Chuck Schumer Says Next FBI Director Should ‘Not Be A Partisan Politician’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday laid out his criteria for the nation?s next FBI director, after President Donald Trump fired James Comey this week.

?The nominee should be not a partisan politician, not part of either party,? Schumer said on CNN?s ?State of the Union.? ?This demands a serious, down-the-middle investigation. Second, it ought to be somebody who is experienced. You need a really good prosecutor here, somebody who knows how to do it. And third, it should be someone with courage. If there is interference or attempted interference to shut down the investigation, to misdirect it, you need somebody who is going to stand up.?

The minority leader also said Senate Democrats may refuse to vote on a new FBI director until a special prosecutor is named to investigate President Trump?s possible ties to Russia. 

?I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way,? Schumer said. ?We?ll have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move.?

Trump dismissed Comey earlier this week amid the agency?s investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. The president is said to be interviewing several candidates for the job, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Schumer?s colleague and Senate majority whip. 

In a separate appearance on NBC?s ?Meet the Press,? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the next FBI director ought to be someone ?outside the political lane.?

?Under normal circumstances, [Cornyn] would be a superb choice to be FBI director,? he said. ?But these are not normal circumstances.?

Graham, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week he wants to explore whether Trump?s businesses have any ties to Russia. On Sunday, the senator again called on Trump to release his tax returns.

Trump is also reportedly considering tapping Judge Michael J. Garcia of the New York Court of Appeals, who previously served as assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, and Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, who used to work in the Justice Department?s Criminal Division.

Adam Goldman, a reporter for The New York Times, tweeted Sunday Garcia was seen favorably by some active FBI agents.

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May 31, 2017

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Mysterious Carving Of A Woman’s Face Emerges During Church Restoration

St. Mary?s Church in Rhode Island may be a treasure trove of secrets, and she?s just started letting them slip.

The church, which went up in 1849, is best known as the locale of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier?s wedding on September 12, 1953, but now it?s getting renewed attention thanks to a peculiar carving.

A woman?s face was recently uncovered during a restoration of the church?s enormous 1,674-pipe organ. And the face doesn?t appear to be just any woman?s face.

According to Reverend Kris von Maluski, it could be Mary Magdalene?s visage.

Rev. Von Maluski talked told the Associated Press that the carved woman has ?got to be significant to be on that level,? referring to the fact that her image is in line with carvings of the 12 apostles.

?The organ was so massive, she was lost for a very long time,? he told the news agency.

Magdalene was known as the ?apostle of the Apostles,? because, according to the New Testament, she was who Jesus appeared to first after he rose from the dead. It was Magdalene who informed the Apostles of the miracle.

The church?s mysterious face is split in half to form two profiles within St. Mary?s ? one in the right corner of the choir loft and one in the left. The church believes the carving dates back to when the structure was built. The church was designed by architect Patrick Keely, so Rev. von Maluski is reaching out to other churches he?s worked with in attempt to gather more information regarding the face.

To properly complete the restoration around this incredible discovery, the church has decided to make the new structure smaller and with ?a seven-inch gap to see the face? between the organ sides and the walls, according to The Newport Daily News.

The organ will be reinstalled beginning April 18, two days after Easter Sunday.

In addition to the readjusted organ installation, Newport Daily News reports that a mold of the face is being made to be put on ?permanent display to the right of the altar, along with two of the original organ pipes.?

?We have to give her a place of honor so she will never be lost to history again,? Rev.von Maluski told the publication.

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May 8, 2017

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Kim Kardashian Gives Up On Carrying A Third Child

Kim Kardashian?s hopes of having a third child just got a harsh reality check.

On ?Keeping Up With The Kardashians? Sunday, the reality star underwent unsuccessful surgery to repair her uterus and was told carrying another baby would be too dangerous.

?Not only has this been really painful, but now hearing that I can?t carry any more kids, it couldn?t get any worse,? she said, per E! News. ?I mean, f**k, like I really tried everything and I really want this and it?s just not going to happen for me.?

?I give up,? she said, per People.

The news prompted Kardashian to rethink her options with husband Kanye West and ?see what we?re comfortable with.?

When Kourtney Kardashian broached the subject of surrogacy, Kim Kardashian appeared open to the possibility. ?After talking to Kanye, I think that I always knew that surrogacy was an option, but I didn?t think it was that realistic of an option. Now, I feel like that?s my reality.?

?I feel like surrogacy really is the only other option for me.? 

In an episode last November, Kardashian mentioned the possibility of surrogacy to mother Kris Jenner, saying she wanted to ?explore? it.

Kardashian, 36, experienced complications in the birth of North, now 3, and Saint, now 1.

