Posts tagged with "Slate"

Going down? Biden commits to cutting U.S. emissions by 50% over next decade

April 23, 2021

On April 22, Earth Day, President Joe Biden signaled his Administration’s intention to set aside four years of retrograde national policy by formally pledging the United States to reducing its carbon emissions by at least half (of 2005 levels) over the next decade, Slate reports.

During the opening of a two-day climate summit of world leaders, announced and virtually hosted by the White House, Biden framed the issue not just as a moral obligation, but an economic opportunity, saying, “The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable, and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Biden said from the White House. “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative— a moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”

In 2019—the most recent year for which complete data are available—U.S. emissions came in roughly 13% below 2005 levels, according to the EPA.

To provide another angle on how far the U.S. still needs to go to reduce its carbon footprint, last year, when much the country essentially did nothing at all—drove less, flew less, moved less—U.S. emissions were barely down.

In fact, Slate notes, U.S. emissions are still only projected to be down less than a quarter—roughly 21 %—for the year compared to the 2005 baseline. Even before four years of Trump, America had a lot of work to do to meet its emission targets. When former President Barack Obama signed the United States on to the Paris accord in 2016, the outgoing Obama administration pledged a 28% reduction in emissions levels by 2025.

“Administration officials said they see multiple paths toward achieving their goals, through a combination of federal policies and action by states, companies and other subnational groups,” The Wall Street Journal reports, adding,. “Biden has proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package that includes measures to reduce emissions, such as a proposed standard mandating that the country’s electricity be produced with low-carbon energy sources.”

According to Slate, American climate leadership faces domestic opposition from Republicans, who say that say it’s unfair for the U.S.A. to have to make sometimes difficult cuts, with economic consequences, if other developing nations—most importantly, China—don’t have to do the same.

Research contact: @Slate 

Come and get it: Biden says vaccine should become available to every adult American by May 1

March 15, 2021

Speaking from the White House on March 11 in his first prime-time address as president, Joe Biden insisted that Americans should be ready to feel good about themselves and their country again. Then he laid out some ambitious benchmarks that will determine how justified they are in doing so, Slate reports.

The occasion for Biden’s speech was the first anniversary of the date when the World Health Organization classified the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic.

It also came the same day that he signed the American Rescue Plan Act, the first major piece of legislation that has passed since he took office; which lays out $1.9 trillion in spending meant to help knock out the virus and revive the economy that it obliterated last year.

The details of the bill have at this point been well publicized—but what Biden introduced in his speech were two dates: May 1 and July 4, Slate notes.

The former is the date on which he says his administration will direct states to make vaccine shots available to all adults.

The latter, as you might imagine, has symbolic importance: It’s the time by which he says enough Americans should be vaccinated that they should feel comfortable gathering together in modestly sized groups with family and friends.

The May 1 date seems intentionally chosen to be a little startling: Previously, the administration had mentioned the end of that month as the time by which enough vaccine doses for every American would be available, and the end of July as the time by which they could be fully distributed. Neither of those targets is necessarily contradicted by the president’s declaration that “you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1,” though.

“Let me be clear,” the president said. “That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately, but it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot.

According to Slate, there has also been an emerging belief among some experts that the public interest is better served by getting as many shots out the door as fast as possible, to whomever lines up for them, than by a slower process of careful prioritization.

The timeline announced Thursday, then, was less a promise than a national call to action—a statement of urgency directed not just at state-level political leaders and medical administrators but at the regular civilians at home who will have to take responsibility for finding themselves a shot.

Biden did, however, lay out goals that he can be judged on. For one, he promised that by May 1 the federal government will “launch, with our partners, new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot, including a new website.” The site, Biden says, will allow every American to easily identify the nearest location where vaccinations are available. Promised the president: “No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.”

Such a tool would indeed be very useful. It would also seem to be an enormous logistical and technological undertaking, given the number of different public and private entities that are already involved in vaccine distribution. (There is almost certainly no one in the White House who is not aware of what happened the last time a Democratic administration promised to launch a health care website.)

