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What If Black America Were a Country?

What If Black America Were a Country?

Theodore R. Johnson

The statistics reveal a fragile state within a superpower.

In a recent debate with a CNN contributor, the conservative radio talk-show host Larry Elder declared that “if black America were a country, it would be the 15th-wealthiest country in the world.” His math proved incorrect, and his invocation of “black America” was followed by a refutation of the concept by a fellow black conservative. Shortly after Elder’s remarks, the Republican strategist Ron Christie argued that there is no such thing as "black America" and, further, that the very notion of it is antithetical “to our national motto of E Pluribus Unum.”

If black America were a nation-state, how would it stack up against other countries? How would it fare on standard measures of national power and weakness?

Naturally, this exercise presumes a monolithic black America, but this is a standard hazard when comparing large entities using statistical medians and per-capita rates. Another obvious concern is that a sub-national, racial demographic is not equivalent to a sovereign nation. Nearly all the sources of black America’s attributes are grounded in America’s history, economy, geography, and government structures. Still, it is this truism that gives weight to the insight revealed by the following charts: Black America is a fragile state embedded in the greatest superpower the world has ever known.

In the infographics below, two pictures emerge. The first is of a strong nation with considerable manpower and purchasing power. The second is of a troubled, fragile state suffering from socioeconomic disparities and structural subjugation in ways that degrade life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (on some measures, black America resembles countries like Brazil, China, and Russia—emerging powers that are struggling with stark economic inequality). Essentially, what we're witnessing is a nation that is comparable in certain ways to a regional power existing in the state of Disparistan (or, perhaps, Despairistan). This is more than an inconvenient truth; it fundamentally undermines the United States’ greatest contribution to humanity: the American idea.

Why the White House Won't Admit Obama Is a Drag for Democrats

Why the White House Won't Admit Obama Is a Drag for Democrats

By George E. Condon Jr.

The president enjoys campaigning, but he's not welcome in many close races this year. He's in a similar predicament to President Bush in 2006, when Republicans lost control of Congress.

Another week of presidential travel and fundraising. Another round of bad polls. Another day closer to the realization by Democrats that there really is nothing President Obama can do to alter a campaign dynamic that all year has been gloomy for his party. You won't hear that acknowledgement, of course, from anybody at the White House. No one in that building ever easily admits to an inability to shape events.

Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest suggested that even after a year of extensive presidential travel and heavy fundraising, Obama has not really begun to fight. He acknowledged this week that Obama "has not begun a sustained campaign of campaign-related activities, if you will." Earnest noted a handful of times the president has been seen publicly with beleaguered candidates and indicated there will be more in the few weeks remaining before Election Day. "The president has already succeeded in making a pretty aggressive case," he said, adding, "And I would anticipate that in the context of the upcoming elections you'll hear the president make that case again."

That kind of confidence that an incumbent president's use of the bully pulpit can impact campaigns was found in other White Houses while they were under siege. There is something about being a senior White House aide that doesn't permit much talk of defeat. "I don't remember feeling frustrated or defeated in any way. I remember just feeling busy," recalled Dana Perino, who was deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush during the 2006 midterm campaign. "We did know, though, that we were pushing against history."

Perino credited Karl Rove, hailed by Bush as the "architect" of his 2004 reelection and the top political adviser in 2006, with being the inside cheerleader even as the bad news was coming in from campaigns across the country. "I'd be with Karl and Karl would tell you that if all the stars aligned and the sun was just right, that there was a possibility that we could keep the Congress," she said. "You would sit with him and you would be convinced. And then you'd leave and say, 'Wait. Really?' " Now a Fox News host, Perino said every White House needs someone like Rove in tough times. "You always have to have somebody positive around the president."

Facebook and Apple Will Pay for Employees to Freeze Their Eggs

Facebook and Apple Will Pay for Employees to Freeze Their Eggs

The procedure is making its way to cultural normalcy—and benefits packages.

By Megan Garber

Egg-freezing is expensive: The procedure generally costs $10,000, at minimum, for each round of egg-harvesting—doctors recommend at least two rounds to maximize success—with an additional $500 a year (or more) for storing the eggs. Which is why it has thus far, for the most part, been an option for women who are not just concerned about conception, but able to pay to quell their anxieties.

That may be changing. Now, NBC News reports, some of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley are offering elective egg-freezing as part of their benefits packages. Facebook recently began covering the procedure (under its surrogacy benefit); Apple, starting this January, will do the same (under its fertility benefit). Both companies will cover costs of up to $20,000.

That's suggestive, and not just in the trickle-down, As Goes the Valley, So Go We All sense of things. Benefits are, in addition to everything else, social indicators. They reveal what we value, as a culture. Paternity leave? Reassignment surgery for transgendered employees? Those offerings are bureaucratic changes that also show us where we are, and where we're headed, together. Facebook and Apple, for their parts, have long offered benefits for both fertility treatments and adoption. Facebook gives its new parents "baby cash": $4,000 to use for clothing, diapers, or whatever else they like. Egg-freezing is now an addition to that package.