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April 30, 2017

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Gonzaga And North Carolina To Face Off In NCAA Basketball Final

April 1 (Reuters) – Top-seeded teams Gonzaga and North Carolina prevailed in a pair of thrilling finishes on Saturday to advance to the final of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

Gonzaga squandered a 14-point, second-half lead before holding on to edge South Carolina 77-73, while North Carolina grabbed an offensive rebound after missing two free throws in the final seconds to beat Oregon 77-76.

Gonzaga advanced to their first NCAA tournament final, which will be held on Monday, while North Carolina are trying to make amends for losing last year?s championship on a buzz-beater by Villanova.

?It?s a dream to get (to the championship),? North Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters.

?Now we?ve got to play better but (Gonzaga) has been fantastic all year long. They only lost one game. It?s hard to imagine.?

North Carolina senior Kennedy Meeks delivered 25 points and 14 rebounds, including the final one that preserved their lead, as the Tar Heels held off an Oregon fightback from seven points down with just over three minutes remaining.

?Oregon did a great job of fighting back, Meeks said. ?It?s a great opportunity (to get back to the final). As long as we stick together I think we?ll be fine.?

In the earlier game, Gonzaga was led by point guard Nigel Williams-Goss who finished with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists. South Carolina had a chance to tie the game while trailling 75-72 and taking possession with 12.7 seconds left but they did not get a shot away and following Gonzaga coach Mark Few?s instructions, guard Josh Perkins committed a foul with 3.5 seconds remaining, sending Sindarius Thornwell to the line.

Thornwell made one to bring the score to 75-73 before Gonzaga?s Killian Tillie grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled. Tillie made two free throws with two seconds remaining to ensure victory.

?Man, just an awesome, awesome basketball game, with just how hard both teams competed,? Gonzaga?s Few said.

?I mean, that run South Carolina made on us, that just shows the heart of a lion that they have. It took everything we had to hold them off and come back.? (Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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April 23, 2017

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Fox News’ Growing Challenge: High Ratings Vie With Troubling Disclosures

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – These should be halcyon days for Fox News Channel: Its outsize ratings have been growing even more in the wake of the public?s fascination with the all-encompassing news cycle revolving around President Donald Trump. A primetime transition from the popular Megyn Kelly to the stalwart Tucker Carlson has taken place without a hitch or hiccup. Indeed, the network?s viewership among the audience advertisers want mos, people between 25 and 54, soared in the first quarter – rising 30% over the year-earlier period.

And yet, the network – the financial engine of its parent, 21st Century Fox – continues to find itself enmeshed in troubling disclosures of behind-the-scenes behavior that could have larger ramifications.

The latest revelation: On Saturday, The New York Times reported that five women have received payments coming to about $13 million in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about accusations related to sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior by Bill O?Reilly, the veteran Fox News broadcaster who is also the linchpin of the network?s primetime lineup.

Saturday?s report comes as Fox News Channel continues to grapple with legal matters related to last year?s departure of Roger Ailes, the unit?s former chairman and chief executive. He was ousted in 2016 in the wake of an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations levied at him by Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor. The probe by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, turned up other accusations. Ailes has denied all charges, but a number of settlements 21st Century Fox and Fox News have made in connection with that matter and other instances of inappropriate behavior at the unit have surfaced intermittently for weeks. In July, Ailes will have been gone from his Fox News offices for about a year, but there are some indications that the company at that time could still be dealing with some resulting fallout of his alleged actions.

In February, 21st Century Fox acknowledged in a statement that it had ?been in communication with the U.S. attorney?s office for months,? a veiled reference to the fact that U.S. government attorneys are looking into payments by the network and its parent to women who claimed to be harassed by Ailes. 21st Century Fox also said at the time that it ?will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities.?

Since Ailes? departure, a number of settlements with former Fox News employees have been disclosed. Carlson agreed to a settlement last year believed to total as much as $20 million. Laurie Luhn, a former booker and event planner at Fox, is believed to have received a settlement coming to as much as $3 million after alleging a long pattern of harassment by Ailes, which he denied.

Other matters have also surfaced: A settlement between Fox News and former contributor Tamara Holder was revealed earlier this month. Holder had levied sexual-harassment allegations against Francisco Cortes, a vice president of Fox News Latino, in October. Earlier this week, two African-American employees of the network alleged in a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx that they had been subject to racial discrimination by Judith Slater, a comptroller at Fox News, who the network has said was fired.

The O?Reilly matters are separate, to be sure, but pose similar challenges to the operation. It is hard to envision a Fox News without?The O?Reilly Factor.? Once known as ?The O?Reilly Report,? his program attracted an average of more than 3.9 million viewers in the first quarter of 2017, making his program the most-watched cable-news program of the period. And even though O?Reilly has been walking viewers through his ?Talking Points Memo? since 1996, his audience is growing. Consider the fact that the ?Factor? won an average of 3.3 million viewers for all of 2016. A boost from O?Reilly has built the careers of other Fox News notables, including Megyn Kelly, who once contributed to his hour and benefited from his audience lead in when she anchored Fox News? 9 p.m. slot, or Jesse Watters, a ?Factor? regular who was recently given his own weekend program on the network?s schedule.

