Put down your phone! ~ NYT


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By Catherine Price

If you’re like many people, you may have decided that you want to spend less time staring at your phone.

It’s a good idea: an increasing body of evidence suggests that the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills.

But there is another reason for us to rethink our relationships with our devices. By chronically raising levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, our phones may be threatening our health and shortening our lives.

Until now, most discussions of phones’ biochemical effects have focused on dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us form habits — and addictions. Like slot machines, smartphones and apps are explicitly designed to trigger dopamine’s release, with the goal of making our devices difficult to put down.

This manipulation of our dopamine systems is why many experts believe that we are developing behavioral addictions to our phones. But our phones’ effects on cortisol are potentially even more alarming.

Cortisol is our primary fight-or-flight hormone. Its release triggers physiological changes, such as spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, that help us react to and survive acute physical threats.

These effects can be lifesaving if you are actually in physical danger — like, say, you’re being charged by a bull. But our bodies also release cortisol in response to emotional stressors where an increased heart rate isn’t going to do much good, such as checking your phone to find an angry email from your boss.

If they happened only occasionally, phone-induced cortisol spikes might not matter. But the average American spends four hours a day staring at their smartphone and keeps it within arm’s reach nearly all the time, according to a tracking app called Moment. The result, as Google has noted in a report, is that “mobile devices loaded with social media, email and news apps” create “a constant sense of obligation, generating unintended personal stress.”

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What House Democrats should do now ~

April 21 at 7:00 PM

It may not have been his intention, but special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has forced a momentous choice on the Democrats who control the House of Representatives. How they navigate the next several months will matter not only to politics but, more importantly, to whether the rule of law prevails.

If we lived in a normal time with a normal president, a normal Republican Party and a normal attorney general, none of this would be so difficult. Mueller’s report is devastating. It portrays a lying, lawless president who pressured aides to obstruct the probe and was happy — “Russia, if you’re listening . . . ” — to win office with the help of a hostile foreign power. It also, by the way, shows the president to be weak and hapless. His aides ignored his orders, and he regularly pandered to a Russian dictator.

Mueller’s catalogue of infamy might have led Republicans of another day to say: Enough. But the GOP’s new standard seems to be that a president is great as long as he’s unindicted.

And never mind that the failure to charge Donald Trump stemmed not from his innocence but from a Justice Department legal opinion saying a sitting president can’t be indicted. Mueller explained he had “fairness” concerns — a truly charming qualm in light of the thuggishness described in the rest of the report — because the no-indictment rule meant there could be no trial. The president would lack an “adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.”

And perhaps Mueller did not reckon with an attorney general so eager to become the president’s personal lawyer and chief propagandist. William P. Barr sat on the document for 27 days and mischaracterized it in his March 24 letter. He mischaracterized it again just an hour before it was released.

This leaves Democrats furious — and on their own. Unfortunately, it is not news that this party has a nasty habit of dividing into hostile camps. On the one side, the cautious; on the other side, the aggressive. The prudent ones say members of the hit-for-the-fences crowd don’t understand the political constraints. The pugnacious ones say their circumspect colleagues are timid sellouts.

After Mueller report, Democrats weigh impeachment

Sometimes these fights are relatively harmless, but not this time. Holding Trump accountable for behavior that makes Richard M. Nixon look like George Washington matters, for the present and for the future.

Those demanding impeachment are right to say Mueller’s report can’t just be filed away and ignored. But being tough and determined is not enough. The House also needs to be sober and responsible.

This needle needs to be threaded not just for show, or for narrow electoral reasons. Trump and Barr have begun a battle for the minds and hearts of that small number of Americans (roughly 10 percent or a little more) who are not already locked into their positions. Barr’s calculated sloth in making the report public gave the president and his AG sidekick an opportunity to pre-shape how its findings would be received. The uncommitted now need to see the full horror of what Mueller revealed about this president. A resolute but deliberate approach is more likely to persuade them.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joins her caucus on a conference call Monday, she will reiterate her “one step at a time” strategy. The bottom line is that rushing into impeachment and ruling it out are equally foolish.

