An EU report lays out a set of rules for how humans interact with robots and artificial intelligence.
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An EU report lays out a set of rules for how humans interact with robots and artificial intelligence.
The ads started popping up about a decade ago on social media. Instead of selling alcohol with sex and romance, these ads had an edgier theme: Harried mothers chugging wine to cope with everyday stress. Women embracing quart-sized bottles of whiskey, and bellying up to bars to knock back vodka shots with men.
In this new strain of advertising, women’s liberation equaled heavy drinking, and alcohol researchers say it both heralded and promoted a profound cultural shift: Women in America are drinking far more, and far more frequently, than their mothers or grandmothers did, and alcohol consumption is ending their marriages, alienating them from their children and killing them in record numbers.
White women are particularly likely to drink dangerously, with more than a quarter (25%) drinking multiple times a week and the share of binge drinking up 40 percent since 1999, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal health data. In 2013, more than a million women of all races wound up in emergency rooms as a result of heavy drinking, with women in middle age most likely to suffer severe intoxication.
This behavior has contributed to a startling increase in early mortality. The rate of alcohol-related deaths for white women ages 35 to 54 has more than doubled since 1999, according to The Post analysis, accounting for 8 percent of deaths in this age group in 2015.
“It is a looming health crisis,” said Katherine M. Keyes, an alcohol researcher at Columbia University.
Although independent researchers are increasingly convinced that any amount of alcohol poses serious health risks, American women are still receiving mixed messages. Parts of the federal government continue to advance the idea that moderate drinking may be good for you. Meanwhile, many ads for alcohol — particularly on social media — appear to promote excessive drinking, which is universally recognized as potentially deadly. These ads also appear to violate the industry’s code of ethics, according to a Post analysis of alcohol marketing.
For example, when girl-power heroine Amy Schumer guzzled Bandit boxed wine in the movie “Trainwreck,” Bandit’s producer, Trinchero Family Estates, promoted the scene on social media. Young women responded with photos of themselves chugging Bandit. Within months, Trinchero said, sales of boxed wines — sometimes called “binge in a box” — jumped 22 percent.
“We saw it first with tobacco, marketing it to women as their right to smoke. Then we saw lung cancer deaths surpass deaths from breast cancer,” said Rear Adm. Susan Blumenthal, a former assistant surgeon general and an expert on women’s health issues. “Now it’s happening with alcohol, and it’s become an equal rights tragedy.”
Alcohol marketing is regulated primarily by industry trade groups, but dozens of studies have found lapses in their record of enforcing the rules. As a result, an international group of public health experts convened by the World Health Organization’s regional office in Washington, D.C., plans to call in January for governments worldwide to consider legislation similar to laws adopted a decade ago to sharply curtail tobacco advertising.
Officials with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, one of the largest U.S. trade groups, defend their record of oversight, saying it has received high marks from federal regulators.
DISCUS tells members that ads should not “in any way suggest that intoxication is socially acceptable conduct.” The Beer Institute tells members that their “marketing materials should not depict situations where beer is being consumed rapidly, excessively.” And the Wine Institute prohibits ads that make “any suggestion that excessive drinking or loss of control is amusing or a proper subject for amusement” or that directly associate use of wine with “social, physical or personal problem solving.”
But these rules appear regularly to be flouted, particularly on alcohol companies’ websites and social-media feeds, which are soaking up a growing share of the more than $2 billion the industry is expected to spend on advertising this year. And the trade groups acknowledge that they do not investigate or act on possible violations unless they receive a formal complaint.
Some of the edgiest ads appear on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — where they can be narrowly targeted toward the inboxes and desperate little lives of the most eager consumers.
Jokes about becoming inebriated are common.
Women also are frequently shown drinking to cope with daily stress. In one image that appeared on a company website, two white women wearing prim, narrow-brimmed hats, button earrings and wash-and-set hair confer side by side. “How much do you spend on a bottle of wine?” one asks. The other answers, “I would guess about half an hour …” At the bottom is the name of the wine:
Mommy’s Time Out.
Another ad on a company website features a white woman wearing pearls and an apron. “The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink,” it says above the name of the wine:
This spring, Mad Housewife offered a Mother’s Day promotion: a six-pack of wine called
Mommy’s Little Helper.
“The rise in hazardous drinking among women is not all due to the ads. But the ads have played a role in creating a cultural climate that says it’s funny when women drink heavily,” said Jean Kilbourne, who has produced several films and books about alcohol marketing to women. “Most importantly, they’ve played a role in normalizing it.
Financial companies have NOT paid at least $164 billion in more than 100 mortgage-related settlements since 2009 the headlines have been lying to you:
Since the 2008 housing crisis, federal regulators have touted billion-dollar settlements, which, by giving certainty to investors, are often accompanied by a jump in the bank’s stock price.
Financial companies have paid at least $164 billion in more than 100 mortgage-related settlements since 2009, according to an analysis by the law firm of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. Below, we examine the eight banks that have paid the most and explain how the largest payments were divided up.
The bank has settled mortgage-related cases with a plethora of federal and state regulators as well as investors from the Justice Department and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. A number of these settlements are tied to Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch.
In 2014, the bank paid the single largest government settlement by a company in American history: $16.65 billion. Some of this is in the form of “soft money,” or help for borrowers. The bank also gets credit for writing down loan balances. And the pain is significantly reduced by tax deductions.
“The real financial cost to the bank could be considerably lower,” said Laurie Goodman, a specialist in housing at the Urban Institute. “This is helping consumers, but it may not be costing the bank.”
JPMorgan’s largest payout — $13 billion — centered on the sale of troubled mortgage securities to investors in the run-up to the crisis. The only fine in that 2013 case came from federal prosecutors in Sacramento, who took $2 billion of the penalty and deposited it into a fund at the United States Treasury. The next chunk, roughly $7 billion, went a range of federal and state authorities.
The Justice Department earmarked $4 billion to help struggling homeowners in hard-hit areas like Detroit.
Federal prosecutors got creative in holding Citigroup accountable. As part of a $7 billion settlement in 2014, the bank agreed to provide $180 million in financing to build affordable rental housing.
The deal also includes $2.5 billion in so-called soft dollars for the financing of rental housing, mortgage modifications, down-payment assistance and donations to legal aid groups.
In 2012, state and federal authorities announced a $26 billion mortgage settlement with big banks. The bulk of the settlement, about $20 billion, went to one million American homeowners who would have their mortgage debts reduced or their loans refinanced at lower interest rates.
The settlement also includes $1.5 billion for roughly 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011, with each receiving between $1,500 and $2,000.
Millions of mortgages owned by the government’s housing finance agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, weren’t covered under the deal, excluding about half of the nation’s mortgages.
Germany’s largest bank reached a $7.2 billion deal this week to resolve a federal investigation into its sales of toxic mortgage securities. The civil settlement requires Deutsche Bank to pay a $3.1 billion penalty and provide relief to American consumers valued at $4.1 billion. The bank said the consumer portion is expected to be “primarily in the form of loan modifications and other assistance to homeowners.”
The bank paid $3.2 billion to strike a settlement this year with federal and state authorities over its creation of mortgage-backed bonds. About $400 million went to consumer relief.
The bank paid $5.1 billion to settle with state and federal officials this year. But Goldman will be able to reduce its bill by as much as $1 billion through government incentives and tax credits.
“They appear to have grossly inflated the settlement amount for P.R. purposes to mislead the public, while in the fine print enabling Goldman Sachs to pay 50 to 75 percent less,” said Dennis Kelleher, the founder of the advocacy organization Better Markets, referring to the government announcement. And that is before the tax benefits of the deal are included.
The Swiss bank agreed this week to pay $5.3 billion to settle an investigation by the United States authorities into the packaging and sale of mortgages. Credit Suisse said it would pay a civil penalty of $2.48 billion and provide unspecified relief to American consumers valued at $2.8 billion over five years.
February 13, 2013
Shocking Alien Fears Force Pope From Office
By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers
A stunning Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) report prepared for President Putin, which is circulating in the Kremlin today, states that Pope Benedict XVI was forced to resign this past week over Catholic Church fears that this 85-year-old leader of over 1 billion Christians was “mentally and physically unprepared” to deal with the coming revelation about the truth of alien beings.
In our 22 January report, Russia Orders Obama: Tell World About Aliens, Or We Will, we detailed how the issue of extraterrestrial beings was brought to the forefront of the World Economic Forum (WEF) with the naming in their 2013 Executive Summary of the danger posed to our world over the discovery of alien life with their stating: “Proof of life elsewhere in the universe could have profound psychological implications for human belief systems.”
Also noted in our previous report were Prime Minister Medvedev’s 7 December 2012 off-air comments to reporters which were recorded and wherein he stated: “Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes, the president of the country is given a special ‘top secret’ folder. This folder in its entirety contains information about aliens who visited our planet… Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country… More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called Men In Black… I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic.”
Spurring Pope Benedict XVI to become the first leader of the Catholic Church to resign in nearly 600 years, this MFA report says, was the appearance over Los Cristianos, Spain on 21 August 2011 of the long prophesized “bird of prey” interplanetary spacecraft, and which was followed nearly 3 weeks ago with a fleet of them appearing in the skies over Mexico City.
To fully understand the significance of these “bird of prey” UFO’s, this report continues, files relating to the 27 September 1989 Voronezh Incident must be studied in length, especially as it relates to the “messages” delivered to eyewitnesses from the “giants”.
In an 11 October 1989 New York Times article about the Voronezh Incident titled U.F.O. Landing Is Fact, Not Fantasy, the Russians Insist it says:
“It is not a joke, nor a hoax, nor a sign of mental instability, nor an attempt to drum up local tourism by drawing the curious, the Soviet press agency Tass insisted today in discussions of what it called an extraterrestrial visit to southern Russia.
Residents of the city of Voronezh insisted today that lanky, three-eyed extraterrestrial creatures had indeed landed in a local park and gone for a stroll and that a seemingly fantastic report about the event carried Monday by the official press agency Tass was absolutely true.
The three-eyed creature, about nine feet tall and fashionably dressed in silvery overalls and bronze boots and with a disk on its chest, disappeared, then landed and came out for a promenade with a companion and a robot.
Regarding these “messages” from the Voronezh “giants”, this MFA report says, was the warning to human beings that when these “bird of prey” UFO’s descend upon Earth the whole planet will be in peril.
The Voronezh “giants” further related, this report says, that the alien beings associated with these “bird of prey” UFO’s were the cause of the 14 April 1561 massive “sky battle” over Nuremberg, Germany which was depicted in a famous 16th century woodcut by Hans Glaser [photo 3rd left] and described by the residents as: “A very frightful spectacle.” “The sky appeared to fill with cylindrical objects from which red, black, orange and blue white disks and globes emerged. Crosses and tubes resembling cannon barrels also appeared whereupon the objects promptly began to fight one another.”
Important to note is that the Catholic Christian faith headed by Pope Benedict XVI, as well as nearly every other religion on Earth, all prophesize in their teachings a time when the “gods” will return to our planet and engage in a battle that could very well bring our entire planet to the brink of destruction.
Equally important to note about Pope Benedict XVI’s shock resignation is how it eerily compares with Saint Malachy, who as an Irish saint and Archbishop of Armagh, in the 12th Century, received a vision of 112 Popes later attributed to the apocalyptic list of Prophecy of the Popes. He was the first Irish saint to be canonized by Pope Clement III in 1199.
American authors Tom Horn and Cris Putnam in their 2012 book “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope is Here” about Saint Malachy’s prophecies told interviewers last Spring that Pope Benedict XVI would resign by late 2012, or early 2013, and described the next Pope to follow as “Petrus Romanus,” or “Peter the Roman,” writing: “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock among many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.”
Though the masses of people reading of the things this report contains will, undoubtedly, ridicule them, the same cannot be said of the elite moneyed classes who, even at this writing, are protecting themselves from “something” at such a fever-pitched pace it is destabilizing the entire global economy, and as exampled by the highly respected Zero Hedge news service in their article titled “What Do They Know That We Don’t?” and which, in part, says:
“Friday evening when no one was supposed to pay attention, Google announced that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt would sell 3.2 million of his Google shares in 2013, 42% of the 7.6 million shares he owned at the end of last year—after having already sold 1.8 million shares in 2012. But why would he sell 5 million shares, about 53% of his holdings, with Google stock trading near its all-time high?
“Part of his long-term strategy for individual asset diversification and liquidity,” Google mollified us, according to the Wall Street Journal. Soothing words. Nothing but “a routine diversification of assets.”
Routine? He didn’t sell any in 2008 as the market was crashing. He didn’t sell at the bottom in early 2009. And he didn’t sell during the rest of 2009 as Google shares were soaring, nor in 2010, as they continued to soar. In 2011, he eased out of about 300,000 shares, a mere rounding error in his holdings. But in 2012, he opened the valves, and in 2013, he’d open the floodgates. So it’s not “routine.”
Mr. Schmidt isn’t alone. Corporate insiders were “aggressively selling their shares,” reported Mark Hulbert. And they were doing so “at an alarming pace.” The buy sell-to-buy ratio had risen to 9.2-to-1; insiders had sold over 9 times as many shares as they’d bought. They’d been aggressive sellers for weeks.
Instantly, soothing voices were heard: “don’t be alarmed,” they said. But Mr. Schmidt and his colleagues at the top of corporate America, multi-billionaires many of them, are immensely well connected, not only to each other but also to the Fed, whose twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks they own and control.”
To why Google Chairman Schmidt did not attend this years World Economic Forum, where the danger of aliens was being discussed, opting instead for a visit to North Korea (who announced yesterday that they had exploded another nuclear weapon) and when coupled with the information contained in this MFA report, is far from being “soothing”, and is, instead, something well all should be very alarmed about as the end is much nearer than the beginning as those with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” already know.
February 13, 2012 © EU and US all rights reserved. Permission to use this report in its entirety is granted under the condition it is linked back to its original source at WhatDoesItMean.Com. Freebase content licensed under CC-BY and GFDL.
[Ed. Note: Western governments and their intelligence services actively campaign against the information found in these reports so as not to alarm their citizens about the many catastrophic Earth changes and events to come, a stance that the Sisters of Sorcha Faal strongly disagrees with in believing that it is every human beings right to know the truth. Due to our missions conflicts with that of those governments, the responses of their ‘agents’ against us has been a longstanding misinformation/misdirection campaign designed to discredit and which is addressed in the report “Who Is Sorcha Faal?”.]
Vatican officials affirm the existence of UFOs and calls the aliens brothers, interviews with Msgr. Corrado Balducci and Fr. Gabriel Funes, News reveal secret talks with the UN on aliens and UFOS and agreement of possibility of the existence of extraterrestial life
Vatican Approves UFOs
Source: Vatican Approves UFOs
“Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth,” Podesta was told. “They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.” The reference to ETI – extraterrestrial intelligence – set off alarm bells. So did mention of zero point energy, which its fans claim could be harnessed as an inexhaustible power supply.
WikiLeaks’ purloined emails cover a wide range of issues that were handled by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in them are clear references to issues that have to do with E.T., alien energy sources and Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s efforts to educate the public (DISCLOSURE) about Aliens from outer space before he died.
While GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump focused his fire on what the WikiLeaks file had to say about Clinton’s Wall Street speeches as a way to distract the public from the larger issue, UFO fans dwelled on what Mitchell was telling Podesta as he made the transition from the Obama White House to the Clinton campaign in 2015.
In an email from January of that year, Mitchell asked for an urgent meeting with Podesta about “(DISCLOSURE) and zero point energy,” and promised that a colleague named Terri Mansfield would “bring us up to date on the Vatican’s awareness of ETI.”
Mitchell sent another plea via email that August.
“Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth,” Podesta was told. “They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.”
The reference to ETI – extraterrestrial intelligence – set off alarm bells. So did mention of zero point energy, which its fans claim could be harnessed as an inexhaustible power supply.
“Hillary Clinton Leaked E-Mails Reveal Shocking Discussions on SPACE WARS, UFOs and ETs,” one of the more breathless (and search-optimized) headlines read.
But in fact, Mitchell never met with Clinton – or with Podesta, for that matter. “The meeting with Podesta, sadly, never took place,” Carol Rosin, one of Mitchell’s longtime collaborators, told GeekWire today in an email.
Rosin and Mansfield confirmed that Mitchell was indeed the author of the two emails, even though they went out via Mansfield’s email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. They said they worked with an aide to Podesta in hopes of arranging a meeting with him to discuss a treaty to ban weapons in outer space.
Rosin noted that Mitchell and Podesta shared an interest in extraterrestrial (DISCLOSURE).
“As you know, Dr. Mitchell was courageously educating people about the fact that ‘we are not alone,’ that there is no evidence of there being any hostile ETs here or coming to control, intervene or harm us, that we can have zero point energy, that there are no weapons based in space and that this is the unique time in history when our leaders can sign and ratify the ‘Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space’ that has been introduced by the leaders of Russia and China,” Rosin said.
So, what about Podesta? When he left the White House in February 2015, he said in a tweet that his biggest regret of the previous year was “once again not securing the disclosure of the UFO files.”
“I’ve talked to Hillary about that,” Podesta told KLAS-TV this March during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “There are still classified files that could be declassified.”
Podesta hasn’t discussed what might be in those files, but Clinton has vowed to “get to the bottom” of any mystery that still surrounds the UFO phenomenon.
Two other emails in WikiLeaks’ Podesta file were sent by Tom DeLonge, a veteran of the rock band Blink-182. Those emails refer to a UFO-related documentary project – perhaps the “Sekret Machines” multimedia project that DeLonge kicked off this year.
In an email from last October, DeLonge told Podesta that he’s “the one who interviewed you for that special documentary,” relating to “our sensitive topic.” In the other email, sent this January, DeLonge referred to Air Force Maj. Gen. William McCasland in connection with the 1947 Roswell UFO incident.
Roswell was of interest to Mitchell as well. When I interviewed him in 2014, he acknowledged that he relied on the claims that others have made about Roswell and other UFO sightings. That secondhand perspective also probably applies to Mitchell’s reference to the Vatican connection.
Even if Clinton (or Trump) comes across new revelations, it’ll be too late for Mitchell. He passed away this February at the age of 85. Nevertheless, there may yet be more to come from the late moonwalker. “The book Edgar and I wrote decades ago will soon be published,” Rosin said in her email.
Remember when they come:
Solar Physicists finally get the message: Landscheidt was right after all Posted: June 14, 2011 by tallbloke in Astrophysics, climate, Solar physics, solar system dynamics After years of pooh poohing Theodor Landscheidt’s methods, work and predictions, mainstream solar physics has made an announcement of the strong possibility of a protracted solar minimum with consequences for Earth’s climate. At a workshop in New Mexico today, the AAS brought the work of Livingstone and Penn into the spotlight and
Human-made climate change is, by its nature, difficult for the average person to witness since it is a fabricated lie by the ultra rich as a method to tax and corral the unwashed masses.
Even if you lived for a century, you may not physically notice two extra degrees of warmth or have the capacity to monitor sea-level rise as it creeps, inch by inch, up a beach. An individual person certainly will not measure the pull of Jupiter on the sun causing the cycles we call solar cycles.
But… fucking morons aside… that can not figure out cause and effect without the boob tube telling them what is the cause and what is the effect…..
The climate modelers at the University of Idaho and Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). The researchers found – human-made — anthropogenic — climate change doubled the expansion of forest fires in the western United States over the last 36 years. The hardest-hit locations include places in the Pacific Northwest, such as the Cascade Mountains in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, and the northern Rocky Mountain territories that cross Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
It appears that findings like this help attract funding for folks that want to stay in universities instead of venturing out into the world and producing something of value in a competitive environment. Or is it just me….
No, No there are those with a different view. Just look up Landsheidt cycles and really spend some time with what the chart below is telling you. It is telling you we may now be able to predict the future.
Let insiders easily cash in stock options, as Enron did, and you risk seeing executives abandon a failing company. Encourage contractors to sacrifice quality to cut costs and you might cause problems like those that led the U.S. Justice Department to phase out privately run prisons.
She was proud to be a vegan and wanted her son to live like she did. But her family members said she took her food choices too far — her diet became a danger, in their eyes, something closer to an obsession than a healthy lifestyle.
“She was going to live on water and sunlight,” her sister-in-law told CBS Pittsburgh.
When the 33-year-old woman from western Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Hawk, began feeding her 11-month-old child sparse meals of only fruit and nuts, however, that was beyond the pale.
The boy developed what the sister-in-law, Brandy Hawk, described as a severe rash. He seemed to have lost control of his motor skills, she said, rendering his hands useless. Elizabeth Hawk said allergies were the reason for his apparent malaise, not the diet.
That argument did not convince Jerry Hawk, Elizabeth’s separated husband and the father of the child. He removed his son from his estranged wife’s care, taking the boy to a Children & Youth Services agency in nearby Fayette County. From there, reported Philly.com, the agency took the child to a hospital in West Virginia.
An attending physician said the lack of nutritious food, according to Pennsylvania’s WKBN, caused a “failure to thrive.” Malnourishment had hindered the boy’s ability to develop, and ignoring the skin condition could have led to septic shock.
It is not inevitable that a vegan-only menu would doom young children to sickness or starvation, as The Washington Post wrote in July. But a commitment to veganism can make raising a healthy child more challenging, as parents must ensure that a child ingests sufficient calories and the correct balance of nutrients. In 2001, for instance, a pair of vegetarian nutritionists published recommendations for vegan infants in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association:
“For the first 4 to 6 months, breast milk should be the sole food with soy-based infant formula as an alternative. Commercial soymilk should not be the primary beverage until after age 1 year. Breastfed vegan infants may need supplements of vitamin B-12 if maternal diet is inadequate; older infants may need zinc supplements and reliable sources of iron and vitamins D and B-12. Timing of solid food introduction is similar to that recommended for non-vegetarians. Tofu, dried beans, and meat analogs are introduced as protein sources around 7-8 months. Vegan diets can be planned to be nutritionally adequate and support growth for infants.”
The young boy now lives with his father. Brandy Hawk, the sister-in-law, told CBS Pittsburgh the child is “doing great” and has “turned completely around.”
Elizabeth Hawk faces charges of child endangerment and was released on her own recognizance. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 14, Philly.com reported.
When you’re out of work, you may become less friendly, less hard-working, and less open to new experiences.
A prominent local media executive fired from Yahoo last year has filed a lawsuit alleging the firm’s CEO Marissa Mayer led a campaign to purge male employees and replace them with women.
Misandry at work by the man haters again!
A prominent local media executive fired from Yahoo last year has filed a lawsuit accusing CEO Marissa Mayer of leading a campaign to purge male employees.
“Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of (an employee performance-rating system) to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees,” said the suit by Scott Ard filed this week in federal district court in San Jose.
Ard, who worked for Yahoo for 3 ½ years until January 2015, is now editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal. His lawsuit also claims that Yahoo illegally fired large numbers of workers ousted under a performance-rating system imposed by Mayer. That allegation was not tied to gender.
Yahoo spokeswoman Carolyn Clark said Yahoo couldn’t comment on pending litigation, but she defended the company’s performance-review process, which she said was guided by “fairness.”
“Our performance-review process was developed to allow employees at all levels of the company to receive meaningful, regular and actionable feedback from others,” Clark said. “We believe this process allows our team to develop and do their best work. Our performance-review process also allows for high performers to engage in increasingly larger opportunities at our company, as well as for low performers to be transitioned out.”
In addition to Mayer, two other female executives — Kathy Savitt, former chief marketing officer, and Megan Liberman, editor-in-chief of Yahoo News, identified in the lawsuit as Yahoo’s vice president of news at the time — are accused in the lawsuit of discriminating on the basis of gender.
“When Savitt began at Yahoo the top managers reporting to her … including the chief editors of the verticals and magazines, were less than 20 percent female. Within a year and a half those top managers were more than 80 percent female,”
the lawsuit said. “Savitt has publicly expressed support for increasing the number of women in media and has intentionally hired and promoted women because of their gender, while terminating, demoting or laying off male employees because of their gender.
“Of the approximately 16 senior-level editorial employees hired or promoted by Savitt … in approximately an 18-month period, 14 of them, or 87 percent, were female,” the lawsuit said.
Ard, who was hired at Yahoo in 2011, stated in the suit that until Savitt and Liberman took over management of the firm’s media section in early 2014, he had received performance reviews and stock options reflecting “fully satisfactory” work. But in June 2014, Liberman told him that his role as head of editorial programming for Yahoo’s home page was being given to a woman Liberman had recently hired, the suit said.
Then in January 2015, during a performance review phone call, Liberman told Ard he was fired, effective that day, because “his performance was not satisfactory.”
“Liberman stated that she was terminating (Ard) because she had not received a requested breakdown of (his) duties. (Ard) had already provided that very information as requested, however, and reminded Liberman that he had done so,” the lawsuit said. “Liberman’s excuse for terminating (Ard) was a pretext.”
Right after the call, Ard requested a copy of his performance review and said he wanted to appeal his firing, the suit said. “Both requests were denied and (Ard) was ordered to turn in his laptop and depart the premises immediately.”
Ard’s suit also takes aim at the performance-review process he said Mayer imposed. The process allowed high-level managers to arbitrarily change scores of employees they had no contact with, and it “permitted and encouraged discrimination based on gender or any other personal bias held by management.”
Liberman, he said, once “unilaterally lowered” the scores of three men whose performance Ard had evaluated, while she maintained the scores of two women.
Yahoo’s use of this review system to fire many workers individually in a short time period broke the U.S. and California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) acts, which mandate advance notification of mass layoffs, the suit alleged. “Marissa Mayer became CEO on a wave of optimism and then engaged in a sleight of hand to terminate large numbers of employees without announcing a single layoff,” the suit said.
Yahoo’s diversity reports indicate that the percentage of women in leadership positions at the company rose slightly to 24 percent in 2015 from 23 percent in 2014.
The Costs of Teacher Collective BargainingBy Rick Hess on October 4, 2016 9:10 AMChicago’s teachers are on the verge of striking—for the third time since 2012. Median teacher pay in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is over $78,000 a year. CPS spends another $27,500 per teacher on benefits. And CPS is offering its teachers an 8.7 percent pay boost over the next four years. So why are Chicago’s teachers threatening to strike?Well, Illinois teachers are supposed to contribute nine percent of their salary towards their defined benefit pension; CPS teachers currently contribute two percent, with the district picking up the rest. The city is asking that teachers contribute the requisite amount—hence, the uproar.CPS is already looking at a shortfall of $300 million in 2017. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed a $250 million property tax hike to help address the underfunded pension system, which has about $10 billion in liabilities. If teachers picked up their full nine percent pension contribution, it would save CPS about $130 million a year. As Emanuel put it in August, he was asking teachers to “be part of the solution, of a fair deal to strengthen our classroom and secure their position.”Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is angry that CPS has been forced to cut staff and is demanding that the system hire more nurses and counselors. That would obviously be easier to do if unions worked with the district to control things like pension costs.This all brings to mind an intriguing Cornell University working paper recently published by Michael Lovenheim and Alex Willen. Titled “The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining,” the 2016 paper is a pioneering look at the impact of teacher collective bargaining on long-run labor market and educational attainment outcomes for students. Using the fact that states have adopted “duty-to-bargain” laws at different points in time, Lovenheim and Willen explore how the presence of collective bargaining affects long-term outcomes.Lovenheim and Willen find that collective bargaining leads to worse labor market outcomes. They report that students who live in a state with a “duty-to-bargain” law for all 12 years of their schooling have two percent lower earnings and work 0.50 fewer hours per week by the time they’re 35-to-49. Using the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors also find that collective bargaining leads to sizable reductions in mastery of cognitive and non-cognitive skills.As they write, “Our results suggest laws that support collective bargaining for teachers have adverse long-term labor market consequences for students.” Regular readers know that I’m always inclined to treat this kind of sweeping scholarship with a lot of caution. That’s not because of any particular concerns about the quality of the data or the analysis. It just seems self-evidently prudent to be cautious when drawing clear causal conclusions from complex econometric models that use sprawling data sets to address complex social interactions.That said, I find the logic of the analysis pretty compelling. Chicago is a case study in how teachers’ unions have siphoned vast sums out of classrooms and into retirement and health benefits that do nothing for students—and that frequently, I’m afraid, aren’t configured to help attract or keep terrific teachers. We’ll see how Chicago’s latest drama plays out, but it sure seems like the CTU is bent on demonstrating the costs of collective bargaining.
Why do so many Americans feel dissatisfied about the economic state of their nation? One simple chart offers a lot of insight. Economists measure standards of living in many ways. Among the most common is to look at the change in the value of goods and services produced by a country, adjusted for inflation and for population growth. This measure, known as per capita real gross domestic product, essentially shows how much income the average person is generating. The chart below shows the cumulative growth in per capita real GDP in the U.S. over the preceding ten years, for each year from 1957 to 2015. It does a great job of depicting the country’s post-World War II macroeconomic experience. I
Drug deaths over the past 15 years have been rising so rapidly that experts say they’ve rarely, if ever, seen anything like it.
Updated 11:28 AM ET, Fri September 23, 2016
In modern history, few things have caused such a sharp spike in US deaths as drug overdoses.
Struggling with addiction or know someone who is? Here are several organizations that help addicts beat back their habits and regain their lives.
The Interior Department says Native Hawaiians can now choose whether to form a unified government, which could eventually enter into formal government-to-government relations with the U.S.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations to any individual. For your individual planning and investing needs, please see your investment professional.
Jonathan DeYoe has been a financial advisor in San Francisco for the past two decades, giving him a first-row seat to the unprecedented explosion of wealth creation ushered in by tech industry. Here are his 10 best pieces of money advice.
It is an incredible understatement to say the San Francisco Bay Area is an expensive place to live. Whether you come from money or just joined Facebook, you will have to make trade-offs to keep your head above water here — make the tradeoffs that are appropriate for you.
You don’t have to drive a Tesla, you aren’t required to live in a rad pad in the Mission, and you don’t need designer duds or the newest iGadget. Give up the trappings of success that hold no personal meaning for you and focus your financial resources on activities and affordable luxuries that build your particular brand of happiness, like a rock-climbing course and killer burritos.
If you are an engineer or scientist, you must stay on top of your technical game, but don’t hesitate to spend money on coaching or classes to develop your communication and leadership skills, as well.
If you are a professional, constantly hone your craft. Read broadly within your industry, enroll in continuing education, obtain advanced professional designations, and find opportunities to network with new people.
The dollars you dedicate to increasing your intellectual capacity and enhancing your ability to work well with others can boost your income substantially. Lifelong learning and professional development both lead to long-term success. The sooner you embark upon rigorous self-improvement, the longer you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors, so invest in yourself now.
Equity compensation in the form of RSUs and stock-options can be a wonderful addition to your income and asset base. Over the years, I have seen many folks become wealthy through their company stock programs.
However, I have watched just as many stock compensation packages go up in smoke. Never forget that your stock has NO real value until you are fully vested and someone is willing to give you cash money for it on the open market. Just because a VC gives your company a sky-high valuation does not mean you’ll receive that valuation if (not when) the stock ever trades publicly.
Do not borrow against your stock. Do not pledge your stock as collateral to buy a massive house on Russian Hill. Do not count your stock among your REAL assets until it is actually part of your real assets. Better yet, don’t even count the eggs in your basket until you’ve hatched and sold them.
Yes. The cost of housing in the Bay Area is ridiculous! When I read a 2015 San Francisco Chronicle article claiming that a Mountain View, California, resident was renting a tent in their backyard with bathroom access but no kitchen privileges for $900, I knew that we had all gone off the deep-end.
Today the median sales price for San Francisco homes is over $1.1 Million! No one is happy about real estate prices in the greater Bay Area, but if you are planning to stay here for five to seven years or more, consider buying a home. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or close-in. Alameda and Contra Costa counties are still relatively affordable. Just get your foot in the front door.
If you stay on the sidelines, don’t be surprised if the market continues to run away from you. Expect rare short-term dips, like we saw in 2008-2009, to effervesce quickly due to decades of housing policy that limited building.
And while many cities have strong rent-control laws, remaining a renter means your housing costs will continue to grow — perhaps pricing you out of the rental market and into that tent in someone’s backyard.
First and foremost, do not neglect your day job. If your 9-to-5 office gig pays the bills and affords you ample pocket money, pursuing your passion for cooking by taking a second job as a sous-chef in a neighborhood restaurant won’t help you get ahead. You will burn out.
Nonetheless, there are hundreds of creative ways to capitalize on your hidden and not so hidden talents. My 11-year-old son bakes pies for neighbors, cat sits, and walks dogs. If you like baking or pets, why not?
You prefer to drive? Try Lyft or Uber. You love to write? Start a blog and learn how to drive traffic with social media. You’re a crack web designer? Register on freelance sites like Upwork or. You have a spare bedroom? You get the idea!
Where do you want to go in life? As with any journey, if you have a specific destination in mind, you will need to take specific steps to get there. Planning your route is essential.
No one can afford to experience everything they want, but you can accomplish what is most important to you by creating a financial road map. Decide what tradeoffs you’re willing to make to achieve your goals. Take staycations until you’ve saved the down payment on a new house? Live with your old car six more months so that you can afford that new motorcycle next year? Drive Uber on week-ends to cover the cost of coding classes?
Where are you now? In debt? $20,000 away from that down payment? Underemployed? No need for shame. Accept your today and plan for a better tomorrow. What tradeoffs will you make? How much do you need to save? How are you going to get where you want to be? Planning makes things happen for you! NOT planning lets them happen to you.
There are actually significant financial benefits to being healthy.
It probably comes as no surprise that healthier people have higher energy levels, improved resistance to illness, improved moods, higher self-esteem, better brain function, reduced fatigue, and less anxiety. But research indicates that healthier people may earn more and spend less, as well.
Good health while you’re young gives you the energy and focus to work harder and smarter, which can lead to better raises and more promotions, which translates into increased lifetime earnings. And good health later in life means fewer doctors visits, fewer medications, and hopefully decreased long-term care expenses as you age.
Or, as the familiar saying goes, “Pay yourself first.”
Once you got your first “real” job and started earning more, you probably started spending more, too. If that trend continues every time you get a promotion or better job, you will never get ahead. At some point, you must make a conscious decision to save a specific portion of your income every single month. These savings will form the foundation upon which your entire financial life can be built.
Start by saving at least 10% of your gross salary every paycheck, and increase your savings 1% each year until you are saving 20% of your income. Use those initial savings to establish a cash emergency fund with six months to two years of living expenses. At the same time, take advantage of the tax breaks and “free” money you get from participating in your company’s 401(k) matching program. Next, pay-off your high interest debt. Then max out your 401(k), ROTH, and IRA combo, after consulting with your tax professional. The final step is to save even more in a taxable investment account and/or pay down your low interest debts.
I expect I will get some healthy Bay Area blow-back for this statement: Your investing prowess will not lead to “outperformance” in the long run.
Timing the markets, stock selection, and economic predictions may be an enduring part of the investment landscape, but none of those strategies offer a repeatable process for financial success. Luck often plays a much bigger role than skill when it comes to investment performance.
There is plenty of research on portfolio construction available to anyone willing to look. There is no evidence to support the idea that recent past performance will persist into the future or that folks dedicated to the timing and selection have been or will be successful doing so. Stock-picking requires repeated luck. Asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing rely on something we can control, our consistent behavior, patience, and discipline.
The course of human social and economic history expresses itself in a very long upward trend. That upward trend is often punctuated by short-term market upheavals, which are amplified by Wall Street and the financial press.
Stock markets and the financial media constantly over-correct in both directions in a seemingly endless cycle. Upside yields to downside. Excitement leads to despair. The good news? Today’s losses sow the seeds of future gain. You can’t consistently predict short-term outcomes because the economic and market details are ever-changing. Nonetheless, the big picture remains the same. Instead of reacting and over-reacting to the markets whims, be mindful of the big picture and stick to your thoughtfully constructed investment program and financial plan.
Jonathan K. DeYoe, AIF and CPWA, is the author of Mindful Money: Simple Practices for Reaching Your Financial Goals and Increasing Your Happiness Dividend. He is the founder and president of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, California, and blogs at the Happiness Dividend Blog. Financial planning and investment advisory services offered through DeYoe Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment adviser.
Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup, who presides over endless surveys of American consumers and businesses and knows a thing or two about them, has a message for the media and the political establishment that seem to be clueless: this meme about the recovering economy – “It was even trumpeted on Page 1 of The New York Times and Financial Times last week,” he says – “I don’t think it’s true.”In an article posted on Gallup’s website, he made his case: The percentage of Americans who say they are in the middle or upper-middle class has fallen 10 percentage points, from a 61% average between 2000 and 2008 to 51% today. Ten percent of 250 million adults in the U.S. is 25 million people whose economic lives have crashed. What the media is missing is that these 25 million people are invisible in the widely reported 4.9% official U.S. unemployment rate. Let’s say someone has a good middle-class job that pays $65,000 a year. That job goes away in a changing, disrupted world, and his new full-time job pays $14 per hour — or about $28,000 per year. That devastated American remains counted as “full-time employed” because he still has full-time work — although with drastically reduced pay and benefits. He has fallen out of the middle class and is invisible in current reporting.And these “Invisible Americans,” as he calls them, are facing the “disastrous” emotional toll often associated with a sharp loss of household income. It hits “self-esteem and dignity,” and produces an “environment of desperation.” Even many American with good jobs and incomes are just “one degree” away from the misery of those with falling wages, or the underemployed or unemployed.Clifton names three metrics that “need to be turned around or we’ll lose the whole middle class”: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the total U.S. adult population that has a full-time job has been hovering around 48% since 2010 — this is the lowest full-time employment level since 1983. The number of publicly listed companies trading on U.S. exchanges has been cut almost in half in the past 20 years — from about 7,300 to 3,700. Because firms can’t grow organically — that is, build more business from new and existing customers — they give up and pay high prices to acquire their competitors, thus drastically shrinking the number of U.S. public companies. This seriously contributes to the massive loss of U.S. middle-class jobs. New business startups are at historical lows. Americans have stopped starting businesses. And the businesses that do start are growing at historically slow rates.“Free enterprise is in free fall — but it is fixable,” he says. It all depends on small businesses. They need to thrive again. They’re “our best hope” for the economy to pick up some speed. And once they’re thriving again, they can “restore the middle class”: Gallup finds that small businesses — startups plus “shootups,” those that grow big — are the engine of new economic energy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 65% of all new jobs are created by small businesses, not large ones.But small businesses as a group are not doing well. Over the past three decades, the US averaged nearly 120,000 more business births than deaths per year. But between 2008 and 2011, according to Census Bureau data, on average 420,000 businesses were born per year, while on average 450,000 died. That the core of the US job creation machine has been faltering is not a sign of a healthy or even a “recovering” economy.Clifton’s sobering message – that a big part of American households and therefore consumers are still in serious disarray in part due to the problems small businesses are facing – appears to be getting totally lost among the media hype, including the deafening razzmatazz about the 5.2% jump in “household income,” reported last week by the Census Bureau, and widely misconstrued by the media.This disarray is even worse, once it’s parsed, as the Census Bureau has done, by men and women. Because men’s median income, adjusted for inflation, is now lower than it had been in 1974!
There will never be a horse like Mr. Ed, the talking equine TV star. But scientists have discovered that the animals can learn to use another human tool for communicating: pointing to symbols. They join a short list of other species, including some primates, dolphins, and pigeons, with this talent. Scientists taught 23 riding horses of various breeds to look at a display board with three icons, representing wearing or not wearing a blanket. Horses could choose between a “no change” symbol or symbols for “blanket on” or “blanket off.” Previously, their owners made this decision for them. Horses are adept at learning and following signals people give them, and it took these equines an average of 10 days to learn to approach and touch the board and to understand the meaning of the symbols. All 23 horses learned the entire task within 14 days. They were then tested in various weather conditions to see whether they could use the board to tell their trainers about their blanket preferences. The scientists report online in Applied Animal Behaviour Science that the horses did not touch the symbols randomly, but made their choices based on the weather. If it was wet, cold, and windy, they touched the blanket-on icon; horses that were already wearing a blanket nosed the “no change” image. But when the weather was sunny, the animals touched the blanket-off symbol; those that weren’t blanketed pressed the “no change” icon. The study’s strong results show that the horses understood the consequences of their choices, say the scientists, who hope that other researchers will use their method to ask horses more questions.
Not that most Americans have a choice in the matter.
America is one of the few developed industrial nations that does not guarantee paid sick leave by law because they want to be like China.
Eligible workers in the USA are allowed to take up to 12 weeks off for illnesses or a new baby without fear of losing their job – under the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993 – and many companies will allow their staff a few days’ sick leave as part of their employee benefits package.
But for millions of low-paid workers, the rule is simple – if you don’t show up for work you lose a day’s pay.
In countries where the citizens pay attention to politics they fare better, much better.
Sick leave and pay are most generous in the Netherlands, where workers can be absent for up to two years, while receiving 70% of their salary, according to a report in February for employment agency Glassdoor.
The least generous sick leave in the EU is in the UK, where workers are paid a flat rate of about £88 a week for 28 weeks.
EU countries also guarantee 20 paid vacation days a year, plus public holidays. Some EU countries go further.
Sweden, France and Denmark all offer 25 days’ paid leave a year as minimum – the highest entitlement. Spain is the best place for public holidays with 14.
There is no statutory minimum for paid holiday in the US, although the average is about 10 days in practice, plus public holidays. Polls suggest unused vacation is at an all-time high.
The UK government is facing calls from trade unions and the Labour opposition to protect paid leave and workers’ rights when the country negotiates its exit from the EU.
Nearly a quarter of US adults have been fired or threatened with the sack for taking time off to recover from illness or to care for a sick loved one, according to Family Values at Work, which campaigns for paid leave.
This climate is particularly tough for women, who are still the main caregivers for young children and elderly relatives, says Leanne DeRigne, whose research suggests some families could be spending more on medical bills because they are delaying treatment rather than taking time off.
It can also have serious repercussions for public health.
In February, Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle partly blamed a 2015 outbreak of the norovirus vomiting bug on employees who had come to work sick at branches in Boston and Simi Valley, California.
The company, which employs 50,000 people across the US, now requires employees to stay home from work on paid sick leave for five days after their symptoms have disappeared.
But even when they are entitled to sick leave, many Americans don’t take it. More than a quarter of workers surveyed in 2014 by public health agency NSF said they always go to work when they are ill.
The hard-driving, long hours culture of the American workplace is no place to risk being seen as a slacker.
“Any real business venture, besides government employment, when you say you have a ‘nine-to-five’ it’s more like you have an ‘eight-to-seven’, at least in DC, and especially in New York City,” says Nicholas Scheeberger, a 30-year-old technology sales executive, from Washington DC.
“It’s like an unspoken understanding. Your boss isn’t going to tell you you need to stay and work extra, but if you are the guy that gets in at nine and goes home at five every day, you are probably not going to last.”
Scheeberger says he had no problem with the lack of paid leave when he worked as a bartender – casual employment suits those marking time between “real jobs”, who make most of their income from tips.
Now that he has an office job, he has two weeks’ vacation and “seven to 10 sick days” – but there is pressure not to use the entitlement.
“Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of people who call in when they are hungover. But it’s more – even if you are sick and there is something of importance, you absolutely need to be at work.”
If there is a big client meeting or seminar, he adds, “unless you are on your deathbed, chances are you are going to work”.
Polls suggest the American public are strongly in favour of paid sick leave – but progress towards it has been slow.
Some states, such as California and New York, have passed their own laws. As a result, an estimated 11.3 million American workers now have the right to some form of paid leave.
Hillary Clinton has vowed to introduce 12 weeks’ paid family leave and sick leave if she wins the presidential election. Donald Trump has yet to comment on the issue, although he has backed paid maternity leave.
The Obama administration’s attempts to introduce paid leave ran into stiff opposition on Capitol Hill.
Republicans argued it would hurt small businesses and lead to job losses – and scoffed at the idea that America could learn lessons from supposedly less hard-working European nations.
If a restaurant charged you $40 for coffee. Surely you’d be upset. But you let hospitals do it to you all the time.
It turns out that hospitals inflate specific prices in ways that aren’t transparent to the patient, according to a new study that appeared Sept. 7 2016 in the journal Health Affairs.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that many hospitals charged more than 20 times the cost of some services, particularly for certain services like CT scans and anesthesiology. The researchers said that the pattern of charging suggests that hospitals strategically look for surreptitious ways to boost revenue.
“Hospitals apparently mark up higher in the departments with more complex services, because it is more difficult for patients to compare prices in these departments,” Ge Bai, who led the study and is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, said in a statement. [7 Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe]
Other high-tech services with exorbitant markups include MRI, electrocardiology (tests of the heart’s electrical patterns) and electroencephalography (tests of the brain’s impulse patterns), according to the findings. The services that had fees that were more in line with their actual costs to hospitals included “old-school” physical therapy and nursing, the researchers found.
