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Can Security Measures Really Stop School Shootings?

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Bryan Warnick, Benjamin A. Johnson, and Sam Rocha write in Scientific American:

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.The Conversation

When deadly school shootings like the one that took place on Valentine’s Day in Broward County, Florida occur, often they are followed by calls for more stringent security measures.

For instance, after the Jan. 23 case in which a 15-year-old student allegedly shot and killed two students and wounded 16 others at a small-town high school in Kentucky, some Kentucky lawmakers called for armed teachers and staff.

If anything, the response of the Kentucky lawmakers represents what has been called the “target-hardening” approach to school shootings. This approach attempts to fortify schools against gun violence through increased security measures. These measures may include metal detectors, lock-down policies, “run, hide, fight” training and surveillance cameras.

While some of these measures seem sensible, overall there is little empirical evidence that such security measures decrease the likelihood of school shootings. Surveillance cameras were powerless to stop the carnage in Columbine and school lock-down policies did not save the children at Sandy Hook.

As researchers who have collaboratively written about school shootings, we believe what is missing from the discussion is the idea of an educational response. Current policy responses do not address the fundamental question of why so many mass shootings take place in schools. To answer this question, we need to get to the heart of how students experience school and the meaning that schools have in American life.

An educational response is important because the “target hardening” approach might actually make things worse by changing students’ experience of schools in ways that suggest violence rather than prevent it.

How security measures can backfire

Filling schools with metal detectors, surveillance cameras, police officers and gun-wielding teachers tells students that schools are scary, dangerous and violent places – places where violence is expected to occur.

The “target hardening” approach also has the potential to change how teachers, students and administrators see one another. How teachers understand the children and youth they teach has important educational consequences. Are students budding citizens or future workers? Are they plants to nourish or clay to mold?

One of the most common recommendations for schools, for example, is that they should be engaged in threat assessment. Checklists are sometimes suggested to school personnel to determine when students should be considered as having the potential for harm. While such practices have their place, as a society we should be aware that these practices change how teachers think of students: not as budding learners, but potential shooters; not with the potential to grow and flourish, but with the potential to enact lethal harm.

Of course, society can think of students in different ways at different times. But the more teachers think of students as threats to be assessed, the less educators will think of students as individuals to nourish and cultivate.

As researchers, we have read the accounts of dozens of different school shootings, and we think educators, parents and others should begin to raise the following questions about schools.

Questions of status

To what extent does the school—through things like athletics, homecoming royalties, or dances and so forth—encourage what some political scientists have called the “status tournament of adolescence” that lurks behind the stories of many school shootings?

As one reads about such shootings, one often senses a feeling of social anxiety and betrayal on the part of perpetrator. Americans hold high expectations for schools as places of friendship and romance, yet too often students find alienation, humiliation and isolation. The frustration at these thwarted expectations at least sometimes seems to turn toward the school itself.

Force and control issues

To what extent does the force and coercion employed by many schools contribute to a “might makes right” mentality and associated violence?

It is true that bullying is part of some of the stories of school shooters. Students who are bullied or who are bullies themselves will quite naturally think of schools as places appropriate for violence. There is also sometimes a rage, however, against the day-to-day imposition of school discipline and punishment. Since schools are experienced as places of force and control, for some students, they also come to be seen as appropriate places for violence.

Identity and expression . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2018 at 8:19 am

How the Russians did it

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Donie O’Sullivan reports at CNN:

The operation sounds like a normal tech-savvy ad agency.

There’s a graphics team. There is a team devoted to making sure the company’s content shows up near the top of search results. There are IT people and a finance department controlling a budget in the millions.

Employees track their social media posts to see how they’re doing — how many likes, comments and shares they’ve gotten. They do post-mortems on their work to make sure it’s up to the company’s standards.

If you didn’t know that it had just been indicted for trying to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, you might well want to hire the Internet Research Agency.

federal indictment against 13 Russian nationals made public on Friday provides new insight into how the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked Russian troll group, set up a vast network of fake American activist groups and used the stolen identities of real Americans in an attempt to wreak havoc on the U.S. political system.

