The callousness and cruelty of Donald Trump

It is a telling sign of politics in the US that what triggered impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump was his phone call to the Ukrainian president that sought a quid pro quo, asking them to get dirt of the son of his Democratic political opponent Joe Biden in return for releasing weapons that he had held up. In the US what gets serious attention is not major crimes but when one faction of the ruling political establishment sees a chance to discredit the other faction or engages in dirty tricks against the other faction. Recall that impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon were triggered by his operatives breaking in to the offices of the Democratic party headquarters. And impeachment against Bill Clinton was ostensibly because he lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky but we know that the real reason is because Republicans saw a chance to turn a sexual liaison into a political weapon. None of them were impeached for the many awful things they committed because these were in the service of the bipartisan war machine.
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How Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All plan works

Bernie Sanders has had to have surgery to install two stents for a blocked artery. This is a pretty routine procedure now but needing medical treatment of any kind is not good for a candidate about whom questions have been raised about age.

In this clip, he cuts through all the distortions about his Medicare For All plan and lays out for Stephen Colbert how it will work.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Warren is making all the right enemies. After Wall Street executives warned the Democratic party that they would abandon he party if she ended up being the nominee, now Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says that he “will go the mat” to prevent her plan to break up the big tech companies because they have too much power.

Sexual abuse in Orthodox Jewish institutions

Recently came news that the Roman Catholic diocese of Rochester, NY became the 20th US diocese to file for bankruptcy. The reason is of course because of the large number of lawsuits that the church has faced because of the sexual abuse by priests and the cover-ups by the church. The bishops knew about the activities of the priests but instead of taking stern action and reporting them to the secular authorities, they moved the priests around to hide the crimes. It is likely that other dioceses in the state will be forced to follow because of a new state law called the Child Victims Act, “which temporarily set aside the usual statute of limitations for lawsuits to give victims of childhood sexual abuse a year to pursue even decades-old claims” that enabled victims to bring their complaints to court.
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The pathetic Trump defenders

Trevor Noah looks at those who are trying to defend Donald Trump on the impeachment inquiry.

House Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy was particular inept in his 60 Minutes interview. But as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez points out, people like him get much less scrutiny than she does when does similar interviews.

Rugby World Cup: New Zealand vs South Africa

These two nations are two of the best rugby teams in the world, sharing the past three World Cups between them, New Zealand winning in 2015 and 2011 and South Africa in 2007. They were in the same group this year and played each other early on in the group-qualifying matches. The game highlights below are worth watching for three reasons:

  1. The high quality of play.
  2. The haka by the New Zealand team at the beginning of every game.

    The haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. Haka are a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Actions include violent foot-stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant.

    As you can see, it is a highly aggressive performance, designed to intimidate the opponents and gain a psychological advantage even before the game begins.
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How to struggle on $350,000 a year

For most people, earning $350,000 per year would be considered an unattainable dream that would promise a life free of financial stress. But believe it or not, this article describes how one family of four finds it hard to manage. Here’s their budget breakdown.

It is true that housing costs in the major coastal cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. are very high. Good quality childcare is also very expensive. But the things that jumped out at me for this ‘struggling to make ends meet’ family was the $70 per day for food, the $400 per month for clothes, the $500 per month for entertainment, the $7,800 per year for three vacations (though they ‘sacrificed’ by spending one week of vacation at home), and the fact that they think owning a Toyota Highlander instead of a Range Rover is being frugal.

Twitter of course had a field day, with sardonic commentary here and here.

Save the whales, save the planet?

Whales are magnificent creatures and there is always great appeal among people for saving the lives of large mammalian species. But in a paper published by the International Monetary Fund, it turns out that that increasing the whale population might also be a good way of capturing carbon.

Marine biologists have recently discovered that whales-especially the great whales-play a significant role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere (Roman and others 2014).

The carbon capture potential of whales is truly startling. Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies during their long lives. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean; each great whale sequesters 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year.

Wherever whales, the largest living things on earth, are found, so are populations of some of the smallest, phytoplankton. These microscopic creatures not only contribute at least 50 percent of all oxygen to our atmosphere, they do so by capturing about 37 billion metric tons of CO2, an estimated 40 percent of all CO2 produced. To put things in perspective, we calculate that this is equivalent to the amount of CO2 captured by 1.70 trillion trees-four Amazon forests worth-or 70 times the amount absorbed by all the trees in the US Redwood National and State Parks each year. More phytoplankton means more carbon capture.

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