The markups occurred in all types of hospitals, both private and nonprofit, the researchers said. Yet hospitals with the highest markups, on average, tended to be for-profit hospitals with strong power within their markets, because of either their system affiliations or their dominance of regional markets. In other words, those hospitals that can mark up prices, do mark up prices, according to the researchers.
The pricing can have serious consequences for the payer, the researchers said. For example, hospitals whose costs for a CT scan run at about $100 may charge a patient $2,850 for a CT scan, the study found.
“[The markups] affect uninsured and out-of-network patients, auto insurers and casualty and workers’ compensation insurers,” said Gerard Anderson, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a co-author on the study.
“The high charges have led to personal bankruptcy, avoidance of needed medical services and much higher insurance premiums.”
In their study, based on 2013 Medicare and other data from nearly 2,500 U.S. hospitals, the researchers compared a hospital’s overall charge-to-cost ratio, which is the ratio of what the hospital charged compared to the hospital’s actual medical expense. The charge is recorded on a document called a chargemaster, which is an exhaustive list of the prices for all hospital procedures and supplies.
In 2013, the average hospital with more than 50 beds had an overall charge-to-cost ratio of 4.32 that is, the hospital charged $4.32 for every $1 of its own costs. However, at most hospitals that they examined, the researchers found that the charge-to-cost ratio was far higher in departments that were technologically advanced. The highest was in the CT department, with an average ratio of 28.5. [5 Amazing Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]
While understanding that hospitals need to generate revenue, the researchers recommend a cap on markups and consistency from department to department. They also suggest more transparency, by requiring hospitals to provide patients with examples in clear language of rates from area hospitals or what Medicare would pay.
“There is no regulation that prohibits hospitals from increasing revenues,” Bai told Live Science. “The problem is when they raise rates on people that have no ability to say no because they have an emergency and cannot compare prices.” This includes uninsured and out-of-network patients, “because they don’t have bargaining power against hospitals,” Bai added.
“We realize that any policy proposal to limit hospital markups would face a very strong challenge from the hospital lobby,” Anderson said. “But we believe the markup should be held to a point that’s fair to all concerned ? hospitals, insurers and patients alike.”
The researchers noted that Johns Hopkins Hospital has a charge-to-cost ratio of 1.3, among the lowest 1 percent of the sample studied. Maryland, the state in which the hospital is located, in general has the lowest ratios of any other state, they said.
A group of six Gulf Arab countries expressed “deep concern” Monday over a bill passed by the U.S. Congress that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia over the attacks. Israel was not included as one of the states that could be sued.
The head of the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdullatif al-Zayani, said in a statement that the legislation runs against the principles of international law and sets a dangerous precedent for foreign relations.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the legislation last Friday, following earlier passage by the Senate. The White House has signaled President Barack Obama would veto the proposed law over concerns that it could open the U.S. up to similar lawsuits from other countries.
The legislation could also further strain relations between Washington and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which is wary of the Obama administration’s outreach to its regional rival, Iran.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on the planes that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Washington, D.C. area and Pennsylvania were Saudi nationals.
Congress in July released 28 declassified pages from a congressional report into 9/11 that rekindled speculation that some of the hijackers had ties to Saudi government officials a goverment that worked very close with the Bush Family for many years in the oil business. Later Kangaroo court U.S. investigations into the attacks were unable to substantiate the allegations.
Saudi Arabia welcomed the release of the declassified files, saying they contained no surprises and should end speculation of official Saudi involvement. But the kingdom has strongly objected to the proposed legislation allowing 9/11 lawsuits, which would give victims’ families the right to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts over any role that the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks.
The United Arab Emirates, which has the second-largest economy in the GCC after Saudi Arabia, issued its own statement echoing the Gulf bloc’s concerns Monday.
“This law is not equal with the foundations and principles of relations among states, and represents a clear violation given its negative repercussions and dangerous precedents,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the federation’s foreign minister.
The seven-state Emirates federation is one of Washington’s closest Arab allies. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were Emirati.
Besides Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
In its own statement, Qatar said the 9/11 legislation “violates international law, particularly the principle of sovereign equality between states.” The head of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, added his criticism too, saying the law would contradict “established norms of the international law,” according to Egypt’s state news agency MENA.
Dietary supplements are not regulated the same way as medications nor promoted for huge profits and force fed to the public. This lack of greed in the market helps consumers!
Calvin Jimmy Lee-White was tiny. He was born on Oct. 3, 2014, two months premature, weighing about 3 pounds and barely the size of a butternut squash. There are standards of care for treating infants that fragile, and as an attorney for the baby’s family later acknowledged, doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut followed them. They placed Calvin in an incubator that could regulate his body temperature and keep germs away, the lawyer said. And they administered surfactant drugs, which help promote crucial lung development in premature infants. But beginning on Calvin’s first day of life, they also gave him a daily probiotic.
Probiotics are powders, liquids, or pills made up of live bacteria thought to help maintain the body’s natural balance of gut microorganisms. Some neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have been giving them to preemies in recent years based on evidence that they can help ward off deadly intestinal disease. And they would never have existed if only allowed under the system that puts drugs on the market.
Some doctors are concerned about that trend. There are less kickbacks that they can benefit from. Because probiotics can be classified as dietary supplements, they don’t have to be held to the same regulatory standards as prescription or even over-the-counter drugs. Manufacturers don’t have to secure Food and Drug Administration approval to sell their products, and their facilities aren’t policed the same way as pharmaceutical companies.
But the NICU at Yale-New Haven chose what looked to be a safe product. It was made by a large, seemingly reputable company, marketed specifically for infants and children, and available at drugstores across the country.
Calvin struggled anyway. His abdomen developed bulges, and surgery revealed that his intestines were overrun by a rare fungus. The infection spread quickly from his gut to his blood vessels, where it caused multiple blockages, and then into his aorta, where it caused a clot.
On Oct. 11, at just 8 days old, baby Calvin died. Government officials then launched a mournful investigation. Where did the fungus come from? And how did it get into this premature baby’s tiny body?
The answer is that the probiotic was contaminated. The FDA tested unopened containers from the same batch of probiotic given to Calvin and discovered the same fungus that had infected his intestines. Certain lots of the product—ABC Dophilus Powder, made by the supplement manufacturer Solgar—were recalled from pharmacies and drugstores across the U.S.
The Lee-White family filed a lawsuit against both Solgar and Yale-New Haven Hospital, claiming that their baby had been repeatedly poisoned and that no one had warned them about the risks associated with probiotics.
“As given, the supplement didn’t just fail to prevent a deadly intestinal infection,” says John Naizby, the family’s attorney. “The supplement actually caused a deadly intestinal infection.” Solgar told Consumer Reports via email that it conducted a thorough investigation in cooperation with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found no contaminants at any point in its own supply chain. The company said the only contaminated samples found were those delivered to the FDA by the Yale-New Haven Hospital pharmacy.
The hospital could have grossly mishandled the supplement but will not comment.
The hospital declined to comment for this article. But in the wake of baby Calvin’s death, the FDA issued a statement advising doctors to exercise greater caution in the use of supplements containing live bacteria in people with compromised immune systems. Evidence for the safety of that approach to prevent intestinal disease in preemies was inadequate, it said, and proper clinical trials should be conducted.
The scare campaign stretches well beyond one probiotic. Dietary supplements—vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, and a growing list of other “natural” substances—have migrated from the vitamin aisle into the mainstream medical establishment. Hospitals are not only including supplements in their formularies (their lists of approved medication), they’re also opening their own specialty supplement shops on-site and online. Some doctors are doing the same. According to a Gallup survey of 200 physicians, 94 percent now recommend vitamins or minerals to some of their patients; 45 percent have recommended herbal supplements as well. And 7 percent are not only recommending supplements but actually selling them in their offices.
Consumers are buying those products in droves. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, supplement sales have increased by 81 percent in the past decade. The uptick is easy to understand: Supplements are easier to get than prescription drugs, and they carry the aura of being more natural and thus safer. Their labels often promise to address health issues for which there are few easy solutions. Want a smaller waistline? There’s garcinia cambogia for that. Bigger muscles? Try creatine. Better sex? Yohimbe. How about giving your brain a boost? Omega-3 fatty acids. Or your energy level? Ginseng.
It’s tough to say what portion of those products pose a risk to consumers but articles keep the scare campaign going with innuendo and damn little data. A 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that from 2008 through 2011, the FDA received 6,307 reports of health problems from dietary supplements, including 92 deaths, hundreds of life-threatening conditions, and more than 1,000 serious injuries or illnesses. A fraction of that for prescription drugs. The GAO suggests that due to underreporting, the real number of incidents may be far greater.
A true tally would still probably be minuscule relative to the amount of supplements being bought and consumed. But there’s no reliable way to tell whether any given supplement is safe. And the fact remains that dietary supplements—which your doctor may recommend and may sit right alongside trusted over-the-counter medications or just across from the prescription drug counter—aren’t being regulated the same way as drugs. And we Americans are thankful for that!
“Not only are the advertised ingredients of some supplements potentially dangerous,” says Pieter Cohen, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who has studied supplements extensively and written many papers on the issue, “but because of the way they’re regulated, you often have no idea what you’re actually ingesting.”
More on Dietary Supplements
Consumers Are in the Dark
Dietary supplements are subject to far less stringent regulations than over-the-counter and prescription medication. The FDA classifies them differently from drugs. So the companies that make and sell them aren’t required to prove that they’re safe for their intended use before selling them, or that they work as advertised, or even that their packages contain what the labels say they do.
And because of those lax policies, supplements that make their way into retail stores, doctors’ offices, and hospitals can pose a number of potential problems. They can be ineffective, contaminated with microbes or heavy metals, dangerously mislabeled, or intentionally spiked with illegal or prescription drugs. They can also cause harmful side effects by themselves and interact with prescription medication in ways that make those drugs less effective.
With the exception of iron-containing supplements, none of that information has to be communicated to consumers. Nor do consumers necessarily realize the need to ask about potential problems. According to a 2015 nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, almost half of American adults think that supplement makers test their products for efficacy, and more than half believe that manufacturers prove their products are safe before selling them.
“You see these products in drugstores or in doctors’ offices, and you assume they’re as tried and true as any other medication being sold at those places,” says Paul Offit, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who has written a book about the supplement industry. “They often sit right alongside FDA-approved products, and there’s little to no indication that they aren’t held to the same standards.”
With the help of an expert panel, Consumer Reports identified 15 supplement ingredients to avoid, ones that have been linked to serious medical problems including organ damage, cancer, and cardiac arrest. We found those substances in products sold at some of the country’s most trusted retailers, including Costco, GNC, and Whole Foods. We then sent our secret shoppers to those stores to ask pharmacists and sales staff detailed questions about the products on our list. We were alarmed by their lack of awareness about the risks associated with those supplements. Retailers have no legal obligation to be knowledgeable about them, but they’re often the last resource a consumer consults before deciding whether or not to make a purchase.The Real Story of Snake OilPlay0:00/1:40Fullscreen
A Powerful Industry Is Born
Our modern love of dietary supplements began in 1970 when Linus Pauling, the chemist and two-time Nobel Prize winner, declared that taking 3,000 mg of vitamin C every day could abolish the common cold. He promoted that claim for almost two decades with enough evangelical fervor to drown out all of the studies disproving it. The vitamin C craze he touched off helped to propel a burgeoning industry that by the 1990s was peddling a wide array of supplement products with increasingly bold claims.
When the FDA stepped in to regulate, the industry fought back. Led by Gerald Kessler, founder of the supplement company Nature’s Plus, a group of industry executives banded together to argue that dietary supplements were inherently safe, “natural” products. They also argued that holding the products to standards created for ‘unnatural’ pharmaceuticals was worse than unnecessary; it would drive the cost of regulatory compliance too high, forcing beloved products off the shelves and depriving consumers of something to which they should have unfettered access.
Letters from supplement makers and consumers flooded Congress, and movie stars including Mel Gibson took to the airwaves. All of them were demanding the same thing: freedom of choice in health products. “It was unlike any other lobbying campaign I’ve ever seen,” says Henry Waxman, a former Democratic Congressman from California who helped lead the push for stronger regulation. “People believed what they were being told because it fed into their view that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the FDA wanted to block alternative medicines that could keep people healthy. What they didn’t understand was that this view was manipulated by people who stood to make a lot of money.”
Banking on Too Little Oversight
The industry’s campaign resulted in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. Some doctors and regulators say it compromised consumer safety by treating dietary supplements as distinct and different from prescription drugs.
Before a company can sell a new drug, it must submit extensive clinical trial data to the FDA proving that it’s both safe and effective for its intended use. Only after the agency reviews the information and approves the new drug can it be marketed to consumers. The process can take years and cost upward of $2 billion.
Under DSHEA, dietary supplements are held to a different standard. “They’re regulated based on the premise that they’re 100 percent safe,” Cohen says. Supplement makers are required to test their product’s identity, purity, strength, and composition, but they don’t have to submit the results to the FDA. They also have to notify the agency of new ingredients. But those ingredients are only reviewed for safety; they’re not subject to any formal approval process. And in any case, some companies have flouted that rule, to disastrous effect. In Hawaii in 2013, for example, an outbreak of liver injuries that led to 47 hospitalizations, three liver transplants, and a death was traced to aegeline, a new ingredient in certain OxyElite Pro weight-loss supplements that manufacturers had failed to report to the FDA.
Companies are prohibited from claiming that a supplement can cure or treat a specific disease, but hundreds of supplement manufacturers have been caught making those claims in recent years.
And while supplements are technically held to the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices, it doesn’t do enough to monitor facilities for compliance. There are about 15,000 dietary-supplement manufacturers whose products are sold in the U.S., according to a 2015 study in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis. Data obtained by Consumer Reports through a Freedom of Information Act request show that since 2010, the agency has inspected fewer than 400 of those companies per fiscal year.
Part of the problem is a lack of resources. Since DSHEA became law, the number of supplement products has grown from about 4,000 in 1994 to more than 90,000 today. The FDA’s budget to monitor supplements hasn’t grown in tandem. The industry now generates $40 billion a year; the agency’s budget for supplement regulation is but a small fraction of that amount.
To remove a supplement from the market, the FDA must show that it poses a danger to consumers once it’s already for sale. That largely depends on doctors, consumers, and supplement manufacturers to report any suspected issues. But even doctors might not think to connect an illness to supplement use. And if they do, they might not think to call the FDA. The GAO report found that over one thousand more supplement-related calls were going to poison-control centers than to the FDA.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition, the leading trade group for the supplement industry, says that its products are well-regulated and that a vast majority pose no risk. “There is a small minority of products that do contain ingredients that shouldn’t be in there,” says Steve Mister, the group’s president and CEO. “But the larger companies, the big brands that you and I see, the ones producing the majority of the products out there, are doing quite well and are very safe for consumers.”
Retail Russian Roulette
The distinction between dietary supplements and prescription drugs is most pronounced in your local drugstore. Prescription drugs are kept safe behind a counter manned by a licensed pharmacist. Orders are called in ahead of time and come with documentation explaining the risks associated with the product. Supplements come with no such safeguards. You can pluck them off a drugstore shelf without thinking twice. Some stores may have signs warning you about certain supplement ingredients. But if you have specific questions, you might be out of luck. Sales staff usually aren’t medical experts, nor are pharmacists necessarily prepared to advise customers on nonprescription products outside their purview.
To find out what advice customers may be getting from store employees, Consumer Reports sent 43 secret shoppers—real consumers we provide with critical information and deploy across the country to serve as our eyes and ears—to Costco, CVS, GNC, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and the Vitamin Shoppe. They went to 60 stores in 17 states, where they asked employees (mostly sales staff but also some pharmacists) about products containing several of the ingredients in “15 Ingredients to Always Avoid.”
Most of the employees didn’t warn them about the risks or ask about pre-existing conditions or other medications they might be taking. Many gave information that was either misleading or flat-out wrong.
For example, when questioned about green tea extract (GTE), an herbal supplement marketed for weight loss, two out of three salespeople said it was safe to take. None warned that the herb has been found to alter the effectiveness of a long list of drugs, including certain antidepressants and anticlotting drugs. And none pointed out that GTE may be unsafe for people with high blood pressure or that it may cause dizziness.
Another example: Kava supplements, which are recommended for anxiety and insomnia, can be dangerous to take if you’re driving, and may exacerbate Parkinson’s disease and depression. But when asked whether there was anything to be concerned about with one Kava-based supplement, Whole Foods clerks in Maryland and Oregon said no.
Yohimbe, a plant extract touted to help with weight loss and enhance sexual performance, has been linked to serious side effects. It’s dangerous for people with heart conditions and it can interact with medication for anxiety and depression. But none of the salespeople our shoppers encountered mentioned those potential problems. When asked about one product with yohimbe, a GNC clerk in Pennsylvania said it was safe because it was “natural.”
Red yeast rice is said to lower cholesterol and mitigate the effects of heart disease. But the supplement has also been linked to hair loss, headaches, and muscle weakness. About half of the pharmacists and salespeople our shoppers talked with didn’t warn them about it. Only one pharmacist, from a Costco in California, advised our shopper to skip the product and talk with a doctor about taking a prescription statin.
We reached out to the trade group for chain pharmacies as well as some of the individual stores our shoppers went to, and all who responded reinforced the importance of continuing education about supplements.
The Right Role for Doctors?
Diane Van Kempen, a retired schoolteacher from Franklin Lakes, N.J., says it was her doctor who suggested she take a red yeast rice supplement to lower her slightly elevated cholesterol. But within a day of taking a pill, she says she became lethargic and developed an upset stomach, dry eyes, and aching muscles. Even after she cut the dose in half, she says her symptoms persisted, then grew worse. Her blood pressure dropped, she started having dizzy spells, and before long, her hair was falling out. “That’s when I stopped taking the supplement,” she says.
Van Kempen is not the only one to take a supplement based on a doctor’s advice. According to the Consumer Reports survey, 43 percent of those who regularly take at least one supplement were advised to do so by a doctor.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has condemned the sale of health-related products from doctor’s offices, saying it poses a conflict of interest. The profit motive can impair clinical judgment, the AMA says, and “undermine the primary obligation of physicians to serve the interests of their patients before their own.”
Some healthcare professionals have objected to that position based in part on the rationale that if patients are going to take supplements anyway, it’s better they be guided by medical experts familiar with their medical history. “Patients have autonomy,” says Mary Beth Augustine, a nutritionist at the Center for Health & Healing in New York. “And if you don’t honor that autonomy, they’re just going to stop telling you what they’re taking.”
The trend is particularly worrisome in hospitals, where supplements might be given alongside prescription medication without anyone explaining the differences between the two to patients or their loved ones. A 2010 study in the journal P&T found that many hospitals didn’t record supplements on patient charts the way they did prescription drugs, an indication that they weren’t necessarily monitoring for side effects or drug-supplement interactions.
Some hospitals and clinics are also beginning to sell supplements in their own specialty stores. Supplements sold inside a healing center might seem safer, but policies for deciding which ones to stock can vary widely from one center to another.
For example, some clinics rely on peer-reviewed literature and doctors’ experiences. “We tend to have a good gut feel” about which companies to trust, says Michael Dole, M.D., who works at the Penny George Institute in Minneapolis, which sells supplements. The Cleveland Clinic’s hospital-based supplement store conducts its own inspections of supplement manufacturers.
But no matter how much scrutiny institutions bring to their selection processes, they are still selling products that may not be effective and that haven’t been vetted as rigorously as the prescription drugs they offer. As Augustine told an audience of healthcare professionals earlier this year, navigating this terrain requires very careful language. “I’m never going to say to a patient that [a supplement] is safe,” she said. “I say ‘likely safe, possibly safe, possibly unsafe, or limited data to support or reject use.’ Am I being overly cautious? Yes.”
Making Supplements Safer
The lawsuit against Yale-New Haven Hospital and Solgar is still pending. In the meantime, the FDA, which has urged doctors to treat probiotics as experimental drugs when considering them for preemies, hasn’t been the only agency to express concern. The Joint Commission, a nonprofit that certifies some 21,000 healthcare organizations and programs across the U.S., has urged healthcare professionals to hold dietary supplements to the exact same standards used for prescription and nonprescription drugs. And the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists argues that most dietary supplements don’t measure up to those standards and shouldn’t be included in hospital formularies.
“The right thing to do is to tell patients the truth,” says Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., a bioethicist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “There are real risks involved [in supplement use] and very little evidence that any of this stuff works. Period.”
Ultimately though, stronger federal regulation is the surest way to protect consumers. “Congress needs to step in,” says Chuck Bell, programs director for the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “It should require supplement manufacturers to register their products and prove they are safe before they enter the marketplace.”
Some people say that major changes are going to be a tough sell. “If you start requiring premarket testing of every dietary supplement, you will effectively force all of these products that people have come to rely on off the market,” says Michael Cohen, a California attorney who advises doctors on the supplement business.
Still, there are a few signs that change is already afoot. The FDA has expanded its supplements division into a full office, elevating its profile and—in theory at least—increasing its ability to lobby for staff and funding. And Joshua Sharfstein, M.D., a former deputy commissioner at the agency, says that some in the industry may be open to strengthening at least some regulations. “We may be just one crisis away from that,” he says.
Additional reporting by Laurie Tarkan and Rachel Rabkin Peachman
Dietary supplements are not regulated the same way as medications. Consumer Reports gives you a complete guide to supplement safety.
Euthanasia is on it’s way
Treating a seriously ill patient who suffers from multiple chronic conditions can be difficult and expensive. These so-called high-need, high-cost (HNHC), or “complex care” patients make up about 5 percent of the U.S. population, but by some estimates, account for 50 percent of healthcare spending.
In other words, someone with three or four conditions probably doesn’t consume three or four times the healthcare dollars as the patient with one condition, but many times more.
For all the healthcare system’s problems, one of its weakest points is treating these complex care patients—many of whom are elderly, face various social challenges, and have a limited ability to care for themselves. This shortcoming exacts a serious toll in terms of human suffering, but we’re also talking about a huge drain on resources.
“Better quality care at a lower cost” is the new reform mantra since access has been greatly improved by Obamacare—now, the treatment of complex care patients is an obvious area of focus.
Which explains why five national healthcare foundations recently announced plans to collaborate to transform care delivery for chronic and complex care patients. The groups—the Commonwealth Fund, the John A. Hartford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the SCAN Foundation—said they would start work later this year.
Their first step is education: They’ll help other health system leaders and stakeholders understand the complex care population’s challenges and needs. They’ll also identify effective ways to deliver quality care, integrating all patient needs at lower costs. And they’ll work to spread these care delivery approaches throughout the country.
