AuthorTopic: The Surlynewz Channel  (Read 577872 times)

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How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity’
Documents show how the company tracks and terminates workers

Amazon’s fulfillment centers are the engine of the company — massive warehouses where workers track, pack, sort, and shuffle each order before sending it on its way to the buyer’s door.

Critics say those fulfillment center workers face strenuous conditions: workers are pressed to “make rate,” with some packing hundreds of boxes per hour, and losing their job if they don’t move fast enough. “You’ve always got somebody right behind you who’s ready to take your job,” says Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a prominent Amazon critic.

Documents obtained by The Verge show those productivity firings are far more common than outsiders realize. In a signed letter last year, an attorney representing Amazon said the company fired “hundreds” of employees at a single facility between August of 2017 and September 2018 for failing to meet productivity quotas. A spokesperson for the company said that, over that time, roughly 300 full-time associates were terminated for inefficiency.

The number represents a substantial portion of the facility’s workers: a spokesperson said the named fulfillment center in Baltimore includes about 2,500 full-time employees today. Assuming a steady rate, that would mean Amazon was firing more than 10 percent of its staff annually, solely for productivity reasons. The numbers are even more staggering in North America as a whole. Amazon operates more than 75 fulfillment centers with more than 125,000 full-time employees, suggesting thousands lose their jobs with the company annually for failing to move packages quickly enough.

The documents also show a deeply automated tracking and termination process. “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity,” according to the letter, “and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” (Amazon says supervisors are able to override the process.)

Critics see the system as a machine that only sees numbers, not people. “One of the things that we hear consistently from workers is that they are treated like robots in effect because they’re monitored and supervised by these automated systems,” Mitchell says. “They’re monitored and supervised by robots.”

The system goes so far as to track “time off task,” which the company abbreviates as TOT. If workers break from scanning packages for too long, the system automatically generates warnings and, eventually, the employee can be fired. Some facility workers have said they avoid bathroom breaks to keep their time in line with expectations.

Amazon says retraining is part of the process to get workers up to standards and that it only changes rates when more than 75 percent of workers at a facility are meeting goals. The bottom 5 percent of workers are placed on a training plan, according to the company. An appeal system is also part of the termination process.

”Approximately 300 employees turned over in Baltimore related to productivity in this timeframe,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “In general, the number of employee terminations have decreased over the last two years at this facility as well as across North America.” Amazon did not give details on the current rate of terminations.

Amazon produced the data as part of a labor dispute with a former worker at the Baltimore facility, who claimed they had been terminated for engaging in legally protected activity, and filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. In a letter to the board, Amazon responded that the employee had instead been fired for failing to reach productivity benchmarks — a common occurrence, the company said. To bolster its case, the company also included the list of terminations at the Baltimore facility, labeled by Amazon as BWI2. The Verge obtained the letter and related documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Amazon consistently terminates fulfillment center associates for failing to repeatedly meet the standardized productivity rates,” the company’s attorney wrote in the letter. Amazon terminated the employee, the attorney wrote, “for the same reason it has terminated hundreds of other employees without regard to any alleged protected concerted activity.” The former employee’s charge was ultimately withdrawn.

While the names on the termination list filed by the company have been redacted, it includes more than 900 entries, as well as each employee’s supervisor and the reason they were fired. All of the employees on the list were terminated either for “productivity” or a category of offense called “productivity_trend,” a longer series of inefficiency issues. Amazon said a mistake resulted in an overly broad list being filed that included other performance problems and that it is fixing the error with the board.

The letter also details Amazon’s strict standards more widely. “Associates must be detailed and efficient in processing each order,” the letter reads. To ensure that efficiency continues, the company has developed “a proprietary productivity metric.” Amazon says those goals are set objectively, and that they’re based on metrics like customer demand and location.

Workers have, at times, pushed back against the company’s productivity requirements. Last year, East African immigrant workers at a Minnesota facility organized protests against the company, saying they didn’t have sufficient break time, including for prayer.

In response, Amazon has continued to tout the benefits of working for the company, pointing to their hourly pay rates and policies like parental leave. But the documents make clear that some workers, failing to meet productivity standards, won’t reap the benefits of a job at all.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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The End of the American Century
« Reply #3751 on: April 27, 2019, 07:33:19 AM »
The End of the American Century
What the life of Richard Holbrooke tells us about the decay of Pax Americana.

He served as a diplomat under every Democratic president from Kennedy to Obama, and his story mirrors our confidence and energy, our reach and grasp, our excess and blindness. A good read.

hat’s called the American century was really just a little more than half a century, and that was the span of Richard Holbrooke’s life. It began with the Second World War and the creative burst that followed—the United Nations, the Atlantic alliance, containment, the free world—and it went through dizzying lows and highs, until it expired the day before yesterday. The thing that brings on doom to great powers—is it simple hubris, or decadence and squander, a kind of inattention, loss of faith, or just the passage of years? At some point that thing set in, and so we are talking about an age gone by. It wasn’t a golden age—there was plenty of folly and wrong—but I already miss it. The best about us was inseparable from the worst. Our feeling that we could do anything gave us the Marshall Plan and Vietnam, the peace at Dayton and the endless Afghan War. Our confidence and energy, our reach and grasp, our excess and blindness—they were not so different from Holbrooke’s. He was our man. That’s the reason to tell you this story.

He served as a diplomat under every Democratic president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. But his egotism alienated superiors and colleagues, and he never reached his lifelong goal of becoming secretary of state. He wasn’t a grand strategist, but his frenetic public presence made him the embodiment of certain ideas in action. His views, like everyone’s, emerged from his nervous system, his amygdala, the core of his character, where America stood for something more than just its own power. He believed that power brought responsibilities, and if we failed to face them the world’s suffering would worsen, and eventually other people’s problems would be ours, and if we didn’t act, no one else would. Not necessarily with force, but with the full weight of American influence. That was the Holbrooke doctrine, vindicated at Dayton, where he ended a war and brought an uneasy peace to Bosnia. The country owed its existence to the liberal internationalism of Pax Americana. Now that those words are history, and we’ve retreated into a nationalism whose ugliness more and more reminds me of Balkan politics, we should revisit Bosnia to see what’s lost when America decides to leave the world alone.

December 1992

It was very cold but there was not yet snow on the ground. The refugee camp was in a barracks town called Karlovac, an hour outside Zagreb, the Croatian capital. Three thousand Bosnian Muslims, mostly men, lived in two concrete buildings. The Bosnians were sleeping in metal bunk beds stacked three high on concrete floors, with clothing draped from the bed frames. In the musty air they waited and waited for word of a new home in another country. The internationals wanted them to return someday to Bosnia, but the men had no such desire.

Holbrooke, who was in the Balkans on behalf of the International Rescue Committee, a refugee organization with a board of prominent men and women, including him, leaned forward with his hands behind his back and stood listening to a young man in a group sprawled on the bunks. He was a baker from Prijedor, a small town in northern Bosnia. The town had been majority Muslim until war broke out in the spring. Then Bosnian Serb paramilitaries came to Prijedor—and to Zvornik, Bijeljina, Omarska, Orašac, Bišćani, Sanski Most, and other towns. Following careful plans, the gunmen would surround a town, block the exits, and go house to house while local Serbs pointed out the Muslim and, in fewer cases, Croat families. The paramilitaries would send the residents out into the street, then loot and destroy the houses. Women, children, and old people were driven out of town and forced to make their way to the relative safety of Croatia. Men were separated into groups. Those whose names appeared on lists of local notables were taken away and never seen again.

The others were sent to concentration camps, where they were starved and made to live in their own filth. The gunmen tormented their prisoners with tales of wives raped and children murdered. They ordered them to perform sexual acts on one another. They forced them to dig mass graves and fill them with the corpses of their friends, their kin. In some towns the paramilitaries were less discriminating and killed every last Muslim. But the goal was everywhere the same: to make the place purely Serb, to render it impossible for Bosnia’s different groups to live together ever again.

When the gunmen came to Prijedor, the baker hid in the woods and watched the Serbs destroy his house. His neighbors—whom he’d known for years and considered friends—found him and turned him over to the paramilitaries. The neighbors did this without remorse. It was the first sign of hatred that the baker had ever seen in them, and the suddenness of it stunned him. When Holbrooke asked why the Serbs had done these things, the baker said simply, “I don’t know.” He was lucky to be a baker and not a notable. He was taken to the concentration camp at Manjača, from which he escaped across the border to Croatia, where he became one of the war’s 2 million refugees.

