Trump loves his secret powers

I suppose many trump voters trust him to do the right thing. Sometimes.  Having these powers available is just one more opportunity for corrupt practices by our government.

In my voting lifetime, our prime concern often was how many people around the world would be killed by our president. Trump sets new records for killing Americans.

Will the Pandemic Change Consumer Behavior?

Barry Ritholtz rocks!


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Amazon has prioritized essential services as it is overwhelmed by consumer demand. All non-essential items are being delayed (although the subscribe & save seems to be still doing timely deliveries) The unprecedented demand is helping some retailers while potentially leading to the end of others.

We don’t know how much of this is temporary, but I would surmise that some of the changes in consumer behavior will become permanent.

Cripes! Now that I see this distribution of purchases, no wonder I couldn’t find my favorite King Arthur flour anywhere in recent weeks. People are starting to bake their own bread big-time.

Pentagon mistakenly thought Trump more than an ignorant bully

When top American military officials presented President Donald Trump with the option to kill Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, they didn’t actually think he would take it, reports the New York Times. Pentagon officials usually include a far-out option when they present possibilities to the president in order to make the others seem less extreme. The other options presented to Trump…included strikes against Iranian ships or missile facilities or militias backed by Iran that are operating in Iraq. “The Pentagon also tacked on the choice of targeting General Suleimani, mainly to make other options seem reasonable,” reports the Times…

…things changed when protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday…Trump became increasingly angry at the images he saw on television as protesters stormed the embassy. Suddenly, Trump was worried that failing to respond to the protests would look weak. By Thursday, Trump had decided to go forward with the killing of Soleimani and “top Pentagon officials were stunned,” reports the Times.

Don’t be surprised at stink when you rely on shit-for-brains!

Religious nutballs try to intimidate LGBT neighborhood – Response is rainbow decorations, good cheer!

❝ According to Micah Latter, who lives on Gay Street in New York City, someone has been chaining a massive wooden cross to various fences around her neighborhood since Good Friday. It’s fairly safe to say that whoever is responsible is trying to make a statement, which is odd considering that the street was named in 1833, when the word ‘gay’ had a much different meaning.

❝ Latter explains on Instagram that the cross first showed up chained and locked to her apartment gate, and that the owner kept moving it around every few days. So this weekend, Latter’s neighborhood banded together to make sure whoever is moving the cross gets a surprise when they next pay a visit.

They turned it into a “love cross” by painting it in the rainbow colors of the pride flag.

❝ “As a Christian, the cross is a sign of love, peace, and hope and it was clear the mysterious owner of the cross was not sharing those same values…”

A friend suggested to Latter that she should celebrate the cross rather than letting it get to her. So on Saturday, she texted equally frustrated neighbors with her plan: “We’re rainbow painting the cross. I’ll bring paint and Champagne for anyone that can make it.”

❝ Latter estimates that more than 50 people showed up, and it wasn’t just neighbors.

❝ “My favorite part of the event were locals sharing the experience with strangers. We had two tourists from Brazil stay for the entire painting; we had kids skateboarding by stop to paint; we had many straight couples, gay couples, and a transgender couple all sit, paint, talk, and stand in the street sharing stories. It was a magical NYC moment.”

Latter also added her own locks, so that the owner can’t remove the cross. “It belongs to the street now…”

Right on!

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Bernie Sanders Just Blind-Sided Trump With Reality — in four words

❝ If President Donald Trump is in need of an ego boost on Saturday, Twitter may not be the place to find it.

The president was slapped with a scalding reality check, compliments of Sen. Bernie Sanders, after suggesting his supporters have their own rally.

“It would be the biggest of them all!” Trump proclaimed on Twitter Saturday.

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❝ Exciting idea, except that Trump had a rally just last month, for Inauguration Day, as Sanders reminded him.

“They did. It wasn’t,” Sanders smartly snapped.

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Har!

An alternative solution to America’s probation problem?

Paradise on earth is how most people know Hawaii – white sandy beaches and coconut palms. But there are Hawaiians living outside the frame on the picture postcard.

The roughly 8 million tourists who visit the state each year attract a lot of property crime. Even an ocean away from the mainland, the methamphetamine market is thriving. The islands have jails and prisons, and plenty of people to fill them. But Judge Steven Alm is trying to bring his home state a little bit closer to the paradise people imagine.

To do that, he’s spearheaded an alternative probation program, one that delivers immediate consequences – often jail time — for each and every infraction. The program is tough on crime, while also keeping people out of prison. And this double feat has made it a nascent darling in the world of criminal justice policy, with states across the political spectrum seeking it out as a model…

From the deputy prosecuting attorney for Honolulu to the U.S. Attorney for Hawaii and finally judge, Alm won the respect of the law enforcement community…

That reputation gave Alm an opportunity. He knew Hawaii and the justice system. He also knew it needed a change, particularly the probation program.

…Probation is a great way to keep people out of prison, help them rebuild their lives and ease the burden on taxpayers.

The problem is that probationers rampantly violate the rules, and are often sent back to prison is at the discretion of the probation officer or presiding judge. How those authorities respond to violations varies widely from state to state, according to a 2007 Pew Study, with “enormous implications” for prison population size, cost and public safety…

In 2004, Alm founded HOPE, short for Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement. Its central principle is simple, Alm explained: “If there are any violations of probation, they’re going to go to jail.”

There also are opportunities and judicial/parole officer discretion exists especially for probationers who are honest and timely about reporting and discussing violations. This was an excellent piece of news reporting – and I hope the video is available sooner rather than later.