The administration also said Thursday that it would more than double the number of community health centers, pharmacies, and federally run vaccination sites involved in the effort to finish the job that it says will be done—or at least done enough to barbecue—by July.

“This country can do anything, hard things, big things, important things,” Biden said toward the conclusion of his speech. Now he’s given his administration four months to deliver a specific series of them.

But, President Biden said, he cannot do it without the help of the American people, noting, “I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you.”

Research contact: @Slate

‘Trump is Mussolini, Putin is Hitler,’ says House Majority Whip Clyburn—warning, ‘I don’t think he plans to leave’

August 4, 2020

Bill Maher— the host of Real Time on HBO who has predicted for more than three years that we will not see the last of President Donald Trump if he is not re-elected—agrees with at least one Congressional leader about the POTUS’s true intentions.

Both Maher and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) are becoming increasingly fearful that the current POTUS will not leave the Oval Office when the time comes on January 20, 2021.

On Sunday, May 2, Clyburn likened Trump to Italian fascist Benito Mussolini—insisting that the commander-in-chief has no plans to leave the White House if he loses in November, Slate reports.

During an interview with Clyburn Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union, host Dana Bash asked the 14-term congressman about a PBS interview that aired on Friday, July 31, during which he said, “Trump thinks that the American people will be duped by him, like the people of Germany was duped by Adolf Hitler.”

When Bash asked whether Clyburn really thought Trump “is comparable to Adolf Hitler,” the number-three House Democrat did not shy away from comparing the president to a brutal totalitarian although the historical reference changed. “I feel very strongly that this man has taken on strong-arm tactics. And I feel very strongly that he is Mussolini,” Clyburn said. “Putin is Hitler.”

Clyburn went on to explain that he thinks Trump will try to cling on to power, Slate noted. “I believe very strongly that this guy never had any idea about being—want to peacefully transfer power. I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections,” Clyburn said. “I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue hold onto office.”

Clyburn went on to call on Americans to “wake up” because history is full of warning signs. “I know a little bit about history, and I know how countries find their demise. It is when we fail to let democracy and the fundamentals of which is a fair, unfettered election. And that’s why he is trying to put a cloud over this election, floating the idea of postponing the elections,” Clyburn said.

Research contact: @Slate

Trump reneges on reopening federal health insurance exchanges during the COVID-19 crisis

April 2, 2020

Defying appeals from insurers and Democrats, the Trump Administration said on March 31 that it would not reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow uninsured Americans to buy health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, Slate reports.

The decision comes after the White House told lawmakers and insurers it was considering a special enrollment period in addition to the usual November 1 through December 15 window for the federally run exchange that covers roughly two-thirds of U.S. states.

Eleven largely Democratic-leaning states, as well as Washington, D.C., have temporarily reopened their health insurance exchanges, CNN reports, in order to provide frontline workers with the chance to buy in during the coronavirus outbreak.

Democratic legislators had called on the White House to open the federally run exchanges for some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and— after initial hesitation from the health insurance industry over the prospect of being hit with a deluge of coronavirus-related claims—“the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people,” Politico reports.

“Given the risk posed by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in a letter to Congress in mid-March.

The insurers told Politico they had expected the Trump White House to announce a special enrollment period last week after receiving private assurances from the administration that the exchanges would be reopened. The coronavirus has already put intense pressure on the job market, and with the economic toll of the pandemic expected to worsen over the coming weeks, millions of newly unemployed workers who previously had insurance through their employer will likely be in need of health insurance options.

Workers who lose their health insurance through their employer are eligible to buy a plan on a federal or state exchange for up to 60 days after becoming unemployed.

The Trump administration did not give any reason for refusing to reopen the health insurance marketplace during the pandemic, but President Donald Trump has publicly supported the GOP legal effort, this one led by Republican governors, to destroy the Affordable Care Act once and for all. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which could put the ten-year-old law, and the 20 million Americans who get health coverage from it, in jeopardy.

Research contact: @Slate

Addressing the ‘Not Me’ mindset: The other essential pandemic office that Trump eliminated

March 20, 2020

Much attention has been paid to the Trump Administration’s shortsighted elimination of the White House Pandemic Response Team—a move that resulted in a failure to test rapidly and widely for the COVID-19 virus before it had reached epidemic proportions in the United States.