So while the companies' inclusion of egg-freezing as a health benefit may certainly be part of the Valley's notorious perks arms race, you could also read it as a sign that egg-freezing has reached a kind of cultural normalcy. In 2008, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine called the technique "experimental," warning, based on current evidence, that it "should only be offered in that context." In 2012, however, citing sufficient evidence to "demonstrate acceptable success rates in young highly selected populations," it lifted that designation.
Parliament's vote underlines Israel's deepening isolation

Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud party meeting at parliament in Jerusalem

Parliament's vote underlines Israel's deepening isolation

By Matt Hill

The world is no longer shutting its eyes to the Benjamin Netanyahu government's obstructionism and violence

n the end, the result was emphatic. After three and a half hours of debate, MPs voted to recognise the state of Palestine by 274 votes to 12.

To be sure, the vote was non-binding and has no effect – for now – on government policy, as Israel’s dwindling number of hardcore supporters will point out. And Israeli officials will affect unconcern, claiming that the emoting of MPs in a second-rate ex-imperialist power with delusions of grandeur means nothing.

Don’t believe a word of it. As reports of last-minute lobbying from Jerusalem make clear, Israel knows it cannot afford to ignore this result – for two reasons. First, it provides a stark barometer reading of opinion in much of the Western world, where Israel craves respect and acceptance. Second, as a damning verdict on Israel’s recent policies from an influential global power, the vote will contribute to its deepening international isolation and prompt other countries to press against the occupation.

If you need proof of just how friendless Israel’s hard-Right government has become, consider the statements last night from MPs who would normally count themselves the country’s natural allies. Arch-Tories such as Nicholas Soames (whose grandfather Winston Churchill is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political hero) spoke eloquently in favour of Palestinian statehood. And Richard Ottoway, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said that despite having been “a friend of Israel long before I became a Tory”, its recent policies had “outraged me more than anything else in my political life”, concluding: “If Israel is losing the support of people like me, it is losing a lot of people.”

How Climate Change May Have Shaped Human Evolution

How Climate Change May Have Shaped Human Evolution

Richard Cohen: Internationally, Obama must be feared as well as admired.

Internationally, Obama must be feared as well as admired.

Tell me something: What do you think would happen if the United States concludes that Iran has been cheating and delaying and is about to pop a fully functional nuclear weapons program? Would President Obama respond by joining Israel to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities to smithereens, or would he stall and equivocate? My bet is the latter and also, just to double down, what I bet the Iranians are betting. They have taken the measure of Obama. He lacks menace.

Menace is essential in a world leader if he (or she) is going to be feared as well as admired. Obama falls into the admired category — the leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize with mere good intentions, a guy who had a new attitude toward Russia (a reset) and Iran (an approach) and China (a pivot) and, of course, to the Muslim world — an appreciation from a president who had broken the mold. We know him now as someone miscast: a rational man in an irrational world.

A president’s demeanor is no minor thing. It can matter greatly. For an example, history serves up Gerald Ford, president by virtue of a third-rate burglary. Ford succeeded Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 on account of the Watergate scandal. The year before, the United States and North Vietnam reached a cease-fire in the Vietnam War. Nixon hailed it as “peace with honor.”

The dishonorable North Vietnamese had other ideas. They not only knew that the United States was weary of war and that Congress would never reverse the troop withdrawal but also that Ford was no Nixon. Nixon had cultivated the image of being just a touch mad — what later came to be called his “madman theory” of foreign policy. He wanted America’s adversaries to think he was capable of anything, including the use of nuclear weapons. In 1969, he had even ordered a worldwide nuclear alert. It rattled the Soviet Union. It was a feint, but it made a point. The U.S. president would not be trifled with.

Whether the North Vietnamese believed that Nixon was off his meds is beside the point. What they knew is that a president who might retaliate for an invasion of the South with a bombing campaign had gone into exile. The genial Ford was in the White House. Shucks, he was no bomber. The North marched South, paused to gauge Washington’s reaction and kept on going. Vietnam then had its version of peace with honor.

Koch donors uncloaked

Koch donors uncloaked


Charles and David Koch are shown. | AP Photos

The deep-pocketed political network created by the billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch this summer quietly launched a super PAC that can buy explicitly political ads supporting Republican candidates rather than the issue-oriented ads they‘d been airing for years.

The catch: For the first time, the network’s donors would be publicly identified if they gave to the super PAC.

Four months later and the results are in: The super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, is a smash hit with donors. It has surpassed its fundraising goal and now says it is on pace to spend roughly $25 million on ads intended to help Republicans capture the Senate.

New York hedge fund billionaire Bob Mercer wrote the largest check — $2.5 million — followed by Charles and David Koch, who each stroked $2 million checks from trusts in their names. The group received $1 million apiece from Arkansas poultry producer Ronnie Cameron, Wisconsin roofing billionaire Diane Hendricks and Nebraska trucking magnate Clarence Werner.

“I just felt like it’s time to stand up and put my money where my mouth is,” said Cameron, who made his donation in two equal checks through Mountaire Corp., the Arkansas-based poultry company he owns. Cameron donated at least $1 million in 2011 to non-disclosing groups in the Koch network, but the contribution to Freedom Partners Action Fund was far more than he’d ever given to any political committee that lists its donors. He admitted he thought long and hard “about getting the publicity because most of us are private — I work very hard to keep my name out of stuff.”

US readiness to handle Ebola virus questioned

Nina pham ebola waste

US readiness to handle Ebola virus questioned after Texas nurse's infection

Lauren Gambino in New York

It is not yet clear how Nina Pham became infected with deadly virus, but CDC chief said it was likely breach of protocol.

The revelation that a nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola after an apparent breach in protocols has cast doubts over whether US hospitals are adequately prepared to deal with the deadly virus.

