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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
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Journal Archives

Bernie Sanders’s Debate Strategy: Attack Hillary Clinton, if Asked



Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is preparing new lines of attack against Hillary Rodham Clinton on trade, gun control, and even the controversy over her State Department email to use on Saturday at their next televised presidential debate, which the Sanders team regards as — if not a do-or-die moment — perhaps his best chance to slow her political momentum this fall.

Mr. Sanders prepped into the night on Thursday with a Senate aide playing Mrs. Clinton at mock sessions in Burlington, Vt. Yet Democrats inside and outside his campaign said that Mr. Sanders may be limited — by his own moves and by hers — in stopping a resurgent Mrs. Clinton, who has built double-digit leads over him in many opinion polls. They noted that Mr. Sanders still does not want to go on the attack first against Mrs. Clinton at the debate, potentially depriving him of chances to raise doubts about her judgment of character.

Another obstacle for Mr. Sanders is that Mrs. Clinton has already co-opted many of the liberal positions that he once owned, like opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Mr. Sanders has vulnerabilities, too, like congressional votes against some gun control bills, and the fact that he is not a Democrat, despite seeking the party’s nomination, but a democratic socialist...


You Won't Guess Why U.S. Autism Prevalence Is Now 1 In 45


The reason that the latest numbers for autism prevalence among US children have climbed traces largely to a simple change in how interviewers asked a question...The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last conducted the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the years 2011 through 2013. The 2014 survey, though, included a tweak, and that tweak is the reason that autism prevalence climbed from 1.25% to 2.24% in 2014. Not even the most die-hard causation theorist could argue that in a single year or handful of years, something environmental, like vaccines, caused a near-doubling of autism prevalence in children ages 3 to 17 years.

So what underlies the increase? For the 2011-2013 survey, parents answered a series of three questions. The first asked if their child had intellectual disability. The second asked if their child had any developmental delay. And the third question listed several conditions, from Down syndrome to sickle cell anemia to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and parents were asked if their child had been diagnosed with any of them...But 2014 brought some tweaks, and those tweaks made a difference. The intellectual disability question came first again. But the second question directly asked parents if their child had an ASD diagnosis. The third question then asked about any other developmental delay. More than 10,000 parents are interviewed in each year of this survey. The simple change to emphasize the autism question resulted in the near doubling of prevalence from 2011–2013 to 2014. Underscoring that this increase reflects a shift in how parents responded to the questions, the prevalence of ‘other developmental disorders’ dropped in that same time period from 4.84% in 2011-2013 to 3.57% in 2014. Intellectual disability prevalence remained pretty much the same in the two periods, and the collective prevalence for all three conditions (intellectual disability, ASD, and other developmental disorders) also remained stable.

What a difference a question can make. But that might not have been the sole influence on the results...Paul Lipkin, director of medical informatics at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and of the institute’s Interactive Autism Network, sees the reordering and rewording of the questions as one factor. The changes place a “higher priority on identifying autism,” he said in an email, but “at the same time, we know that professionals, parents, and the public also are more attuned to ASD and its identification at all ages.”

These latest values bring the results of three national surveys of autism prevalence into alignment. In addition to the NHIS, the US also identifies autism prevalence values from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) and the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). The most recent results from the NSCH put autism prevalence at 1 in 50 children. This latest NHIS prevalence of 1 in 45 converges on that finding, and the agreement among the studies strengthens their conclusions.
Lipkin noted that the advantages of the NHIS study are that it doesn’t involve preselecting households for autism or other developmental conditions and samples across ages, unlike ADDM, which focuses on 8-year-olds. The 2.24% prevalence also is remarkably close to the 2.64% reported in a thorough investigation of autism prevalence in the South Korean population. Lipkin sees that similarity as pointing to the universality of autism. “This is not a function of professional practice, cultural differences in parenting, or differing parental perspectives on their children,” he said. The report also shows some stabilizing of previous disparities and a closing gap between girls and boys diagnosed with autism. Earlier surveys and some research have suggested that autism is four or five times more common in boys than in girls, but the NHIS survey has it as just under 3 times more common in boys (3.29 vs 1.15 in girls). Some of the gaps among ethnicities also appear to be narrowing: ASD prevalence among non-Hispanic white children was 2.55 in the NHIS survey and 2.21 among non-Hispanic blacks, but still lower among Hispanic children at 1.49. Prevalence also is lower among uninsured families, possibly reflecting an access issue.