All of this was called by an ugly euphemism that reflected the thinking of the perpetrators: ethnic cleansing. On an earlier trip to Bosnia, in August, Holbrooke had seen its immediate aftermath: the destroyed houses of Muslims alongside a lonely intact Serb house, the wrecked factories, the fields of rotting corn, the armed Serb bullies, the Muslims lined up to sign away all their property and then be crammed onto buses heading for Croatia. Now he was talking with the survivors.

There was a factory worker from Sanski Most whose Serb foreman came to his house one night in a group of uniformed and armed Serbs. They ordered him to leave the house, and then they blew it up, and the whole time the foreman avoided looking him in the eye. There was a man whose 70-year-old mother had been raped and was still trapped in Sanski Most. Could Holbrooke help get her out of Bosnia? There was an old man who had to drag himself across the bunks to show Holbrooke how the Serb guards had broken his leg. “These Serbs are so awful that they bring their little sons of 10 years old to the camps to watch them beat us,” the old man said.

“Not all the Serbs are so bad,” a younger man said. “But those who refused to participate were killed by the other Serbs right at the beginning.”

The stories were all the same. A savage and inexplicable fever had spread overnight through their friends and neighbors of many years, and now everything was finished.

As Holbrooke started to leave, the baker brought out a dirty plastic bag from under his mattress. Inside was a pair of small figures, three or four inches tall, in blond wood. Human figures, with nearly featureless faces and heads bowed and hands together behind their backs. The baker had carved them with a piece of broken glass while he was interned at the Manjača camp, where the prisoners had stood bound for hours with their heads down to avoid being beaten. The mute simplicity of the figures evoked immense sorrow. As Holbrooke held them they seemed to burn in his hand. He was too moved to do more than mumble a few words and return them.

“No,” the baker said. “Please take them back to your country and show them to your people. Show the Americans how we have been treated. Tell America what is happening to us.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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The N.R.A. Ousts Oliver North and Stifles Debate on Financial Wrongdoing
« Reply #3752 on: April 28, 2019, 04:37:36 AM »
The N.R.A. Ousts Oliver North and Stifles Debate on Financial Wrongdoing,
a week after a joint investigation  exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable payments to N.R.A. executives, contractors, and vendors.

The National Rifle Association’s annual convention was consumed by infighting on Saturday, after its president, Oliver North, was ousted by its board and its longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, a week after a joint investigation by The New Yorker and The Trace exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable payments to N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders. Adding to the scrutiny on the gun-rights group, the Times reported on Saturday that the New York attorney general, Letitia James, has opened a formal investigation into the group’s financial practices, including whether it should retain its nonprofit status.

The convention began with Richard Childress, the N.R.A.’s first vice-president, reading aloud a letter from North, whose role in the organization is largely ceremonial, to hundreds of members gathered at the Indiana Convention Center, in Indianapolis. In the letter, North said that he would not seek a second term as president and had created a committee to examine the allegations of financial mismanagement by LaPierre. “If true, the NRA nonprofit status is threatened,” North’s letter said. “There is a clear crisis that needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment.”

This story was published in partnership with The Trace, a nonprofit news organization covering guns in America.

North’s announcement was followed by a raucous debate among members over a resolution calling for the resignation of LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s longtime executive vice-president and public face. The resolution, put forward by a member from Pennsylvania, accused LaPierre of having “squelched and ignored” issues raised nearly twenty years ago regarding Ackerman McQueen, an advertising firm that has shaped the group’s messaging for years and was paid forty million dollars in 2017 alone. The resolution warned that the N.R.A.’s “highly suspect” financial practices could result in its complete dismantling.

The intensity of the debate over the resolution appeared to expose deep divisions among rank-and-file members and ratcheted up pressure on LaPierre, who has led the organization for nearly three decades. Members spent almost an hour arguing over whether the N.R.A.’s financial woes should be discussed in public. “The lifeblood of this organization is on the line,” Marion Hammer, an influential, Florida-based N.R.A. lobbyist and former president, said. “We are under attack from without; we do not need to be under attack from within.” Members then voted to keep the debate private and send the resolution to the board, which is scheduled to meet on Monday.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that LaPierre had told the group’s board that North was threatening to release a letter containing “a devastating account of our financial status, sexual harassment charges against a staff member, accusations of wardrobe expenses and excessive staff travel expenses.” In a move that surprised many members, the N.R.A. sued Ackerman McQueen earlier this month, accusing the firm of concealing financial information.

North’s ouster added an element of intrigue to what is normally a weekend of firearm-themed festivities. When the convention kicked off on Friday morning, attendees browsed acres of guns and accessories across the exhibition floor. Later, they ventured across the street to the Lucas Oil Stadium, where conservative politicians and celebrities, including President Trump, delivered a series of speeches. Trump drew cheers when he announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the landmark U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, an agreement signed by Barack Obama in 2013 that aims to regulate the sale of weapons. Chris Cox, the N.R.A.’s top lobbyist, had derisively labelled the agreement the “United Nations Arms Ban Treaty.”

When members assembled in the convention center’s second-floor ballroom to hear from their leaders on Saturday morning, tensions were visible. LaPierre walked onstage to a standing ovation and took a seat at the table with his fellow-executives. North’s decision to skip the meeting, though, left the chair next to LaPierre empty. LaPierre remained staid as Childress read North’s letter. LaPierre later walked up to the lectern and hewed to familiar talking points, ignoring North’s resignation. Wearing a blue suit and tie, LaPierre touted the N.R.A.’s success in rolling back gun restrictions and resisting efforts by state officials, including the governor and attorney general of New York, to enact gun-control measures. “We are in the fight for our political lives here at the National Rifle Association,” LaPierre said, as the crowd applauded. “But I promise you, in the spirit of true patriots, we are fighting back.”

The subsequent debate over LaPierre was impassioned, with members who opposed him shouting from the back of the room, “We demand to be heard.” When the N.R.A.’s secretary and general counsel moved to send the resolution calling for LaPierre’s ouster to the board so that it could be discussed in private, citing ongoing litigation and an internal review, it elicited boos from the crowd. “If this is indeed an issue that should not be discussed in front of the media, perhaps we should ask the media to leave the room,” Adam Kraut, a gun-rights advocate who has become vocally critical of LaPierre, told the board. “Because, last I looked, the sign outside said this was a meeting of the members.” After roughly forty-five minutes of debate, the members passed the resolution referring to the issue to the board.

Throughout the convention, N.R.A. members said they remain deeply suspicious of the news media and see investigations by Democratic officials in New York state as biased. Beth Dragoo, who has belonged to the N.R.A. for more than forty years, said, “I tend to want to dig into the facts for myself, and find out through the organization what’s going on rather than trying to think that someone who doesn’t belong to the organization could possibly know more.”

Brian Freskos is a staff writer at The Trace.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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The world is doomed, according to Paul Ehrlich
« Reply #3753 on: April 29, 2019, 04:17:38 AM »
The world is doomed, according to Paul Ehrlich,12617

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Paul Ehrlich is a charming, charismatic, controversial, globally recognised scientist and author. At 86, he has no intention of retiring as a peaceful witness to the world’s environmental crises. In 1968, Paul and his wife, Anne, co-wrote The Population Bomb, a bestseller predicting massive starvation and civilisation collapse as a result of over-population. 

The book earned Paul and Anne a global reputation, with many scientists disputing the conclusions. Although the Ehrlichs’ predictions did not transpire in the time frame predicted, Paul Ehrlich takes every opportunity through lectures and authoring books to alert humanity to the looming crises which are happening now as a direct result of over-population.

He has no hesitation in predicting the end of civilisation is close.

As Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University and president of the Stanford Center for Conservation Biology, Ehrlich’s concerns cannot be ignored.

In an exclusive interview with IA in San Francisco, Professor Ehrlich was asked how he would describe the state of nature on Planet Earth.

He said:

It’s a very frightening picture because first we’re not doing anything significant to divert ourselves from the coming collapse and second not thinking hard about what the consequences of that collapse are going to be for people in rich countries. To say nothing of people in poorer countries who are already suffering. A lot of people are dying in Africa right now because of climate change.
There’s been much literature recently on the disappearance of insects. Butterflies that Anne and I worked on for years are becoming rarer and rarer.The Monarch butterfly is disappearing, lots of the birds are gone.  Some people believe we’ve lost almost half of the wildlife on the planet in the last 40 years and the rest of its going to go very fast.
“Nature supports us and we have no idea how fast the collapse will come," Ehrlich told IA.

He continued:

Climate change is going to make for a worsening migration situation raising ethical issues about how many people should be allowed to migrate from where to where and under what circumstances.
Many scientists think we are well past the tipping point considering our accommodation of the political situation and how much carbon dioxide and methane are in the in atmosphere.
Independent Australia: "What do you think are the greatest threats at this time?"

