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Offline knarf

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Scientists ‘Inject’ Information Into Monkeys’ Brains
« Reply #9555 on: December 07, 2017, 04:09:40 PM »


When you drive toward an intersection, the sight of the light turning red will (or should) make you step on the brake. This action happens thanks to a chain of events inside your head.

Your eyes relay signals to the visual centers in the back of your brain. After those signals get processed, they travel along a pathway to another region, the premotor cortex, where the brain plans movements.

Now, imagine that you had a device implanted in your brain that could shortcut the pathway and “inject” information straight into your premotor cortex.

That may sound like an outtake from “The Matrix.” But now two neuroscientists at the University of Rochester say they have managed to introduce information directly into the premotor cortex of monkeys. The researchers published the results of the experiment on Thursday in the journal Neuron.

Although the research is preliminary, carried out in just two monkeys, the researchers speculated that further research might lead to brain implants for people with strokes.
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“You could potentially bypass the damaged areas and deliver stimulation to the premotor cortex,” said Kevin A. Mazurek, a co-author of the study. “That could be a way to bridge parts of the brain that can no longer communicate.”

In order to study the premotor cortex, Dr. Mazurek and his co-author, Dr. Marc H. Schieber, trained two rhesus monkeys to play a game.

The monkeys sat in front of a panel equipped with a button, a sphere-shaped knob, a cylindrical knob, and a T-shaped handle. Each object was ringed by LED lights. If the lights around an object switched on, the monkeys had to reach out their hand to it to get a reward — in this case, a refreshing squirt of water.

Each object required a particular action. If the button glowed, the monkeys had to push it. If the sphere glowed, they had to turn it. If the T-shaped handle or cylinder lit up, they had to pull it.

After the monkeys learned how to play the game, Dr. Mazurek and Dr. Schieber had them play a wired version. The scientists placed 16 electrodes in each monkey’s brain, in the premotor cortex.

Each time a ring of lights switched on, the electrodes transmitted a short, faint burst of electricity. The patterns varied according to which object the researchers wanted the monkeys to manipulate.

As the monkeys played more rounds of the game, the rings of light dimmed. At first, the dimming caused the monkeys to make mistakes. But then their performance improved.

Eventually the lights went out completely, yet the monkeys were able to use only the signals from the electrodes in their brains to pick the right object and manipulate it for the reward. And they did just as well as with the lights.

This hints that the sensory regions of the brain, which process information from the environment, can be bypassed altogether. The brain can devise a response by receiving information directly, via electrodes.

Neurologists have long known that applying electric current to certain parts of the brain can make people involuntarily jerk certain parts of their bodies. But this is not what the monkeys were experiencing.

Dr. Mazurek and Dr. Schieber were able to rule out this possibility by seeing how short they could make the pulses. With a jolt as brief as a fifth of a second, the monkeys could still master the game without lights. Such a pulse was too short to cause the monkeys to jerk about.

“The stimulation must be producing some conscious perception,” said Paul Cheney, a neurophysiologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who was not involved in the new study.

But what exactly is that something? It’s hard to say. “After all, you can’t easily ask the monkey to tell you what they have experienced,” Dr. Cheney said.

Dr. Schieber speculated that the monkeys “might feel something on their skin. Or they might see something. Who knows what?”

What makes the finding particularly intriguing is that the signals the scientists delivered into the monkey brains had no underlying connection to the knob, the button, the handle or the cylinder.

Once the monkeys started using the signals to grab the right objects, the researchers shuffled them into new assignments. Now different electrodes fired for different objects — and the monkeys quickly learned the new rules.

“This is not a prewired part of the brain for built-in movements, but a learning engine,” said Michael A. Graziano, a neuroscientist at Princeton University who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Mazurek and Dr. Schieber only implanted small arrays of electrodes into the monkeys. Engineers are working on implantable arrays that might include as many as 1,000 electrodes. So it may be possible one day to transmit far more complex packages of information into the premotor cortex.

Dr. Schieber speculated that someday scientists might be able to use such advanced electrodes to help people who suffer brain damage. Strokes, for instance, can destroy parts of the brain along the pathway from sensory regions to areas where the brain makes decisions and sends out commands to the body.

Implanted electrodes might eavesdrop on neurons in healthy regions, such as the visual cortex, and then forward information into the premotor cortex.

“When the computer says, ‘You’re seeing the red light,’ you could say, ‘Oh, I know what that means — I’m supposed to put my foot on the brake,’” said Dr. Schieber. “You take information from one good part of the brain and inject it into a downstream area that tells you what to do.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/science/brain-information-monkeys.html
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Census Bureau: 5 Richest Counties Are D.C. Suburbs
« Reply #9556 on: December 07, 2017, 04:12:32 PM »
The five richest counties in the United States when measured by median household income are all suburbs of Washington, D.C., according to the American Community Survey data released today by the Census Bureau.

According to the American Community Survey's new five-year estimates (2012-2016), the five richest counties in the country are: Loudoun County, Va., where the median household income was $125,672; Falls Church City, Va., where it was $115,244; Fairfax County, Va., where it was $114,329; Howard County, Md., where it was $113,800; and Arlington County, Va., where it was $108,706.



An additional four Washington-area counties made it into the Top 20: No. 9 Fairfax City, Va. ($104,065); No. 14 Montgomery County, Md. ($100,352); No. 17 Prince William County, Va. ($98,546); and No, 20 Stafford County, Va. ($97,606).

That gave the Washington, D.C. area a total of 9 out of the 20 richest counties in the United States.

Five of the Top 20 richest counties were in northern New Jersey or New York: No. 6 Hunterdon County, N.J. ($108,177); No. 10 Morris County, N.J. ($102,798); No. 11 Somerset County, N.J. ($102,405); No. 12 Nassau County, N.Y. ($102,044); and No. 19 Putnam County, N.Y. ($97,606).

Another three of the Top 20 richest counties were in California in the San Francisco Bay Area: No. 13 Santa Clara County ($101,173); No. 15 Marin County ($100,310); and No. 17 San Mateo County ($98,546).

The Census Bureau treats independents cities—such as Falls Church City, Va., and Fairfax City, Va.—as counties, which is why they are included on the list.

The nationwide median household income in 2012-2016, according to the Census Bureau, was $55,322. That means that the income in the nation's four richest counties—Loudoun, Falls Church City, Fairfax County, and Howard County—were all more than double the national median.

The median household income in Arlington County, the nation’s fifth richest county, which sits directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., was 96.5 percent greater than the national median.

https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/census-bureau-5-richest-counties-are-dc-suburbs
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Arabs, Europe, U.N. reject Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital
« Reply #9557 on: December 07, 2017, 04:16:13 PM »

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the U.S. intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul

Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East on Wednesday condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as an incendiary move in a volatile region and Palestinians said Washington was abandoning its leading role as a peace mediator.

The European Union and United Nations also voiced alarm at U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Major U.S. allies came out against Trump's reversal of decades of U.S. and broad international policy on Jerusalem.

France rejected the "unilateral" decision while appealing for calm in the region. Britain said the move would not help peace efforts and Jerusalem should ultimately be shared by Israel and a future Palestinian state. Germany said Jerusalem's status could only be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution.

Israel, by contrast, applauded Trump's move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded video message that it was "an important step towards peace" and it was "our goal from Israel's first day".

He added that any peace accord with the Palestinians would have to include Jerusalem as Israel's capital and he urged other countries to follow Trump's example.

Trump upended decades of U.S. policy in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risks aggravating conflict in the tinderbox Middle East.