But the president and his advisers also are responsible for ousting the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), created by Executive Order in 2015 during Obama’s term of office, Slate reports—a group of professionals who could have advised the American population about how best to institute social distancing; and about how to get people to actually follow such instructions.

In its brief existence, the SBST tackled a broad range of issues, from fighting food insecurity to helping people save for retirement, through an evidence-based policy approach. For example, the group encouraged U.S. households to make their homes more energy-efficient by highlighting the immediate, concrete benefits of saving money on their power bills; rather than trying to appeal to the abstract, distant goal of slowing climate change.

Crucially, SBST programs did not try to tell Americans what to do by throwing a bunch of facts and statistics at them—a current coronavirus-fighting approach that has only worked with a subset of the population, Slate says.

Specifically, while epidemiologists are trying to model COVID-19’s true fatality rate (3.4%? 1%?), decision scientists already know that people are generally pretty bad at objectively assessing probabilities. Famous behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued that people “discard events of extremely low probability,” simplifying minuscule percentages to basically zero. In other words, regardless of COVID-19’s true case fatality rate, our human brains are tempted to shortcut it to “super unlikely, so probably not me.”

Of course, even a 1% fatality rate means a devastating number of lives lost around the world. Effectively communicating the lethality of COVID-19 is paramount to convincing people to take the threat seriously.

One strategy is to leverage the “identifiable victim effect,” in which people are more moved to help known individuals than unknown others. (You’ve experienced this yourself if the coronavirus didn’t feel real until Tom Hanks tested positive, Slate notes.)

People in their 20s appear to face just a 0.09% fatality rate, an even-more-near-zero number that, combined with that age group’s propensity for risk-taking and socializing, makes it hard to convince young adults to follow social distancing guidelines to save themselves.

Instead, argues Oxford neuroethicist and Yale psychology professor Molly Crockett, it may be more persuasive to highlight how our actions can avoid causing harm to others. For example, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx spoke of focusing on protecting older Americans and then specifically called for Millennials to do their part to stop the virus.

And, while it may be especially hard to convince older adults to give up social aspects of their lives that connect them to others, we can reframe “social distancing” as “distance socializing” to emphasize our intentions to continue socializing from afar.

The SBST was founded with the belief that behavioral science insights could improve Americans’ lives through evidence-based policy. Right now, those insights could save American lives, but there’s no longer a direct way to pass such information to the White House. Here’s hoping, Slate says, that our next administration will see the value of seeking counsel from scientists and reinstate them in advisory positions.

Research contact: @Slate

Haters are outnumbered at ‘Unite the Right 2’ DC rally

August 14, 2018

The organizers expected as many as 400 people to attend the far right, white nationalist/neo-Nazi demonstration billed as Unite the Right 2 in Washington, D.C., on August 11—however they were way outnumbered by the crowd who showed up to protest bigotry and defend diversity, according to a report by Slate.

A small group of about 20 white supremacists—led by Jason Kessler, who also organized the Unite the Right rally last year in Charlottesville—traveled into Washington, D.C. via subway. When they emerged, counterprotestors were waiting for them—shouting, “Go home!” and “You’re not welcome here!”

While the white supremacists had a police escort and their opponents did not, many white nationalists left the rally early—disappointed by the lack of support and drowned out by the chanting of DC Unite Against Hate and about 40 other anti-racism groups, who gathered in a force of nearly 1,000 people to take a stand at the demonstration.

Other neo-Nazis simply did not show up. Kessler told CNN that he blamed the low turnout on logistical issues and confusion regarding the group’s transportation—a claim echoed by at least two men who spoke to reporters. “People are scared to come out after what happened last year,” one of the men added.

“Our message is to let everyone know we support each other,” Maurice Cook, a co-organizer for the March for Racial Justice, told the Washington, D.C. ABC-TV News affiliate, WJLA, where his group gathered in a “United Against Hate” counterprotest in Freedom Plaza.

