Links 4/21/17

Grown-up Lego fans blocked from new playground in Melbourne – video Guardian (furzy)

As wolves die out, moose numbers boom on Michigan’s Isle Royale Washington Post (furzy)

Rare supernova discovery ushers in new era for cosmology PhysOrg. Chuck L: “Clear diagram of gravitational lensing.”

Michael Klare, Do African Famines Presage Global Climate-Change Catastrophe? TomDispatch

Your internet provider can’t pick which apps and services count against your data cap, says CRTC CBC. Translation: Net neutrality is still alive and kicking in Canada.

Monsanto Tribunal: Report from The Hague Organic Consumers Association. Glenn F: “Some possibly bad news for Monsanto.”

Drinking Too Much Soda May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s Bloomberg. The reporting on the study is lousy, but it may reflect poor wording in the study or the press releases touting it. First, the issue isn’t soda (carbonation) but “sugary” presumably meaning high fructose corn syrup. Second, there is no such thing as one type of diet soda. In the US, they are overwhelmingly sweetened with aspartame, which was approved in the 1970s but I don’t believe was rolled out into mass market foods for a while (Tab was pretty much the only “diet” drink till at least 1980). It was a controversial approval since aspartame even then and for many years later got tons of complaints from consumers about side effects like headaches. By contrast, less pleasant tasting saccharine had been used by diabetics and more broadly during WWII with no apparent long term ill effects. So by not clearly fingering apsartame, which is also used as a sweetener for hot drinks (for instance, Equal), it is doing readers a dissservice. Sucralose which is basically a mirror image of the sugar molecule, is to my knowledge used only in Diet Rite and I would suspect was not tested as “diet soda”. Presumably diet drinks sweetened with stevia, a super sweet natural substance were also excluded. However, I’ve long suspected that the rise in Alzheimers, which is a type of dementia that does not seem to have been described in histories or fiction (the erasure of personality is a distinctive feature), suggests that their is a strong environmental component, and this might be one.


China sets the pace in the global wine market Financial Times

The UK General Election, Corbyn’s Vilification and Labour’s Possible Fight Counterpunch

French Election

Are French pollsters cheating? The jury is still out Economist. Per Politico: “Around half of French adults are either planning not to vote or haven’t decided who to vote for.”

Macron polls to win both French presidential rounds against Le Pen Telegraph. One political scientist thinks Melenchon has better chances than the polls indicate (and he generally relies on polls). The scenario is that leftist voters dump Hamon at the polling station, with the result that Melenchon does 3+% better than he is polling now. However, keep in mind that that is very much a minority view.

Hamon ou Mélenchon ? A gauche, c’est le dilemme final Marianne

How terrorism in France is having a huge impact on presidential election Telegraph. Headline overstates what the article says…


Theresa May restates pledge to cut net migration to tens of thousands Sky. Note the subhead: “The Tory PM reaffirms her support for the flagship promise, despite failing to achieve it during six years as home secretary.” And more than half of UK’s migrants are non-EU.

Business groups and economists push back as May doubles down on net migration target City AM. We pointed out earlier this week that 10% of the NHS doctors are migrants and some NHS workers are leaving due to the fall of the pound and the rise in xenophobia.

Britain told to keep EU laws or jeopardise Brexit deal The Times

Setting a low, rigid figure for immigration is pointless if it leaves employers short of workers Sun. When you’ve lost The Sun….

Let us not forget the reason for vaccinating against measles is that it is very dangerous to babies under six months of age.

The European Stability Mechanism – A firewall for the eurozone and first line of defense for global financial stability ESM. Looks like an effort to sell the Germans on the idea that the IMF might not be in the next Greek bailout.

Oil Companies Exploiting Famine And Financial Ruin In South Sudan OilPrice


How and when will Americans give up on Afghanistan? The Week (Sid S)

West does not want to investigate incident in Idlib, Russian diplomat says TASS (Chuck L)

Assad: West Blocks Probe as It Would Show Idlib ‘Attack’, US Strike ‘False Flag’ Sputnik News (Chuck L)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Move over Touch ID—Mastercard is building fingerprint scanners directly into their cards Fast Company (Chuck L). No more MasterCards for me if this happens. And what happens to people whose fingerprints are so shallow that they can’t be ink printed reliably? Lambert tells me this would be a “lossy” format and so would carry only limited data. Do we have any forensics nerds in the house?

Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used to Steal Browser Data Bleeping Computer

Imperial Collapse Watch

America Is the World’s Biggest Terrorist Organization—Why Is That So Hard to Understand? Alternet (Sid S)

Trump Transition

Trump tested as hard economic data spell trouble Gillian Tett, Financial Times

Trump on ObamaCare repeal and preventing shutdown: ‘I want to get both’ The Hill

White House pressures GOP leaders on Obamacare showdown next week Politico. Wowsers. The very fact of this story is embarrassing and indicates the Trump team doesn’t understand how things work in DC on multiple levels.

AG Sessions says he’s ‘amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific’ can block Trump’s immigration order CNN (furzy)

Trump legal tab: $4 million and rising Politico. Separately, look at the photo. Trump’s face looks very different from when he was campaigning. I’ve noticed this in more than one picture. He looks puffy and his skin texture seems very different. One reader told me that some doctors can identify certain meds that patients are taking by their appearance. It may just be weight gain but I wonder if Trump has acquired a Dr. Feelgood since he took office.

Trump’s Justice Department Could Potentially Put Funding For Some Local Law Enforcement At Risk NPR (furzy)

Why CREW’s emoluments clause lawsuit against President Trump still has standing problems Washington Post (furzy). Our Jerri-Lynn predicted these suits were going nowhere.

Some possible results associated with Medicare/Medicaid cuts MedicareRights (Glenn F)

Path cleared for Arkansas executions BBC. Barbaric, but humans, and Americans in particular, are not very civilized.

Arkansas Fights to Execute Two Men Without Testing DNA Evidence That Could Exonerate Them Intercept

New SEC Alums Swarm ‘Revolving Door’ to Financial, Law Firms Securities Law Daily

The Nightmare Scenario for Florida’s Coastal Homeowners Bloomberg (Glenn F)

I.R.S. Enlists Debt Collectors to Recover Overdue Taxes New York Times

Police State Watch

Can the police retaliate against a citizen for refusing to answer police questions? Washington Post (furzy)

Number of people collecting unemployment checks hits 17-year low, jobless claims show MarketWatch (resilc). Not as meaningful as it seems. Warren Mosler writes regularly about how the tightening of unemployment rules means the data isn’t comparable over longer periods of time.

Paul Tudor Jones Says U.S. Stocks Should ‘Terrify’ Janet Yellen Bloomberg

Class Warfare

States are moving to cut college costs by introducing open-source textbooks Quartz (Chuck L)

Who Is Behind the Assault on Public Schools? Monthly Review (Sid S)

Antidote du jour (Robert H; photo by Sergey Polyushko). A carcal kitten:

And a bonus. Richard Smith considers this to be an anti-antidote. But with all the moves I did as a child, I managed to miss high school biology, and was relieved not to be put through dissecting a frog. So I very much approve:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Ebr

    the Guardian went into rural France to talk to voters, and (to my ear) it sounds like what I was hearing in Michigan/Ohio last year

    Yeah, the French election polls are so tight that we have a five way tie (four candidates tied at 20% each and then ‘the anklebiters’) but only one of those candidates is a status quo type candidate (Macron) which sort of implies if the second round is Macron vs “anybody else” then “anybody else” wins. That is what despair voting looks like, both in the Upper Midwest & (I assume) France.

    1. HBE

      It appears (from the US) that with the recent attack Le Pen will have narrowed the margins between herself and Macron, as he loses potential voters to Fillion who has been more vocal about terrorism but remains centrist.

      Unfortunately from my reading it appears that this puts an end to any Melenchon upsets as he has probably been least vocal on the subject, and likely won’t see any gains.

      Assuming rural is rural around the world (same experiences, different language, etc) I would think rural voters are not in the large undecided category and will vote Le Pen over Macron.

      My question for those more familiar with the election is how much of a catalyst will this recent attack be for undecideds and those who otherwise wouldn’t have voted and where will they go?

      1. Tenar

        Fillon is not a centrist, he’s actually extremely conservative.

        Not sure how much this event will affect voting. It’s very sad indeed, but it’s unlike the 2015 attacks that were large scale and specifically targeted the civilian population. If it does have an impact, I’d expect it to improve turnout of disaffected Les Republicains voters who would have been unwilling to vote for Fillon because of his corruption, but who find his focus on terrorism reassuring. As for Le Pen, from what I understand she has two bases: those mainly motivated by xenophobia and those drawn to her economic positions, which she mostly stole from the traditional left. In their most recent panel study results (April 19), Sciences Po Cevipof indicated that Le Pen had lost one percent of her voters to Mélenchon (-.5) and Fillon (-.5). She probably won’t get back voters motivated by economic issues (I’m assuming that those are the voters who’ve transferred to Mélenchon), but she could get back those who went to Fillon – although, as you mentioned, security has been a big point of his campaign, so it might go the other way.

        I don’t think this kills Mélenchon’s chances, because the people who are mainly motivated by security wouldn’t have voted for him anyway. Similar to what Yves said in the links, I’d speculate that it may actually swing voters who may have wanted to vote Hamon, because there is the rising fear that Fillon and Le Pen may come out on top. When leftist/center left voters thought it was going to Macron – Le Pen, even if they didn’t like Macron, they were able to stomach Macron becoming president. That’s not the case with Fillon. Fillon – Le Pen would be truly unbearable to left-wing voters.

        1. vidimi

          i agree that fillon is an extremist and his economic views are even worse than his social and foreign policy views. that said, there is not much between him and macron on economics. le pen is not all that left wing when it comes to the economy either. while she advocates a lower retirement age, she also wants to lower corporate taxes. this is a huge mistake which only mélonchon is against.

          a lower tax rate is most advantageous to mega corporations, it will not help small business or start ups because it weakens their resilience. to take advantage of a low tax rate, you must be highly profitable as a low tax rate means you have to absorb any losses yourself. this can be fatal to businesses in their early stage. furthermore, a low tax rate discourages hiring as employees are a tax-deductible expense (i.e. you pay taxes on your profits after all expenses including costs of employment). big businesses have incentives to maximise their dividends in low tax environments which means much less reinvestment and no new employment. therefore, no new jobs, less tax revenue, lower wages, higher unemployment, worse services = austerity = more crime = more extremism.

          1. Tenar

            le pen is not all that left wing when it comes to the economy either.

            Sorry, I should have been clearer. You’re correct that her economic policies aren’t really left wing. It’s just that in the absence of any critique of the prevailing economic order by the PS, the FN was able to expand its audience to voters critical of the EU, globalization and neoliberalism in general. It’s total opportunism. Now that there is a viable left candidate that openly speaks of ending economic suffering in very concrete terms, Le Pen’s advantage in that arena has been diminished.

            To get a more in depth analysis, here’s a piece by Frédéric Lordon at the Monde Diplomatique talking about how the left shouldn’t leave the critique of the EU to the FN:

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Be critical of the EU or globalization is to blame the EU or globalization.

              To blame globalization, one risks being accused of blaming foreigners.

              Looking at the UK situation, I see the blaming foreigners charge when reading Brexit comments.

              So, for example, when criticizing the EU, the charge might be that a very damaging effect of criticizing the EU is to encourage people to believe the source of their problems lies abroad. It is always easy to blame foreigners.

            2. Sue Madden

              absolutely agree with this – corrects the take of some on LeP now that she`s become known outside France. Lordon is a good analyst of the current so-called left ( the French PS, the Blairite Laboour Party, The US Dems); he wrote a fantastic critique of Picketty in the diplo (Avec Thomas P pas de danger pour le capital au XXI ieme siecle) I think it is available, well translated, in English. Strongly recommended to Nakeds

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            big businesses have incentives to maximise their dividends in low tax environments which means much less reinvestment and no new employment. therefore, no new jobs, less tax revenue, lower wages, higher unemployment, worse services = austerity = more crime = more extremism.

            Sometimes, less reinvestment is good.

            If, because of a lower tax rate, a corporation tries to maximize dividends by not investing in robots, and keeps human workers.

            Maybe not so at other times.

      2. vidimi

        i don’ think it will impact JLM all that much, at least not in the first round. macron should be the loser from the attacks as, save for immigration and social issues, his policies are interchangeable with those of fillon.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      There were some polls linked to yesterday showing theoretical match-ups, and they seem to suggest that in almost any of them, Le Pen will lose. But as everyone keeps saying, a very low turnout is expected, so this is a significant wild card. And unlike in previous elections, both right and left seem particularly splintered, so there is no guarantee that a general ‘hold your nose and vote anti-Le Pen’ instruction by the main parties to their supporters would succeed. It won’t be like 2002 when left wingers felt they had to vote for Chirac, who at least had substance as a candidate.

      Yves comment above that Melanchon may get a last minute boost as supporters of other left wing candidates may switch to him at the last minute seems logical. Although I suspect that Hamons remaining support will disintegrate now that some key Socialists are hopping on the Macron bandwagon, so both Macron and Melanchon could get a last minute boost as Hamons voters choose their lesser evil.