The status of Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Its eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek.

Israel deems Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital dating to antiquity, and its status is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a pre-recorded speech, said Jerusalem was the "eternal capital of the State of Palestine" and that Trump's move was "tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator."

The last round of U.S.-brokered talks foundered in 2014 over issues including Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and Israeli accusations of Palestinian incitement to violence and refusal to recognise it as a Jewish state.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has dominated Gaza since soon after Israel ended a 38-year occupation in 2005, said Trump had committed a "flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people". Hamas urged Arabs and Muslims to "undermine U.S. interests in the region" and to "shun Israel".

Protests broke out in parts of Jordan's capital Amman inhabited by Palestinian refugees, with youths chanting anti-American slogans. In the Baqaa refugee camp on Amman's outskirts, hundreds roamed the streets denouncing Trump and urging Jordan to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. "Down with America...America is the mother of terror," they chanted.

Angry Palestinians switched off Christmas lights at Jesus' traditional birthplace in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and in Ramallah. A tree adorned with lights outside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and another in Ramallah, next to the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, were plunged into darkness.

All Palestinian factions called for a general strike and protest rallies at midday on Thursday.


"LEGALLY NULL" DECISION

The Saudi Royal Court issued a statement saying that the kingdom followed "with deep sorrow" Trump's decision and warned of "dangerous consequences of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem".

The statement described the move as "a big step back in efforts to advance the peace process", and urged the U.S. administration to reverse its decision and adhere to international will.

Egypt, which forged the first Arab peace deal with Israel in 1979, brushed off Trump's decision and said it did not change Jerusalem's disputed legal status.

Jordan said Trump's action was "legally null" because it consolidated Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Trump's Jerusalem decision was dangerous and threatened the credibility of the United States as a broker of Middle East peace. He said the move would put back the peace process by decades and threatened regional stability and perhaps global stability.

Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, said Trump's undertaking was a "death sentence for all who seek peace" and called it "a dangerous escalation".

Turkey said Trump's move was "irresponsible".

"We call upon the U.S. Administration to reconsider this faulty decision which may result in highly negative outcomes and to avoid uncalculated steps that will harm the multicultural identity and historical status of Jerusalem," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

A few hundred protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, a Reuters cameraman at the scene said. The protest was largely peaceful, though some of the demonstrators threw coins and other objects at the consulate.

Iran "seriously condemns" Trump's move as it violates U.N. resolutions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, state media reported. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said earlier in the day that the United States was trying to destabilize the region and start a war to protect Israel's security.

In Southeast Asia, the leaders of Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia denounced Trump's action.

"This can rock global security and stability," Indonesian President Joko Widodo, leader of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, told a news conference in which he called for the United States to reconsider its decision.

British Prime Minister Theresa May disagreed with Trump's embrace of Jerusalem as Israel's capital before a final-status agreement as this was unlikely to help nurture peace in the region, her spokesman said.

However, May's spokesman welcomed Trump's stated wish to end the conflict and his acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem, including boundaries within the city, must be subject to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he did not support Trump's "unilateral" move.

"The status of Jerusalem is a question of international security that concerns the entire international community. The status of Jerusalem must be determined by Israelis and Palestinians in the framework of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations," Macron told reporters in Algiers.

"France and Europe are attached to a two-state solution - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security within recognised international borders with Jerusalem the capital of both states," he said.

"For now, I urge for calm and for everyone to be responsible. We must avoid at all costs avoid violence and foster dialogue," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there was no alternative to a two-state solution and Jerusalem was a final-status matter only to be settled through direct talks.

"I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians," Guterres said. "I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations."

https://www.yahoo.com/news/arabs-europe-u-n-reject-trumps-recognition-jerusalem-035135909.html
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What we know about the deadly Aztec High School shooting
« Reply #9558 on: December 07, 2017, 04:20:23 PM »
Two students are dead after a shooter opened fire at Aztec High School Thursday morning. The shooter also died.

WHO WERE THE VICTIMS:

New Mexico State police confirm the victims killed were both students at the school. Police have said while they do know the names of the victims, they are not ready to release that information.

The Navajo Nation initially said that 15 other people were hurt, but state police confirmed there were no other injuries.

WHO WAS THE SHOOTER:

At this time it is not yet known if the shooter was a student at the school. Officials confirm the shooter was male but would not release his name.

WHAT DO WITNESSES SAY:

Aztec High School sophomore Garrett Parker

Garrett was in history class and said he heard what sounded like kids banging on lockers, but as the shooter got closer he realized they were gunshots.

Parker said his classroom door was already locked and when students got word that this was not a drill, they all went ran to the corner of the class out of sight from the door.

Parker adds that when he and his classmates were allowed to exit the school he saw someone right outside the door, dead. He told KOAT he didn’t know who it was.

Fritz Polk is a teacher at Aztec High School – his sister, Sani Polk Withers, spoke to KOAT

Withers said her brother heard gunshots downstairs pushed the panic button, locked and barricaded the classroom door and told his students to hide the corner.

In addition to teaching Polk is a pastor and a chaplain and Withers said he helped notify the victim’s families.

As one might expect, Withers was visibly emotional as she detailed what was going through her mind while she was waiting to hear that her brother was okay.

WHAT'S NEXT?

- The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is taking over the investigation. They are asking any students who witnessed the shooting to call dispatch at 505-334-6622.

-NMSP tweeted parents, students and teachers can meet with police to retrieve vehicles at Aztec High School. People must have a second set of matching keys to get their cars.

- A vigil is being held at Minimum Park at 6 p.m. for the victims of the shooting.

- The superintendent for the Aztec School District said all classes will be cancelled Friday.

http://www.koat.com/article/what-we-know-about-the-deadly-aztec-high-school-shooting/14380005
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Human race has peaked: Scientists warn this is as good as it gets for mankind
« Reply #9559 on: December 07, 2017, 04:26:27 PM »
We have now reached our maximum limits for height, lifespan and physical performance

he human race has peaked, with mankind reaching its maximum limits for height, lifespan and physical performance, scientists have claimed.

Despite stories that each generation will live longer and longer, a new report suggests there may be a maximum threshold to our biological limits that we cannot exceed.

In particular, the French research team behind the study found what appears to be a plateau in the maximum biological limits for humans' height, age and physical abilities.

"These traits no longer increase, despite further continuous nutritional, medical, and scientific progress," said Professor Jean-François Toussaint from Paris Descartes University.

"This suggests that modern societies have allowed our species to reach its limits. We are the first generation to become aware of this."

Rather than continually improving, the scientists said we will see a shift in the proportion of the population reaching the previously recorded maximum limits.

For example, fewer sport records will be broken and more people will reach but not exceed the present highest life expectancy.

Moreover, the researchers warned that mankind's impact on the environment - including climate change - could see these limits decrease.

"This will be one of the biggest challenges of this century as the added pressure from anthropogenic activities will be responsible for damaging effects on human health and the environment," Professor Toussaint said.

"The current declines in human capacities we can see today are a sign that environmental changes, including climate, are already contributing to the increasing constraints we now have to consider."

He pointed out that, in some African countries, human height has decreased in the last decade, suggesting some societies are no longer able to provide sufficient nutrition for their children.

The researchers hope their findings, published in Frontiers in Physiology, will encourage policy makers to focus on strategies for increasing quality of life, maximising the number of people that can reach these biological limits.

"Now that we know the limits of the human species, this can act as a clear goal for nations to ensure that human capacities reach their highest possible values for most of the population," said Toussaint.

