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Archive for July 28th, 2018

About That Hillary Clinton Dirt

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Kevin Drum nicely summarizes:


There’s something about the whole Trump Tower meeting that might be obvious to everyone by now, but I’m not sure it is. It might not even be especially important. For what it’s worth, though, here’s what I think happened:

  • On June 7 Donald Trump said he would shortly give a big speech (“probably Monday of next week”) about all the dirt he had on Hillary Clinton. Trump was almost certainly anticipating that the upcoming meeting at Trump Tower would provide him with bombshell information.
  • On June 9 the Trump Team met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower.
  • We now know what Veselnitskaya was pimping. A few days ago Vladimir Putin himself told us that “business associates” of Bill Browder “sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s the personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.”
  • That’s it. That was the dirt. This is so thin and so easily disproven that even Trump apparently couldn’t figure out a way to use it. That’s why he never gave his speech.
  • A year later, when the New York Times learned about the Trump Tower meeting, Trump conferred with Putin and then explained that they talked “about adoption.” This now makes sense: (a) the $400 million supposedly came from friends of Bill Browder, (b) Browder is the force behind the Magnitsky Act, which Putin loathes, and (c) after the act was passed, Putin retaliated by banning American adoption of Russian babies. So talking “about adoption” is just a hop and a skip away from talking about that $400 million that Hillary hoovered up in Browder cash.

Long story short, the Russian dirt was a nothingburger, which is why we never heard about it. Trump sure wanted it, but there was just nothing there.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2018 at 5:49 pm

Climate change and heatwaves

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Climate change is starting to bite, though I believe the Republican party continues to deny it and to work toward increasing the use of fossil fuels, the cause of climate change. The Quartz daily brief notes:

The world is suffering from extreme weather.

Heatwaves have killed 50 in Canada and 80 in Japan, caused drought in Germany and Scandinavia, set record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, and Oman, and left the UK looking brown from space. The heat has spurred wildfires that have claimed at least 80 lives in Greece, melted electrical wires in California, and forced Sweden to call for international help.

This is not normal.

Weather is a localized phenomenon to which long-term climate trends contribute. The more greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere, the warmer the climate gets and the more likely extreme weather events become. Climate change adds fuel to the fire.

The world’s five hottest years on record, in ranked order, were 2016, 2015, 2017, 2014, and 2010. “The sort of temperatures that are occurring now would’ve been a one-in-a-thousand occurrence in the 1950s,” Joanna Haigh, of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, told the BBC. “Now, they are about a one-in-10 occurrence.”

The trouble is, the average person still is unlikely to make the connection between climate change and weather events. Take the US, for example. Among the 127 segments run on its TV networks about heatwaves this summer, only one mentioned the connection between climate change and extreme heat, according to a study published by Media Matters.

Legacy radio and print did a slightly better job, but even those outlets struggled to ascertain how to mention climate change in the context of breaking-news events, such as the wildfires in Greece. Research was published July 27 from a group of scientists that looked at seven places across northern Europe and concluded climate change made heatwaves twice as likely; it was only the 12th story on the BBC News global homepage—underneath “LeBron James ‘regrets’ giving son his name.”

Not so long ago the image of a polar bear on a melting iceberg was the symbol of climate change. Though it evoked sympathy, it also reinforced the idea that the impacts of climate change are physically distant. Over the past few years, however, extreme weather events have brought the impact much closer to home and increased public understanding, according to a 2017 study. Recent polls back up the claim, with more and more acceptance of the link between human-caused climate change and the recent spate of weather-driven devastations.

Yet fear doesn’t motivate everyone. For some, the message is better delivered through finding common ground. Whatever the means, it’s important we connect the dots on climate change. We aren’t going to find the solution to humanity’s greatest challenge without acknowledging the problem and its sheer scale.—Akshat Rathi

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2018 at 12:08 pm

Actually, guns do kill people, according to a new study

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open underscores an often overlooked factor in gun-policy debates: When it comes to lethality, not all guns are created equal.

Analyzing data on hundreds of shootings in Boston from 2010 to 2014, Anthony Braga of Northeastern University and Philip J. Cook of Duke University found that on a bullet-per-bullet basis, shootings committed with a large-caliber firearm are much more likely to result in a fatality than those with a smaller-caliber gun. Caliber is a measure of the diameter of the bullets fired by a particular gun.

The study analyzed data on 221 gun homicides and 1,012 nonfatal shootings that happened in Boston between 2010 and 2014. On first glance, the numbers provided a confirmation of the depressing demographics of shooting cases: “Most gunshot victims and survivors were young minority men with prior court arraignments,” Braga and Cook found. “Most attacks occurred in circumstances where gangs or drugs played an important role.” Most occurred outdoors in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

But they found stark differences in shooting outcomes depending on the caliber of gun used. They divided the calibers of guns used in the shootings into three categories: small, which included .22-, .25- and .32-caliber handguns; medium, including .380s, .38s and 9mms; and large, including .40s, .44 magnums, .45s, 10mms and 7.62 x 39s.

That last one is the type of round used in AK-47-style rifles. Strictly speaking, this round has a narrower diameter than even the medium calibers studied, but the authors say they categorized it as large-caliber because of the increased bullet velocity provided by the round’s large cartridge, which contains a relatively high volume of gun powder. Of note, there was only one shooting involving that kind of weapon in the data set. All the other shootings involved handguns.

They controlled for a number of other factors, such as circumstances of shootings and the number of times victims were shot. They then found that all else being equal, a person shot with a medium-caliber weapon, such as a common 9mm handgun, were roughly 2.3 times as likely to die of their wounds than someone shot with a small-caliber gun. Large-caliber gunshots were even deadlier, resulting in odds of death 4.5 times that of small-caliber gunshots.

The implication,” they write, “is that if the medium- and large-caliber guns had been replaced with small caliber (assuming everything else unchanged) the result would have been a 39.5% reduction in gun homicides” in Boston during the study period.

The results undercut the idea that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That catchy turn of phrase is often used by gun rights supporters to emphasize the human role in gun violence rather than the gun itself. The idea is that the gun matters a lot less than the murderous intent of the person pulling the trigger. If the person matters more than the gun, in other words, it’s better to focus policy on people than to regulate guns.

This view is widespread among experts who take a permissive attitude toward gun regulation. A Rand Corp. study published earlier this year, for instance, surveyed a group of gun experts who generally favored fewer gun restrictions, asking what would happen if a given gun policy was successful at reducing gun homicides. On average, those experts believed that about 90 percent of the prevented gun homicides would simply end up as homicides by other means. That reflects a belief that homicidal intent is the key factor driving the lethality of gun violence.

But the JAMA study challenges that notion. Some guns are simply manufactured to be more lethal than others. It suggests that identical shooters with identical intent would kill fewer people if they had access only to less powerful firearms. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2018 at 9:22 am

Posted in Guns, Science

Unrepresentative government

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Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2018 at 4:13 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life

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