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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wild ride: Have Trump’s first 100 days been a success or a failure?

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Trump’s first 100 days been a success or a failure
Evaluating his first 100 days
It’s something of an “arbitrary deadline, yes,” said Amber Phillips in WashingtonPost.com, but every new president since FDR has been judged by his first 100 days in office. For Donald Trump, who reaches that milestone this week, the comparisons are not flattering. Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to sign major legislation in his first 100 days, despite Republicans enjoying full control of Congress. His approval rating hovers around a dismal 40 percent by far the lowest of any modern president at the 100-day mark. In a tweet last week, Trump dismissed the “ridiculous standard of the first 100 days,” but during the campaign he released a “Contract With the American Voter” setting out what he explicitly called “my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” The contract listed 10 pieces of legislation Trump would try to pass in his first three months, including funding a border wall and launching a $1 trillion infrastructure program. “None of that has come to fruition.” Only one major piece of legislation Trump’s disastrous attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has even been introduced in Congress. Are we surprised to find Donald Trump in breach of contract? asked Ron Insana in CNBC.com. He’s a businessman who has “overpromised and underdelivered” his whole life, declaring bankruptcy six times, creating a faux university that defrauded students, and repeatedly refusing to pay contractors and laborers. His presidency is beginning to look like another “failed effort,” providing “theatrics” instead of substance.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Climate Change : In focus

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Assignment Melting glaciers. Rising seas.  Mass extinction. These are the terms. We asked to see what climate change looks like.

Arka Dutta  Kolkata, India, Climate Change
Arka Dutta
Kolkata, India
Dutta visited India’s Ganges River Delta last summer to see conditions that could possibly be attributed to climate change. Rising water is encroaching on islands and eroding homes, in some cases forcing people to relocate. This woman stands where her house once was.
Kira Morris  Wichita, Kansas, Climate Change
Kira Morris
Wichita, Kansas
One winter when Morris was working at the U.S.’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica, ice took much longer than usual to form. On the Hut Point Peninsula she watched a group of emperor penguins survey an unusual crack. Eventually, they dived in.
Terence Chiew Teck Tzer  Singapore, Climate Change
Terence Chiew Teck Tzer
Singapore
Wanting to shoot images of pollution, Teck Tzer visited the Jurong Hill Lookout Tower so he could view some of Singapore’s industrial production. He shot during the day, then returned at night. “I was trying to show pollution in areas and times where we are least aware of it,” he says.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Is Trump growing too fond of military force?

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On the campaign trail, Donald Trump “vowed to make the U.S. military so strong that he’d never have to use it,” said William Astore in Salon.com. But in the past two weeks, Trump has turned out to be a commander in chief who deploys military power “with gusto, if not abandon.” First came the cruise-missile attack on Syria, whose civil war Trump the candidate had said was none of our business. Then, last week, U.S. forces dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in our arsenal on a network of ISIS tunnels and caves in a remote region of Afghanistan. The 21,600-pound Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB), known colloquially as “the mother of all bombs” was developed in 2003, but was never deployed until now. Is anyone really surprised that this is happening? said Lucy Steigerwald in DailyCaller.com. For all his earlier talk of restraint, how could Trump, of all people, resist the temptation to start setting off “the best, the fanciest, the most expensive weapons” in the world?
“America is back,” said Charles Krauthammer in NYDailyNews.com. Trump’s “swift, decisive” actions in Syria and now Afghanistan have put the world “on notice” that President Obama’s eight years of “agonized hand-wringing” have officially ended. Paradoxically, the most likely result of this theatrically effective show of force will be a more peaceful world, as dictators in Pyongyang, Damascus, and Moscow will have second thoughts about testing Trump’s resolve. Obama micromanaged America’s wars and tied the generals’ hands, said David French in NationalReview.com. That led to a mindset of “timidity.” Trump declared last week that he has given the military “total authorization” to deploy tactics and weaponry such as MOAB as they see fit. That’s “a change that’s long overdue,” and it will make our armed forces more effective.
Don’t be so sure of that, said Kimberly Dozier in TheDaily Beast.com. By delegating tactical decisions to the men he calls “my generals,” Trump risks running up large numbers of civilian casualties as he already has in the battle for Mosul in Iraq. Killing innocents is a surefire way to alienate people in the nations where we battle for hearts and minds as well as territory, and can lead to more not less terrorism. Generals are better at tactics than at geopolitical strategy, said Jeffrey Sachs in The Boston Globe. Ultimately,  the big decisions about whom to attack and with what must be made by our “impetuous, unstable, and inexperienced” commander in chief. That’s terrifying: In Trump’s ego-driven confrontations with other nuclear powers, one big mistake “could end the world.”
In the short term, Trump’s “unhinged impulsiveness” may actually be effective, said Fred Kaplan in Slate.com. He’s unwittingly relying on what Richard Nixon called the Madman Theory of geopolitics—a strategy in which a world leader acts as if he’s capable of anything, including nuclear war, thereby making other nations more cautious and willing to negotiate. In the long term, however, erratic national leaders often lose allies, who seek out more dependable protectors. Wily enemies such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, meanwhile, may learn how to use Trump’s impulsivity to trick him into emotion-driven, self-defeating actions. The president is right to try to revive the “deterrent power” of our military might, said Victor Hanson in NationalReview.com, but no one should underestimate the risks here. After eight years of American passivity and retreat, aggressive nations such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea “will bristle” if Trump insists they back down. However just our cause, we are entering a “dangerous moment.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