Paul Ehrlich: [With a grin.] “Besides Trump?"

He became serious:

The greatest threat in the human era is the idea we can go on growing forever which comes from a lot of really stupid economists who are so badly trained. With a few outstanding exceptions, most of them have had no training in natural sciences or how the natural world works. They actually believe growth, including population growth, is the best thing in the world, that it can go on forever. That each nation’s Growth National Product (GNP) can grow forever.

I will not take an optimistic view of the world until I hear major politicians say, we had a half a per cent growth last year when we should have had at least half a per cent shrinkage.
Growth mania is the greatest danger. It’s the hardest thing to exterminate because the so-called educated people who meet in Davos at the World Destroyers' meeting every year are absolutely dedicated to growth and more consumerism.
Their mantra, if you don’t continue growing you’re dead, ignores the fact that we don’t continue growing. There’s childhood and maturity. What we have is an over mature society still trying to grow further.
There isn’t enough on our planet to support us, there are no other planets so in Chinese terms we’re screwed.
It’s very hard to know what’s going to happen in the future. We haven’t seen any miraculous turns in the right direction.
Concluding the thought, he said:

"The future is tied almost entirely into the easiest way to destroy civilization.  Small scale nuclear wars with the nuclear weapons are now in the hands of notorious nut cases. So how can optimistic can we be?"
IA: "Is there a spiritual dimension to this destruction?"

Paul Erlich: "I think it's tragic spiritually because we don’t know why there’s anything at all in the universe. All the big questions are not answered. I would love to think that eventually humanity might be able to think those things out, but it's not going to be so if we keep on this path we are now. Why is there anything at all in the universe? Human civilisation is going to disappear. Of course a lot of nature will go as well, but in 20-30 million years, a lot of new things will be here."

IA:  “What new things?”

Paul Erlich: “New organisms will evolve. We don’t know what will be left. Much depends on whether we have a large scale nuclear war or whether we just continue in the direction of wrecking the climate that we’re doing now. Or whether we poison most of the higher organisms and ourselves with toxins now spreading from pole to pole.”

Anne Ehrlich, associate director of the Center, agrees with her husband. She says the ongoing devastation of the environment is accelerating and unnerving.

Anne Ehrlich: "We’re losing nature and the whole kit and caboodle. We’re losing how it all fits together and maintains itself and keeps all the elements going because of interactions among various creatures, including us, we’re wholly dependent on nature but most humans don’t recognise that."

Chemical contamination is currently an issue which occupies Paul and Anne. Their concern focuses on the impacts on children and the ability of humanity to make educated decisions.

Paul Erlich: “It turns out that a basic law of toxic chemistry is wrong. The idea that gross makes the poison, for example, if you ate a pound of salt you would die, that too much salt becomes a poison is misleading. It turns out that chemicals in tiny quantities can be far more dangerous large ones because of the way they effect the receptors in your hormones. Any time you look at a study of, say, the IQs of children who were raised downhill of a sledge smelter versus upwind, or downwind and upwind of a place producing pesticides, the downwind ones have fewer IQ points than the upwind ones.”

The sheer extent of human exposure to chemicals impacting our hormones is well illustrated by the everyday example Paul Ehrlich likes to use.

Paul Erlich: “We’re all exposed to Bisphenol every time we get a receipt from that little machine in the stores. It’s in everyone’s blood which may affect their hormone balance, particularly in children."

According to a recent U.S. report, the so-called "gender-bending" chemical Bisphenol (BPA) is added to 93 per cent of receipts given out in stores. Cashiers and waiting staff who frequently handle receipts are particularly vulnerable to the chemicals’ effects according to the research.

BPA, which reacts with estrogen and thyroid hormone receptors, has been linked to infertility, ADHD, obesity, type 2 diabetes, premature births and early onset of puberty.

According to Paul Ehrlich, the impacts of chemical pollution on the human brain are increasingly obvious.

Paul Erlich: “A lot of people think we are dumbing down humanity, that humanity is becoming more stupid. I hadn’t seen any empirical evidence of that until we began to observe the Republicans in the U.S. Senate and now we have empirical evidence that we are dumbing down."

IA: "Are there any solutions to the population question?"

PE: “The best solutions are things like giving women rights. That’s a start. Access to modern contraception and where necessary back up abortion. Maybe if you gave women full equal rights and access to contraception that would start a slow decline. If we’re really lucky and do all the other things we need to do, we might end up with a world population of 1 billion people, some living as hermits, some living in big cities and able to continue for centuries. It’s possible."

IA:  "What can people do?"

PE: “Become politically active.  This crisis is not a scientific issue any more, it’s a political issue.   Science may come up someday with some kind of artificial intelligence which will somehow save civilisation. I'm not holding my breath. Anne and I see a lot of dangers in it.”

And a final philosophical bubble:

“I think of these crises in terms of my love of fermented grape juice. Drink really good wines. You can keep the internal in good shape while the external goes down the drain.”
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Start planning for catastrophes, new EPA document says
« Reply #3754 on: April 29, 2019, 04:35:58 AM »
Release of a government report means that even the last to know, know. regardless of their public posturing.

Start planning for catastrophes, new EPA document says
Research details how human-caused climate change is contributing to record heat, more-intense storms, more-severe flooding and other events.

The EPA published a 150-page document with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.


The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document this past week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.

The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”

Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the globe. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires. Another scientific paper, co-authored by EPA researchers, found that unless the United States slashes carbon emissions, climate change will probably cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually by 2100.

The divergence between Wheeler and his own agency offers the latest example of the often contradictory way that federal climate policy has evolved under President Trump. As the White House has sought to minimize or ignore climate science, government experts have continued to sound the alarm.

The president has said he intends to withdraw the nation from a key international climate accord, but last fall 13 agencies issued a report concluding that “the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social, and economic well-being are rising.”

The White House has repeatedly sought ways to question the broad scientific consensus that human activities are driving climate change, and it is considering creating a federal advisory panel to reexamine those findings. But while the National Security Council is still pursuing the task force proposal, it has encountered resistance from military and intelligence officials as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Even some of the administration’s symbolic efforts to change the government’s climate message have fizzled. In the summer of 2017, top EPA officials had plans to tweak references to climate change in the agency’s official museum, and possibly to put a piece of coal on display. The overhaul plans stalled and are now not expected to materialize, according to two individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Still, Trump officials often home in on references to climate change in key documents.

In the case of April 24 guidance from the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, documents show, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs sought to downplay climate change’s impact on the intensity of natural disasters. But these efforts, first reported by E&E News, did not entirely remove those references.

The document published Wednesday in the Federal Register repeatedly makes the link between climate change and more-severe floods, wildfires and storms.

While the White House struck one phrase attributing extreme weather events to climate change, the document still refers to “climate change” and “a changing climate” 22 times.

“According to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which is a detailed report on climate change impacts on the U.S., climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of some natural disasters,” it states. “The amount of debris generated by natural disasters, and the costs to manage it, will likely increase as a result.”

The guidance is directed toward “communities at increased risk from natural disasters due to climate change,” according to the document, which included a section titled “Incorporate Climate Change Adaptation into Debris Management Planning.”

Asked about the document Friday, the EPA declined to comment.

“This EPA guidance is clearly telling the public you need to start dealing now with disasters that are being made worse by climate change and will be made even worse due to climate change,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at the group Public Citizen. “It’s pretty troubling to me to see the head of EPA saying the exact opposite thing.”

To some extent, the new document reflects the advances scientists have made attributing extreme events to climate change since a landmark analysis was published in 2004 looking at a deadly European heat wave the year before.

The U.S. government’s main climate change website,, features a detailed explanation of how the science has evolved in recent years, including how federal researchers have contributed to the field.

“Scientists are increasingly able to distinguish evidence of human-induced climate change from natural variability,” according to the government explainer.

But the research into extreme event attribution is hardly limited to the government. Since 2011, the American Meteorological Society has compiled an annual assessment of how human-caused climate change probably affected the strength and frequency of extreme events such as record heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

The group has said that of the more than 130 peer-reviewed studies published as part of the annual reviews, about 65 percent have identified the fingerprints of climate change in extreme weather events, while about 35 percent found no clear connection.

“The science has really developed in the last decade, in particular, around the influence of global warming on extreme events,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor and senior fellow at Stanford University who studies the climate system.

For starters, he said, researchers are constantly gathering more data and studying more weather events, so that the observational record has grown over time. Computing power and modeling capabilities have improved. And there also has been an “explosion of research” on the topic, as scientists have developed frameworks for better evaluating the role of climate change in specific events.

The result, he said, is a growing body of research that details how human-caused climate change is contributing to record heat, more-intense storms, more-severe flooding and other events.