      1. dontknowitall

        This kind of situation where pollsters are giving dubious numbers in the face of low predicted turnout and the externalities like Brexit and terrorism are important reminds me of a fun activity for NC that Yves and crew may consider implementing which is Prediction Polls. Philip Tetlock at the U. Penn has shown that prediction polls outperform prediction markets and the nice bit is described in this Tetlock quote:

        “In prediction markets, people bet against each other to predict an outcome, say the chance of someone winning an election. The market represents the crowd’s best guess. In a prediction poll, the guesser isn’t concerned with what anyone else thinks, essentially betting against himself…According to the theory, prediction markets should ‘always win’ because markets are the most efficient mechanisms for aggregating the wisdom of a crowd. That process should converge on a true prediction,” said the University of Pennsylvania’s Philip Tetlock, a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor. “But our findings published in Management Science suggest that you can actually get just as much out of a forecasting tournament using prediction surveys.”

        Considering how well-read and experienced the NC commentariat is we would likely have a lot fun testing our models of reality plus possibly get useful results, maybe even prove ourselves right once in a while, and we would get to reject the ‘markets know best’ bs in a practical way.

        Summary at:

        Original paywall science articles at:

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Prediction markets are reliable only when the people doing the betting are representative of the people voting or otherwise deciding.

          The bookies were giving even higher odds of a Remain on the Brexit referendum that the pollsters were, and parlor betting is a type of prediction market.

          Why were they so wrong? Because there were only 1/3 as many people wagering for Remain, but they bet in vastly larger amounts (as in were much richer).

          And prediction markets didn’t forecast a Trump win either. And here is why:

          If all the traders in a prediction market are missing a key piece of information, then the market price is missing it, too. Even if the market is liquid and frictionless – so that everyone can trade until the price perfectly reflects the data that market participants have – there’s a big, proverbial (and in this case, Republican) data elephant that is not actually in the room.

          If none of the prediction market participants had decent information on the scale of Trump’s support, then all the trading in the world could not lead to a price that correctly reflected his chance of victory. This problem is compounded by the fact that prediction market participants also infer information from the prevailing price – and so may have discounted the signals of Trump’s strength that they did receive. Also, total payouts from prediction markets are too low to create a strong incentive for participants to work really hard to become substantially better-informed.

      2. vidimi

        a low turn out would not necessarily be to le pen’s advantage. she has a lot of support among the youth but, if you remember, so did remain in the brexit referendum.

        1. dontknowitall

          I agree. I think Melenchon may win because he’s the least offensive of the change agents. Neither Fillon or Macron are going to change a thing and Hamon is not strong enough and LePen promises Chaos (capital C).

          1. vidimi

            what i don’t understand about macron’s popularity is that, if you ask people why hollande is so remarkably unpopular, most will say it’s his handling of the economy. why, then, would you want to vote for his economy minister?

            1. Dontknowitall

              My guess is Macron is the French Hillary with the pollsters helping along by putting their thumb on the scale which makes him look as more competitive than he is. Mind you I have no evidence of this but Hollande’s betrayal of his own electoral program must still burn with the populace.

              1. Sputnik Sweetheart

                The pollsters and the media happen to be playing along, and there are many videos and articles on alternative media (YouTube, Mediapart, etc.) that debunk the vacuity of Macron’s discourse. There’s even one which shows that the enthusiasm of his meetings is orchestrated with tricks (loud music, cued applause coordinated by volunteers who send signals on group chats, separate sections for “fans” and “visitors” strategically placed to make it look like there’s more enthusiasm than there is). Volunteers are bribed by the promise of going to a disco after the meeting, and people usually leave not knowing anything about his program or what he plans to do. He finances his campaign with private dinners that cost about 10,000 euros a plate so he has no need to report them as campaign contributions and doesn’t have to rely on small donations either. Here’s the link to the video about his meetings (only in French, sorry):

                Over the past few months that I’ve been watching the election, I’ve come to the conclusion that Macron’s strategy is merely to get past the first round on grounds of “electability.” This is why the polls (determined by the same media that he has connections with) show him on top, even if not by much. Whether he wins the first round is certainly based on how informed the French electorate is, as well as if they are easily duped by mainstream media coverage.

                As with Hillary Clinton and her lack of charisma, Macron tries to make up for it through sentimentality and posing with children. The media gushes about him, but there are certain questionable details about his past (did he finish his philosophy PhD thesis or not? Is he truly a genius or just a mediocre but well-connected person?) He recently posted some videos on social media where he was on the phone with President Obama (who supports him, of course) and one where he perfectly flipped a bottle. The things that he does are merely publicity stunts and are used to distract from his platform (which has some huge holes in it).

                Because of all of this, I do agree with you that Macron is the French Hillary Clinton, here to finish what Francois Hollande started.

              2. Yves Smith Post author

                This verges on conspiracy theory.

                1. Trump was almost lagging Hillary by around 4-5 points. His worst was IIRC briefly down 11 and he pulled as close as even once (I’m talking averages, the Los Angeles Times poll famously had a different methodology of polling the same people repeatedly).

                2. Hillary won the popular vote by 2.5% and the polls did show last-minute tightening as a result of the release of Comey’s letter about the case.

                3. 4-5 points is the margin of error for polls. There was thus nothing wrong with the polls.

                4. 25-30 points, which has been the consistent range of difference between Marcon and LePen in 1:1 polls, is vastly beyond any margin of error. No one would or could shade polls that much even if they wanted to.

                1. Lambert Strether

                  The Los Angeles Times “Daybreak” poll also accidentally over-sampled rural voters, but since Trump turned out to over-perform among those voters, they were right for the wrong reasons!

                2. Sputnik Sweetheart

                  Yves, what you’ve said is true. I made a mistake and don’t actually believe that there’s a conspiracy theory with the numbers where the pollsters are literally putting their thumb on the scale. However, the media attention and favoritism is very real.

                  From February-April, the numbers for Macron’s support have been relatively consistent. However, it’s been shown that only about half of the candidates voting for him are certain (and strong with their support) in comparison to Fillon/Le Pen who score in the seventies. A person who may not know so much about his platform may vote for him because he believes that Macron is the best candidate who will do so (although everyone who faces off Le Pen in the polls is predicted victory). The high number he polls as in the first round masks the uncertainty of his support. Now things are even more unclear with the horserace this weekend.

                  I stand corrected and would like to say that the polls are most probably right, but the media interpretation around them makes Macron’s support look more enthusiastic (his platform is great and he will change France for the better!) rather than indifferent and more based on strategic voting (he will beat Le Pen in the second round). Someone in this case may have a change of heart in the polling booth for the first round if their minds are not warped by fear. Hillary won the popular vote, but voters weren’t voting for her, they were voting against Trump.

                  1. dontknowitall

                    I stand corrected too and I agree a literal thumb on the scale is not believable and verged on CT. My thoughts were more about the reported probabilities of someone winning given a certain poll result rather the poll itself. Yes, the Hillary/Trump polls were ok but, the NYT and many others were writing about near certainty of Hillary winning given her polling, here’s the Huff Post on Nov 4:

                    “The HuffPost presidential forecast gives Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a 98 percent chance of winning the general election on Tuesday. That means we’re pretty darn certain that ― barring some major catastrophe, scandal or nearly every single poll being wrong ― Clinton will be elected.”

                    It is those kinds of numerical forecasts that interpret poll results by the media that I was calling “putting a thumb on the scale” since they might work to discourage your opponents voters. Probably saying that is fine as an exercise of their right to give you their view of what the poll numbers mean and I was casting aspersions on it unfairly.

    3. David

      Last night’s TV special will have had an influence, even without the shooting which occurred while it was going on. My reaction (and I don’t know what others think) is that Mélenchon and Le Pen did well, sounding convincing and relaxed. Hamon (realizing now he can’t win) came over as sincere and likable. Macron was not convincing, saying at one point that he would bomb Syrian chemical weapons storage sites (!) and vaguely promoting the idea of more independence for schools to raise standards. Fillon went on and on about how terrorism was by far the most important issue (not something that many minimum-wage rural residents would necessarily agree with) and launched into a complicated explanation of how he would reduce the costs of health care without spending any money. But it was interesting that Le Pen made exactly this comment about rural poverty and lack of interest by elites in anything outside the big cities; A number of the minor players spoke similarly.
      After the attack, Mélenchon got to speak first, and sounded quite statesmanlike, saying that unity required social justice not just security. Le Pen, who spoke last, sounded quite moderate and reasonable, and Macron was out of his depth and all over the place. Fillon just repeated what he’d already said about fighting terrorism all over the world.
      How yesterday’s attacks will play out politically is impossible to say because the situation is so complex that virtually any result is possible. Mélenchon up and Macron down are probably the only safe conclusions. Interestingly, the French media has been reporting that the assailant yesterday (unofficially named as Karim Cheroufi) was a well-known violent criminal who had served ten years for the attempted murder of a policeman. It’s not clear that he had any radical links at all, but that’s being investigated. The Daesh press statement named somebody else, believed to be living in Belgium. Watch this space.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Thats interesting, thanks. Its odd that Macron seems quite poor at debates, I guess thats maybe his inexperience as a politician.

        Not being resident in France I can’t really comment, but I would have thought that the French public now would be more immune to changes in mood after terrorist attacks, I would have thought they are more or less expected in the run-up to the polls.

        1. bwilli123

          PaddyPower has odds for of Macron 4/6, Le Pen 10/3, Fillon 4/1, Melenchon 16/1. Hamon is currently 400/1.

          1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

            Paddy Power were mistaken when it came to Trump & Brexit, but have hired Nigel Farage in an effort at correction.

            Third time lucky eh ?

          2. PlutoniumKun

            If I was a betting man I’d put money down on Melenchon at those odds, I’d say he has a much better chance than that – at least as good as Fillon, who I think is having a dead cat bounce.

      2. vidimi

        i didn’t watch it myself but one person told me that macron came off well for once although le pen did well also. it’s a four-way horserace heading into the weekend’s final stretch.

      3. visitor

        It’s not clear that he had any radical links at all, but that’s being investigated.

        Alas, no. The very latest information on the case published by Le Monde shows that:

        1) The attacker had been denounced twice in December 2016 for (a) expressing his intent to kill policemen and (b) attempting to acquire weapons.

        2) An inquest had been carried out early 2017 by the police, including house search and summons.

        3) The DGSI (French counter-intelligence) had taken over in March, because Karim Cheurfi had tried to contact jihadists in Iraq.

        So yes, he was clearly on the radar. Like the vast majority of those who committed attacks in European cities for the past 15 years…

        1. David

          Yes, I saw that too, after I wrote the post. But the Le Monde story (I think) makes the reasonable point that he was not on the “S” list but on another, much longer, list with about 6000 names, and you simply can’t follow that many people around all the time. He hadn’t actually committed any crime at that stage, and he had only just come onto the radar anyway. My own feeling, for what its worth, is that he was a psychopath with a long history of violence, especially against the police, and the whole Daesh thing was a very recent and partly improvised excuse and justification for one more go. The Public Prosecutor has just given a press conference where he said that Cherufi showed no signs of radicalization in prison, and a search of his apartment in February turned up nothing but some hunting knives, and no Islamist material. I think this comes into the “wise after the event” category, really.

          1. OpenthepodbaydoorsHAL

            LOL, “you can’t follow 6000 people”, meanwhile DHS tries to surveil 320 million. So the Boston bombers got ignored (despite the Russians telling us “It’s them!” three times) because the acute DHS geniuses are too busy parsing Grandma’s recipes on Facebook to see if they contain any coded messages.

          2. visitor

            If the entire security apparatus, beefed up by a quasi-permanent “state of exception” that enlarges the possibilities for searches, surveillance and detention, is incapable of dealing with 6000 suspects, then why on earth is it monitoring and collecting information on many millions of targets (in France, as in the UK, the USA)?

            1. visitor

              And by the way: the “reasonable point that he was not on the “S” list but on another, much longer, list with about 6000 names, and you simply can’t follow that many people around all the time” had already been used for some of the suspects of the series of attacks in Paris, who were on the famous “S” list.

              So if the first list is too long and generic, and the S list too long and generic too, then why bother? Just to give the impression that the security services are doing something?

                1. David

                  In case anyone’s still interested in this thread, I think there are two points to clarify. For political reasons, the state is pretty much obliged to keep these sorts of lists – imagine the screams that would have resulted if it turned out that Cherufi wasn’t on any kind of list at all. Second, we’re not talking about surveillance, monitoring etc. but physically following somebody 24 hours a day, week after month, to ensure they don’t commit some hypothetical attack. If you consider that the previous three attacks in France were carried out with a truck, a knife and a pellet gun, you begin to get some idea of what that would mean in practice. Security professionals reckon that to track someone on a 24-hour basis takes a team of twelve, rotating every few hours, and several cars, as well as dedicated real time monitoring of phones and internet. So let’s say 70,000 policemen doing nothing else as well as getting in each other’s way. Incidentally, that amounts to roughly half the entire strength of the French police force.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Being on the radar doesn’t seem to work.

          The only remaining path, as far as I can see, is to stop stuff like “Assad must go,” or the related “Investigate the nefarious Russians.”

          Coincidentally, Russia seems to be back on the radar….maybe the blob didn’t like the Potemkin Tomahawk mission.

    4. Madeleine

      Some French voters don’t like Le Pen, but do hate the left–and are planning to vote for her because she won’t have a parliamentary majority and they think she can’t do much harm.