18 Things We Don’t Like But Still Continue to Do

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Friday, April 7, 2017

8 Places to Visit Before You Die

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Long Island is a special place to call home sweet home, but it’s merely a pebble in the ocean that is planet Earth. From natural wonders to man-made masterpieces, there are endless possibilities when it comes to must-see attractions. Don’t let hesitations limit your explorations any longer (the bagels and Sunday sauce will still be here when you return). Walk, swing and fly in a wanderlust wonderland at eight breathtaking places.

1- Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island: Maldives
 
Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island: Maldives 8 Places to Visit Before You Die
image: facebook.com/must.visit.before.you.die
Long Islanders who live for after-dusk walks on the beach should consider Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island their new heaven-on-earth. Visitors to the paradise island can saunter along the shoreline, look into the ocean and see the stars. The secret is this: phytoplankton–the marine microbes–are bioluminescent and emanate the blue glow. The species create the most romantic natural lighting in the world.

2- The swing at the “End of the World:” Baños, Ecuador

The swing at the “End of the World:” Baños, Ecuador 8 Places to Visit Before You Die
image: facebook.com/avantgarden
Even those who enjoyed playgrounds as a child have never had a swing experience quite like this. At the edge of Ecuador a decrepit tree house (casa del árbol) overlooks an active volcano. The swing has no harnesses, inviting only the bravest adventure-seekers to take the ride of their lives and catch a breathtaking view.

3- Salar De Uyuni in the Potosí and Oruro departments: Bolivia
  
 Salar De Uyuni in the Potosí and Oruro departments: Bolivia 8 Places to Visit Before You Die
image: facebook.com/creationoftheworld
The world’s highest salt flat at 11,975 feet above sea level is also the largest at 4,086 square miles. Travelers should make like the late Debbie Reynolds and sing (or at least visit) in the rain—during rainy season, it transforms into a giant mirror of the sky.

4- Zhangye Danxia landform: Gansu, China

Zhangye Danxia landform: Gansu, China 8 Places to Visit Before You Die
image: facebook.com/wonders
Known for otherworldly colors, this rainbow landscape resembles an imaginative oil painting. Over the tops of rolling mountains, the rainbow formation is the result of red sandstone and mineral deposits being pressed together for over 24 million years.




Sunday, April 2, 2017

The GOP: Can ‘the party of no’ learn to govern?

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The GOP: Can ‘the party of no’ learn to govern?

This was supposed to be the easy part, said Zeke Millerin Time.com. With President Trump in the White House, and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the GOP should have had no trouble repealing the Affordable Care Act as they had voted 50 times to do while President Obama was in office. Instead, the “repeal and replace” effort collapsed last week in a humiliating defeat for Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, raising a fundamental question: “Can this Republican Party find a way to govern?” It’s doubtful, said Joan Walsh in TheNation.com.  Last week revealed a deep fissure in the GOP between moderates and the far-right Freedom Caucus and exposed Trump himself as an “incompetent poseur” with limited powers of persuasion. But the bigger problem is with the party as a whole.  Having been “marinated in Obama hatred for eight years,” the modern GOP is less a political party than a “collection of grievances,” bound together by a shared loathing of liberals, cultural elites, and government itself. As even Ryan admitted, “Being against things was easy to do. Now we actually have to get people to agree with each other.”

There’s no denying that Republicans had a bad week, said David Williams in WashingtonExaminer.com. But the health-care bill’s collapse has created new “incentive and pressure” on the GOP to show it can pass legislation. In tax reform the next item on both Trump’s and Ryan’s agenda they have “the perfect opportunity to get something big done.” Lowering and simplifying the absurdly complex corporate and personal income tax code enjoys broad popular support, unlike repealing Obamacare. Trump also has a real passion for tax reform, said Edward-Isaac Dovere in Politico.com, and last week’s embarrassing failure could be just he “shock to the system that Republicans need in order to start working together.”