According to the indictment, the group, which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia, began monitoring the social media pages of real American activist organizations in 2014, before setting up fake pages and personas that became, the indictment says, “leaders of public opinion.”

The pages were designed to look like they were run by real Americans. They focused on a number of divisive issues in American life, including race relations, religion, immigration, and the 2016 presidential election.

On Facebook alone, an estimated 126 million Americans may have been exposed to material the group produced, the social media company told Congress last fall. The indictment provides a fuller picture of how the Internet Research Agency worked. It details a sophisticated operation that allowed the group to achieve such wide reach. The agency had a budget of over $1.25 million by September 2016 — big enough to include money for bonuses.

“To measure the impact of their online social media operations, Defendants and their co-conspirators tracked the performance of content they posted over social media,” it says. “They tracked the size of the online U.S. audiences reached through posts, different types of engagement with the posts … changes in audience size, and other metrics. Defendants and their co-conspirators received and maintained metrics reports on certain group pages and individualized posts.”

The group worked hard to make its work look like it came from real Americans. Apart from the occasional typo — or a phrase that, in hindsight, was clearly written by a non-native English speaker — the group’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr pages were convincing. They looked like many other politically-themed pages on social media: Designed to take advantage of Americans’ divisions, to get engagement by stoking outrage.

The sophistication may have been aided by a fact-finding mission that some of the defendants made to the United States in 2014. The Russians traveled under false pretenses to collect intelligence to inform their operations, the indictment says.

Once the operation was up and running, staff in St. Petersburg worked day and night and were instructed to post in accordance with U.S. time zones. They worked with a graphics department, the indictment says, which may explain why some of the group’s pages, like “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist,” had slick custom logos.

The pages were not solely or even mostly devoted to talking about the election, and the operation was running before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president. But eventually the group decided on a goal, the indictment says. In February 2016 employees at the IRA were instructed to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them,” the indictment alleges.

In September 2016, according to the indictment, an internal review criticized the person running the “Secured Borders” Facebook page for its “low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 February 2018 at 11:01 am

“Best healthcare in the world”: 500-pound man’s doctor says he’ll die without surgery. His insurer shrugs it off

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David Lazarus writes in the LA Times:

Norwalk resident Shawn Alvarado started packing on the pounds as a teenager, gradually becoming one of millions of Americans whose sedentary lifestyle made him a statistic in the country’s obesity epidemic.
By the age of 24, Alvarado weighed 300 pounds.

By the age of 31, he weighed 400 pounds.

Today he tips the scale at almost 500 pounds.

“I don’t know what to say,” Alvarado, now 53, told me. “I just stopped exercising. I got heavier and heavier.”

Still, you don’t get to weigh a quarter-ton by simply overeating. There are almost certainly other factors at work, both physiological and psychological.

Yet Alvarado’s insurer, Minnesota-based HealthPartners, refuses to see him as having an overall medical condition.

Twice, he said, his doctor sought insurance authorization for gastric bypass surgery to reduce his weight. And twice HealthPartners turned down coverage, deeming the roughly $20,000 operation a cosmetic procedure.

I could only wonder if Alvarado was getting a fair shake after California’s two main health insurance regulators, the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance, announced investigations this week into Aetna, the country’s third-largest insurer.

A former Aetna medical director for Southern California admitted in a deposition for a lawsuit that he never consulted patients’ medical records before denying claims. He said he relied on the advice of nurses.

“If a health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician ever reviewing medical records, that is a significant concern and could be a violation of the law,” said state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

No one’s saying this is what happened with Alvarado. But the Aetna case raises questions about how seriously his insurer took concerns about the medical need for a gastric bypass — and the company’s responsibility for a policyholder’s well-being.

“To say this is a cosmetic surgery is unbelievable,” said Dr. Winfried Waider, Alvarado’s cardiologist. “His lifespan is going to be markedly shortened by this decision.”

He added: “They just don’t want to pay, that’s what this is.”

Catherine Scott, a HealthPartners spokeswoman, declined to comment. Although Alvarado was willing to have his case discussed, Scott cited the insurer’s contract with Alvarado’s employer, a moving company, for which he works as a dispatcher.