      I’m talking upper-middle class people who resent taxation and have a huge but politely hidden fear of muslims. What they don’t see is that the strong neoliberal state + weak community ties is what’s ripping their society apart, not muslims with superpowers.

        1. JohnnyGL

          But the real question is: What will the workers do?

          Are they mad enough at the managers to vote Melenchon?

          1. Tenar

            But the real question is: What will the workers do?

            I have a friend who works in a tech start-up, which should supposedly be a bastion of Macron supporters. There are only one or two vocal Macron supporters in her office. Most of the others are voting Mélenchon.

        2. Massinissa

          Considering the Melenchon campaign has an official video game where you play Melenchon beating up Millionaires and taking all their money it shouldnt be too surprising that managers and so forth would vote for anyone not Melenchon.

              1. Marina Bart

                Thank you so much!

                The reason I said that was more about the idea that French culture is such that a game like this can be promulgated by a major candidate for the presidency.

                It’s at least an order of magnitude more awesome than Bernie declaring himself a democratic socialist and then getting huge crowds in places like Arizona and Kansas — and that was pretty FAMILY BLOG awesome.

                I will be playing later when the hubs is asleep, unless Lambert shows up round these parts and distracts me. (For the record, any and all Nakeds are always invited to distract me about midnight Pacific time; that’s when I usually roll in for a refreshing end of day sip of NC snark and wisdom.)

    5. clincal wasteman

      Fillon is most definitely a status quo type: remember he did a full five-year term as prime minister (most unusual in France, especially since the Chirac-Jospin tag team turned the system fully ‘presidential’ [Perry Anderson is good on this if selective paywalls at New Left Review/London Review of books are kind]). F.F. played establishment straight-man to Sarkozy’s weaponized ‘maverick’ throughout that whole time. There wasn’t much sign of Gaullo-Gaulliste ‘foreign policy independence’ in the run-up to the onslaught on Libya, nor in 2009 when France rejoined NATO as a full member. Fillon differs from Macron mainly in that one comes from the traditional political branch of the status quo while the other was seconded from Consultancy and Ancillary Services. Macron’s sole appealing feature is that his name can be written as the eponymous diacritical mark, the one seen in: ‘ē’, ‘ā’ or ‘ō’. Spelled in full: ‘Emmanuel ‘.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > Macron’s sole appealing feature is that his name can be written as the eponymous diacritical mark

        Now that’s the kind of snark we like to see at Naked Capitalism!

        How is he on the Oxford comma?

  2. QuarterBack

    I have worked in information systems security for 30 years, and I have advised that bio metric authentication is a bad technology approach. At the end of the day, the digital representation of your biometric data is just a digital token every bit as match as the magnetic stripe data on your card. The big difference is that if your biometric data is compromised, you cannot be issued new biology. Every biometric marker can be collected without you even knowing (referred to as “non-cooperative” collection) with simple technologies. Once someone has your biometric data, they can authenticate or digitally sign as you. Further, the general consensus of the movie-watching public is (incorrectly) that biometrics are the strongest authentication method, making it more difficult to repudiate.

    Biometrics are a good technology for identification, but not for authentication. These two security concepts are often conflated. Identication is basically just your username used to reference who you are, whereas authentication is the method of confirming that an identity is who you think it is. Biometric identifiers add convenience in performing the identity step, but add nothing in terms of security any more than your username or email address alone would.

      1. Olga

        A recent finger-printing experience: had to have f-ps taken for a certain passport app. Got a response back, saying my f-ps “could not be read.” Never having heard of such a thing, I quickly attributed the (costly) debacle to a service that has been recently privatized (as opposed to being state-run). Went to complain – the response from a clerk was that this is not at all unusual and, in fact, happens quite frequently. She mentioned that older folk’ f-ps seem to be harder to read. So looks like MC has not done its research too well.

        1. sleepy

          I did some fingerprinting of Census employees in 2010 and many were rejected as unreadable. I was a complete novice with approximately one hour of training, and the actual, physical fingerprinting was far more complicated and required a certain skill level that no one at that level possessed. It was time-consuming and frequently took two or three attempts to get something acceptable to the higher-ups. And of course those higher-ups wanted it done in record time.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Some young people have fingerprints that are too shallow to print readably even with an experienced person trying to take the prints multiple times.

            1. clinical wasteman

              And some people have no “acceptable” fingerprints at all. Or worse. I would love to be able to visit mt friends in the U.S., but haven’t dared do so in years, in part because of a hereditary condition called “diffuse palmoplantar keratoderma”: a permanent but constantly changing layer of thick, dead skin tissue on the palms of hands and soles of feet (Wikipedia speaks almost flatteringly of a “dirty snakeskin appearance, but attaches a horrifying photo of a far worse case). In ordinary life this is not a problem at all, but it’s a very good reason to keep away from fingerprint readers. Because this skin is constantly falling away and growing back in slightly different patterns, it would read differently every time at the border/police station/wherever, so that I would expect to be accused of stealing my own identity the second time the prints were taken and every time thereafter.

        2. Annotherone

          Back in 2007/8 when I was going through US Citizenship trials and tribulations finger-printing was one part of the routine, for which I had to travel 90 miles to Oklahoma City. I was called back three times for re-dos because my prints were not clear enough. I asked the likely reason and was told it was possibly age related. I suspected that years of washing dishes without rubber gloves, as well as constant bashing of steam-typewriter keys in my youth might have contributed also. Eventually, as alternative to finger printing, I had to visit local and state law enforcement people and ask for written evidence that I had nothing untoward on my record during my time in the US. I’m therefore wary of buying any item requiring fingerprint authentication.

          1. Lambert Strether

            In other words, anybody who works with their hands — including bloggers, I suppose — is going to be screwed by finger-printing requirements.

            Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

        3. justanotherprogressive

          I have one of those phones that is “fingerprint accessible”, but I’ve found that it doesn’t work when:
          1. My hands are cold
          2. My hands are greasy or dirty, like after eating fries
          3. My hands are damp, like after hand washing
          4. My hands are swollen for any reason.
          So I’ve calculated that “fingerprint accessibility” works less than half the time……

        4. skylark

          Here in Massachusetts, teachers have to be fingerprinted at their own expense. I had to keep redoing it because my fingerprints couldn’t be read. Too many years of gardening and doing crafts wore them out I guess. Plus age.

        5. Kokuanani

          I registered for the “Global Entry” program whereby you can speed [relatively] through Customs & Immigration by scanning your passport and putting your hand on a fingerprint reader. In the approximately 5 times I’ve attempted to use it, I think only one was successful. Don’t know what made my prints not readable, but you have to get success for ALL fingers at the same time for it to work.

          When it does work, it’s great, but the batting average: not so much

          1. Lambert Strether

            Remember all the complaints about slowing down transactions at the point of sale when swiping was phased out and chips were phased in? This sounds like it’s at least an order of magnitude worse.

            I wonder what the effects will be, whether they’re measurable, who would measure them, etc.

    1. philnc

      Twenty years in IT, over ten in identity management, have allowed me a ring-side seat to this particular circus. We all really want to believe the PowerPoints, but they’ve all fallen short. Most of the discussion has focused on the physical limitations of particular technologies, like the poor quality resolution of past fingerprint scanners, but never reaches the more important practical weaknesses of any single or even two factor concept like that proposed here. As QuarterBack points out, probably the most dangerous aspect of any biometric auth scheme is that the factor (or factors) used cannot be changed (no reissuing as with a new credit account number or digital certificate). Therefore if stolen the only option for the victim is to be forever barred from using that scheme. And as QB also points out, fingerprints are one of the easiest biometric factots to acquire, without the owner ever knowing about it.

      In sum, there are a lot of approaches better than this from an identity management point of view. Unfortunately fingerprint scanner tech already has (totally unjustified) cache with a credulous public, and can make a lot of money for manufacturers, so it’s almost certain to show up in force over and over. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take off.

      1. QuarterBack

        Thanks philnc. BTW, for a real life example of the problem of using non-revocable identification factors for authentication, look no further than the history of using social security numbers for this purpose. In the past, “what is your social security number?” was a common method of authenticating. That did not work out so well, because SSN was too easy to acquire. Also, as many (unfortunately) may know, that when your SSN is compromised, it initiates a cascade of subsequent problems. Even then, in extreme circumstances, you can get a new SSN, but good luck with that. I have to say, that it boggles my mind that many organizations (including banks) still use last-4 of SSN for authentication (someone might steal you SSN, but the last-4 is MUCH more secure?).

        Another problem with biometrics for identification, is that unchangeable identifier can be used (by anyone with knowledge of it) to track or monitor you forever. If your identity (say a username or account number) is compromised, you could always get another one. I recommend compartmentalizing identifiers in many cases on a system by system basis. Governments will always have some ability to stitch these separate identifiers together, but you don’t want just any grifter or hedge fund player to be able to monitor you.

      2. uncle tungsten

        But that wonderful tech device – a 3D printer: makes great reproductions of fingerprints so they are easily hacked and distributed. A whole new future for bitcoin investors.

    2. ginnie nyc

      Re: Fingerprints – My particular disease, which is really a form of accelerated aging, destroys fingerprint whorls. There have been several occasions over the past 15 years where some bureaucrat would insist printing was necessary, but after 10 attempts, would admit there were exceptions so I did not need to comply. All older people, medically, experience a deterioration in fingerprint depth. Anyways, how does this ‘innovation’ prevent possible issues with using a credit card number online or over the phone?

      1. Lambert Strether

        So, the fingerprint compliance requirement screws working people, older people, people with various illnesses….

        Seems like another déformation professionnelle from Silicon Valley funders and developers, who tend to be none of those things…

    3. Kevin Smith

      Researchers Develop Master Fingerprints That Can Break Into Smartphones — ( 29
      Posted by BeauHD on Thursday April 13, 2017 @07:20PM from the where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way dept.

      Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. “The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people’s fingerprints,” reports Digital Trends. “Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone.”

      From the report:
      Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user’s finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else’s phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. “It’s as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one,” Memon said.

      The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone’s TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.

      1. RMO

        How many rigorous, double blind tests have been done with a large pool of samples to investigate how successful the various forensic labs and fingerprint experts are at actually matching fingerprints? As for using my fingerprint to unlock an electronic device I wouldn’t be too crazy about that first of all because touchscreens frequently fail to respond to my touch. Then there’s the fact that , even if the security was perfect and my device would unlock with my fingerprint and only my fingerprint, all someone needs to unlock it is my print they don’t need my cooperation. They wouldn’t even need me alive and in one piece for that matter.

    4. bob

      Even in a perfect use case, biometrics are also a good way to get your finger removed, if you are trying to secure something against a determined, real life adversary.

      I’d say that a pretty big problem, built in and never acknowledged. No tech required.

  3. Roger Smith

    Yves, I can confirm that (at least in my geographic market) sucralose use has been on the rise. Powerade Zero uses it exclusively as well as Diet Pepsi (Diet Mt. Dew for a short time but they stopped that). Gatorade’s low calorie option “G2” mixes it with sugar (this mixing seems to be increasingly common as well)

    1. Marina Bart

      There’s a Splenda version of Diet Coke available, but not all stores carry it.

      I actually used to fast in middle school, drinking only diet soda for a week or more. This absolutely crushed my metabolism. I try not to think of all the other potential health consequences of doing this.

      These days, I mostly drink a mix of black and green iced tea after my morning cup of joe, plus a lot of water. But I do have a case of Splenda Diet Coke in the house. Once a month or so, I still get a jones for it. Old habits die hard.

  4. skylark

    I have come across several articles the past few years that say that Alzheimers is really Type 3 diabetes.

  5. fajensen

    Let us not forget the reason for vaccinating against measles is that it is very dangerous to babies under six months of age.

    Measles are dangerous to people of any age, meningitis, deafness and permanent brain damage are common side effects to measles.

    It is at best stupid to not vaccinate ones children, actually, worse than stupid because those anti-vaxx parents are inflicting the consequences of their ideology onto children who cannot decide from a safe position of ZERO personal skin in the game – because the parents almost always ARE vaccinated.

    The only good part is that the people who are not vaccinating are from the “spelt-segment” so once the epidemic arrives the screeching from these people will absolutely get attention and the problem will be dealt with, but, still children does not deserve to suffer over the parents intransigence.

    1. Ernesto Lyon

      Measles deaths in developed countries were almost non-existent immediately prior to the vaccine introduction.

      We had real herd immunity back then because naturally acquired immunity from exposure is permanent, and vaccine immunity is transient (fails in a few years), and may never work at all.

      People, even children, die from all sorts of things that are far more dangerous and preventable for the money than measles.

      So why the obsession with measles and vaccines?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Neither Global Research nor the site it references are reliable. And the reference to the supposed study doesn’t mention the authors or where it was published. This is a junk study.

        And a tiny bit of Googling shows your claim to be false:

        Prior to 1912, measles was not a reportable disease in the U.S., so accurate numbers of cases are not available prior to that time. In 1941, there were 894,134 cases reported.4 In 1920, the United States had 469,924 recorded cases of measles and 7,575 deaths associated with measles. From 1958 to 1962, the U.S. averaged 503,282 cases and 432 death associated with measles each year.5

        The stats all have footnoted sources.

