3% of Americans own half the guns in the country


AP Photo/Danny Johnston

In the past two decades, Americans have added approximately 70 million firearms to their private arsenals. There are more gun owners, but they make up a slightly smaller share of the population. Handguns have surged in popularity, and the era of the super-owner is here: roughly half of all guns are concentrated in the hands of just three percent of American adults.

These are among the key findings of a sweeping new survey of gun ownership, provided in advance of publication to The Trace and The Guardian by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Our two news organizations are partnering to present a series of stories this week based on the survey.

There have been other evaluations of American gun ownership in recent years, but academics who study gun-owning patterns and behavior say the new survey is the most authoritative and statistically sound since one conducted in 1994 by Philip Cook, a researcher at Duke University.

Roughly 100,000 Americans are injured by a gun every year, with a third of those incidents resulting in death. But research into the causes of the violence, methods of prevention, and its toll on families and communities is almost entirely conducted by academics and other private groups.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government entity that studies other public health issues, virtually ignores gun violence, owing to legislation widely interpreted as preventing such research.

Otherwise known as chickenshit Congress.

The responses reveal a fundamental shift in gun-owning attitudes. Whereas most owners once considered their firearm primarily a hunting or sports shooting tool, a majority now say they keep guns to protect themselves, their families, and communities.

Accurate reporting on what these people believe. Whether evidence-based facts provoke those beliefs is another question.

11-year-old arrested in Georgia with a knife at school — in fear of clown attacks!

❝ Police say a fearful 11-year-old Georgia girl who took a knife to school told officers she needed the weapon to fend off clowns.

The girl was arrested…at Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School in Athens amid reports and social media posts about clowns frightening children in Georgia and other states.

❝ An Athens-Clarke County police report states the girl said she needed the knife to protect her and her family because she had heard the stories about clowns jumping out of the woods and attacking children.

Police…released the girl to her mother on a charge of possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Related news…

❝ In Coweta County, southwest of Atlanta, police were investigating a suspicious Facebook post by a man claiming to be “The Newnan Clown,”…

The profile, which has since been made private, said, “If I see you, I will get You!!! I want kids and all”…

❝ In neighboring Alabama, law enforcement officials are warning that people involved in a rash of creepy clown hoaxes across the state could be prosecuted.

Not certain what’s creepier: Kids so afraid of clowns they think they need to be armed or the kids who don’t think first of trusting their safety to their parents, teachers or maybe even the local coppers?

Thanks, @ninjaeconomics

A list of the excuses Trump offers for why he won’t release his tax returns

❝ Republican presidential nominee and self-described billionaire Donald Trump says he makes a lot of money, gives millions of dollars to charity and has no investments in Russia. But when it comes time to give evidence, he refuses to release the independently verified documents that could support (or refute) all of those claims: his tax returns.

All major presidential nominees over the past 40 years, including Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, have released their tax returns. They are important documents reviewed by accountants and federal auditors, and they must be accurate under penalty of law.

But instead of sharing his returns, Trump and his supporters have relied on a growing list of excuses to defend keeping them hidden. Those excuses are listed below, along with reasons to question them.

❝ Trump: “I’m being audited … so I can’t.” (See next section.) (Repeatedly since February)
Trump: “There’s nothing to learn from them.” (Fact checkers say this is false.) (February, February, May, May)
Trump: “Mitt Romney looked like a fool when he delayed and delayed and delayed and … didn’t file until a month and a half before the election and it cost him big league.” (February, July)
Trump: His tax rate is “none of your business.” (May)
Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman: American people “wouldn’t understand them.” (May)
Manafort: The only people who want them “are the people who want to defeat him.” (May)
Trump: “I don’t think anybody cares,” which is false. (May, September)
Eric Trump, son: Would be “foolish” to release; “you would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions on things that they know nothing about.” (August)
Mike Pence, vice-presidential nominee who released his tax returns: They’re a “distraction.” (September)
Donald Trump Jr.: “Would detract from (his dad’s) main message” (September)
Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager: “I just can’t find where this is a burning issue to most of the Americans.” (September)
Jeffrey Lord, commentator: Tax returns are “a political gimmick, a gotcha … Political opponents are going to go through there and look to make issues out of things.” (September)

What we would learn from Trump’s tax returns

❝ How much (or how little) money he makes
How much (or how little) he gives to charity
How much (or how little) he pays in taxes
How much (or how little) money he keeps in foreign accounts (including in Russia)

RTFA for many more reasons why voters need this kind of information. And for more excuses from Trump, of course.