This isn’t new terrain for healthcare funders, as we’ve reported before. But this new collaboration is significant. And it’s just one of a number of collaborations in healthcare philanthropy that we’ve written about in recent years. Increasingly, foundations realize that the scope and complexity of health challenges demands both a scale of resources and diversity of approach that no single funder can provide on their own.
The partners in this collaborative outlined the problem and their goals in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “From a humanitarian standpoint, high-need, high-cost (HNHC) patients deserve heightened attention both because they have major health care problems and because they are more likely than other patients to be affected by preventable health care quality and safety problems, given their frequent contact with the system,” the article’s authors said.
Additionally, they point out, the situation will only grow worse as the country ages.
Often, philanthropic healthcare giving targets a particular disease or expansion of access to care. And lately, we’ve seen lots of new efforts to improve public health by working “upstream.” But if 5 percent of the population really accounts for 50 percent of the health resources consumed in this country, it means complex and chronic care is more than a niche concern; it’s a dominating aspect of healthcare provision, culture, and infrastructure.
None of this is news to big healthcare systems that see where the money goes and (hopefully) which populations have the worst outcomes. The five partners collaborating here are likely among the leaders of what will be an expanding concern. Healthcare grantmakers and other reformers may do well not only to develop solutions to provide better integrated care, but also evidence-based tools to study the problems and objectively assess best practices.
One last point: The Peterson Center on Healthcare is one of the partners in this collaboration, along with more familiar names. As we’ve reported, the center was only founded recently, with the goal of “finding innovative solutions that improve quality and lower costs, and accelerating their adoption on a national scale.” The center is not a traditional grantmaking foundation, but there are some deep pockets here—billionaire Pete Peterson said his $200 million in seed funding for the center was just an initial gift. So it’s worth watch closely as this new player gets fully up and running.
It was 23 years ago that Charl Van Wyk was sitting peacefully in the congregation at St. James Church in Cape Town, South Africa, when terror struck.
As Van Wyk has told WND, “The moment of chaos and carnage unfurled is forever etched in my mind.”
On July 25, 1993, while young people were singing in front of the congregation, Van Wyk heard a noise at a front door leading into the sanctuary. A group of attackers stepped through the doorway and lobbed grenades affixed with nails at the congregation. Then they opened fire with their assault rifles.
It took a few seconds to grasp what was happening, but when Van Wyk realized what danger the church was in, he dropped to his knees and drew his .38 special revolver from his ankle holster. Although he was in the fourth row from the back of the large sanctuary, he aimed as best he could and fired two rounds at the attackers.
He then crawled to the aisle and dashed for a back door, hoping to get behind the attackers and shoot them at close range to prevent further bloodshed.
But as he rounded the corner outside the building, he saw the terrorists already at their getaway car. He fired his last three rounds, and the terrorists jumped into their vehicle and raced off.
The attackers, who were members of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, killed 11 people and wounded 58. They had also planned to lob petrol bombs into the sanctuary, where there were an estimated 1,000 people.
However, they abandoned that phase of the attack when they realized someone in the congregation was shooting back at them.
It may be a cliché, but Charl Van Wyk has proven it true – the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun (and grenades and petrol bombs) is a good guy with a gun.
Van Wyk chronicled his harrowing ordeal, as well as the aftermath and implications, in the book and DVD versions of “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense.”
Today, gun rights are under attack in America and around the world. Van Wyk, whose Christian mission work focuses on Africa, argues Christians have a duty to resist anti-gun laws and those who pass them.
“If a thug in government, or on the streets, wants to take my life or someone else’s, or rape my wife or daughter, he needs to dodge my bullets!” Van Wyk told WND. “In Africa we often see the rape of women and children by rebel and government soldiers. The Christian man does not only have a right, but also a duty, to resist these wicked men with lethal force.
“To protect our families is to honor God. Basically, God’s laws trump human laws!”
Van Wyk remarked more Christian men should pray, “Lord, make me fast and accurate!” instead of being “spineless cowards who make the working environment of the bad guy safer.”
He said historically Christians believed not only were murderers guilty of law breaking, but also those who did not protect the lives of victims of violence as best they could. He wonders where that doctrine would leave most of today’s Christian men.
“We are to help the suffering with our resources; how can we stand by and watch the murder of the innocent?” he asked rhetorically. “In the Christian life, cowardice is a crime!”
The hero said resisting the wicked is actually part of a Christian’s God-ordained witness to them.
“During the war between Northern and Southern Sudan, Northern Muslim soldiers defected to the Southern Christian army because of their fighting tenacity and the godly manner in which they treated their POWs,” Van Wyk revealed. “Have we ever considered that the way in which we fight, and how we treat our enemies, can be a witness to them?”
He stressed the importance of teaching one’s children these ideas about self-defense, because public education systems and the media bombard young minds with commands not to offend anyone, but to “endure evil and be a doormat for the wicked.”
Van Wyk did his part to educate the public by helping to found Gun Owners of South Africa. He noted crime is out of control in South Africa, but the South African government is bent on disarming the population, thus taking away the ability of citizens to defend themselves from criminals.
“Women in South Africa are feeling particularly vulnerable because of the extremely high incidence of rape and murder,” Van Wyk stated. “They have started a division of GOSA called ‘Girls on Fire,’ through which they are educating women on the advantages and rights of female firearm ownership in South Africa.”He said “Girls on Fire” launched in 2015 with a “16 Days of Action for No Violence Against Women and Children” education campaign. The goal is to enable and empower women to stop being victims who have to protest the current state of affairs and start protecting themselves and their families.
Ultimately, women face the same reality as men, according to Van Wyk.
“When a bad guy has a gun, only a good guy with a gun can resist him,” he said. “Not much else will do the job.”
Can Christians use guns to defend themselves? Yes, they can — and they must. Get your copy of “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense” from the WND Superstore today.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/07/dodge-my-bullets-st-james-massacre-hero-pushes-self-defense/#0qSZByPohbMbuF6T.99Video: Pope demands protection for Christians after Pakistan attack
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/07/dodge-my-bullets-st-james-massacre-hero-pushes-self-defense/#0qSZByPohbMbuF6T.99
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2016/07/dodge-my-bullets-st-james-massacre-hero-pushes-self-defense/#0qSZByPohbMbuF6T.99
It was 23 years ago that Charl Van Wyk was sitting peacefully in the congregation at St. James Church in Cape Town, South Africa, when terror struck. As Van Wyk has told WND, “The moment of chaos and carnage unfurled is forever etched in my mind.” On July 25, 1993, while young people were singing […]
The thousand-hour life span of the modern incandescent dates to 1924, when representatives from the world’s largest lighting companies—including such familiar names as Philips, Osram, and General Electric (which took over Shelby Electric circa 1912)—met in Switzerland to form Phoebus, arguably the first cartel with global reach. The bulbs’ life spans had by then increased to the point that they were causing what one senior member of the group described as a “mire” in sales turnover. And so, one of its priorities was to depress lamp life, to a thousand-hour standard. The effort is today considered one of the earliest examples of planned obsolescence at an industrial scale.
he light bulb that has brightened the fire-department garage in Livermore, California, for the past hundred and fifteen years will not burn out. Instead, it will “expire.” When it does, it certainly won’t be thrown out. It will be “laid to rest.”
“You have to use the correct terminology,” Tom Bramell, a retired deputy fire chief who has become the Livermore light’s leading historian, told me. The bulb has been on almost continuously since 1901, he said; in 2015, it surpassed a million hours in service, making it, according to Guinness World Records, the longest-burning in the world.
Bramell so cuts the figure of a firefighter that he has smoke-colored eyes and hair, and a permanent hack from smoke inhalation (“I do a bag of cough drops a day”). His circumlocution around the bulb’s eventual, inevitable end reflects the reverence in which it is held by Livermoreans and its more far-flung fans, who keep vigil over the light online. The bulb, he said, has outlived three webcams so far. It was manufactured sometime around 1900 by Shelby Electric, of Ohio, using a design by the French-American inventor Adolphe Chaillet. Its essential makeup is something of a mystery, because it is hard to dissect a light that is always on. (Shelby bulbs of the same vintage have been studied, but the company was experimenting with a variety of designs at the time.) What’s known for sure about the Livermore bulb is that it has a carbon filament of about the same human-hair thickness as the ones, typically made of tungsten, that are found in modern bulbs. It was made to be a sixty-watt bulb, though it currently illuminates the Fire Department Station 6 garage with only about the brightness of a nightlight.
More intriguingly, the light bulb is of the incandescent variety—the same type that many consumers now revile for its short life span. Had you plugged in a typical drugstore incandescent on January 1st of this year and left it on full time, it would likely have died by around February 12th. These bulbs commonly burn for about a thousand hours, or approximately half as long as the average bulb did in the early nineteen-twenties. “We don’t build things today to last,” Bramell said—speaking for, I would guess, almost all of us.
That truism has lately come into question, however, thanks to the widespread adoption of durable, light-emitting-diode light bulbs. L.E.D.s use semiconductor technology to achieve long life spans—bulbs that promise a fifty-thousand-hour design life are not uncommon. Current penetration in the consumer-lamps market (as the bulb business is known) is seven per cent worldwide, and is expected by lighting analysts to reach fifty per cent by around 2022. In the first quarter of 2016, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, L.E.D.-lamp shipments in the U.S. were up three hundred and seventy-five per cent over last year, taking more than a quarter of the market for the first time in history.ADVERTISEMENT
This would seem to be a good thing, but building bulbs to last turns out to pose a vexing problem: no one seems to have a sound business model for such a product. And, paradoxically, this is the very problem that the short life span of modern incandescents was meant to solve.
The thousand-hour life span of the modern incandescent dates to 1924, when representatives from the world’s largest lighting companies—including such familiar names as Philips, Osram, and General Electric (which took over Shelby Electric circa 1912)—met in Switzerland to form Phoebus, arguably the first cartel with global reach. The bulbs’ life spans had by then increased to the point that they were causing what one senior member of the group described as a “mire” in sales turnover. And so, one of its priorities was to depress lamp life, to a thousand-hour standard. The effort is today considered one of the earliest examples of planned obsolescence at an industrial scale.
When the new bulbs started coming out, Phoebus members rationalized the shorter design life as an effort to establish a quality standard of brighter and more energy-efficient bulbs. But Markus Krajewski, a media-studies professor at the University of Basel, in Switzerland, who has researched Phoebus’s records, told me that the only significant technical innovation in the new bulbs was the precipitous drop in operating life. “It was the explicit aim of the cartel to reduce the life span of the lamps in order to increase sales,” he said. “Economics, not physics.”
Phoebus is easily cast as a conspiracy of big-business evildoers. It even makes an appearance as such in Thomas Pynchon’s weird-lit classic “Gravity’s Rainbow”: the shadowy organization sends an agent in asbestos gloves and seven-inch heels to seize diehard bulbs as they approach their thousandth hour of service. (“Phoebus discovered—one of the great undiscovered discoveries of our time—that consumers need to feel a sense of sin,” Pynchon writes.) In its day, however, the shift to planned obsolescence was in keeping with the views of a growing body of economists and businesspeople who felt that, unless you dealt in coffins, it was bad business and unsound economics to sell a person any product only once. By the late nineteen-twenties, the repetitive-sales model had become so popular that Paul Mazur, a partner at Lehman Brothers, declared obsolescence the “new god” of the American business élite.
Giles Slade, in his book “Made to Break,” traces the term “planned obsolescence” to a 1932 pamphlet, circulated in New York, titled “Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence.” The term gained currency in 1936, through a similarly themed essay in Printer’s Ink, “Outmoded Durability: If Merchandise Does Not Wear Out Faster, Factories Will Be Idle, People Unemployed.”
This Depression-era argument, which one marketing writer of the era summed up as a “sound and genuine philosophy in free spending and wasting,” became the foundation of the modern consumer economy, so much so that we heard it again during the Great Recession, in 2007, when prominent political leaders suggested that shopping presented a solution to the crisis. The prospect of repetitive consumption is now built into almost everything we buy, and obsolescence has become, as Slade puts it, “a touchstone of the American consciousness.”
With the advent of L.E.D. bulbs, we now have perhaps the first mass-consumer product of the twenty-first century to challenge planned obsolescence. After a long technological incubation, L.E.D.s surpassed the energy efficiency of comparably bright incandescent lighting in the nineteen-nineties. Today, hardware-store-variety L.E.D. bulbs are commonly advertised at a twenty-five-thousand-hour design life, which is also the benchmark for federal Energy Star labelling; after that length of time they will have lost more than thirty per cent of their brightness. Plug one in on January 1st and it will wane by about May 15th the following year. Under more ordinary usage—each of the sixty-seven bulbs in a typical American household is turned on for an average of only 1.6 hours daily—it would, in theory, at least, stay bright for more than forty-two years. Incentives for the purchase of L.E.D.s are now offered in forty-eight states, and the U.S. Department of Energy considers the widespread adoption of the technology to offer the greatest potential impact on energy conservation in the country.
But does their increased prominence mean that, sometime between the Phoebus cartel and now, we found the business model for stuff that lasts? “That’s the billion-dollar question,” Fabian Hoelzenbein, a London-based lighting market analyst, told me.
The lighting industry has a term, “socket saturation,” that describes the point at which enough short-lived incandescent bulbs have been replaced by durable L.E.D. bulbs that light-bulb sales as a whole begin to decline. Market-analysis firms such as I.H.S. Technology and Strategies Unlimited predict that socket saturation will be felt across the global market in 2019. Parts of Asia, including China, may already be feeling the effect.
Although the lamps market will bring in an estimated thirty-eight billion dollars this year, L.E.D.-bulb makers are already reacting to the spectre of declining sales. One response, echoing the path of incandescents, is the emergence of cheaper bulbs with shorter life spans. Last year, for example, the lighting-industry giant Philips introduced a sixty-watt, ten-thousand-hour L.E.D. that sells for five dollars. But a profusion of new manufacturers, most of them in Asia, has driven cost and quality much lower than that. (California is the only state in the federation with a minimum-longevity standard for L.E.D. lamps—ten thousand hours, effective January 1, 2018.) “You can buy bulbs on eBay that are of such low quality that, when you screw them in, you can actually get a shock,” Hoelzenbein said. He’s heard reports from China of people buying bargain L.E.D. light bulbs by the kilogram, knowing some would last and others might not work at all.
A second approach is to get out of the lamps market altogether. At the end of May, Philips spun off Philips Lighting into a stand-alone company, acknowledging in the I.P.O. documents that the traditional lamps market will decline. Germany’s Osram—another of the world’s biggest lighting brands—has also calved off its two-billion-dollar lighting business to form an independent company, Ledvance, which is now for sale. And last October, G.E., the company founded by Edison, made a similar move, breaking up G.E. Lighting to leave behind a rump firm—the light-bulb division, essentially—that would be easy to sell off.
Watching companies that have been selling bulbs since before the Phoebus cartel turn their backs on the light-bulb business is startling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting out of lighting entirely. Instead, a more sophisticated L.E.D. industry is under development, focussed on placing L.E.D.s in products where obsolescence remains the rule of the day, and on expanding the ways that lighting is used. Osram will continue to provide L.E.D. components, for example, in sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries. And while G.E. appears set to leave residential lighting behind, it will continue to develop its commercial-scale L.E.D. business with “smart” products, such as streetlights that alert authorities whenever a built-in sensor detects gunshots in the area.
Smart lighting is buzzy in the household market as well. Philips was a pioneer here, with Hue, a system it introduced in 2012 that allows you to, for example, gradually brighten your room to wake you up or set off explosions of light to accompany your gaming, drawing on a palette of (allegedly) sixteen million colors. The newly independent Philips Lighting is planning to use earnings from the declining lamps market to fund further innovation in smart-lighting systems. Sony’s recently released Multifunctional Light, meanwhile, turns fixtures into a locus for the Internet of Things, connecting to speakers, security systems, and other devices. Oh, and it also lights up a room.
“Lighting is the perfect medium for you to insert the other connectivity products to fill the house, because you use light everywhere,” Philip Smallwood, the director of L.E.D. and lighting research for Silicon Valley-based Strategies Unlimited, told me. He compared the direction that smart lighting is headed to the technological revolution that saw telephones turn into multitasking security blankets of connectedness.
But smart phones are also paramount symbols of product obsolescence—easy to break (though this wasn’t always the case), hard to repair, and constantly being updated. A study in Europe found that the average person disposes of his smart phone after 2.7 years, a service life barely longer than that of T-shirts or flip-flops. If the business model for L.E.D.s shifts toward mass-market bulbs of lower price and life span alongside “lightified products” that are subject to digital-age upgrade cycles, then the technology’s potentially radical challenge to repetitive consumption will—like the long-lasting incandescent bulb—end up being comfortably absorbed by consumer culture.
All of this would amount to little more than a business-school case study of history quirkily repeating itself, if it weren’t for the fact that finding an economic model for products that last is increasingly seen as critical to environmental sustainability.
“My starting point is, get the economics right,” Tim Cooper, a design professor who heads the sustainable-consumption research group at Nottingham Trent University, told me. It’s already possible to buy durable products, he said—Miele washing machines, Vitsoe shelving, Jaguar cars. But, because such products command premium prices, they remain niche goods; by Cooper’s estimate they make up less than five per cent of the market. To truly change a light bulb will require policy changes—whether regulatory, market-based, or voluntary within industries—that support longer product lifetimes.
In a 2010 book that he edited, “Longer Lasting Products,” Cooper suggests possible ways to accomplish this: Minimum standards of durability, repairability, and upgradeability. A decrease in taxes on labor and an increase on energy and raw materials, to help make it cheaper to repair or recondition things and more expensive to make new ones. Sales-tax rates based on product lifetimes. Longer consumer guarantees and warranties. Labelling programs or rating schemes that let consumers know how long stuff will last.
The economic model to aim for, Cooper said, is founded on people buying fewer, but better, products, and paying more across those products’ lifetimes. The manufacture of quality goods would employ more people, and the goods would sell at higher prices. A dramatic expansion of the repair-and-servicing sector, the secondhand market, and the sharing economy would provide additional levels of commercial activity. And while consumers would likely end up spending less money on stuff over all, that would free up income for services and investment.
Such visions date back at least to 1982, when an O.E.C.D. report urged governments to address the volume of solid waste by encouraging more durable products, but they remain little studied or implemented. Almost thirty-five years later, Cooper, who has been researching product durability since the early nineties, couldn’t name any instances when national governments or world bodies implemented policies to promote longer life spans. (I wrote about outdoor retailer Patagonia’s seemingly incongruous attempt to address consumerism last year.) Politically speaking, the reason is obvious: even advocates such as Cooper describe the transformation of a consumer economy fuelled by obsolescence as a “radical, systemic change” that is likely, at least in the short term, to slow economic growth. “This may be unacceptable to governments, which use economic growth as their primary performance indicator,” Cooper notes, rather dryly, in “Longer Lasting Products.”
The first international academic conference on product durability took place last year, in Nottingham, England; also in 2015, a consortium of environmental organizations, ranging from the California-based repair wiki iFixit to European government agencies, issued a joint call for longer-lasting goods. Sustainability thinkers increasingly recognize that the efforts of industrialized nations to “decouple” economic growth from its environmental impacts have not succeeded. Despite a conspicuous boom in energy-efficient, recyclable, biodegradable, and nontoxic products on the market, resource exploitation continues to intensify—the footprint of annual global consumption now exceeds the replacement rate of the planet’s resources by one and a half times. (It would be four times if everyone on Earth consumed like the average American.) Perpetual, consumer-driven growth has proven staggeringly difficult to disentangle from impacts like pollution, resource depletion, energy consumption, and waste. Even purchasing eco-friendly products quickly becomes a zero-sum green game if we constantly buy more of them.
“We’re at the start of the policy process, but it’s looking quite promising,” Cooper said. “For many years I was a bit on my own.” The most important change that he advocates might also be the most difficult: a culture shift away from the pursuit of novelty, disposability, short-term value, and du jour fashion and technology. “What drives the throwaway culture? Well, often people want to have the newest and the latest,” he said. “But there are people who want to have the oldest and the best.”
The Livermore light is cosseted and cloistered today, dangling almost sixteen feet off the floor of the fire-station garage. But that wasn’t always the case. Sitting in Sanctuary Ultra Lounge, the bar that now operates out of the former fire hall on Livermore’s main street, Bramell recalled the days when the bulb hung over a workbench and whole crews would slap it—“bong!”—for good luck as they headed out on calls.
Today, every Livermore firefighter learns the tale of the bulb’s origin as part of crew orientation, which has given them a better-than-average appreciation for the tension between product lifetimes and the modern consumer economy. “It’s common sense to us that manufacturers have to put a finite life on products,” Bramell told me. “You wish at the same time that you’d have a product that would last forever.”
Among the many things New Yorkers pride ourselves on is food: making it, selling it and consuming only the best, from single-slice pizza to four-star sushi. We have fish markets, Shake Shacks and, as of this year, 74 Michelin-starred restaurants.
Yet most everything we eat is fraudulent.
In his new book, “Real Food Fake Food,” author Larry Olmsted exposes the breadth of counterfeit foods we’re unknowingly eating. After reading it, you’ll want to be fed intravenously for the rest of your life.–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
Think you’re getting Kobe steak when you order the $350 “Kobe steak” off the menu at Old Homestead? Nope — Japan sells its rare Kobe beef to just three restaurants in the United States, and 212 Steakhouse is the only one in New York. That Kobe is probably Wagyu, a cheaper, passable cut, Olmsted says. (Old Homestead declined The Post’s request for comment.)
Fraudulence spans from haute cuisine to fast food: A February 2016 report by Inside Edition found that Red Lobster’s lobster bisque contained a non-lobster meat called langostino. In a statement to The Post, Red Lobster maintains that langostino is lobster meat and said that in the wake of the IE report, “We amended the menu description of the lobster bisque to note the multiple kinds of lobster that are contained within.”
Moving on: That extra-virgin olive oil you use on salads has probably been cut with soybean or sunflower oil, plus a bunch of chemicals. The 100 percent grass-fed beef you just bought is no such thing — it’s very possible that cow was still pumped full of drugs and raised in a cramped feedlot.
Unless your go-to sushi joint is Masa or Nobu, you’re not getting the sushi you ordered, ever, anywhere, and that includes your regular sushi restaurant where you can’t imagine them doing such a thing, Olmsted says. Your salmon is probably fake and so is your red snapper. Your white tuna is something else altogether, probably escolar — known to experts as “the Ex-Lax fish” for the gastrointestinal havoc it wreaks.
