Tag Archives: number

Pig Farms Can Control When You Get the Flu

Mother Jones

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For a fascinating new study, Duke researchers looked at flu patterns over four years across North Carolina, a state with high concentrations of intensive hog farming in some regions, and very little on others. The idea was to determine whether living near large-scale hog farms affects the way communities experience flu—a key question, because many flu strains mutate quickly and jump easily between people and hogs. The answer, in short, is yes.

To understand the findings, it’s important to note that each flu season brings different dominant strains that infect people. Some years, pig-adapted strains proliferate among people; other years, strains that aren’t adapted to those farm beasts do. Pig-adapted flu strains became more common after 2009, when H1N1 emerged and caused a global pandemic. It has been circulating ever since, and in some flu seasons (like 2015-’16) it is the predominant strain affecting people.

Over the study period, two of the flu seasons were dominated by pig strains—and in both, the flu season peaked earlier in hog-intensive counties, measured by the number of reported cases among people. In the other two non-pig flu years, flu seasons across North Carolina’s counties showed no such pattern.

Infectious-diseases writer Maryn McKenna has an excellent explainer on FERN’s Ag Insider:

What likely happened, they the authors say, is that the virus circulating in those flu seasons was carried onto farms by workers and spread to the pigs — and as it passed from pig to pig, the virus had a chance to reproduce in a manner that would not have happened in the absence of CAFOs. That much larger amount of virus spread back out into surrounding community, spiking the number of flu cases earlier in the flu season.

The upshot, the researchers say, is that vaccine strategies should expand. Currently, public health authorities target kids, elderly people, and people with compromised immune systems for flu-shot campaigns. People who work on and live near hog farms should also be encouraged to achieve “universal influenza vaccination,” they say.

Fair enough. But it also seems worth asking whether it’s a smart idea to concentrate hog farming so tightly. Every year, North Carolina’s confinement facilities churning out 10 million pigs—14.5 percent of total US production—the vast majority of which is crammed into a few eastern counties. These hyper-concentration of hogs creates what the authors call a “crucible for human influenza epidemics.”

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Pig Farms Can Control When You Get the Flu

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Here Is Rex Tillerson’s Awesome Record at ExxonMobil

Mother Jones

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Was Rex Tillerson a good CEO at Exxon? Over at Bloomberg, Vincent Piazza says Tillerson has two big claims to fame:

Number one, it’s the relationship with Russia and the expanding relationship there as well. But also the recent acquisition of XTO back in 2010. That was a major bet on natural gas that did not pan out—a $35 billion bet on natural gas that seemed to turn the other way on them.

So…a lousy acquisition and, um, Russia. The Wall Street Journal goes into more detail on that:

“I have a very close relationship with Mr. Putin,” Mr. Tillerson told students at the University of Texas, his alma mater, in February….He was successful, in part because he negotiated with Mr. Putin, who became Russian prime minister in 1999 and has run the country, either as president or prime minister, ever since. Mr. Tillerson’s ties helped him catapult past other executives to lead the company in 2006.

….At a June 2012 meeting with Mr. Putin, Mr. Tillerson said Exxon’s Arctic deal enhanced U.S.-Russian ties. “I agree, as you point out, that nothing strengthens relationships between countries better than business enterprise,” a Kremlin transcript quoted him as saying. The next year, Mr. Putin awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship for his work.

Well, OK then. He’s chummy with Vladimir Putin and he blew $35 billion on a bad acquisition. But at least he’s a great businessman, right? Here is ExxonMobil’s performance over the past decade:

But at least they paid dividends regularly! Sounds like Secretary of State material to me.

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Here Is Rex Tillerson’s Awesome Record at ExxonMobil

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Raw Data: If Obamacare Is Repealed, 17-37 Million People Will Lose Health Coverage

Mother Jones

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As Republicans merrily head down their stated path of repealing Obamacare without bothering to replace it, here are the latest CDC numbers on the uninsured:

Let’s put that into raw numbers. There are currently 273 million people in America under the age of 65. If we abolished Obamacare and returned to the 2013 percentage of uninsured, 17 million people would lose health coverage.

