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.

Paul Ryan’s tax plan ends up giving 100% of Its benefits to the top 1%

File this one under “too good to check.” Max Ehrenfreund passes along the latest analysis of Paul Ryan’s tax proposal from the Tax Policy Center and notes that by 2025 it gets a wee bit lopsided:

blog_republican_tax_plan_one_decade

This is like a parody of Republican tax proposals. In its first year, the top 1 percent start off getting a mere 76 percent of the benefit….Within ten years they get nearly 100 percent of the benefit. Ryan and the congressional Republicans manage this by giving the poor and middle class nothing and actually taking money away from the upper middle class. The only people who benefit are the rich and the really rich.

As for the really, really rich, the top 0.1 percent get an average tax break of $1.4 million, while the rest of us get about $3 trillion in extra federal debt and no long-term change in economic growth. What a deal.

More craptastic politics from the least productive hacks in Washington, DC. I honestly think Ryan trots his spreadsheet out with a new set of lies every couple of years just so Congressional Republlicans can say, “look, we have a proposal!” – even though it’s about as useful as a new crutch to someone who just had his legs amputated.

Senators try to block Billion$ U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Four U.S. senators introduced a joint resolution on Thursday seeking to block the U.S. sale of $1.15 billion of Abrams tanks and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, citing issues including the conflict in Yemen.

The measure was introduced by Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee and Democrats Chris Murphy and Al Franken, the latest indication of strong disapproval of the deal among some U.S. lawmakers.

The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which implements foreign arms sales, said that General Dynamics would be the principal contractor for the sale…

“Thousands of civilians are being killed, and terrorist groups inside the country, like al Qaeda and ISIS, are getting stronger. Until the Saudis’ conduct changes, the U.S. should put a pause on further arms sales,” Senator Murphy said in a statement.

And in case you hadn’t noticed…

U.S. President Barack Obama has offered a record US$115 billion in arms, weapons, military equipment and training to Saudi Arabia, according to a report from the Center for International Policy…

The report, due to be released publicly today, said that since Obama started his presidency in 2009, the arms offers were made in 42 separate deals including small arms, ammunition, tanks, missiles and ships.

It did not mention how many deals were accepted by Saudi Arabia, with the majority of equipment not being delivered [yet]. The deal amounts to biggest deal to the Saudi’s of any U.S. administration…

A joint letter signed by 64 members of Congress called for a delay in a controversial tank deal and called “the actions of the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen are as reprehensible as they are illegal. The multiple, repeated airstrikes on civilians look like war crimes.”…

The Saudi-led bombing is also believed to be using U.S. cluster munitions, which 119 countries have signed a treaty against their use. The United States and Saudi Arabia have not signed the treaty.

One more example of the historic differences between Republican and Democrat administrations ain’t worth a whole boatload when it comes to foreign policy.

Boeing gets $2 Billion in bonuses for failed missile defense system

❝ From 2002 through early last year, the Pentagon conducted 11 flight tests of the nation’s homeland missile defense system. The interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six of the 11 tests — a record that has prompted independent experts to conclude the system cannot be relied on to foil a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet, as The LA Times reports, over that same time span, Boeing, the Pentagon’s prime contractor, collected nearly $2 billion in performance bonuses for a job well done…

❝ An LA Times investigation by David Willman also found that the criteria for the yearly bonuses were changed at some point to de-emphasize the importance of test results that demonstrate the system’s ability to intercept and destroy incoming warheads.

Early on, Boeing’s contract specified that bonuses would be based primarily on “hit to kill success” in flight tests. In later years, the words “hit to kill” were removed in favor of more generally phrased benchmarks, contract documents show.

❝ L.David Montague, co-chair of a National Academy of Sciences panel that documented shortcomings with GMD, called the $2 billion in bonuses “mind-boggling,” given the system’s performance…

The cumulative total of bonuses paid to Boeing has not been made public before. The Times obtained details about the payments through a lawsuit it filed against the Defense Department under the Freedom of Information Act…

❝ By relying on bonuses, Montague said, the missile agency has effectively told Boeing: “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’ll decide it together and then you’ve got to work toward maximizing your fee by concentrating on those areas.”