Escolar is so toxic that it’s been banned in Japan for 40 years, but not in the US, where the profit motive dominates public safety. In fact, escolar is secretly one of the top-selling fish in America.
The food industry isn’t just guilty of perpetrating a massive health and economic fraud: It’s cheating us out of pleasure.
“Sushi in particular is really bad,” Olmsted says, and as a native New Yorker, he knows how much this one hurts. He writes that multiple recent studies “put the chances of your getting the white tuna you ordered in the typical New York sushi restaurant at zero — as in never.”
Fake food, Olmsted says, is a massive national problem, and the more educated the consumer, the more vulnerable to bait-and-switch: In 2014, the specialty-foods sector — gourmet meats, cheeses, booze, oils — generated over $1 billion in revenue in the US alone.
“This category is rife with scams,” Olmsted writes, and even when it comes to basics, none of us is leaving the grocery store without some product — coffee, rice or honey — being faked.
The food industry isn’t just guilty of perpetrating a massive health and economic fraud: It’s cheating us out of pleasure. These fake foods produce shallow, flat, one-dimensional tastes, while the real things are akin to discovering other galaxies, other universes — taste levels most of us have never experienced.
“The good news,” Olmsted writes, “is that there is plenty of healthful and delicious Real Food. You just have to know where to look.”
‘Safety isn’t a niche’
One of the most popular, fastest-growing foods in America is olive oil, touted for its ability to prevent everything from wrinkles to heart disease to cancer. Italian olive oil is a multibillion-dollar global industry, with the US its third-largest market.
The bulk of these imports are, you guessed it, fake. Labels such as “extra-virgin” and “virgin” often mean nothing more than a $2 mark-up. Most of us, Olmsted writes, have never actually tasted real olive oil.
“Once someone tries a real extra-virgin — an adult or child, anybody with taste buds — they’ll never go back to the fake kind,” artisanal farmer Grazia DeCarlo has said.
“It’s distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you’ve ever eaten. It makes you realize how rotten the other stuff is — literally rotten.”
Fake olive oil, Olmsted claims, has killed people. He cites the most famous example: In 1981, more than 20,000 people suffered mass food poisoning in Spain. About 800 people died, and olive oil mixed with aniline, a toxic chemical used in making plastic, was blamed.
In 1983, the World Health organization named the outbreak “toxic oil syndrome,” but subsequent investigations pointed to a different contaminant and a different food — pesticides used on tomatoes from Almeria. (Olmsted stands by his reporting.)
Some of the most common additives to olive oil are soybean and peanut oils, which can prove fatal to anyone allergic — and you’ll never see those ingredients on a label. Beware, too, of olive oil labeled “pure” — that can mean the oil is the lowest grade possible.
“No one is checking,” Olmsted writes.
How do we find the real thing? Olmsted recommends a few reliable retailers, including Oliviers & Co. in New York and New Jersey. Otherwise, look for labels reading “COOC Certified Extra Virgin” — the newly formed California Olive Oil Council’s stamp — or the international EVA and UNAPROL labels.
In terms of scope and scale, there’s an even greater level of fraud throughout the seafood industry. “Imagine if half the time you pulled into a gas station, you were filling your tank with dirty water instead of gasoline,” Olmsted writes. “That’s the story with seafood.”
He cites a 2012 study of New York City seafood done by scientists at Oceana, a nonprofit advocacy group. They discovered fakes at 58 percent of 81 stores sampled and at all of the 16 sushi restaurants studied, and this goes on throughout the United States. If you see the words “sushi grade” or “sashimi grade” on a menu, run. There are no official standards for use of the terms.
Red snapper, by the way, is almost always fake — it’s probably tilefish or tilapia. (Tilapia also doubles for catfish.)
“Consumers ask me all the time, ‘What can I do?’ and all I can say is, ‘Just don’t ever buy red snapper,’ ” Dr. Mark Stoeckle, a specialist in infectious diseases at Weill Medical College, told Olmsted. “Red snapper is the big one — when you buy it, you almost never get it.”
Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.
Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.
Shrimp is so bad that Olmsted rarely eats it. “I won’t buy it, ever, if it is farmed or imported,” he writes. In 2007, the FDA banned five kinds of imported shrimp from China; China turned around and routed the banned shrimp through Indonesia, stamped it as originating from there, and suddenly it was back in the US food supply.
Seafood fraud puts pregnant women at risk; high levels of mercury in fish are known to cause birth defects. Allergic reactions to shellfish have been known to cause paralysis.
“All the gross details you have heard about industrial cattle farming — from the widespread use of antibiotics and chemicals to animals living in their own feces and being fed parts of other animals they don’t normally consume — occurs in the seafood arena as well,” Olmsted writes. “Only it is much better hidden.”
Corruption in the seafood industry is so rife that in 2014, President Obama formed the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Seafood Fraud. In the meantime, Olmsted has some suggestions.
Look for the reliable logos MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) for wild-caught fish and BAP (Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices) for farmed, he says.
The most trusted logo is “Alaska Seafood: Wild, Natural, Sustainable.” Alaska’s system mandates complete supervision of chain of custody, from catching to your grocery store.
Perhaps most surprising of all: Discount big-box stores such as Costco, Trader Joe’s, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Walmart are as stringent with their standards as Whole Foods.
“When customers walk into a store, they don’t expect to have to pay a premium for safe food,” Walmart exec Brittni Furrow said in 2014. “Safety isn’t a niche.”
Your grass-fed cow was drugged
One of the simplest things we can do, Olmsted writes, is to look for products named after their geographical location. Grated Parmesan cheese is almost always fake, and earlier this year, the FDA said its testing discovered that some dairy products labeled “100% Parmesan” contained polymers and wood pulp.
That’s all the FDA did: You can still buy your woody cheese at the supermarket.
Parmigiano-Reggiano, however, derives its name from Parma, the region in Italy that’s produced this cheese for over 400 years. If you buy it with that label, it’s real.
Same with Roquefort cheese and Champagne from France, and San Marzano tomato sauce, Bologna meat and Chianti from Italy, and Scotch whisky from Scotland. Still, Olmsted strongly advises looking for the label PDO — Protected Designation of Origin, the highest guarantee of authenticity there is.
As for our own lax labeling standards, Olmsted is outraged. Ninety-one percent of American seafood is imported, but the FDA is responsible for inspecting just 2 percent of those imports. And in 2013, the agency inspected less than half of that 2 percent.
“The bar is so low,” he says. “Congress could not have given them less to do, and they still fail. They’re not clueless. They know. They’re actually deciding not to do it. They say they don’t have the budget.”
When it comes to beef, Olmstead reports that the USDA is no better; the agency repealed its standards for the “grass-fed” designation in January after pressure from the agriculture industry.
All that stamp now means, he says, is that in addition to grass, the animals “can still be raised in an industrial feed lot and given drugs. It just means the actual diet was grass rather than corn.”
If you don’t have access to a farmer’s market, Olmsted says that Eli’s and Citarella in New York are reliable providers of true grass-fed beef.
“Go up to the counter and ask them where the grass-fed beef comes from,” he says. “They need to know. In New York in particular, you have access to a lot of specialized gourmet stores, and you can source stuff locally. You can’t do that in most of the country.”
Encinitas in 2013 passed Proposition A, which mandates that voters must weigh in on any land-use changes in the city. Meanwhile, every city in California is required to update its housing element, a plan that shows how it will meet the growing demand for housing, every four years
But now AGENDA 21 is coming to town just like in every city in the USA. Crowding is required while land on the outskirts is devalued and forced into non use by environmentalists.
The prospect of building more homes is unpopular in all crowded communities, Encinitas included. Yet the city needs to demonstrate where it can build 1,200 housing units, its share of regional growth expectations.
Encinitas is now in a tough legal position. Local voters could reject the city’s plan to accommodate new housing – a plan required by state law.
”The court might very well say, ‘I don’t know that Prop. A is legal when it tries to stand in the way of something that you’re required by law to do,” Durkee said. “But if you can make it work, and you can secure (voter) support, then I don’t have a problem with you having done that, because it’s an issue that took care of itself.”
Legal trouble over housing law is nothing new for Encinitas. Developer David Meyers is already suing the cityit for not implementing a separate state law that lets developers build more homes on a property if the project includes low-income homes.
Meyers has now amended his lawsuit to include the discrepancy between Prop. A and the state’s housing element law.
Prop. A can’t keep the city from making good on a state requirement, he argues.
“You need to get it done, and you don’t need a vote of the people,” Meyers said. “You could have a vote, but it would only be advisory.”
Specifically, Meyers contends that state mandates trump local initiatives, like Prop. A.
Encinitas already abandoned one attempt to meet the mandate before a 2013 deadline, over dissatisfaction with specific areas a consultant suggested could be targeted for new development. It’s the only city in the county, and one of a few in the state, without a legal housing plan.
Missing that deadline exposed the city to lawsuits. In 2015, Encinitas settled a lawsuit with the Building Industry Association, which said the city needed to put an update on the November 2016 ballot, or give up its authority to issue building permits.
Meyers didn’t agree with the settlement. Putting the housing element to voter approval is as good as ignoring state law, he said.
“Do I think if it’s subject to voter approval it has a prayer? No, it doesn’t have a prayer,” Meyers said.
At one point, city staff proposed exempting housing element updates from the city’s requirement for voter approval. Staff removed that language after hearing from residents.
“The former draft zoning standards and land use element did suggest an exception to the voter requirement, and it did at one time suggest at one time that a supermajority of Council could make subsequent amendments without the need to go to a vote of the people,” planner Michael Strong said at a June 15 hearing.
This is the first time the city will send a housing element plan to the ballot. Two of the proposed changes in the plan are drawing widespread criticism from voters, especially those in Cardiff.
Hence, the uncertainty.
One of the unpopular changes is based on a guideline to build housing for lower-income residents more densely.
Ghettos are going to be built in Encinitas!
The second change would raise the maximum building height to three stories in certain areas, lifting a two-story limit that was established by Prop. A.
The city previously tried to get creative with solutions for providing affordable units, which would have limited the number of properties that needed the taller, denser buildings.
That was a so-called granny flat program that tried to encourage homeowners to bring illegal, additional units on their properties up to code so they would count as affordable housing. But the granny-flat idea was a flop.
Fourteen distinct sites are targeted for the new zoning in the plan that will go to voters, including one in Cardiff where the City Council removed the three-story height increase over objections from residents.
Those sites were chosen through a two-year process of community meetings and workshops, and some of the sites that were originally designated for upzoning were removed from the final map after residents protested.
Durkee, the land-use law attorney, said at the Council meeting that he’s supportive of sending the draft to voters, but it’s unlikely that a defeat at the ballot box is the end of the process.
The environmental lobby will sue them into submission.
“Ultimately, I don’t think the vote, if it’s no, will be the last, and ‘My goodness, we dodged a bullet and can go back to business as usual,’” he said.
If voters approve the plan, state housing authorities will then check that it doesn’t constrain development. Strong said state approval would also mean the city would need to update its climate action plan to be consistent with the housing element within 20 months.
That, too, could trigger another vote under Prop. A, but Strong said he believed the timeline was achievable.
Still, Meyers said a plan that can win support from development-averse voters probably isn’t one that will actually attract developers to build the new homes envisioned in the plan.
“The question is: Is the (plan) that’s being pushed capable of being built at the density they’re proposing,” he said. “I have great doubt.”
Soylent green is going to be made of people…..
Encinitas has placed itself in a tough legal position. Local voters could reject the city’s plan to accommodate new housing – a plan required by state law. Encinitas is the only city in the county, and one of a few in the state, without a legal housing plan.
The upper middle class grew to 29.4 percent of the population in 2014, up from 12.9 percent in 1979. The rich – those making $350,000 or more – also grew, from 0.1 percent of the population in 1.8 percent of the population. The middle class, however – once considered the backbone of the American economic order – shrunk from 38.8 percent to 32 percent of the population during the same time. The Urban Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank, defines the middle class as those making $50,000 to $100,000 per year. The lower middle makes $30,000 to $50,000 per year, those defined as “poor” make less than $30,000 per year.
Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.
The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.
One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.
The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.
Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.
Haaretz published an extract from a letter sent by the Ministry of Health to units administering the drug. Doctors were told “not to renew prescriptions for Depo Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment”.
Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: “Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Health’s director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines.”
Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.
But what does the article actually say?
A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.
Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu has instructed the four health maintenance organizations to stop the practice as a matter of course.
The ministry and other state agencies had previously denied knowledge or responsibility for the practice, which was first reported five years ago.
Gamzu’s letter instructs all gynecologists in the HMOs “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.”
He also instructed physicians to avail themselves of translators if need be.
Gamzu’s letter came in response to a letter from Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, representing several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrants’ groups. The letter demanded the injections cease immediately and that an investigation be launched into the practice.
About six weeks ago, on an Educational Television program journalist Gal Gabbay revealed the results of interviews with 35 Ethiopian immigrants. The women’s testimony could help explain the almost 50-percent decline over the past 10 years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community. According to the program, while the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the injection. “They told us they are inoculations,” said one of the women interviewed. “They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”
First of all, Israeli doctors admitted offering Depo-Provera years ago to those who want it. In June 2008, the health minister of the time, Yaacov Ben Yezri, “said the high number of Ethiopians in Israel using the drug reflected a ‘cultural preference’ for injections among Ethiopians.” Whether this is true or not, it shows that Ha’aretz is sloppy already in the first paragraph – they meant to claim that Israel acknowledged injecting the drug without permission.
But does that memo really say that?
The TV special that claimed that these women were coerced into taking the drug aired about six weeks ago. Isn’t it possible that this memo was more to show caution that there might have been some women who misunderstood the use of the drug or the options they have for birth control? That’s the way the quoted part reads tome. It certainly doesn’t admit that Israeli doctors were conspiring to sterilize Ethiopian women, as Ha’aretz alleges – and as other media have willingly published.
Now let’s look at the earlier article about the TV investigation:
Women who immigrated from Ethiopia eight years ago say they were told they would not be allowed into Israel unless they agreed to be injected with the long-acting birth control drug Depo Provera, according to an investigative report aired Saturday on the Israel Educational Television program “Vacuum.”
The women say that while waiting in transit camps in Ethiopia prior to immigration they were placed in family planning workshops where they were coaxed into agreeing to the injection – a charge denied by both the Joint Distribution Committe, which ran the clinics, and the Health Ministry.
“We said we won’t have the shot. They told us, if you don’t you won’t go to Israel And also you won’t be allowed into the Joint (American Joint Distribution Committee) office, you won’t get aid or medical care. We were afraid… We didn’t have a choice. Without them and their aid we couldn’t leave there. So we accepted the injection. It was only with their permission that we were allowed to leave,” recounted Emawayish, who immigrated from Ethiopia eight years ago.
Emawayish was one of 35 women, whose stories were recorded by Sebba Reuven, that relate how they were coaxed and threatened into agreeing to receive the injectable birth control drug.
The birth rate among Israel’s Ethiopian immigrant population has dropped nearly 20 percent in 10 years.
According to the report, the women were given the Depo Provera injections in the family planning workshops in transit camps, a practice that continued once they reached Israel. The women who were interviewed for the investigation reported that they were told at the transit camps that having many children would make their lives more difficult in Ethiopia and in Israel, and even that they would be barred from coming to Israel if they refused.
If true, this is indeed terrible. But the denials in that program were no less emphatic:
The Joint said in a response to “Vacuum” that its family planning workshops are among the services it provides to immigrants, who learn about spacing out their children’s birth, “but we do not advise them to have small families. It is a matter of personal choice, but we tell them it is possible. The claims by the women according to which ‘refusal to have the injection will bar them from medical care [and] economic aid and threaten their chances to immigrate to Israel are nonsense. The medical team does not intervene directly or indirectly in economic aid and the Joint is not involved in the aliyah procedures. With regard to the use of Depo Provera, studies indicate that is the most popular form of birth control among women in Ethiopia,” the Joint said.
In its response to “Vacuum,” the Health Ministry said it did not “recommend or try to encourage the use of Depo Provera, and that if these injections were used it was against our position. The Health Ministry provides individual family counseling in the framework of its well baby clincs and this advice is also provided by the physicians of the health maintenance organizations.”
The Jewish Agency, which is responsible for Jewish immigration from abroad, said in response that it takes a harsh view of any effort to interfere in the family planning processes of Ethiopian immigrants, adding that “while the JA has never held family planning workshops for this group in Ethiopia or at immigrant absorption centers in Israel, the immigrant transit camp in Gondar, as the investigation noted, was previously operated by other agencies.”
Three separate organizations on two continents are accused of performing the same reprehensible practice, a practice that would involve an unusual amount of collusion and conspiracy. But not one doctor from these agencies has come forward to verify the claims.
Yet another denial was published in a blog when the report first came out, from a doctor at The Joint:
JDC runs the medical program in Gondar for potential immigrants to Israel. As part of this, we offer voluntary contraception to our population. Our clinic offers both birth control pills and injectable contraception. If a woman prefers another method of contraception such as implantable or tubal ligation, we send them to facilities down the road in the city of Gondar for this.
Women come to the program because they desire family planning. We present the various options to them and they choose. So women both choose to use contraception and choose their method. And choose when to discontinue contraception. It has always been that way in our program.
Right now we’re caring for about 4500 potential immigrants to Israel. We average about 85 family planning visits each month.
We do not inform the Israeli authorities who is on family planning, and I have no idea what happens once they arrive in Israel.
Regarding the rate of 30% reported some years ago, we offered family planning to the population at a time when it was less available to the general public, and our population chose to use it.
At present, the rate of modern contraceptive use in Amhara Region is 33% indicating a significant demand, as contraceptive services have become more available to the public. Even now, there is an unmet demand for contraceptive services in this region of over 20%. To give you an idea of the rise in this service, in 2005, 15.7% used modern contraception in Amhara region.
Injectable contraceptives are the most desired throughout the country. They are easy, culturally preferred, and offer the ability to be on birth control without a woman informing her husband, which is an issue here.
I appreciate the chance to set this record straight.
Rick Hodes, MD, MACP
Medical Director, AJJDC-Ethiopia
Update 9:50 am CST – I followed up with Dr. Hodes to make sure there was no mistake about what he was saying:
“So to be clear, you’re saying that you personally never told any woman that she would have to take Depo-Provera shots in order to immigrate to Israel? The women claim that JDC workers from Israel told them they had to do it. Is that claim to the best of your knowledge false?”
Dr. Hodes replied:
To the best of my knowledge, this claim is 100% false.
Neither myself nor my staff have ever told any women in our program that they should take Depo-Provera for any reason. 100% of Depo-Provera shots are purely voluntary, and may be discontinued (or changed to another method) at any time.
In fact, we don’t have JDC workers from Israel come and tell women
So how can these contradictory claims be reconciled? The idea that the Joint, the Jewish Agency and the Health Ministry are all lying might work for anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, but it is hardly credible.
My guess – and it is only a guess – is that Ethiopian women were generally enthusiastic about the idea of birth control. And as Dr. Hodes says, the idea of injectable contraception was appealing to them – because they don’t have to tell their husbands.
This is the key to understanding the story. The Ethiopian husbands would generally be averse to their wives taking birth control, so they must do it in secret – and the Depo-Provera is by far the best method to keep their husbands from knowing. They simply tell them that they were receiving inoculations or some other excuse.
Now, when the men start getting suspicious as to why they aren’t having kids, how many of the wives will admit that they are secretly taking contraception? It is much easier to come up with a story about how it all happened without their knowledge, or how they were forced to do it against their will.
I am not denying that there is racism in Israel, just as there is everywhere else. I can certainly believe that some Israeli doctors may be more likely to recommend the Depo-Provera injection for black women than their whiter patients. I can believe that the frustration of not being able to communicate can result in sub-par care, and in not explaining the contraceptive options that they have. It is very possible that the doctors did not properly inform the women of the (sometimes serious) side effects that Depo-Provera has. The TV program helped expose these fissures in the care being given to Ethiopian women. This would naturally result in the Gamzu memo that Ha’aretz reported so eagerly.
The idea that doctors – especially in doctors who willingly travel to Ethiopia, people who would be among the most dedicated medical professionals on the planet – would conspire to effectively sterilize black women is simply not plausible.
Ha’aretz, and the gullible hateful media that follows it slavishly, was actively trying to demonize Israeli health officials and organizations that are dedicated to helping people – in order to report a scoop. The facts that we are aware of today, however, do not add up to the claims being made.
Perhaps my theory isn’t 100% correct. I’m the first to admit that we don’t have all the facts. But what I am suggesting fits the facts we do know much better than the yellow journalism being practiced in this case.
UPDATE: Mordy in the comments points to a 2005 study that says exactly what I was guessing:
Because contraceptives may introduce social discord, leading at times to intimate partners’ violence amongst African couples, women of low bargaining powers often resort to family planning methods that are suitable to covert use.
Women can take injections of Depo-Provera while visiting a health facility and remain protected against unwanted pregnancies for three months. This may be done without their husband’s knowledge and without the bother of having to remember to take the pill or to undergo clinical procedures that are involved when opting for implants or intrauterine devices. Consequently, a general pattern that has been observed in the contraceptive method mix in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the developing world is the predominance of injectables.
If a reporter visits one or fifty of these women and asks if they took the injections voluntarily, what do you think they would say?
UPDATE 2: Reuters did a tiny bit of actual reporting and asked Gamzu whether his memo was an admittance that Israel is forcibly giving the drug to Ethiopian women:
Ministry Director-General Roni Gamzu said the decision did not imply he accepted the allegations by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Ha’aretz’ misinterpretation of the memo, as I wrote above, was the linchpin for the entire story.
This is looking more and more like Ha’aretz’ version of the “Racist Jews steal organs from Arabs and Haitians” story that the anti-semites love to push
About fricking TIME: make the Internal Revenue Service go away, and the largest conservative group in Congress is endorsing just that.
But they could also make it worse with a “flat tax that is higher”
The Republican Study Committee, which counts over two-thirds of House of Representatives Republicans as its members, called recently for “the complete elimination of the IRS.”
The committee’s support for this idea, once confined to the fringes of conservative ideology, suggests it is more widely accepted on Capitol Hill than ever. But many in Washington, including some Republicans, have trouble taking it seriously.
Calls to abolish the IRS have not been well thought through, said Republican Representative Charles Boustany in an interview.
“Before we start making blanket statements about abolishing the IRS, I think it’s important to focus on what the tax code for the 21st century should look like,” said Boustany, who does not belong to the 172-member study committee.