In a statement, 21st Century Fox said it had investigated allegations related to O?Reilly, who denied ?the merits of these claims? and ?resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility.?

?Just like other prominent and controversial people, I?m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline,? O?Reilly said in a statement posted Saturday on his web site. ?But most importantly, I?m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children. The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.?

The Times report, citing more than five dozen interviews with current and former employees of Fox News Channel and its parent companies, alleged five different women received payouts after alleging inappropriate behavior by the host, two as recently as 2016. One of the, settled in 2002, was not related to sexual harassment.

O?Reilly is in the last year of his current contract with Fox News Channel, and the deal is believed to expire at the end of 2017. Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of Fox News Channel and 21st Century Fox, told The Wall Street Journal he?d like the anchor to remain with the network. In February, O?Reilly told Variety he was still considering the matter. ?What I have to deal with is an enormous audience. The audience for the ?Factor? is in the stratosphere, and we believe it?s because in a polarizing time, we are not doing the polarizing game,? he said, noting that he feels his show tells viewers what happened and how he feels about it. ?I haven?t made any decision about anything.?

Meanwhile, Fox News has had other bursts of controversy in recent weeks. Judge Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and longtime legal analyst and anchor for the network, was benched in March for a few days after alleging without evidence that President Barack Obama used British intelligence to surveil Donald Trump before he was elected President of the United States. The President repeated the allegations and sparked an international incident One Fox News anchor, Shepard Smith, told viewers subsequently that the network?s news staff could not confirm the information. Napolitano was back on air this week at Fox News Channel, saying he still believed in what he had alleged. Sean Hannity, its popular 10 p.m. anchor, recently expressed frustration with an interview he did with Ted Koppel for ?CBS Sunday Morning? in which Koppel told Hannity he was worried about what opinion programs like his did to the national conversation.

The question is not whether any of these allegations or incidents are distasteful, troubling or disturbing. Many of them are. But none of them to date has caused a decline in viewership at the network. The Fox News Channel unit generates approximately 20% of the operating profit of 21st Century Fox, and any reversal of viewership trends would directly affect the company?s bottom line.

If any of this sounds like it would make for a great movie, hold on. Documentarian Alex Gibney is said to be working on a project related to the Ailes controversy. Gabriel Sherman, the New York writer who has written an unauthorized biography of Ailes and who won plaudits for his coverage of last year?s allegations, last year teamed with Blumhouse Television to create a proposed scripted mini-series about Ailes? life and controversies. One would think that the most recent spate of episodes at Fox News could serve as grist for either project.

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April 22, 2017

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Pop Art Pioneer James Rosenquist Dead At 83

Artist James Rosenquist, a leading figure of the 1960s pop art movement known for his room-sized works, has died at the age of 83, his studio said.

Rosenquist helped define the genre of color-bursting displays of common objects that was also championed by the likes Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

He died on Friday, the studio said, without providing further details.

Rosenquist had early experience as a billboard painter, which became a springboard for presentations of images that he culled from sources including print advertisements and magazines, it said.

He had shows in some of the world?s most celebrated museums, including New York?s Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, it said.

?Painting is probably much more exciting than advertising,? Rosenquist was quoted as saying by the Museum of Modern Art.

?So why shouldn?t it be done with that power and gusto, with that impact.?

One of his more celebrated works is ?F-111,? which is billboard in size and made in 1964 and 1965, during the U.S. war in Vietnam. It combines images including a U.S. military warplane, a bombing and scenes of American prosperity, including a smiling blonde girl sitting under a hair dryer reminiscent of a missile, the museum said.

His celebrated 1962 painting of Marilyn Monroe was created shortly after her death and shows fragmented images of the global star that includes a segment of the Coca-Cola brand name, it said.

Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota where he had a nomadic life that took him and his parents to about a half dozen places including in Minnesota and Ohio. He studied at the University of Minnesota and moved to New York in his twenties.

?Painting has everything to do with memory. Images of the unexpected, the surreal, well up unbidden in your mind – as do things you haven?t resolved,? he said in his autobiography written with David Dalton titled ?Painting Below Zero.? 

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April 22, 2017

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Jane Krakowski Supports ‘Boating Lights’ At ACLU Event

Jenna Maroney ? uh, we mean Jane Krakowski ? came out to talk about ?boating lights? during ?Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU? Friday night.

?It?s a matter of safety!? Krakowski exclaimed. She implores viewers boating in the dark to ?just use a light.?

?Boats just speeding around in the dark, not a care. I mean, you could end up driving your boat right into the mouth of a whale! And don?t believe the propaganda. I looked it up and I couldn?t find one confirmed instance of boater fraud. Remember: Boat at night, use a light.?

