NYC grassroots activists call Amazon’s bluff – and win!

Amazon, like many greedy big corporations, often loudly announce that they are planning to open a new facility somewhere with the promises of many new jobs, and will go to the city that provides them with the best deal. Cities then scramble to compete with each other to provide them with huge tax and other incentives, sometimes depriving their own people of much needed resources for schools and other public services. This is even though the corporations already make massive profits and pay little or no tax and could well afford to pay the local taxes. The corporations often demand that the details of the bidding (‘begging’ would be a better word) provided by each city be secret, better enabling them to play each city off against the others.
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Taking advantage of people desperate for miracle cures

Coincidences abound. A couple of weeks I was talking about Jonathan Miller and the next day I learned that he had died. Then just a few of days ago, I mentioned Alan Keyes’s name because he was the source of the so-called ‘crazification factor’, the size of the population that votes on the basis of tribal loyalty over everything else. I casually wondered what had happened to him. He used to constantly run as a Republican for federal elected offices the US senate in 1988, 1992, and 2004, as well as the presidency in 1996, 2000, and 2008. He is a conservative Christian, fiercely anti-abortion and anti-gay and was a birther to boot.
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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 Brian 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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