"With escalating environmental constraints, this may cost increasingly more energy and investment in order to balance the rising ecosystem pressures.

"However, if successful, we then should observe an incremental rise in mean values of height, lifespan and most human biomarkers.

"The utmost challenge is now to maintain these indices at high levels."

http://www.mirror.co.uk/science/human-race-peaked-scientists-warn-11654219
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Paul Ryan admits the GOP will gut Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts
« Reply #9560 on: December 07, 2017, 04:33:22 PM »
GOP lawmakers are driving up the deficit, then claiming the deficit's too high to support safety net programs for poor people.

Republicans in Congress are openly admitting they plan to use their tax reform bill to justify slashing funding for essential social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

The bill — which is expected to balloon the national deficit by at least $1 trillion, and which only benefits the country’s wealthiest in the long-term — has not yet been reconciled or signed. But Republicans aren’t wasting any time laying out what they see as the next step.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid out the plan in an interview Wednesday on Ross Kaminsky’s radio show. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said, adding that health care entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid are “the big drivers of our debt.”

He defended this by claiming the bill would generate $1 trillion dollars in revenues, which is a common talking point in support of the legislation. But a recent analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the nearly $1.5 trillion tax plan will only generate around $400 billion dollars in growth, meaning it’ll actually fall $1 trillion short of breaking even. In other words, it’ll grow the deficit, not shrink it.

Now, Republicans in Congress are admitting they’ll use the deficit they’re working to create to justify cutting some of the most important programs in the country.

Ryan is not alone in admitting this. Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) claimed that to achieve the growth the tax plan forecasts, “we have to have welfare reform.” Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) said, “If we pass tax reform, we have to have welfare reform.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) directly admitted that the plan all along has been “to do two things,” because “the driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.”

Cuts to social welfare programs would be far more unpopular than the tax bill already is. A recent Pew Survey found that 94 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans oppose cutting Medicare. President Trump has also repeatedly promised not to cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid — though Ryan said, “We’re working with the President on the entitlements that he wants to reform, that he’s supportive of.”

What’s perhaps most insidious about these admissions is that the Republican lawmakers are also blaming poor people for their own failure as they prepare to cut programs that help the people who need it the most. Ryan suggested that the programs are “paying people not to work.” Higgins referred to Americans who “suffer on welfare.” Blum went so far as to say, “Sometimes we need to force people to go to work.”

These remarks are akin to the more candid comments some other lawmakers have recently made. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed during debate on the tax bill last week that entitlements “help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) defended repealing the estate tax — a move that almost exclusively benefits the wealthy — by bemoaning “those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

But as the Washington Post notes, the programs Republican lawmakers want to cut actually help people who are struggling get back to work. For example, nearly 90 percent of working-age parents who receive food stamps are back to work within a year. But two thirds of the people who receive those benefits are children, people who have disabilities, or people too old to return to work.

https://thinkprogress.org/paul-ryan-tax-cuts-medicare-medicaid-f87d810ad5b9/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tp-letters
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Harvey's health toll only now starting to be realized
« Reply #9561 on: December 07, 2017, 04:37:37 PM »

Ron Black walks down a flooded street to get to his house after Tropical Storm Harvey Friday, Sept. 1, 2017 in Sienna Plantation. Many in Houston are wading through emotional turmoil.

Three months after Hurricane Harvey, local health officials now are beginning to see the storm after the storm.

In Harris County and the other hardest-hit regions of Texas, 17 percent of those who had houses damaged or suffered income loss report that someone in their household has a new or worsening health condition. A sweeping new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation shows a similar proportion feels their own mental health has worsened.

"We're not anywhere near the end yet," cautioned Dr. Cindy Ripsin, a family physician with the Memorial Hermann Medical Group in League City.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,600 Texans in 24 affected counties to gauge their personal recovery. The report released Tuesday found a region still reeling in ways obvious and hidden.

The record-shattering flood and wind wrecked hundreds of thousands of homes, forcing once stable lives into limbo. Bank accounts have been drained in the wait for relief and insurance checks slow to arrive. Jobs have been lost or hours cut, and families have been upended by transfers to unfamiliar schools and temporary quarters.

Thousands of Houstonians flooded out of their homes are still living with friends, staying in hotels or renting short-term apartments. Some waiting for repairs are finding the rebuilding process taking longer than expected. Contractors are stretched thin, and some homeowners have yet to receive flood insurance payments.

City of Houston officials estimate more than 311,000 housing units, including apartments, were damaged during the storm.

More than four in 10 residents surveyed for the "Early Assessment of Hurricane Harvey's Impact on Vulnerable Texans in the Gulf Coast Region" report said their homes had hurricane damage. Three percent reported their homes were destroyed.

Among those whose homes were damaged, nearly half said they had homeowners' or renters' insurance, but only 23 percent had flood insurance.

"We're going to see foreclosures hit. It will probably be people that financially were in a tight spot already," real estate agent Matthew Guzman said in a recent interview.

'You lose vital ground'

Perhaps most ominous is the quiet toll Harvey is still taking, months later, on people's physical and mental health.

Worse, many storm victims were already uninsured in a state that leads the nation in those without coverage. Even those with coverage complained they cannot afford health care, especially as longtime doctors are no longer nearby when people become displaced. About six in 10 say they have skipped or postponed needed treatment, cut back on medication or struggled to get mental health care.

The study's findings were borne out by local doctors who said Monday that they are continuing to see unexplained respiratory ailments that don't get better. At the same time chronic conditions such as diabetes are worsening as they often are going unmanaged.

"I've seen numerous patients who were supposed to come in months ago, and when they do come in, the disease has gotten worse," said Dr. Richard Harris, an internal medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Katy. "You lose vital ground."

The storm's toll is showing up in other ways as well: Tempers are shorter as nerves fray. Some fear an uptick in substance abuse as a remedy to the prolonged uncertainty.

For Ollie Raskovsky, a 26-year-old Montrose resident who already struggled with anxiety before the storm, Harvey shoved her condition into overdrive.

'It was all so overwhelming'

On Sunday, Aug. 27, the water from unending rain had gathered on her bedroom floor. By the next day it was coming in the back door. She was able to throw some small things into boxes and flee to another apartment, but to this day she has not fully unpacked. A battle raged in her head between the checklist of all she must do and the slow-motion paralysis that made it hard to get out of bed.

"It was all so overwhelming. It was not knowing what to do, where to start," she said. "But then not doing anything made it feel worse."

She admits she began drinking more than she should. Her predisposition for anxiety turned into a depression. Her friends grew alarmed.

She feels she is now starting to make progress. She bought a couch recently from Ikea and put some books in a bookcase. She is also going to therapy. She worries for the others like her in her city, for those who may not even know what is happening to them.

"When you go through something big like Harvey, there is an immediate reaction, the stress you feel. That is what you pay attention to," she said. "But there is also a slow, creeping reaction. That is the one that really takes the toll."

Glenn Urbach, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Houston, worries that the area's already strained mental-health system will shudder under the new demands that may not even been known yet.

"There is no question that Harvey is having an impact on the mental health of the city," he said.

Harris, of Kelsey-Seybold, agreed.

"It was an unprecedented natural disaster," he said. "We don't have the data, the background to guide us. There is no blueprint as to what to expect."

Except perhaps there is. Consider what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

A year after the storm, researchers found that nearly half of the children in a study of 392 families affected by Katrina were showing signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Other studies found that more than a decade later, depression and anxiety - often coupled with the self-medication of alcohol and drug use - have still not fully loosened their grip on Katrina survivors.