“We can’t discuss the particular details of this employer’s benefit design,” she said.

HealthPartners certainly isn’t the only insurer to reject coverage for cosmetic or elective surgery. This is a way most insurance firms keep rates down for policyholders.

But here’s the thing in Alvarado’s case: He was hospitalized last year to the tune of almost $100,000 for congestive heart failure. He said HealthPartners covered most of the cost.

His other obesity-related complications — including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea — ring up annual medical bills in the tens of thousands of dollars. They too are covered by HealthPartners.

Yet the company won’t cover a procedure recommended by Alvarado’s doctor as medically necessary, one that could lower ongoing costs for the firm and other ratepayers.

How can that possibly make sense?

From the insured’s perspective, it makes all the sense in the world to cover this thing,” said Tom Mayo, a medical ethicist at Southern Methodist University. “But insurers frequently wear blinders. If it’s not in the language of the policy, it’s not covered. Period.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2018 at 12:47 pm

The Empty Rituals of an American Massacre

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James Fallows has a powerful column in the Atlantic:

The financial and political power of the National Rifle Association leaves many politicians terrified of crossing it. And because of its ideological and propaganda power, a segment of Americans now equates any proposed limit on gun use or ownership as a catastrophic step toward the extinction of individual liberties and the dawn of a confiscatory, totalitarian state.

Americans recognize that public-safety controls on use of a car—licensing laws, speed limits, insurance requirements, DUI penalties—don’t threaten the “right to drive.” They recognize that restrictions on some prescription drugs don’t threaten their right to buy aspirin, nor do limits on what they can carry onto a plane threaten their right to travel or fly. But the NRA and its allies have succeeded in making gun control an absolute issue. If you believe in the Second Amendment, then whatever the potential control—on gun-show sales, on bulk purchases of ammunition, on waiting times for background checks—it must be fought as a step not so much onto a slippery slope as over a cliff and into the abyss.

Thus even a restriction that seemed common sense a generation ago—for instance, banning a weapon like the AR-15 that was explicitly designed for use by troops in combat, and was never meant to be in civilian hands—now is anathema. A weapon meant for soldiers or perhaps SWAT teams has now been sold by the millions to civilians in the United States, who use it mainly for “personal protection” and “hunting,” but also in most mass killings. “I think the shift you’re seeing now is the military-style weapon is here to stay because it’s appealing to a whole new generation,” Steve Denny, owner of a gun shop in North Carolina, told John Boyle of the Asheville, North Carolina, Citizen Times back in 2014. “You can see it in the industry,” Denny said, according to Boyle. “The industry had to change from military-style weapons being something that they sold sometimes to them being something that is at the forefront of all their advertising—the tactical use of a firearm.”

There are things that can be done to reduce the frequency of gun massacres. We know that because in every other developed country on Earth they have been done, and have made a difference. Australia, Scotland, Norway, Canada, Germany, Finland—these and other countries have had occasional horrific mass shootings. These countries have just as high a proportion of mentally ill people as the United States does, just as many with pent-up grievances. But only America has an endless series of gun killings.

As Margot Sanger-Katz and Quoctrung Bui pointed out in The New York Timesafter one of the U.S. massacres last fall, there’s substantial overlap between the moderate gun-control measures that international experts think would be reduce killings, and those that have majority or near-unanimous support in opinion polls of Americans. But we know that in the terrain of modern American politics, such measures have no place. We’ll be talking about something else in a week or two.