It is not clear how the nurse became infected, but the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tom Frieden, said it was likely a breach in infection control protocol. The CDC is urgently reviewing whether its procedures are adequate.

“We need to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control because even a single infection is unacceptable,” Frieden said in a media briefing.

Nina Pham

Federal health officials in Dallas are investigating the circumstances that led to the first case of Ebola transmission in the US. According to medical records, the nurse, Nina Pham, was among about 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who contracted the disease before arriving in the US.

The director of the nation’s largest organization of nurses has said the nation’s hospitals are not equipped to protect health care workers against such an infectious disease.

“Nurses and other frontline hospital personnel must have the highest level of protective equipment, such as the hazmat suits Emory University or the CDC themselves use while transporting patients and hands-on training and drills for all RNs and other hospital personnel, that includes the practice putting on and taking off the optimal equipment,” RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said in a statement on Sunday.

The union is calling on hospitals to provide hospital personnel with specialized training, and to supply better protective equipment for those confronting sick patients.

Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said health care workers are most at risk of infection when they remove their protective gear after leaving the quarantine unit where patients are being treated.

 Ebola US airports

He said the layers of protective clothing are hot, and after what can be hours, workers are eager to shed their gear: “You want to get out of this stuff,” he said. “The important thing is that you do it in the appropriate sequence and very deliberately.”

A careful sequence must be followed so that the contaminants on the gear are not transferred to the worker’s skin, Schaffner said. He said they train hospital staff at Vanderbilt to count to five as they remove each garment and enforce a “buddy system” to ensure the process is carried out appropriately.

“Taking off the equipment is the hazardous moment,” he said. “In Africa, they have buddies that watch you and slow you down while you do this, and we need to do that, also,with folks here.”

Some medical experts have called for all Ebola patients to be transferred to designated hospitals or specialty centers; Frieden said on Sunday the CDC was considering this.

How to Politicize a Pandemic: Blame Ebola on Obama—or the GOP

How to Politicize a Pandemic: Blame Ebola on Obama—or the GOP

Eleanor Clift

With Election Day approaching, Republicans are rushing to spin the Ebola outbreak as the result of the president’s poor leadership—while Democrats lay the blame on GOP budget cuts.

The New Hampshire Senate race is ground zero for the new national-security campaign that Republicans are waging across the country in the closing weeks of the midterm elections. It goes like this: World events are out of control. President Obama is a weak leader. Elect Republicans if you want strong leadership.

Republican Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator now running in the Granite State, is the best conveyor of the message. In a television ad that makes him look fresh off the front lines of military action, he wears camouflage fatigues, then is seen standing tall in his National Guard dress uniform as a narrator declares: “Scott Brown spent 35 years in the Army National Guard. He knows what it takes to keep America safe.”

Democrat Jeanne Shaheen was once so far ahead that Brown’s quixotic move across state lines in his quest for a Senate seat wasn’t taken seriously. Now he has closed the gap to single digits, and he’s making a big push in these final weeks. Delivering the weekly Republican address over the weekend, he described a world “on fire… So many challenges, so many threats and problems, and all at the same time. This is what the world looks like without American leadership.”

This is the GOP message, and the second case of Ebola reported in Dallas “is this chaotic world brought back to America,” says William Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “It’s imported chaos.” And the spread of the virus dovetails with the narrative that Republicans are promoting, that if Obama were somehow a stronger leader he’d have control over all this. “However much of a fantasy that is,” says Galston, “things can be powerful even when they’re not plausible.”

“It won’t take more than another few instances of transmission in the U.S. to generate something approaching panic. We’re on very thin ice now, and I hope the administration knows it.”
The merchant of disease domains wants six figures for

Jon Schultz (Courtesy Jon Schultz)

Jon Schultz (Courtesy Jon Schultz)

The merchant of disease domains wants six figures for

Terrence McCoy

He’s got, and the jewel, which he bought in 2008,

Schultz, of Las Vegas-based Blue String Ventures, looks at domains through the lens of a gambler. It’s not what a domain is worth today, he advised in an interview with the Washington Post. It’s what it is worth tomorrow. “Our domain,, is worth way more than We’re definitely holding onto that one for the event,” he said, referring to an outbreak he contends could be way bigger than Ebola, turning the owner of into a very rich man. “That one’s airborne and Ebola would never go airborne in the United States like bird flu can.”

The candor with which Schultz speaks of a crippling tragedy, or the possibility of a fresh one, is startling. Doesn’t he know that Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, has breached the United States, and that international health officials now warn of state collapse and widespread chaos? Doesn’t that tug at his heart strings?

“But you could say the same thing about doctors,” Schultz parried. “They can become very well-off treating very sick patients. Besides we have sacrificed a couple of thousands in parking page income to put up links about Ebola on the site. And people can also donate to Doctors Without Borders at the site.”

Others, however, haven’t been nearly so forgiving of Schultz. “In today’s information economy, there are few more useless money-grubbers than domain squatters, and that is exactly who owns,” commented Elias Groll in Foreign Policy. “…On Monday, the director of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, called the outbreak ‘unquestionably the most severe, acute public health emergency in modern times.’ Naturally, there is money to be made.”

WHO: Ebola spreading, killing 70% of its victims

Doctors with Ebola patient

WHO: Ebola spreading, killing 70% of its victims

Joel Achenbach 

WHO official said that at current rate, there will likely be up to 10,000 new cases a week in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by December.