Your bank was offline for 10 hours and it was caused by what? WTF?

hard_disk_head_top
Click to enlarge

❝ ING Bank’s main data center in Bucharest, Romania, was severely damaged over the weekend during a fire extinguishing test. In what is a very rare but known phenomenon, it was the loud sound of inert gas being released that destroyed dozens of hard drives. The site is currently offline and the bank relies solely on its backup data center, located within a couple of miles’ proximity.

“The drill went as designed, but we had collateral damage”, ING’s spokeswoman said…

❝ The purpose of the drill was to see how the data center’s fire suppression system worked. Data centers typically rely on inert gas to protect the equipment in the event of a fire, as the substance does not chemically damage electronics…The gas is stored in cylinders, and is released at high velocity out of nozzles uniformly spread across the data center.

According to people familiar with the system, the pressure at ING Bank’s data center was higher than expected, and produced a loud sound – think about the noise a steam engine releases – The bank monitored the sound and it was very loud, a source familiar with the system told us. It was as high as their equipment could monitor, over 130dB”.

❝ Sound means vibration, and this is what damaged the hard drives. The HDD cases started to vibrate, and the vibration was transmitted to the read/write heads, causing them to go off the data tracks.

In ING Bank’s case, it was “like putting a storage system next to a [running] jet engine,”

❝ The Bank said it required 10 hours to restart its operation due to the magnitude and the complexity of the damage…Over the next few weeks, every single piece of equipment will need to be assessed. ING Bank’s main data center is compromised “for the most part”

A catastrophic failover to the backup data center. Phew! That’s a helluva noise.

Worried about fracking chemicals in your water — wait till you get Frackibacter bacteria!

❝ Study finds a new genus of bacteria found living inside hydraulic fracturing wells – Frackibacter, one of dozens of microbes are forming sustainable ecosystems there…

The new genus is one of the 31 microbial members found living inside two separate fracturing wells, Ohio State University researchers and their colleagues report in…the journal Nature Microbiology.

❝ Even though the wells were hundreds of miles apart and drilled in different kinds of shale formations, the microbial communities inside them were nearly identical, researchers discovered.

Almost all the microbes they found had been seen elsewhere before, and many likely came from the surface ponds that energy companies draw on to fill the wells. But that’s not the case with the newly identified Candidatus Frackibacter, which may be unique to hydraulic fracturing sites, said Kelly Wrighton…

❝ Candidatus Frackibacter prospered alongside the microbes that came from the surface, forming communities in both wells which so far have lasted for nearly a year…

By sampling fluids taken from the two wells over 328 days, the researchers reconstructed the genomes of bacteria and archaea living in the shale. To the researchers’ surprise, both wells — one drilled in Utica shale and the other drilled in Marcellus shale — developed nearly identical microbial communities…

“We thought we might get some of the same types of bacteria, but the level of similarity was so high it was striking. That suggests that whatever’s happening in these ecosystems is more influenced by the fracturing than the inherent differences in the shale,” Wrighton said.

❝ Wrighton and her team are still not 100 percent sure of the microbes’ origins. Some almost undoubtedly came from the ponds that provide water to the wells, she said. But other bacteria and archaea could have been living in the rock before drilling began, Candidatus Frackibacter among them.

Soon to be a series of movies on the SYFY Channel, taking over from Sharknado. Like, um – Fracknado!

I made that up.

Republican transparency — Trump prohibits volunteers from saying anything bad about him, forever!

❝ Corey Lewandowski is a CNN contributor even though he’s subject to a nondisclosure agreement legally prohibiting him from criticizing Trump, his family, or any of his businesses. Suffice it to say Trump’s former campaign manager has lived up to his end of the bargain — Lewandowski basically serves as a paid Trump campaign source during his CNN appearances.

On the other side of the spectrum, Trump recently filed a $10 million lawsuit against former senior campaign consultant Sam Nunberg for allegedly violating that same NDA. As ThinkProgress previously wrote, Trump accused Nunberg of “leaking information to the New York Post about a public fight and romantic affair between two other Trump campaign staffers in May.”

❝ Both Lewandowski and Nunberg were high-ranking Trump staffers, and it’s somewhat understandable Trump wants to prevent the sort of sensitive information they’re privy to from going public. But on Thursday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that even online volunteers who merely want to phone bank for Trump must sign that same more than 2,200 word NDA, even though most of them will never meet Trump or his family.

