Good point!

This right-winger made a TikTok video to argue against free covid-19 vaccines but did not realize that her argument was actually a plug for socialized medicine.

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The Manhattan District Attorney election

The District Attorney for Manhattan is an important position because that region covers the main financial district in the US and thus the DA can prosecute wrongdoing by the financial giants. The position is an elected one and the current occupant Democrat Cyrus Vance, Jr. has long had a reputation for treating wealthy and powerful people leniently, especially those who happened to contribute to his election campaigns like Harvey Weinstein and the Trump family, while going hard after poor and minority communities. In the last couple of years he has changed course slightly and been investigating Donald Trump’s financial interests, convening a grand jury to present evidence and possibly seek indictments. He has announced that is not running for re-election this year and this has led to a scramble to replace him, with eight candidates.
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How to give away money

While Amazon founder Jeff Bezos uses the obscene wealth he has squeezed out of the labor of his employees before getting rid of them to indulge his whims of flying into space and building megayachts while avoiding paying taxes, his ex-wife Mackenzie Scott is using her share of his ill-gotten gains that she obtained in her divorce to try and do a little good.

The American novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott said on Tuesday she had given a further $2.7bn (£1.9bn) to 286 organisations.

Scott, who was formerly married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, issued a statement regarding distribution of the latest tranche of her $57bn fortune.

It was the third round of announcements Scott has made regarding her philanthropy, which rivals the largest of foundations. In 2020, she made two similar surprise announcements and donated about $6bn to causes including Covid relief, gender equity, historically Black colleges and universities and other schools.
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Treating prisoners humanely

On the latest episode of his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver continues his series of exposes on the awful incarceration system in the US where prisoners are subjected to cruel conditions, as if the fact that they have been convicted of a crime means that they cease to be deserving of the minimal requirements of decency.

In the clip, he shows one prison superintendent who seems to be an outright sociopath in the way he responds to conditions in his prison.

Leftist Castillo likely to be declared winner in Peru’s presidential election

Following a closely contested election, the leftist Pedro Castillo has obtained the most votes. The loser, right wing Keiko Fujimori, following Trump’s example, has declared fraud without providing any evidence but as a result, a winner cannot be formally declared until her legal challenges are adjudicated.

With all ballots now counted, Mr Castillo has just over 50% of the votes – 44,000 more than right-wing contender Keiko Fujimori.

More than 18.8 million Peruvians cast their votes in this year’s race – a turnout of nearly 75%. Observers have said it could take weeks to deliberate over Ms Fujimori’s legal challenges and formally announce a winner.

While Castillo has some very regressive views on issues of LGBTQ rights and abortion, Fujimori comes from an utterly corrupt family, strengthening the similarities with Trump.

Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is in jail serving a 25-year sentence for crimes including corruption and human rights abuses.

Ms Fujimori herself is being investigated for alleged corruption and money laundering, claims she says are politically motivated. She spent a total of 13 months in jail between 2018 and 2020, when she was released on parole.

Last week, in a surprise development, prosecutor José Domingo Pérez requested that Ms Fujimori be returned to pre-trial custody, alleging that she had been in contact with a witness, violating the terms of her parole.

It seems incredible that given her background, she could have come this far and come so close to the presidency. Peruvian voters seem to be like many Americans in their willingness to back a highly flawed candidate.

Amazon’s planned obsolescence for its workers

In an ideal world, products would be made to last as long as possible and companies would strive to keep their workers content because such workers are more productive and you want them to stay because training new people to do jobs is disruptive and inefficient. But with unbridled capitalism that demands rising revenues and cutting costs, such a model no longer works.

First came planned obsolescence. Instead of making things to last as long as possible, some items are now built to last for just a limited time so that people have to periodically go out and buy a new item. This is not only expensive, it is bad for the environment, using more raw materials than necessary and filling up landfills.