And that’s optimistic. If Republican recklessness caused the insurance industry to abandon the individual market altogether, the number of people who would lose coverage is somewhere in the range of 32-37 million. That’s about 22 million people who are currently in the non-group insurance market and another 10-15 million who benefited from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Repealing Obamacare makes a great campaign slogan, but now Republicans have to actually govern. Do they really want to be responsible for 17-37 million people losing health coverage? Really?

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Raw Data: If Obamacare Is Repealed, 17-37 Million People Will Lose Health Coverage

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These 15 Albums Might Actually Make 2016 Tolerable

Mother Jones

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Each year, Mother Jones‘ favorite music critic browses through hundreds of new albums and pulls out maybe a couple hundred for his weekly reviews. But only a few can make the final-final cut. Below, in alphabetical order, are Jon Young’s super-quick takes on his 15 top albums for 2016. (Feel free to heartily disagree and share your own faves in the comments.)

1. William Bell, This Is Where I Live (Stax): The tender, moving return of an underrated soul great.

2. David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia/ISO): The Thin White Duke’s eerie, haunting farewell.

3. Gaz Coombes, Matador (Hot Fruit Recordings/Kobalt Label Services): Grand, witty megapop from the former Supergrass leader. (Full review here.)

4. Bob Dylan, The 1966 Live Recordings (Columbia/Legacy): A massive compilation of every note from his notorious tour. (Full review here.)

5. Margaret Glaspy, Emotions and Math (ATO): No-nonsense relationship tales that rock out with insistent verve.

6. Hinds, Leave Me Alone (Mom + Pop/Lucky Number): Frayed, rowdy femme-punk straight outta Madrid.

7. Jennifer O’Connor, Surface Noise (Kiam): Tuneful, deadpan folk-pop with a cutting edge. (Full review here.)

8. Brigid Mae Power, Brigid Mae Power (Tompkins Square): Hair-raising solo acoustic performances by an Irish chanteuse. (Full review here.)

9. Dex Romweber, Carrboro, (Bloodshot): A colorful Americana kaleidoscope from a master balladeer and rockabilly shouter. (Full review here.)

10. Sad13, Slugger (Carpark): Sadie Dupuis’ solo debut, poppier than her band Speedy Ortiz, and exuberantly feminist.

11 & 12. The Scientists, A Place Called Bad (Numero Group); and Blonde Redhead, Masculin Feminin (Numero Group): The great Chicago reissue label scores again with retrospectives devoted to The Scientists, Australian trash-rockers from the ’70s and ’80s, and Blonde Redhead’s ’90s shoegaze-noise recordings amid the chaotic New York scene. (Full review here.)

13. Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch): The gorgeous final works of the New Orleans R&B genius. (And here’s our recent chat with Toussaint collaborator Aaron Neville.)

14. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic): The long-overdue return, and devastating goodbye, of a hip-hop institution.

15. Various Artists, The Microcosm: Visionary Music of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 (Light in the Attic): An eye-opening survey of vintage new age music in all its oddball, unexpected glory.

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These 15 Albums Might Actually Make 2016 Tolerable

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Big Mac Followup

Mother Jones

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I got showered with comments yesterday about the Big Mac. It’s so much more than the middle bun, you cretin! Even my sister got on my case about it. My sister!

So today I went out to our newly refurbished McDonald’s and got one. My conclusion: it was fine. The special sauce was fine, the pickles were fine, and it was a perfectly good hamburger on the McDonald’s scale of hamburgers. About halfway through eating it, though, it suddenly occurred to me that…it sure had a lot of bread. But all of you Big Mac lovers like the extra bun, I guess. De gustibus.

I haven’t been to McDonald’s in a long time, and I see that they now hand out numbers like most other places. Unlike other places, however, mine has a staff that comes by and takes your number from the table without leaving any food. It took a while to sort this out, so I used the time to load Facebook on my phone. I did this because apparently blog posts with inline images (like the one on the right) don’t render very well in Facebook Instant, whatever that is. And since half our traffic now comes from mobile Facebook users, this is a problem.