“It’s very clear from multiple lines of evidence that we are already being impacted by the global warming that’s already happened,” Diffenbaugh said.

During Wheeler’s confirmation hearing early this year, Democrats repeatedly tried to pin down Wheeler, who has lobbied in the past for the fossil fuel industry, about exactly where he stands on climate change and the risks it poses.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pressed Wheeler about whether he agreed with Trump’s comment that climate change amounted to a Chinese “hoax.” After being pressed, the acting administrator replied, “I have not used the ‘hoax’ word myself.”

Sanders then asked Wheeler whether he accepts the consensus of most scientists that climate change is one of the most serious problems facing the nation. “I would not call it the greatest crisis, no, sir,” he replied. “I would call it a huge issue that needs to be addressed globally.”
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Conservatives Don’t Hate Socialism, They Hate Equality
« Reply #3755 on: April 30, 2019, 04:08:16 AM »
Conservatives Don’t Hate Socialism, They Hate Equality

Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Trump has tapped into a long tradition of the right, demonizing socialism precisely as it rises in popularity.

“They want to take away your hamburgers,” former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka declared in February. “This is what Stalin dreamt about … America will never be a socialist country!” The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) audience cheered. The video played on my phone as I waved at Danny, the homeless man who begs for food every morning at the Newark Penn Station, where scores of poor people sleep in wheelchairs or lean on crutches or stand by the delis to ask for change.

These folks need more than “hamburgers.” They need jobs and homes. Yet, as the 2020 election season starts, Trump has branded progressives as “socialists” who will steal property and bring tyranny. The president’s fearmongering contrasts with the actual Green New Deal that some Democrats support but failed to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate. It’s a fear driven by ideology. Republicans paint the poor as undeserving, marked by cultural or personal character flaws. Whereas Democratic Socialists believe people have the ability to run the economy and society to meet their needs. Why this difference in perception? It is because Republicans aren’t afraid of socialism — they are afraid of equality with people they see as inferior.

The Crime of the Century

“The Democratic Party,” President Trump told an El Paso audience, is “becoming the party of socialism, late-term abortions, open borders and crime.” He tapped into a long tradition of the right, demonizing socialism precisely as it rises in popularity. With every wave of leftism throughout history, a counter-reaction crashed against it.

The U.S. has had three Red Scares, or right-wing campaigns to inflame public fear of socialism. The first came in 1917 as Bolsheviks remade Russia into the Soviet Union, American workers struck en masse and anarchists mailed bombs to politicians. The government deported hundreds of suspected radicals. The second Red Scare began after World War II as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. fought for supremacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy hunted for “reds” in government and media. In the years following the 2008 Wall Street crash, another leftist resurgence sprang up, and with it, a counter-reaction. We are now in the third American Red Scare.

Republicans who red-bait Democrats also accuse “socialism” of property theft, amnesty for “criminals” and tyranny. The themes are consistent in conservativism, but it’s the 1962 film, The Truth About Communism, narrated by Ronald Reagan, that is the modern GOP blueprint. In dirge-like tones, Reagan spoke of a peasant’s lifetime savings taken by Bolsheviks. Later Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul updated this theme, saying Sen. Bernie Sanders’s proposals, such as free education, constituted “theft.” Conservative media star Ben Shapiro repeatedly calls socialism theft, and even declared, “Socialism is rape. Capitalism is consensual sex.”

So, if socialism is theft, who are socialists stealing for? Conservatives see them as taking from “good, honest, hardworking Americans” to give to the “undeserving” poor. In his 1976 campaign, Reagan regaled crowds with myths of Black women milking the welfare system or public housing with fancy pools. Later Republicans like Mitt Romney talked of the “47 percent … who are dependent on government.” Sen. Paul Ryan described inner cities as filled with “generations of men not even thinking about working.”

Fear of the “underserving poor” is manipulated into a fear of tyranny. Many conservatives believe socialists will use poor people as shock troops to create the Soviet States of America. In The Truth About Communism, Reagan claimed Russian prisoners were handed guns to enforce Bolshevik power. His successor, Vice President George Bush, used that trope of “criminals” unleashed by liberals in the infamously racist Willie Horton ad, which showed a Black man who raped a white woman while on furlough from prison. Now, Trump reuses that imagery in his ad warning of “illegal Mexican gangs,” designed to stoke racist fears. It builds on his baseless accusation that Democrats drove undocumented migrants to the polls and cost him the popular vote. It repeats the same nightmare scene of Reagan’s film in which Bolsheviks or in our case, just liberals, use the lower classes to seize state power and eventually take property.

Consistently, Republicans declare socialism is a crime not only because they believe it “steals” property, but because the poor are already “criminals.” A deep contempt for working-class and poor people, especially immigrants and people of color, is engraved in today’s Republican Party. They don’t think the downtrodden deserve equality because in the GOP mind, they are not equal.

The Bottom Is Left

Who supports socialism in the U.S.? It turns out to be the people who need it most. The students in debt they can’t pay want socialism. The mothers who can’t afford daycare want it, and the workers, injured and waiting in emergency rooms, want it. The homeless people sleeping outside in winter want it, and the father working three jobs to pay for rent wants it.

“I’m not running from the left,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “I’m running from the bottom.” She was elected because she mobilized millennials and people of color who are hungry for progressive policy but are ignored by machine politicos. Later, she said, “Our swing voter is not red to blue … our swing voter is the non-voter to the voter.”

The bottom of the U.S.’s class hierarchy is a treasure-trove of potential socialism. The country is a pyramidal society where the top 1 percent own as much as the bottom 90 percent. Lost in the crevices are half a million homeless people who stay in shelters, or sleep (and sometimes die) outside in the cold. Typhus and tuberculosis spread in tent cities like they ripped through medieval towns. In public housing, trailer homes and boarded-up towns are 39.7 million poor people, 18.5 million of whom live in deep poverty. Many are women, people of color and children raised by single mothers. Nearly 30 percent of Americans live at or under twice the poverty line.

The weight of poverty poisons the body with stress, and pressure is constantly simmering and building beneath the surface at the bottom of the class hierarchy. For decades, both Republicans and Democrats released this pressure every election cycle with a bait and switch. The Republicans offered scapegoats. The Democrats have offered empty tokenism through their support for Obama and now reparations.

Underneath, the pressure rose and fused disparate voters into a combustible coalition. Seething class resentment cuts across party lines. Polls show the public wants to tax the rich. The public wants Medicare for All but gets iffy if it means high taxes and long lines to see a doctor. The public wants free college. Amazingly, if not told which party proposed it, the public wants the Green New Deal.

Is it because Americans want to be the next Soviet Union? No. It simply means people want a future. They have been lied to so much by centrist politicians that they are willing to listen to anyone who dreams big.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Democratic socialism is not a Marxist fever dream; it’s a call for help. It’s less socialism than humanitarian aid for a people in crisis. Millions of Americans are in dead-end jobs, slipping behind on bills, deep in debt and scared of climate change.

“Something is wrong … with capitalism,” Martin Luther King Jr. told his staff in 1966. “There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” Saying the economic system causes pain means moving beyond the conservative image of the poor as flawed, personally or culturally, or the liberal image of them as unlucky victims of a more or less functioning meritocracy. To honor our human potential, capitalism must be dismantled, its pieces taken apart and recombined into a new world.

“Climate change is one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said at the rollout of the Green New Deal. “To combat that threat, we need to be as ambitious and innovative as possible.” In its 14 pages, the plan envisions a World War II-scale mobilization of millions of workers. They will repair roads and bridges, build smart grids, upgrade industry to be zero carbon, build green public transit, remove carbon from the air, clean up waste sites, and clean up the poisoned land and waterways. When they come home, those workers can rest in new, green housing, and if sick or injured, they can go see a doctor, using a Medicare for All card.

It’s a plan as big as the problem. It also scares moderate Democrats. In a hardball move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked it for a vote. “I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal,” he said. “We’re going to be voting on that … give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel.”

The Senate voted 57 against it, 43 Democrats dodged going on record by voting present. It gave Republicans a chance to red-bait and fearmonger. Sen. Cory Gardner, facing a hard re-election, jumped at the chance. “This idea is about socialism,” he said. “That’s what this is. Look at it. Read it.”

Socialism. Theft. Crime. Tyranny. Conservatives are so trapped in their ideology, they see planet-saving reforms as heralding the next Soviet Union. They cannot accept that the Green New Deal can do what all their tax cuts and laissez-faire capitalism have failed to do: let Americans make an honest living from dignified work.

Democratic socialism is more than a change in policy, it’s a change in how people are perceived. They are no longer the “underserving poor” or “criminals” at the command of communist zealots. What drives democratic socialism’s ideology is the image of workers as the source of national renewal.

