Pollution May Diminish Thinking Skills  Anyone who has been to Beijing has been alarmed with the thick smog in which you can barely see anything in front of you.  A large new study suggests a link between air pollution and adverse effects on math and language skills.

Trump Wants the EPA  to OK More Pollution  Get ready for more pollution here at home.  Caving to industry pressure and directives from Trump, the EPA is revising pollution standards to permit more particulate release, the kind linked to heart and lung disease.  The government’s own analysis reveals that there will be about 1,400 premature deaths per year as a result, but Trump feels this is worth it because it means more profits for the coal industry executives who support him.  Trump is also trying to ease pollution standards for cars.  Trump officials in the EPA also want to ease restrictions on the pesticides which cause respiratory complications, developmental disorders, and lower the IQ of farm workers. More broadly, the Trump administration is engaging in an all-out war on science.  Once-trusted scientific studies based on years of data collection are now discarded and replaced with political judgments.  CropLife America, the main agricultural trade group, is demanding a halt to regulatory decisions based on scientific epidemiological studies.  To read more, click here, here, and here.

Trump and Giuliani Speak Out in Favor of Corruption in Romania.  Romania has long been considered one of the most corrupt states in Europe.  Lawmakers are finally making efforts to root out graft, but in wades Giuliani with an Aug. 22 letter blasting these efforts.  Giuliani demands that officials convicted of crimes of corruption should be grated amnesty.  

Get Ready for Ugly Political Trash  Political campaigns of all persuasions are gearing up for a barrage of robocalls, digital ads, and attack commercials.  In the last week of August, the Congressional Leadership Fund (actually a Republican superpac) spent $3.2 million on attack ads in our area. These ads malign Democratic challengers to Republican House seats.  By the way, hang up on any push polls.  A push poll starts off like a real poll attempting to learn your opinion.  In reality, they don’t care a hoot about your opinion and instead they want to feed you heavily slanted propaganda or even lies.  “Now let me read you some statements about Congressman X’s opponent.  Do you know he beats his wife and was arrested for drunk driving when he was 19?”   That is a push poll. 

Fake Media  Did you notice what FOX News was reporting on the blockbuster news day of Aug 21 when Cohen pleaded guilty and Manafort was convicted? All the networks were awash with explosive news…except FOX News which instead focused on an alleged crime by an immigrant in Iowa. But maybe at least some viewers are finally getting it:  On that date, FOX fell into third place in ratings behind MSNBC and CNN.  It is amazing that it has taken so long for people to realize that the Trump Channel is the real Fake News Channel. 

Trump’s Personal Fake Media  In addition to FOX news fake media, Trump also has control over the tabloid media.  The CEO of The National Enquirer is David Pecker, a personal pal of Donald Trump. Trump considers the tabloid to be legitimate media perhaps because it raves about him and attacks his enemies. Trump also likes The National Inquirer because it does “catch and kill” journalism which means they issue hush money and buy the rights to any bad publicity about Trump so it never gets published anywhere.  Apparently they have a special secret safe where they locked up decades worth of bad news about Trump. 

Is Facebook a Bore or a Major Threat to Society?  Speaking of fake media, people are wondering if FB could be much worse than a mere scam.  FB willingly participates in political hacking, collaborates with foreign governments to sway elections, offers a platform for all kinds of malicious purposes, and its top people continue to lie.  A recent study in Germany found that Facebook usage was directly linked to violence against refugees.  In Sri Lanka,  FB posts have been tied to violence against Muslims.  FB is being sued because it has been used to discriminate in housing on the basis of race and religion.  On Sept. 4, the NYT ran a frontpage lead story about how Libyan fighters use FB to buy arms and locate and then kill their foes.  Roger Cohen writes that FB is responsible for social harm that goes way beyond privacy.  To read more, click here, here, here , and here.

Fake Milk or Real Milk?  Did you know that Americans now drink about half as much cow’s milk as they did in 1970?  But what is milk?  The Milk War escalated recently when the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said, “An almond doesn’t lactate.” Is alternative milk like alternative facts?  

