April 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM

DONALD WHO?:

In His Haste to Roll Back Rules, Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Chief, Risks His Agenda (CORAL DAVENPORT and LISA FRIEDMAN, APRIL 7, 2018, NY Times)

[L]egal experts and White House officials say that in Mr. Pruitt's haste to undo government rules and in his eagerness to hold high-profile political events promoting his agenda, he has often been less than rigorous in following important procedures, leading to poorly crafted legal efforts that risk being struck down in court.

The result, they say, is that the rollbacks, intended to fulfill one of the president's central campaign pledges, may ultimately be undercut or reversed.

"In their rush to get things done, they're failing to dot their i's and cross their t's. And they're starting to stumble over a lot of trip wires," said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. "They're producing a lot of short, poorly crafted rulemakings that are not likely to hold up in court."

Six of Mr. Pruitt's efforts to delay or roll back Obama-era regulations -- on issues including pesticides, lead paint and renewable-fuel requirements -- have been struck down by the courts. Mr. Pruitt also backed down on a proposal to delay implementing smog regulations and another to withdraw a regulation on mercury pollution.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM

IT'S A RICO CASE:

Trump's company asked Panama president to help in hotel spat (JUAN ZAMORANO and STEPHEN BRAUN, 4/09/18, AP) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's company appealed directly to Panama's president to intervene in its fight over control of a luxury hotel, even invoking a treaty between the two countries, in what ethics experts say was a blatant mingling of Trump's business and government interests.

That appeal in a letter last month from lawyers for the Trump Organization to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was apparently unsuccessful -- an emergency arbitrator days later declined to reinstate the Trump management team to the waterfront hotel in Panama City. But it provides hard proof of exactly the kind of conflict experts feared when Trump refused to divest from a sprawling empire that includes hotels, golf courses, licensing deals and other interests in more than 20 countries.

"This could be the clearest example we've seen of a conflict of interest stemming from the president's role as head of state in connection with other countries and his business interests," said Danielle Brian, executive director of The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington ethics and good government organization.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:

FBI seizes records related to Stormy Daniels in raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen's office (April 9, 2018, Washington Post)

FBI officials on Monday raided the Manhattan office of Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, seizing records related to a 2016 payment he made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump.

No one even questions that this payment was illegal.
Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM

REPUBLICANS, NOT THE rIGHT:

Exclusive: As elections near, many older, educated, white voters shift away from Trump's party (Sharon Bernstein, Chris Kahn, 4/09/18, Reuters) 

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points. 

The 12-point swing is one of the largest shifts in support toward Democrats that the Reuters/Ipsos poll has measured over the past two years. If that trend continues, Republicans will struggle to keep control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in the November elections, potentially dooming President Donald Trump's legislative agenda.

"The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they're losing ground there, they're going to have a tsunami," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. "If that continues to November, they're toast."



Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM

THANKS, DIABETES!:

FORGET THE BLOOD OF TEENS. THIS PILL PROMISES TO EXTEND LIFE FOR A NICKEL A POP (Sam Apple, 4/09/18, Wired)


Barzilai's big plan isn't necessarily less quixotic than those being dreamed up at Silicon Valley biotechs. It's just quixotic in a completely different way. Rather than trying to develop a wildly expensive, highly speculative therapy that will likely only benefit the billionaire-demigod set, Barzilai wants to convince the FDA to put its seal of approval on an antiaging drug for the rest of us: A cheap, generic, demonstrably safe pharmaceutical that has already shown, in a host of preliminary studies, that it may be able to help stave off many of the worst parts of growing old. Not only that, it would also shorten the duration of those awful parts. ("How To Die Young at a Very Old Age" was the title of his 2014 talk at TEDx Gramercy in New York City.)

The drug in question, metformin, costs about five cents a pill. It's a slightly modified version of a compound that was discovered in a plant, Galega officinalis. The plant, also known as French lilac and goat's rue, is hardly the stuff of cutting-edge science. Physicians have been prescribing it as an herbal remedy for centuries. In 1640, the great English herbalist John Parkinson wrote about goat's rue in his life's work, Theatrum Botanicum, recommending it for "the bitings or stings of any venomous creature," "the plague," "measells," "small pocks," and "wormes in children," among other conditions.

According to some sources, goat's rue was also a centuries-old remedy for frequent urination, now known to be a telltale sign of diabetes. Today, metformin, which helps keep blood sugar levels in check without serious side effects, is typically the first-choice treatment for type 2 diabetics, and it's sometimes prescribed for prediabetes as well. Together, the two conditions afflict half of American adults. In 2014 alone, Americans filled 76.9 million prescriptions for metformin, and some of those prescriptions went to Barzilai himself. (He's been taking the drug since he was diagnosed with prediabetes around six years ago.)