Very cheeky, Jane. 

Ready to give? Text POWER to 20222 to donate $10 to the ACLU. The ACLU will call to explain other actions you can take to help. (Terms here.) You can also support ?Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU? by heading to the ACLU website

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April 9, 2017

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Ashley Graham’s Boyfriends Broke Up With Her For The Stupidest Reason

Even supermodels have to deal with jerks. 

In a new interview with People magazine, Ashley Graham ? arguably the most well-known plus-size supermodel in the world ? said she relates to stories of body shaming from her younger fans because she?s experienced it herself with former boyfriends.

?Nothing?s actually surprised me. I?ve lived exactly what they?re living. I?ve lived the torment of the names. I?ve lived the torment of boyfriends breaking up with me because they were afraid I was going to be too fat later in life,? the 29-year-old model said at the Urban Arts Partnership 25th anniversary benefit.

?It?s the same cycle, it doesn?t matter what generation we are in,? she continued. ?Every kid is going to go through the same thing.?

Though Graham said she still has her days of self-doubt (?I wake up sometimes and I think ?I?m the fattest woman alive,?? she admitted), a simple, totally steal-worthy morning affirmation helps her get past it.

?It?s really about how you handle it when you wake up,? she told People. ?I look in the mirror and I have my affirmations. And mine are simple. [I say] ?You are bold. You are brilliant and you are beautiful.? And then if my lower pooch is really puffing out that day, I say ?Lower pooch you are cute?. And we have a moment. And if the hips are really popping I say ?I love you too hips.?? 

That kind of self-love makes a huge difference ? but it doesn?t hurt to have a partner who totally adores you, too. For Graham, that?s her husband Justin Ervin, who was her friend before they started dating. The Vogue covergirl has been open about the couple?s decision to wait until marriage to have sex.

?There was already this sexual tension, this roaringness,? she told Entertainment Tonight last year. ?We had already established such a friendship that we had the two combine. Which, in my mind, just made magic, because now not only am I sleeping with someone that I trust and I love, but I know that he wants me. He affirms me all the time and lets me know how sexy and beautiful I am.?

Husband & Wife

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D?aww. 

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April 1, 2017

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Lord Martin Rees: We Are Living Through A Political And Scientific Transformation

Lord Martin Rees is an astrophysicist and the former master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He sat down with The WorldPost for a wide-ranging interview, which has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Alexander Görlach: Out of all great transformations we are going through, from climate change to artificial intelligence to gene editing, what are the most consequential we are about to witness? 

Martin Rees: It depends on what time scale we are thinking about. In the next 10 or 20 years, I would say it’s the rapid development in biotechnology. We are already seeing that it’s becoming easier to modify the genome, and we heard about experiments on the influenza virus to make it more virulent and transmissible. These techniques are developing very fast and have huge potential benefits but unfortunately also downsides.

They are easily accessible and handled. It’s the kind of equipment that’s available at many university labs and many companies. And so the risk of error or terror in these areas is quite substantial, while regulation is very hard. It’s not like regulating nuclear activity, which requires huge special purpose facilities. Biohacking is almost a student-competitive sport.

I am somewhat pessimistic, because even if we do have regulations and protocols for safety, how would we enforce them globally? Obviously we should try and minimize the risk of misuse by error or by design of these technologies and also be concerned about the ethical dilemmas they pose. So my pessimism stems from feelings that what can be done, will be done ― somewhere by someone ― whatever the regulations say.

Görlach: Do you fear that this could happen not only in the realm of crime ― if we think of so-called “dirty bombs,” for example ― but could also be used by governments? Do we need a charter designed to prevent misuse?

Rees: I don’t think governments would use biotech in dangerous ways. They haven’t used biological weapons much, and the reason for that is that the effects are unpredictable.

‘Over the next 10 or 20 years, the greatest transformation we are likely to live through is the rapid development in biotechnology.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: That brings recent Hollywood blockbusters like “Inferno” to mind, where one lunatic tries to sterilize half of mankind through a virus. 

Rees: Several movies have been made about global bio-disasters. Nevertheless, I think it is a realistic scenario, and I think it could lead to huge casualties. Disasters such as the one from “Inferno,” as well as other natural pandemics, could spread globally. The consequences of such a catastrophe could be really serious for society. We have had natural pandemics in historic times ― the “black death,” for example. The reason that governments put pandemics ― natural or artificially produced ― high on their risk register is the danger of societal breakdown. That is what worries me most about the possible impact of pandemics. This is a natural threat, of course. The threat is aggregated by the growing possibility that individuals or small groups could manufacture a more lethal virus artificially.

Görlach: So when speaking of the age of transformation, aspects of security seem paramount to you. Why is that? 