Education Secretary De Vos Wants to Make it Harder to Prosecute Sexual Assault, Rape, and Harassment on Campus  Secretary De Vos is not content with diverting tax payer education dollars away from public schools and into her family business of charter schools.  Now she is preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct which would bolster the rights of those accused of crimes and make it easier for institutions to avoid liability.  But wait, Betsy also wants to divert taxpayer money from a federal grant program in order to fund the purchase of guns by school systems.  The goal is to have lots of people with guns in every school.  Here is what the NYT has to say about BetsyClick here for another article.

Worldwide Gun Violence  Betsy De Vos should read a recent study in the  Journal of the American Medical Association which reported that in 2016,  215,269 people were killed by guns (this figure does not include armed conflicts).  That is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child in a city like Glendale, Arizona.  There are about a billion guns in the world, many of them made in the U.S.  About 35% of the gun suicides in the world take place in the U.S.  The risk of dying from bullets in the United States is 100 times greater than it is in Singapore.  This report concludes that firearms are an important public health problem with severe social and economic costs.  

What Conservative Government Means in Britain  Northhamptonshire is a Conservative Party bastion sprinkled with affluent aristocratic estates.  But the town of Northhampton is broke.  The conservative government’s solution is to slash budgets.  Libraries have been shuttered, road repairs have ceased, trash collection has dwindled, and child care is on the chopping block.  The Conservatives preach austerity politics which protect the rich and harm the poor. People are finally rebelling and calling it “criminal politics.” 

New Arms Race in Space  While the Trump administration cuts back on health, education, and most social programs,  it is writing blank checks for anything to do with missiles and space weapons.  Trump is determined to weaponize space.  The Pentagon has secret apparently unlimited budgets for building armed space stations that can shoot down other satellites or conduct war on Earth from above.  There is even a plan to add a sixth branch of the armed services (along with army, navy, air force, etc.) to be called the Space Force.  Billions are being set aside for all the trappings from uniforms to administrative buildings.   In the meantime, the Pentagon is experimenting with the HTV-2 Hypersonic Technology Vehicle which can travel at 5 times the speed of sound.  In addition, the Pentagon has now spent $40 million on their newest missile defense system which includes launch silos near Lompoc, California.  The idea is to make people think we need not worry about North Korean missiles which can now reach any part of the United States.  We will just shoot them down!  Unfortunately, the program is a failure even after draining our tax dollars.  Tests showed that the missiles failed 50% of the time. So if enemies want to hit 20 targets, they launch 40 missiles.  San Onofre would probably be a prime target since even a conventional warhead would be an astronomic force multiplier. Sitting at ground level are thin stainless steel canisters holding the plutonium equivalent of 17,000 atom bombs.  To read more, click here and here.

The Truth about the Health Effects of Drinking  The health journal Lancet claimed to publish the definitive meta-analysis of the pros and cons of drinking.  Unfortunately, they muddled the waters and the truth is:  It Depends.  Read an analysis.

The Republican Show of Hypocrisy  As the draft-dodger president insults the war hero,  Republicans back the president but pretend to honor John McCain.  Or as the NYT puts it: “Congressional Republicans made a show of honoring John McCain, even as they continue to reject his principles.”  See the photo before the casket with McConnell, Ryan, Pence and other Republicans who owe their career to the unprincipled behavior that McCain despised.  

Will the Birthplace of Modern Conservatism Turn Blue?  The New York Times zeros in on Orange County: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/opinion/columnists/orange-county-california-midterm-democratic-party.html

A New Era in Astronomy  Astronomers have spent a century searching for the source of cosmic rays which are the key to understanding the nature of the universe.  Unfortunately, cosmic rays are warped by magnetic fields so it is impossible to tell where they came from.  Tiny and elusive neutrinos are not affected.  It takes 10 billion neutrinos to equal the mass of a proton, and billions pass through your fingertips every second.  Scientists have now succeeded in identifying 28 neutrinos and have traced their origins into deep space to a powerful blazar named TXS 0506+056, which sits just beneath the arm of the constellation Orion.   Read all about neutrino astronomy.

