January 30, 2015

Study: Most People Think Scientists Are Full Of It

There’s a consensus among scientists: Genetically modified foods and pesticides are safe to eat, humans caused climate change, and animal research is necessary.
The general public disagrees about every single one of those statements.
Pew Research Center just released its 2015 report on the state of science in the United States, and the results are…disappointing. The thrust of the 93-page behemoth is that scientists have dedicated their lives to developing informed theories about the world around us—and the general public is unimpressed.
If nothing else, this research reminds us that scientific priorities really do transcend politics. Although conservatives often get a bad rap for voting against science—a reputation that climate skeptics totally deserve—the data show that a bunch of steadfast liberal values are pretty anti-science, too.
For instance, it should drive you crazy when anti-GMO Democrats call out Republican climate deniers, because neither of them have the scientific community in their corner.
Fortunately, according to the Pew data, we can all agree on a few broad points. Both citizens and scientists say the government should continue to fund scientific research. And both recognize the importance of science education (while sharing the belief that we need to make it better).

Obama’s nominee for attorney general claims alcohol is safer than marijuana

Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee for attorney general, disagrees with him on marijuana. That weed is not safer than alcohol might have been the most controversial thing she said during her confirmation hearing Wednesday. As Danny Vinik notes, polls show that large majorities of Americans believe that alcohol is more dangerous.
They're right, as a matter of medical science. Wonkblog has noted repeatedly that alcohol is a very dangerous drug, both to users and to the people around them, and government statistics reflect the fact that marijuana is much safer. That's not to say it's safe, particularly for adolescents, but Lynch appears to be overstating weed's dangers.
This is important, as the attorney general has the authority to remove marijuana from Schedule 1, the most dangerous classification of drugs. Doing so would give researchers a chance to study weed carefully, and figure out whether it's possible to safely and effectively prescribe it for medical purposes. 
What's in Wonkbook: 1) Fed keeps schedule for rates 2) Opinions, including Flavelle on college savings 3) The earthquakes in Oklahoma just won't stop, and more
Chart of the day: Obama's tax proposals would raise taxes on the wealthy while lowering them for the poor, on average. For the rest of the country, families and people in college would benefit, according to the Tax Policy Center, but the proposal would be a wash for the middle class as a whole. The Washington Post.
1. Top story: Federal Reserve still plans on raising rates this year
Optimistic about the economy, the Fed stays the course. "Treating the recent turmoil in markets as essentially meaningless noise, the Fed issued its most upbeat assessment of economic conditions since the recession, after its first policy-making meeting of the year, in a statement that noted solid economic growth and strong job growth. ... Fed officials for more than a year have pointed to the summer of 2015 as the likely time for the central bank to increase its benchmark interest rate, but investors are increasingly convinced that the sluggish pace of inflation will force the Fed to wait until fall at the earliest." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.
Primary source: The statement of the Federal Open Market Committee.
Investors don't share that optimism. "Sure, investors are fighting the Fed. But the Fed is fighting reality. Even with falling oil prices and the rising dollar poised to put the freeze on inflation, Federal Reserve policy makers still look as if they hope to start raising rates in June. ... Yet credit-market participants have come to think the Fed’s liftoff on rates will likely come later. Federal funds futures, which price off of Fed target-rate expectations, now put higher odds on the central bank tightening policy in September than in June. And Treasury yields have fallen markedly over the past month. Fed officials may act like they can raise rates despite what is happening with inflation readings, but investors are questioning whether that is really the case." Justin Lahart in The Wall Street Journal.
DUY: Unless things get better quickly, central bankers might have to change their plans. "Within the context of the current forecast, I think that June will be difficult to justify in the absence of wage acceleration. A sharp decline in the forecast, or the balance of risks to the forecast, would also prompt a delay. Importantly, at this point they see the current forecast as still the most likely outcome." Economist's View.
2. Top opinions
FLAVELLE: Obama gives in to the affluent and agrees to keep the 529 program. "The debate over 529 accounts, which allow families to avoid paying income taxes on money they save for higher education, revolved around the degree to which those accounts disproportionately benefit the wealthy. People who supported ending the tax break pointed out that the median income of families who use it is three times that of families that don't. ... How can we expect to fight inequality if we're unwilling to close loopholes that tilt toward the wealthy? If this program was too dear to the hearts of the upper middle class to consider cutting, can anyone name one that isn't? And what good is talking about inequality if we won't surrender programs that exacerbate it?" Bloomberg View.

Singapore will be jailing people for 6 months for holding a mobile phone while driving

As of Feb 1, it will be illegal for drivers to hold any type of mobile device while driving. Previously, only calling or texting someone on a mobile phone was barred.
On Sept 8, 2014, changes to the Road Traffic Act were passed into law and a wider range of mobile devices was added to the Act.
The changes came amid a rise in recent years in the number of summonses for using a mobile phone while driving - from 2,938 in 2012 to 3,572 in 2013. There was a slight drop of 6.1 per cent to 3,354 cases in 2014.
Here's what you need to know about the changes.