One final result to highlight from this survey: The results are similar for age groups, at 2.34 for children ages 3-10 and 2.13 for children ages 11-17. That similarity also suggests some stability across the years in the true prevalence of this condition, whether a child was born in 1998 or in the 21st century.


Michigan's Primary Ballot Due Out Friday

By Friday Nov. 13, the political parties are supposed to have their candidates listed. One month later, anyone else who wants to run has to have 10,000 valid signatures turned in.

The race is firming up! It will be Primary Day for Michigan (March 8) before you know it!

Inside the Secretive World of Tax-Avoidance Experts


A sociologist realized that if she were ever going to understand global inequality she would have to become one of the people who helps create it. So she trained to become a wealth manager to the ultra-rich...CREATE, OR STEAL?

...Wealth management is a profession on the defensive. Although many people have never heard of it, it is well known to both state revenue authorities and international agencies seeking to impose the rule of law on high-net-worth individuals. Those individuals—including the 103,000 people classified as “ultra-high-net-worth” based on having $30 million or more in investable assets—pay wealth-management professionals hefty fees to help them avoid taxes, debts, legal judgments, and other obligations the rest of the world considers part of everyday life. The general public doesn’t hear much about these professionals, since there are only a few of them worldwide (just under 20,000 belong to the main professional society) and they strive to keep a low profile, both for themselves and their clients.

But they are very much on the radar of regulatory agencies, due to the central role wealth management plays in tax avoidance. Media coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney noted that his $250 million personal fortune was spread out through a network of offshore trusts and bank accounts, lowering his effective income-tax rate to just under 15 percent. Few outlets, however, noted the professional interventions that made that happen: Mitt Romney employs at least one wealth manager to create and maintain those offshore shelters.

By the same token, when Oxfam estimates that just 1 percent of the world’s population will own more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth by 2016, it’s important to realize that such a state of affairs doesn’t just happen by itself, or even through the actions of individual wealthy people. For the most part, the wealthy are busy enjoying their wealth or making more of it; keeping those personal fortunes out of the hands of governments (along with creditors, litigants, divorced spouses, and disgruntled heirs) is the job of wealth managers.


Staring at computers at night is frying your brain. Here's one easy fix


... chances are you spend a lot of time looking at LED screens — on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, phablet, smartwatch, fitness device, smart appliance, Google Glass, or whatnot. According to the Vision Council, about a third of my generation (X) spends at least nine hours a day on digital devices. Millennials are even worse (in this as in everything). In the somewhat smaller tribe of people who read and write stuff on the internet for a living, I bet 10 to 12 hours a day isn't unusual. I'm sure I've done it. It's not good for our eyes. LED screens emit a great deal of blue light, and according to the Vision Council, "cumulative and constant exposure to blue light can damage retinal cells."


What's more, even the non-harmful portion of blue light sends a signal to our brains that it is daytime, revving up our heart rate and alertness. It mimics the sun, basically. You do not want to be lying in bed at night, having brushed your teeth and set your alarm, staring into the sun. It's not a recipe for good sleep. Exposure to blue light at night has even been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. (It is not entirely clear why; it likely has to do with suppressing the secretion of melatonin.)

There are all sorts of solutions to the blue-light problem. The most obvious is just not to look at screens for two or three hours before you go to bed. Unfortunately, a substantial proportion of my professional work gets done in the two to three hours before I go to bed, so that's not really an option for me. Hardware solutions include adhesive screen protectors that filter blue light and even orange goggles, if you want to look extra cool after the sun goes down.

But by far the easiest step is just to install f.lux. It's free for Windows, Mac, and iPhones/iPads**. (There's not yet a version for Android, but there are plenty of alternatives; I use one called CF.lumen.)

download at https://justgetflux.com/


Undelivered letters shed light on 17th-century society


An appeal for help from a desperate woman has been opened and read more than 300 years after the man it was sent to refused to accept delivery – not surprisingly, since the wealthy merchant in The Hague must have suspected it contained the unwelcome news that he was about to become a father.