Then came the attack on workers. Companies realized that long time workers cost more because their wages had risen over time. It became to be seen that profitability could be increased by forcing out older workers and replacing them with entry level people. The temporary loss in efficiency and continuity could be compensated for in lower wage costs. It used to be that the older workers who were forced out were at the higher rungs of the work force, those earning much more than entry level workers, while the lower level workers were spared.
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The need for double-blind methods in police lineups

One of the methods that police use to identify people they suspect may have committed a crime is to put them in a lineup with other people and have eyewitnesses pick them out. But Laura Smalarz writes that the way this is often done is fraught with problems.

On the strength of six eyewitnesses’ lineup identifications, Lydell Grant was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for the murder of a young Texas man, Aaron Scheerhoorn, who was stabbed to death outside a Houston nightclub in 2010.

All six of those eyewitnesses were wrong.

Thanks to the work of the Innocence Project of Texas, new DNA testing on biological material collected from underneath the victim’s fingernails cleared Grant and implicated another man, Jermarico Carter, who police said confessed to the killing. Carter has now been indicted for the murder by a grand jury, and Lydell Grant was released from prison.

But faith in eyewitnesses runs so deep that despite the overwhelming proof of Grant’s innocence, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals initially refused his exoneration request. Instead, they asked that the six eyewitnesses who originally testified against Grant respond to his claims of innocence. Finally, almost a year later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared Grant “actually innocent” on May 19, 2021.

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The perpetual Cold War rhetoric

Russia and China are major powers with vast nuclear arsenals. Hence one would think that it would be in everyone’s interest if the those two countries, along with the US, had good relationships with one another. And yet we have the spectacle of, at least in the US, the media and the political and pundit class demanding that the US take a hard line against the two, particular with Russia. Almost any negative news that could be even remotely connected to Russia is amplified to make Russian president Vladimir Putin into some kind of malevolent Rasputin-like figure, constantly scheming to undermine the US, and US presidents are constantly urged to talk tough and take a bellicose attitude in any negotiations.
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Forgetting the Alamo

I take part in a weekly online trivia quiz contest that was organized by skeptics during the lockdown but has proven so popular that it will continue even after the lockdowns end. The format involves five sets of ten questions, each set covering a particular category. Recently one set of questions was on the topic of the battle of Alamo, a site in what is now Texas. As the legend goes, a plucky group of less than 200 people then known as Texians heroically resisted thousands of Mexican troops for nearly two weeks before they were finally overrun. “Remember the Alamo!” has since become a rousing battle cry for Americans going into battle.

Since I did not grow up in the US and did not study the arcana of American history, you would expect me to be of no help whatsoever to my team in this round. But it turned out that I knew many of the answers and that is because country and western singer Marty Robbins was hugely popular in Sri Lanka and one of his songs called The Ballad of the Alamo released in 1960 was played frequently on the one English language radio station, so often that I ended up knowing the lyrics by heart by a form of osmosis. I was surprised how I could recall almost all the words. You can listen to the song.
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Can robot animals help treat loneliness?

Katie Englehart writes about the problem of loneliness that afflict a large number of older people in the US.

Older people are more likely to live alone in the United States than in most other places in the world. Nearly thirty per cent of Americans over sixty-five live by themselves, most of them women.

In 2017, the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, declared loneliness an “epidemic” among Americans of all ages. This warning was partly inspired by new medical research that has revealed the damage that social isolation and loneliness can inflict on a body. The two conditions are often linked, but they are not the same: isolation is an objective state (not having much contact with the world); loneliness is a subjective one (feeling that the contact you have is not enough). Both are thought to prompt a heightened inflammatory response, which can increase a person’s risk for a vast range of pathologies, including dementia, depression, high blood pressure, and stroke. Older people are more susceptible to loneliness; forty-three per cent of Americans over sixty identify as lonely. Their individual suffering is often described by medical researchers as especially perilous, and their collective suffering is seen as an especially awful societal failing.

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