We’ll see, said Catherine Rampell in WashingtonPost.com. Tax reform involves countless “painful trade-offs and angry interest groups” who will fight bitterly to protect their own entrenched interests. The issue will also force Republicans to address a core contradiction between the party’s long-standing belief in tax cuts for the rich and the blue-collar populism that Trump rode into the White House. Trump says tax reform will be “fun,” said Ezra Klein in Vox.com; he also said repealing Obamacare would be “easy.” When push came to shove, however, Trump showed neither the detailed grasp of policy nor the patient coalition building that gets bills passed in Washington. This president just may not be capable of the “slow, arduous work of governing.”

Decades ago, a party in control of both Congress and the presidency would have had free rein in pushing through an agenda, said Francis Fukuyama in Politico.com. Powerful committee chairmen and party leaders could use “a combination of bribes and threats” to bend renegades to their will. But today, pork-barrel “earmarks” have been eliminated, and Freedom Caucus members can rely on outside activist groups for funding, instead of the party hierarchy. House and Senate Republicans are far more frightened of primary challenges, and their own constituents, than they are of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or President Trump. It’s still early, but Trump’s plan to be “a powerful and transformative president” seems stillborn. “It is much more likely that the Trump presidency will continue to hobble along, weakened by its own lack of experience and internal contradictions.”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Simba will be gay in upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Disney confirms

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Simba will be gay in upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Disney confirms

Simba will be gay in upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Disney confirms

Everyone’s  favourite lion Simba will come out as gay in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King, Disney has confirmed.

The upcoming reboot of the beloved Disney film will closely follow the plot of the original 1994 movie, with young lion Simba forced to flee after his father Mufasa is murdered by Simba’s evil uncle Scar.

However, following the success of Beauty and the Beast’s gay moment, there will be a key twist to the plot to bring the film up to date with the modern world.

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews, a source close to the production revealed that Simba will be gay in the upcoming remake.

According to the source, Simba realises that he is gay during his teenage years after chancing upon same-sex couple Timon and Pumbaa in the wilderness.

Simba will be gay in upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Disney confirms

Simba will be gay in upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Disney confirms

In order to accommodate the new plot, Simba’s childhood friend and eventual girlfriend Nala has been replaced with the male lion Naji.

Our source wouldn’t give too much away, but hinted at a happy-ever-after ending for Simba and Naji after they return to the aptly-named Pride Rock.

A Disney spokesperson confirmed the LGBT storyline will be central to the film.

They said:...




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ryancare: Who wins, who loses

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Ryancare: Who wins, who loses
A $600 billion tax cut for the wealthy
Martha Brawley of Monroe, N.C., voted for Donald Trump “in the hope he could make insurance more affordable,” said Abby Good enough and Reed Abelson in The New York Times. Brawley, 55, is “feeling increasingly nervous” now that the House GOP has unveiled its long-awaited bill to replace Obamacare. The American Health Care Act, crafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan and supported by Trump, would replace Obamacare’s income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 per year. Those credits “would not cover nearly as much of the cost of premiums as the current subsidies do” raising health-care costs for millions of Americans. At the same time, Ryancare would put strict limits on Medicaid spending and kick millions off the program. Brawley herself would receive $5,188 less in tax credits per year under Ryancare, and now fears she’ll become one of the 14 million people the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates would lose health-care coverage right away. “I’m scared, I’ll tell you that right now, to think about not having insurance at my age,” says Brawley. Perversely enough, said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com, Ryancare most benefits the young and middle-income urban elites who voted for Hillary Clinton. “But it just hammers the older, rural working-class voters who backed Trump.”

Rural counties would be hit “particularly hard,” said Anna Wilde Mathews and Dante Chinni in The Wall Street Journal. Under Obamacare, subsidies were pegged to premium costs in each geographic area which, in rural regions, tend to be higher because of a lack of competition among insurers. Not so with Ryancare’s tax credits. As a result, “in Nebraska’s Chase County, a 62-year-old currently earning about $18,000 a year could pay nearly $20,000 annually to get health-insurance coverage under the House GOP plan,” consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates.