Rees: We are moving into an age when small groups can have a huge and even global impact. In fact, I highlighted this theme in my book Our Final Century, which I wrote 13 years ago. These new technologies of bio and cyber ― as we know ― can cause massive disruption. We have had traditional dissidents and terrorists, but there were certain limits to how much devastation they could cause. And that limit has risen hugely with these new bio and cyber-technologies. I think this is a new threat, and it is going to increase the tension between freedom, security and privacy.

Görlach: Let’s look at another huge topic: artificial intelligence. Is this a field where more uplifting thoughts occur to you?

Rees: If we stay within our time frame of 10-20 years, I think the prime concerns about A.I. are going to be in the realm of biological issues. And everyone agrees that we should try and regulate these. My concern is that it will be hard to make effective regulations. Outside biological consequences, in the long term, of course we need to worry about A.I. and machines learning too much.

In the short term, we have the issue of the disruption of the labor market due to robotics taking over ― not just factory work but also many skilled occupations. I mean routine legal work, medical diagnostics and possibly surgery. Indeed, some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.

We will have to accept a big redistribution in the way the labor market is deployed. And in order to ensure we don’t develop even more inequality, there has got to be a massive redistribution. The money earned by robots can’t only go to a small elite ― Silicon Valley people, for instance. In my opinion, it should rather be used for the funding of dignified, secure jobs. Preferably in the public sector ― young and old, teaching assistants, gardeners in public parks, custodians and things like that. There is unlimited demand for jobs of that kind. 

‘Some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But robots also potentially could take on the work of a nurse, for that matter.

Rees: True, they could do some routine nursing. But I think people prefer real human beings, just as we’ve already seen that the wealthiest people want personal servants rather than automation. I think everyone would like that if they could afford it, and everyone in old age would like to be cared for by a real person. 

Görlach: In your opinion, what mental capacities will robots have in the near future?

Rees: I think it will be a long time before they will have the all-round ability of humans. Maybe that will never happen. We don’t know. But what is called generalized machine learning, having been made possible by the ever-increasing number-crunching power of computers, is a genuine big breakthrough. These structures of machine learning are a big leap, and they open up the possibility that machines can really learn a lot about the world. It does raise dangers though, which people may worry about. If these computers were to get out of their box one day, they might pose a considerable threat.

Görlach: In your opinion, what sparks new innovation and ideas? Will A.I. and machines foster these processes? 

Rees: Moments of insights are quite rare, sadly. But they do happen, as documented cases suggest (laughs). There is a great saying: “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” You have got to ruminate a lot before you are in a state to have one of these important insights. If you ask when the big advances in scientific understanding happen, they are often triggered by some new observation that in turn was enabled by some new technological advancement. Sometimes that happens just by a combination of people crossing disciplines and bringing new ideas together; sometimes just through luck; sometimes through a special motivation that caused people to focus on some problem; sometimes by people focusing on a new problem that was deemed too difficult previously and therefore didn’t attract attention. 

‘Fortune favors the prepared mind.’

Görlach: Would you say a collective can have an idea or that only individuals have ideas? 

Rees: Many ideas may have depended on the collective to even emerge. In soccer, one person may score the key goal. That doesn’t mean the other 10 people on the team are irrelevant. I think a lot of science is very much like that: the strength of a team is crucial to enable one person to score the goal.

Görlach: Do natural sciences and humanities have the capability to tackle the challenges occurring from these transformations?

Rees: The kinds of issues we are addressing in Cambridge involve social sciences as well as natural sciences. As I said before, because of the societal effect, the consequences of a pandemic now could be worse than they were in the past, despite our more advanced medicine. Also, if we are thinking of ecological problems like food shortages, the issue of food distribution is an economic question, as well as a question of what people are ready to eat. All these things involve fully understanding people’s social attitudes. Are we going to be satisfied eating insects for protein?

Görlach: With the rising amount of aggregated data, it becomes increasingly difficult for the humanities to keep up with natural sciences. How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data? 

Rees: Great question! There are impediments caused by disciplinary boundaries, and we have to encourage people to bridge these. I am gratified that we have some young people who are of this kind: philosophers who are into computer science or biologists who are interested in system analysis. All these things are very important. I think here in Cambridge, we are quite well-advantaged because we traditionally have the college system whereby we have small academic groups in each college. Each of these colleges is a microcosm, so all disciplines cross somewhat. It is therefore particularly propitious as a location for the development of cross-disciplinary work. 

How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data?

Görlach: The blessings of modern innovation seem to be ignored by many policymakers; we see a retreat from globalization and a retreat from digitalization. Is it a disconnect between science and the rest of society?