So I got the Facebook app loaded and then scrolled through my feed, but there was nothing of mine there. Hmmm. I’ve never paid much attention to Facebook, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I searched for MoJo, and then liked it, figuring that might make MoJo content appear. Oddly, though, what it mostly did was make lots of Brad DeLong posts appear. What’s going on up there at Cal? I got this sorted out eventually, but it turns out the MoJo digital team has been curating the feed so that the troublesome posts don’t go up. So I still don’t know quite what’s going on. But I’ll find out soon enough when I chat with our web folks.

That was my midday. How was yours?

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Big Mac Followup

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Banning Lobbyists Might Sound Like a Good Idea. But Here’s What Trump Is Missing.

Mother Jones

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On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s transition team announced one phase of the president-elect’s plan to “drain the swamp” of corruption—a prohibition on registered lobbyists serving in his administration and a five-year lobbying ban for Trump officials who return to the private sector. Trump’s plan effectively doubles down on a policy that the Obama administration already has in place—one that many good government groups and lobbyists alike believe may have created a new problem: un-lobbyists—that is, influence-peddlers who avoid registering as lobbyists to skirt the administration’s rules.

Obama, like Trump, campaigned on a platform of aggressively rooting out the influence of lobbyists. After taking office, he put in place several major good-government initiatives, including a ban on lobbyists serving in his administration and a two-year cooling-off period before ex-administration officials could register to lobby. Once Obama’s lobbying rules took effect, there was a sharp decline in the number of registered lobbyists. Industry insiders and watchdog groups that track the influence game noted that the decrease was not due to lobbyists hanging up their spurs as hired guns for corporations and special interests. Rather it appeared that lobbyists were finding creative ways to avoid officially registering as such. There was no less influence-peddling going on, but now there was less disclosure of the lobbying that was taking place.

The problem lies with the definition of who is a lobbyist. The federal government requires anyone who spends more than 20 percent of their time on behalf of a client while making “lobbying contacts”—an elaborate and specifically defined type of contact with certain types of federal officials—to register as a lobbyist and file quarterly paperwork disclosing their clients and the bills or agencies he or she sought to sway. But by avoiding too many official “lobbying contacts” and limiting how much income that kind of work accounts for, lobbyists can shed the scarlet L, describing themselves as government affairs consultants or experts in advocacy and public policy. In 2014, the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics examined the trend of the “un-lobbyist” and found that 45 percent of the lobbyists who had shed their designation in the previous year still worked for the same employer. In many cases, the lobbyists didn’t leave their jobs, CRP found, they just changed their titles.

The Trump plan, which just tacks three years on to the Obama administration’s existing ban, does stop short of the Obama rules in one area. Under Obama’s policy, people who had been registered lobbyists could not work for agencies they had previously lobbied, though he did offer “waivers” to certain officials. According to Trump aides, registered lobbyists will be eligible for administration jobs if they de-register as lobbyists. The Washington Post reports that Josh Pitcock, a close aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, took the step on Monday, sending the Senate Clerk’s office notice that he is no longer a lobbyist for the State of Indiana.

In the end, said Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, the Trump plan may only perpetuate the problem of un-lobbyists.

“People are going to react to the Trump thing in the same way,” Painter notes, by saying, ‘I’ll figure out a way to not be a lobbyist.'”

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Banning Lobbyists Might Sound Like a Good Idea. But Here’s What Trump Is Missing.

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Alcohol and Crime: The Story Isn’t Quite So Simple

Mother Jones

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The chart below comes from Wonkblog. It’s from a study of crime in Oregon, and shows that at age 21—the legal drinking age in Oregon—crime spikes considerably:

One striking chart shows how alcohol can turn people into criminals

As soon as people turned 21, their likelihood of criminality spiked considerably….The number of charges filed against 21-year-olds was similar to the number for 19-year-olds. In other words, from a criminal-justice standpoint, turning 21 is akin to turning back the clock to your late teens.

The mechanism by which this works is fairly obvious — access to alcohol increases dramatically at age 21. That brings more intoxication, and with it more aggressive, belligerent and criminally stupid behavior.

