Guess who is being referred to?

I came across this passage about a well-known national leader.

For someone who has made a career out of lying, [He] is surprisingly bad at it. His tell-tale giveaways would be obvious to a five-year-old. He smirks, his eyes dart sideways and his arms shoot out in strange directions. This must be horribly familiar to so many women.

Worse, [he] is utterly shameless in his lying.

He’d repeated a few untruthful slogans over and over again and it was job done. As so often, no one had really laid a finger on him because he is so well-defended. Often he doesn’t even realise he’s lying, it’s so deeply embedded. He has become the nation’s voice of mendacity. The man who lies so we don’t have to. Lucky us.

It is Guardian columnist describing Boris Johnson’s performance in a debate with Jeremy Corbyn a couple of days ago.

Trump and Johnson. What a pair. They were made for each other.

Measles cases surge globally. Happy now, anti-vaxxers?

In 2000, there were 28.2 million cases of measles and 535,600 deaths. Thanks to massive efforts and vaccines, those numbers started coming down dramatically but more recently measles cases have risen again around the world. It is reported that in the last year alone, it went from 7.6 million cases of measles and 124,000 deaths in 2017 to 9.8 million cases of measles and 142,000 deaths in 2018, most of them children under the age of five.

It should be noted that it was in 1998 that discredited British physician Andrew Wakefield (who was later stripped of his medical credentials) published his now notorious and later withdrawn paper claiming a vaccine-autism link, that the British Medical Journal editorialized as an “elaborate fraud” and credited an investigative journalist Andrew Deer with exposing it.
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Want to be president? First become a billionaire

It used to be that young children were told that if they worked hard, then one day they could become president. That seems so quaint. Now the advice they should be given is that first they must become billionaires. It used to be that personal wealth used to just buy influence. Then it bought candidates. Now it is what is becoming necessary for people to be candidates. Jon Schwarz examines the big role that personal wealth plays in American politics. He says that the reason why Kamala Harris had to drop out of the race just as Michael Bloomberg entered it is because of a 1976 Supreme Court ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that said that candidates can spend as much of their own money as they want to but are limited in how much they can contribute to other candidates.
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Speaking the truth when resigning

When senior government people resign from their office, they often use boilerplate language about how they were proud to serve, how they respected their superiors, and only hint that they are leaving because of serious disagreements. This may be due to the human desire to not cause a fuss or the less noble desire to not burn bridges with those in power as they seek new opportunities.

But Alexandra Hall Hall, a 33-year veteran of the British foreign service and a senior British diplomat in the US, said to hell with that, she was going to tell it like it is.
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The solution to yesterday’s logic puzzle

The solution to yesterday’s puzzle was deduced by some in the comments. I was not able to solve the puzzle myself but in such cases, once I know the solution, I try to figure out why I could not figure it out, to see what I had overlooked.

In this case there are four possibilities for the two coin tosses: HH, HT, TH, and TT where H stands for heads and T for tails. The two coin tosses are independent of each other and so knowing the result of one doesn’t enable one to predict the result of the other. This tempted me to ignore (or not properly register) the information that each person gets to see the result of his or her own toss before predicting the other. And since the captives each gets to make just one guess, that seemed to me to suggest that they must guess wrong at some point.
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Academics corrupted by power

One of the luxuries of being an academic is that one has more freedom than most to express one’s honest opinion on things. This makes academics sought after for their views on issues of public policy. It is often tempting for academics who have made a name for themselves to sign on to serve in governments. Some may do it because they feel that this gives them an opportunity to press more for policies that they favor. For others it may be just the allure of being close to the seats power and to gain even greater visibility.

But the cliché that ‘power corrupts’ applies very strongly to academics who fly too close to the bright lights of power and find that they end up supporting atrocious policies. A good example is Samantha Power who at one time was a Harvard academic who had a good reputation for her work on human rights around the world. In 2003 she wrote an essay that was sharply critical of US foreign policy, as Jon Schwarz writes.
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CO2 emissions for 2019 will hit record, but rate of increase is slower

Scientific American magazine reports that the Global Carbon Project has released a study that has bad news and just a bit of good news.

Global carbon emissions are expected to hit an all-time high in 2019, scientists say, smashing a previous record set in 2018.

There is some good news. The authors expect a substantial slowdown in worldwide fossil fuels emissions for this year. Emissions from coal, oil and natural gas expanded by about 2% globally in 2018. For all of 2019, they predict an expansion of just 0.6%.

Part of the slowdown can be attributed to declines in coal use in the U.S. and much of Europe, and lower-than-expected growth from other key coal consumers this year.

“We’re estimating a decline of 10% this year” for the U.S., said the Global Carbon Project’s executive director, Pep Canadell, “well above previous decline levels.”

But slowing the growth rate is not enough. We need to lower the rate altogether.

Philanthropy as a license to behave badly

I have had many posts about really awful wealthy people (the Sackler family and Jeffrey Epstein being noted examples) using philanthropy to cover over the stain of their actions and enable them to act like they are pillars of the community. The assumption is that these acts of generosity are after-the-fact attempts at covering up their ill-gotten gains or their evil acts and ingratiating themselves into society.

But Patricia Illingworth, a professor of ethics, writes that the problem is even worse and that the very act of philanthropy may actually give these people a sense that they have the right to behave badly, something she refers to as ‘moral licensing’.
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