Reducing child poverty

Poverty is a terrible thing, and even more so when children are involved. To not be sure of where one’s own next meal is coming from or if one can pay the rent or take care of medical emergencies is bad enough but when one cannot provide those things for one’s children, it can be heartbreaking.

Children are not responsible for their economic state and so the state has a responsibility to make sure that at least that section of the population is taken care of. So the news that child poverty was cut in half in 2021 due to the enhanced child tax credit enacted during the pandemic is excellent news. It shows that government policy can do a lot ameliorate that problem.

The US child poverty rate fell by nearly half in 2021, largely thanks to enhanced child tax credits, new census data shows.

The child poverty rate fell to a low of 5.2% compared with 9.7% the year before.

Experts noted that increased child tax credits provided low-income families with much-needed resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Overall, US child poverty levels have been falling for decades. Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993 with rates declining in all 50 states, the New York Times reported.

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Time wasting tactics of phone companies

(Pearls Before Swine)

Another annoying item that could be added to the above list is asking you to press 5 to leave a callback number. I have never, ever felt the need to do that. What is the point if you can leave a message anyway?

Is there anyone who does not know by now that you start your message at the tone and hang up when you are finished? Furthermore, people now tend to send text messages rather than leave a voicemail anyway. And those who do receive a voicemail message often call or text the number of the sender rather than listen to the message.

I read some time ago that this utterly redundant message was created simply to use up your minutes so that phone companies could squeeze out more money from you. I do not know if that is true and could not find a confirmation, nor could I confirm that some cell phone service providers still do not allow you to disable these messages.

Intentional fouling in sports

I remember the first time I watched a professional basketball game in the US and saw a player intentionally foul a player on the opposing team to prevent them from scoring a basket. What surprised me was not the foul itself, which can happen in contact sports, but that everyone, players, spectators, TV commentators alike, treated it as not only routine but even as a good strategy. I found this appalling. I felt that a deliberate foul should never be something that is adopted as a strategy. The penalties for doing so should always be high enough that any fouling is always unintentional or at least that players try to act as if it were unintentional. In soccer for instance, the fouling player risks getting thrown out of the game and they often put on quite a show to try to persuade the referee that the foul was accidental, while the fouled player would put in a good performance to suggest that they were grievously injured. While this may all be fake, at least the effort shows that fouling as a deliberate act is not to be tolerated.
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The walls are closing in on vaccine and mask deniers

We are now in the third, fourth, or fifth wave of the pandemic in the US, depending on who’s counting. What is undeniable is that following an average low of around 80,000 weekly cases on June 22, we have now reached about 640,000 cases, an eightfold increase. Death rates reached a low of 1,500 on July 5th and have started rising since then, following the expected pattern of death rates lagging infection rates by about two weeks. Almost all this rise is among the unvaccinated and these people tend to be concentrated in places where there is a high level of vaccine hesitancy and outright resistance, mostly in Republican-dominated areas. But there are encouraging signs that those people who have been vigorously campaigning against vaccines and masks and other measures to combat the pandemic are losing the battle.
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Leftist wins first round of Ecuador’s presidential elections

Leftist candidate Andrés Arauz has won the first round of the Ecuadoran presidential elections, coming ahead of the neoliberal candidate that was heavily backed by the US. Dennis Rogatyuk describes the complicated politics of that country with its various factions and shifting alliances that remind me a lot of Sri Lankan politics.

The first round of the Ecuadorian presidential election held on February 7 was engulfed in chaos and controversies. But it also saw the overhaul of the political map — and an end to the short-lived dominance of the country’s main neoliberal actors.

The top-placed candidate was left-winger Andrés Arauz, close to former president Rafael Correa and his “Citizens’ Revolution”: he won nearly 33 percent support and his Union for Hope (UNES) coalition became the largest force in the National Assembly. Meanwhile the alliance of the two traditional conservative parties Creating Opportunities party (CREO) and the Social Christian Party (PSC) headed by the country’s most notorious corporate banker, Guillermo Lasso, obtained less than 20 percent — a loss of more than half of its strength since 2017. Yet more surprising was the emergence of two newcomers — Carlos “Yaku” Pérez of the indigenist Pachakutik party (19.5 percent) and Xavier Hervas of the liberal Democratic Left (16 percent).

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How many steps a day do you need?

I spend most of my days in a sedentary fashion, seated at the computer or reading. This is not good for one’s health generally but sitting for long times especially runs the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but also can occur with no symptoms.

Deep vein thrombosis can be very serious because blood clots in your veins can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism).

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Reflections on last night’s ‘debate’

I watched the first presidential ‘debate’ last night between Joe Biden and Donald Trump with the idea of taking notes for an analytic blog post but within the first few minutes I gave up because what was happening was, to put it mildly, an utter disgrace. It was not a debate. It was a display of childish, petulant, rude behavior by a man-child that happens to be the president of the United States.

From the beginning Trump had an angry, choleric look, florid, scowling, and pouting, constantly interrupting and talking over Joe Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace. (Don’t they put make up on people so that they do not look so red?) Wallace was reduced to pleading with Trump to follow the rules that his team had agreed to and let the other person speak but it was no use. Trump simply raged on. Wallace has been criticized for losing control of the debate but it is not clear what he could have done other than simply get up and walk off, since Trump was so out of control. And I really mean out of control. Trump did not look like someone who was carrying out a pre-planned strategy of interrupting to throw Biden off balance. It was the other way around. Not only did Biden not get rattled, he would laugh at Trump and call him a clown and a racist and that seemed to enrage Trump even more. Trump looked like a man who is angry and thinks he is going to lose the election because he is being treated unfairly by everyone, including people in his own administration, and just let all his grievances pour out. It was a litany of the applause lines that he gives the audience at his rallies and on twitter but in the context of the debate they just seemed like random rants that had no connective tissue.
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