Rees: The misapplication of science is a problem, of course. As well as the fact that science’s benefits are irregularly distributed. There are some people that don’t benefit, such as traditional factory workers. If you look at the welfare of the average blue-collar worker and their income in real terms ― in the U.S. and in Europe ― it has not risen in the last 20 years; in many respects, their welfare has declined. Their jobs are less secure, and there is more unemployment. But there is one aspect in which they are better off: information technologies. IT spreads far quicker than expected and led to advantages for workers in Europe, the U.S. and Africa.

Görlach: But surely globalization made many poor people less poor and a few rich people even richer.

Rees: Sure, I guess this statement can be made after 25 years of globalization. But it should also be addressed that we now witness a significant backlash in many places in terms of Brexit or the presidential election in the U.S. 

Görlach: How drastically do you think these developments will affect science, the attitude toward it and its funding? 

Rees: Many of the people who use modern information technology, such as cellphones, aren’t aware of the immense technological achievements. Back in the day, developments could be traced back to scientific innovations decades ago, which were mainly funded by either the military or the public. They may not be aware of it, but they appreciate it. So it’s unfair to say people are anti-science. They are worried about science because indeed there is a risk that some of these technologies will run ahead faster than we can control and cope with them. So there is a reasonable ground for some people to be concerned ― for example, about biotech and A.I.

But we also have to bear in mind that for technology to be developed, it’s necessary ― but not sufficient ― for a certain amount of science to be known. We can take areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand. Take one example: it took only 12 years from the first Sputnik to Neil Armstrong’s small step on the moon ― a huge development in 12 years. The motivation for the Apollo program was a political one and has led to huge expenses. Or take commercial flying ― today, we fly in the same way we did 50 years ago, even though in principle we could all fly in supersonics.

These are two examples where the technology exists but there hasn’t been a motive ― neither political nor economic ― to advance these technologies as fast as possible. In the case of IT, there was the obvious demand, which exploded globally in an amazing way.

‘There are areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: Living in a so-called post-factual era, what are “facts” to you as a scientist? 

Rees: In the United Kingdom, those who voted for Brexit voted that way for a variety of reasons. Some who voted for it wanted to give the government a bloody nose; others voted blatantly against their own interest. The workers in South Wales, for example, benefited hugely from the European Union. There is a wide variety of different motives but I don’t think people would say that they voted against technology.

Görlach: Still, there is this ongoing narrative about the fear of globalization and digitalization, and that would also imply the fear of technology. 

Rees: Sure, but that is oversimplified. We can have advanced technology on a smaller scale. I don’t think you can say that technology is always correlated with larger-scale globalization. It allows for robotic manufacturing, and it allows for more customization to individual demand. The internet has allowed a lot of small businesses to flow. 

Görlach: But there seems to be an increasing disconnect in many societies regarding the consensus on which facts matter and how facts are perceived. 

Rees: To understand this attitude you are expressing, we have to realize that there aren’t many facts that are clear and relevant in their own right. In most cases, I think people have reason to doubt. Most economic predictions, for example, have pretty poor records, so you can’t call them facts.

In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical. This is also true for the climate debate. It is true that some people deny what is clear. But the details on climate change are very uncertain. Even those who agree on all will differ in their attitudes toward the appropriate policy. That depends on other things, including ethics. In a lot of recent debates, people agreed about the science. They disagree about the appropriate policies deriving from that facts. For instance: how much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.

‘In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But how then do you judge the developments we now see in many Western societies?

Rees: I think these developments are partly caused by new technologies that have led to new inequalities. Another point is: even if it hasn’t increased, people are now more aware of inequality. In sub-Saharan Africa, people see the kind of life that we live, and they wonder why they can’t live that kind of life. Twenty-five years ago, they were quite unaware of it. This understandably produces more discontent and embitterment. There is a segment of society, a less-educated one, that feels left behind and unappreciated. That is why I think a huge benefit to society will arise if we have enough redistribution to recreate dignified jobs. 

Görlach: What political framework do you think of as an ideal environment for science?  

Rees: In the Soviet Union, they had some of the best mathematicians and physicists, partly because the study of those subjects was fostered for military reasons. People in those areas also felt that they had more intellectual freedom, which is why a bigger fraction of the top intellectuals went into math and physics in Soviet Russia than probably anywhere else ever since. That shows you can have really outstanding scientists surviving in that sort of society. 

Görlach: So the ethical implication is not paramount to having “good” science after all? 

Rees: I think scientists have a special responsibility to be concerned about the implications of their work. Often an academic scientist can’t predict the implications of his work. The inventors of the laser, for instance, had no idea that this technology could be used for eye surgery and DVD discs but also for weaponry. Among the most impressive scientists I have known are the people who returned to academic pursuits after the end of World War II with relief but remained committed to doing what they could to control the powers they had helped to unleash.

In all cases, the scientists supported the making of the bomb in the context of the time. But they were also concerned about proliferation and arms control. It would have been wrong for them to not be concerned.