The question is does Boustany have so many deductions that he pays a much lower tax bill?
In an election year of dramatic rhetoric that is often short on details, the committee’s proposal, released April 22 and echoing language from a March budget plan, is brief.
As part of a wider appeal for federal tax reform, the committee says simply: “This proposal takes the bold step of calling for the complete elimination of the IRS. Tax collection and enforcement activities would be moved to a new, smaller and more accountable department at the Treasury.”
No further specifics were offered for how to replace an agency that is already part of Treasury, collected $3.3 trillion in revenue in 2015, and processed 240 million tax returns.
Texas Representative Bill Flores, chairman of the study committee, was not available for comment. His spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said the IRS closure proposal should be seen as part of a larger push for comprehensive tax reform.
Steven Rosenthal, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a think tank , said, “We are in an election year, and bashing the IRS is particularly attractive in an election year.”
From a global perspective, the IRS does a good job, Rosenthal said, noting that U.S. income tax compliance is about 82 percent, one of the highest levels in the world.
Still, in the United States, antipathy for the IRS is widespread and long-standing. One of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s biggest applause lines on the campaign trail is, “Imagine abolishing the IRS!”
Asked recently about Cruz’s line and calls to close the agency, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said: “If you want to call it something other than the IRS and that makes you feel better, that’s okay with me. But ultimately you got to have somebody somewhere who collects the information, audits it and makes sure it’s accurate and valid and collects the funding.”
Some Democrats scoff at the IRS closure proposal. “If there are problems at the IRS … we can straighten it out,” said Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, adding Republicans should be wary of advocating an idea that “sounds Trumpish.”
Donald Trump, the anti-establishment front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has not called for the abolition of the IRS.
Congress has cut the IRS’s budget 17 percent in real terms since 2010. In mid-April, the House approved several IRS-bashing bills, including one to prevent it from making new hires until Treasury certifies no agency employees are seriously delinquent on taxes themselves.
The IRS is a long-time congressional punching bag but Republicans have been hitting it harder since the IRS several years ago applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status between 2010 and 2012 and came under attack for it from Republicans.
Republican Representative Rob Woodall of Georgia has introduced a bill every year since he entered Congress in 2011 to eliminate income taxes and abolish the IRS.
Support for Woodall’s bill has grown to 73 co-sponsors, including the heads of the House tax and budget committees, but it has never advanced. Nor has a similar bill in the Senate.
It was unclear how House Speaker Paul Ryan would treat the study committee’s proposal in drafting a party policy agenda ahead of the Republican convention in Cleveland in July.
“The speaker welcomes input from the RSC and all members of our conference,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. Ryan has sidestepped calls for abolishing the IRS in the past, while frequently criticizing the agency.
By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It’s a U.S. taxpayer’s dream: make the Internal Revenue Service go away, and the largest conservative group in Congress is endorsing just that. The Republican Study Committee, which counts over two-thirds of House of Representatives Republicans as its
A Supreme Court order issued today closes the book on (or perhaps merely ends this chapter of) more than a decade of legal warfare between Google and the Authors Guild over the legality of the former’s scanning without permission of millions of copyrighted books. And the final word is: it’s fair use
The order is just an item in a long list of other orders that appeared today, and adds nothing to the argument except the tacit approval of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals 2015 decision — itself approving an even earlier decision, that of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2013. So in a way, it’s old news.The 2013 decision found that the scanning of books (provided for that purpose by libraries) was not a violation of copyright, owing to its being “transformative” — in a technical sense. The books were not simply being resold or the like, but were being used for a new and creative purpose: a search engine for books that were frequently out of print or copyright. It doesn’t provide a “substitute” for the original work, and the court accepted Google’s argument that it was in fact doing a public service as well as providing authors with new audiences.
The Appeals court found that decision sound, and now the Supreme Court has, at least, declined to examine it, which is as much as saying it’s fine with them.
Naturally, the Authors Guild is furious. Executive director Mary Rasenberger lashed out in a press release:
Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit’s ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books… The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture.
The vituperative tone may cause eye-rolling in some who find the fair use case to be an obvious one, but Rasenberger does go on to make broader, more philosophical observations that are food for thought:
Authors are already among the most poorly paid workers in America; if tomorrow’s authors cannot make a living from their work, only the independently wealthy or the subsidized will be able to pursue a career in writing, and America’s intellectual and artistic soul will be impoverished.
The denial of review is further proof that we’re witnessing a vast redistribution of wealth from the creative sector to the tech sector, not only with books, but across the spectrum of the arts.
It’s fuel for the ongoing argument about whether and how technology enables and damages the creation and distribution of art, be it literary, musical or visual. This decision is, I think, the right one, but there are hard questions that it doesn’t answer. Copyright is at best a deeply flawed system as it stands legislated today, though few will argue with the concept of legal protections of creative works.
That said, any copyright policy (or lawsuit) that fails to acknowledge the vastly different world those works enter into today versus even a few years ago is bound to crumble in time. And, for that matter, any effort sufficiently advanced of concept will certainly invite legal scrutiny and obstruction. Not every such effort can wage a decade-long legal battle, so alas, many a far-reaching project will be (and has been) smothered at the earliest stages.
The Guild will “keep fighting” and promised to act as watchdog over Google (although the Books project isn’t nearly as active as it once was) while pursuing its own solution to the question of mass online distribution and indexing.
A Supreme Court order issued today closes the book on (or perhaps merely ends this chapter of) more than a decade of legal warfare between Google and the Authors Guild over the legality of the…
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The prohibition of MDMA and hallucinogenic mushrooms restricts “cognitive liberty,” according to some activists.
By the time drug-policy lawyer Charlotte Walsh took to the stage on the final day of the recent Horizons Psychedelic Conference, we had already heard several persuasive talks on the benefits of psychedelic substances. Rick Doblin had spoken about the successful treatment of PTSD with MDMA, Draulio Barros de Araujo described his work combatting depression with ayahuasca, and Stephen Ross discussed his study administering psilocybin to cancer patients.
I had met Ross two years prior, while covering his psychedelic research. The psychiatrist had spent years and a small fortune obtaining the government’s permission to run an extremely limited study. The stakes were high. Without exemptions from the DEA and other agencies, Ross and his NYU team could have faced punishments as severe as life imprisonment. But the risk was worth it: The researchers were able to critically reduce end-of-life anxiety in the vast majority of their patients with targeted therapy aided by a single dose of psilocybin.
These clinical gains run counter to increasingly prohibitive trends exemplified by Holland’s 2008 ban on hallucinogenic mushrooms and the U.K.’s Psychoactive Substances Act of 2016. This recent law automatically renders illegal all substances capable of altering emotions or mental functioning unless specifically exempted.
According to Charlotte Walsh of the anti-prohibitionist Ayahuasca Defense Fund, that kind of blanket drug prohibition is a violation of international human-rights law. Walsh sees parallels between the drug war and the legal battles for racial equality, as well as gay and reproductive rights. She and her colleagues across Europe and North America hope to use the U.S. Bill of Rights and the European Charter on Human Rights to build a cognitive-liberty-based case against drug prohibition.
I spoke with Walsh recently about her current efforts and the prospects for success at home and abroad.
Morin: What would a human-rights-based drug defense look like?
Walsh: Generally, when people are prosecuted for psychedelic use, the defense focuses on technicalities rather than challenging the prohibitive framework itself. On the rare occasions when they do challenge prohibition, they tend to employ a rights-based framework—namely, arguing that their client’s human rights have been infringed by psychedelic drug prohibition. Rights-based defenses have historically been either pleas for therapeutic or religious exemptions from prohibition.
Morin: What is the legal basis for drug prohibition?
Walsh: Within the parameters of the U.K. Misuse of Drugs Act [equivalent to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act] the issue is ostensibly based around the idea of harm. We have an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is a group of scientists in different realms that the government consults when a drug is going to be scheduled or reclassified. The council then carries out a wholesale review of the substance and makes a recommendation for or against prohibition or reclassification. There has been a trend though where the government will ask the Advisory Council to carry out such a review and then just completely ignore their results and do what they want to do. As a stark example, when MDMA was being reevaluated for reclassification, before the results were even in, they issued a public statement saying, effectively, “Don’t worry, whatever they find, we’re not going to change anything.”
An alcohol user can alter their consciousness freely despite the proven risks while a psychedelic user faces heavy punishment.
Morin: What results have they been ignoring?
Walsh: There was an extensive U.K. government study carried out in 2010 by a team under David Nutt that measured various substances in terms of harms to society and the individual. That study showed that alcohol is the overall forerunner in terms of harm, and tobacco comes close after that. A lot of the Class A drugs [equivalent to Schedule I in the US] and psychedelic drugs in particular were at the opposite end of that scale showing very low risk of harm.
Morin: Did the government refute the study or did they ignore it?
Walsh: They basically ignored it. In relation to the alcohol and tobacco findings, obviously nobody has called for their prohibition. An alcohol user can alter their consciousness freely despite the proven risks while a psychedelic user faces heavy punishment. It’s arbitrary discrimination. The government’s response to the Nutt study has been that drug policy isn’t based solely on science, it’s also based on cultural and historical precedent.
Morin: Is that an admission that the harm-based justification for prohibition no longer applies?
Walsh: It’s certainly evidence that it’s applied inconsistently and arbitrarily. From a human-rights-based perspective, everybody’s rights should be protected equally unless there’s a good reason why you’re treating a group differently. I don’t think that saying “culturally and historically this is what we’ve always done” is legitimate. You can’t say that about racial discrimination, for instance.
Morin: So, the current argument is that illegal drugs are bad because they’re illegal?
Walsh: Basically, and it goes beyond that. We have a recently elected Conservative government in the U.K., and they’ve produced something called the Psychoactive Substances Act. It’s a piece of legislation that renders it unlawful to trade in any substance capable of producing a psychoactive effect of any kind regardless of harm or benefit. If you read the text of the Act, it’s extraordinary, most notably its lack of any reference to the concept of harm.
Morin: How do they define “psychoactive” exactly?
Walsh: Any substance that alters your emotional state or mental functioning. It openly states that we [the government] think we have the right to stop you from altering your psychological state. It’s strange that’s something they believe they should have the power to do.
Morin: I assume there are exemptions for alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
Walsh: Yes, for culturally accepted substances. This legislation is potentially so broad that prior to its enactment the government felt compelled to write to bishops to reassure them that the incense used in church services would not become illegal, despite its being mildly psychoactive.
Morin: What does that kind of blanket ban indicate to you in terms of legislative intent?
Walsh: The tradition in English law was always to intervene as little as possible. That concept has been dying in more recent years. This reverses that presumption, replacing it with an assumption that you can’t do something unless the government explicitly says you can. This violates classic liberalism, where you have the concept of limitations of power, as most famously espoused by legal theorist John Stuart Mill. How much power can the state legitimately hold over the individual? Mill laid down the principle as prevention of harm to others. So, from that perspective, the kind of paternalism we’re seeing, both in the operation of the Misuse of Drugs Act and the fundamental aims of this new piece of legislation is illegitimate.
Even if you could make a case for that kind of paternalism, how can imprisonment possibly be for our own good?
Morin: Paternalism in terms of protecting people from themselves?
Walsh: Exactly. It’s inherently infantilizing. Even if you could make a case for that kind of paternalism, how can imprisonment possibly be for our own good? In the majority of cases, the primary and often only harm being suffered by the individual is due to the punishment imposed rather than from the substance use itself.
Morin: How do you intend to build a human-rights case against drug prohibition?
Walsh: There are different ways in which you can approach it. Article 8 [in the European Convention on Human Rights] guarantees the right to privacy. In Mexico, there was a Supreme Court ruling that for individuals to grow and use cannabis was a human right connected to the right to privacy. Here in the U.K. recently, there was an all-party parliamentary group looking at drug-policy reform, and one of the things that they said is that drug-possession laws are potentially a breach of our Article 8 right to privacy. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen an official source using that kind of human rights-based argument. I think that is a really promising development.
Morin: The suggestion is that drug use should be a private choice?
Walsh: It should be a private choice as long as it doesn’t harm others. The vast majority of police stops and searches in our streets are for drugs rather than anything else, which is an obvious violation of privacy. Read more broadly, the right to privacy equates with our ability to become who we want to be. Mill, again, was a strong proponent of experiments in living as an important means for self-discovery. The question is, should we be entrusting the government to determine what’s valuable to us? It’s through our own choices, including whether or not to ingest substances, that we engage in a process of self-creation.
Morin: It seems like there are stronger laws in place to prevent a patient from being medicated against their will than there are permitting self-medication. How similar are those two concepts?
Walsh: It’s based on the same argument—the freedom to control your own consciousness and the mechanisms of your thinking. With psychedelics, it’s one of those areas where people who have experienced profound alterations of consciousness will often see merit in these arguments, and people who haven’t are often not very open to them. I think you have to be very careful about how you construct your argument. It’s about liberty. It’s about an abuse of state powers. You want to get people on board who are aren’t necessarily interested in altering their consciousness, but who are interested in curbing what the state can and can’t do.
Morin: Medical arguments have broadly relaxed prohibition of marijuana in this country. Do you see that extending further?
Walsh: I do, but I also think that the medical model is problematic in its own right. I think we need more of a holistic definition of health. Right now, we’re talking about simply the absence of illness—whether it’s physical or mental. We should be talking about allowing individuals to flourish, to develop beyond basic well-being.
Morin: Besides the right to privacy, what other rights do you see influencing the legitimacy of prohibition?
Walsh: Article 9 guarantees religious freedom, so, basically, if you consider the drug you use to be a sacrament, then banning it is a form of religious persecution. In the States, you have a more doctrinal approach to what constitutes a religion. There’s a test. Is there a holy book and a central belief system? There’s a list of things you can work through. In Europe, we don’t have that. We have this loose interpretation of what religious belief is. It can even cover atheism, for example. Indeed, any belief system of significance to you can potentially be covered. The court tends to accept that, but then they say that your ability to manifest that religious belief—for example by drinking ayahuasca—has to be balanced against the public interest in you not doing it. And so, in cases involving ayahuasca, they’ve said that its illegality is proof of its danger, which in and of itself proves that the public interest in your not taking it outweighs your interest in taking it. It’s a circular argument that renders the whole process absolutely meaningless.
Morin: Taking your example, can you talk about why someone would want to use ayahuasca?
Walsh: There have been a lot of studies, and the overall conclusion seem to be that the long-term psychological well-being of people who use it is actually higher than control groups who have never used it. It has thousands of years of cultural history behind it. Then, of course you have the anecdotal evidence of many individuals saying that using ayahuasca has been a very beneficial and transformative experience.
Morin: A lot of people seem to think that the religious argument has the best chance of succeeding here in the U.S.
Walsh: Right. It has already been successful in the U.S. Courts have allowed exemptions in certain cases with ayahuasca, and with the Native American Church and peyote. There have been similar rulings in other countries—Holland and Chile, for example, but nothing like that here in the U.K. Interestingly, in the U.K., judges rejecting human-rights arguments have argued that they are bound by the international system of drug prohibition and therefore can’t make exemptions. In U.S. courts though, that sort of argument has been discarded with barely a second glance. The prosecution has raised the fact that exemptions are against international law and the judiciary has said that it doesn’t trump religious freedom.
Morin: If religious freedom is weaker in the U.K., is there a freedom of speech argument that could be made instead?
Walsh: More broadly under Article 9 is the right to freedom of thought, which is closely linked to freedom of speech, given that our thoughts precede our speech. From that perspective, the idea is that we should be allowed to think what we want—and it’s not just the actual contents of thinking that are important here, but also the processes of thinking. If psychedelics and other drugs can allow you to access different mind states, by preventing access, we’re interfering with true freedom of thought. These substances, as precursors, allow you to think in entirely different ways—which can be beneficial. The idea that psychedelics can actually improve an individual’s life is rarely taken into account, and taking them because they give pleasure is not even considered—as if pleasure were something to be ashamed of. The individual shouldn’t be required to prove that these substances are risk-free, because few things in life are—rather it should be up to the state to prove, with scientific evidence, that the risks justify the damage to our civil liberties. In the absence of that, it is impossible that say that this is truly a free society.
Greece’s debt crisis has affected each and every area of the country’s economic activity, including the sex industry, resulting in young Greek women selling their services for the lowest price in Europe.
Following almost six years of crisis, sex workers have had to dramatically cut prices, driving central and eastern European women who used to dominate the industry out of business, a three-year study compiling data on more than 17,000 sex workers shows.
Before the crisis hit the country, the average price for sex with a prostitute was €50 ($53). Today, it has plummeted to as low as €2 ($2.12) for thirty minutes. With the unemployment level reaching almost 60 percent, more and more women are joining the industry, raising more than €600 million (almost $638) annually.
“Some women just do it for a cheese pie, or a sandwich they need to eat because they are hungry,” Gregory Lazos, a professor of sociology at Panteion University in Athens and lead author of the research, told the London Times newspaper. “Others [do it] to pay taxes, bills, for urgent expenses or a quick [drug] fix.”
The number of sex workers living on the edge seems to be on the rise, Lazos said. The professor is known for a number of publications on the subject, including two volumes specifically dedicated to prostitution in Greece.
“Most worrying,” he told the Times, “is it doesn’t look like these numbers will fade; rather they are growing at a steady and consistent pace.”
The prices for sex are falling not only in Greece, but all over the world as well, reportedly caused by the internet giving access to adult content. However, the average price of a one-hour encounter in Europe is €255 ($271). Broadly speaking, the prices in Greece are fifty times lower than on average on the continent.
“Factor in the growing number of girls who drift in and out of the trade, depending on their needs, and the total number of female prostitutes is startling,” Mr Lazos said. “Greek women now dominate 80 percent of the trade.”
Prostitution is legal in Greece, but only 10 brothels in the country actually have a license, meaning women have no other choice but to go to the streets or private dens.
“State authorities, police and health officials must finally act rather than continuing to remain indifferent,” Lazos concluded.
Greece has been struggling with financial crisis since late 2009. After numerous rounds of negotiations, the Greek government introduced a number of austerity measures required for bailout. These have turned out to be a serious blow to the more vulnerable sectors of the
Greece’s debt crisis has affected each and every area of the country’s economic activity, including the sex industry, resulting in young Greek women selling their services for the lowest price in Europe.
Japan has officially stated to the UN that it did not force Asian women to become sex slaves during World War II. This comes despite the Japanese government signing a landmark deal with South Korea, settling the issue of “comfort women” a month ago.
Japan has officially stated to the UN that it did not force Asian women to become sex slaves during World War II. This comes despite the Japanese government signing a landmark deal with South Korea, settling the issue of “comfort women” a month ago.
Tokyo was asked to provide written answers to questions put forward by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Japanese government stated that there was no evidence that the women were forced into sexual slavery as it sent the reply ahead of the organization’s planned committee meeting, which starts February 15 in Geneva.
“The government of Japan has conducted a full-scale fact-finding study on the comfort women issue since the early 1990s when the issue started to be taken up as a political issue between Japan and the Republic of Korea,” the Japanese statement said, as cited by the Yonhap News Agency.
The Japanese authorities said they conducted a study into the issue, which looked at documents from various Japanese government agencies. They also spoke to relevant individuals and former military figures.
“Forceful taking away of comfort women by the military and government authorities could not be confirmed in any of the documents,” it said.
The claims led to a damning response from South Korea for its continued denials regarding its coercion of Korean women into sexual slavery.
“Seoul should officially rebuke this argument and discuss the issue from square one as Japan has broken the deal,” said Yoon Mi-hyang, head of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a non-government organization for the victims, according to the Korean Times.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on January 18 that the term “comfort women” should not be used to describe “sex slaves.”
“The term ‘sex slaves’ doesn’t match the facts, and (the Japanese government) believes it should not be used,” Kishida stated, as cited by the Japan Times.
Kishida also said the South Korean government has confirmed that the formal term used by Seoul is “victims of the comfort women issue of the Japanese military,” not “sex slaves.”
It had seemed in December that Japan was finally ready to concede that it was ready to apologize for the enslaving of tens of thousands of ‘comfort women’ from South Korea.
The agreement on December 28 between South Korea and Japan was considered a landmark deal and concerns decades of animosity because of the failure to agree that Korean women were forced into sex slavery run by the Japanese empire for soldiers.
Under the deal, Japan said it would pay one billion yen (about $8.3 million) in compensation.
“The comfort women issue… occurred with the involvement of the Japanese military… and the Japanese government acutely feels its responsibility,” Kishida said, according to Channel News Asia. He added that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed an “apology and repentance from the bottom of his heart” to those affected by the tragedy.
However, following Sunday’s comments by the Japanese government, the Korean authorities are now questioning whether the December agreement was sincere.
“The Korean government should respond to the undermining of the agreement sternly,” Kim Yeol-su, an international politics professor at Sungshin Women’s University said, according to the Korean Times. “It reflects that Japan did not engage in the deal sincerely in the first place.”
Meanwhile, the Korean Foreign Ministry says it is considering countermeasures following the Japanese declaration.
“As there was no exact wording on coercion in the deal, it is not a matter of breaking the accord,” Cho June-hyuck, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “But we are mulling over how to respond to such a move since we are taking it as an official position of the Japanese government.”
Last December, the United States joined 194 other countries in signing the first ever agreement to address climate change. While the delegates in Paris were tinking wine glasses over the 12-page agreement, politicians in Washington were grumbling about how bad the deal was for America.
Those grumbles continued today in a hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Chaired by Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, the hearing offered a glimpse of how the Republicans plan to oppose the landmark climate deal.
And no surprise, it’s a basically a continuation of their arguments from the last several decades:
- Question the economics adapting to so called climate change,
- question the science and manipulation of data attempting to prove it,
- and question legality of President Obama’s approach to dealing with the issue.
Playing the role of “The Paris agreement is bad for business,” was Stephen Eule, Vice President for Climate and Technology, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He began by discussing the futility of meeting the Paris agreement’s goals. “As a recent State Department report demonstrates,” he read from his prepared statement. “The US Paris pledge of a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 level by 2025 is completely unrealistic, and the administration still has no plan to achieve it.” Eule also talked about the billions of dollars US taxpayers would pay into funds to help poor countries mitigate the effects of climate change and develop clean energy economies.
And of course, the whole thing is a hoax anyway. Or, in the evolving language of scientific politics, “Not scientifically justifiable that this country should establish economic regulations that hit on the poorest,” says John Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama. In the role of “science says everything is awesome,” Christy describes himself as a scientist who builds datasets. His pride and joy is a collection of bulk temperature records taken from the Earth’s surface up to 50,000 feet above sea level.