We know something else as well, which is the sequence of political and press response that will unfold after this latest schoolyard gun massacre in Florida. The sequence is the one I described nearly six years ago, after what was then an attention-getting massacre—the one in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, which with “merely” 12 fatalities is no longer in America’s top 10. It’s the sequence I discussed in a video last fall, after what is for now still the highest-casualty gun killing, in Las Vegas. The sequence is:

  • As news of the killing comes in, cable channels give it wall-to-wall coverage.
  • The NRA ducks its head down and goes dark for hours or days, in its Twitterand other social-media outlets.
  • Politicians who have done everything possible to oppose changes in gun laws, and who often are major recipients of NRA contributions, offer “thoughts and prayers” to the victims, say they are “deeply saddened,” praise the heroes of law enforcement and of medical treatment who have tried to limit the damage, and lament the mental-health or cultural problems that have expressed themselves via an AR-15.
    “Thoughts and prayers” are of course admirable. But after an airline crash, politicians don’t stop with “thoughts and prayers” for the victims; they want to get to the bottom of the cause. After a fatal fire, after a botched response to a hurricane, after a food-poisoning or product-safety failure or a nursing-home abuse scandal, “thoughts and prayers” are the beginning of the public response but not the end. After a shooting they are both.
  • These same politicians say that the aftermath of a shooting is “not the right time” to “politicize” the tragedy by talking about gun laws or asking why only in America do massacres happen week after week after week.
    The right time to discuss these policies is “never.”
  • The news moves on; everyone forgets except the families and communities that are forever changed.
  • The next shooting comes, “thoughts and prayers” are offered, and the cycle resumes.
    If this summary sounds too cynical, think back to what has happened since a gunman killed or wounded more than 900 people in Las Vegas less than five months ago.

In this familiar sequence, the role of one man deserves study, as emblematic of the age as a whole. That person is of course Mitch McConnell, 75-year-old senator from Kentucky, leader of Republicans in the Senate for the past decade.

A history of our era will show Mitch McConnell as both the most effective purely partisan figure of the time—LBJ in the Senate, Sam Rayburn in the House, their records will pale—and a person uniquely destructive of trans-partisan governing norms. How has he changed norms? For the full picture I refer you to a wonderful short 2014 book about McConnell by Alec MacGillis, called The Cynic (well reviewed in The New York Review of Books by Robert Kaiser), and a prescient 2011 profile in The Atlantic by Joshua Green, called “Strict Obstructionist.”

Of course since those accounts, McConnell changed national and political history with his unprecedented refusal to consider Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, and by blocking the Obama administration’s efforts to issue a bipartisan warning about Russian election interference during the summer of 2016. Both moves enhanced the chances of Donald Trump’s election: the Garland stonewall in giving conservatives a clear-cut reason to vote for a man whose policies and personality might otherwise leave them queasy, and the Russian-interference stonewall in making that issue seem a fringe concern. Although no one suggests that this is the reason for McConnell’s actions, it’s a matter of historical record that his wife, Elaine Chao, who had been secretary of labor for George W. Bush, was named to another cabinet position, as secretary of transportation, by the victorious Donald Trump.

McConnell’s effect on gun legislation is representative of the politics of this issue and of McConnell’s instincts and influence overall. The crucial moment came after Obama’s reelection victory over Mitt Romney, in 2012.

Five weeks after the election, on December 14, a disturbed 20-year-old with an AR-15 went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot dead 20 little six- and seven-year-old children, plus six staff members.

At the time, it seemed unimaginable. At the time, it seemed that this atrocity might be the one that finally changed the public mind and thus public policy about dealing with guns. At the time, it seemed that pictures of these children and their families might have an effect like that of horrific images from the Vietnam era, for instance 9-year-old Kim Phuc running in terror, naked, after a napalm attack.

Associates of Barack Obama say that he considered the day he got the Sandy Hook news the worst day of his presidency. And two months later, in the first State of the Union address of his second term, he made the case for gun legislation with a passion and intensity quite rare in these big, formal speeches.

The ending of his speech was built around the phrase and concept that people devastated by gun violence deserved at least the respect of a formal up-or-down congressional vote on gun-control laws. He saidwith a cadence I noted at the time and will illustrate with italic emphases: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2018 at 11:41 am

Nudging, shoving, and manhandling

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Mark Kleiman has an interesting post at The Reality-Based Community:

I’ve been puzzled why Richard Thaler’s “nudge” idea attracts such hostility from some people to my political left (including very smart people such as Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi). The worst thing you can say about nudging as I understand it is that it’s not very powerful; other than that, nudging is like chicken soup: it can’t do any harm.