The latest WHO numbers show 8,914 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola and 4,447 deaths. That would seem to imply that half the people stricken with Ebola will survive the disease. But Aylward said that undercounts the true death rate.

“We have had to carefully identify those individual patients for whom we could follow their entire course – when we do that carefully, we find that 70% are dying and that this number is pretty robust across the 3 worst-affected countries,” Aylward said in an e-mail to The Washington Post.

At current rates, there will likely be 5,000 to 10,000 new cases a week in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by Dec. 1, Aylward said in the conference call. To stop the outbreak, the WHO is pushing a plan to make sure that 70 percent of burials are safe and that 70 percent of sick patients are in treatment by then.

First Ebola Death in Germany

First Ebola Death in Germany

An Ebola patient treated in Leipzig died Monday night and became the first fatality from this contagious disease in Germany.

Sea level rise over past century unmatched in 6,000 years, says study

Adelie penguins in east Antarctica. Although most melting of continent's ice is happening in the west, even the east is now shedding ice

Sea level rise over past century unmatched in 6,000 years, says study

Oliver Milman

Research finds 20cm rise since start of 20th century, caused by global warming and the melting of polar ice, is unprecedented.

The rise in sea levels seen over the past century is unmatched by any period in the past 6,000 years, according to a lengthy analysis of historical sea level trends.

The reconstruction of 35,000 years of sea level fluctuations finds that there is no evidence that levels changed by more than 20cm in a relatively steady period that lasted between 6,000 years ago and about 150 years ago.

This makes the past century extremely unusual in the historical record, with about a 20cm rise in global sea levels since the start of the 20th century. Scientists have identified rising temperatures, which have caused polar ice to melt and thermal expansion of the sea, as a primary cause of the sea level increase.

A two-decade-long collection of about 1,000 ancient sediment samples off Britain, north America, Greenland and the Seychelles formed the basis of the research, led by the Australian National University and published in PNAS.

The 35,000-year span of the study was chosen as this comprises an interglacial period. Researchers could pick submerged sediments that may include tree roots, suggesting a previously lower sea level, or mollusks, which can be measured against the fossil record to determine the previous sea level.

Ice started melting about 16,000 years ago, with this melting ending about 8,000 years ago. A slowdown in sea level changes didn’t occur until 6,000 years ago, however.

Repeat Entrepreneurs Are More Successful

Repeat Entrepreneurs Are More Successful

BY Elizabeth MacBride

Are entrepreneurs born or made? New research by Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Kathryn Shaw adds to the evidence on the "made" side of the column.

The research, which examined records of 2.8 million small retailers in Texas, found that entrepreneurs were more likely to succeed the more times they had run businesses in the past. Entrepreneurship appears to be more of a craft than an aptitude.

Practically speaking, an entrepreneur could also focus on the lessons and takeaways from that failed business, lowering the risk of failure in his or her new ventures. And an entrepreneur can view a business that didn't work out as a sign that he or she is not a failed entrepreneur but rather an experienced one.

"If you are an entrepreneur, you want to continue to gain experience as an entrepreneur," Shaw said. "It's really a long-term commitment. Learning from that experience can shape your future."

The last words of Air France pilot before crash: ‘F***, we’re dead’

The last words of Air France pilot before crash: ‘F***, we’re dead’

The last words of Air France pilot before crash: ‘F***, we’re dead’

Two Air France pilots were asleep, leaving a rookie at the controls, minutes before the plane crashed into the sea in 2009, killing all 228 people on board.

Disturbing new recorder information from doomed Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean five years ago, also reveals one of the pilots shouted “F**k, we’re dead” as the plane went down.

The shocking details have emerged in a new investigation, published in the October edition of Vanity Fair magazine, exposing the troubling “piloting culture” within Air France at the time.

According to Vanity Fair, Bonin, dubbed the “Company Baby” with only a few hundred flight hours under his belt, was left in charge while the captain slept. It was known that the veteran captain only got one hour of sleep the previous night, spending most of his time with his travel companion, an off-duty flight attendant and opera singer.

“If the captain had stayed in position through the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, it would have delayed his sleep by no more than 15 minutes, and because of his experience, maybe the story would have ended differently,” chief investigator Alain Bouillard is quoted as saying.

According to the investigation, the plane was suffering from a loss of lift and its airspeed sensors had malfunctioned. But instead of following procedures and lowering the plane’s nose, the junior pilot raised it.

Dubois finally entered the cockpit one minute and 38 seconds after the malfunction — but it was too late.

Robert said: “F**k, we’re going to crash! It’s not true! But what’s happening?” Then either Robert or Bonin said: “F**k, we’re dead” before the plane crashed.

According to Vanity Fair, the turbulence and malfunction should have been a “non-event” that could have been easily handled. However, the “airplane was in control of the pilots, and if they had done nothing, they would have done all they needed to do.”

Does He Want Me Just for Sex?

Does He Want Me Just for Sex?

By Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D.

When you suspect an ulterior motive, does it discredit good motives? Yes and no, which is a good reason to pay less attention to psychologizing accusations ("You just want a bad thing!") and to psychologizing self-defense ("No, I just want this good thing!") and more attention to actions. Words speak louder than actions, but actions speak more accurately than words.

How a Giants Player Came Back From a Crucial Injury

How a Giants Player Came Back From a Crucial Injury

Lone Geniuses Are Overrated

Lone Geniuses Are Overrated

Walter Isaacson explains how a group of oddballs and savants collaborated to create the world we live in today.