We need this new vision now because we’re at the crossroads. The choice is between a slightly less habitable Earth versus one in which a million people die from diseases, floods and heat waves. It’s bigger than the debate over socialism. It’s bigger than conservatives’ irrational fears. It’s about survival and whether we believe our descendants deserve to live.

Nicholas Powers
Nicholas Powers is the author of The Ground Below Zero: 9/11 to Burning Man, New Orleans to Darfur, Haiti to Occupy Wall Street, published by Upset Press. He is an associate professor of English at SUNY Old Westbury and has been writing for Truthout since 2011. His article, “Killing the Future: The Theft of Black Life” in the Truthout anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? coalesces his years of reporting on police brutality.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Conservatives Don’t Hate Socialism, They Hate Equality
« Reply #3756 on: April 30, 2019, 04:22:59 AM »
This is an appeal to authority argument. It is only this gents opinion. 

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Re: Conservatives Don’t Hate Socialism, They Hate Equality
« Reply #3757 on: April 30, 2019, 04:52:50 AM »
This is an appeal to authority argument. It is only this gents opinion.

It most certainly is NOT an "appeal to authority" argument. It is a straight opinion piece based on the author's interpretations of events. But thanks for playing.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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The Last Time There Was This Much CO2, Trees Grew at the South Pole
« Reply #3758 on: April 30, 2019, 04:55:46 AM »
The Last Time There Was This Much CO2, Trees Grew at the South Pole


It is palpable now. Even the most ardent deniers of human-caused climate disruption can feel the convulsions wracking the planet.

I truly believe this, given that, essentially, we are all of and from the Earth. Deep down inside all of us is the “fight or flight” instinct. Like any other animal, our very core knows when we are in danger, as the converging crises descend ever closer to home, wherever we may find ourselves on the globe.

This anxiety that increases by the day, this curious dread of what our climate-disrupted future will bring, is difficult to bear. Even those who have not already lost homes or loved ones to climate disruption-fueled extreme weather events have to live with the burden of this daily tension.

The signs of our overheated planet abound, and another collection of recent reports and studies shows things are only continuing to accelerate as human-caused climate disruption progresses.

A recently published study showed that Earth’s glaciers are now melting five times more rapidly than they were in the 1960s.

“The glaciers shrinking fastest are in central Europe, the Caucasus region, western Canada, the U.S. Lower 48 states, New Zealand and near the tropics,” lead author Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich told Time Magazine. Glaciers in those places are losing an average of more than 1 percent of their mass each year, according to the study. “In these regions, at the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century,” added Zemp.

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization announced that extreme weather events impacted 62 million people across the world last year. In 2018, 35 million people were struck by flooding, and Hurricanes Florence and Michael were just two of 14 “billion-dollar disasters” in 2018 in the U.S. More than 1,600 deaths were linked to heat waves and wildfires in Europe, Japan and the U.S. The report also noted the last four years were the warmest on record.

As an example of this last statistic, another report revealed that Canada is warming at twice the global rate. “We are already seeing the effects of widespread warming in Canada,” Elizabeth Bush, a climate science adviser at Environment Canada, told TheGuardian. “It’s clear, the science supports the fact that adapting to climate change is an imperative.”

Another recent report showed that the last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere (412 ppm), in the Pliocene Epoch 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago, sea levels were 20 meters higher than they are right now, trees were growing at the South Pole, and average global temperatures were 3 to 4 degrees Centigrade (3°-4° C) warmer, and even 10°C warmer in some areas. NASA echoed the report’s findings.

And if business as usual continues, emissions will only accelerate. The International Energy Agency announced that global carbon emissions set a record in 2018, rising 1.7 percent to a record 33.1 billion tons.


The impact of runaway emissions is already upon us. Several cities in the northern U.S., such as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Duluth, are already preparing to receive migrants from states like Florida, where residents are beset with increasing flooding, brutal heat waves, more severe and frequent hurricanes, sea level rise, and a worse allergy season. City planners in the aforementioned cities are already preparing by trying to figure out how to create jobs and housing for an influx of new residents.

Indications of the climate disruption refugee crisis are even more glaring in some other countries.

Large numbers of Guatemalan farmers already have to leave their landdue to drought, flooding, and increasingly severe extreme weather events.

In low-lying Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of people are already in the process of being displaced from coastal homes, and are moving into poverty-stricken areas of cities that are already unprepared to receive the influx of people. Given that 80 percent of the population of the country already lives in a flood plain, the crisis can only escalate with time as sea level rise continues to accelerate.

Meanwhile, diseases spread by mosquitoes are also set to worsen in our increasingly warm world. A recently published study on the issue shows that over the next three decades, half a billion more people could be at risk of mosquito-delivered diseases.

Other migrations are occurring as well. In Canada’s Yukon, Indigenous elders told the CBC that caribou and moose are moving further north than ever before in order to escape the impacts of climate disruption like warmer summers, lakes and rivers that don’t freeze, and adjusting their migrations to find more food. This has deep impacts on the survival and culture of the area’s Indigenous residents.

In economic news, a researcher for the Federal Reserve Bank recently penned a letter urging central banks to note the financial risks, and possibly an impending financial crisis, brought about by climate disruption. “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts,” read the letter, “climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

Another report showed that climate disruption is already negatively impacting fruit breeders, and consumers will soon feel the pain of higher prices. “We are seeing industries that may not survive if we don’t find a solution, and we are only just seeing the consequences of climate change,” Thomas Gradziel, of the University of California at Davis, told The Washington Post.

Underscoring all of this, the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, known as the “Doomsday Vault,” has already been altered by climate disruption impacts. The primary impacts thus far have been floodingaround the vault, given how warm temperatures have become across the Arctic. The Doomsday Vault holds nearly one million seeds from around the globe, and functions as a backup in case climate disruption, war, famine, or disease wipes out certain crops. In other words, it’s a backup plan to backup plans. A recent report showed that climate change’s impacts on the seed vault could get worse as snow season shortens, heavier and more frequent rainfalls escalate, and avalanches and mudslides near the vault become more common.

Lastly in this section, researchers recently warned that the Arctic has now entered an “unprecedented state” that is literally threatening the stability of the entire global climate system. Their paper, “Key Indicators of Arctic Climate Change: 1971–2017,” with both American and European climate scientists contributing, warned starkly that changes in the Arctic will continue to have massive and negative impacts around the globe.

“Because the Arctic atmosphere is warming faster than the rest of the world, weather patterns across Europe, North America, and Asia are becoming more persistent, leading to extreme weather conditions,” Jason Box, the lead author of the paper said.


As usual, there continue to be ample examples of the impacts of climate disruption in the watery realms of the planet.

In oceans, most of the sea turtles now being born are female; a crisis in sea turtle sex that is borne from climate disruption. This is due to the dramatically warmer sand temperatures where the eggs are buried. At a current ratio of 116/1 female/male, clearly this trend cannot continue indefinitely if sea turtles are to survive.

An alarming study showed recently that the number of new corals on the Great Barrier Reef has crashed by 89 percent after the mass bleaching events of 2016 and 2017. With coral bleaching events happening nearly annually now across many of the world’s reefs, such as the Great Barrier, we must remember that it takes an average of a decade for them to recover from a bleaching event. This is why some scientists in Australia believe the Great Barrier Reef to be in its “terminal stage.”

The UN recently sounded the alarm that urgent action is needed if Arab states are to avoid a water emergency. Water scarcity and desertification are afflicting the Middle East and North Africa more than any other region on Earth, hence the need for countries there to improve water management. However, the per capita share of fresh water availability there is already just 10 percent of the global average, with agriculture consuming 85 percent of it.

Another recent study has linked shrinking Arctic sea ice to less rain in Central America, adding to the water woes in that region as well.

In Alaska, warming continues apace. The Nenana Ice Classic, a competition where people guess when a tripod atop the frozen Nenana River breaks through the ice each spring, has resulted in a record this year of the earliest river ice breakup. It broke the previous record by nearly one full week.

Meanwhile, the pace of warming and the ensuing change across the Bering Sea is startling scientists there. Phenomena like floods during the winter and record low sea ice are generating great concern among scientists as well as Indigenous populations living there. “The projections were saying we would’ve hit situations similar to what we saw last year, but not for another 40 or 50 years,” Seth Danielson, a physical oceanographer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told The Associated Press of the diminishing sea ice.

In fact, people in the northernmost community of the Canadian Yukon, the village of Old Crow, are declaring a climate disruption State of Emergency. The chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in the Yukon, Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, has stated that his community’s traditional way of life is at stake, including thawing permafrost and rivers and lakes that no longer freeze deeply enough to walk across in the winter, making hunting and fishing difficult and dangerous. He said that declaring the climate emergency is his community’s responsibility to the rest of the planet.