Mental health issues can take years to become fully apparent. Stress can marinate silently, turning into anxiety disorders and depression.

"It might be showing up now," Urbach warned, "but people don't know what it is."

https://www.chron.com/business/medical/article/Harvey-s-health-toll-only-now-starting-to-be-12405373.php
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Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

http://grist.org/briefly/people-of-color-and-low-income-residents-still-havent-gotten-the-help-they-need-after-hurricane-harvey/
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North Korea is ready to open direct talks with US, says Russia's Sergei Lavrov
« Reply #9563 on: December 07, 2017, 04:49:31 PM »
North Korea is open to direct talks with the US over their nuclear standoff, according to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said he passed that message to his counterpart, Rex Tillerson, when the two diplomats met in Vienna on Thursday.

There was no immediate response from Tillerson but the official position of the state department is that North Korea would have to show itself to be serious about giving up its nuclear arsenal as part of a comprehensive agreement before a dialogue could begin.

Lavrov conveyed the apparent offer on the day a top UN official, Jeffrey Feltman, met the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, in Pyongyang, during the first high-level UN visit to the country for six years. Feltman is an American and a former US diplomat, but the state department stressed he was not in North Korea with any message from Washington.
Analysis A guide to North Korea's advance toward nuclear weapons – in maps and charts
As North Korea’s latest launch shows increased missile capability, we chart the country’s progress in developing a nuclear weapon that can credibly threaten the US
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“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Lavrov said at an international conference in Vienna, according to the Interfax news agency. “Our American colleagues, [including] Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”

The diplomatic moves come amid an increased sense of urgency to find a way of defusing the tensions over North Korea’s increasingly ambitious nuclear and missile tests. The standoff reached a new peak on 29 November, when North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, capable of reaching Washington, New York and the rest of the continental United States. The missile launch followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb in September.

Pyongyang has said that current joint exercises by the US and South Korea involving hundreds of warplanes, along with “bellicose remarks” by US officials have “made an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula an established fact”.

“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out,” a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

North Korean officials have said in recent informal meetings that they are particularly concerned by the threat of a surprise “decapitation” strike, aimed at killing the country’s leaders and paralysing military command and control systems before Pyongyang could launch its missiles.

The heightened tensions and threatening language have increased fears around the world that the two sides could blunder into war through miscalculation, mistaking war games for a real attack or misreading blurred red lines.

US and North Korean positions are currently far apart, with Pyongyang rejecting any suggestion that its nuclear disarmament would be on the table at any future negotiation. The regime wants the US to recognise it as a nuclear weapons power and cease its “hostile policies” to North Korea, including sanctions and military manoeuvres off the Korean peninsula.

For its part, the US has rejected a “freeze-for-freeze” proposal advanced by Russia and China, by which North Korea would suspend nuclear and missile tests while the US would curtail its military exercises.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that direct talks with North Korea were “not on the table until they are willing to denuclearize.”

However, the two sides have had informal contacts this year, involving Joseph Yun, the US special representative for North Korea policy. Those contacts, known as the “New York channel” were cut by the North Koreans after threatening remarks by Donald Trump during the UN general assembly in September. But there have been some recent signs that Pyongyang might be interested in restoring the channel.

At a meeting in Stockholm that brought together western experts and officials from Pyongyang in late November, a North Korean representative appeared to raise, for the first time, the possibility of a channel for military-to-military communication with the US.

“In an informal discussion that we had in Stockholm, an official made an observation that there isn’t at present a way for the US and North Korea to work together to prevent an accident. I thought that was an interesting observation that I had not heard them say before,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America thinktank who has played a leading role in back-channel contacts with Iran and North Korea, and who attended the Stockholm meeting.

“I think the US would be best served by putting aside the focus on denuclearisation and instead look at ways to prevent accidents, reduce risks and de-escalate. Those to me seem like achievable goals.”

Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who was director for Korea, Japan and Oceanic affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush and Obama administrations, said Washington might be amenable to such a military hotline being established.

“I think even this administration recognises that some sort of an open channel is needed for that, not to negotiate but to have a little more transparency,” she said. “I think everyone recognises that is needed.”

Terry, who was deputy national intelligence officer for east Asia at the National Intelligence Council from 2009 to 2010, said that it was also possible that Yun could re-establish the New York channel with Pyongyang. But she added there was little sign such contacts would lead to substantive negotiations in the current climate.

“This latest test put a big hole in the possibility of negotiation at this moment, she said. “Ambassador Yun might do that but it’s different with the White House. I’m not sure he has strong White House support.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/07/north-korea-ready-direct-talks-us-sergei-lavrov
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Re: Harvey's health toll only now starting to be realized
« Reply #9564 on: December 07, 2017, 04:54:38 PM »

Ron Black walks down a flooded street to get to his house after Tropical Storm Harvey Friday, Sept. 1, 2017 in Sienna Plantation. Many in Houston are wading through emotional turmoil.

Three months after Hurricane Harvey, local health officials now are beginning to see the storm after the storm.

In Harris County and the other hardest-hit regions of Texas, 17 percent of those who had houses damaged or suffered income loss report that someone in their household has a new or worsening health condition. A sweeping new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation shows a similar proportion feels their own mental health has worsened.

"We're not anywhere near the end yet," cautioned Dr. Cindy Ripsin, a family physician with the Memorial Hermann Medical Group in League City.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,600 Texans in 24 affected counties to gauge their personal recovery. The report released Tuesday found a region still reeling in ways obvious and hidden.

The record-shattering flood and wind wrecked hundreds of thousands of homes, forcing once stable lives into limbo. Bank accounts have been drained in the wait for relief and insurance checks slow to arrive. Jobs have been lost or hours cut, and families have been upended by transfers to unfamiliar schools and temporary quarters.

Thousands of Houstonians flooded out of their homes are still living with friends, staying in hotels or renting short-term apartments. Some waiting for repairs are finding the rebuilding process taking longer than expected. Contractors are stretched thin, and some homeowners have yet to receive flood insurance payments.

City of Houston officials estimate more than 311,000 housing units, including apartments, were damaged during the storm.

More than four in 10 residents surveyed for the "Early Assessment of Hurricane Harvey's Impact on Vulnerable Texans in the Gulf Coast Region" report said their homes had hurricane damage. Three percent reported their homes were destroyed.

Among those whose homes were damaged, nearly half said they had homeowners' or renters' insurance, but only 23 percent had flood insurance.

"We're going to see foreclosures hit. It will probably be people that financially were in a tight spot already," real estate agent Matthew Guzman said in a recent interview.

'You lose vital ground'

Perhaps most ominous is the quiet toll Harvey is still taking, months later, on people's physical and mental health.

Worse, many storm victims were already uninsured in a state that leads the nation in those without coverage. Even those with coverage complained they cannot afford health care, especially as longtime doctors are no longer nearby when people become displaced. About six in 10 say they have skipped or postponed needed treatment, cut back on medication or struggled to get mental health care.

The study's findings were borne out by local doctors who said Monday that they are continuing to see unexplained respiratory ailments that don't get better. At the same time chronic conditions such as diabetes are worsening as they often are going unmanaged.

"I've seen numerous patients who were supposed to come in months ago, and when they do come in, the disease has gotten worse," said Dr. Richard Harris, an internal medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Katy. "You lose vital ground."

The storm's toll is showing up in other ways as well: Tempers are shorter as nerves fray. Some fear an uptick in substance abuse as a remedy to the prolonged uncertainty.