    2. Chief Bromden

      Speaking of permanent brain damage, have you read the side effects from the MMR on the product insert? How about the dangers of injecting known neurotoxins directly into the bloodstream? Are you familiar the ingredients of the MMR?

      Unfortunately, MMR shots do not confer immunity from anything… never have. In fact, the live lab created virus can shed for weeks (post injection) onto others and create far more dangerous issues from “atypical measles” than the wild measles virus.

      And this…

      “Here is the definition of a vaccine adverse reaction from the largest selling medical textbook, the Merck Manual (see below), filed under their category of brain, spinal cord and nerve disorders: brain infections.

      The brain infection caused by vaccines is encephalitis.

      Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. Patients who suffer encephalitis can be left with physical disabilities, mental deterioration and persistent cognitive dysfunction – which matches the definition of autism.

      Vaccines can cause encephalitis and encephalitis can cause autism.

      Below the following text is a list of ten vaccine package inserts that have the brain infection encephalitis as an adverse reaction.

      Below that are medical journal references to vaccine-induced encephalitis and mental deterioration and disability after encephalitis….”

      1. PhilM

        Who is injecting anything into the bloodstream when giving a vaccine? Jiminy christmas….

        If MMR does not confer immunity from mumps, where are all those mumps cases we would be hearing about?

        1. Chief Bromden

          Who? Doctors, Walgreens employees? Where do you think injections go? Into the air one breathes? They go into the bloodstream, directly into the cells, often crossing the blood/brain barrier, while bypassing the first line of defense, the humoral system. So, there’s no filter for the neurotoxins, which cause the cells to attack themselves (aka auto immune response).

          China had a 99% vaccine compliance ration and still had measles outbreaks. The recent Mumps outbreak at Harvard was amongst those that had been vaccinated…. the vaccines aren’t doing what they are “supposed to do”, except shedding on and infecting the people trying to manufacture immunity with pharmaceutical synthetics…but maybe the corporations are suddenly looking out for you.

          You may want to read some Suzanne Humphries “Dissolving Illusions” to find out why

        2. Chief Bromden

          Anyone who still believes producing antibodies is the entirety of an ‘immune success’ hasn’t done their homework and probably still thinks Edward Jenner could save them from Smallpox with cow puss injections….18th century quackery wrapped up in 21st Merck packaging with tax payer-funded liability exemptions that would make any no-risk profiteer green with envy.

          “First, we should acknowledge one underreported fact of immunology: vaccine-induced antibody elevations do not guarantee real world protection against the pathogen the vaccine is intended to immunize us against, which is the only true measure of their value.

          This is not a new observation. It goes back decades, with a 1990 study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases finding that even though 95% of a population of urban African children had measles antibodies after vaccination, vaccine efficacy was not more than 68%.[1]

          Or, take a look at 2008 study that found that even when the measles vaccine successfully generates an elevation of measles specific antibodies 20.7% (6 out of 29) have non-protective titers.[2] Or, one from 1988 that found that within a highly vaccinated community experiencing an outbreak of measles, antibody responses to measles could be found in 100% of the unvaccinated versus only 89.2% of the vaccinated. They conclude: “[A] history of prior measles vaccination is not always associated with immunity nor with the presence of specific antibodies.[3]

          Again, the point remains the same: vaccine-induced synthetic immunity does not guarantee real world protection, and certainly not with anything near 100% effectiveness, despite what the CDC, vaccine manufacturers or mainstream news reports imply by blaming the non-vaccinated for vaccine-failure associated outbreaks.”

          1. Futility

            That is a false dichotomy and a straw-man. Nobody claims that vaccinations are a 100% effective and – as somebody who supposedly did her/his homework should know – this is not even required. The vaccine has only to be adequately effective to dampen down the retransmission rate sufficiently so that an epidemic fizzles out and is not allowed to spread. (This is also the reason that the MMR vaccine is given more than once to increase the likelihood of an immune response in a person. Yes, it might happen that even after 3 vaccinations there is no immune response for a particular person, but the likelihood for this is quite low. Vaccinations are in the end a game of probabilities.)
            If vaccinations were as ineffective as claimed, how come there are hardly any polio cases anymore, even though in the first half of last century this was quite common? (FDR, for example. My father’s best friend died as a child of polio in the 50’s. Something unheard of in developed countries nowadays). The only reason for this is the availability of an effective polio vaccine.
            And I am tired of hearing the big-pharma conspiracy. I am in no way a friend of pharma corporations. A lot of their functions should not be left to the ‘free’ market but should be in public hands. However, the claim that vaccinations are just a ploy for them to make a buck is ridiculous. They could make considerably more money by treating the victims of a measle epidemic than by preventing one to break out. That they earn money with vaccinations is simply the way society ‘decided’ to deal with this public health problem. It could be debated if this is the best possible solution.

      2. Susan the other

        Until our medical science is clear, we as a country promoting vaccinations for all the right reasons, should insure any vaccinated person, child or adult, with a lifetime of care at the expense of the rest of us – the state should take care of those who are the accidental victims of the good of the whole. It’s a no brainer. And no medical test can predict every medical reaction. Otherwise we sacrifice them with unacceptable disregard.

    3. gepay

      THe girl in Portuagal did not die from a measles infection. She died in the hospital from bilateral pneumonia. She was admitted to the hospital for respiratory problems. The parents said she caught the measles in the hospital after the hospital admitted a baby with measles who recovered – one article said several hospital staff also were infected with measles at this time. Pneumonia is a common complication of a measles infection. Many people also die from pneumonia acquired in the hospital.Hospital acquired pneumonias are particularly nasty with many antibiotic resistant. The articles didn’t say whether it was viral or bacterial pneumonia.The measles apparently acquired in the hospital probably did contribute to her death. it is of course not clear to know if the girl would have died anyway. It can’t be known if she had acquired the measles when she was healthy if it would have led to her death.

  6. efschumacher

    On Bloomberg’s Florida Coast Homeowners

    Note the article includes a snippet that says Miami-Dade were trying to apply for Federal funds to buy out flooded homeowners. The Federal Government (FEMA) refused. That is exactly what the Federal government should be doing. I check to see whether it can potentially flood, first, before I move into a place. I don’t see why the prudent should bail out the irresponsible sun-sand-and-wave-action-seekers.

    However another point made in this article is that Florida coastal areas do not pay the full actuarial risk of flooding, with the result that the rest of us have been subsidising them through our elevated premiums. Again, the Bloomberg article makes the point that Insures will be moving towards correcting premiums paid vs actuarial risk, in this case. I wonder why the Florida Coast was ever allowed to get away with it for so long?

    Might be useful to check if the Hamptons are also being risk-subsidised: because “the Hamptons are not a defensible position”.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think we’ll see major moves over the next few years by the land/building/insurance industries to ensure the Government foots as much of the bill as possible for mitigating rising seas and river flooding.

      The big crunch could be that some changes could be far faster and more dramatic than people assume. You can’t just assume that changes will occur milimetres at a time. The geological evidence is that interconnected events can result in quite rapid surges in sea level, and very sudden changes in river flood patterns. In Alaska a major river just changed course practically overnight. This sort of change will become commonplace, with all sorts of unexpected outcomes.

      1. OpenthepodbaydoorsHAL

        There’s good evidence that the sudden release of ice-blocked inland seas resulted in sea level rises of 5+ feet overnite, hence the “Great Flood” myths around the globe. Not on the cards this time around but yes, rises can be much more sudden than we normally imagine.

    2. JTMcPhee

      EF, as I recall the article, the Miami-Dade govt plan to buy out flood-prone housing was aimed principally at the “poor,” the wage slaves and deplorable and unemployable and disabled mopes who live in sh!t quarters in the lowland swampy areas that flood because they are low and unprotected by “infrastructure” that benefits the Rich who are still bidding up the price of all that sun-n-fun waterfront (eh?) real estate.

      Good-oh on you for your prudence in doing due diligence on your real estate acquisitions. The people who would be booted by what surely will be a non-voluntary displacement via such buyouts don’t, by and large, have either your “education” and “enlightened self–interest” and “character” in selecting a place they can afford to live in. And many of them are, as is the case in my area (Tampa Bay) being forced out of long-standing residences by the inability (on shrinking fixed incomes) to pay real estate taxes that swoop and soar with the general bubble pricing of housing around here.

      And wow, let us focus that righteous neoliberal kicking-down indignation on “subsidies” to FL, where insurance companies have not totally mastered the regulators to where they can shrink their risk-pool boundaries to shed all risk. Most national ins corps are broken into state-boundary separate corporations to avoid the profit-taking limitation of actually pooling the risks across the premium base the company collects from, cherry picking the least risky, highest profit bits — like “health UNsurers” do. This is a principal means of “fitting actuarial risk to premium prices.” I don;t see insurance corps lobbying legislatures to make it “illegal” to build sh!t in areas that will soon be under water, in all senses of the phrase. I do see that “national” ins corps have lobbied the legislature here into creating a state-operated “riskiest” publicly-underwritten insurer that absorbs the risks the private ins corps get to shed, and the premiums for those of us forced to use that ‘service” are pretty high and getting higher. State Farm and other vastly profitable insurers simply stopped writing any homeowner insurance in FL at all, building the pressure to create the FL public insurance obligation.

      Does your dudgeon extend to the subsidies given to the nuclear (nationwide) industry in the form of federal backing for “losses” occasioned by “engineering failures” or natural disasters resulting in “uncontrolled releases” from nuclear plants? There are many more such subsidies, and one might ask if it’s a bit hypocritical to pick the one you highlight out of all the others.

      Around here, rich folks and developers and hotel chains own the political process. These folks have waterfront properties, built quite knowingly on mobile beaches and those very temporary “barrier islands” that migrate as wind and ocean current move the sand that makes up those profitable beaches. So all of us, mopes mostly, including people in Flyover country through the federal parts of the subsidies that pay for such stuff, get to pay for beach “renourishment,” which sounds like what one does to a rescue dog or deprived child, but is actually billions spent on the vain effort to move huge amounts of sand from offshore where Nature deposits it, up onto those profitable beaches that the rich are always trying to make “private” for their personal special enjoyment on the few days a year they inhabit their McMansions and “upscale condos” and “resort spa hotels.” And in the next storm, oops! off goes the sand to where the chaotic motions of wind and current take it…

      I hope you don;t take this personal — we humans, in our greed and pleasure-seeking, have fokked things up badly, and some of us are skilled in positioning ourselves so that we will not suffer and potentially even “gain” from the fokked-upedness. It’s what so many of us do… And if you develop cancer from lifestyle choices or even inevitable results of food additives and air and water pollution you can’t avoid, I guess I should not be bailing you out via health UNsurance premiums, eh?

      1. Jomo

        JTM, I agree with much of what you say, but “The poor” are not really invested in the properties. They are renters. If a flood devastates the home where they live, they do not lose the physical building property. The landlord does. If your vision is of the “Poor” huddled by the riverside in quaint shanties, that simply does not exist in Florida or probably anywhere else in the USA. What I saw in Hurricane Matthew was that “the poor” were given priority by FEMA and given grants for rent, relocation, and lost clothing and furnishing within the first four weeks after the event. This was “free money.” This largess also extended to the “independent” children of my friends. They lived in local apartments and based on their incomes were given money to relocate and replace the old furniture they got from Mom and Dad. Relocation for them consisted of moving back in with Mom and Dad if the parents house was ok. This is OK with me, its how income based programs work and “the poor” got meaningful assistance.

        From what I saw, the poor who were really hurt financially lived in trailers that they owned and trees fell on their trailers and they were underinsured with no place to live. No flood insurance involved.

      2. GF


        Here’s some more ammo for maybe leaving FL from Business Insider. the video shows what would happen to the earth if all the ice melted. FL (dis)appears near the end (very long link):


      3. Jess

        “being forced out of long-standing residences by the inability (on shrinking fixed incomes) to pay real estate taxes that swoop and soar with the general bubble pricing of housing…”

        But remember, Prop 13 in CA which prevents this type of property tax inflation is the worst sin of all, an existential threat to life and prosperity as we know it, a creation of Satan, etc. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Dem politicians and their public sector union buddies who try to overturn it or get around it on a non-stop 24/7/365 basis.

      4. wilroncanada

        Carl Hiaasen, in his 2015 novel “Razor Girl”, includes a transplanted New York Crime boss moving sand to properties he makes lots of money from, only he decides that dredging is too expensive and has it “dredged” from beach properties of poorer not protected by local graft. Art imitates life perhaps? Hiaasen skewers all kinds of Florida reality in his fiction, including a former governor gone rogue, and a pistol-packing environmentalist grandma, and grifters, grifters everywhere. He’s great.

    3. Katniss Everdeen

      I don’t see why the prudent should bail out the irresponsible sun-sand-and-wave-action-seekers.

      Understandable reaction, but, as usual, the problem may not be as simple as that. This article is from 2008. It references a GAO study of the FEMA / National Flood Insurance Program risk assessment and rate setting procedures. The somewhat surprising part:

      It [the GAO study] identified states where claims exceeded premiums from 1978 through 2007. Missouri topped the list followed by West Virginia; NFIP claims from those states exceeded premiums in 11 years during the time period. The following 18 states, in which claims exceeded premiums for multiple years, in descending order are: Mississippi (10), Louisiana (10), Texas (9), Alabama (9), Illinois (9), Ohio (9), New Hampshire (8), Oklahoma (7), South Dakota (7), Kansas (7), Washington (7), Indiana (7), North Carolina (6), Minnesota (6), Arkansas (6), Pennsylvania (6), Connecticut (6) and North Dakota (5).