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Isaacson sets out to accomplish several large things in The Innovators. Since he is fundamentally an optimist, he argues that human-computer symbiosis, rather than artificial intelligence, represents the main and best path forward, and he makes a compelling case that A.I., whether it manifests itself in benevolent or malevolent form, always seems to be 20 years away for good reason. (For a dystopian view of our future robot overlords, see this interview Isaacson just conducted with Elon Musk). Building an "intimate connection between humans and machines” is what Isaacson says he believes in, and what he argues for.

The Innovators is also an extended argument for the U.S. renew its commitment not only to the funding of basic scientific research, but to the rebuilding of an equitable and universally accessible public education system. Isaacson tells the story of Jean Jennings, an early computer programmer (one of six women who made themselves quietly indispensable in the development of the University of Pennsylvania’s ENIAC computer), who grew up practically penniless in Alanthus Grove, Missouri, but was able to pull together $76 in tuition each year to earn a mathematics degree from Northwest Missouri State Teachers College. The same education today, Isaacson notes, would cost $14,000, a twelve-fold increase even after adjusting for inflation.

Are U.S. Hospitals Really Prepared for Ebola?

Are U.S. Hospitals Really Prepared for Ebola?

By Margaret Hartmann

The CDC has been holding conference calls and publishing guidelines on how health-care workers can protect themselves against Ebola, but Bonnie Castillo of National Nurses United said hospitals often just "post something on a bulletin board referring workers and nurses to the CDC guidelines. That is not how you drill and practice and become expert." A recent survey of 1,900 nurses conducted by the union found that 36 percent feel their hospitals don't have sufficient supplies — and even if they do, workers may not know how to use the gear without contaminating themselves. Eighty percent said they don't feel they've had adequate Ebola training.

In response to the second U.S. diagnosis, the White House directed the CDC to speed up its investigation of how the nurse contracted the virus and said federal authorities must "take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient."

The CDC has already updated its recommendations, saying hospitals should reduce the number of staff treating Ebola patients and cut down on unnecessary procedures. Frieden said that with Duncan, doctors tried unusual and "desperate measures to try to save his life," such as kidney dialysis and intubation, but "both those procedures spread many contaminants and are high risk." They say hospitals treating Ebola patients should also have one staffer supervising infection-control measures, and urged facilities to conduct more drills. 

Some say the task is so difficult that the CDC should only allow Ebola patients to be treated long-term in the four U.S. facilities — the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and St. Patrick Hospital in Montana — that have special high-containment isolation units. "I don't think we should expect that small hospitals take care of Ebola patients. The challenge is formidable," Dr. Dennis Maki, University of Wisconsin-Madison infectious-disease specialist, told the AP. 

Go on, Buy That Ring! Why Marriage Is SO Good for Men

Go on, Buy That Ring! Why Marriage Is SO Good for Men

By Emma M. Seppälä, Ph.D.

Many men have cold feet about marriage. What they don't realize is that marriage has countless health and well-being benefits for men in particular!

Conservatives Feel World is Dark and Unsafe

Conservatives Feel World is Dark and Unsafe

By Nigel Barber, Ph.D.

In the current election campaign, Republicans are organizing their message around a theme of fear. That is hardly surprising given scientific evidence that the brains of conservatives are more strongly reactive to threats. For that reason, the campaign strategy is more likely to resonate with their own base than it is to bring in new voters.

Peering inside the brain with MRI scans, researchers at University College London found that self-described conservative students had a larger amygdala than liberals. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is active during states of fear and anxiety.

There is a big unknown underlying these findings. Supposing that the size of one’s amygdala really does increase the likelihood of being a conservative. Is the size of the amygdala determined at birth, or does it perhaps increase with frightening childhood experiences, such as authoritarian parenting and corporal punishment?

The born versus acquired perspective on political attitudes is important to psychologists. After all, if political proclivities are fixed at birth in terms of brain anatomy, there is little hope of change. Most of us would probably like to see a world in which political attitudes were less polarized, and more changeable, but that may be a pipe dream.

Elderly LA woman missing for years found in Maine shack

Elderly LA woman missing for years found in Maine shack

Elderly LA woman missing for years found in Maine shack

Sarah Cheiker disappeared in 2008 at age 89 and was found in 2012 — alive but unwell in a dingy cabin in the town of Edgecomb, where she apparently had been abandoned, The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

“It was a place I wouldn’t have let my dog live in,” said Detective Robert McFetridge of the sheriff’s department in rural, coastal Lincoln County, Maine.

The only food was spoiled, and the single light bulb had burned out.

Caccavo recalled how a family of three people began around 2006 to help her with shopping and rides to the doctor. The neighbor said he doubted their motivations — they were not related to Cheiker, though they claimed to have known her deceased mother — and warned her to be careful.

And then, “all of a sudden, Sarah disappeared,” Caccavo told the Associated Press by telephone Sunday. That was fall 2008.

The following year, a living trust in Cheiker’s name sold the house for $712,000, property records show.

Cheiker was taken from Los Angeles by 41-year-old twins and their 21-year-old godson — the same people Caccavo said had befriended her, according to authorities.

After they had ingratiated themselves, they left and “purchased numerous properties across the country with her money,” Wright said. “I’ve seen things that were egregious, but I’d never seen a person taken across the country, stripped of their assets and left to die.”

