Trump affects America’s tourist business the way we expected


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❝ Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan, has become a modern-day Mount Vernon. Tourists have long visited George Washington’s homestead. Now they venture through Trump Tower’s brass doors to ogle the decor—“it’s so gold,” said a German teenager standing near the lobby’s waterfall on a recent afternoon—or buy souvenirs. The Choi family, visiting from South Korea, wandered the marble expanse with their new “Make America Great” hats (three for $50).

❝ The question for America’s hoteliers and airlines is whether such visitors are just anomalies. A strong dollar is one reason for foreigners to avoid visiting America. Donald Trump may prove another, suggests a growing collection of data. Yet measuring the precise impact of Mr Trump’s presidency on travel is difficult. In addition to the currency effect, many trips currently being taken to America were booked before his election. Marriott, a big hotel company, reported an overall increase, compared with a year earlier, in foreign bookings in America in February.

But Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s boss, has voiced concern about a potential slump in tourism. In February, ForwardKeys, a travel-data firm, reported that in the week after Mr Trump first tried to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, international bookings dropped by 6.5% against the same period in 2016. Hopper, a travel app, found that average daily searches for flights to America have declined in 99 countries since Mr Trump tried to issue his travel ban, compared with the last weeks of Barack Obama’s term. Russia is one of the few places where demand has risen…Tourism Economics, a forecaster, expects 2 million fewer foreign visits to America this year, a 1% drop from 2016. Without Mr Trump it had expected a 3% jump…

❝ The industry has been here before. International tourism in America slumped by around 3% each year from 2000 to 2006. Most analysts blame not only the attacks of 2001 but stricter visa rules and anti-American sentiment abroad. Countries that had the dimmest view of America, according to surveys during that period, tended to see drops in travellers there, says Adam Sacks of Tourism Economics. “We are facing a potential rerun,” he says…

I’m not surprised. Are you? I expect the most insular, if not xenophobic of Trump voters will think the question unimportant. Some people hate realtors. Some people hate travel agents. Usually for not very well thought-out reasons.

The 75th anniversary of Japanese internment in America sounds awfully familiar


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Gravestone in the cemetery at Manzanar internment camp

❝ History does not stand still. Sometimes, it repeats itself subtly and incrementally. Other times, the patterns are sudden yet plain for the world to see.

This Sunday, Feb 19, is the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance, marking the authorization of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. The order—which set in motion a mass internment of Japanese Americans—was signed and justified in the name of national security. The order wreaked havoc in the Japanese American community, eventually leading to the incarceration of more than 120,000 citizens in our country.

In 1988, after years of determined advocacy by the Japanese American community, the Civil Liberties Act was signed into law by US president Ronald Reagan. It officially recognized this grave wrong that had been committed by our nation. The legislation, which provided redress and a formal apology to the victims of Japanese internment, received support from members of both political parties in Congress. Its enactment was truly a testament to the greatness of our country, and formally demonstrated that we had learned from our imperfect past…

❝ …As we witnessed 75 years ago, and then again just a few weeks ago, fear-based rhetoric can spiral into devastating injustice. On this Day of Remembrance, we are reminded of the need to treat this day not just as a memorial of the past, but a reminder to stay vigilant in the present.

RTFA for a brief recounting of what Doris Matsui’s family suffered through our government’s bigotry, our nation’s fear. Reflect upon the clown show occupying the White House from the decision of a minority of voters in our last election. Not even the soundness of FDR’s control over our government meant anything to the bigotry of 1942.

I’m confident the citizens of the United States have made strides forward against bigotry and cowardice. Our government? Not so much.

Teen busted trying hire a clown to assassinate her teacher

❝ Police in Virginia have arrested a 13-year-old girl in connection with a social media threat involving a clown.

The investigation revealed that the girl made contact with someone via social media, and asked the person to murder one of her teachers at Davis Middle School…

The person she contacted was using a clown photo as a profile picture as well as an alias.

❝ The 13-year-old girl from Hampton was arrested and charged with one count of threatening to kill by electronic message. She remains in custody.

❝ Hampton police detectives made contact with the victim to ensure her safety and make her aware of the situation. At this time, there is no evidence to indicate a threat against any others.

There was increased police presence Monday at Davis Middle School and Hampton police officers are working with school security to ensure student safety.