      Florida is not even mentioned. The study also notes that some of FEMA’s data is outdated or inaccurate; that damage estimates and flood probabilities based on data from the 1980s do not reflect recent flood damage experience; and that most of the flood “maps used in rate setting have not yet been updated.”

      1. DH

        The entire reason that the FEMA flood insurance program exists is because it covers risks that prudent insurance companies won’t touch. A huge issue with the US and disasters is that land usage is determined at the local level (often village or town level) while the disaster relief money is at the federal level. The local entities get the property taxes while the state and federal governments pay for the disasters.So this is the property version of the financial crisis where the banks and their employers pocketed the proceeds and socialized the losses. We also see it with environmental damage (e.g. recent revocation of stream protection rule) where a company will maximize profits in order to “protect jobs” when in reality, these companies will just walk away at some point and leave the locals to live with polluted, eroding streams and hillsides.

        I have been wondering when the 30 year financing of homes would come into play since that is a long enough time-frame for a bank to worry about its ability to foreclose on a sellable asset. Securitization of mortgages has probably delayed this risk management evaluation, but at some point the financing will dry up. Maybe Florida will do the same for mortgages as they did for hurricane insurance – fund it themselves instead of relying on insurance and finance firms.

    4. Jomo

      Florida Homeowners are in fact subsidizing other states residents Flood Insurance (like Texas). From a 2013 Politifact Florida article. The Flood Risk is national:

      “The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation directed us to an issue brief written by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Center for Risk Management and Decision Processes.

      The 2010 study showed that in some states policyholders paid far more in premiums than they collected in claims between 1978 and 2008 — a 30-year stretch.

      In Florida, “policyholders paid $16.1 billion in premiums but collected only $4.5 billion in claims reimbursements: that is, premiums paid over time were about 3.6 times the insurance reimbursements,” according to the study.

      Florida wasn’t alone in paying more into the program than receiving back in claims. Thirteen states had an even higher ratio, and Colorado was the highest. (Florida was tied for 14th with Montana.)

      “The situation is reversed in Texas, where flood insurance policyholders paid $4.5 billion in premiums but collected a larger $6.7 billion in claims,” the study states.”

      I think the Bloomberg article was incredibly irresponsible in presenting this as a South Florida problem when in fact it is a national/world coastline problem. You mentioned the Hamptons, but what happens to Manhattan, Boston, Washington, DC, etc.

      As a Florida homeowner who pays Flood Insurance I say where’s my rebate?

    5. FreeMarketApologist

      It’s unclear from your wording whether you think FEMA should be buying out flooded properties, or refusing.

      Yes, flood insurance for the Hamptons, Fire Island, Montauk, and other coastal areas of Long Island is available from the NFIP, and thus subsidized. As it is along many waterways all around the country (Mississippi river, anybody?). None of it is ‘defensible’ to the risk averse, but many people find those properties (residential and commercial) to be valuable without the subsidies, and even more so with them. Buildings in flood zones existed long before flood insurance improved their economics (if not their risk profiles!).

      Adjusting the premiums to reduce the subsidized risk might put poorer people at greater risk of total loss (because they may not carry insurance), or disproportionately affect their household finances (because their mortgage requires them to have insurance, and it’s now more expensive).

      1. Jomo

        I was responding to suggestions in the above comments that Florida Homeowners were not carrying their fair share of the National Flood Insurance load when in fact they have been supporting most of the program for others to benefit by a 4 to 1 ratio. In answer to FreeMarketApologist, I say No to FEMA buying out flooded properties.

        Most of what is built on the coast, certainly was not there 100 years. I see no need to panic today about sea level rise because the riskier buildings put up in the last 100 years will be lost, but we have another hundred years or more to build new structures which we would have done anyway. Put another way, the risk to Florida Homeowners now is Hurricanes not sea level rise, and that is what it always has been.

        I have a personal stake in this process. My family home of the past ten years was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The house built in 1964 had never flooded previously. I am not rebuilding or rehabbing the structural shell that is now left. My choice is to make a small farm property 40 miles away from the coast my new home. Someone else will buy and rebuild my old home. But my choice was primarily based on lifestyle and financial circumstances, not climate change. No one else in my immediate neighborhood is moving because it’s a nice place to live and over 400 homes were damaged. This is actually how the process of coastal retreat should work. Those who choose to leave go as a personal choice.

        As for FEMA buying houses, my observation is that FEMA buys houses that have repeatedly flooded to prevent others from building there again. Federal flood insurance is not the only insurance provider. Many people have found private providers to be cheaper.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          FEMA certainly doesn’t need to buy repeatedly flooded properties to “prevent others from building there again.” A refusal to insure would accomplish that without one thin dime being spent. Of course, as noted in the Bloomberg article, once that happens the jig is up.

          Continuing to insure properties that are susceptible to flood losses which are built or re-sold at ever increasing “values” primarily protects the income stream of the real estate developers and mortgage holders. It’s nothing more than a corporate welfare bailout masquerading as social “responsibility.”

          1. OpenthepodbaydoorsHAL

            Yep, kind of like the Fed and the banks. We bloviate alot about “Capitalism” in the US when in fact we actually have massive entrenched Socialism. Just not the kind for you and me.

          2. PhilM

            That sounds right, but it isn’t. Actually what it would achieve is to remove the middle and upper-middle classes entirely from the beautiful ocean front, and make it even easier for the rich to buy their places for cash, thanks to the lowered demand curve. I don’t even bother to insure my place in Florida; there is no mortgage, there is no need to insure. If it washes away, I’ll rebuild it for cash.

            So, if you take the insurance away from my neighbors with mortgages, I’ll joyfully buy their places for a fraction of what they paid for them. I can always use the extra space for garages to shelter my luxury cars that I’ll use for the few days a year I’m in Florida.

        2. funemployed

          Your story raises a good point. Sea level rise is at least somewhat predictable over reasonably short time-horizons, but we are already seeing massive weather events that we know are going to continue becoming significantly more powerful and less predictable as global weather patterns shift. Those can even reshape shorelines and waterways literally overnight. If I were an actuary, that’s what would keep me awake at night.

          1. Jomo

            The “massive weather events” are focused and affect only a small area relatively speaking. Same actuarial theory as health insurance, many pay flood insurance for the event that affects a few. I think the whole pointing the finger at people who need flood insurance as “subsidizing” is pretty bogus. How do you feel about subsidizing homes exposed to tornadoes, or wildfire, or crops exposed to drought, or cities where a nuclear strike or industrial spill might destroy people and property values? That’s okay, while flood insurance is for “irresponsible” people. It’s really all one big “risk pool” sliced up to benefit private interests. As I pointed out previously, considering what Floridians pay and get back in return, you should not worry about it. It’s not your money. Floridians have already “prepaid” for the next 50 years of flood events and will continue to be charged yearly large amounts for flood insurance. These are the facts. I did not do the study, the Wharton School did.

            1. funemployed

              I’m not sure I’d call a category 6 hurricane (these are possible and significantly more likely as surface ocean temperatures rise) meandering up the eastern seaboard comparable to a tornado. It’s the difference between a community bank failure and a nationwide bank run. If the climate scientists are right (they almost certainly are) Katrina and Sandy were gentle rainstorms compared to what’s coming.

              1. funemployed

                I know there isn’t actually a category 6, but within a few decades, there will be hurricanes that are qualitatively different in destructive potential from even the strongest observed today. Katrina landed as a 3. Imagine a forty foot storm surge and 200 mph winds rolling over the florida peninsula. Something like that is damned near guaranteed to happen in the next century.

      2. DH

        A preventative action that can be taken now would be for FEMA to redline undeveloped areas and exclude them from “insurance” maps but keeping them on “floodplain” maps. Municipalities view FEMA as free money because it subsidizes people increasing their property tax base. The Feds should simply put areas off-limits, but that won’t happen because developers own much of that land and they will fight tooth and nail to be allowed to develop it. Floodplains that can’t be insured will be much less valuable which would be politically unacceptable.

        1. Jomo

          This has already been done in the 1980s and 1990s. Look at the Flood Insurance maps in Florida.

    6. bob

      If your house has a sump pump, it shouldn’t have been built where it is.

      Without power, flood.

      These simple rules are way too much these days. I know someone who bought a house, on a hill, with both sump pumps and a grinder pump (not septic, pumps, downhill to a sewer line), for sewage disposal.

      :”it’s perfectly normal, everyone in the neighborhood has both of them”

      The builder A) shouldn’t have built here, and if he did build here, he should have been able to make it dry first, and without the need for power, being paid for by the “owner” of the house. You.

      “This was an expensive house, with good schools”

      It’s built like an RV. Everything has to be pumped out. You’re on a hill. Why couldn’t they run sewer lines, at least?

      “The RE agent says everyone around here has to do that”

      The RE agent didn’t tell you that the builder saved $2k a house by not running gravity sewers? It’ll cost you $2k in power, in the first year. Then, you’ll have to replace the pumps every few years, at 4-6k.

      “The home inspector didn’t say that. He said it was a great house.”

      Did you offer to let him take it?

      1. bob

        Yes, it did “flood”.

        Someone living there turned off the pump, because it was too noisy. Everything in the finished basement – gone.

        Then, 3 months later – the pump died, necessitating the removal of the family, with 2 newborns.

        Taking “infrastructure” for granted is the new class marker.

        “my fridge makes water. It comes out the front of it” – overheard ….ouch

  7. allan

    Shorter Giuliani and Mukasey: the Logan Act is just a pile of words.

    Why Giuliani Held a Secret Meeting With Turkey’s Leader [NYT]

    In late February, as the United States and the rest of the world were adjusting to President Trump and Turkey was focused on a push by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to expand his power, Mr. Erdogan agreed to an unusual meeting with some American visitors.

    The guests included Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor who had acted as a surrogate for Mr. Trump during his campaign, and another prominent lawyer, Michael B. Mukasey, who served as attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration.

    The purpose of the visit by Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey was rather extraordinary: They hoped to reach a diplomatic deal under which Turkey might further aid the United States’ interests in the region. In return, the United States might release the two men’s client, Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader being held in a Manhattan jail whose case had attracted Mr. Erdogan’s interest.

    Mr. Mukasey, in court papers made public on Wednesday, characterized the meeting as part of an effort to seek “a state-to-state resolution of this case,” and he hinted at some progress, saying, “Senior officials in both the U.S. government and the Turkish government remain receptive to pursuing the possibility of an agreement.” …

    That’s weird – neither Giuliani A Noun, A Verb and 911, a former USA for SDNY,
    nor Mukasey Metadata is Just a Pile of Numbers, former USAG, has a diplomatic appointment.
    Surely superpatriot Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will soon be hot on their trail.

  8. PlutoniumKun


    Drinking Too Much Soda May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s Bloomberg.

    I haven’t read the original study, but the reporting is confused, most likely due to determined behind the scenes pressure from the industry. But the study seems to have been quite large and comprehensive and the results quite striking and clear (if not the intepretation of those results).

    I follow sports science quite a bit and there is a lot of evidence that the body reacts to sweeteners in foods and drinks as if it was sugar – the same insulin spike occurs. I’ve heard a lot of concerns that even very fit and active people taking lots of artificially sweetened sports drinks and protein mixes are struggling to reduce their weight despite low calorie and low carb diets. On this side of the atlantic grocery stores are full now of ‘healthy protein’ snack bars where once there was chocolate. I suspect many are loaded with sweeteners to make them more palatable.

    So it could be that the problem is not so much with the chemical sweeteners, but the bodies reaction to sweet ‘signalling’ from sugar free, but sweet drinks and snacks.

    Either way, there is plenty of scientific evidence now that its prudent to avoid not just sugary snacks and drinks, but any processed food/drink which requires significant sweetening.

    1. a different chris

      Good post. It seems (and I have no scientific background in this area so you are getting what you’re paying for) that your last sentence could be upgraded to:

      >its a very good idea to avoid not just sugary snacks and drinks, but any processed food/drink which requires significant sweetening and not a bad idea to avoid processed foods when you can.

    2. From Cold Mountain

      Wow, that Bloomberg article was obfuscation at its best. The study clearly say that they feel sugary drinks might be linked to pre-clinical AD. The worked off of the Farmingham Data by the way.

      Here is the full study (PDF) linking SUGARY DRINKS to AD.

      And the conclusion:

      In our cross-sectional observations in a large community-based sample, higher sugary beverage intake was associated with markers of preclinical AD, including brain atrophy and poorer episodic memory. Greater intake of total sugary beverages, fruit juice, and soft drinks were all associated with characteristics of preclinical AD. Additional studies are warranted to confirm our findings and evaluate if sugary beverages are associated longitudinally with worsening of subclinical AD measures and with incident AD.”

      The other study (PDF) concludes “Artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia.”

      So drinking either is linked to brain diseases. The second study, in my opinion, links AD to being a metabolic disease.

      Fructose is not good for the liver. Period. And fatty liver sets the stage for an assortment of metabolic diseases.