The letter is part of an extraordinary trove of thousands of pieces of correspondence, never delivered, many still unopened and sealed closed, found packed into a leather trunk and stored away for centuries in the Netherlands.

The collection includes letters from aristocrats, spies, merchants, publishers, actors, musicians, barely literate peasants and highly educated people with beautiful handwriting, and are written in French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Latin...The linen-lined leather trunk, covered in official seals, was presented to a postal museum in The Hague in 1926, but the 2,600 letters it held, 600 of them unopened, are only now being studied by an international team of academics, including scholars from Leiden, Oxford, MIT and Yale.

Special scanning techniques will be used to examine the contents without opening the sealed letters or damaging the ingenious variety of ways in which the pages were folded to so that the letter became its own envelope. The letters were sent between 1680 and 1706, a time of constant war and political upheaval in Europe, and were kept by a married couple, Simon de Brienne and Maria Germain, the postmaster and mistress in The Hague.



TPP: The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History By Chris Hedges


The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO and NAFTA , is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.


What I Learned on My Red State Book Tour ROBERT REICH


I’ve just returned from three weeks in “red” America. It was ostensibly a book tour but I wanted to talk with conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers. I intended to put into practice what I tell my students – that the best way to learn is to talk with people who disagree you. I wanted to learn from red America, and hoped they’d also learn a bit from me (and perhaps also buy my book).

But something odd happened. It turned out that many of the conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers I met agreed with much of what I had to say, and I agreed with them.

  • For example, most condemned what they called “crony capitalism,” by which they mean big corporations getting sweetheart deals from the government because of lobbying and campaign contributions. I met with group of small farmers in Missouri who were livid about growth of “factory farms” owned and run by big corporations, that abused land and cattle, damaged the environment, and ultimately harmed consumers. They claimed giant food processors were using their monopoly power to squeeze the farmers dry, and the government was doing squat about it because of Big Agriculture’s money.

  • I met in Cincinnati with Republican small-business owners who are still hurting from the bursting of the housing bubble and the bailout of Wall Street. “Why didn’t underwater homeowners get any help?” one of them asked rhetorically. “Because Wall Street has all the power.” Others nodded in agreement. Whenever I suggested that big Wall Street banks be busted up – “any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period” – I got loud applause.

  • In Kansas City I met with Tea Partiers who were angry that hedge-fund managers had wangled their own special “carried interest” tax deal. “No reason for it,” said one. “They’re not investing a dime of their own money. But they’ve paid off the politicians.”

  • In Raleigh, I heard from local bankers who thought Bill Clinton should never have repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. “Clinton was in the pockets of Wall Street just like George W. Bush was,” said one.

  • Most of the people I met in America’s heartland want big money out of politics, and think the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision was shameful.

  • Most are also dead-set against the Trans Pacific Partnership. In fact, they’re opposed to trade agreements, including NAFTA, that they believe have made it easier for corporations to outsource American jobs abroad.

  • A surprising number think the economic system is biased in favor of the rich. (That’s consistent with a recent Quinnipiac poll in which 46 percent of Republicans believe “the system favors the wealthy.”)

    The more conversations I had, the more I understood the connection between their view of “crony capitalism” and their dislike of government. They don’t oppose government per se. In fact, as the Pew Research Center has found, more Republicans favor additional spending on Social Security, Medicare, education, and infrastructure than want to cut those programs. Rather, they see government as the vehicle for big corporations and Wall Street to exert their power in ways that hurt the little guy. They call themselves Republicans but many of the inhabitants of America’s heartland are populists in the tradition of William Jennings Brian.

    I also began to understand why many of them are attracted to Donald Trump. I had assumed they were attracted by Trump’s blunderbuss and his scapegoating of immigrants. That’s part of it. But mostly, I think, they see Trump as someone who’ll stand up for them – a countervailing power against the perceived conspiracy of big corporations, Wall Street, and big government. Trump isn’t saying what the moneyed interests in the GOP want to hear.