For Ollie Raskovsky, a 26-year-old Montrose resident who already struggled with anxiety before the storm, Harvey shoved her condition into overdrive.

'It was all so overwhelming'

On Sunday, Aug. 27, the water from unending rain had gathered on her bedroom floor. By the next day it was coming in the back door. She was able to throw some small things into boxes and flee to another apartment, but to this day she has not fully unpacked. A battle raged in her head between the checklist of all she must do and the slow-motion paralysis that made it hard to get out of bed.

"It was all so overwhelming. It was not knowing what to do, where to start," she said. "But then not doing anything made it feel worse."

She admits she began drinking more than she should. Her predisposition for anxiety turned into a depression. Her friends grew alarmed.

She feels she is now starting to make progress. She bought a couch recently from Ikea and put some books in a bookcase. She is also going to therapy. She worries for the others like her in her city, for those who may not even know what is happening to them.

"When you go through something big like Harvey, there is an immediate reaction, the stress you feel. That is what you pay attention to," she said. "But there is also a slow, creeping reaction. That is the one that really takes the toll."

Glenn Urbach, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Houston, worries that the area's already strained mental-health system will shudder under the new demands that may not even been known yet.

"There is no question that Harvey is having an impact on the mental health of the city," he said.

Harris, of Kelsey-Seybold, agreed.

"It was an unprecedented natural disaster," he said. "We don't have the data, the background to guide us. There is no blueprint as to what to expect."

Except perhaps there is. Consider what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

A year after the storm, researchers found that nearly half of the children in a study of 392 families affected by Katrina were showing signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Other studies found that more than a decade later, depression and anxiety - often coupled with the self-medication of alcohol and drug use - have still not fully loosened their grip on Katrina survivors.

Mental health issues can take years to become fully apparent. Stress can marinate silently, turning into anxiety disorders and depression.

"It might be showing up now," Urbach warned, "but people don't know what it is."

https://www.chron.com/business/medical/article/Harvey-s-health-toll-only-now-starting-to-be-12405373.php

My old sailing buddy, who had the boat in Rockport (but fortunately was far away enjoying a long boat trip when Harvey hit) visited Rockport this last week. The pier at the marina where he had his slip, on  Key Allegro, was destroyed completely.

He said the town is still pretty much in a shambles, and that they took the ferry to Port Aransas, and that the damage there was even worse than Rockport. Most of the beach condos on Mustang Island are still closed and not booking, which is a big deal for the local economy, because a lot of snowbirds book a month at the beach for Christmas.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

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What percent of Americans are rational?
« Reply #9565 on: December 07, 2017, 04:56:58 PM »
[ I was inspired to write this post by the best book I’ve ever on American’s truly crazy beliefs from evangelistic Christianity to astrology, Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland: How America went Haywire: a 500-year history” It has 440 pages of the lunatic ideas Americans have believed since the first nutty Christians arrived here 500 years ago.

But this book is much more than the history of irrationality, it is also one off the best history books I’ve ever read, summarized with such humor and original insights that they seem new even if you know about a given topic.

I’ve been accused of being overly critical of the right-wing and evangelists. But after seeing the 2012 movie about Hanna Arendt, I think I’ve come closer to understanding why I think rationality is so very important. This is what I just added to my post What percent of Americans are rational?

Now why should we care about irrationality, what’s the big deal in believing there’s a fat old “Santa Claus” God in the sky noting down every time you’re naughty or nice in his trillion mile high book of the trillions of intelligent beings he watches across the universe every second of the day, for trillions of years?

I believe Hannah Arendt nailed it in her epic books about the nature of evil.

For me, one of her greatest insights is the “banality of evil” which she came to after reporting on the Nazi Eichmann’s trial for the New Yorker in 1959. She is horrified by the fact that he is not a scary monster — he could be any of us. What makes him evil is that he has stopped thinking. He has completely abandoned his morality. This is why he can do part of the work of sending millions to concentration camps. He is just following orders.

Over 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump. They knew he didn’t pay thousands of workers, grabbed women’s asses, ran casinos in New Jersey, hung out with gangsters, at one point was $1 billion in debt because he lied to the lending banks about what he’d borrowed elsewhere (and wasn’t driven out of business by them because they figured that getting some income from his hotels was better than nothing), that he lied constantly, was a bully, and much more. But many of them said they held their noses and voted for Trump, because that’s what their religious and political leaders told them to do. They were just obeying orders…

If this isn’t the epitome of not thinking and abandoning one’s moral core, I don’t know what is. Same goes for not giving any pushback to the National Rifle Association about reasonable gun regulations. Holier-than-though want to turn the Constitution into Biblical Law people by the millions not thinking and abandoning their moral core.

This often leads to war. I’ve often thought the Limbaugh / Fox news breeds a beyond reason hatred of liberals, similar to the derogatory terms armies call their opponents. We haven’t gone to war yet, but already 200 innocent people have been jailed over a 10-year-long witch hunt of the evangelists to find satanic cult baby killers and rapists. And not one word of “we’re sorry” from them. Compare that with the several months of the Salem witch trials and dismay for the past three centuries of how this could have ever happened and determination that it will never happen again.

The basic premise of this book is:
“What’s problematic is going overboard, letting the subjective entirely override the objective, people thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings were just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, every individual free to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. Probably two-thirds of Americans are more irrational than most of the other two billion people in the rich world. Many of us believe, really believe, in the supernatural and miraculous, in Satan on Earth now, and a several-thousand-year-old story of life’s instantaneous creation rather than evolution.  We believe the government and other co-conspirators are hiding all sorts of monstrous truths from us concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of AIDS, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.  We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland”.

Andersen estimates that only a third of us are more or less solidly reality-based.  The polls below show that he may be too kind. One poll concludes that only 27% are rational.

I think it’s even less than that, because there isn’t any survey that covers all the areas of ignorance about reality.  No pollster has ever combined the three categories of religious / paranormal / supernatural beliefs, conspiracy theories, and National Science Foundation questions about basic knowledge of the world (26% of Americans think the sun revolves around the Earth, only 48% know that human beings developed from earlier species of animals).

What would be interesting is if a survey were done testing all nutty beliefs, not just certain segments of them.

What percent of Americans are rational?

In a really strict sense none of us are 100% rational due to cognitive biases, framing effects, fallacies and so on (wiki lists over 250 of these). To be human is to be irrational. But we’re all capable of improving our critical thinking skills and our understanding of the world.

If I included ignorance as irrational, then we’d all fail the test, since there’s not enough time in the world to know everything about everything.

Though perhaps there are some forms of ignorance that can be more harmful than others. For instance, political ignorance can lead to dictators and incompetent leaders being elected. Americans are spectacularly ignorant–only a third can name all three branches of government, a single Supreme Court justice, any 1st amendment rights, which party controls Congress, what congress has done recently, and a candidates policies at election time.

So I’ll stick with the paranormal, pseudoscience, scientific knowledge, and conspiracy beliefs.

A Gallup poll in 2005, “Three in four Americans believe in Paranormal”, is one of the few to ask how many believed in any of these: ESP, Haunted Houses, Ghosts, Telepathy, Clairvoyance, Astrology, communication with the dead is possible, Witches, reincarnation, Channeling (22% in 5 plus, 32% in 4, 57% in 2, 1% in all 10).

The result was that 73% believed one or more of them.

Only 27% of Americans thought none of them were true.