Sometimes, though, one striking chart isn’t enough. Sometimes you really need to see a whole bunch of them. I apologize for the size and readability of this, but I think it’s best if I show you everything, instead of just picking and choosing. Here’s the complete set of charts from the Oregon study:

Virtually the entire effect is driven not by “more aggressive, belligerent and criminally stupid behavior” in general—violent crime shows no effect at all—but specifically by alcohol-related offenses: DUI/reckless driving, providing alcohol to minors, public disorder, and so forth. The authors suggest there might be some small effect on assault, trespass, marijuana, and cocaine. But if you take a look at those charts without pre-assuming a change at age 21, you see a very vague scatterplot that doesn’t really suggest anything special at that age.

Bottom line: Legal access to alcohol certainly increases alcohol use, and therefore increases the rate of drunk driving, alcohol-induced public disorder, and providing alcohol to minors. You hardly need a study to tell you that. But on all other kinds of crime? It seems to have barely any effect at all.

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Alcohol and Crime: The Story Isn’t Quite So Simple

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The Lead-Crime Era Is Now Firmly Behind Us

Mother Jones

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The FBI reported today that the murder rate in the US was up 11 percent in 2015. That’s a pretty big jump, and I don’t want to minimize it. Before we panic too much, however, it’s worth noting that the overall violent crime rate was up only 3 percent. The absolute number of murders is fairly small, which means that it tends to be more volatile than the overall violent crime rate.

If you’re wondering how I’ll make a connection to lead, here it is: this is probably a sign that we’re now firmly in a post-lead crime era. Thanks to the ban on leaded gasoline, the number of teenagers born in a high-lead environment has been falling for 20 years, and that’s produced a steady decline in the violent crime rate. But by now, pretty much everyone under the age of 30 has grown up in the unleaded gasoline era, and we’ve made only modest progress in reducing lead further.

What this means is that lead abatement has run its course. From now on, unless we do something about the remaining lead in soil and paint, crime rates will reflect other factors: drugs, guns, poverty, race, policing, etc. Unleaded gasoline has done what it could, and now the rest is up to us.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that this applies mostly to North America and Europe. In much of Asia, South America, and the Middle East, leaded gasoline held on a lot longer. In those places, we likely have another 10-20 years of declining crime rates thanks to a reduction in the number of kids who grow up with lead poisoning.

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The Lead-Crime Era Is Now Firmly Behind Us

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Chart of the Day: For the 7th Straight Year, Illegal Immigration Remains a Non-Crisis

Mother Jones

Here’s the latest from Pew:

The U.S. unauthorized immigrant population — 11.1 million in 2014 — has stabilized since the end of the Great Recession, as the number from Mexico declined but the total from other regions of the world increased, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data. …Mexicans remain the majority of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population, but their estimated number — 5.8 million in 2014 – has declined by about half a million people since 2009.

The immigration hawks claim that this all changed in 2015, and once we get that data we’ll see that the ravaging hordes are back. You betcha. But until we get that data, the actual facts remain about the same as always: the population of unauthorized immigrants in the US has been stable for nearly a decade, and it’s well below its 2007 peak. As crises go, illegal immigration is a pretty poor one.

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Chart of the Day: For the 7th Straight Year, Illegal Immigration Remains a Non-Crisis

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Trump Foundation Involved in Yet More Corruption

Mother Jones

Donald Trump’s foundation is in the news again:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole. In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

Sorry Donald. You’re not allowed to use your charity to pay off your business obligations:

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing as I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

I don’t think I can count the number of reporters who have investigated the Clinton Foundation or the number of pieces they’ve written. The net result has been (a) no actual serious misconduct uncovered, but (b) a steady drumbeat of stories implying that something improper was going on.

Now then: how many reporters have been investigating the Trump Foundation? I might be missing someone, but basically the answer is one: David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. The net result has been (a) plenty of actual misconduct uncovered, but (b) very little in the way of public attention to it.

This is why so many people can somehow believe that Hillary Clinton is less trustworthy than Donald Trump. In truth, it’s not even close. Trump is probably the world champion in the sport of lying; he cares about nothing but enriching himself and getting even with his enemies; and his political positions change with the wind. He’s just about the least trustworthy person on the planet.

But he’s entertaining. Gotta give him that. And really, isn’t that what matters?

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Trump Foundation Involved in Yet More Corruption

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