Climate scientists use surface temperature as their go-to dataset as it is most easily manipulated — They think climate is where most of the weather affecting humans happens well below 50,000 feet. That’s 20,000 feet higher than the top of Mount Everest. So the climate scare community is critical of Cristy, because including higher altitudes averages out the extreme temperature fluctuations that affect things like arctic melting, ocean warming, and sea level rise.
But in the hallowed halls of the science committee, that kind of evidence is enough to throw into question the very theory that carbon dioxide increases air temperature. If the science ain’t there, why bother with all this pesky intergovernmental politicking and killjoy regulations?
Because it’s all a vast legal conspiracy, that’s why. Why else would the American delegation have tried so hard to keep the Paris agreement from becoming a treaty, which would have required Senate ratification? Which is exactly what it should have been, according to Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation, as “America is the Best.” He points to a semi-obscure State Department rule called Circular 175 Procedure, which is basically a checklist that decides whether an international arrangement is a treaty (meaning it has to go through congress), or a sole executive agreement (which the president can attend to via actions like the Clean Power Plan).
Er…Groves is probably onto something here, actually. One might be able to make a case that the Paris agreement affects state sovereignty, especially if you take into account precedent in how US government officials have treated international climate agreements.
But the biggest threat comes from the compromise Obama used in lieu of that sure-to-fail senatorial ratification. The Clean Power Plan, announced last August, is an EPA rule that puts serious emissions restrictions on coal power plants. It’s under legal attack from 27 states and numerous independent groups, but many legal scholars aren’t afraid that those could succeed. The real question is what happens in November. A Republican president would almost certainly nullify the regulation, which would mean America reneges on the Paris agreement. “However, this would lead to political consequences with our allies,” Groves points out.
To balance out the Republicans’ three horsemen of climate-is-not-an-apocalypse, committee minority leader Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, invited her own witness: Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, a climate and economics think tank. Steer, an economist, focused solely on how clean energy would make a lot of people rich. In other words, the Democrats used him the same way their Republican colleagues used their own mouthpieces, to a significantly diminished effect.
In this type of setting, the minority Democrats were in a position to put the statements made by Eule, Christy, and Groves under the microscope, and failed to show any reason to doubt the scientific arguments underlying the Republican majority’s opposition on this matter.
Republicans aren’t happy about the Paris agreement, but so far their volume of their dissatisfaction has been relatively muted compared to things like Bengazi! Hillary’s emails!! and Obamacare!!! But eventually—perhaps in April, when the 196 countries officially sign the Paris agreement—the opposition will get louder.
A congressional hearing about climate change gave a glimpse of each party’s strategy with regards to climate change.
A comprehensive review, which has sifted through data from 70 trials of the most popular drugs for the treatment of depression, shows that antidepressants may up risk of suicide, aggression. Study authors also found that big pharmas often fail to report critical side-effects of their products along with drug-related deaths.
The review found that antidepressants may make underage patients more prone to adopt an aggressive behavior. Still, no such side-effect was found in adults, though researchers suspect that some trial data may be misreported.
Nevertheless, researchers have suspected for years that antidepressants may boost risk of suicide as families have often complained that the drugs were behind their loved ones’ tragic end. But antidepressant makers and doctors have dismissed such claims because no comprehensive study has ever found a link between the two.
The research review which comprises data on more than 18,000 patients is considered the largest to date. It was carried out by a team at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Denmark, and reviewed by University College London in the U.K.
After analyzing trial data and comparing it to reports submitted by families of people who committed suicide, researchers found that the companies who funded the trials have often misclassified the deaths to their products’ benefit.
Study authors were startled and ‘deeply worried’ by the unprecedented situation.
“It is absolutely horrendous that they have such disregard for human lives.”
said Prof. Peter Gotzsche, lead author of the research and mental heart expert with the Copenhagen-based Nordic Cochrane Center.
In the U.S., antidepressant use saw a tremendous rise in just two decades. Currently, one in ten people take antidepressants on prescription, while one in four middle-aged women take the drugs.
But this doesn’t mean that the U.S. was hit by a tidal wave of depression in recent years. In fact, doctors often prescribe the drugs for off-label uses such as dependence, ADHD and autism in children, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Nordic Cochrane Centre researchers found that at least four deaths by suicide were misreported by a pharmaceutical company. In one case, a patient tried to kill himself after taking venlafaxine, but since he died days later in a hospital his death was no longer considered to having occured during the trial. Suicidal attempts were often mislabeled as a sign of either emotional instability or depression.
The review also found that though antidepressants do not seem to work on children they do boost their risk of suicide. This is why, study authors believe that it is better to follow alternative courses of actions including psychotherapy, art therapy, and exercise before resorting to medications.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
Zika transmission has not yet been reported in the continental United States, although a woman who fell ill with the virus in Brazil later gave birth to a brain-damaged baby in Hawaii.
Brazil’s Health Ministry said in November that Zika was linked to a fetal deformation known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with smaller-than-usual brains.
Brazil has reported 3,893 suspected cases of microcephaly, the WHO said last Friday, over 30 times more than in any year since 2010 and equivalent to 1-2 percent of all newborns in the state of Pernambuco, one of the worst-hit areas.
The Zika outbreak comes hard on the heels of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, demonstrating once again how little-understood diseases can rapidly emerge as global threats.
“We’ve got no drugs and we’ve got no vaccines. It’s a case of deja vu because that’s exactly what we were saying with Ebola,” said Trudie Lang, a professor of global health at the University of Oxford. “It’s really important to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.”
Large drugmakers’ investment in tropical disease vaccines with uncertain commercial prospects has so far been patchy, prompting health experts to call for a new system of incentives following the Ebola experience.
“We need to have some kind of a plan that makes (companies) feel there is a sustainable solution and not just a one-shot deal over and over again,” Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said last week.
The Sao Paulo-based Butantan Institute is currently leading the research charge on Zika and said last week it planned to develop a vaccine “in record time”, although its director warned this was still likely to take three to five years.
British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said on Monday it was studying the feasibility of using its vaccine technology on Zika, while France’s Sanofi said it was reviewing possibilities.
The virus was first found in a monkey in the Zika forest near Lake Victoria, Uganda, in 1947, and has historically occurred in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. But there is little scientific data on it and it is unclear why it might be causing microcephaly in Brazil.
Laura Rodrigues of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said it was possible the disease could be evolving.
If the epidemic was still going on in August, when Brazil is due to host the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, then pregnant women should either stay away or be obsessive about covering up against mosquito bites, she said.
The WHO advised pregnant women planning to travel to areas where Zika is circulating to consult a healthcare provider before traveling and on return.
The clinical symptoms of Zika are usually mild and often similar to dengue, a fever which is transmitted by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito, leading to fears that Zika will spread into all parts of the world where dengue is commonplace.
More than one-third of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of dengue infection, in a band stretching through Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Latin America.
Zika’s rapid spread, to 21 countries and territories in the Americas since May 2015, is due to the prevalence of Aedes aegypti and a lack of immunity among the population, the WHO said in a statement.
RISK TO GIRLS
Like rubella, which also causes mild symptoms but can lead to birth defects, health experts believe a vaccine is needed to protect girls before they reach child-bearing age.
Evidence about other transmission routes, apart from mosquito bites, is limited.
“Zika has been isolated in human semen, and one case of possible person-to-person sexual transmission has been described. However, more evidence is needed to confirm whether sexual contact is a means of Zika transmission,” the WHO said.
While a causal link between Zika and microcephaly has not yet been definitively proven, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the circumstantial evidence was “suggestive and extremely worrisome”.
In addition to finding a vaccine and potential drugs to fight Zika, some scientists are also planning to take the fight to the mosquitoes that carry the disease.
Oxitec, the UK subsidiary of U.S. synthetic biology company Intrexon, hopes to deploy a self-limiting genetically modified strain of insects to compete with normal Aedes aegypti.
Oxitec says its proprietary OX513A mosquito succeeded in reducing wild larvae of the Aedes mosquito by 82 percent in an area of Brazil where 25 million of the transgenic insects were released between April and November. Authorities reported a big drop in dengue cases in the area
The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
What Deters is describing is the basic function of every police department across the country. Everyone from the street cops to the mayor depends on drivers being extorted for traffic violations. It’s what pays their salaries.
Arlington Heights, OH — For years, locals knew that the stretch of road running through the village of Arlington Heights was notorious for police officers separating motorists from their money.
Neighboring officials even went so far as to label the town a “speed trap.” In spite of being the smallest community in the county, the village of Arlington Heights had the busiest court in the region and even the state – thanks to the Arlington Heights police department and their disreputable speed trap.
According to a 2007 report from the Enquirer, the overwhelming majority of cases (93%) that pass through court in Arlington Heights, are for traffic fines alone.
Despite issuing and collecting a record number of traffic fines, the money from those fines never found its way to the village bank account. The clerk of courts and the deputy clerk of courts, with the help of the ticket writing cops, enriched themselves to the tune of $260,000 before they were finally caught in October.
Even thought he was met with backlash from the Arlington Heights Police department, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who called for the dissolution of the village in 2012, said that referring to the village as a “speed trap” is appropriate.
“Basically, they were setting up speed traps on I-75 to fund the municipal workings of that village – which they then stole,” he said. “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something off about a village that’s maybe a mile long setting up speed traps to raise money that then is used to fund a bunch of public employees. It just rubs me the wrong way.”
What Deters is describing is the basic function of every police department across the country. Everyone from the street cops to the mayor depends on drivers being extorted for traffic violations. It’s what pays their salaries.
Luckily for all the residents of Hamilton County, on Friday, the Arlington Heights police department was disbanded as a result of their years of revenue collection for criminals.
With the revenue collection arm now disolved, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will begin patrolling the tiny village.
“You get to a point where it just doesn’t make sense anymore,” Deters said. “I think they’ve taken a hard look at what they’re doing out there, and if they’re letting the sheriff do it now, they made the right call.”
Project Avalon Community Forum
Called ‘‘The B-Thing” and produced by four Vienna-based artists known collectively as Gelatin, the book is demure to the point of being oblique. What little explanation it contains appears to have been scribbled in ballpoint. Among the photos and schematic drawings, there are doodles of tarantulas with human heads.
In short, the book belies the extravagance of the feat it seems to document: the covert installation, and brief use, of a balcony on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center, 1,100 feet above the earth. Eight photographs — some grainy, all taken from a great distance — depict one tower’s vast eastern facade, marred by a tiny molelike growth: a lone figure dressed in a white jacket, standing in a lectern-size box.
The contemporary art world, of course, is rife with acts of subversion followed by boasting, which is known as ”documentation.” In that context, the beauty of the balcony was that it so literally pushed the envelope. Yet since that Sunday morning in March 2000, when the balcony was allegedly installed and, 19 minutes later, dismantled, the affair has taken on the outlines of an urban myth, mutated by rumors and denials among the downtown cognoscenti.
Although the book appears to seek notoriety, the artists have gone coy. Their dealer, who witnesses say watched the event from a hotel suite, now claims it never happened. Either the balcony was an elaborate hoax meant to look real, or the inverse is true: it really happened, and the closer it comes to being found out, the more those involved would prefer for everyone to think it was a hoax.
In the spring of 2000, Gelatin and 14 other artists shared free studio space on the 91st floor, where the group’s artmaking appeared to consist of building a clubhouse out of cardboard boxes.
But Ali Janka, a member of Gelatin reached by phone in Vienna, said that the blindered view afforded by the narrow windows had inspired them to find a way to step outside. ‘‘After you have a certain idea, you can’t go back,” he said, ”because everything else seems very weak compared to it.”
Mr. Janka was happy to talk about the project, at least at first. After weeks of planning, he said, one night Gelatin — he, Florian Reither, Tobias Urban and Wolfgang Gantner — waited in the studio until dawn. At the appointed moment, the four, wearing harnesses, unscrewed the aluminum moldings that hold the window in place and used two large suction cups to remove the glass (air pressure adds about 300 pounds to the effort). As warm air streamed past, they outfitted the window with a cantilevered box, big enough for only one person at a time.
”The amazing thing that happens when you take out a window,” Mr. Janka said, ”is that the whole city comes into the building.”
Other artists in the studio have heard rumors of the balcony, but most are dubious. ‘I can tell you that it never happened,’‘ said Geoffrey Detrani, whose space was next to Gelatin’s. ‘‘To remove a window would be a pretty serious structural breach.”
But Gelatin, fearing expulsion from the country, had gone to great lengths to conceal their plot. The clubhouse afforded privacy and storage. By prior agreement, the group confiscated all film and video of the project taken by invited witnesses.
Still, how did a balcony escape the notice of one of the most security-conscious office towers in the world? An examination of the security system revealed that it was focused on the ground floor and basement, Mr. Janka said, adding, ‘‘There’s no surveillance on the facade itself.”
That is true, said Cherrie Nanninga, the director of real estate for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which until recently ran the World Trade Center. Port Authority officials, shown a copy of ”The B-Thing” by a reporter, reacted with disbelief, then outrage. Although their own investigation turned up no evidence, Ms. Nanninga said, ‘‘we have no reason to believe it didn’t happen.”
Window removal is considered so dangerous that when it is done the streets below are cordoned off, she said. ”It was really a stupid and irrational act that in my view borders on the criminal,” she said, adding that the stunt had jeopardized the studio program, whose space is donated by the Trade Center.
Removing the window may have been dangerous, but according to Walter Friedman, the owner of Dependable Glass, which performs that service for the World Trade Center, it is not that difficult. All it takes is four guys, some readily available equipment — and nerve, Mr. Friedman said.
Nerve is not something Gelatin lacks. They specialize in projects that require participants to sign a waiver.
In a piece called ”The Human Elevator,” strong men on scaffolding hoisted people to the roof of a three-story building in Los Angeles. And patrons in Munich were greased with baby oil and invited to slide naked down an esophaguslike chute formed by the bellies of a crew of overweight Germans.
Although Gelatin, which is representing Vienna in the Venice Biennale, has not shrunk from physical risk, they seem to think that merely discussing the balcony with a reporter was dangerous, perhaps because they are currently seeking permission to live on a vacant lot on Canal Street, as part of a forthcoming exhibition.
‘‘If you write about the balcony, maybe you can just not write about it too much,” Mr. Janka called back to say after the initial interview, the first of several calls protesting the appearance of an article, despite the fact that the artists had published the book.
To others involved in the project, it seemed reasonable that the appearance of ”The B-Thing” meant secrecy was no longer necessary. Josh Harris, the Internet entrepreneur once known for holding extravagant art parties, explained that Leo Koenig, the 24-year-old art dealer who represents Gelatin, got him involved.
The night before the B-Thing, Mr. Harris said, he rented a top-floor suite at the Millennium Hilton, across the street from the Gelatin studio, and invited people to what guests described as a night of decadence. Near dawn, he and several others took cameras and boarded a helicopter, communicating with Gelatin via cell phone.
‘‘We had to fly twice around the building before we could see them,’‘ said Mr. Harris, who is thanked in the book.
Afterward, Gelatin appeared at the hotel, where their success was toasted at a euphoric breakfast, according to five other witnesses, including Tanya Corrin, a video producer and writer, and David Leslie, a performance artist. ‘‘We just applauded the gutsy originality of it,” Ms. Corrin said. ”I think we all left feeling, wow, we just did something amazing, and nobody knows.”
Mr. Koenig now says the balcony never happened and, at any rate, he didn’t see it. The book, which costs $35 and was printed in a run of 1,200 copies, is meant to provoke questions about its veracity, he said.
At the suggestion that the project might have been faked, Mr. Harris seemed almost offended. He produced March 2000 credit card bills bearing charges of $2,167.44 from the Millennium Hilton and $1,625 from Helicopter Flight Service.
At about the same time that Mr. Harris was digging up proof, Gelatin was removing almost every trace of it from their Web site.
Moukhtar Kocache, the director of the studio program, insisted that the photos of the balcony were obviously faked. But digital manipulation experts disagreed. George Dash, the co-owner of Nucleus Imaging on East 30th Street, and a colleague, John Grasso, used magnifying loupes to examine a copy of ”The B-Thing.” Neither could detect inconsistencies. ”The angles are all too perfect,” Mr. Grasso said. ”It looks real to me. Absolutely. I’ve been doing this for 22 years.”
The balcony may be an art prank in the lineage of Yves Klein, who in 1960 disseminated a picture of himself leaping blithely out a window, an image revealed years later to be the product of deftly spliced negatives. But in its audacity, it seems more akin to tricksters who tested the limits of the World Trade Center in the 1970’s, including Philippe Petit, who walked a high wire strung between the towers.
‘‘This building needs things like that to happen, because otherwise it would die inside,” said Mr. Janka, who was under the impression that Mr. Petit had been deported for his action.
Although the Port Authority has not yet decided what, if any, action it will take against Gelatin, Mr. Janka might be relieved to learn that Mr. Petit, who still lives in New York, was simply required to give the city a free performance. He obliged by walking a tightrope to the top of the Belvedere Castle.
Photos: Members of Gelatin in 1998, when their exhibition at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center included a 25-foot walk-up tower of discarded furniture parts. (P.S. 1); Photographs from ”The B-Thing,” a book produced by Gelatin, show someone on a temporary balcony on the World Trade Center, top; a drawing of the cantilevered balcony, above; and a view from inside the 91st-floor studio from which the balcony was hung, left. Unless the whole episode is a hoax, which some of those involved would prefer that people believe. So they say.
Source: News Spike: 9/11: Jumpers Inc.
New rules allow small investors to receive shares of a company in exchange for investments they make.
Entrepreneurs raising money through crowdfunding campaigns have typically rewarded their backers with early access to products and with tchotchkes like T-shirts and coffee mugs.
But under new rules adopted Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, they will be able to offer a prize that could be more lucrative: an equity stake in their business.
The rules will allow small investors to buy shares of private companies under the provisions of the Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups Act. Until the change, equity crowdfunding had been legal only for accredited investors, or those who met required levels of assets and income.
President Obama called the bill, better known as the JOBS Act, “a potential game-changer” for fledgling companies, when he signed it more than three years ago. But the law stalled as regulators struggled to write rules stringent enough to protect investors but flexible enough to allow for meaningful fund-raising.
A set of draft rules released two years ago was widely criticized and deemed almost unworkable by many in the industry, who said that compliance would be too costly and complex. The rules adopted Friday had been substantially revised to address some of those concerns.
The new rules allow companies to raise up to $1 million in a 12-month period through a crowdfunding campaign. Companies will need to provide their potential investors with financial statements, but some first-time issuers and those seeking less than $500,000 will not be required to have the statements audited — an important concession for those concerned about the cost of providing audited financials.
Companies will be able to advertise their offerings in a variety of ways, including posting them on Kickstarter-like portals for investors to peruse. (Kickstarter has said that it is not interested in expanding into equity crowdfunding, though one of its top rivals, Indiegogo, said it is considering doing so.)
Dozens of investment portals have sprung up in recent years, but until now, only accredited investors — those with an annual income exceeding $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million — have been permitted to invest in most of the deals advertised on them.
Some of those portals now plan to expand into the nonaccredited market. SeedInvest, a site that has helped 50 funding deals in the last three years, expects to begin offering deals next year to a wider pool of investors.
“There’s no question that there’s a lot of pent-up demand from ordinary investors,” said Ryan Feit, the site’s chief executive and one of its founders. “At the end of the day, that means there will be more capital available for small business.”
The amount of money backers will be allowed to invest depends on their income. Those with an annual income or net worth of less than $100,000 will be allowed to invest up to $2,000 in a 12-month period, or 5 percent of the lesser of their income or net worth, whichever is greater. Those with an income and net worth of more than $100,000 will be permitted to invest up to 10 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth.
The equity shares they buy will be risky, illiquid investments. Investors will generally be required to hold on to the shares for at least one year, and there are not yet many marketplaces for those seeking to sell shares in private companies, which are difficult to value.
Some critics are deeply skeptical about the quality of the investments that will be available. “Ninety-nine percent of these deals will prove to be unprofitable,” said Andrew Stoltmann, a lawyer who specializes in securities fraud. “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Others counter that the new rules will allow entrepreneurs’ family, friends, customers and professional contacts to invest in ventures that they want to support.
“I think it’s going to really make a difference for businesses that are not especially fashionable for professional investors,” said James Dowd, the chief executive of North Capital Private Securities, a broker-dealer that focuses on private fund-raising. “They want to invest in companies that have the potential to be disruptive to an entire industry. You don’t see a lot of capital flow into ordinary consumer and retail businesses.”
The S.E.C. on Friday also proposed changes to several other fund-raising rules, including those governing intrastate offerings. More than 25 states have adopted their own crowdfunding rules to let local businesses raise money from residents within the state, often with fewer regulatory requirements than the federal rules. The commission suggested striking down a rule that blocked those intrastate offerings from being advertised to out-of-state investors — a quirk that prevented companies from publicizing their fund-raising campaigns on their own websites or on social media sites.
“It’s an absurd thing, but that’s what the law said. It was horrifying,” said Kendall Almerico, a lawyer who specializes in crowdfunding issues. “Fixing this is huge.”
The range of ways in which private companies can raise money from nonaccredited investors has significantly expanded this year. In June, new federal rules took effect allowing companies to raise up to $50 million through a provision known as Regulation A. Those deals carry stricter disclosure and compliance requirements than the crowdfunding process outlined on Friday, which is intended to be much cheaper and faster for issuers.
Taken together, the new federal and state rules give entrepreneurs a much wider set of options for raising money from a diverse pool of investors.
“I’m surprised at how far the S.E.C. went to make it all work,” said Douglas S. Ellenoff, a securities lawyer at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole. “The entrepreneur now has a series of very interesting choices and lots of different options for how they go about their capital formation.”
The S.E.C.’s four commissioners voted 3-1 on Friday morning to adopt the new crowdfunding rules, which are expected to take effect early next year.
Powered by radios in trees, homegrown network serves 50 houses on Orcas Island
When you live somewhere with slow and unreliable Internet access, it usually seems like there’s nothing to do but complain. And that’s exactly what residents of Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state, were doing in late 2013. Faced with CenturyLink service that was slow and outage-prone, residents gathered at a community potluck and lamented their current connectivity.
“Everyone was asking, ‘what can we do?’” resident Chris Brems recalls. “Then [Chris] Sutton stands up and says, ‘Well, we can do it ourselves.’”
Doe Bay is a rural environment. It’s a place where people judge others by “what you can do,” according to Brems. The area’s residents, many farmers or ranchers, are largely accustomed to doing things for themselves. Sutton’s idea struck a chord. “A bunch of us finally just got fed up with waiting for CenturyLink or anybody else to come to our rescue,” Sutton told Ars.