A native Israeli, Barzilai speaks English with an accent, never letting grammatical slipups slow him down. He has short, boyish bangs and a slightly rounded face. His thick glasses and natural exuberance give him the look of an actor typecast as an eccentric researcher. He traces his interest in aging to the Sabbath walks he took with his grandfather as a child. Barzilai could never quite reconcile the frailty of the old man with his grandfather's stories of draining swamps in prestate Israel. "I was looking and saying, 'This guy? This old guy could do that?'"

Barzilai first studied metformin in the late 1980s while doing a fellowship at Yale, never imagining the drug would later become his focus. When the FDA approved it as a diabetes treatment in 1994, there was little reason to think it would someday become one of the hottest topics in medicine. But in the following two decades, researchers started comparing the health of diabetics on metformin to those taking other diabetes drugs.

What they discovered was striking: The metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They lived longer and had fewer cardiovascular events, and in at least some studies they were less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's. Most surprising of all, they seemed to get cancer far less frequently--as much as 25 to 40 percent less than diabetics taking two other popular medications. When they did get cancer, they tended to outlive diabetics with cancer who were taking other medications.

As Lewis Cantley, the director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, once put it, "Metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history." Nobel laureate James Watson (of DNA-structure fame), who takes metformin off-label for cancer prevention, once suggested that the drug appeared to be "our only real clue into the business" of fighting the disease.



Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM

GENIUS:

Here are the 100 best Minor League player names heading into the 2018 season (Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, April 5, 2018, Cut4)

2. Sicnarf Loopstok -- Indians 1B -- Akron (Double-A)


Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM

GREATEST WAR EVER:

14 said killed in attack on Syrian facility previously targeted by Israel (JUDAH ARI GROSS, 4/09/18, Times of Israel)

Missiles struck an air base in central Syria early Monday, killing 14 people, including Iranians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Syria's state-run news agency confirmed the strike, but did not comment on the number of casualties, saying only, "There are martyrs and wounded."

Although initially the agency said it was likely "an American aggression," following a denial by the United States, the Russian military and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's regime accused Israel of carrying out the attack.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:

'Take That Down': Fox Show Displays Anti-Fox Polling Data (Caroline Orr, April 9, 2018, Shareblue.com)

"Speaking of fake news, there is a new poll out from Monmouth University. 'Do the media report fake news regularly or occasionally?' 77 percent say yes --" Kurtz said, as a graphic appeared onscreen.

But instead of showing the results of the 'fake news' poll, the graphic showed the brutally honest results of a question about Americans' trust in news sources -- or lack of trust, in the case of Fox News.

"That is not the graphic we are looking for. Hold off," Kurtz said as he realized the mistake. "Take that down, please."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM

...AND CHEAPER...:

How Sweden and the UK are leading the global shift towards a cashless economy (GEORGE EATON, 4/03/18, New Statesman)

The idea of a cashless economy can appear utopian, the kind of "blue-sky" policy beloved of Cameron's erstwhile adviser Steve Hilton. Yet in Sweden this apparent fantasy is close to becoming a reality. Cash transactions account for only 1.4 per cent of the value of all payments and the country is forecast to become cashless by 2030. Market traders, churches and homeless magazine vendors all accept card and phone payments. More than 900 of Sweden's 1,600 bank branches no longer take cash deposits. The country's Riksbank, the world's oldest central bank, is considering launching a national cryptocurrency: the e-krona (inflation-ravaged Venezuela recently created the oil-backed petro).

Even without government support, the UK has become one of the world's most cashless societies: cash accounts for only 3.9 per cent of all payments by value (compared to 10.7 per cent in the eurozone and 8.1 per cent in the US). For Korski, this is an unambiguously positive trend. One of the benefits of a cashless system, he told Cameron, is significantly reduced crime. In his 2016 book, The Curse of Cash, the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff disparages paper currency for aiding tax evasion, theft, corruption, terrorism, the drugs trade, human trafficking and the rest of a burgeoning black economy. Though a digital system creates new forms of crime, illegal activity becomes easier to trace.

Other benefits include higher economic productivity. "We're still struggling to measure the productivity gain of the near-disappearance of high street travel agents," Korski told me. In 2015, the Bank of England's chief economist, Andrew Haldane, argued that a cashless system would aid monetary policy by allowing negative interest rates to be imposed in times of economic stagnation. At present, if charged by banks for storing money, consumers are able to hoard cash.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM

THE rIGHT LIKES HIM, SO THERE'S NO DANGER OF VIOLENCE:

AP sources: EPA chief spent millions on security and travel (MICHAEL BIESECKER, Apr. 07, 2018, AP) 

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor's part-time security contingent.

New details in Pruitt's expansive spending for security and travel emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by The Associated Press. [...]

A nationwide search of state and federal court records by AP found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt. EPA's press office did not respond Friday to provide details of any specific threats or arrests.