Kaitlin Moore, 28, of Frederick, Maryland, told CNN she was participating in counterprotests in Lafayette Square to “show this is not okay.”

In a tweet on Saturday morning, President Donald Trump wrote, “We must come together as a nation.I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”

According to CNN, “It was a departure from his comments a year ago, when he said there were ‘very fine people’ on both sides of the conflict in Charlottesville.”

Research contact@dpoliti

Inn trouble: Trump may have to divest from his D.C. hotel

July 27, 2018

Federal Court Judge Peter Messite, ruling for the District of Maryland on July 23, found that one of the three emoluments cases against President Donald Trump—which hinges on the POTUS making money directly from his political actions and status as head of government—can proceed, Slate reported on July 25.

The decision in this particular case sets the stage for potentially shutting down the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.—where many foreign diplomats currently are staying when they visit the Beltwayn and where many U.S. politicians are holding dinners and events to gain favor with the president— as a violation of the government lease and, thus, as an unconstitutional emolument. The legal interpretation in this decision would force Trump to divest from the hotel entirely.

There are two emoluments clauses in the Constitution: The Foreign Emoluments Clause provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The Domestic Emoluments Clause provides, “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

In addition to problems with foreign and state governments spending money at the hotel, Slate reported, the court focused on an even more fundamental problem and laid out the facts hinting at an allegation of direct corruption:

  • Plaintiffs allege that the Hotel received an emolument from the Federal Government in the form of the GSA Lease, which governs the Hotel’s use of the Old Post Office Building in the District of Columbia, where the Hotel is situated. Section 37.19 of the Old Post Office Lease states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”
  • Plaintiffs allege that, before the President’s inauguration, the then-Deputy Commissioner of the GSA indicated that the President would be in violation of the Lease unless he fully divested himself of all financial interests in it. Shortly after his inauguration, the President replaced the Acting Administrator of the GSA.
  • Plaintiffs allege that several weeks later, on March 16, 2017, less than two months into his term, the President released a proposed budget for 2018 that increased the GSA’s funding, while cutting back on other the funding of other agencies. On March 23, 2017, the GSA issued a letter determining that the President and the Hotel were not in violation of the Lease. Plaintiffs allege that the GSA’s abrupt about-face position was and is in direct contradiction of the plain terms of the Lease and that, by determining that the Hotel was and is in compliance with the Lease, the Federal Government bestowed upon the President an emolument in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.
  • These allegations plausibly state a claim under the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

While procedurally this ruling is merely a denial on a motion to dismiss, Judge Messitte is making conclusions of law that would apply at trial and adding the clear conditions of the lease. After all, “any benefit” means any benefit, Slate noted.

Even if a trial might not factually establish a corrupt deal by Trump, this ruling strongly suggests that a trial would lead to shutting down the Trump International Hotel as an unconstitutional violation and would force Trump to divest entirely. If there is a motion for summary judgment, the court already might have sufficient evidence to shut down the hotel. And plaintiffs—the attorneys general of D.C. and Maryland—would still be able to investigate the impermissible emoluments that Trump already has accepted.

Of course, Trump will appeal to the Supreme Court first. But if there is a trial, the next phase of discovery might investigate how Trump was able to obtain this lease in contradiction of its clear terms. And because such direct corruption could be considered an abuse of power, this trial could become even more perilous legally and politically for Trump.

In a 2017 poll conducted by PRRI, nearly half (47%) of Americans said they believe that President Trump has acted in ways that violate the U.S. Constitution. Roughly as many (46%) say that he has not. . Roughly eight in ten (79%) Democrats, but only about one in ten (11%) Republicans, believed at the time that Trump has violated the Constitution. There is a robust gender divide in views about the constitutionality of Trump’s actions. A majority (55%) of women believe Trump has acted in ways that violate the U.S. Constitution while only 39% of men believe he has. A majority (53%) of men say Trump has not violated the Constitution.

Research contact: @jedshug

‘Golden children’ suffer, too

July 19, 2018

Are you “best friends” with your mom? Surprisingly, being mom’s favorite child may not be good for your mental health, according to research findings from Purdue University. It turns out that, in a family in which mom plays favorites, the kids who are shafted—the “black sheep”—are not the only ones who are at risk for problems like depression. The favorite, or “golden,” child feels the strain, too.