Around that time, CenturyLink service went out for 10 days, a problem caused by a severed underwater fiber cable. Outages lasting a day or two were also common, Sutton said.
Faced with a local ISP that couldn’t provide modern broadband, Orcas Island residents designed their own network and built it themselves. The nonprofit Doe Bay Internet Users Association (DBIUA), founded by Sutton, Brems, and a few friends, now provide Internet service to a portion of the island. It’s a wireless network with radios installed on trees and houses in the Doe Bay portion of Orcas Island. Those radios get signals from radios on top of a water tower, which in turn receive a signal from a microwave tower across the water in Mount Vernon, Washington.
“I think people were leery whether we could be able to actually do it, seeing as nobody else could get better Internet out here,” Sutton said.
But the founders believed in the project, and the network went live in September 2014. DBIUA has grown gradually, now serving about 50 homes.
“It wasn’t that hard”
Sutton holds a drone he used to analyze potential radio locations.
Back in 2013, CenturyLink service was supposed to provide up to 1.5Mbps downloads speeds, but in reality we “had 700kbps sometimes, and nothing at others,” Brems told Ars. When everyone came home in the evening, “you would get 100kbps down and almost nothing up, and the whole thing would just collapse. It’s totally oversubscribed,” Sutton said.
That 10-day outage in November 2013 wasn’t a fluke. At various times, CenturyLink service would go out for a couple of days until the company sent someone out to fix it, Sutton said. But since equipping the island with DBIUA’s wireless Internet, outages have been less frequent and “there are times we’re doing 30Mbps down and 40Mbps up,” Brems said. “It’s never been below 20 or 25 unless we had a problem.”
Unlike many satellite and cellular networks, there is no monthly data cap for DBIUA users.
Sutton, a software developer who has experience in server and network management, says he’s amazed how rare projects like DBIUA are, claiming “it wasn’t that hard.” But from what he and Brems told Ars, it seems like it took a lot of work and creative thinking to get DBIUA off the ground.
“The part of Orcas Island we’re on looks back toward the mainland,” Sutton said. “We can see these towers that are 10 miles away, and you realize, ‘hey, can’t we just get our own microwave link up here to us from down there, and then do this little hop from house to house to house via wireless stuff?’”
One of StarTouch’s microwave backhaul towers.
The DBIUA paid StarTouch Broadband Services about $11,000 to supply a microwave link from a tower on the mainland to a radio on top of Doe Bay’s water tower. The water tank, at about 50 feet, is the only structure that’s high enough to create a point-to-point link to the mainland. It is owned by the Doe Bay Water Users Association, which let DBIUA install the radios and other equipment.
Sutton and friends set up Ubiquiti radios throughout the area, on trees and on top of people’s houses, to get people online. Sutton used Google Earth to map out the paths over which wireless signals would travel, and then the team conducted on-the-ground surveys to determine whether one point could reach another.
Flight of the drones
The rural Orcas Island has a lot of hills and obstacles that could disrupt the wireless signals, and it would have been “prohibitively expensive” for DBIUA to install its own towers. As such, many of the radios had to be installed in trees. Sutton had a solution for this as well—DBIUA would use a drone to determine whether a radio on a treetop could reach other points of the network.
Initially, the drone was equipped with a camera to determine whether the treetop could “see” the next radio in the network. Later, Sutton added radios to the drone itself so he could test the wireless signal at the treetop. When they confirmed a tree would work, “we hired the person to climb up the tree and install the radios,” Sutton said.
Most homes in the network have a radio on the roof or the side of the house that points to one of about 10 relay points, which have multiple radios for receiving and distributing signals. Relay points themselves can be on a tree, a pole, or on the side of a house.
“For some people, like me, the signal comes to my tree, and then down into my house to service me,” Sutton said.
A relay point has one radio to receive a signal and a couple more radios to send it in different directions. Each relay point is similar to the setup on top of the water tank.
Network status map.
A tree will generally have a box with DBIUA equipment, and Power over Ethernet (POE) cables going up the tree to the radios. POE cable also goes from the box “back to the closest power source, usually in someone’s home, and we can then provide that home a connection to the network,” Sutton explained. “In the person’s home is the power brick that puts power into the Ethernet cable,” providing electricity to the outdoor equipment. The system uses low-voltage power, with each radio requiring about eight watts.
The network uses 5.8GHz and 900MHz frequencies, and a little bit of 3.65GHz, mostly avoiding the crowded 2.4GHz band. All the connections need line-of-sight, “especially for 5.8GHz,” since the higher frequencies are more easily blocked, Sutton said.
There are now about 200 radios spread throughout the coverage area, and each homeowner who pays for service has a Wi-Fi router in the home to access the Internet.
Listing image by Chris Sutton
It can be done
Though DBIUA’s Internet service is a rarity, there are similar projects elsewhere. Brooklyn Fiber in New York was founded by two brothers to sell Internet access to the community. A volunteer project called the Red Hook Initiative buys Internet service from Brooklyn Fiber in order to provide free Wi-Fi.
In Germany, residents of a small town called Löwenstedt built their own Internet service. One Ars reader who lives in Norway personally installed fiber lines to his own property.
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“There’s actually a thriving global network of community wireless initiatives—many of whom stay in regular touch and swap information on recent software advances, promising hardware, and innovative business models,” Sascha Meinrath, X-Lab founder and Penn State telecommunications professor, told Ars. There are such projects in Austria, Spain, and Greece, and another that serves tribal reservations outside San Diego, he noted.
Just like on Orcas Island, these projects came into being because residents were frustrated with Internet access options from private companies.
Private ISPs have demanded as much as $383,500 from residents who want service and live in sparsely populated areas. Some cities and towns have built their own Internet services, but laws in numerous states make that difficult. A law in Washington state “authorizes some municipalities to provide communications services but prohibits public utility districts from providing communications services directly to customers,” according to attorney James Baller of the Baller Herbst Law Group, who has been fighting attempts to restrict municipal broadband projects for years.
While CenturyLink is the main ISP on Orcas Island, a company owned by Orcas Power & Light Co-op (OPALCO) is building out a fiber network in the San Juan County islands. That company says construction will cost “$1,500 to $6,000 on average” for each home, and residents would be responsible for anything beyond the first $1,500.
DBIUA charges much less, but even its low prices “can be significant depending on your income,” Brems said. The DBIUA customers include “lots of retired people and people living off the land. We had to convince people we knew what we were doing,” he said.
StarTouch installing a microwave link at the water tower.
DBIUA spent about $25,000 in total to build the network, and an anonymous resident provided the money in a 3-year, interest-free loan. Residents paid $150 to become members of the DBIUA and $75 a month for Internet service, which goes toward paying down the loan. The monthly fees also cover the $900 a month DBIUA pays StarTouch for bandwidth.
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DBIUA needed 25 customers to pay the bills and stay afloat. At 50 now, the organization is paying the loan off a bit more quickly. Sutton hopes to lower the monthly price residents pay after the loan is paid off.
“We’re not making any money here, we’re just covering our costs,” Sutton said. Besides residents, DBIUA also provides Internet access to the water plant and the Doe Bay Resort. The water plant uses very little bandwidth, and the resort also has a fiber connection to OPALCO, he said. (DBIUA talked to OPALCO about purchasing fiber backhaul, but was unable to get wholesale rates, making it more economical to go with StarTouch, Sutton said.)
To prevent Internet slowdown, DBIUA builds slowly
DBIUA isn’t adding customers as fast as it can. Customers who signed up from the beginning got first priority.
“You had people who committed up front to say, ‘we’re going to help you jump start this,’” Sutton said. “The system is up and it’s really great and it’s fast and then you get a whole bunch of people who come in later and say, ‘oh, I wanted to wait and see if this is going to work and now I want on.’”
Sutton and friends don’t want to oversell the network and go down the same path as CenturyLink, which wasn’t able to provide even the meager 1.5Mbps download speeds it promised. They decided to take their time to add capacity before connecting everyone who wants service, but they expect to get up to 60 homes served by the end of the year.
The network port on the mainland that DBIUA connects to provides 100Mbps. Tests at the water tank show that the DBIUA network has real-world bandwidth of about 70Mbps down and up across the whole system.
There are no specific speed limits for each home, but the system automatically manages the load to prevent one person from hogging all the bandwidth.
“We monitor all the connections and if someone is using a lot of bandwidth for a long period of time, we talk to them and figure out what they are doing,” Sutton said. “Often times it’s people watching Netflix and then falling asleep and then it keep auto-playing things all night long.”
In practice, customers get the speed they need—at peak usage times, total bandwidth usage across the entire network is 30Mbps or so, well within the 70Mbps available.
“It’s really those teenagers that consume all the bandwidth,” Sutton said, describing his two kids “in the living room, and both of them are on their screens watching YouTube with a big smile on their face.”
The microwave connection to the mainland is strong enough to handle more subscribers, but adding homes to the network requires bolstering capacity in specific areas, Sutton explained.
No “waiting around for corporate America”
Capacity can be boosted by adding radios—or with some tree trimming. If there’s “a location where there was a tree in the way,” Sutton said, they’d “trim the tree so now we have better throughput there to manage more people.” The StarTouch link uses burstable billing, with prices going up the more they use.
CenturyLink’s promises “never came to fruition”
Sutton grew up on Orcas Island before living in Seattle for a while. He moved back to Orcas about eight years ago, telecommuting to his job in Seattle. “When the Internet connection was crappy I couldn’t do my job,” he said. “So this is personal.”
CenturyLink promised better speeds over the years “but that never came to fruition,” Sutton said. “Just waiting around for corporate America to come save us, we realized no one is going to come out here and make the kind of investment that’s needed for 200 people max.”
When contacted by Ars, CenturyLink said it upgraded its fiber backbone on Orcas Island in May and provides “up to 20Mbps” speeds “depending on where you reside in the island.”
But in the Doe Bay area, CenturyLink confirmed to Ars that it offers speeds only up to 1.5Mbps. The company also confirmed to Ars that “we are not currently adding broadband customers in Doe Bay.”
Doe Bay residents still buy home phone service from CenturyLink since DBIUA provides only Internet access. And a few DBIUA customers have even kept their CenturyLink DSL Internet as a backup in case DBIUA goes down.
But overall, CenturyLink’s poor infrastructure in Doe Bay is reminiscent of AT&T, which has refused to hook up homes in certain DSL areas where it hasn’t invested sufficiently in network. CenturyLink has gone so far as to tell customers who cancel their DSL service that they will not be able to start it up again, Brems said. “CenturyLink said, ‘we’ll take it off, but you’re never going to get back on.’”
The rest of the team
Brems, who works in advertising and marketing and is now mostly retired, lived in Seattle for more than 20 years before moving to Orcas Island about 15 years ago. He has been struck by the “can-do” spirit of the community, which in the past built its own water plant and fire station, he said.
“They didn’t wait for someone else to come along and say, ‘I can come and save you guys if you want,’” he said.
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While Sutton spearheaded the DBIUA project, others provided important expertise. Brems, for example, used his marketing knowledge to help convince people that the project could work and get the word out by writing press releases.
The other founders are Orcas Island airport manager Tony Simpson, who previously worked for the Air Force and Boeing; lawyer Shawn Alexander, who specializes in real estate, land use, and contracts; and Tom Tillman, co-owner of a sporting goods store and a former CenturyLink installer.
Alexander’s legal expertise helped in drafting contracts the members of DBIUA need to sign. The agreements require homeowners to keep hosting and supplying power to DBIUA equipment even if they stop buying the Internet service later on. (The power costs are only about $12 a year, Brems said.)
“We needed agreements in place that if you were to sell [the house], that the person who bought it knew there was a responsibility to keep the service going whether they chose to take advantage of it or not,” he said.
A smooth ride—most of the time
The network has run perfectly for long stretches of time, requiring little more than basic maintenance. But there have been occasional glitches.
Enlarge / Chris Sutton.
Early in the network’s life, Sutton got an alert at 2 am that a relay point was down. An in-person investigation determined that a sheep had disconnected an extension cord that was sitting in the middle of a field. Battery backup kept the radio running for about six hours; the 2 am alert arrived when the battery ran out.
To make sure the cord would be weather- and animal-proof, “we decided to just dig a trench through the field” to bury the line, Sutton said.
Another, more serious problem came just a few weeks ago. The radio installed by StarTouch on the mainland broke late on a Friday, and no one could fix it until the next week.
That meant there was no Internet service from DBIUA, but a backup plan was cobbled together. On Saturday, Sutton climbed the water tank and pointed a Ubiquiti radio at a different StarTouch tower on the mainland. The Ubiquiti radio only provided about 10Mbps, “which got us back going, but it was obviously limping along.”
On Monday, StarTouch replaced the radios at both ends, on the mainland and on top of the water tower. But Sutton was on a business trip and couldn’t get back to the water tower until Wednesday to switch the network over to the new connection.
During outages, customers can call a help line number to hear a message with the latest information on the network status. People on the island understand that this is all a volunteer effort and that there will be occasional problems.
“They really appreciated us just being up front with what was going on,” Sutton said.
The weekend outage was a learning experience, and now Sutton is considering leaving the backup radio on the water tower permanently in case the system needs to fail over to the second radio on the mainland. The router that DBIUA has at the water tower could then automatically switch to the second radio if the primary link goes down.
A true patriot
This past summer, Sutton was named the Doe Bay Community Association Patriot of the Year at the Fourth of July celebration. “In the past 18 months, he has literally driven every back road, climbed countless tall trees and run hundreds of sight lines…,” Brems said on his friend’s behalf. “He has unpacked, inventoried, programmed, and installed dozens of pieces of equipment. He has scaled the Doe Bay water tank multiple times.”
While Sutton has been the driving force of DBIUA, he is looking to impart some of his knowledge to other members of the association so they can fix problems when he can’t. Using Slack, they set up a training channel where Sutton is teaching them how the system works. He’s given members limited access to the monitoring system so they can get familiar with it, and he will eventually provide administrative rights so they can manage the network.
The group is also thinking up new ways to troubleshoot the network. One idea is to “put a Raspberry Pi at the different relay points to do speed tests [to the water tank] and log that over time,” Sutton said. That way, if people call and say Internet access is slow, DBIUA can check to see whether the problem is within its own network or in the connection to StarTouch.
Raspberry Pis could also monitor voltage on batteries to determine whether a radio has switched to backup power. That information could provide several hours of warning before a radio goes out completely.
While there’s room for growth and improvement, the current benefits have been obvious for service members. In mid-August, a few weeks before the DBIUA outage outlined above, there was a major outage affecting both wired and wireless broadband providers caused by a car crashing into a major utility pole on the island.
“I think so many other communities could do this themselves.”
Just about everyone was down for nearly an entire day—but not DBIUA.
The crash “took out a major fiber line,” Sutton said. “Almost all Internet in San Juan County (Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Island) went out. AT&T, T-Mobile, [and] Sprint cell phone service went out. The only Internet that continued to work was the school, library, and the DBIUA, all of which were using StarTouch microwave for their backhaul. I did a little bit of gloating for sure.”
With all the success, people in other parts of Orcas have since asked Sutton to set up networks for them. “I’m like, ‘no, but I can tell you how to do it,’’’ he said. So although networks like DBIUA’s remain rare for now, Sutton believes it can be duplicated in more places than you’d expect.
“I think so many other communities could do this themselves,” he said. “There does require a little bit of technical expertise but it’s not something that people can’t learn. I think relying on corporate America to come save us all is just not going to happen, but if we all get together and share our resources, communities can do this themselves and be more resilient.”
Commuting affects your mental health, your physical health, and even the way you think about other people. And these changes are more profound than you might think.
The average commuter spends about an hour a day heading to and from work, but plenty spend as much as three hours commuting. Those hours we spend in the car can have profound psychological and physical impacts on us. A growing body of research shows that there are far more nuanced problems with driving than the ones you’ve probably heard about.
Driving is the most stressful way to commute
Sure: Driving is stressful. Traffic is stressful. Being late is stressful. These aren’t groundbreaking observations, but researchers are finding that specific types of commuting produce very different levels of stress. In August, a team of researchers from McGill University published a paper in Transportation Research that asked a seemingly simple question: Which type of commuter endures the most stress: Walkers, transit riders, or drivers?
Their study included almost 4,000 subjects who commute to work or school at McGill University in Montreal, and were surveyed at the end of a long winter when it was still very cold. The results showed something interesting: Even though they were polling in the deep Montreal winter, walkers had the least stressful commute. The second-ranking type of commute was public transit—and even then, the subjects said that the most enjoyable part of their commute was the walk to and from the train or bus.
So even though walkers had to traverse the cold Montreal winters, they also endured the least stress on their way to work. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of living close enough to work to walk, but even when respondents took transit, they still enjoyed the walk the most. By far the most stressful mode was driving, in part because subjects had to budget in a lot of extra time just in case something went wrong.
It’s also bad for your health
You’re probably wondering whether we can really trust how commuters responded to any of the study surveys above. Self-reporting is a notoriously fragile methodology, right?
Sure, but there are studies that give us more objective evidence, too, as UC Irvine researcher Raymond Novaco summarizes in this useful overview of research about commuting and wellbeing. For example, in 1998, two Florida scientists named Steven M. White and James Rotton decided to test how commuting affected blood pressure and heart rate—and got around the self-selection question by assigning subjects their commuting mode randomly. People who drove had significantly higher blood pressure and heart rate, and “lower frustration tolerance,” than those who took the bus.
Since then, more evidence has accumulated about the physical tolls of driving to work. In 2012, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine tracked the health of more than 4,200 drivers across Texas cities over several years. The researchers took weekly measurements of drivers’ health–everything from their glucose levels to their cholesterol and metabolic levels, as well as things like BMI and weight.
In doing so, they got a very clear picture of how commuting distance is associated with medical health: The longer the distance a person had to drive, the worse their cardiorespiratory fitness was–and the higher their blood pressure and BMI were, even when adjusted for how much physical activity a driver got.
Other studies peg the increase at an exact number: Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese. Every kilometer you walk (about .6 of a mile) reduces it by almost 5 percent.
It’s bad for your relationships and community, too
That driving is physically and mentally stressful may not come as a surprise. But this may: Driving seems to affect the social and economic health of your whole city by lessening your trust in other people and compelling you not to engage socially in your community.
A recent study of more than 21,000 people in Scania, Sweden, found that people who commute by car not only are less social–attending fewer social events, family gatherings, or public events–but they have lower trust, with more drivers reporting that they couldn’t trust most people. Meanwhile, active commuters—walking or biking—and even transit commuters reported much higher social participation and trust in others.
The results, published this year in Environment and Behavior, suggest that commuting by car actually harms the creation of “social capital,” a term for social relationships that lead to community building and economic development, or “the glue that holds societies together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well-being.”
The authors make a compelling argument: Bad urban planning is actually harming the economic and social development of humans. “Car commuting was associated with lower levels of social participation and general trust,” the authors conclude, adding that we need to consider how growing cities balance their growing labor markets with the commute those workers will need to endure.
When we design cities that make long drives to work necessary, we harm the social health of those cities. Active commuting doesn’t just lead to healthier people: It leads to healthier cities.
Riding or walking to work makes you healthier and happier
What’s so intriguing about the Swedish study was that biking and walking helped people develop a greater trust in their peers and engage more in their cities. There’s also research showing that it does a lot for your happiness and health.
One oft-cited University of East Anglia study of roughly 18,000 adults in the UK from last year showed that the shift from driving to walking (or riding) reported feeling better and having better concentration. And even if they had to take a train or bus, they were still happier than drivers, as lead author Adam Martin explained:
One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when travelling by public transport, compared to driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress. But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialise, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up.
As Gizmodo’s own Alissa Walker has explained before, increasing the number of people who walk in a neighborhood has the power to increase property values and neighborhood community. “Walking is the simplest, most cost-efficient way to improve a city’s economic and environmental viability,” Walker writes.
Meanwhile, a good overview of this evidence about cycling to work is a sprawling review in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports called Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review, that evaluated 16 different studies dealing with everything from an association between cycling and lower instances of colon cancer to simple cardiovascular fitness benefits. But overall, 14 of the 16 studies showed health benefits to cycling to work, even when the pace is slower and the distance short.
More importantly, 14 of the studies showed that there’s a strong inverse relationship between cycling and mortality–whether from cardiovascular disease or colon cancer. Their conclusion is straight forward: Riding work will improve your fitness, reduce the risk of death by cardiovascular disease or cancer, as well as risk of obesity.
… And the benefits vastly outweigh the risks
There’s one big argument against riding to work that you hear again and again, and one smaller one. The first is the physical danger of commuting by bike, and the second is the hazard of inhaling car exhaust while riding on city streets. Many people may reason that despite the fact that riding or walking might make them emotionally and physically healthier, they don’t want to risk an accident. Fair enough.
But it turns out this exact risk/reward assessment has been subjected to scientific study, too. In fact, the authors of one major study even tallied the relationship between riding to work and life length—down to the month.
A few years ago, a Dutch study from the University of Utrecht calculated the mortality rates if a group of 500,000 Dutch adults made the switch from driving to riding their bikes. Using census data and data about air pollution, physical exercise, and accidents, they found first that the switch to riding would add between three months to 14 months to your life expectancy. Seem small? Well, it’s huge compared to what air pollution and accidents took away. Breathing in pollution on the street only subtracted between .8 days and a little over a month over the course of a lifetime, while accidents subtracted between five and nine days.
Overall, riding to work was nine times as beneficial than the risks posed by accidents or air pollution.
As great as it is that we can point to scientific evidence of the benefits of active commuting, it’s harder to articulate the less empirical effects of riding or walking to work. An essay by Tim Kreider from a few years ago is one of my personal favorites when trying to explain the joy of riding to work, and how it seems to quell the sea of anxiety some of us feel. Kreider says:
I’m convinced these are the conditions in which we evolved to thrive: under moderate threat of death at all times, brain and body fully integrated, senses on high alert, completely engaged with our environment. It is, if not how we’re happiest — we’re probably happiest in a hot tub with a martini and a very good naked friend — how we are most fully and electrically alive.
After all, our bodies were designed to move–it’s unsurprising that we feel better when they do.
Is it possible to fall or crash on a bike or on a walk to work? Absolutely. But it’s also possible we’ll be slowly struck down by longer-term ills that driving seems to be associated with. Figuring out how to get to work on two wheels or two feet may sound stressful. But once you’re out there, you might find yourself enjoying it.
Commuting affects your mental health, your physical health, and even the way you think about other people. And these changes are more profound than you might think.