Was RFK a JFK conspiracy theorist?

Was RFK a JFK conspiracy theorist?


What did the attorney general know, and when did he know it?

Last year, the son and namesake of the late Attorney General Robert Kennedy revealed publicly that his father had considered the Warren Commission’s final report, which largely ruled out the possibility of a conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to be a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” Robert Jr. said his father suspected that the president had been killed in a conspiracy involving Cuba, the Mafia or even rogue agents of the CIA. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a close friend of the Kennedy family, would disclose years later that he was told by Robert Kennedy in December 1963, a month after the president’s murder, that the former attorney general worried that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was “part of a larger plot, whether organized by Castro or by gangsters.” Schlesinger said that in 1966, two years after the Warren Commission report, Kennedy was still so suspicious about a conspiracy that he wondered aloud “how long he could continue to avoid comment on the report—it is evident that he believes it is was poor job.”

Newly disclosed documents from the commission, made public on the 50th anniversary of its final report, suggest that the panel missed a chance to get Robert Kennedy to acknowledge publicly what he would later confess to his closest family and friends: that he believed the commission had overlooked evidence that might have pointed to a conspiracy.

The documents show the commission was prepared to press Kennedy to offer his views, under oath, about the possibility that Oswald had not acted alone. An affidavit, in which Kennedy would have been required to raise his right hand and deny knowledge of a conspiracy under penalty of perjury, was prepared for his signature by the commission’s staff but was never used. Instead, the attorney general became the highest ranking government official, apart from President Lyndon Johnson, who was excused from giving sworn testimony or offering a sworn written statement to the commission.

The decision to scrap the affidavit is another example of the extraordinary deference paid to the attorney general and his family by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the commission’s chairman. In an unsworn August 1964 letter to Warren—already public and long seen by historians as evasive, if not as an effort to mislead the commission outright about what he really knew and suspected—Kennedy said he was aware of “no credible evidence to support the allegations that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy.” Kennedy’s private papers, however, suggest he struggled over signing even the unsworn letter to Warren.


Some former commission staffers are troubled today that the panel never questioned Kennedy, especially given the disclosure in recent decades by congressional investigators about his deep involvement in directing plots by the CIA to oust, if not kill, Fidel Castro; the Cuban dictator was always seen by the commission’s staff as a prime suspect in Kennedy’s assassination. If Robert Kennedy or others had been forced to reveal the Castro plots, these former staffers say, the commission would have been much more aggressive in trying to determine if Castro or his agents, possibly aware of the plots, ordered the president’s murder in retaliation. In an interview for my book, former White House aide Joseph Califano, who was part of the anti-Castro plotting, said he was convinced that “Robert Kennedy experienced this unbelievable grief after his brother’s death because he believed it was linked to his—Bobby’s—efforts to kill Castro.”

G.O.P. Right Still Has Doubt About Christie

G.O.P. Right Still Has Doubt About Christie

At a confidential meeting over the summer, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey boasted to influential evangelical leaders that he was the state’s “first pro-life governor since Roe vs. Wade,” reminded them that he had vetoed legislation allowing gays to wed and, in a knowing reference to the Gospel of Matthew, spoke of his moral obligation to help the “least of us.”

But even as Mr. Christie sought to persuade them of his conservative credentials, his own deep-seated discomfort with ideological purity kept creeping in. He suggested that if the Republican Party wanted to win back the White House, it needed to look to a candidate with broad appeal, like himself or Jeb Bush, said one attendee, Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. If it instead demanded orthodoxy, Mr. Christie’s message was “they can pick somebody else and lose,” Mr. Anderson recalled.

With the contretemps over lane closings on the George Washington Bridge on the back burner for now and Mr. Christie laying groundwork for a Republican presidential run, the persistent skepticism, unease and, in some cases, distrust that he faces from social and religious conservatives may be the biggest and least understood obstacle in his path.

Yet Mr. Christie, who prides himself on his defiance of political convention, refuses to communicate the kind of emphatic, crowd-pleasing message that would leave him unassailable with that crucial constituency, and he has shown little enthusiasm for befriending its self-appointed leadership, elements of which are turning on him with speed and vigor.

In a sustained and high-profile attack more than two years before the election, advocates of conservative judicial philosophy have begun to pummel Mr. Christie as failing to nominate sufficiently right-leaning judges to New Jersey’s highest court. They are also bankrolling derisive billboards in states where he is campaigning for Republicans this fall and flying a banner over the Jersey Shore declaring, “Christie can’t be trusted.”

How Red-State Democrats Can Throw Obama Under the Bus

How Red-State Democrats Can Throw Obama Under the Bus

Let’s be blunt: Democratic Senate candidates in red states—like Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky—need to say ‘Barack who?’ But doing so can look craven, or it can be crafty.

Monday night’s a big night in this campaign season. In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes gets her one shot at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a debate. I know most of the smart people have written the Democrat off. But a major Kentucky poll last week put her up two points. And she seems to be drawing big and enthusiastic crowds. And McConnell keeps making mistakes. In other words, there’s oxygen.

Grimes is going to hit her themes—that McConnell hasn’t delivered jobs to the state and that he’s a big part of the Washington problem. McConnell will hit his—that GrimesObama isObama aObama shiftyObama DemocratObama by the way did I mention this guy Obama? But as we all know, if there ever is a clear victory in any of these debates, it usually come down to a moment, one good or bad moment that gets replayed over and over on local TV news and masticated on the state’s political radio shows. And for Grimes, unless she has a great putdown stocked away she’s been working on, fate has recently decreed what that moment is likely to be.