And it might have been even lower if irrational beliefs had been expanded to include conspiracy theories, scientific understanding, evolution, climate change, creationism, the Devil, Hell, angels, miracles, and other beliefs.
Paranormal and supernatural beliefs.

Multiple numbers reflect results from several surveys:

    Angels: 77%,  72%, 72%   88% of Christians, 95% of evangelical Christians
    Astrology: 25%, 26%, 29%
    Channeling: 9%
    Civil war wasn’t about slavery but states’ rights: 48%
    Climate Change not due to man-made activities: 40%
    Clairvoyance: 26%
    Communication with the dead is possible: 21%
    Creationism: 36%
    Devil: 61%, 60%, 58%
    ESP: 41%
    Ghosts: 34%, 42%, 42%
    Haunted Houses: 37%
    Heaven: 71%, 75%
    Hell: 64%, 61%
    Jesus born of a virgin: 73%, 61%, 57%
    Jesus is God or son of God: 73%, 68%
    Jesus’s resurrection: 70%, 65%
    Life after death: 71%, 64%
    Miracles: 76%, 72%
    Reincarnation: 21%, 20%, 24%
    Sun revolves around the Earth: 25%
    Telepathy: 31%
    UFOs: 34%, 32%, 36%, extraterrestrial beings have visited 24%
    Vaccines cause autism: 56%
    Witches: 21%, 23%, 26%

Conspiracy theories  (Chapman 2016)

Only 26% of Americans disagreed with all 9 conspiracy theories below, and 33% even believed in a made-up conspiracy researchers called “The North Dakota Crash”. Until recently, I would have said the JFK government concealing was false, but the FBI and CIA have held back 3,600 documents plus in the past, another 35,000 were released only in part (Politico 2017). The reason the FBI and CIA may have been reluctant to release them is that it shows how incompetent they were, others have interpreted the papers as showing the FBI and CIA know Oswald intended to kill Kennedy and did nothing about it.

The government is concealing what they know about….

    The 9/11 attacks 54.3%
    The JFK assassination 49.6%
    Alien encounters 42.6%
    Global warming 42.1%
    Plans for a one world government  32.9%
    Obama’s birth certificate 30.2%
    The origin of the AIDs virus 20.1%
    Death of supreme court justice Scalia 27.8%
    The moon landing  24.2%

People who believed in the highest number of conspiracies are also more likely to believe that “The World Will End in My Lifetime”, as well as more likely to be fearful of government, less trusting of other people, and more likely to take actions (i.e. buying a gun) due to their fears.
National Science Foundation Questions

Only 65% were answered correctly in 2014.  The questions below are followed by correct answer and the percent who got it right:

    The center of the Earth is very hot. True 84%
    The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move. True 83%
    Does the Earth go around the sun, or does the sun go around the Earth? Earth around sun 74%
    All radioactivity is man-made. True or false? False 72%
    Electrons are smaller than atoms. True or false? True 53%
    Lasers work by focusing sound waves. True or false? False 47%
    The universe began with a huge explosion. True or false? True 39%
    It’s the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or girl. True or false? True 63%
    Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. True or false? False 51%
    Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals. True or false? True 48%

Not surprisingly, the higher the education level the greater the number of correct answers.

Education matters.  Look at how few scientists hold far right beliefs.  The least scientific disciplines have the least number of liberals.  For example, engineers memorize equations, they don’t have to constantly change their minds like scientists do in disciplines that require critical thinking and experimentation.  Getting creative with equations leads to bridge failures…  Economists shouldn’t have been included. 99% of them don’t believe in Limits to Growth and that we can grow forever on a finite planet.

https://i0.wp.com/energyskeptic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/scientists-are-liberal.jpg?resize=768%2C330

U.S. academics tend towards liberal political views as this 2013-2014 survey of university faculty members reveals. Note differences between disciplines (Reardon 2016).

And finally, since President Trump is by far the most irrational president in U.S. history — remember — he’s the one who started the whole “Obama wasn’t born here” lie, and listens to Alex Jones, here’s a study by Baylor (2017). The researchers say that the core ethos of “Trumpism” is a new form of nationalism merging pro-Christian oratory with anti-Islam, anti-feminist, angi-globalist, and anti-government attitudes. Trump voter’s tend to be “very religious”, see Muslims as threats to America, view the United States as a Christian nation, believe in an Authoritative God, and value gender traditionalism.
The world

Below is a poll of over 17,000 adults all over the world (Ipsos 2017) asking if they think that Religion does more harm in the world than good.  I see YES, DOES MORE HARM as a sign of rationality.  The winning rational nations: congratulations Belgium, Germany, Spain, Australia, India, Sweden, Great Britain, France, Canada, Hungary, Argentina, Poland, Italy, Serbia, Mexico, and Turkey.  All of these 15 nations who scored higher than the U.S. But congratulations to the 44% of Americans who answered correctly.



http://energyskeptic.com/2017/what-percent-of-americans-are-rational/
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Offline knarf

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Don't blame God or nature. This is our fault
« Reply #9566 on: December 07, 2017, 04:59:30 PM »
Traditionally, we’ve labelled events over which we have no influence or control “acts of God” or “natural disasters.” But what’s “natural” about climate-induced disasters today?

Scientists call the interval since the Industrial Revolution the “Anthropocene,” a period when our species has become the major factor altering the biological, physical and chemical properties of the planet on a geological scale. Empowered by fossil fuel–driven technologies, a rapidly growing human population and an insatiable demand for constant growth in consumption and the global economy, our species is responsible for the calamitous consequences.

We now know that the weight of water behind large dams and injecting pressurized water into the earth for fracking induce earthquakes. Clearing large swathes of forests, draining wetlands, depleting water for industrial agriculture, polluting marine and freshwater ecosystems with nitrogen, plastics and pesticides from farmland and cities, expanding urban areas, and employing ecologically destructive fishing practices such as drift nets and trawling, all combine to produce species extinction on a scale not seen since the mega-extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But we use language to deflect blame from ourselves. Not long ago, wolves, seals and basking sharks were called “pests” or “vermin,” regarded as nuisances to be killed for bounties. Insects are the most numerous, diverse and important group of animals in ecosystems, yet all are affected by insecticides applied to eliminate the handful that attack commercial crops. One egregious class of pesticide is neonicotinoids, nerve toxins to which bees — important pollinators — are especially sensitive. Ancient forests are called “wild” or “decadent” while plantations that replace them after clear cutting are termed “normal.”
Environmentalists branded like criminals

One of the rarest ecosystems on Earth is the temperate rainforest stretching between Alaska and northern California, pinched between the Pacific Ocean and coastal mountains. The huge trees there have been decimated in the U.S. Fewer than 10 per cent remain. Yet environmentalists who called for the entire remnant to be protected from logging were branded as “greedy.”

Former B.C. premier Glen Clark famously labelled environmentalists like me “enemies of B.C.” Former federal finance minister Joe Oliver called us “foreign-funded radicals” while others said we were “eco-terrorists.” The real enemies, radicals and eco-terrorists are those who rush to destroy forests, watersheds or the atmosphere without regard to ecological consequences.

Recently-defeated B.C. premier Christy Clark called opponents of pipelines or LNG plants “forces of no.” We who want to protect what we all need to survive would more accurately be called “forces of know” who say “yes” to a future of clean, renewable energy and a rich environment.