Please RTFA. It’s longish and thoughtful. Judge Alm’s system is bringing results – at a minimum 55% of probationers do not re-offend. Other qualities measured have even better results.

So far, 17 states and a number of other countries are on board to give his system a trial. No, New Mexico isn’t one of them; I can’t offer any local evidence.

But, please, read the whole article. If you have access to AJAM, AlJazeera in America from your TV content providers, watch for the documentary on one of their evening news programs. I imagine they’ll rerun it.

How foods are sized affects how much we eat


Professors Just and Warsink sharing lunch

Portions, such as 8, 12 or 16 ounces – are given different labels – small, medium or large – at different restaurants.

However, how a portion is described size-wise impacts how much we eat and how much we’re willing to pay for our food, reports a new study from Cornell…

The research shows that consumers use such labels to dictate how much food they think is a “normal” portion, and then adjust their intake accordingly. “People are willing to pay more for a portion that sounds larger, but they also are apt to eat more of an enormous portion if they believe it is ‘regular’ to do so,” said David R. Just, associate professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics. Just conducted the study with Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing at Cornell. Both are affiliated with the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

In their study, the researchers served study participants either one or two cups of spaghetti, for example. For some participants, the small and large portions were labeled “half-size” and “regular,” respectively, giving the impression that the larger two-cup portion was the norm. For other participants, the same portions were labeled “regular” and “double-size” – implying that the smaller one-cup portion was the norm.

“These varying concepts of ‘regular’ portions made all the difference in how much people would spend and subsequently eat,” said Just. “Participants ate much more when their portion was labeled “regular” than when it was labeled “double-size.” In fact, participants who thought their portion was “double-size” left 10 times the food on their plate…”

The huge impact of size labels suggests that both consumers and producers could benefit from standardization of food size-labeling,” said Wansink. “Clearly defining the actual amount of food in a ‘small’ or a ‘large’ would inform customers of just how much food they are ordering every time they ask for a certain size. Until then, take the time to think about what portion you’re really getting when you order your standard ‘medium’ meal.”

Resistance to gullible decision-making ain’t a strong suit when eating out, I guess. Are people so easily controlled?

Yale study ties fructose to obesity

Fructose, a sweetener found on many food labels, may contribute to weight gain and obesity because it has minimal effect on brain regions that control appetite, a study by Yale University researchers found.

The research, published…in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first to compare the human brain’s response to both fructose and glucose, two types of simple sugars used separately and together to sweeten food.

Researchers have long suspected that increased consumption of food flavored with fructose, a substance sweeter to the taste than glucose, may contribute to the U.S. obesity epidemic. The latest study used brain imaging to measure activity after the sweeteners were consumed. It found that only glucose had the ability to reduce blood flow in areas of the brain that regulate appetite, stopping people from wanting to eat more…

The brain requires glucose as a fuel, Robert Sherwin said. When there isn’t enough in the body, it turns on cells to try to get a person to eat more. Once glucose levels rise, the brain turns those cells off. The study found that fructose doesn’t have the ability to operate that off switch, he said.

Jonathan Purnell, a professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland who wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal with colleague Damien Fair, said based on these results people should avoid processed and refined foods and drinks that contain fructose as well as glucose and eat more natural foods to reverse the trend in weight gain.

“It’s not that we are what we eat but what we eat influences what we become,” Purnell said…

Lots of folks talking about the study. It confirms common knowledge among folks who do at least minimal study of nutrition. Still – it’s appropriate to have a legit peer-reviewed source.

Studying the benefits of birdsong to human life


Not my recording; but, familiar enough to be outside my window

Conservation charities and scientists are beginning a research project to find out whether birdsong has any impact on people’s mental wellbeing. Surrey University, in conjunction with the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust, will look for effects on mood, creativity and behaviour.

Though many people say they enjoy birdsong and other natural sounds, there is a lack of academic evidence…

Although there has been a lot of research on responses to nature in vision – for example, showing that hospital patients respond to treatment better if they see images of landscapes rather than urban walls – relatively little has been done on sound.

“There have been a studies showing for example that natural sounds can help people recover physiologically from stress,” said Eleanor Ratcliffe, the psychologist from Surrey University in Guildford who will lead the project. “I’m interested in breaking that down, finding out what sorts of natural sounds and even what species people prefer listening to and find most interesting…”

“I’m really interested in how people rate and respond to different types of song, for examples comparing a crow with a wren,” Ms Ratcliffe told BBC News. “There’s also the issue of the symbolic associations people have with different bird sounds – for example, if they associate hearing a particular species with a nice holiday.”

Last year, the National Trust launched a scheme encouraging people to listen to birdsong for five minutes each day, as a way of combatting the “winter blues”…”It’s a simple pleasure that most of us can enjoy, even if we live in towns and cities.”

The new study will find out whether this mood enhancement is a reality for people who are not already bird or nature enthusiasts.

I’m not certain if I’d want to be around someone who can’t appreciate a part of natural life like birdsong.

Our family is one that looks and listens for birds and their song as a regular part of our lives. We pay attention to the ravens and flickers, where they are and what they’re doing. We pay particular attention to the annual appearance of a pair of Great Horned Owls in our courtyard trees as the sign of winter having thoroughly arrived. We don’t get to see more than a silhouette against the stars or moon; but, their calling brings us to the door – and outdoors to listen.

Just last week – for the first time – we were visited by a saw-whet owl that had me convinced that something mechanical was malfunctioning along the outer wall of my study until I realized that sound was coming from outdoors.

Every species plays a part in the seasons and our enjoyment of life as natural beings.