As you should know by now, Grimes has been refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama. It’s been embarrassing. Chuck Todd even said she’d “disqualified herself.” That’s a bit over the top, but it was plenty bad. And of course she is going to be asked this question on Monday night, and of course everyone is going to be waiting, and of course she is going to have to be ready.

Do we dare to question economic growth?

The planet has finite resources.

Do we dare to question economic growth?

Warwick Smith

Warwick Smith

We've all been so effectively sold the line that endless growth is essential to maintain and improve our quality of life. This couldn't be further from the truth.

The endless pursuit of economic growth is making us unhappy and risks destroying the Earth’s capacity to sustain us. The good news is that taking steps to make our lives more sustainable will also make us happier and healthier. Would you like a four day weekend – every week?

I’ve been to two conferences over the last year with similar basic premises. The first was at the Australian National University on ecological economics and the second, just last week, was on steady state economics at the University of New South Wales. The premise sitting behind both of these conferences is simple and undeniably true yet undermines so much that is fundamental to our current way of life:

We live on a finite planet.

The earth is a giant rock, hurtling through inhospitable space surrounded by a very thin film of life sustaining atmosphere. Earth’s life support systems are self-sustaining and self-regulating. However, we humans are slowly and steadily pulling this life support system to pieces. Our planet is very large and can absorb a lot of tinkering with its systems, but there are now over 7 billion of us and the amount of energy and resources we are each using is growing fast. That’s a lot of tinkering.

There’s plenty of evidence that we are pushing up against and exceeding several critical boundaries of global sustainability: by which I don’t mean some tree hugging idea of sustainability, I mean we are taking actions that cannot be supported by the earth’s systems in the long term. We’re already exceeding the earth’s adaptive capacity with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and the nitrogen cycle and we’re approaching critical limits in both the phosphorous cycle and ocean acidification. Our use of fresh water is also approaching or exceeding sustainable limits in many parts of the world and we’re systematically destroying our arable land. These are critical life sustaining global processes that cannot be ignored without severe consequences.

China’s Dangerous Game

China’s Dangerous Game

Does the country's maritime aggression reflect a government growing in power—or one facing a crisis of legitimacy?

By Howard W. French

Moving with ever greater boldness, Beijing has begun pressing claims to ownership of more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, waters enclosed by what it calls its “nine-dash line,” a relic of the country’s early-20th-century nationalist era, when it was first sketched to indicate China’s view of its traditional prerogatives. The line has no international standing and had gone largely unremarked upon until China recently revived it. It now figures in all Chinese maps. Since 2012, it has been embossed in new passports issued to the country’s citizens.

Also known as the cow’s tongue, for the way it dangles from China’s southern coast, the line encloses a region through which roughly 40 percent of the world’s trade and a great majority of China’s imported oil passes, via the Strait of Malacca, as through the eye of a needle. An observation from the 16th century—“Whoever is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice”—still conveys the region’s maritime importance.

Residents of outposts like Palawan, which sits along the eastern edge of the nine-dash line, already feel besieged. Fishermen who enter waters that their forebears freely traversed for generations nowadays find themselves at risk in a disputed no-man’s-land. “The locals are afraid to go out to the west because there are a lot of Chinese boats—military vessels,” said Edwin Seracarpio, a 52-year-old boat owner whom I found one bright morning waiting port-side for the return of one of his crews. “The Chinese say it has always been their property.”

If China can impose its will in the South China Sea, at least five rival claimants—all much smaller, weaker Asian states—will be limited to a narrow band of the sea along their coastlines. China would gain greater security for its crucial supply lines of oil and other commodities; exclusive access to rich fishing areas and potentially vast undersea oil deposits; a much larger buffer against what it regards as U.S. naval intrusions; and, not least, the prestige and standing it has long sought, becoming in effect the Pacific’s hegemon, and positioning itself to press its decades-old demand that Taiwan come under its control. Arguably, it would achieve the greatest territorial expansion by any power since imperial Japan’s annexation of large swaths of Asia in the first half of the 20th century.

Since mid-2013, China has seemed, at first glance, to almost indiscriminately pick fights all the way around its eastern perimeter. That July, a group of Chinese warships, setting out from a northern port, circumnavigated Japan for the first time. Beijing seemed to be sending two messages: that it was ready to stand up to its historical rival, and also that China would no longer be contained within what it calls the First Island Chain, the long series of islands that stretches down China’s coast, preventing easy naval access to the open Pacific.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, Beijing made a surprise announcement of an “air-defense identification zone,” claiming navigational control of the skies over most of the water that lies between China and Japan, including not only areas claimed by Japan but also areas claimed by South Korea, with which it has usually enjoyed smooth relations. The Pentagon, which sends surveillance aircraft through this zone regularly, immediately said it would ignore China’s assertion; however, the United States did advise commercial airlines to observe the new Chinese rules.

Just days after the air-defense zone was announced, China’s lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a freshly refurbished ship purchased secondhand from Ukraine in 1998, embarked on its first voyage with a full naval strike group in tow. It was almost a textbook reenactment of the gunboat diplomacy practiced by Western nations a century ago. With an escort of two destroyers and two antisubmarine frigates, the Liaoning steamed directly for the hotly contested South China Sea. In early December, before it could even reach the disputed zone near the Philippines and Vietnam, one of the accompanying Chinese vessels engaged in a dangerous showdown with an American vessel, the Aegis cruiser Cowpens.