Other signs of the dramatic warming across the Arctic abound. On Denali, North America’s highest mountain (20,310 feet), more than 66 tons of frozen feces left by climbers on the mountain are expected to begin thawing out of the glaciers there as early as this coming summer.

Another study found that tall ice cliffs around Greenland and the Antarctic are beginning to “slump,” behaving like soil and rock in sediment do before they break apart from the land and slide down a slope. Scientists believe the slumping ice cliffs may well be an ominous sign that could lead to more acceleration in global sea level rise, as far more ice is now poised to melt into the seas than previously believed.

In New Zealand, following the third hottest summer on record there, glaciers have been described by scientists as “sad and dirty,” with many of them having disappeared forever. Snow on a glacier protects the ice underneath it from melting, so this is another way scientists measure how rapidly a glacier can melt — if the snow is gone and the blue ice underneath it is directly exposed to the sun, it’s highly prone to melting. “Last year, the vast majority of glaciers had snowlines that were off the top of the mountain, and this year, we had some where we could see snowlines on, but they were very high,” NIWA Environmental Science Institute climate scientist Drew Lorrey told the New Zealand Herald. “On the first day of our survey, we observed 28 of them, and only about six of them had what I would call a snowline.”

Lastly in this section, another study warned that if emissions continue to increase at their current rate, ice will have all but vanished from European Alpine valleys by 2100. The study showed that half of the ice in the Alps’ 4,000 glaciers will be gone by 2050 with only the warming that is already baked into the system from past emissions. The study warned that even if we ceased all emissions at this moment, two-thirds of the ice will still have melted by 2100.


Washington State, in the traditionally damp and moist Pacific Northwest, has already had 50 wildfires this year. The state normally doesn’t see this number until the end of summer from late August through October, which is normally the peak of wildfire season.

Meanwhile, a deadly wildfire in South Korea has been declared a national emergency.


Record-high temperatures continue to be set globally, especially in the Arctic.

High temperatures in March across the state of Alaska obliterated records. The statewide temperature for the entire month smashed the previous record by a whopping 4°F. Most rivers are melting out early, the town of Deadhorse in northern Alaska was 23 degrees above normal for the entire month of March, and for many days that month the industrial settlement near the Prudhoe Bay oil fields was 30 to 40 degrees above normal. Anchorage saw seven days with a record-high temperature for March, Juneau saw 10, Utquiagvik (formerly Barrow) saw six, as did Yakutat. Warmer temperature anomalies there have now become the norm.

Distressingly, another study revealed that melting permafrost across the Arctic could now be releasing 12 times as much nitrous oxide as previously thought. Nitrous oxide is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and can remain in the atmosphere for 114 years.

Recent research shows that Canada’s Arctic is now the warmest it has been in 10,000 years, and the temperatures are continuing to climb. Duane Froese, a professor at the University of Alberta and a co-author of the recent study on the topic, told the CBC,

“I would guess we’re getting back over 100,000 years since we’ve seen temperatures at least this warm.”

Another study has warned that climate disruption is set to raise Pittsburgh temperatures to the level of those of the southern U.S. states by 2080 … meaning the city of Pennsylvania will feel more like Jonesboro, Arkansas. That means Pittsburgh will be 10°F warmer, with summers 18 percent drier, and winters 45 percent wetter.

Scientists have warned that extreme hemispheric heat waves like that which occurred during 2018 are becoming more common due to climate disruption. They warn that these massive heatwaves will cover wider areas, and with just 2°C of warming (we are currently at 1.1°C) most summers will look like that of 2018. “From May to July, the heat waves affected 22 percent of the agricultural land and populated areas in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, from Canada and the United States to Russia, Japan and South Korea, killing hundreds of people, devastating crops and curtailing power production,” Inside Climate Newswrote of the study. “On an average day during those heat waves, 5.2 million square kilometers (about 2 million square miles) were affected by extreme heat, [Martha Vogel, an extreme-temperature researcher with ETH Zürich Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science] said. At its peak extent in July, the affected area was twice as big.”

Another report has warned that warming temperatures across the globe could release into the atmosphere long-frozen radiation — from atomic bombs, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Radioactive particles are very light, and therefore, were transported very long distances across the atmosphere after nuclear detonations or radiological accidents. When the radioactive particles fall as snow, they can be stored in ice fields and glaciers for decades. If climate disruption melts the ice, the radiation is washed downstream and spreads throughout ecosystems.

Caroline Clason, a lecturer in physical geography at the University of Plymouth affiliated with the study, said an example of how this is already playing out came from Sweden, when wild boar there were found to have 10 times the levels of normal radiation in 2017. The radiation is likely to have come from Chernobyl, although radiation from all of these nuclear accidents is capable of spreading globally.

Denial and Reality

While this certainly comes as no surprise, yet another report came out highlighting how oil and gas giants are spending millions of dollars in their ongoing effort to lobby their paid politicians to block policies aimed at addressing climate disruption. The giant fossil fuel companies are spending an average of $200 million annually to weaken and/or oppose legislation aimed at addressing climate disruption. BP led the way in spending with $53 million, followed by Shell ($49 million), ExxonMobil ($41 million), Chevron and Total ($29 million each).

Meanwhile, as per usual, President Donald Trump has signed executive orders to speed up oil and gas pipeline projects, making it harder for states to block construction projects due to environmental concerns.

Yet, as the White House is actively denying climate disruption and working as hard as it can to promote fossil fuel use, the U.S. military is planning and preparing for dealing with the vast impacts of ongoing climate disruption. “People are acting on climate not for political reasons, but [because] it really affects their mission,” Jon Powers, an Iraq War veteran who served as the federal chief sustainability officer who is now president and chief executive of the investment firm CleanCapital, told The Washington Post. “With the military, it’s now ingrained in the culture and mission there, which I think is the biggest change over the last 10 years.”

Meanwhile, a federal climate disruption study panel and advisory group that was disbanded by the Trump administration due to it not having enough members “from industry,” recently released a report warning that the muddled political response to very clear climate science is putting Americans at risk.

“We were concerned that the federal government is missing an opportunity to get better information into the hands of those who prepare for what we have already unleashed,” Richard Moss, a visiting scientist at Columbia University, who previously chaired the federal panel and is a member of the group who released the report, told The Guardian. “We’re only just starting to see the effects of climate change, it’s only going to get much worse. But we haven’t yet rearranged our daily affairs to adapt to science we have.”

With each passing month, the impacts of runaway climate disruption continue to intensify. And as they do, so must our awareness of what is happening across the planet, and our resolve to take action to address it – especially since most governments around the world are failing to meet these challenges.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Conservatives Don’t Hate Socialism, They Hate Equality
« Reply #3759 on: April 30, 2019, 05:06:13 AM »
This is an appeal to authority argument. It is only this gents opinion.

It most certainly is NOT an "appeal to authority" argument. It is a straight opinion piece based on the author's interpretations of events. But thanks for playing.

One has to be careful in how you use vids from "accepted experts".  Using them to back up arguments you make in your own words can work, but dropping them on as a stand alone piece is not good.  After all, NC is not here to debate with.

To stay within the confines of what is possible on the Diner, it's best if you write an argument in your own words, and then add a a video to that to further demonstrate the point.

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3760 on: May 02, 2019, 03:59:46 AM »
Ethiopian Bible is oldest and most complete on earth


June 28, 2016


World’s first illustrated Christian Bible discovered at Ethiopian monastery

The world’s earliest illustrated Christian book has been saved by a British charity which located it at a remote Ethiopian monastery.

The incredible Garima Gospels are named after a monk who arrived in the African country in the fifth century and is said to have copied them out in just one day.

Beautifully illustrated, the colours are still vivid and thanks to the Ethiopian Heritage Fund have been conserved.

Abba Garima arrived from Constantinople in 494 AD and legend has it that he was able to copy the Gospels in a day because God delayed the sun from setting.


The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of the country, which is in the Tigray region at 7,000 feet.

Experts believe it is also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

The survival of the Gospels is incredible considering the country has been under Muslim invasion, Italian invasion and a fire in the 1930s destroyed the monastery’s church.

They were written on goat skin in the early Ethiopian language of Ge’ez.

There are two volumes which date from the same time, but the second is written in a different hand from the first. Both contain illustrations and the four Gospels.

Though the texts had been mentioned by the occasional traveller since the 1950s, it had been thought they dated from the 11th century at the earliest.

Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 – which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.

So the first volume could be in his hand – even if he didn’t complete the task in a day as the oral tradition states.

