The further undermining of online privacy

Republicans in both houses of congress have passed a bill that will allow internet service providers (i.e., the businesses that act as the gateway to each person’s access to the internet) to market all the data that they can get about your online activities without your permission. The dominant players are AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Donald Trump will of course sign the bill, making it law.
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Massive civilian death toll in Mosul

While all the US media attention last week was focused on Donald Trump and Paul Ryan’s spectacular failure to have their health care bill pass in the House of Representatives, there was deadly violence in Iraq on March 17 that resulted in an estimated 150 civilian deaths. There are reports that an airstrike by the US-led coalition hit a residential building in a crowded part of Mosul and collapsed it, causing the deaths of many residents.
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Government is not a business and we are not its customers

Stephen Colbert takes some sharp jabs at the announcement that Donald Trump has appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to head an office that will, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, makes changes so that government runs like a business. He is going to staff the office with former business executives in order to achieve this goal to better serve us, the ‘customers’.
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Tyrants, dictators, and demagogues

The election of Donald Trump, whose autocratic tendencies are more visible than those of previous presidents, has resulted in greater appearance of words like dictator, tyrant, and demagogue in news and political commentary. I have colleagues and friends who are scholars of the classical Roman and Greek worlds and they inform me that these words originally had more benign meanings. They only later developed pejorative connotations as a result of the actions of some of those to whom the labels had been applied.
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Rise in ‘despair deaths’ of middle-class, middle-age whites in the US

The work of the research team of Anne Case and Angus Denton that documented the rise in the number of deaths of middle-class white people first came to attention in 2015 with their paper that said in its abstract:

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

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Delusions of grandeur by world leaders

Take a look at what the Saudi Arabian king took along with him when he made a trip to Indonesia.

According to reports in the Indonesian press, the Saudi royal is expected to bring 459 metric tons (506 U.S. tons) of cargo with him on his trip — including two Mercedes-Benz S600 limousines and two electric elevators.

Adji Gunawan of the airfreight company PT Jasa Angkasa Semesta (JAS) told the Antara news agency that his company was appointed to handle the cargo, which has already arrived in the country. Adji said his company was employing a total of 572 workers to deal with the Saudi king’s luggage.

The Jakarta Post reported that the Saudi group will total about 1,500 people, including 10 ministers, 25 princes and at least 100 security personnel.

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Is Bill Maher on the road to becoming the next Dennis Miller?

Bill Maher presents a problem for progressives. On the one hand, many of his stances are progressive and he does make biting and witty critiques of Donald Trump and the Republicans. He does have good writers on his show that makes him funny despite his annoying smug, smirking expression. On the other, there have been several occasions where one recoils at the things he says and I know that some of this blog’s readers refuse to click on any link that features segments from his show and I can understand why, even though I try to only post those that I think are worthwhile.
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Trump is the biggest loser

It is astonishing the number of people within the White House who seem to rush to their phones to talk with reporters and leak information. Based on these leaks, there has been no shortage of explanations for the Trump-Ryan health care debacle. Part of the blame for the failure lay in the fact that the bill was hastily thrown together in just a month or so with little or no discussion in the various committees that had roles to play and no clear vision of what its goal was other than for the Republican leadership to claim that they had “repealed and replaced” Obamacare. With health care being such a complex subject, such a slapdash effort was doomed to produce a patchwork bill full of holes.
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I did not see that coming

Well, that was a surprise. I did not expect to see the Trumpcare bill crash and burn as it did yesterday when the speaker Paul Ryan pulled it from the floor of House of Representatives shortly before the scheduled vote because he did not have the votes to pass it and wanted to avoid an embarrassing defeat, although the effective defeat is being seen as equally devastating. I thought that too many factors were in favor of some version of it passing.
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