The Real Duncan Hunter  Read this NYT front page expose` of the real Duncan Hunter and what he does in his spare time.

Liberals, You’re Not As Smart as You Think  This is the headline of an Op-Ed by a professor of politics.


Is Trump a Symptom or a Cause of What’s Wrong with America?  Roger Cohen asks the troubling question:  Is Trump causing the malaise in America or does he reflect what the real America is like?  Did Trump get elected because there are millions and millions of Americans who share his values and principles? 

How to Get Into Harvard  Ever heard of lopping, dockets, or z lists?  That’s what getting into college is all about according to those delving into an unusual lawsuit against Harvard. A group of Asian-Americans is suing the university claiming that there is discrimination.  Harvard says it is not all about grades, especially since they could fill their classes with applicants posting perfect grades and test scores.  What they seek is diversity, something which is difficult to measure.  The Trump administration is gleefully jumping in, smelling an opportunity to destroy affirmative action, something that conservatives have long hated.  

More News in Brief

The World Health Organization reported that 92% of people worldwide breathe unhealthy air….Did you know that pigeons can fly over 100 mph….The famed Greenwich Village newspaper The Village Voice, a mainstream voice in New York City since 1955, has gone out of business….With sales dropping for its unhealthy sugary drinks, Coca-Cola suddenly turned to coffee with a $5.1 billion purchase of coffee giant Costa….Campbell Soups is famous for its heavily-salted canned soups and vegetables.  In recent years the company tried to improve its image by moving into fresher food options.  On Aug. 30, Campbell announced it is abandoning this effort and instead will continue to focus on junk food….Donald Trump, the self-described champion of working class America, cancelled pay raises for all government employees for next year.  Trump said the move would save the government $25 billion, money which is much needed to fund the $1.5 trillion tax cuts for the rich.  The transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich was also done to spite workers who had the audacity to resist Trump’s efforts to roll back protection for union workers….In 2017, sharks killed 5 people.  In the same year, humans killed about 100 million sharks….In 1970, only 10% of Americans had a college degree….Here is Philippines’ President Duterte commenting on the increasing number of rapes:  “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape” ….The Danish company Legos makes 100 million tiny plastic bricks every day.  It is now trying to find a way to make its toys plastic-free….The Trump administration, caving to corporate pressure from formula “milk” producers, is trying to scuttle a World Health Assembly initiative aimed at encouraging breastfeeding….Meanwhile, public health officials are alarmed at increasing obesity in America.  What does the Trump administration do?  It caves to corporate food industry pressure and is proposing new rules that would limit warning labels on food products….The Red Delicious apple (looks pretty, tastes like cardboard), has finally been deposed as the nation’s favorite apple.  The new favorite is Gala.  Also gaining favor according to a U.S. Apple Association survey is Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honey Crisp….Only 13% of Californian homeowners (and 10% of commercial businesses) have earthquake insurance….Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free sanitary products to students.  The problem was that many girls were staying home from school during their period because they could not afford to buy these products….The majority of Democrats in the Oregon House are female….More than 350,000 people have been killed since 2011 in the Syrian conflict.   


Letter of the Month

To the editor Los Angeles Times, Sept. 2:

            There’s an old saying about baloney: You can slice it, dice it, saute it, boil it or broil it, but it’s still baloney. That’s my take on James Kirchick’s piece on the Republican party “in exile.”  Republicans are not in exile. Their leaders and rank and file support President Trump.

            Kirchick’s remark that the “#Resistance” labors under the delusion that “we are living under a 20th century style despotism” is also ludicrous. Trump’s attacks on racial minorities, his dog whistles and policies against immigrants and refugees, and his relentless attacks on the press are more than an echo of past dictators. With Trump, make no mistake about it, we are careening toward fascism.

            Kirchick rightfully invokes the late Sen. John McCain’s personal sacrifice and courage. But Republicans like him are few. Most cower in fear that Trump will destroy them if they speak out. Their docility and cowardice harms us all.

Mark Day, Vista, Calif.

Share This