The charity Ethiopian Heritage Fund that was set up to help preserve the treasures in the country has made the stunning discovery.

It was also allowed incredibly rare access to the texts so experts could conserve them on site.

The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of Ethiopia
The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of Ethiopia

It is now hoped the Gospels will be put in a museum at the monastery where visitors will be able to view them.

Blair Priday from the Ethiopian Heritage Fund said: "Ethiopia has been overlooked as a source of these fantastic things.

"Many of these old Christian relics can only be reached by hiking and climbing to remote monasteries as roads are limited in these mountainous regions.

"All the work on the texts was done in situ and everything is reversible, so if in future they can be taken away for further conservation we won’t have hindered that.

"The pages had been crudely stitched together in a restoration in the 1960s and some of the pages wouldn’t even turn. And they were falling to pieces.

"The Garima Gospels have been kept high and dry which has helped preserve them all these years and they are kept in the dark so the colours look fresh.

"This was the most astounding of all our projects and the Patriarch, the head of the Ethiopian Church, had to give his permission.

"Most of the experts did the work for nothing.

"We are currently undertaking other restoration programmes on wall paintings and religious texts.

"We believe that preserving Ethiopia’s cultural heritage will help to increase visitor revenue and understanding of the extraordinary history of this country."

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Discovery of 16,000-year-old Footprint That Could Change History
« Reply #3761 on: May 02, 2019, 04:07:43 AM »
Discovery of 16,000-year-old Footprint That Could Change the History of the Americas

There are some discoveries that can change the way that we think about history. Archaeologists in Chile believe that they have made one such discovery. They have uncovered a human footprint that is approximately 15,500-16,000 years old. It is the earliest evidence yet found of humans in the Americas. The imprint has the potential to change how we believe the continent was settled and who were its first inhabitants.

The imprint was found at the late Pleistocene period archaeological site of Pilauco, which according to “where scientists have been digging since 2007.” The Pilauco site had also yielded evidence of extinct elephants and horses and is located in the Chilean city of Osorno some 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Santiago, the capital of Chile.

The Pleistocene footprint is the oldest surviving human footprint in the Americas. (Universidad Austral de Chile)

The Pleistocene footprint is the oldest surviving human footprint in the Americas. ( Universidad Austral de Chile )

A Pleistocene Footprint

The footprint was found in 2010, near a modern house, by “a student at the Universidad Austral of Chile” according to Reuters. While the impression may appear to be clearly a human footprint, the scientists were cautious, as it could have been an animal’s tracks which had become misshapen and elongated over-time. It is believed that the imprint was buried under three feet of residue, which preserved it for posterity.

The Irish state broadcaster RTE reports that ‘”it took years for paleontologist Karen Moreno and geologist Mario Pino to reliably confirm that the print was human.” It was only established by carrying out footprint tests with people and this proved that the imprint was human. These also established that it was made by a “barefooted adult human who was of 'light body weight’” according to the Daily Mail .

Based on foot printing tests they conducted, scientists think the print comes from a straight down step. The diagram shows the different type of prints that could be made with different angles and pressure. (Universidad Austral de Chile)

Based on foot printing tests they conducted, scientists think the print comes from a straight down step. The diagram shows the different type of prints that could be made with different angles and pressure. ( Universidad Austral de Chile )

It is believed that the footprint is of a man who weighed 155 pounds (70 kilograms) and according to, was “of the species Hominipes modernus, a relative of Homo sapiens .” This was established by ichnologicaly, that is by the scientific examination of the traces found in the sediment. Ichnologists comparing the mark with other traces were able to establish that it was H. modernus.

To establish if the Pleistocene footprint was human and how it was made, scientists performed foot printing tests on soil at different soil moisture levels and with different foot angles and pressures. (Universidad Austral de Chile)

To establish if the Pleistocene footprint was human and how it was made, scientists performed foot printing tests on soil at different soil moisture levels and with different foot angles and pressures. ( Universidad Austral de Chile )

The Earliest Evidence of Humans

Scientists were able to date the find by using radiocarbon dating techniques that analyzed organic plant material near where the print was located and established that it was approximately 15,600 years old. This made it according to RTE, the “oldest footprint found in the Americas.” While other prints have been unearthed, none are as old as the one found in the city of Osorno. It seems that the site was occupied by humans for some time as footprints dated a thousand years later have also been uncovered.

The Daily Mail reports that “this was the first evidence of humans in the Americas older than 12,000 years.” Previously it had been believed that the first inhabitants of the continent arrived from Siberia via the Bearing Straits some 10,000 years ago. This discovery is challenging the idea that Clovis Man, a paleo-Indian culture was the first to settle the continent.

Archeologist working on site of the location were Pleistocene footprint was discovered. (NERYX / Adobe)

Archeologist working on site of the location were Pleistocene footprint was discovered. ( NERYX/ Adobe)

Who First Settled the Americas?

According to Plos One , the find provides evidence of “the colonization of northern Patagonia” in the late Pleistocene period . The footprint is supporting evidence found at the Monte Verde , Chile, that this region in the extreme south of the Americas was colonized much earlier than thought. This, in turn, is supporting the so-called coastal migration model. This holds that the first settlers to inhabit the Americas migrated by following coastlines and may suggest that Pacific Islanders were the first to settle on the continent.

The impression and its surrounding sediment has been removed from the Osorno site and is now stored in a specially regulated environment. It has cracked somewhat as the moisture in the soil has dried but the impression is still distinct. The print could be put on display at some later date, but this depends on the state of the traces.

Top image: Region close to where the Pleistocene footprint was discovered. Source: Matyas Rehak / Adobe

By Ed Whelan

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3762 on: May 02, 2019, 04:22:26 AM »
A Revealing Piece of Ancient Human History, Discovered in a Tibetan Cave
The remarkable, fossilized jawbone has no chin, and the teeth within it are exceptionally large.

In 2008, scientists working in Denisova Cave—a cold site in Siberia’s Altai Mountains—uncovered a strange pinky bone, broader than a typical human’s. The DNA within that bone revealed that its owner belonged to an entirely new group of ancient hominins, distinct from Homo sapiens or Neanderthals. That group became known as the Denisovans.

Researchers have since decoded the Denisovan genome. But still, no one can say what they looked like. Every known Denisovan fossil would fit in your palm—that pinky, three teeth, and a remarkable bone sliver from a Denisovan-Neanderthal hybrid. And all of these remains came from the same cave.

But now, an international team of scientists has announced the identification of another Denisovan fossil, from a site 1,500 miles away. It’s the right half of a jawbone, found some 10,700 feet above sea level in a cave in China’s Xiahe County, on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. The Xiahe mandible, as it is now known, is not only the first Denisovan fossil to be found outside Denisova Cave, but also the very first Denisovan fossil to be found at all. It just took four decades for anyone to realize that.

The mandible was discovered by a local monk in 1980 and donated to Lanzhou University. There, it lay unstudied until 2010, when a team led by Fahu Chen and Dongju Zhang—a climatologist and an archaeologist, respectively—began examining it in earnest. The world learned about the existence of the Denisovans at around that time, and though fossils had only been recovered from Siberia, it was clear that these hominins likely existed throughout much of East Asia. Smatterings of Denisovan DNA still persist in the genes of living people in this region and beyond, and how else could it have made it into the genomes of modern Tibetans or Melanesians? Still, “I never imagined that [the Xiahe mandible] could be a Denisovan,” Zhang says.

“If it was one, we’d be so lucky,” she adds.

The mandible itself is very thick and sturdy. It has no chin, which rules out modern humans. The teeth within it are exceptionally large, and different in shape and size from those of Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and other known hominins.

The molecules in the specimen were especially telling. The team couldn’t detect any traces of ancient DNA, but it did find the next best thing—fragments of ancient collagen proteins, still lurking in one of the teeth. These fragments closely resemble the proteins of Denisovans, more so than those of Neanderthals, modern humans, or other great apes.

Read: A shocking find in a Neanderthal cave in France

But Katerina Douka of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History notes that methods for analyzing ancient proteins are relatively new, and less well tested than those for studying ancient DNA. Researchers should use both techniques on other specimens to check that they give the same results, Douka says. But for now, based on the data that exist, she agrees that the Xiahe mandible most likely belonged to a Denisovan.

“It confirms that the Denisovans were perhaps widely distributed through East Asia,” Zhang says. For years, scientists had suspected as much. After all, people across East Asia and Melanesia (the region that includes New Guinea and its neighboring islands) have Denisovan DNA in their genes. This pattern—the product of ancient sexual encounters between Denisovans and humans—shouldn’t be possible if the Denisovans were just confined to a small Siberian cave. Instead, it seemed that they were already living in much of East Asia by the time ancient humans also spread through the region.