So I’m grateful to Tyler Cowen for clarifying matters for me. Either Cowen or I badly misunderstands Thaler’s idea; if Cowen is right, you can add me to the list of anti-nudgers. But I’m pretty sure the Cowen is wrong about what Thaler says, and certain that his account confuses things that ought to be distinguished.

Nudging, as I understand it, involves changing “choice architecture” – altering the way options are presented or the time choices are made, or changing the “default outcome” if no option is explicitly chosen – in order to bring people’s actual choices more closely in line with their true preferences, as measured by the choices they would make with full information after serious reflection. That is, nudging is simply the opposite of temptation.

One of the defining features of a nudge (understood this way) is that it doesn’t narrow the range of outcomes available to the chooser. For example: presented with a menu of retirement-savings options, many employees will pick none of them, in part because of the psychological costs of decision-making and the fear of getting it wrong (“analysis paralysis”). This can be true even in the case when inaction is clearly the worst option (e.g., when the employer is picking up all of the cost). In that case, a nudge strategy would be to make enrollment in the plan that seems to experts most appropriate for the largest number of employees the default option: i.e., what happens if an employee just doesn’t fill out the form.

Crucially to the definition of a nudge, an employee who doesn’t want that option can costlessly (other than the effort of making the decision) switch to another, or none at all. As long as there’s no deception involved, and the people designing the choice architecture know what they’re doing and have the welfare of the people making the choices in mind, nudging seems to me almost entirely benign. A program that doesn’t limit freedom of choice can’t properly be said to reduce liberty, so replacing “opt-in” with “opt-out” should be thought of as facilitative rather than coercive. The same is true of, e.g., putting the salad bar first in the cafeteria line.

However, Cowen’s understanding of nudgery has a much harder edge. He gives examples where a choice less preferred by the government (or whoever is setting up the system) is made materially less attractive or more expensive, such as legally complicated and expensive divorce procedures, or abortion restrictions that force women to travel inconvenient distances. Cowen even wants to call restrictive immigration laws “nudges,” because would-be immigrants who can’t get visas can always forge documents or sneak across the border!

In my view, that sort of cost-imposing policy is radically distinct from “nudging;” Steve Teles calls it “shoving.” I don’t doubt that some such “shoves” are justified on paternalistic grounds: taxation to reduce cigarette consumption is an example. (Shoves are often justifiable on non-paternalistic grounds, such as taxes to reduce air pollution.) But such strategies aren’t always benign; people who keep smoking in the face of heavy tobacco taxes wind up just as sick as they would have otherwise, and poorer. And of course for those with limited means making something expensive can amount to barring it entirely.

Now, I agree with Cowen that the “shoving” for paternalistic reasons he wants to label as “nudging” is often preferable to more drastic means of protecting people from their own bad decisions: means that we might call “manhandling.” A tax on cigarettes is more respectful of liberty, and less prone to generate bad side effects, than an outright prohibition would be. But – in contrast to nudging – shoving is like  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2018 at 9:51 am

Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity

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Ronan Farrow reports in the New Yorker:

In June, 2006, Donald Trump taped an episode of his reality-television show, “The Apprentice,” at the Playboy Mansion, in Los Angeles. Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s publisher, threw a pool party for the show’s contestants with dozens of current and former Playmates, including Karen McDougal, a slim brunette who had been named Playmate of the Year, eight years earlier. In 2001, the magazine’s readers voted her runner-up for “Playmate of the ’90s,” behind Pamela Anderson. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife.’ ”
Trump and McDougal began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document provided to The New Yorker by John Crawford, a friend of McDougal’s. When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own.

The interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them. McDougal describes their affair as entirely consensual. But her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs—sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously—out of the press.
On November 4, 2016, four days before the election, the Wall Street Journalreported that American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to McDougal’s story, which it never ran. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.” As part of the agreement, A.M.I. consented to publish a regular aging-and-fitness column by McDougal. After Trump won the Presidency, however, A.M.I.’s promises largely went unfulfilled, according to McDougal. Last month, the Journal reported that Trump’s personal lawyer had negotiated a separate agreement just before the election with an adult-film actress named Stephanie Clifford, whose screen name is Stormy Daniels, which barred her from discussing her own affair with Trump. Since then, A.M.I. has repeatedly approached McDougal about extending her contract.
McDougal, in her first on-the-record comments about A.M.I.’s handling of her story, declined to discuss the details of her relationship with Trump, for fear of violating the agreement she reached with the company. She did say, however, that she regretted signing the contract. “It took my rights away,” McDougal told me. “At this point I feel I can’t talk about anything without getting into trouble, because I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about. I’m afraid to even mention his name.”
A White House spokesperson said in a statement that Trump denies having had an affair with McDougal: “This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal.” A.M.I. said that an amendment to McDougal’s contract—signed after Trump won the election—allowed her to “respond to legitimate press inquiries” regarding the affair. The company said that it did not print the story because it did not find it credible.
Six former A.M.I. employees told me that Pecker routinely makes catch-and-kill arrangements like the one reached with McDougal. “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,” Jerry George, a former A.M.I. senior editor who worked at the company for more than twenty-five years, told me. George said that Pecker protected Trump. “Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told me. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.” Maxine Page, who worked at A.M.I. on and off from 2002 to 2012, including as an executive editor at one of the company’s Web sites, said that Pecker also used the unpublished stories as “leverage” over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories. Several former employees said that these celebrities included Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, and Tiger Woods. (Schwarzenegger, through an attorney, denied this claim. Woods did not respond to requests for comment.) “Even though they’re just tabloids, just rags, it’s still a cause of concern,” Page said. “In theory, you would think that Trump has all the power in that relationship, but in fact Pecker has the power—he has the power to run these stories. He knows where the bodies are buried.”

As the pool party at the Playboy Mansion came to an end, Trump asked for McDougal’s telephone number. For McDougal, who grew up in a small town in Michigan and worked as a preschool teacher before beginning her modelling career, such advances were not unusual. John Crawford, McDougal’s friend, who also helped broker her deal with A.M.I., said that Trump was “another powerful guy hitting on her, a gal who’s paid to be at work.” Trump and McDougal began talking frequently on the phone, and soon had what McDougal described as their first date: dinner in a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote. “We talked for a couple hours – then, it was “ON”! We got naked + had sex.” As McDougal was getting dressed to leave, Trump did something that surprised her. “He offered me money,” she wrote. “I looked at him (+ felt sad) + said, ‘No thanks – I’m not ‘that girl.’ I slept w/you because I like you – NOT for money’ – He told me ‘you are special.’ ”
Afterward, McDougal wrote, she “ . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2018 at 9:36 am

Ready meals and cereals linked with rise in cancer

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Something that The Wife and I don’t have to worry about: cancer risk from factory food products. Chris Smyth writes in the Times:

Eating factory-made food including cornflakes, pizza and chocolate bars every day increases the risk of cancer by a quarter, the first study of its kind suggests.

Additives in ready meals, packaged snacks and shop-bought cakes may combine to trigger the disease, researchers warned last night.

Cancer caused by highly processed food would be over and above the harmful effects of the sugar and fat it contains, scientists fear.

The West’s increasing taste for packaged food on the go could fuel a further rise in cancer in the future, they say.

French researchers studied the diets of 105,000 people, of whom 2,228 developed cancer over an eight-year period. The quarter who ate the most “ultra-processed” food were 23 per cent more likely to get any type of cancer than the quarter who ate the least, researchers report in The BMJ.

Those in the top quarter obtained a third of their calories from such products, roughly equivalent to a man consuming a chocolate bar, a can of cola, a bowl of cornflakes and a quarter of a pizza daily.

A study revealed last week that half of the food bought in Britain is made in a factory.

Mathilde Touvier, of the Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Centre, who led the study, said the cancer risk could be even greater in this country.

The French research cannot prove that the processing of food directly increases cancer risk and some experts said that the effect was more likely to be a result of the lack of vitamins in the kinds of foods that tend to be sold packaged, or the unhealthy lifestyles of those who tend to eat them.

However, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2018 at 8:29 am

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