  • He’d impose tariffs on American companies that send manufacturing overseas, for example.

  • He’d raise taxes on hedge-fund managers. (“The hedge-fund guys didn’t build this country,” Trump says. “They’re “getting away with murder.”)

  • He’d protect Social Security and Medicare.

    I kept hearing “Trump is so rich he can’t be bought.”

    Heartland Republicans and progressive Democrats remain wide apart on social and cultural issues. But there’s a growing overlap on economics. The populist upsurge is real. I sincerely hope Donald Trump doesn’t become president. He’s a divider and a buffoon.

    But I do hope the economic populists in both parties come together.

    That’s the only way we’re going to reform a system that’s now rigged against most of us.
  • Full Text of TPP, Including Annexes, and Boy is it Nasty


    Here’s the directory of files in the zip, which as you can see, includes the Annexes:

    TPP-Final-Text-Japan-Appendix-B-2-Forest-Good- Safeguard-Measure.pdf


    HTML here.

    The Washington Post has also put up the main text and made it searchable (hooray!) but they do not include the annexes, while the links above do.

    One of the issues with an agreement this complex is you need to have an understanding of how it affects existing regulations and prevalent practices and contract terms. This is one of the reasons that Public Citizen has proven to be so valuable over time. They’ve been dogging trade deals for years and their focus on this topic enables them to give informed, fast responses. I hope you’ll find time to make a donation to them, even a small one.

    The text of the Public Citizen press release on the TPP is now over 12 hours old, yet it is still the best overview:

    Pact’s Fate in Congress Uncertain at Best; Long-Awaited Text Reveals Gaps Between Administration Claims and Actual TPP Terms On Key Congressional, Public Concerns

    WASHINGTON – Today’s long-awaited release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) reveals that the pact replicates many of the most controversial terms of past pacts that promote job offshoring and push down U.S wages while further expanding the scope of the controversial investor-state system and rolling back improvements on access to affordable medicines and environmental standards that congressional Democrats forced on the George W. Bush administration in 2007.

    “Apparently, the TPP’s proponents resorted to such extreme secrecy during negotiations because the text shows TPP would offshore more American jobs, lower our wages, flood us with unsafe imported food and expose our laws to attack in foreign tribunals,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “When the administration says it used the TPP to renegotiate NAFTA, few expected that meant doubling down on the worst job-killing, wage-suppressing NAFTA terms, expanding limits on food safety and rolling back past reforms on environmental standards and access to affordable drugs.”

    On some key issues, the text reveals provisions that will cost TPP support from members of Congress who supported the narrow passage of Fast Track trade authority this summer, and affirm for the many members of Congress who backed past trade deals but opposed Fast Track that the TPP must be stopped.

    “Many in Congress said they would support the TPP only if, at a minimum, it included past reforms made to trade pact intellectual property rules affecting access to affordable medicines. But the TPP rolls back that past progress by requiring new marketing exclusivities and patent term extensions, and provides pharmaceutical firms with new monopoly rights for biotech drugs, including many new and forthcoming cancer treatments,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “The terms in this final TPP text will contribute to preventable suffering and death abroad, and may constrain the reforms that Congress can consider to reduce Americans’ medicine prices at home.”

    The text also confirms that demands made by Congress and key constituencies were not fulfilled.

    “From leaks, we knew quite a bit about the agreement, but in chapter after chapter the final text is worse than we expected with the demands of the 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests satisfied to the detriment of the public interest,” said Wallach.