We seem to have forgotten that the word economy, like ecology, is based on the Greek oikos, meaning “domain” or “household.” Because of our ability to find ways to exploit our surroundings, humans are not confined to a specific habitat or ecosystem. We’ve found ways to live almost everywhere — in deserts, the Arctic, jungles, wetlands and mountains. Ecologists seek the principles, rules and laws that enable species to flourish sustainably. Economists are charged with “managing” our activity within the biosphere, our domain.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper decreed it was impossible to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid climate change because it would destroy the economy. To people like him, the economy is more important than the air that provides weather and climate and enables us to live. At the same time, many “fiscal conservatives” rail against an effective market solution to climate change — carbon pricing — ignoring the example of Sweden, which imposed a carbon tax of about $35 a tonne in 1991, grew its economy by 60 per cent by 2012 while reducing emissions by 25 per cent, then raised the tax to more than $160 in 2014.

We know climate change is caused primarily by human use of fossil fuels. It’s influencing the frequency and intensity of such events as monstrous wildfires (Kelowna, Fort McMurray), floods (Calgary, Toronto), hurricanes (Katrina, Sandy), drought (California, Alberta), and loss of glaciers and ice sheets. There’s no longer anything “natural” about them. We must acknowledge the human imprint. If we’re the cause of the problems, then we must stop blaming “nature” or “God.” We have to take responsibility and tackle them with the urgency they require.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/12/07/opinion/dont-blame-god-or-nature-our-fault
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Re: Don't blame God or nature. This is our fault
« Reply #9567 on: December 07, 2017, 07:42:32 PM »
Aren't we part of Nature?  Weren't we created by God?

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SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

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Homes, horses burn in newest California wildfire
« Reply #9568 on: December 08, 2017, 04:09:03 AM »


Retirement communities built on golf courses, semi-rural race horse stables and other usually serene sites were engulfed by flames as the San Diego area became the latest front in California’s wildfire fight.

The fire broke out Thursday amid dry, hot, windy conditions across the region that would be extreme for any season, but are especially stunning just two weeks from winter.

It exceeded 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) in a matter of hours and burned dozens of houses as it tore through the tightly packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards and horse ranches. Three people were burned while escaping the flames, said Capt. Nick Schuler of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Meanwhile, firefighters in Ventura — 130 miles (209 kilometers) to the north — tried to corral the largest and most destructive fire in the state, which has destroyed 430 buildings. The so-called Thomas Fire has grown to 180 square miles (466 square kilometers) since it broke out Monday. Fire crews made enough progress against large fires around Los Angeles to lift most evacuation orders.

The fire north of San Diego, driven by winds above 35 mph (56 kph), razed rows of trailer homes in the retirement community, leaving charred and mangled metal in its wake.

It wasn’t immediately known what sparked the fire next to State Highway 76, but strong winds carried it across six lanes to the other side.

Evacuations were ordered in the area near the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and schools and casinos were being used as shelters.

Cynthia Olvera, 20, took shelter at Fallbrook High School.

She had been at her Bonsall home with her younger sister and nephew when her father called from the family nursery to say the fire had reached the gate of their sprawling property.

After starting to drive away, the family turned around to recover forgotten personal documents — but it was too late. Trees were ablaze and flames were within 10 feet (3 meters) of the house.

“I didn’t think it would move that fast,” she said.

Her older sister wanted to drive in to save her husband’s car, but Olvera told her: “Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.”

Her sister heeded the advice and the family made it safely to the school. But the flames followed them, and the family had to pack up again when evacuation orders came for Fallbrook High School.

The family went to a second shelter, not knowing if their house survived.

As the flames approached the elite San Luis Rey Downs training facility for thoroughbreds, many of the more than 450 horses were cut loose to prevent them from being trapped in their stables if barns caught fire, said Mac McBride of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.


Terrified horses gallop from San Luis Rey Downs as the Lilac Fire sweeps through the horse-training facility, Thursday in San Diego.

Herds of horses galloped past flaming palm trees in their chaotic escape of a normally idyllic place. Not all survived.

Horse trainer Scott Hansen said he knows that some of his 30 horses at the facility died.

“I don’t know how many are living and how many are dead,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to figure that out in the morning.”

It was not yet clear how many horses died, or which elite equine athletes didn’t make it, but all of Friday’s races at Los Alamitos Race Course were canceled as the racing community mourned.

Along the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara, tiny beach communities were under siege as fires leapt from steep hillsides across U.S. Highway 101.

“We drove through a wall of flames,” Wendy Frank said, describing her ordeal after evacuating her horses from Ojai on Wednesday night. “I didn’t know if we’d make it. I just put the accelerator down. I know we were going over 100 mph (160 kph), we could have been going much more, and just hoped for the best.”

Fires flared up Thursday along the highway, forcing an evacuation of dozens of homes at Faria Beach.

The massive fire threatened Ojai, a scenic mountain town of 7,000 people dubbed “Shangri-La” and known for its boutique hotels and New Age spiritual retreats.

Ash fell like snowflakes on citrus orchards scattered around town and on Spanish-style architecture as firefighters parked their trucks around houses in anticipation of winds picking back up.

Some businesses were closed, but staples could be found at Pat’s Liquor, where A preponderance of "H"'s Cheyne-Garcia loaded up with supplies to fuel through another edgy night keeping sentry on the fire.

“It got a little too intense yesterday with the wind kicking up,” he said. “There was just so much smoke. Yesterday you couldn’t see the street.”

https://apnews.com/2a40340afec94fc68a0668e14b1812dd/Homes,-horses-burn-in-newest-California-wildfire
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Offline knarf

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Donald Trump's 'attack' on the environment
« Reply #9569 on: December 08, 2017, 04:19:18 AM »

Climate change activists have chastised Trump for his environmental policies

City officials from the United States and around the world met in Chicago this week to outline a collective plan to combat climate change at the local level, an effort they say is "more ambitious" than their respective national governments.

The North American Climate Summit brought together city and other local leaders who have signed onto a plan to combat climate change, known as the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

Nearly 7,500 localities, representing more than 680 million people around the world, have committed to the plan, according to organisers.

Among other goals, the covenant aims to reduce carbon emissions to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement, the international accord that seeks to reduce global carbon emissions and keep the world's temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The deal entered into force in November of last year and 170 states have ratified it to date.

"Across the world, cities have made voluntary commitments to take significant action on climate change that are in line with, and in many cases more ambitious than, their respective national government baselines," the Global Covenant said in a statement.

But as local leaders move forward in their fight against climate change, many climate experts and analysts say the US president is taking steps to reverse any progress.

President Donald Trump has attempted to roll back environmental protection measures and commitments to fight climate change that were made under previous US administrations

Al Jazeera examines the Trump administration's environmental policies, what appointments the president has made on the environmental file and how local and state-level governments across the US have responded.
What are the Trump administration's policies?

Since taking office, Trump has systematically undone many existing climate and environmental safeguards, as well as policies pursued by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump has moved to repeal a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Passed under the Obama administration, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) sought to reduce emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

The Trump EPA has argued the CPP "is not consistent with the Clean Air Act" - a federal law to protect air quality and reduce air pollution across the country - but that claim has been challenged by environmental experts.

The government also says a repeal would take "another step to advance President Trump's America First strategy".

The administration justified the decision by saying it is working to fulfil a campaign promise to bring coal mining jobs back to struggling communities across the country.


Trump has promised to bring jobs back to the US coal mining industry

The move was welcomed by coal mining companies and some coal miners, who attended a public hearing on the proposed repeal late last month in West Virginia.