      1. Sue Madden

        the famous Framingham Heart study cited above has been going on for decades and has confirmed what many other studies now show viz that there is no causative link between consumption of saturated fat and CHD. Likewise there is non between total serum cholesterol levels (the good and bad is also the stuff of fantasy) and CHD. Lowering cholesterol levels increases all cause mortality in several serious studies and has no clear link to CHD mortality. Statins only seem to have a positive effect on CHD in one group (men over 65 who already have CHD – some of this group on average die a few months later. Even this effect is likely due to the anti-inflammatory properties of statins, not to their cholesterol lowering effects). Statins may turn out to increase the risk of Alzheimer`s (they certainly cause cognitive problems in many) – cholesterol is a vital molecule, in all cells but especially in the brain and nervous system….
        This whole story is a disaster of mind boggling proportions and has gone on for over half a century.. It seems big Pharma and the US food industry jumped on the bandwagon before there was any proof of the cholesterol/satd fat hypothesis. Free market economics……..

    3. justanotherprogressive

      Before anyone gets excited about diet drink or any kinds of soda, remember this is a “correlation means causation” type medical study. We don’t really understand dementias yet, so how can we be certain what causes them?
      I rarely have any respect for these kinds of “medical reports” (and they are oh, so common!), so I hold off believing anything about their soda “analyses” just yet……

      1. Katharine

        Thank you! We should also note the article says an editorial accompanying the Stroke study noted that it contradicted others which had found the opposite. It is clearly way too early to conclude anything.

        Personally, I think the hypothesis is bunkum, and I don’t buy the suggestion that we are dealing with a historic novelty. Alzheimer’s has been around way longer than over-sweetened soft drinks. I have graphic descriptions of a nineteenth-century relative, and sufficient information to show that the much younger sister who cared for her later suffered the same condition. Eleanor Farjeon in one of her children’s stories set a little over a century ago also portrayed what appeared to be a case in an English country woman. Moreover, there is good reason to think the disease was probably present in ancient Rome: Cicero feels it necessary to deny a common belief that memory is impaired in old age, and also that “old men are morose, troubled, fretful, and hard to please.” All this sounds quite a lot like early Alzheimer’s. Again, Shakespeare in As You Like It certainly includes some form of dementia in his seven ages of man:

        “Last scene of all,
        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

        And sorry, Yves, but “the erasure of personality” is nonsense. Anyone who has dealt closely with a near relative as various capacities were lost knows that the essential person was the one thing that persisted. Good social workers and caregivers generally also understand this; it is the researchers who have no idea of how to deal with people, and the relatives too pained by the loss of peripheral attributes to accept the present person, who cannot see what is there to be seen.

        1. ginnie nyc

          I think you are conflating several different things under one heading. Dementia, in the aged, is indeed well-described historically. But there are multiple types of dementia, including Lewy Body, front-temporal, from vasculitis or TBI, and Alzheimer’s. The original case described by Alzheimer at the very beginning of the 20th century was of the early onset type, which was accompanied by rapidly accelerated aging of the physiognomy (facial features). It was only in the 1970’s that the definition was expanded to dementia diseases of those over 65 years age.

          I personally consider there are three different epidemiological phenomena going on with the growing numbers of persons diagnosed with AD: 1) Many dementia cases are being thrown under Alzheimer’s (by physicians) when brain scans and some further investigation would find the symptoms actually fall under one of the other dementias 2) The 70’s expansion of the definition has made it much harder to distinguish possibly separate diseases 3) there is an actual increase in AD due to longer lifespan and increased chemical exposures over the last century.

          1. PhilM

            Yes, exactly. Vascular dementia is still by far the most common, but who bothers to classify such things these days? Until there’s a treatment for the rest, it’s really only NPH that we have to watch out for.

      2. MLS

        very good comment about the possible correlation=causation factor in play here. Also important to note is that Alzheimers mostly afflicts people 65 and older, and life expectancy in the 1950s in developed countries was about 65. So we may just recently be living long enough to have symptoms show up more frequently, hence the rise in diagnoses.

        A very small minority of AD patients (about 5%) have early onset where it can show up for some as young as their 30s or 40s, so the examples from Katherine below could well be representative of those cases.

    4. TK421

      the same insulin spike occurs. I’ve heard a lot of concerns that even very fit and active people taking lots of artificially sweetened sports drinks and protein mixes are struggling to reduce their weight despite low calorie and low carb diets

      I don’t get it. What’s the relation between insulin and weight? One gains weight by eating more calories than their body body uses, period.

      1. nowhere

        A lot of recent research takes issue with the “a calorie is a calorie” claim. Different metabolic pathways respond differently to different inputs. “You are the sum of your calories” is a simplistic argument that the food and beverage industries have been arguing for decades.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Insulin is connected to the storage of glycogen in the liver and glucose in the blood – alterations to insulin levels has a significant effect on energy levels and appetite, independent of calorie intake. And research shows that your body adjusts independently on whether you have taken in carbs as sugar or whether your brain just thinks you have.

        One gains weight by eating more calories than their body body uses, period.

        Nope. One gains weight by having your body process more calories than your body uses. Raw calorie counts are not necessarily an accurate guide – identical calorie intakes can have different impacts on weight according to the form they are taken.

      3. TheCatSaid

        “What’s the relation between insulin and weight? One gains weight by eating more calories than their body body uses, period.” While widely believed–still–it has been shown to be untrue by much research. The BEST and most credibly-sourced information was provided by another NC commenter (thanks!) who pointed me to Dr. Jason Fong. In particular I learned a lot by watching his 6-part series, The Aetiology of Obesity. Part I is here.

        If you watch this you will find out a lot, including why single-themed approaches are not the whole story.

        As I’ve said elsewhere, the link to this information is among the most valuable information I’ve come across here at NC.

      4. jrs

        not as clear cut as some would have you believe. Some foods are hyper-palatable naturally causing one to want to eat more, many of these are of course insulin stimulating foods (think pizza). Hyper-palatable foods are probably best off avoided most of the time, unless one is very disciplined with them, then whatever, congrats on being super-disciplined or having an iron metabolism.

        OTOH who overeats bananas or plain potatoes? Pretty much noone. The western diet does in all likelihood overconsume high glycemic carbs, OTOH the super low carb folks are pretty fanatical (I never felt physically worse, as in “if I keep it up I’m seriously afraid I’m going to end up in the emergency room, as this diet is literally Tearing My Body Apart From the Inside” on any diet in my life than Atkins – that’s of course a really extreme diet).

        Meanwhile cultural behaviors may very well be part of weight control (basically what Micheal Pollan says on eating until 80% full, other cultures having taboos against overeating etc.). But that’s almost un-American to suggest that!!! And meanwhile nutritional content of food may also influence satiety.

      5. reslez

        Here’s a great infographic about the perils of calorie counting. To summarize:

        1. Calorie counts for foods are imprecise. The FDA allows 5 different methods for calculating calorie count and permits totals to be off by 20%. This means you have a descrepancy of up to 50%
        2. We don’t absorb all of the calories we consume. The formula that’s used is off for fiber rich food. This introduces another 10% discrepancy
        3. How a food is prepared changes its calorie load. Chopping, cooking, or blending all increase how many calories a food provides. This introduces an error of up to 90%
        4. Individuals absorb calories differently. People who have ever lost a significant amount of weight have a more efficient metabolism and require 25% fewer calories per day. Gut bacteria can make you more efficient at absorbing certain types of foods, which could mean you absorb 150 calories more per day than others
        5. Portion sizes in the real world differ in countless ways that defy prediction

        Putting it all together, trying to manage one’s diet by looking at calories is a wonderful way to become obese.

        1. Susan the other

          yes, I agree. the one thing I found as a good regulator of food intake was simple hunger – it’s hard to recognize in a world of face-stuffing – but generally, if you skip one or two meals you begin to feel it. Grow familiar with the feeling and then when you eat, you will recognize the opposite feeling which is satiation. And then don’t eat again until you actually feel hungry. Amazing, no? And also keep in mind that many times we think we are hungry when we are thirsty so always drink a big glass of water before you open that bag of chips.

    5. JeffC

      Some 20+ years ago my pharmacist confided that aspartame diet drinks made her crave sugar and become a bit depressed, and she added that she had heard there was research to back it up. So I dug around and found three research papers—at least one was from a Utah university—that had confirmed this.

      The finding that stuck in my mind was that mice given an amount of aspartame corresponding (body-weight scaling?) to a few diet drinks a day in humans had the serotonin levels in their brains, on autopsy, drop by 30% or so.

      In people whose serotonin levels are marginal, that’s enough to bring on mild depression and, in some, sugar cravings. It was so for me in fact: My experience with “diet” drinks matched that of my pharmacist. I lost weight fairly easily once I got off them.

      1. Enquiring Mind

        Aspartame causes short-term memory loss, and eliminating aspartame reverses the ill effects fairly quickly. I state that confidently in my n=1 sample where presence or absence of aspartame was the only factor.

    6. Jeotsu

      Just to complicate matters further…. pretty much every molecule of food you eat will pass through a couple of bacteria before it it absorbed through the gut wall. The interactions with the microbiome are complicated because we both don’t understand what all is in your gut, and because everyone has a different mix. You can google fecal transplants and microbiome if you want all sorts of examples (a good one being fat vs thin mice on the same diet. And how you could convert one to the other via fecal transplant – it was the gut bacteria driving the body-type, not the diet).

      For too long people have been very reductionist about diets. This food is x grams of sugar, y grams of fat, etc. As if that was all that matters. Yet if you drink high-sugar orange juice with and without pulp you get very different blood sugar responses – the gut bacteria interact with the pump (or the fiber in a banana for another exmaple), which mediates how they take up the sugar and pass it on to you.

      To further complicate matters, the microbiome (through mechanisms not really understood) works with your immune system, passing on chunks of material for your T-cells to investigate as possible intruders. We are in symbiosis with our gut flora, and they cooperate with our immune system to keep our foreigners that might make life bad for both of us. Its really cool! Also, really quite complicated and not very well understood.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > For too long people have been very reductionist about diets

        Yes. The concept of “nutrition.” Useful, but very limited…. You could look at the bizarre and globally viral American diet, “fast food” especially, as a ginormous medical experiment on people’s gut biome without their informed consent.

    7. Yves Smith Post author

      If the hypothesis that drinking diet drinks led to an insulin spike, you’d see Type II diabetes and glucose intolerance among skinny and not overweight people who drink a lot of diet soda. There are LOTS of people who fit that profile, at least in major urban areas, particularly women. Glucose tolerance is a standard blood test in an annual physical, so you would have seen, “Why are we seeing skinny Type II diabetics/pre-diabetics” long ago.

      I’ve seen nada to indicate that in the wild.

      Also sweetness is not a very good proxy for glycemic index. White potatoes have a higher glycemic index than sweet potatoes. Many very sweet fruits are low glycemic index, like dates, plums, prunes, pears.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, sorry, I oversimplified in my comment. I was trying to find the original articles I read that in and failed – but the phenomenon that the body reacts to the taste, not just the ingestion of carbs is well known in sports science (see the link I provided above to the Sweat Science blog). So far as I know the mechanisms aren’t fully understood. But I would suggest that the mass marketing of sugar free sports and protein drinks is pretty recent, so longer term health implications wouldn’t be clear yet.

  9. a different chris

    Well whether you are interested in the article content or not, if your a clueless American like me you should at least read (and probably bookmark) the beginning of the Counterpunch link to help sort out the British rags. No wonder I’ve been so confused, like 1/2 their names start with the to me unnecessary “Daily”. I honestly had no idea. An actual member of the British Isles might want to chime in and confirm or deny the categorizations, of course.

    There are just listed in the article alone:

    The Daily Mirror
    The Sun
    The Daily Mail
    The Daily Express
    The Evening Standard
    The Guardian
    The Times
    The Daily Telegraph
    The Independent

    For instance, I never picked up on the Daily Mirror/Daily Mail dichotomy and was regularly confused by what seemed a completely schizophrenic world viewpoint.

      1. a different chris

        Similar but your examples at least give me some geographical info. New York as opposed to Seattle Times.

        JeffC’s comment helped. I’m used to all papers simply having a Sunday edition here in America thus no distinction is made.

        Anyway excuse the pointless diversion but it is Friday so what the heck.

    1. Anonymous2

      The article ‘s take on the UK press is pretty good. I read the Financial Times which is in fact a reasonably trustworthy paper. People in the markets need to know what is going on. Readers of the other papers are generally indulging in a spot of confirmation bias though most are probably completely unaware this is the case.

      Labour is in a very bad place at present as they will have great difficulty persuading enough voters that their problems stem from the UK. One of the very damaging effects of the referendum has been to encourage voters to think the source of their problems lies abroad. It is always the easy fallback for demagogues to blame foreigners.

      1. TheCatSaid

        “I read the Financial Times which is in fact a reasonably trustworthy paper. ” Hoo boy. The brainwashing occurs in what is not said, what is not discussed. It delivers information based on values/understanding that are so deeply internalized that they taken for granted. Which is an effective way to “educate” less experienced folks on “the unspoken rules of the game which you must accept and never question.”

        Read it, but understand it’s an elitist brainwashing vehicle. And it does it by carefully choosing carefully the factual information it shares, and the uncounted billions of other ways of understanding which it effectively hides.