1. Mobile devices
Anyone caught holding any mobile device while driving can be found guilty of committing an offence. To be specific, mobile devices are any hand-held equipment which are designed or capable of being used for telecommunication. This means phones as well as tablets.
2. As long as you are holding it when the vehicle is moving, you can be charged
It is no longer just talking or texting that will get you in trouble. The new changes include surfing the web, visiting social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and downloading material. The law applies to holding a device while driving. It is not illegal to use a mobile device when the car is stationary. But motorists are strongly advised not to handle their device at a red light.
3. If the device is mounted
It is not illegal to use a mobile device that is mounted on a holder or dashboard.
4. Penalties
First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to six months. Repeat offenders face up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 12 months in jail.
- See more at:

New York Times editor: we failed to do our job after 9/11. Dean Baquet admits that US mainstream media did not ask ‘hard questions’ about Bush administration’s prosecution of so-called war on terror

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, believes his newspaper – in company with the US mainstream media – failed their audiences after 9/11.
He told the German news magazine Der Spiegel that he agreed with the criticism originally made by an NYT reporter, James Risen,
Baquet said: “The mainstream press was not aggressive enough after 9/11, was not aggressive enough in asking questions about a decision to go to war in Iraq, was not aggressive enough in asking the hard questions about the war on terror. I accept that for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times”. 
Baquet, in charge of the NYT since May 2014, was previously editor-in-chief of the LA Times. In his wide-ranging interview with Der Spiegel, Baquet also spoke about the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden having chosen to tell his story to the Guardian.
He said he regards the Guardian as “a new competitor [for the NYT] in the digital age.” He said: “Does it make me nervous that they compete with us and in fact beat us on the Snowden story? Yes.
Der Spiegel asked: “How painful was it as an institution thatEdward Snowden didn’t approach the New York Times?” Baquet replied:
It hurt a lot. It meant two things. Morally, it meant that somebody with a big story to tell didn’t think we were the place to go, and that’s painful. And then it also meant that we got beaten on what was arguably the biggest national security story in many, many years.
Not only beaten by the Guardian, because he went to the Guardian, but beaten by the [Washington] Post, because he went to a writer from the Post. We tried to catch up and did some really good stories that I feel good about. But it was really, really, really painful.
It was suggested that Snowden didn’t approach the NYT because it had refused to publish the initial research about the NSA’s bulk collection in 2004.
Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden.
Asked whether it was mistake to have held back on that reporting, Baquet pointed out, reasonably enough, that he wasn’t at the NYT at the time.
The magazine also asked Baquet about digital rivals, citing a leak of an internal NYT document saying that its “journalistic advantage” was shrinking in the face of online competitors. Baquet said:
We assumed wrongly that these new competitors, whether it was BuzzFeed or others, were doing so well just because they were doing something journalistically that we chose not to do. We were arrogant to be honest.
We looked down on those new competitors, and I think we’ve come to realize that was wrong. They understood before we did how to make their stories available to people who are interested in them. We were too slow to do it.


Proposition 48 is a ballot initiative that would not only legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in Mississippi but industrial hemp production as well. Additionally, Prop 48 calls on the Mississippi Governor to pardon all persons convicted of non-violent marijuana crimes.

Two Mississippi cannabis reform organizations have joined forces to end marijuana prohibition in their state, and if successful will pull off one of the most comprehensive pieces of citizen-generated legislation dealing with cannabis that we have seen yet. Proposition 48 is a ballot initiative that would not only legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in Mississippi but industrial hemp production as well. Additionally, Prop 48 calls on the Mississippi Governor to pardon all persons convicted of non-violent marijuana crimes.
Initiative Measure No. 48 would legalize the use, cultivation, sale of cannabis and industrial hemp. Cannabis related crimes would be punished in a manner similar to, or to a lesser degree, than alcohol related crimes. Cannabis sales would be taxed 7%. Cannabis sold for medical purposes and industrial hemp would be exempt from taxation. The Governor would be required to pardon persons convicted of non violent cannabis crimes against the State of Mississippi.

What’s in it?