Robert Murray, the CEO of private coal mining company Murray Energy, referred to the rules as the "no power plan", Reuters news agency reported. Murray, whose company had filed a lawsuit against the CPP, was accompanied by 20 miners from Pennsylvania and West Virginia at the hearing.

Reuters also reported that Scott Segal, head of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said the CPP is expensive and illegal because it requires some utilities to reduce emissions far away from the power plants themselves.

But many analysts and climate activists believe the Trump's position on CPP moves the US in the wrong direction.

It's an "attack on the very air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we stand", Nanette Diaz Barragan, a Democratic representative from California, said in a statement in March.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration dropped a proposal to limit the number of endangered whales, dolphins and sea turtles that can be killed by fishing nets off the West Coast. Its EPA dismissed several members of an advisory board that is tasked with verifying its scientists' research and has proposed cutting the EPA's overall budget by about 30 percent.

In March, Trump signed a presidential permit to begin construction on the Keystone XL pipeline, reversing a decision made by the Obama administration to abandon the multi-billion-dollar project after an environmental assessment.

Despite major concerns from environmental groups and indigenous and other local communities about the potential of a devastating oil spill, Trump said the pipeline - which will pump tar sands oil from Canada through several US states - would create jobs and stimulate the US economy.


An oil spill in South Dakota in November shut down the Keystone pipeline

In October, the president announced he would open up bids to lease almost 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling.

The sale, which is expected in March, would be the largest offering in US history and "open an area the size of New Mexico to drilling", according to Fortune magazine.

Earlier this month, the Trump EPA also dropped a requirement that forced mining companies to prove they have the financial means to clean up any pollution they cause, the Associated Press reported. The decision came amid pushback from mining groups and Republicans in the western United States, the news agency said.

The National Mining Association, a mining advocacy group, welcomed the decision.

"When litigation is used as a tool to attempt to force the government into unnecessary action against an industry, the result is bad policy," said Hal Quinn, the group's president and CEO, in a statement.

"Today's action shows that reason can prevail," Quinn said.

The EPA justified the decision by saying the requirement was "unnecessary" and imposed an undue burden on the US economy and rural parts of the country where most mining jobs are located.

But among Trump's many policy changes, his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement earlier this year may be the most controversial and most widely condemned both in the US and internationally.
Why did the US drop out of the Paris Agreement?

In line with his administration's "America First" mantra, Trump has argued the agreement undermines the US economy and the country's sovereignty. But the president has said he would be open to renegotiating "a deal that's fair" to US interests.

The withdrawal process will take until November 2020 to complete.

When he announced the withdrawal, Trump said, "the same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and, in many cases, lax contributions to our critical military alliance".

"I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he said.

However, the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, said his city would continue to follow the guidelines set out by the accord.

Experts have warned that, as the world's second-largest carbon emitter behind only China, the US' decision to withdraw from the agreement may weaken global efforts to control climate change. US emission cuts alone accounted for 20 percent of the deal, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

"The United States' European allies have lobbied hard against a US exit from the deal, arguing that it would weaken its enforcement measures and undermine the resolve of other countries to make their own tough cuts," the report stated.
Who has Trump appointed to lead the climate file?

The president appointed Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, the organisation that is tasked with protecting the health of US citizens and the environment.

Pruitt is a longtime recipient of donations from oil and gas companies, and as the former attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the agency he now heads 14 times, according to EDF Action, an advocacy group allied with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Among those lawsuits, Pruitt challenged an EPA measure that would have curbed mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants and another EPA guideline that sought to limit pollution from new, modified or reconstructed oil and gas facilities, EDF Action outlined.

Pruitt is also a climate change denier who has repeatedly questioned whether human activity is responsible for climate change.

"Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. And well it should be," Pruitt said, before his appointment as the new EPA Administrator.

But 97 percent of climate scientists agree that "climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities", and experts have slammed Pruitt's comments.

    Mr Pruitt has claimed that carbon dioxide caused by human activity is not 'the primary contributor to the global warming that we see.' Mr Pruitt is wrong.

    - Ben Santer, climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

"The scientific community has studied this issue for decades. The consensus message from many national and international assessments of the science is pretty simple: Natural factors can't explain the size or patterns of observed warming," Ben Santer, climate researcher at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, said in a statement.

"A large human influence on global climate is the best explanation for the warming we've measured and monitored," Santer said.

Dr Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, added in a statement that, "Pruitt has demonstrated that he is unqualified to run the EPA or any agency."

"There is no doubt whatsoever that the planet is warming and it is primarily due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels," he said.
Do US citizens support the president's policies?

Nearly 70 percent of people across every US state said the country should participate in the Paris Agreement, according to a study released by the Program on Climate Change Communication at Yale University in May.

Nearly half of all Trump voters (47 percent) said the US should stay in the agreement, the same study found, compared with only 28 percent of Trump voters who said the US should not participate.

Another survey published in October by the same Yale University programme found that a majority of US citizens would be willing to pay a carbon tax on fossil fuels and would support investing that tax revenue into renewable energy.

The Trump administration has claimed its policies have broad support in Appalachia, the central part of the country that is home to most coal mining and other traditional industries that leave a larger carbon footprint.

Mining industry lobby groups and companies have welcomed some of the president's recent actions, including the repeal of regulations on the coal industry.

"A strong energy industry is a goal that will benefit all Americans and is achievable without diminishing the significant environmental protections that Americans rightfully expect," said Quinn of the National Mining Association in a recent statement.

However Bill Price, an organiser with the Sierra Club in West Virginia, recently told Al Jazeera that local communities were ready to move away from coal and other dirty industries. Many people are realising the economic benefits of moving away from coal, and towards more sustainable sources of energy, he said.

"The coal miners that I talk to in the community are more and more understanding that they need to be looking at a transition," Price said.

"They need investment from the federal government and the state government in that transition, and they understand that their industry is dying and not much can be done to revive it."

According to May 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coal mining accounted for 53,420 total jobs in the US. That figure includes managerial and human resource jobs, as well as engineers, extraction workers and mining machine operators.
How have local and state level officials responded?

Since the Trump administration pulled out of the Paris Agreement, 385 US mayors - from cities across the country including Albany, New York, Houston, Texas, and Sacramento, California - have committed to the climate plan.

More than 2,500 city, state, business and university leaders from all 50 states have also signed on to the We Are Still In pledge to demonstrate an "enduring commitment to tackling climate change, ensuring a clean energy future, and upholding the Paris Agreement".

Additionally, dozens of governors, members of US Congress and other officials from across the US have and continue to speak out against the administration's environmental policies.

Christiana Figueres, vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors, said this week's summit in Chicago is an opportunity to continue acting on the political will to tackle environmental issues and show "that local action is being taken to fulfil commitments".

This week, Rahm Emmanuel, mayor of Chicago, was among 50 mayors from 10 countries to sign a Chicago Climate Charter, which outlines ways to implement the Paris Agreement objectives at the city level, according to local media.

Barack Obama also addressed the meeting, saying it was "an unusual time where the United States is now the only nation on Earth that does not belong to the Paris Agreement, and that's a difficult position to defend".

"Now, the good news is that the Paris Agreement was never going to solve the climate crisis on its own. It was going to be all of us. Cities and states and businesses and universities and nonprofits have emerged as the new face of American leadership on climate change," the former president said.

Attorney General for New York, Eric Schneiderman, is leading a coalition of his counterparts and other legal officers from 23 US states, cities and counties against the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

"We won't hesitate to protect those we serve," Schneiderman said in a statement, "including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump's actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change."

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/explained-donald-trump-attack-environment-171203184502851.html
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