❝ The agreement…legally prohibits volunteers from disclosing Trump’s confidential information in perpetuity…And also prohibits them from saying anything bad about Trump — forever.

❝ With litigation being settled in private arbitration.

The openness of our prospective populist dictator is just about what I’d expect.

Woman sues Catholic hospital that refused to remove her IUD

❝ An Illinois woman is accusing a Catholic hospital of refusing to remove her birth control device because of the hospital system’s religious affiliations, causing her nearly a week of pain and bleeding while she was forced to seek help from a different hospital network.

❝ Melanie Jones, who is being represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said she dislodged her copper intrauterine device (IUD), a form of long-acting birth control, in 2008 when she slipped and fell on a wet bathroom floor. After a night of cramping and bleeding, she went to a hospital controlled by the Chicago-based Mercy Hospital and Medical Center network, where a doctor confirmed that her IUD needed to be removed.

But the doctor refused to remove it, Jones claims in two separate lawsuits, saying the hospital’s “Catholic initiative” barred her from providing any care related to contraception. In fact, the doctor allegedly told her, every single provider in her Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance network followed the same religious restrictions.

❝ Jones left the hospital with her IUD still dislodged, leaving her “at risk for infection, cervical and uterine lacerations, and scarring, and pregnancy”, she claims in her suits. Because she could not pay out-of-pocket for a visit to the emergency room, she did not get her IUD removed for another five days, when Blue Cross Blue Shield moved her coverage to a secular network of hospitals…

❝ Catholic ethicists argue that their rules are consistent with modern standards of care. But public health advocates have warned that the rules are subject to arbitrary interpretations, and that they pose a special threat to women’s reproductive care

❝ One out of every six beds in the country’s acute care hospitals is in a hospital with Catholic affiliations, according to a May report by the American Civil Liberties Union and MergerWatch, a public health watchdog that monitors healthcare institutions with religious affiliations. Today, Catholic hospitals make up 15%, or 548, of the country’s acute care centers. In dozens of communities, the only hospitals that remain are Catholic.

Mergers and acquisitions have increased the number of Catholic Church-controlled hospitals in the US by 22% in the last decade. In many of these communities, staff have left because of archaic regulations required by the church.

RTFA for other cases brought against the so-called Mercy Health Partners in recent years. It’s an important question for insurers, federal and private. Especially in a nation supposedly governed by secular civil law over religious beliefs.

Evidence that birds sleep while flying

We already know that some birds can fly for weeks or even months at a time without landing, but this remarkable ability has raised a few questions about how, if at all, these creatures find the time to sleep. In the first study of its kind, scientists have monitored the brain activity of seabirds in flight and discovered that they regularly squeeze in some shut-eye while out searching for food, though how they perform on such little rest remains a little unclear.

If there was ever a bird well-suited to sleeping on the job, it might be the frigatebird, a large seabird that scans the ocean surface for flying fish and squid. Recent research has shown that these elite gliders can stay aloft for months by hitching rides on clouds and are among the longest-flying creatures in the seabird world. But even frigatebirds need their sleep, so scientists have been perplexed as to how they maintain performance without regularly coming down for rest…

To find some conclusive answers, an international team of scientists hooked up frigatebirds nesting on the Galápagos Island to a device to monitor electroencephalographic (EEG) activity and head movement during flight. This recorder was carted along for 10-day flights across 3,000 km (1,864 mi) with a GPS module on the bird’s back to monitor their position and altitude.

The data showed that during the day, the birds remained awake while searching for food, so business as usual. But when the sun went down and the birds soared, the awake EEG pattern changed to a slow-wave sleep pattern, sometimes for minutes at a time. This SWS often occurred in one half of the brain, but interestingly, sometimes in both hemispheres at the same time, suggesting that unihemispheric sleep isn’t critical to maintaining aerodynamic control.

Compared to how frigatebirds sleep on land, however, the SWS sleep mode was more frequent. By tracking the head movements of the birds, the researchers found that as they circle on rising air currents while sleeping in this way, it allowed them to keep one eye open in the direction they were turning.

The big surprise was that the frigatebirds were only sleeping for 42 minutes per day — compared to the usual 12 hours a day on land. Working out comparisons with what we know about sleep and sleep deprivation in other species – like us – will be part of where these studies will be going next.