “heroically” against “terrorists” in Syria; anti-immigration or anti-capitalist bloggers, reporters, or Facebook activists are targeted with stories playing to their ideological leanings. The aim is to get “useful idiots” to spread false or misleading stories unwittingly. “They don’t try to win the argument,” says Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. “It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.”

"Is this proving effective?
Very. Ahead of the U.S. election, Russian trolls successfully spread false claims that Hillary Clinton helped run a pedophile ring from the basement of a Washington pizza parlor; in France, they circulated rumors that candidate Emmanuel Macron was gay and secretly funded by Saudi Arabia. Nonpolitical disinformation is often designed to undermine NATO, such as recent fake reports that German soldiers stationed in Lithuania had raped a local teenager. Putin and his cronies argue that the CIA also has a history of spreading disinformation to undermine regimes in countries such as Cuba and Iran. “If we do propaganda,” Sputnik boss Dmitry Kiselyov recently told Western journalists, “then you do propaganda, too.”

"What’s being done to counter the Russians?
Estonia—the target of Russia’s first major cyberattack, in 2007—has a Russian-language TV channel dedicated to countering Moscow’s aggressive disinformation efforts. In Washington, the government-funded Broadcasting Board of Governors recently launched a similar service, and the FBI is reportedly investigating whether the far-right news sites Breitbart.com and Infowars .com have helped Russia spread disinformation. Big tech firms are starting to clamp down: Facebook, which recently closed 30,000 French accounts for spreading fake news, now allows users to flag false stories; Google has adjusted its algorithms to prioritize reputable news sources. But after Russia’s successful interference in the U.S. election, no one doubts Moscow will continue its campaign to sabotage democracy. “They’re coming after America,” former FBI Director James Comey told senators earlier this month. “They will be back.”

"Russia's Next Targets:
Hacked emails and fake news were probably only the opening volley in Russia’s new cyberoffensive. Investigators have found that Kremlin-backed hackers gained access to voter databases and software systems in 39 states ahead of the 2016 election; in Illinois, they even tried to delete or alter voter data. Hackers also breached a major election-software supplier—a potential stepping-stone to gaining access to voting machines. In other worrying developments, Moscow recently tried to gain access to the Twitter accounts of 10,000 Defense Department employees, using individually tailored messages carrying malware. And Russian diplomats have been found driving around remote parts of the U.S. where fiber-optic cables are laid, suggesting they are mapping our country’s critical infrastructure. “They’ve just got so many bodies [involved in spying in the U.S.],” a U.S. intelligence official said, “It’s not about what we know. It’s about what we don’t know.”

THE WEEK
June 30, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

"Forty Percenters" Are Scary Americans

40% is a number that I keep coming across when reading about people in America: people who think that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans coexisted;
people who believe that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas (indeed, that there is no such thing as the Greenhouse Effect). The same grouping is, also, unaware that Judaism is older than Christianity.
Furthermore, 40 percent of Trump's supporters believe Hillary Clinton is an “actual demon”. You can see where I'm going with this. Right? 

I suppose I should be grateful that only 1-in-4 believe that the sun goes around the Earth.
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/imageo/2014/02/17/1-in-4-americans-believe-sun-revolves-around-the-earth/#.WWN5XIVOmEc

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Common Misconceptions About Global Warming

View (7 minutes):
13 Misconceptions About Global Warming
https://youtu.be/OWXoRSIxyIU
Published on Sep 22, 2014

References below: For CO2, sea levels, Arctic sea ice, Antarctic and Greenland land ice: http://climate.nasa.gov Satellite data shows that ground-based stations underestimate recent warming: Cowtan and Way, 2014 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10... For papers published on climate change during the 1970's, see Peterson, 2008 http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/1... For solar and temperature data see NASA GISS, PMOD: http://www.acrim.com/tsi%20monitoring... Krivova et al. 2007: http://www2.mps.mpg.de/projects/sun-c... CO2 ratio of Carbon-13:Carbon-12 decreasing. IPCC AR4: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_d... CO2 emitted by volcanoes vs by humans: Gerlach, 2011 www.agu.org/pubs/pdf/2011eo240001.pdf Gerlach Mauna Loa CO2 data: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/tre... Rising atmospheric water vapour: Santer, 2007 http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/07028... A doubling of CO2 will likely lead to a 3C increase in global temperatures according to many independent pieces of evidence: Knutti & Hegerl, 2008 http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir... CO2 lags temperature rise in the southern hemisphere but leads the global average temperature rise, Shakun et al. 2012 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/...







Trumpcare: Tax Cut for the 1%

The Senate’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a healthcare bill. It’s a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in healthcare funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled, working and middle-class Americans.

America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346bn over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing healthcare for lower-income Americans.

That’s not all. The bill would save an additional $400bn on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

This disgrace is being proposed at a time when the country’s rich receive the highest percentage of America’s income since the era of the robber barons of the late nineteenth century.

Almost all of the transfer is hidden inside a bill that’s supposed to be a kinder and gentler version of its House counterpart, which Trump called “mean, mean, mean”.....

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/26/trumpcare-health-tax-cut-1-percent

My Comment: Meanwhile, our national debt keeps climbing. Who is stuck with that? Yup! You guessed it.

https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124