This means the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees should and will begin inquiries immediately. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) took the first step on Friday by subpoenaing the full, unredacted Mueller report, which the administration immediately resisted. Mueller himself has rightly been asked to appear before both Judiciary and Intelligence.

Nothing is gained by labeling these initial hearings and document requests part of an “impeachment” process. But impeachment should remain on the table. Because Trump and Barr will resist all accountability, preserving the right to take formal steps toward impeachment will strengthen the Democrats’ legal arguments that they have a right to information that Trump would prefer to deep-six.

For now, it’s useful for Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) to underscore the outrageousness of the abuses Mueller found by calling for impeachment while Democrats in charge of the inquiries such as Nadler and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, say, as both did on Sunday, they’ll reserve judgment while they sift through the facts.

Of course, Trump is not the only issue in politics. Democratic presidential candidates are already out there focusing on health care, climate, economic justice and political reform. The House can continue other work while the investigators do their jobs.

In an ideal world, the corruption and deceitfulness Mueller catalogued would already have Trump flying off to one of his golf resorts for good. But we do not live in such a world. Defending democratic values and republican government requires fearlessness. It also takes patience.

Trump’s Fed pick Stephen Moore is a self-described ‘radical’ who said he’s not a ‘big believer in democracy’. CNN …. “No surprises … wealth and entitlement can ruin a person.” rŌbert

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(CNN)Stephen Moore, who President Donald Trump announced last month as his nominee for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has a history of advocating self-described “radical” views on the economy and government.

In speeches and radio interviews reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Moore advocated for eliminating the corporate and federal income taxes entirely, calling the 16th Amendment that created the income tax the “most evil” law passed in the 20th century.
Moore’s economic worldview envisions a slimmed down government and a rolled back social safety net. He has called for eliminating the Departments of Labor, Energy and Commerce, along with the IRS and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. He has questioned the need for both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Education. He has said there’s no need for a federal minimum wage, called for privatizing the “Ponzi scheme” of Social Security and said those on government assistance lost their dignity and meaning.
In other interviews and appearances, Moore repeatedly said he believed capitalism was more important than democracy.

Glaciers are losing billons of tons of snow and ice each year ~ The Washington Post

Scientists grow concerned at the how fast global warming is shrinking the Earth’s glaciers.

Tourists walk past waterfalls at the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers have been melting so fast that it has become too dangerous for tourists to hike onto them from the valley floor. A new study shows that Earth’s glaciers are losing billions of tons of snow and ice each year. (Nick Perry/AP)
Earth’s glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought. A new study shows they are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America.

The world’s glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s. Their melt is accelerating due to global warming, and adding more water to already rising seas, the study found.

Since 1961, the world has lost 10 trillion tons of ice and snow. That’s enough to cover the Lower 48 U.S. states in about four feet of ice.

“Over 30 years suddenly almost all regions started losing mass at the same time,” said Michael Zemp, lead author of the study and director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “That’s clearly climate change if you look at the global picture.”

The glaciers shrinking fastest are in central Europe, western Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Glaciers in these places on average are losing more than 1 percent of their mass each year, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature.

“In these regions, at the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century,” Zemp said.

Zemp’s team used ground and satellite measurements to look at 19,000 glaciers, far more than previous studies. They determined that southwestern Asia is the only region of 19 where glaciers are not shrinking, which Zemp said is due to local climate conditions.

Scientists have known for a long time that global warming caused by human activities such as burning coal, gasoline and diesel for electricity and transportation is making Earth lose its ice. They have been especially concerned with the large ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica.

A number of factors are making sea levels rise. The biggest cause is that oceans are getting warmer, which makes water expand. The new figures show glacier melt is a bigger contributor than thought, responsible for about 25 percent to 30 percent of the yearly rise in oceans, Zemp said.

Rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and put more people at risk of flooding during storms.

Glaciers grow in winter and shrink in summer, but as the Earth has warmed, they are growing less and shrinking more. Zemp said warmer summer temperatures are the main reason glaciers are shrinking faster.

While people think of glaciers as polar issues, shrinking mountain glaciers closer to the equator can cause serious problems for people who depend on them, said Twila Moon, a snow and ice data center scientist. She said people in the Andes mountains, for example, rely on the glaciers for drinking and irrigation water each summer.

A separate study Monday in Environmental Research Letters confirmed faster melting and other changes in the Arctic. It found that in winter, the Arctic is warming 2.8 times faster than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Overall, the region is getting more humid, cloudier and wetter.

“It’s on steroids; it’s hyperactive,” said lead author Jason Box, a scientist for the Danish Meteorological Institute.

Suspected rhino poacher is killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions in South Africa … INSTANT KARMA ~ John Lennon

The incident happened after the man entered the park Monday with four others to target rhinos, according to a parks service statement.
An elephant “suddenly” attacked the alleged poacher, killing him, and “his accomplices claimed to have carried his body to the road so that passersby could find it in the morning. They then vanished from the Park,” police said.
His family were notified of his death late Tuesday by his fellow poachers, and a search party set out to recover the body. Rangers scoured on foot and police flew over the area, but because of failing light it could not be found.
The search resumed Thursday morning and, with the help of added field rangers, police discovered what was left of his body.

Police say they arrested three men and seized guns following the alleged poacher's death. Police say they arrested three men and seized guns following the alleged poacher’s death.

“Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants,” the statement said.
Glenn Phillips, the managing executive of Kruger National Park, extended his condolences to the man’s family.
“Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that,” he warned. “It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains.”
Three individuals who joined the illegal hunt were arrested Wednesday by the South African Police Service, and officers continue to investigate what happened.
The suspects appeared in Komatipoort Magistrate Court on Friday to face charges of possessing firearms and ammunition without a license, conspiracy to poach and trespassing. A judge remanded them to custody and they will be back in court this week, pending a formal bail application.
The African rhino is targeted for its horn because of the belief among some who practice Eastern medicine that the horn has benefits as an aphrodisiac, making it more valuable than cocaine in parts of the world.

Lions left only the poacher's skull and a pair of his pants, officials say.

Lions left only the poacher’s skull and a pair of his pants, officials say.
Of special concern is the black rhino, which is considered critically endangered after its population tumbled from about 65,000 to 1970 to 2,400 in 1995, according to Kruger National Park. Conservation efforts have boosted their numbers, and the world’s remaining 5,000 or so black rhinos live predominantly in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
In 2016, there were between 349 and 465 black rhinos living at Kruger and between 6,600 and 7,800 white rhinos, who also suffer from poaching, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs said.
Kruger is considered an intensive protection zone, and the government employs a range of resources to deter poaching, including aircraft, dogs, special rangers and an environmental crime investigation unit.
Of the 680 poaching and trafficking arrests made in 2016 by the South African Police Service, 417 were in and around Kruger, the department said. In September, the department announced that six men — including two syndicate leaders, two police officers and a former police officer — had been arrested for trafficking in rhino horns.

Dan Robbins, paint-by-number inventor who made ‘every man a Rembrandt,’ dies at 93

Paint-by-number kits, such as this winter landscape, became a sensation in the 1950s. (iStock)

April 5 at 8:19 PM

Dan Robbins, who tried to make “every man a Rembrandt” with his invention of paint-by-number kits in the 1950s, a phenomenon that delighted hobbyists and rankled critics by inviting amateurs to dip their toe — and a paintbrush — into the realm of art, died April 1 in Sylvania, Ohio. He was 93.

The cause was complications from pneumonia, said a son, Larry Robbins.