Indeed, the Xiahe mandible, which is 160,000 years old, is by far the earliest hominin fossil from the Tibetan plateau. Researchers used to think that Homo sapiens was unique in adapting to the Himalayas, but the Denisovans were successfully living on the roof of the world at least 120,000 years earlier. They must also have adapted to extremely thin air—after all, the mandible was found in a cave that’s some 8,000 feet higher above sea level than Denisova itself. “Their presence that high up is truly astonishing,” Douka says.

Read: The game-changing technique behind an amazing new archaeological discovery

This helps to explain a remarkable finding from 2014. Back then, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez and her colleagues showed that most Tibetan people carry a mutated version of the EPAS1 gene, which helps them cope with high-altitude air that has 40 percent less oxygen than what most people breathe. And that mutation, the team showed, came from Denisovans. By having sex with these hominins, ancient Tibetans picked up a useful genetic trait that their descendants still benefit from.

That result was surprising, because Denisova Cave is so far from Tibet, and so much lower in altitude. The new mandible resolves that discrepancy. Although it’s unclear whether its owner had the same EPAS1 variant that the other Denisovans did, it at least shows that Denisovans were in the right part of the world. “I was thrilled that they found a Denisovan-like jawbone at high altitude,” Huerta-Sanchez says.

“The new discovery is an important step in understanding the Denisovans, but the big question still remains to be solved,” says Yousuke Kaifu of the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo. And that is: If Denisovans were spread throughout Asia, why do Melanesians have so much more of their DNA than anyone else—5 percent, compared with just 0.2 percent in East Asians, and nothing in other groups?

To answer that question, scientists will need to find more Denisovan bones. Douka and her colleagues have started a project called Finder to do exactly that, by rapidly analyzing small, unidentifiable slivers from various sites in Asia. More intact specimens might also be lying around in museum collections. For example, the Xiahe team notes that its mandible has many similarities to the Penghu 1 mandible, which was fished out of the ocean near Taiwan in 2008. (“I agree that there are some similarities,” says Kaifu, who led the team that analyzed Penghu 1 in 2015.)

China has a long list of similar hominin fossils that have been hard to assign to other species. “Some of those may already be Denisovans,” Zhang says.

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"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3763 on: May 02, 2019, 05:02:37 AM »
A couple of great mud flooder's there Surly  :icon_sunny:

I saw that Chilean dig article as well yesterday. Glad you posted it.

I really get a kick out of Quack-A-Demia's "official" narrative.....
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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About time "corporate personhood" resulted in actual corporate responsibility.

Top Executives of Insys, an Opioid Company, Are Found Guilty of Racketeering

John Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics, at federal court in Boston

By Gabrielle Emanuel and Katie Thomas

BOSTON — A federal jury on Thursday found the top executives of Insys Therapeutics, a company that sold a fentanyl-based painkiller, guilty of racketeering charges in a rare criminal prosecution that blamed corporate officials for contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The jury, after deliberating for 15 days, issued guilty verdicts against the company’s founder, the onetime billionaire John Kapoor, and four former executives, finding they had conspired to fuel sales of its highly potent drug, Subsys, by not only bribing doctors to prescribe their product but also by misleading insurers about patients’ need for the drug.

The verdict against Insys executives is a sign of the accelerating effort to hold pharmaceutical and drug distribution companies and their executives and owners accountable in ways commensurate with the devastation wrought by the prescription opioid crisis. More than 200,000 people have overdosed on such drugs in the past two decades.

Federal authorities last month for the first time filed felony drug trafficking charges against a major pharmaceutical distributor, Rochester Drug Cooperative, and two former executives, accusing them of shipping tens of millions of oxycodone pills and fentanyl products to pharmacies that were distributing drugs illegally.

And the state attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York have recently sued not just Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, but also members of the Sackler family who own the company — and who have largely escaped personal legal penalties for the company’s role in the epidemic, culpability they deny.

Also on Thursday, the state of West Virginia reached a $37 million settlement in a lawsuit against the McKesson Corporation, one of the nation’s leading drug distributors, which was accused of shipping nearly 100 million doses of opioids to residents over a six-year period.

Experts said the Insys verdict could encourage other corporate prosecutions and said it demonstrated that the public was willing to mete out penalties for high-level executives at companies profiting from the sales of highly addictive painkillers.

“Just as we would street-level drug dealers, we will hold pharmaceutical executives responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic by recklessly and illegally distributing these drugs, especially while conspiring to commit racketeering along the way,” said Andrew E. Lelling, the United States attorney in Massachusetts who pursued the case.

Abbe Gluck, a Yale law professor, said “the case paints a picture of the kind of troubling industry practices that helped fuel the opioid epidemic.” And the verdict “shows that a jury is willing to punish for them.”

Jackie Marcus, a spokeswoman for Insys, said the verdict was not representative of the company’s mission, but only reflected the “actions of a select few former employees of the company.”

One of the few other criminal cases against drug company executives involved another opioid manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, whose executives pleaded guilty in 2007 to criminal charges that they misled regulators, doctors and patients about the addiction potential of the painkiller OxyContin.

At the Insys trial, the government suggested that executives at the Arizona-based company often operated like drug dealers and that Mr. Kapoor was the ringleader.

“The decisions, the money, the strategy came from the top,” K. Nathaniel Yeager, a federal prosecutor, said during closing arguments.

Details of Insys’s strategy from 2012 to 2015 to target doctors and allegedly bribe them have been revealed in lawsuits and news reportsfor about five years. The trial of Mr. Kapoor and his four co-defendants has brought to light the extent to which the schemes permeated the entire company and its national sales team.

Former Insys sales representatives, testifying for the prosecution, said their bonuses were tied to the dosages of Subsys prescribed by the doctors they recruited. The higher the dose, the higher the bonus. Evidence presented in court showed that sales representatives had to justify low doses to their boss within 24 hours.

A box of the fentanyl-based drug Subsys, made by Insys Therapeutics.CreditReuters
A box of the fentanyl-based drug Subsys, made by Insys Therapeutics.CreditReuters

Not only did Subsys cost more at higher doses, but patients were also more likely to become dependent on the highly addictive medication. Subsys is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Abuse of fentanyl, especially black-market versions imported from overseas, have increasingly contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Alec Burlakoff, the former vice president of sales at Insys, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy. He wrote in an email read at trial that patients on high doses would be desirable because they “will continuously refill their monthly prescriptions indefinitely.” Court filings in a separate case suggest Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, pursued a similar strategy.

Two Insys sales representatives made a rap video in 2015 about titration, the technique used to increase a patient’s dose. The main lyric: “I love titrations, and it’s not a problem. I got new patients, and I got a lot of them.” The video, in which the salesmen dance alongside a person in a Subsys dispenser costume, was shown at a national Insys sales staff meeting where Mr. Kapoor was present.

Subsys Rap Video Created by Insys Pharmaceuticals (More info in description)CreditCreditVideo by WVURxMan

Testimony from government witnesses suggested there were few limits to what the Insys sales team was willing to do. Mr. Burlakoff, who testified for the prosecution as part of a plea deal, said the company purposefully targeted doctors with a history of liberally prescribing opioids. “Pill mills, for us, meant dollar signs,” he told the jury. “It was not run the other way. It was run to the pill mills.”

Holly Brown, a former Insys sales representative in the Chicago area, testified that she saw her boss, Ms. Lee, a former exotic dancer, give a doctor a lap dance hoping it would encourage him to prescribe Subsys.

After doctors had prescribed Subsys, the company focused on persuading insurance companies to cover the drug, which can cost thousands of dollars a month. Jurors heard recorded calls from the Insys Reimbursement Center in which employees posed as doctors’ assistants and invented diagnoses that would smooth the approval process.

“Insurers were told about medical things that never happened,” Mr. Yeager told the jury. “They told deception after deception after deception on recorded lines.”

While the legal strategy may be noteworthy, evidence has emerged that aggressive marketing of opioids is far from unique to Insys.

In a similar effort to hold individuals accountable, the attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts have recently turned their attention to the Sacklers, the family that controls Purdue, filing lawsuits that allege members of the family pushed their company to aggressively sell opioids like OxyContin, despite the high risk for addiction.

There have been nearly 218,000 overdose deaths related to prescription opioids since OxyContin was introduced in 1996, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Insys has struggled to move past its legal troubles. The company’s stock currently trades at around $4 per share, down from a high in 2015 of nearly $45, and it has disclosed to investors that it is at risk of going out of business. Last month, the company — which also sells a liquid form of an anti-nausea drug derived from cannabis — announced it was replacing its president and chief executive, Saeed Motahari, who had joined the company in 2017.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound


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