Data for the study were collected seven years apart from 725 adult children within 309 families in which mothers were between the ages of 65 and 75 when the project began in 2001.

Of course, the word, “favorite,” comes with all kinds of connotations. But 90% of the mothers who participated in the study were able to identify one child who rose to the top of the heap in various contexts, according to a report by Slate. They knew which child they felt closer to; which child they especially liked to confide in; and which they would want around in a crisis. And that child also was aware of his or her status

“There is a cost for those who perceive they are the closest emotionally to their mothers, and these children report higher depressive symptoms [than do] those who experience the greatest conflict with their mothers—or who believe they are the children in whom their mothers are the most disappointed,” says Jill Suitor, a professor of Sociology.

But both are affected by the perceptions within the family. Why does the golden child feel the pain? “This [emotional] cost comes from higher sibling tension experienced by adult children who are favored…, or the greater feelings of responsibility for the emotional care of their older mothers,” said Megan Gilligan, an assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University and a former Purdue graduate student. She is a collaborator on the project

What’s more, they feel the resentment from their sibling(s), who did not live up to whatever expectations they realize their mother must have had—and who perceive that the golden child always gets the positive attention

The findings are based on the first and second phases of the Within-Family Differences Study—a research initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study was conducted in cooperation with Dr. Karl Pilleme, a professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

The four dimensions of favoritism and disfavoritism are defined by the researchers as emotional closeness, conflict, pride, and disappointment.

The researchers also compared the patterns by race because much research shows there is greater closeness in black later-life families. In this study, approximately one-quarter of the families were black.

“What we found suggests that the black offspring were particularly distressed when they, as opposed to their siblings, were the children in whom mothers were most disappointed,” said Suitor. The research team also is looking at similar questions related to fathers and predicting favoritism in mother-adult child favoritism. Siyun Peng and Jong Hyun Jung, graduate students in Purdue’s Department of Sociology, also participated on this research team.

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What’s hot and what’s not in kitchens this year

June 5, 2018

Say goodbye to the stainless steel appliances and glass-door cabinetry. According to Elle Décor US, islands are still the go-to destination in most American hearths and homes—but five other trends deserve consideration, if you are renovating your kitchen for maximum charm, convenience, and return on investment.

  1. Expect to see cabinets in “moody, ocean-inspired hues. “Blues and greens emerged as ‘go-to’ color choices for cabinetry in 2017, Elle Décor notes. They are being mixed with other colors, complementing wood stains or even being used as the dominant color alone,” Stephanie Pierce, director of Design & Trends at MasterBrand Cabinets told the magazine.
  2. All-violet everything. Yes,violet. The color experts at Pantone have chosen Ultra Violet as the color of the year. As Shannon Zapala of glassware brand Goverre explains, “This dramatic color exudes a feeling of luxury and elegance.”
  3. Dark countertops. Dark, deep countertops are the order of the day Renee Hytry Derrington, global design lead at the Formica Group said in an interview with Elle Decor. “Homeowners were intrigued with slate tiles that came in black, dark green and multi-colored rust tones. We wanted to design a slate option for countertops that had the same natural cleft detail—but combined with the growing interest in dramatic black stones. Basalt Slate is the result, and one of our most popular designs this year.”
  4. Mix-and-Match Finishes: The days of monochromatic kitchens are far behind us, according to Sue Wadden, the director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. “Using multiple colors in kitchens has become a popular trend this year. For example, painting base walls or cabinets in a dark charcoal tone and upper cabinets and walls in creamy off-white tones is something we’re seeing more and more of.”
  5. High-Contrast Marble; Finally, interior designer Donna Mondi told Elle Décor that the latest “it” look is dramatic marble that makes a statement—noting, “”Marble countertops with high contrast bold veining are making quite a statement. It’s perfect for book-matching to create intense drama, or doing as a waterfall down the sides of the island. Either way this new trend is one to watch as I think it’ll be going strong for years to come.

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