 Middle-income Americans, however, would get some relief from Ryancare, said Henry Curr in TheEconomist.com. Obamacare focused on helping lower-income people get insurance, and its income limits cost the middle class “dearly.” A family of four earning around $100,000 was forced into the same risk pool as the chronically ill, but earned too much to “get the subsidies that shield those on low incomes from Obamacare’s high premiums.” Under Obamacare, many saw their premiums soar by 300 per-cents or more. Ryancare offers them relief by raising the income ceiling for tax credits to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples. Truth is, our current health-care system is “very badly broken,” said Chip Roy in NationalReview.com. Ryancare tries to remedy that, but it’s too similar to Obamacare to make a major difference. Only by fully repealing Obamacare can we let free markets, and experimentation in the states, give consumers real choice in making health-care decisions, without Washington interference.

Without Obamacare’s interference, said Margot Sanger-Katz in NYTimes.com, millions of older and poorer Americans would have no health care at all. Look at what Ryancare does to people in their 50s and 60s. Under Obamacare’s rules, insurance companies can charge older adults no more than three times more than younger enrollees. But Ryancare increases that ceiling to five times, while also providing smaller tax subsidies and letting insurers raise deductibles leading to “enormous” out-of-pocket costs. An average 64-year-old earning $26,500 would have to shell out $14,600 under the Republican health-care plan, up from $1,700 under Obamacare meaning they’d probably have to drop insurance altogether. Ryancare could have literally fatal consequences for another vulnerable group, said German Lopez in Vox.com. Amid the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic, 1.3 million Americans currently receive drug addiction treatment under Medicaid. Ryancare allows states to drop those essential services leaving millions of addicts “stranded without potentially lifesaving care.”

 “Care to guess where the billions of dollars in savings from these cuts would go instead?” said David Leonhardt in The New York Times. To the rich, of course, who would be Ryancare’s biggest winners. Obamacare covered the costs of extending coverage to the poorest and sickest with a series of taxes on couples making more than $250,000. The Republican replacement law scraps those provisions, transferring back more than $600 billion in public health spending to the richest 1 percent of households. Indeed, the richest of the rich the 0.1 percent of Americans who earn more than $3.75 million annually would see their taxes fall by an average of $165,090 per year. Ryancare might do a poor job of helping uninsured Americans get health coverage, but as “a tax cut for the wealthy,” it would be a home run.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Is the CIA really spying on you?

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Is the CIA really spying on you?

“There’s an old Soviet proverb that computer security experts like to quote: ‘If you think it, don’t say it. If you say it, don’t write it. If you write it, don’t be surprised,’” said Elizabeth Weise in USA Today. After WikiLeaks last week published nearly 9,000 pages of documents purportedly detailing CIA hacking tools, private citizens may want to take that message to heart. Those files suggest the spy agency has developed an array of cyber weapons that can let it access your smartphone, smart TV, Wi-Fi router, and computer essentially anything that’s connected to the internet. Using a program called “Weeping Angel,” the files say, agents can secretly record conversations through the microphone of a Samsung smart TV. Other documents explain how the CIA can penetrate supposedly secure apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal and read messages before they’re encrypted. If that’s true, it means “there’s very little ordinary people can do to ensure their communications remain private. “Unless you’re a working for a hostile power or terrorist group, you needn’t worry about being spied on, said Sheera Frenkel in BuzzFeed.com. To read encrypted messages on apps like WhatsApp and Signal, the CIA first has to break into and take over an individual’s phone. But those kinds of hacks called zeroday exploits because device manufacturers don’t know about them yet “are difficult to find and cost millions of dollars to develop or buy from private cyber security researchers who uncover them.” So while the CIA could exploit a vulnerability to access someone’s phone or laptop, “it would need to be a very high-value target for them to do so,” because the agency could face a backlash from consumers, tech firms, and foreign governments if it was caught in the act. These documents make it clear that the CIA isn’t conducting mass surveillance, said Zeynep Tufekci in The New York Times. Foiled by the spread of encryption technology, agents are being forced to break into individual devices one by one. “If anything in the WikiLeaks revelations is a bombshell, it is just how strong these encrypted apps appear to be.” If you’re still worried about CIA hacking, you can fight back by keeping your smartphone and computer software up to date, said Brian X. Chen, also in The New York Times. The leaked files describe attacks on outdated software systems, “and many security vulnerabilities have since been patched.” Smart TVs are more deserving of your paranoia, said Josephine Wolff in Qz.com. The growing array of internet-connected smart devices that are packed with cameras, mikes, and other sensors are notoriously insecure, because the companies that make them often have very little cyber security experience. “Intelligence agencies’ abilities to turn these devices into remote eavesdropping tools should make people think seriously before adding new ones.”

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