The American ship was tracking the Liaoning’s deployment, in international waters, when the Chinese ship abruptly turned into the Cowpens’ path and stopped in front of the ship, forcing the Cowpens to make a radical maneuver to avoid a collision. According to a state-run Chinese newspaper, the reason for the ship’s highly unusual failure to give way was that the Cowpens had violated the Chinese convoy’s “inner defense layer,” a hitherto unheard‑of exclusion zone apparently covering more than 2,800 square miles—equivalent to about half the size of Connecticut. After the incident, the U.S. Navy took pains to emphasize that the American avoidance maneuver should not be seen as a precedent. “The U.S. military, my forces in the Pacific AOR”—Area of Responsibility—“will operate freely in international waters,” said Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, the head of the Pacific Command. “That’s the bottom line. We will operate there … And that’s the message to all the militaries that are operating in that region.”

How Ebola Got Loose in Dallas

How Ebola Got Loose in Dallas

The announcement that a second case of Ebola has been diagnosed in Dallas should provide an enormous sense of security for the worried general public—after all, the case has occurred not in casual contacts or even family members but rather, as predicted, in someone who cared for the patient in the late stages of his infection.

Against the sigh of semi-relief, though, is the shiver of fear as a collective chill runs down the spine of health-care workers in the United States, Africa, and Spain charged with caring for infected patients. 

According to reports on Sunday, a female nurse who was involved in the treatment of Thomas Eric Duncan has been confirmed to be carrying the disease, making her the first case of Ebola transmitted in the United States. The case further complicates an already thorny question: Are health-care workers treating Ebola ever really insulated from the disease?

The spread of Ebola from patient to health-care worker is a new development here, but it has been raging in West Africa for months. In the World Health Organization’s most recent report, it is identified as “an alarming feature of [the] outbreak.” 

A Dallas nurse who cared for Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan—not his family or friends—has contracted the virus. Why health-care professionals are feeling especially alarmed.
Confirmation of second Ebola case rattles Dallas

Confirmation of second Ebola case rattles Dallas

A worker with CG Environmental-Cleaning Guys sprayed disinfectant Sunday outside the apartment complex on Marquita Street where the nurse who contracted Ebola lives. The hospital parking lot she uses and her car were also decontaminated, officials said.


Shaken by America’s second case of Ebola, health officials in Dallas and across the nation are escalating efforts to control the disease — and public concern.

Experts had warned that another case was possible. But the infection disclosed Sunday was not where most had been looking. It wasn’t among 48 individuals being watched because of their contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who died of Ebola last week in Dallas.

Instead, it was a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who became the first person infected with Ebola on American soil. While protected by a gown, mask, shield and gloves, she had extensive contact on multiple occasions with Duncan, officials said.

Hospital and federal officials said they did not know how she caught the virus, only that it was through an accidental breach of protective procedures. She was among more than 50 people who the hospital said cared for Duncan during 10 days he spent in isolation.

“It is deeply concerning that the infection occurred,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola treatment “protocols work … but we know that even a single lapse or breach can result” in spreading the virus.

Warren blasts Obama over Wall Street

Warren blasts Obama over Wall Street


Elizabeth Warren is pictured. | Rod Lamkey Jr. for POLITICO

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is criticizing President Barack Obama for siding with Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who has become a favorite among the liberal wing of the party, praised Obama for some decisions on economic issues but said he and his advisers “picked Wall Street” over American families.

“[W]hen the going got tough, his economic team picked Wall Street,” Warren said in an interview with Salon published on Sunday.

“They protected Wall Street,” the senator continued. “Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. Not young people who were struggling to get an education. And it happened over and over and over.”

Questions emerge about Ebola readiness

Questions emerge about Ebola readiness


Tom Frieden speaks at a news conference on Oct. 12, 2014, in Atlanta. | AP Photo

wo cases of Ebola disease on U.S. shores are raising concerns about just how ready Americans hospitals and health care workers are to fight the lethal virus, despite all the assurances from public health officials that it can be identified, isolated and safely treated.

The first case was initially missed, potentially exposing more people in Dallas to Ebola and delaying treatment for the patient, a Liberian national who later died.

The second case, announced Sunday, involves an ICU nurse who had treated Thomas Duncan. She wore full protective gear, including a gown, gloves, mask and shield — and still was exposed.

Ebola is not spread through the air like the flu or a cold but through contact with bodily fluids of a sick person. How the nurse became infected isn’t yet known. Yet it happened even after a spate of guidelines, briefings and recommendations meant to get the nation’s facilities and health care workers ready.

The hospital at the center of both cases, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, has said it had prepped and drilled. On Sunday, its leaders and the CDC were facing a new reality given the new patient.

“At some point there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, who called himself “deeply concerned.”

Once again, the circle of other possible exposures rippled outward. More than a dozen workers in that ICU will now be monitored closely for the 21 days that represent Ebola’s full incubation period.

“If this individual was exposed … it is possible that other individuals were exposed,” Frieden said. His agency must help identify those in that circle, and contain the virus.

After a briefing on the latest development, President Barack Obama immediately directed the CDC to move as quickly as possible with an investigation and to “take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient.”

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