        1. Anonymous2

          But if you are capable of critical thinking you can use the reasonably accurate factual information to inform your world view.

          I also read NC and other sites every day, glance at the tabloid headlines.

        2. OpenthepodbaydoorsHAL

          Thank you, luckily in many places we now have active commentariats so we can learn what is actually happening in (to) the world. The FT comment section often does not fall for their parsing/ spinning/obfuscating/fabricating

        1. Anonymous2

          Perhaps I should have been clearer i was referring to the news /factual reporting of the FT. As for opinion, of course it is a bankers paper and is not going to offend its readers overmuch. I still think it is well ahead of the rest of the mainstream UK press for anyone who wants to work out what is really going on, though. But of course you should never switch your brain off, even when reading NC!

  10. Kurtismayfield

    If anyone needs a refresher on how Aspartame approval was pushed through the FDA, read here:

    Summary: FDA did not want it approved, Reagan got elected, appointed new head of FDA that was friendly to the company who made Aspartame (Thanks Rumsfeld!), and the FDA approved it despite objections from doctors on the board.

    I don’t trust the stuff at all. Sucralose or sugar alcohols for me.

    1. Gary

      I don’t particularly trust Rense as a source, but this is typical for how things worked and still works since the 1980’s. Reagan would have already been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at this point, so aspartame does not seem a likely antagonist. It would be some sugary sweet irony though….

      1. justanotherprogressive

        I remember when everyone was mailed candy containing Aspertame back in the early 80’s. But to be fair, do you eat asparagus? It contains the same amino acids that Aspertame contains….
        Since I have a sensitivity to Aspertame, I drink Diet Pepsi – it has no Aspertame……sooooo…..which artificial sweeteners were those researchers actually looking at? And who funded their “study”?

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        You don’t trust Rense as a source? Next you’ll tell me you don’t believe the Iluminati in conjunction with the saucer people are the out for world domination in some kind of bizarre racist conspiracy meant to destroy pure blood aryans on behalf of international zionism. Also, the British Royal family belongs to a species that evolved in the vicinity of the star we call Rigel. That last part might be true.

        1. TheCatSaid

          Reducing Rense to specific guests/concepts you do not agree with is a bit much, don’t you think? Are you really saying no guest on Rense has anything of value to say?

          Do you really think Rense is more reliable than, say, The New York Times and the BBC? Whatever the sources we should perhaps consider maybe none of it is true (including Rense, NYT, BBC), but eventually findng maybe some few sparks of information that are useful, after careful sifting and personal experience.

          It must ALL be taken with a high degree of skepticism–especially our “papers of record” which are maybe the most untruthful when it really counts.

          1. Alex Morfesis

            Ah…rense…since chappelle isnt doing anymore clayton bigsby…one has to get ones comedy somewhere…the truth, the truth…anything but the truth…secret ancient alien technologies that mein dummkopf mis-used…but one day the funfte shall rise again from the shadows and take its place in the proper order of things…

            think he is having another sale of those end of the world as we know it vitameatavegamin tablets this weekend in celebration of that mooztashed dude he loves so much…

            And remember to point the prayer mats to kyffhauser…

    2. Susan the other

      Not exactly up on the molecules of sugar and their metabolism – but “I can tell you this” (;-)) My father died of dementia – it was called Alzheimers (mid 80s) because that was the new catch-phrase. He had been a life long functioning alcoholic and had been going downhill noticeably for about 7 years. At first he tried the cold turkey cure. He quit both smoking and drinking, thinking they were the culprits, but instead it sent him careening off the cliff. His dementia accelerated and within 5 years he was dead. So lesson for now and until they know what they are doing to cure it: if you start “to go” don’t knee-jerk your metabolism too fast because it can backfire on you. My surmise is that both alcohol and nicotine were actually preventing the progression of dementia because they kept the capillaries functioning. And in fact (when I had him autopsied because I’m mentally compulsive and was in shock) it turned out that he had severe arteriosclerosis along with his aging plaques – so quitting his natural self-medications might have been the worst thing he could have done. just FYI.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry about your father. Dunno about the alcohol, but I recall seeing studies that suggested that nicotine does slow the progress of Alzheimers.

  11. a different chris

    The “The Week” article isn’t any better than you can hope for from our media. It doesn’t proclaim great victory at least, but:

    1) It says “..when will Americans give up…” but it’s American Elites it’s talking about, the rest of us left, alt-right, and everything in between are sick of this stupidity
    2) “campaign promise of focusing on the real war on terror there”… it’s a war *of* Terror and the blowback is basically baked in.
    3) “In Europe, Japan, and the Korean peninsula, the United States has used troops to keep a long peace going.” Really? Europe and Japan? I will not argue Korea, but I suspect that we’ve, after initially helping, have become part of the problem.

  12. Arizona Slim

    ISTR reading that JFK referred to his doctor, Janet​ Travell, as Dr. Feel-good. So, if Trump has found a modern equivalent, he isn’t doing anything new.

    1. neo-realist

      Kennedy was arguably in a lot of pain: Still suffered the effects of a WWII back injury and afflicted w/ Graves disease.

      Trump may be using a Dr. Feelgood for energy or stress, unless there is some illness he is suffering from that we don’t know about. However, I have to say that he strikes me as a rather vigorous 70 something, more so than Hillary’s late 60 something self.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, that is BS. I saw the underlying “proof” elsewhere. It was one person, posed in good light, who has very deep fingerprints. I guess whoever is pushing the tech realized it was too easy to see the flaws and now they’ve dressed up their pitch.

  13. Jim Haygood

    Normally I don’t pay no attention to brokerage research. An exception is BofAML’s Michael Hartnett, a market historian who publishes a series called The Longest Pictures, with data going back up to 5,000 years.

    According to Hartnett, two major central banks — the ECB in dying Eurosclerosia, and the BOJ in crippled, shrinking Japan — have bought $1 trillion of financial assets just in the first four months of 2017. He calls this “the largest CB buying on record.” This rate-of-accumulation chart, with the ECB in black and the BOJ in red, tells their story of crazed asset accumulation using kited NSF checks:

    Another view, showing the cumulative balance sheets of six major CBs, indicates that in the 21st century, CB balance sheets have tripled from 12% to over 36% of their host countries’ GDP:

    This is why the perfectly legitimate concerns of masterful traders like Paul Tudor Jones [Bloomberg article in Links above] about unsustainable market overvaluation do not matter, for now.

    Bubble blowers with government badges have transformed Bubble III into a malevolent, planetary scale mania. They control the horizontal and the vertical. The prices you see on your screen are not real. When Bubble III encounters a sharp pin one of these years, it will be a financial asteroid hit, demolishing a wide swath of OECD countries’ pension systems.

    To paraphrase a South African film title, The [False] Gods Must Be Crazy.

    1. OpenthepodbaydoorsHAL

      I can’t think of a more delusional mania, more insidious, more all-encompassing, more potentially devastating, hiding in plain sight. The purveyors (Yellen et al) tell us “all is well” while continuing their hair-on-fire panic emergency policies that started in 2009 and by any measure of “solvency” are abject and complete failures. Since when should a CB hold any assets at all (let alone equities)? And if we did decide to have highly leveraged hedge funds at the center of the financial universe why on Earth would we let them operate with zero controls, zero oversight, and in complete secrecy? Everything else pales by comparison.
      Bernanke was right when he said Japan’s original invention of “QE” was “a dangerous, ill-advised, maverick experiment that will have unknown consequences”. We’re all just lab rats.

  14. Steve Roberts

    Isle Royale – it’s time to intervene and bring in 10 HEALTHY wolves from the outside. The disease which killed them off has taken them beyond the point of real return. My backpacking trip and listening to the wolves howl around us at night while we were in our tents was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

  15. justanotherprogressive

    I love your antidote du jour. Nothing makes me happier than looking at cats, any kind of cats, but err….it is a caracal kitten……

  16. JohnnyGL

    Headline seems broadly correct, but note the 1st two leading examples providing good returns to bondholders, Ghana and Venezuela, are both solid democracies that have held up despite being put under stress.

    Bloomberg acting like Venezuela is a dictatorship is baseless and says more about Bloomberg’s house views than it does about Venezuela, itself.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Venezuela has one of the more solid democratic traditions in LatAm. But it is fraying badly under Maduro:

      The renewed wave of protests was sparked by a Supreme Court move in March to assume the powers of the opposition-led Congress, a move that was reversed a few days later.

      The rallies were further fueled when the government barred the opposition’s best-known leader, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from running for office for 15 years.

      Democratic countries don’t disqualify opposition candidates. It’s abundantly clear that a recall vote against Maduro would succeed. But it was short-circuited when the Maduro regime claimed fraud in the recall vote petitions and shut it down. Again, legalistic but not democratic. The peoples’ will was thwarted.

      Starving Venezuelans are sick of the incompetent, autocratic Maduro, but he’s dug himself in like a tick in a hairy perineum.

  17. oho

    >>a type of dementia that does not seem to have been described in histories or fiction (the erasure of personality is a distinctive feature), suggests that their is a strong environmental component, and this might be one.

    Another hypothesis, not necessarily mutally exclusive, is the accumulation of aluminum in the brain. (see the ingredients in standard baking powder)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I have heard of that theory too. Not just baking soda but aluminum cookware (used in a lot of fast food places) and antiperspirants.

  18. Ernesto Lyon

    Measles is spreading because the vaccine doesn’t work. Merck cooked the data to get it approved.

    The lawsuit is in progress now.

    Former Merck Scientists Sue Merck Alleging MMR Vaccine Efficacy Fraud

    The “anti-vaccine” movement is rising not because of a sudden new found hatred of science, but because people are becoming increasingly aware of the fraud, greed, and dangers of our current vaccine regime.

    1. TheCatSaid

      That was educational about all the different ways they had to fudge/fake the effectiveness of the mumps vaccine.

      In addition to the problems of holding guns to scientists heads to come up with the “right” results, it’s a pity there are no longterm vaccine studies.

    2. Aumua

      Perhaps it’s mere coincidence then that so many anti vaxxers tend to subscribe to multiple half baked and kooky theories and ideas in general. I’m not just being sarcastic here. I’m saying it might actually be a coincidence, however, that trend is something that tends to make me question a lot of what such people say. Maybe there is a middle ground between extremes where a fruitful discussion can take place. I tend to believe that the truth is somewhere in there.

    3. IDontKnow

      It is known that the mumps component of all MMR vaccines from the mid 1990’s has had a very low efficacy, estimated at 69% (Harling 05). The outbreaks started in UK and Europe in 1998. USA’s outbreaks began in 2006.

      Ehhe, doesn’t work? or is much less effective than advertised

      Too bad there isn’t a inoculation that would immunize the whole population to lying.

      The whole issue of medical testing infiltrates the food and drug system as a whole, are you going to stop eating and taking your medicine, or rather push for better science? Probably not, because better science is not what nutters want.

        1. IDontKnow

          Ummm, you do realize I’m using Lyon’s own source, which he selectively edited to show he’s lying? Jesh.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            69% is considered to be low efficacy, so by quoting that you affirmed Ernesto. And by saying “better science” you were affirming his underlying claim while arguing for reaching other conclusions from it.

  19. Altandmain

    Apparently the Libertarians think that Tulsi Gabbard would be the next US President:

    Oh and apparently left-Establishment “Unity” is not happening:

    The purpose, then, of the unity tour is to bridge this great divide between how the public views Bernie Sanders and how it views the more deeply entrenched members of the Democratic Party establishment. One could assume, given the clear preference the public has for Sanders, that the Democrats would be open to adopting some of Bernie Sanders’s populist positions, such as expanding Medicare to cover all Americans and challenging the corporate greed of Wall Street, but Perez has been reluctant to echo Bernie’s views thus far, perhaps indicating that the Democratic Party itself is in no hurry to adopt the populist Sanders platform.

    For example, in a recent MSNBC joint interview with Perez and Sanders, Sanders pulled no punches and expressed his call for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare plan. When MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes asked Perez if the Democratic Party supported a Medicare-for-all expansion, Perez evaded the question and promoted the virtues of the Affordable Care Act. Later in the interview, Sanders said that it’s time to take on the billionaire ruling class and let them know that their greed is destroying the country. Chris Hayes then turned to Tom Perez to see if he agrees with such rhetoric, and again Perez was unwilling to echo Sanders. He instead made some comments about “putting hope on the ballot” rather than agree with Sanders that the ruling class of billionaires is the problem.

    People support Bernie Sanders because he is willing to express what many Americans see as deep, obvious truths. Americans who support Bernie Sanders are tired of vague rhetoric about “hope and change.” They want specific plans that will make their lives better and they want politicians who are going to be willing to fight for the best interests of the average American rather than the ultra-rich and the corporate interests. Tom Perez’s carefully worded rhetoric that seeks to avoid rocking the boat will not be enough to impress people who feel like the Democratic Party needs to radically move in the direction of a progressive Sanders-influenced platform.

    Yeah I can see that the Establishment Democrats learned nothing from 2016. Actually they don’t want to. They want to go to lobbying positions or get rich like the Clintons did.

    1. justanotherprogressive

      Establishment Democrats still think they can change us instead of changing themselves. But they aren’t willing to give up the perks that being neoliberal elite give them, and they just don’t understand why they can’t convince the rest of us that they deserve those privileges at our expense.
      Since they believed Bernie was just a Pied Piper, I assume they are shocked that by attempting to co-opt him, they really haven’t changed our minds…..