    Today’s text release confirms concerns about TPP that were based on earlier leaks and reveals ways in which the TPP rolls back past public interest reforms to the U.S. trade model and expands anti-public-interest provisions demanded by the hundreds of official U.S. corporate trade advisers:

    Worse anti-public-interest provisions relative to past U.S. trade pacts:

      The TPP Intellectual Property Chapter would roll back the “May 2007” reforms for access to medicines.
      The TPP Environment Chapter would roll back the “May 2007” reforms by eliminating most of the seven Multilateral Environmental Agreements that past pacts have enforced.
      The TPP Investment Chapter would expand the scope of policies that can be challenged and the basis for such challenges, including for the first time ever allowing ISDS enforcement of World Trade Organization intellectual property terms and new challenges to financial regulations.
      With Japanese, Australian and other firms newly empowered to launch ISDS attacks against the United States, the TPP would double U.S. ISDS exposure with more than 9,200 additional subsidiaries operating here of corporation from TPP nations newly empowered to launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government. (About 9,500 U.S. subsidiaries have ISDS rights under ALL existing U.S. investor-state-enforced pacts.)
      The TPP E-Commerce Chapter would undermine consumer privacy protections for sensitive personal health, financial and other data when it crosses borders by exposing such policies to challenge as a violation of the TPP limits on regulation of data flows.
      TPP “Sanitary and Phytosanitary” chapter terms would impose new limits on imported foods safety relative to past pacts. This includes new challenges to U.S. border inspection systems that can be launched based on extremely subjective requirements that inspections must “limited to what is reasonable and necessary” as determine by a TPP tribunal. New language that replicates the industry demand for a so-called Rapid Response Mechanism that requires border inspectors to notify exporters for every food safety check that finds a problem and give the exporter the right to bring a challenge to that port inspection determination meaning new right to bring a trade challenge to individual border inspection decisions (including potentially laboratory or other testing) that second-guesses U.S. inspectors and creates a chilling effect that would deter rigorous oversight of imported foods.

    Anti-public-interest provisions that are the same as past U.S. pacts

      The TPP Investment Chapter would eliminate many of the risks and costs of relocating American jobs to low-wage countries, incentivizing more American job offshoring.
      The TPP procurement chapter would offshore our tax dollars to create jobs overseas instead of at home by giving firms operating in any TPP nation equal access to many U.S. government procurement contracts, rather than us continuing to give preference to local firms to build and maintain our public libraries, parks, post offices and universities.
      Contrary to Fast Track negotiating objectives, the TPP would grant foreign firm greater rights that domestic firms enjoy under U.S. law and in U.S. courts. One class of interests – foreign firms – could privately enforce this public treaty by skirting domestic laws and courts to challenge U.S. federal, state and local decisions and policies on grounds not available in U.S. law and do so before extrajudicial ISDS tribunals authorized to order payment of unlimited sums of taxpayer dollars.
      There are no new safeguards that limit ISDS tribunals’ discretion to issue ever-expanding interpretations of governments’ obligations to investors and order compensation on that basis. The text reveals the same “safeguard” Annexes and terms that were included in U.S. pacts since the 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that have failed to rein in ISDS tribunals. CAFTA tribunals have simply ignored the “safeguard” provisions that are replicated in the TPP and as with past pacts, in the TPP such tribunal conduct is not subject to appeal.
      The TPP would ban the use of capital controls and other macroprudential financial regulations used to prevent speculative bubbles and financial crises.

    Please see a bullet point analysis of key TPP investment, food safety, labor and environmental, market access, rules of origin, procurement, and other provisions prepared by labor and public interest experts for more details. More detailed analyses of each chapter will be available next week. http://www.citizen.org/documents/analysis-tpp-text-november-2015.pdf

    The TPP can take effect only if the U.S. Congress approve it given the rules about conditions for the TPP to go into effect. The TPP’s fate in Congress is uncertain at best given that since the trade authority vote, the small bloc of members of the U.S. House of Representatives who made the narrow margin of passage possible have expressed concerns that the text release shows were not addressed.

    Ten U.S. presidential candidates have pushed anti-TPP messages in their campaigning, stoking U.S. voters’ ire about the pact.

    An unprecedented number and wide array of organizations oppose any attempt to railroad the TPP through Congress by using the Fast Track process. Groups united on this extend well beyond labor unions and include consumer, Internet freedom, senior, health, food safety, environmental, human rights, faith, LGBTQ, student and civil rights organizations.

    “Now that Congress and the public can scrutinize the actual text, the reality that it fails to meet Congress’ demands and its terms would be harmful to most Americans will replace the administration’s myth-based sales job for TPP, further dimming the TPP’s prospects in Congress,” Wallach said.

    Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.




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