Mr. Robbins, whose creations adorned millions of American homes in their heyday, was a self-described “right guy at the right time in the right place.” The time was the prosperous lull after World War II, when Americans had newfound time for recreation. The place was Detroit, birthplace of the assembly line, where Mr. Robbins, then in his 20s, worked for Palmer Paint Co. He had recently mustered out of the Army Signal Corps and was retraining his artistic abilities from mapmaking to designing children’s coloring books.

He presented to the company’s owner, Max Klein, a proposal for a new product for adults. It was not a coloring book, but rather a coloring canvas predrawn with a design resembling a colorless stained-glass window. Each blank segment would contain a number corresponding to a capsule of paint included with the set, thus the name “paint by number.”

His prototype, a still-life that emerged when he “stirred together some Picasso, some Braque and some Robbins,” he told the Associated Press, was titled “Abstract No. 1.” Klein swiftly rejected it, decreeing, with more than a dab of irony, that “abstracts are for people who call themselves artists but can’t paint worth a damn.” But Klein saw potential in the idea and asked Mr. Robbins to explore more easily digestible subject matter.

Mr. Robbins, and later other artists he hired, came through with landscapes and seascapes, florals and celebrity portraits sold under the Craft Master brand. Horses would be a runaway hit, as were kittens with balls of yarns, and clowns. Sales were slow at first but took off after paint-by-number kits appeared at a toy show in New York in 1951. For roughly $2.50 a set, every man, as the slogan went, could be a Rembrandt. By the early 1950s, paint-by-number kits reached $80 million a year in sales.

Dan Robbins, the creator of paint-by-number kits, died April 1 at 93. (Family photo)

For cosmopolitan consumers, there was a Parisian scene featuring the Notre Dame cathedral. For those whose tastes ran to the bucolic, there was a New England barn. Religious painters-by-number could choose among renderings of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and biblical scenes. For the artsy, there were even a few nudes. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover painted a Swiss village; President Dwight D. Eisenhower, too, joined the craze and displayed paint-by-number masterworks in the White House.

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Federal judge declares Trump’s push to open up Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas drilling illegal ~ The Washington Post

The ruling, one of three administration setbacks this week, restores Obama-era protections to 128 million acres of federal waters

A car passes a small boat harbor in King Cove, Alaska. (James Brooks/Kodiak Daily Mirror/AP)

A federal judge in Alaska declared late Friday that President Trump’s order revoking a sweeping ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is illegal, putting 128 million acres of federal waters off limits to energy exploration.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason is the third legal setback this week to Trump’s energy and environmental policies. The judge, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2012, also blocked on Friday a land swap the Interior Department arranged that would pave the way for constructing a road through wilderness in a major National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, ruled that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service illegally approved two gas drilling plans in western Colorado. The judge said officials did not adequately analyze wildlife and climate impacts in their plans — which were challenged by a coalition of environmental groups — to drill 171 wells in North Fork Valley, which provides key habitat for elk and mule deer.

Trump’s rollbacks of Obama-era conservation policies have suffered nearly two dozen setbacks in federal court, largely on procedural grounds. While the administration is appealing many of these decisions and holds an advantage if the cases reach the Supreme Court, the rulings have slowed the president’s drive to expand fossil fuel production in the United States.

Earlier this month, for example, a federal judge halted drilling on more than 300,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Wyoming. Friday’s decision on offshore drilling could affect a five-year leasing plan the administration plans to issue in the summer, as well as block the six offshore lease sales it proposed to schedule in the Arctic Ocean starting as early as this year. Friday’s decision applies to 98 percent of the Arctic Ocean, as well as undersea canyons in the Atlantic spanning a total of 3.8 million acres, stretching from the Chesapeake Bay to New England.