To make an analogy: if you have teenage son, you may not be able to control what he does, but you sure are a poor parent if you don’t care about what he does. Likewise, if you are a scientist and you created your own ideas, they’re your offspring, as it were. Though you can’t necessarily control how they will be applied, because that is beyond your control, you nonetheless should care and you should do all you can to ensure that your ideas, which you have helped to create, are used for the benefit of mankind and not in a damaging manner. This is something that should be instilled in all students. There should be ethics courses as part of all science courses in university.

‘How much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: What, then, is your motivation as a scientist? 

Rees: I feel I am very privileged to have consistently, over a career of nearly 40 years now, played part in debates on topics that I think are writing the history of science in this period. As we make great, collective, scientific progress, we are able to confront new mysteries, which we couldn’t even have addressed in the past. Many of the questions that were being addressed when I was young have now been solved. Pressing questions couldn’t even have been posed back then.

Of course the science I do is very remote from any application, but it’s of great fascination and a very wide audience is interested in these questions. It certainly adds to my satisfaction that I can actually convey some of these exciting ideas to a wider public. I would get less satisfaction if I could only talk about my work to a few fellow specialists, so I am glad that these ideas can become part of a broader culture.

Görlach: What is the best idea you ever had? 

Rees: I don’t have any sort of singular idea, but I think I have played a role in some of the ideas that have gradually formed over the last 20 or 30 years about how our universe has evolved from a simple beginning to the complex cosmos we see around us that we are a part of. For me, the social part of science is very important ― many ideas emerge out of discussion and cooperation and, of course, out of experiments and observations.

The symbiosis between science and technology ― the old idea is that science eventually leads to an application ― is far too naïve! It goes two ways, because advancements made in academics are facilitated by technology. We only made advancements beyond Aristotle by having much more sensitive detectors and being able to explore space in many ways. If we didn’t have computers or ways of detecting radiation, etc., we would have made no progress because we are no wiser than Aristotle was. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alexander-gorlach/lord-martin-rees-science_b_14905454.html
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Lord Martin Rees is an astrophysicist and the former master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He sat down with The WorldPost for a wide-ranging interview, which has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Alexander Görlach: Out of all great transformations we are going through, from climate change to artificial intelligence to gene editing, what are the most consequential we are about to witness? 

Martin Rees: It depends on what time scale we are thinking about. In the next 10 or 20 years, I would say it’s the rapid development in biotechnology. We are already seeing that it’s becoming easier to modify the genome, and we heard about experiments on the influenza virus to make it more virulent and transmissible. These techniques are developing very fast and have huge potential benefits but unfortunately also downsides.

They are easily accessible and handled. It’s the kind of equipment that’s available at many university labs and many companies. And so the risk of error or terror in these areas is quite substantial, while regulation is very hard. It’s not like regulating nuclear activity, which requires huge special purpose facilities. Biohacking is almost a student-competitive sport.

I am somewhat pessimistic, because even if we do have regulations and protocols for safety, how would we enforce them globally? Obviously we should try and minimize the risk of misuse by error or by design of these technologies and also be concerned about the ethical dilemmas they pose. So my pessimism stems from feelings that what can be done, will be done ― somewhere by someone ― whatever the regulations say.

Görlach: Do you fear that this could happen not only in the realm of crime ― if we think of so-called “dirty bombs,” for example ― but could also be used by governments? Do we need a charter designed to prevent misuse?

Rees: I don’t think governments would use biotech in dangerous ways. They haven’t used biological weapons much, and the reason for that is that the effects are unpredictable.

‘Over the next 10 or 20 years, the greatest transformation we are likely to live through is the rapid development in biotechnology.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: That brings recent Hollywood blockbusters like “Inferno” to mind, where one lunatic tries to sterilize half of mankind through a virus. 

Rees: Several movies have been made about global bio-disasters. Nevertheless, I think it is a realistic scenario, and I think it could lead to huge casualties. Disasters such as the one from “Inferno,” as well as other natural pandemics, could spread globally. The consequences of such a catastrophe could be really serious for society. We have had natural pandemics in historic times ― the “black death,” for example. The reason that governments put pandemics ― natural or artificially produced ― high on their risk register is the danger of societal breakdown. That is what worries me most about the possible impact of pandemics. This is a natural threat, of course. The threat is aggregated by the growing possibility that individuals or small groups could manufacture a more lethal virus artificially.

Görlach: So when speaking of the age of transformation, aspects of security seem paramount to you. Why is that? 

Rees: We are moving into an age when small groups can have a huge and even global impact. In fact, I highlighted this theme in my book Our Final Century, which I wrote 13 years ago. These new technologies of bio and cyber ― as we know ― can cause massive disruption. We have had traditional dissidents and terrorists, but there were certain limits to how much devastation they could cause. And that limit has risen hugely with these new bio and cyber-technologies. I think this is a new threat, and it is going to increase the tension between freedom, security and privacy.