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Does Sanders need anyone’s permission to run again as a Democrat in 2020?

      Did he need any in 2016? I don’t think he needed any. He could register as one, as could anyone.

      1. Marina Bart

        Yes, but the Democratic Party has the right under the current rigged rules to use the power of the state (literally, each state) to undermine his or any leftists candidacy, spread viciously false propaganda using media outlets owned by the six corporations that control most news and information dissemination in this country, and target that leftist candidate’s voters for suppression and flipping, with no functional means for the leftist candidate or leftist voters to hold them accountable, and no real alternative to going through the corporatist-controlled party.

        It’s a problem. Nothing has changed yet that would stop the Ds from running the same play again.

  20. millicent

    re: Who is behind the assault on public schools.
    This is an interesting piece with some useful information and perspective. But, I question the depth of the author’s grasp of the dynamics and science within education. From his article:
    ” In language arts, a promising movement of “whole language” teachers, who shifted power to their students in reading and writing workshops, came to fore in the eighties, only to be beaten back in the following decade by a coalition of conservatives and textbook publishers touting “systematic phonics” and scripted reading programs.”

    There is a very thorough and methodical science of the development of reading skill (see I.Y. Liberman for the origin of this material). The skill of sounding out a word is based in speech and not language. Whole language approaches ignore this very important and time-and-again proven point. While some children can divine the speech-print connection others cannot without more explicit instruction. Speech is overlapping and can be only physically segmented at the syllable level. Alphabetic systems such as English require the reader to perform an abstract segmentation that maps overlapping speech to discrete alphabetic symbols. There is no perceptual, physical basis for this. It must be abstracted. The most direct route is systematic instruction. I acknowledge here that phonics is not the only or possibly the best form of speech-print, systematic connection for all children. There are others that nevertheless are a far cry from whole language.
    There’s been a movement to make systematic speech-print instruction seem fascistic (so what isn’t?). Acknowledging that we can always improve understanding, this is the best science we have right now and it should be used to further education.

    1. Katharine

      Could you please explain your distinction between speech and language? As far as I am concerned, speech is the primary form of language, not something distinct from it. You appear to use the terms quite differently.

      1. millicent

        speech involves the motor system of articulating those sounds that comprise speech. Speech sounds are part of a perception-action cycle in which how a sound gets generated (what part of the mouth, whether the vocal chords vibrate….) determines what is perceived and how. Those individual phoneme sounds that align with letters have to be perceived based on the “articulatory gestures” that produce them. Language is the semantic and syntactic aspect of linguistics that goes directly to meaning. When a person reads, even a very fluent, adult, adept reader, words are first (very quickly) decoded into speech and from the speech to language, i.e., meaning.

    2. funemployed

      The best route isn’t systematic instruction, it’s cultivating an intrinsic motivation to read. Once children are shown how to make sense of basic words, their reading will advance on it’s own (if they’re not dyslexic) in direct proportion to how often they choose to do it while intrinsically motivated to make sense of the text. Extrinsic motivation only works effectively for very simple tasks involving 0 creativity, which reading most certainly is not. Systematic instruction undermines autonomy, and autonomy is a vital ingredient to intrinsic motivation. This is one of the most solid and consistently replicated findings in psychology.

      I too have studied the “science” of education, and quickly learned that there is no such thing. Educators’ conceptions of human learning directly contradict basically every advance in developmental psychology of the last 4 decades.

      1. Enquiring Mind

        Cultivating that intrinsic motivation to read brings to mind two easy methods. First, those bedtime stories, so take as much time as the kids want, as long as they still get enough sleep. Second, make trips to the library (remember those?) a routine family event. What a joy to see people checking out stacks of books. The family aspect also includes having reading materials around the house. Kids pick up on and model many behaviors, so why not include more good ones.

        1. Marina Bart

          I had one of those kids who taught herself to read as a baby — although what that really meant was that she tried to use letter names to decode words, figured out that didn’t work, and started asking questions. So even this “precocious reader” was actually getting something like systematic instruction, it was just casual. She would see some sign when looking out the window of the car and ask what the sounds were, once she figured out the letter names didn’t matter; I would do the individual sounds, talk about the rules, like for short and long vowel sounds, and then as we continued driving to the park, she’d practice on whatever the next set of signs were that we drove by.

          So first, we created a household in which reading was considered a daily pleasure, so she wanted to read, and tried to read herself when I was driving the car and couldn’t do it for her. Then, when the rules were offered to her at her request, she immediately practiced implementing them. She’s officially a smart chicklet, and I’m not saying all children raised in my household would learn to read before entering school. I know that’s not true, in part because having a super-early reader created all sorts of tensions, with other mothers, with Mommy & Me teachers, etc. So I noticed how the process works generally for most children more than I otherwise would have. I knew a lot of kids whose parents devoted tremendous energy to those “early reading” schemes, because early reading was treated as a intelligence marker which was really a class marker. And those programs had extremely limited utility, even with obviously bright and compliant children. Most young brains just aren’t ready for that much chained, complex abstraction and rule execution. Whether or to what degree kids like mine make the leap because they’re “smarter” or because they simply enjoy it so much more their incentives are greater isn’t clear to me.

          I think it’s pretty clear that most people need both some kind of systematic instruction in the baseline rules, plus the exposure and experience to enjoy reading, if they’re going to become enthusiastic, nuanced readers. I was absolutely horrified by how the school system and the culture was, instead, turning reading into the worst kind of drudgery, focused on forced acquisition and practice of rules and rule-imprinting text that was usually unpleasant on its own, and presented to the child in extremely unpleasant ways. Very young children were expected to track their daily reading on charts by how many pages completed and how much time spent, and they were punished if they did not meet the requirements or complete the worksheets correctly. No time was spent on what those pages read meant, or how the child felt about the material. Reading was like brushing your teeth or eating kale — you have to do it, because it’s “good for you,” not because it’s pleasurable. Yes, there are disciplined people in this world who always brush their teeth and eat kale on a weekly basis even if it’s prepared badly. But those are very simple cognitive tasks compared to reading.

          I had so many children come into my home, and only climb on my lap for book time because they loved my daughter and me and wanted the hugs, only to discover that entertaining stories — and beautiful illustrations, and funny voices, and all the other things you can do to make reading aloud enjoyable — are, actually, entertaining. Victims of those “reading systems” who could sound out simple syllables but thought that was about as much fun as going to the dentist would go from leaning away from the book to leaning into the book, and sometimes start to caress the page before I could turn it.

          Our culture revolves around driving and changing behavior through negative reinforcement and punishment. But all other issues aside, that simply doesn’t work very well, in learning reading, or any other behavior or action. There’s nothing wrong with rule-based instruction in a skill that has rules. What we’re losing is an appreciation for the power of pleasure. Beating down children and making their educational experience (which consumes most of their childhood daily life) a living hell isn’t going to end well. The people who make it through this system successfully come out of elite colleges unwilling and unable to read or think in any robust way, which is a significant factor in why we have the elite we currently do.

      2. millicent

        There is a science of speech perception and the relationship between speech and sounding out words.

        1. Marina Bart

          I thought it was now understood that reading is fundamentally an aural skill, which is why reading aloud together is so valuable.

          I have only the most superficial understanding of the science. Is that at least approximately correct?

  21. Lee

    Path cleared for Arkansas executions BBC. Barbaric, but humans, and Americans in particular, are not very civilized.

    A conversation about the Arkansas death penalty dispute, with former death row inmate Damien Echols, attorney David Boies, and [anti-] death penalty advocate Lorri Davis.

    I’m not a pacifist. The unofficial state motto of states such as Arkansas, “Some people need killin'” is a sentiment with which I agree. However, the probability of executing innocent persons, as this very moving discussion highlights, will never be zero. On that basis and that class and race play such prominent roles in determining who gets executed and who doesn’t, are quite enough to convince me of the immorality of the death penalty.

    1. diptherio

      1) Imposing the death penalty costs more than life imprisonment, so it costs you more in taxes.

      2) Death ends life, and therefore all pains and sufferings, for the one who dies; it creates pain and suffering for their loved ones who live. The death penalty, therefore, punishes the innocent while letting the guilty off the hook.

      3) And if you believe that “some people just need killin'”, who do you believe should make that choice? How sure are you that someone might decide that you are one of those people that needs killin’? Don’t you think it’s better, therefore, from a self-preservation standpoint to be against the death penalty for everyone, just to make sure you (and your heirs) don’t end up on the wrong side of it?

      I highly recommend the book Returning to the Teachings by Rupert Ross for what I think is a much more intelligent and human way to deal with social correction.

      1. Lee

        Who needs killing is first of all a personal decision. Example: during my physical exam to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam war I stated that I had no knowledge of my being harmed or threatened by our “enemies”. Therefore, I would be more likely to kill someone who ordered me to kill someone against whom I bore no enmity. Fraggings were in the news then. You should have seen the look on the examiner’s face. I was told that I was definitely not someone they wanted in the military. As for the death penalty, as I have at the very least implied, no one should make a decision that should never be made for the reasons I stated in my previous comment.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Death does end suffering, for the one who dies.

        Is the guilty off the hook? By being dead? As death ends suffering, it does.

        Is that how we mortals treat the thought of death though? Without liberation, we dread the idea of dying. Thus, the question in (3) – How sure are you that someone might decide that you are one of those people that needs killin’?

        So, I see a couple of things involved here:

        1. The suffering of being terrorized before death. The mental torture here. For a pig to be slaughtered, we ask that it be humane…no suffering before death. The issue remains.

        2. The death itself is a deterrent…for those who would betray state secrets, for example. There are other greedy or corrupt examples. That is the belief. Some agree, and some disagree.

        For me, death penalty is to be avoided because we have the ability to physically separate them from the population, and the government can afford it that separation monetarily.

  22. Tracie Hall

    Excellent images! That kitten is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. But it’s not just a great subject; the lighting, the location and the capture of the kitten mid stride combined make it just brilliant!!!

  23. Oregoncharles

    “Monsanto Tribunal: Report from The Hague Organic Consumers Association.” – link doesn’t work. Java problem.

  24. ginnie nyc

    I don’t get the hysteria re: possible caps on Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements. This has been going on for some time in some states that never expanded Medicaid, and in some that did, like wonderful New York State.

    For instance, over the past 5 years, Cuomo has slowly decreased the amounts (meaning lowered the caps) of reimbursement for eyeglasses, which are only covered by Medicaid. It was originally a maximum of $270 for a two-year period, and is now down to $200. This is a significant difference from someone with involved vision problems, or even bi-focals for that matter. My out-of-pocket for glasses (and I need three separate pairs) is now equal to what the state condescends to reimburse. And naturally, I must fight them tooth and nail for at least 9 months each time to cover the portion they do.

      1. ginnie nyc

        No, because the hysterics pretend this is a looming phenomenon due to Trump, not something that has been going on all along.

  25. Knot Galt

    Can the police retaliate against a citizen for refusing to answer police questions? Washington Post

    The answer is : Yes. Yes, they apparently can. Lesson: Don’t get cute with officers. We are all at their mercy.

  26. BeliTsari

    When will America give up on Afghanistan? When dust-bowl peckerwoods figure out their climate & soil now so resembles Afghanistan & Bayer starts selling them Roundup Ready strains of 25% heroin Papaver somniferum?

  27. Susan the other

    About the wolves in Michigan. They are not surviving. Those conservationists should not look at the wolves as a convenience for controlling the Moose population and preventing too much forest damage; instead they should get systemic and look at the complexities of sustaining both moose and wolf populations. Just consider how difficult it is for a pack of 100-pound wolves to bring down one fast and fierce 800-pound+ moose – it’s almost not worth the paycheck. If the environment does not sustain the wolves with other food they will not survive. And what about grizzlies? They cull moose and with far less energy per muscle use. Michigan needs more than wolves; they need grizzlies too. And they need a nutritious environment for all this wildlife in order to maintain a viable equilibrium. Did anyone see the Yellowstone clip where the bear waited for the wolfpack and followed it for the kill? Interesting. It might well be that our wildlife professionals have been expecting the wolves to do more than they actually can. Diversity forever. And for god’s sake don’t kill the labor force.

  28. different clue

    The famines in Nigeria and South Sudan are strictly and only due to the fooo-destroying and farming-preventing bad acts of the Boko Haram (and its hidden government moles and supporters) in Nigeria and the governating rulers and soldiers of South Sudan who pursue their anti-farmeritic personal grudge-war for the fun of it. Climate change is not involved in these two famines.

    The Yemen famine is created by the Global Axis of Jihad and its johnny-on-the-spot member Saudi Arabia for destroying food-distribution/ existence systems and functionality in Yemen.

    The Somalia famine is at least partway due to a drought. A question arises: Is the little British Colony of British SomaliLAND undergoing the same drought? If it is, then why is it not undergoing the same famine?

  29. athena

    “Let us not forget the reason for vaccinating against measles is that it is very dangerous to babies under six months of age.”

    This is true. But it should be noted that the reason measles is currently so dangerous to babies under 6 months old is because we’ve been vaccinating against it for a generation, so mothers pass on less transplacental immunity to it, because the vaccine is so effective the virus no longer circulated in communities, boosting maternal immunity.

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