❝ This incident comes just two days after schools in Hampton and Newport News tightened security because of threats from social media accounts of people posing as clowns…

The Hampton Police Division is collaborating with Hampton City Schools, the Newport News Police Division, and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate each of these threats and social media pages.

None of the security hustlers are going to miss out on an opportunity to increase fun and profits from fear. I’m surprised the NRA hasn’t shown up selling handguns outside the school. Yet.

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.

Why do people get their knickers in a bunch over engineered foods

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine just issued a book-length report, strongly reaffirming what American and European scientists have long said: Food from genetically modified crops is no more dangerous to eat than food produced by conventional agriculture

The report also finds no clear evidence that genetically modified crops cause environmental harm. It acknowledges the importance of continuing monitoring..Other studies are less equivocal, finding no special risks to the environment from genetically modified agriculture.

And yet the public is deeply concerned. One survey finds that only 37 percent of Americans believed that genetically modified food is safe to eat. According to my own recent survey, 86 percent of Americans favor labeling of genetically modified food, apparently because of perceived health risks — 89 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of independents.

What explains that? New research, by Sydney Scott and Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania and Yoel Inbar of the University of Toronto, offers some important clues.

Scott and his colleagues asked a representative sample of Americans whether they supported or opposed genetically engineering plants and animals. They also asked them to register agreement or disagreement with this statement: “This should be prohibited no matter how great the benefits and minor the risks from allowing it.”

…Astonishingly, 71 percent of the opponents, and 46 percent of the whole sample, were absolutists: They want to ban genetic engineering regardless of the benefits and risks.

On its face, that’s ridiculous. Suppose that the risks of genetic modification are zero and that the benefits are high, because genetically modified food is both cheaper and healthier. If so, how could rational people want to ban it?

Controlling for demographic and other differences, Scott and his coauthors found that disgust was the best predictor of whether people would proclaim absolute opposition to genetic modification.

The conclusion is simple: People who most strongly oppose genetic modification are not weighing risks and benefits. Their opposition is a product of the fact that they find the whole idea disgusting.

What’s disgusting about genetic modification of food? I speculate that many people have an immediate, intuitive sense that what’s healthy is what’s “natural,” and that efforts to tamper with nature will inevitably unleash serious risks — so-called Frankenfoods. The problem with that speculation is that it’s flat-out wrong.

None of which surprises me. Pop culture is useless for many reasons, especially questions of judgement that may involve rationality. A nation that elected and then re-elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush doesn’t fit that requirement.

A number of factors contribute – starting with the collapse of American education over the past 60 years. We embrace some of the silliest myths in psychologizing ideology and apply them to endeavors with reams of solid science – which we promptly ignore. We are the only Western industrial nation that feels the need to identify every area of political and economic life with approval from spirits in the sky. Laughable to much of the world.

But, it all fits together nicely with the anti-GMO side of “natural” living. Trouble is, folks, you’re giving respectability to something about as sound as giving your friendly neighborhood fundamentalist the right to deny civil rights on the basis of gender identity because their one true book says it’s a sin.

This November might be the last time Texans vote for a US president – if Republicans/Confederates get their way

On Wednesday, the Platform Committee of the Texas Republican Party voted to put a Texas independence resolution up for a vote at this week’s GOP convention, according to a press release from the pro-secession Texas Nationalist Movement. The resolution calls for allowing voters to decide whether the Lone Star State should become an independent nation.

Texas was, in fact, its own country for nine years before joining the United States in 1845, and while the idea of returning to independence has never been taken seriously by most people, it remains popular as a romantic notion and marketing hook. Lone Star beer is the “national beer of Texas.”…In a 2009 rally, then-Gov. Rick Perry hinted that the state could secede…

Face it. Anyone know any Texas Republicans whose understanding of economics, politics, civil rights, equal opportunities – has progressed beyond 1845?

The Texas Nationalist Movement, once considered a quixotic fringe group, has added hundreds of members in the years since the election of Barack Obama. According to the Houston Chronicle’s Dylan Baddour, at least 10 county GOP chapters are coming to the convention supporting independence resolutions. But this will be the first time in the state’s 171-year history that they will actually vote on one. It’s very unlikely to win. Then again, that’s what people said about Donald Trump.

Racism is a powerful motivation for the natural-born bigot. Add in ignorance, fear, cowardice, you might just have a new nation.

Of course, this crew failed miserably last time they tried this, didn’t they.