According to a press release from organizers, the goals of Proposition 48 are:
  1. To legalize cannabis for adults so that it is regulated just like alcohol.
  2. To legalize Industrial Hemp so that farmers can grow it under the purview of the MS Dept of Agriculture which shall test their crops for THC levels (they do not pay the 7% sales tax).
  3. To allow adults to raise cannabis, no more than 9 plants for their personal, private use, and they can gift and barter their cannabis just like alcohol. Adults can raise more than 9 plants, but they are then defined as cannabis farmers, and have to pay an annual fee to their locality.
  4. To allow localities (city and county governments) to collect an annual fee of $25.00 or more, if a cannabis or industrial hemp farm is established in their territory, which is defined as an adult growing more than 10 cannabis plants, the more cannabis plants the higher the fee, not to exceed $1000.00. The locality keeps the fee, which can be adjusted every 5 years beginning in 2020.
  5. Cannabis will be taxed 7% with the exception of Industrial Hemp and medicinal cannabis, which are not taxed. The cannabis tax collected benefits Mississippi Public Schools and Universities until 2020 when it reverts to the general fund and the tax amount can be revisited bu t only if it is to be lowered.
  6. If adults want to sell cannabis, they can get an annual sales license from any County Circuit Clerk for $1000.00 and they are to charge a 7% sales tax, with the exception of Industrial Hemp farmers who do not need this license, nor to charge the tax. Businesses can sell the many types of cannabis products only to adults, that are available as long as they have a license: Florists, bakeries, co-ops, nurseries, pharmacies and dispensaries (no tax for medicinal cannabis), etc. The MS Dept of Health is to be directed by the MS Legislature to set up dispensaries and issue medical cannabis cards, similar to Arizona.
  7. Regulations/punishments about cannabis abuse are to be reduced by our legislature by so that they are no greater or even lesser than those for alcohol abuse.
  8. EMPTY OUR PRISONS and end parole and DRUG COURT for cannabis offenders. The governor shall implement this Constitutional amendment by pardoning current and former persons convicted of non -violent cannabis violations against the State of Mississippi who properly petition for the pardon . Compliance with our MS Constitution means they must first announce their request for pardon in a specific newspaper before they petition the governor for their pardon.
  9. Expungements: Currently, a person seeking expungment for a Mississippi cannabis conviction of simple possession, must petition the court where the conviction occurred, with notice to the prosecution, and the Judge will ultimately decide whether it will be granted or not. We asked that the MS Legislature amended our law to include the ability to expunge for manufacturing or sale of cannabis.

 A decentralized project

Part of what makes the initiative in Mississippi such a bold undertaking is the number of petition signatures organizers must gather in each of five legislative districts throughout the state. Each district requires 21,443 signatures for Prop 48 to make it to the ballot, and if any one of those districts fails to produce enough signatures then the measure automatically fails. The total number of voter signatures needed statewide is approximately 107,000.
To accomplish this organizers from two different legalization organizations, the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis and Team Legalize, have teamed up to empower volunteers to collect the signatures needed, equipping them with petitions and voter registration forms and instructions for turning signatures in to their county court clerk. According to the initiative’s author, Kelly Jacobs, it is important for volunteers to act quickly in order to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

New Cartoon PERFECTLY Illustrates Why the Science of Man-Made Climate Change is a Scam

“It is the greatest deception in history and the extent of the damage has yet to be exposed and measured,” says Dr. Tim Ball in his new book, “The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science”.
Dr. Ball has been a climatologist for more than forty years and was one of the earliest critics of the global warming hoax that was initiated by the United Nations environmental program that was established in 1972 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established in 1988.

Several UN conferences set in motion the hoax that is based on the assertion that carbon dioxide (CO2) was causing a dramatic surge in heating the Earth. IPCC reports have continued to spread this lie through their summaries for policy makers that influenced policies that have caused nations worldwide to spend billions to reduce and restrict CO2 emissions.
Manmade climate change—called anthropogenic global warming—continues to be the message though mankind plays no role whatever.
There is no scientific support for the UN theory.
CO2, despite being a minor element of the Earth’s atmosphere, is essential for all life on Earth because it is the food that nourishes all vegetation. The Earth has passed through many periods of high levels of CO2 and many cycles of warming and cooling that are part of the life of the planet.
“Science works by creating theories based on assumptions,” Dr. Ball notes, “then other scientists—performing their skeptical role—test them. The structure and mandate of the IPCC was in direct contradiction of this scientific method. They set out to prove the theory rather than disprove it.”

“The atmosphere,” Dr. Ball notes, “is three-dimensional and dynamic, so building a computer model that even approximates reality requires far more data than exists and much greater understanding of an extremely turbulent and complex system.” No computer model put forth by the IPCC in support of global warming has been accurate, nor ever could be.
Most of the reports were created by a small group of men working within the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia and all were members of the IPCC. The result was “a totally false picture supposedly based on science.”

January 29, 2015

Typo causes collapse of 124-year-old family business

A spelling mistake has caused the end of a 124-year-old family business and could end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
The Telegraph reported the British High Court has found government agency Companies House was liable for the demise of engineering firm Taylor & Sons Ltd, after they wrongly recorded that the Welsh company had been wound up.
in 2009 Companies House confused Taylor & Sons Ltd with Taylor & Son Ltd, a completely different company that had gone into liquidation.
When it realised its mistake three days later, Companies House tried to correct it but it was too late.
Taylor & Sons Ltd co-owner and managing director Philip Davison-Sebry told the Telegraph Companies House had already sold the false information to the credit reference agencies.
“We lost all our credibility as all our suppliers thought we were in liquidation," he said.
"It was like a snowball effect.”
Within just three weeks Taylor & Sons' 3000 suppliers terminated their orders.
The company is a family run business that was established in 1875 but within two months of the error it had gone into administration.
After a four year court case, a High Court judge ruled this week that Companies House was legally responsible for Taylor & Sons’ collapse.
Mr Davison-Sebry's lawyers told the Telegraph they have valued his claim at $17 million dollars, which will have to be paid by the British Government.