“President Trump’s lawlessness is catching up with him,” Erik Grafe, the lead attorney from the environmental law organization Earthjustice who argued to reinstate Obama’s leasing withdrawals in the Arctic and Atlantic, said in an interview Saturday. “The judge’s ruling today shows that the president can not just trample on the constitution to do the bidding of his cronies in the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our oceans, wildlife, and climate.”

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Your Public Lands Are Killing You ~ NYT

We are squandering millions of acres of our children’s inheritance and using it to destroy the planet.

By Timothy Egan

Contributing Opinion Writer

Signs on Wyoming Highway 59, north of DouglasCredit Kristina Barker for The New York Times


Out in the way beyond, the open land on the far side of the Mueller report and cable news obsessives, is a vast kingdom now being used to hasten the demise of the planet.

You may know this area, more than 500 million acres of empty vales and thick forests, high plains and diamond-cut peaks, as something you saw on a screen saver, or marked as a distant bucket list destination. It’s your American public land endowment, your birthright at citizenship.

What you may not know is that while you were sleeping through the white noise from the White House, your public servants were put under the control of the oil and gas industry. They have been busy giving away drilling rights on your land for next to nothing. More precisely — per acre, for even less than the cost of a Bacon McDouble, which of course you should eat only in moderation.

And they’re doing this in the face of considerable evidence that the rush into industrial plunder of these lands is a huge source of planet-convulsing carbon emissions.


A rally by Our Children’s Trust outside the Supreme Court in October in support of the plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States. Credit Win McNamee/Getty Images

“This is no ordinary lawsuit,” wrote federal judge Ann Aiken of Oregon in allowing the case to proceed. “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”

If that judicial statement was a stunner, what happened this month in another case was equally extraordinary. For the first time, a federal judge temporarily halted drilling on federal land because the government did not take into account the climate change impact of that drilling.

Forget about the unworkable Green New Deal, which Republicans are using as a prop to show how silly both parties are. Cow flatulence! No air travel! The end of “hamberders!” It’s been a gift to right-wing demagogues, looking to further dumb down a Republican base that doesn’t believe anything a wounded earth is trying to tell them.


It would be one thing if we needed this oil. We don’t. The world is awash in cheap crude. And it would be another if these lands weren’t being used for something that poses an existential threat. They are. Almost 25 percent of American earth-warming emissions originate from industrial action involving public land or offshore leases.

The United States is the biggest carbon polluter in history, and now ranks behind only China in greenhouse gas emissions. As well, we’re now the largest crude oil producer in the world. And we’ve become a leading exporter of that oil, just to show how bad of a global citizen we can be.

If you force the Trump administration to stop bingeing on public land, you can make an immediate impact on the amount of earth-warming carbon the United States spits into the atmosphere.

Such an injunction is what the children represented by a trust in the Juliana lawsuit are trying to do. And it was that sort of injunction, acknowledging the role of drilling on public land in harming us all, that temporarily shut down new leasing on 300,000 acres in Wyoming this month.

Another big step is to prevent David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, from becoming interior secretary. A stooge for his former clients, this Trump nominee was the deputy secretary, while the top job was held by a strange man, Ryan Zinke, who paraded around on a horse named Tonto.

It was Bernhardt who tried to block release of a federal analysis showing that two widely used pesticides were so toxic that they“jeopardize the continued existence” of more than 1,200 species of birds, fish and other life-forms without lobbyists, as my colleague Eric Lipton reported this week.

David Bernhardt at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on his nomination for interior secretary. Credit Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

You can see who Bernhardt is working for: It’s not all the living things under the domain of the emperor of the outdoors. Nor is he looking out for the interests of children, who will have to live with the consequences of action taken by adults in service to carbon pollution.

About those kids: Senator Mike Lee of Utah recently took to the floor of his chamber to say that the best response to the mounting chaos of epic floods, searing wildfires and other symptoms of a sick earth is to get married and have children.

What he didn’t say was that we hold our public land in trust for the Americans of tomorrow. The least we can do is stop using it to imperil their world.