Um, where can I get a job like that?

Live in the US? Rejoice! You’re free to pay too much for prescription drugs

Why does the US pay more for prescription drugs than any other country? Monopolies and a government that can’t negotiate, scientists said in a paper that may provide ammunition for lawmakers aiming to lower drug costs.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School dug through medical and health policy papers published in the last 10 years to figure out why people in the US spent almost twice as much on prescription drugs in 2013 compared to 19 other industrialized nations — and why prices are still going up. They found that FDA regulations and patents protect drug companies from competition, and federal law prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices. All of which work together to allow drug companies to set their own prices…

Aaron Kesselheim and his colleagues propose a number of solutions. Those include giving Medicare the power to negotiate prices, as well as removing some of the regulations that keep generics from speedily entering the market. The authors also suggest educating payers, providers, and patients about how effective competing treatments are, and having pharmacies automatically substitute cheaper generic drugs for pricey brand name prescriptions…

But Kesselheim thinks allowing Medicare to negotiate is small potatoes compared to making sure there’s competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace.

The JAMA paper describes two forms of legal protection that give brand name pharmaceuticals an effective monopoly. The first is exclusivity granted by the FDA that gives new small molecule drugs and biologics windows of five to seven years and 12 years, respectively, before generic versions can be sold. And patents can protect the active ingredient and chemical structure of a drug — as well as less fundamental aspects like its formulation and coating — for 20 years or more. Generic manufacturers can sue to challenge these patents, but in a practice called pay for delay, big name pharma companies settle the suits and pay generics manufacturers to wait it out until the patent expires…

Along those lines, Amy Klobuchar — the senator who called for an investigation into EpiPen price hikes — is co-sponsoring several bills that could, if they passed, help increase competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace by enabling Medicare price negotiation, allowing patients to import pharmaceuticals from Canada, and preventing pharmaceutical companies from blocking generics entering the marketplace.

And as the final healthcare professional interviewed for the article noted – all these remedies can and should be applied to the whole range of price-gouging we face as captive consumers in a nation where our politicians are owned by lobbyists.

OK. I added that last phrase.

Of course, cockroaches aren’t too worried about climate change

As the planet warms, insects will migrate into new habitats and environments as they adapt…For some insight into the not-so-humble cockroach and its future, Nexus Media News reached out to journalist Richard Schweid, author of The Cockroach Papers: A Compendium of History and Lore.

Public perception is that cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust (though the science on that has been mixed), but are they thriving in a warming planet?

Whether or not cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust depends on the level of radiation released, of course. They were reported to have survived the blasts at Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s grounds zero. What is certain is that they can survive substantially higher doses of radiation than Homo sapiens. What’s more, if both species face extinction, it’s a pretty sure bet that we’ll disappear before the roaches will, regardless of whether the cause is radiation, climate change, or some other, as of yet unimagined threat to our fragile existence.

Roaches are designed for survival; compared to them we are barely hanging on. So, unless climate change is reversed, we may be heading toward a planet where cockroaches are the dominant species, thriving and multiplying in a world where humans were a blip on the geological timeline and roaches have inherited the earth. They were here before us, and unless we pay closer attention to how we treat our world, they will inherit it…

What traits have allowed roaches to adapt to a dynamic world?

The cockroach is one of evolution’s grand success stories, a wholly admirable design for survival of a species. It can and will eat anything apart, it is said, from cucumbers.

What they will eat and metabolize ranges from book-binding glue to human feces, dead skin and toenails, to rotten anything-at-all. Those that live far from humans are able to eat whatever their world provides — presumably — from rotting trees to dead animals.

What’s more, cockroach species seem to mutate readily in order to protect themselves.

RTFA. Amusing, scientifically accurate. Perhaps providing additional motivation for you to nudge the political animals in our government most closely resembling cockroaches. You do understand that the pimps for fossil fuel barons and other climate change deniers are certain they are assured immortality.