Görlach: Let’s look at another huge topic: artificial intelligence. Is this a field where more uplifting thoughts occur to you?

Rees: If we stay within our time frame of 10-20 years, I think the prime concerns about A.I. are going to be in the realm of biological issues. And everyone agrees that we should try and regulate these. My concern is that it will be hard to make effective regulations. Outside biological consequences, in the long term, of course we need to worry about A.I. and machines learning too much.

In the short term, we have the issue of the disruption of the labor market due to robotics taking over ― not just factory work but also many skilled occupations. I mean routine legal work, medical diagnostics and possibly surgery. Indeed, some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.

We will have to accept a big redistribution in the way the labor market is deployed. And in order to ensure we don’t develop even more inequality, there has got to be a massive redistribution. The money earned by robots can’t only go to a small elite ― Silicon Valley people, for instance. In my opinion, it should rather be used for the funding of dignified, secure jobs. Preferably in the public sector ― young and old, teaching assistants, gardeners in public parks, custodians and things like that. There is unlimited demand for jobs of that kind. 

‘Some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But robots also potentially could take on the work of a nurse, for that matter.

Rees: True, they could do some routine nursing. But I think people prefer real human beings, just as we’ve already seen that the wealthiest people want personal servants rather than automation. I think everyone would like that if they could afford it, and everyone in old age would like to be cared for by a real person. 

Görlach: In your opinion, what mental capacities will robots have in the near future?

Rees: I think it will be a long time before they will have the all-round ability of humans. Maybe that will never happen. We don’t know. But what is called generalized machine learning, having been made possible by the ever-increasing number-crunching power of computers, is a genuine big breakthrough. These structures of machine learning are a big leap, and they open up the possibility that machines can really learn a lot about the world. It does raise dangers though, which people may worry about. If these computers were to get out of their box one day, they might pose a considerable threat.

Görlach: In your opinion, what sparks new innovation and ideas? Will A.I. and machines foster these processes? 

Rees: Moments of insights are quite rare, sadly. But they do happen, as documented cases suggest (laughs). There is a great saying: “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” You have got to ruminate a lot before you are in a state to have one of these important insights. If you ask when the big advances in scientific understanding happen, they are often triggered by some new observation that in turn was enabled by some new technological advancement. Sometimes that happens just by a combination of people crossing disciplines and bringing new ideas together; sometimes just through luck; sometimes through a special motivation that caused people to focus on some problem; sometimes by people focusing on a new problem that was deemed too difficult previously and therefore didn’t attract attention. 

‘Fortune favors the prepared mind.’

Görlach: Would you say a collective can have an idea or that only individuals have ideas? 

Rees: Many ideas may have depended on the collective to even emerge. In soccer, one person may score the key goal. That doesn’t mean the other 10 people on the team are irrelevant. I think a lot of science is very much like that: the strength of a team is crucial to enable one person to score the goal.

Görlach: Do natural sciences and humanities have the capability to tackle the challenges occurring from these transformations?

Rees: The kinds of issues we are addressing in Cambridge involve social sciences as well as natural sciences. As I said before, because of the societal effect, the consequences of a pandemic now could be worse than they were in the past, despite our more advanced medicine. Also, if we are thinking of ecological problems like food shortages, the issue of food distribution is an economic question, as well as a question of what people are ready to eat. All these things involve fully understanding people’s social attitudes. Are we going to be satisfied eating insects for protein?

Görlach: With the rising amount of aggregated data, it becomes increasingly difficult for the humanities to keep up with natural sciences. How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data? 

Rees: Great question! There are impediments caused by disciplinary boundaries, and we have to encourage people to bridge these. I am gratified that we have some young people who are of this kind: philosophers who are into computer science or biologists who are interested in system analysis. All these things are very important. I think here in Cambridge, we are quite well-advantaged because we traditionally have the college system whereby we have small academic groups in each college. Each of these colleges is a microcosm, so all disciplines cross somewhat. It is therefore particularly propitious as a location for the development of cross-disciplinary work. 

How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data?

Görlach: The blessings of modern innovation seem to be ignored by many policymakers; we see a retreat from globalization and a retreat from digitalization. Is it a disconnect between science and the rest of society?

Rees: The misapplication of science is a problem, of course. As well as the fact that science’s benefits are irregularly distributed. There are some people that don’t benefit, such as traditional factory workers. If you look at the welfare of the average blue-collar worker and their income in real terms ― in the U.S. and in Europe ― it has not risen in the last 20 years; in many respects, their welfare has declined. Their jobs are less secure, and there is more unemployment. But there is one aspect in which they are better off: information technologies. IT spreads far quicker than expected and led to advantages for workers in Europe, the U.S. and Africa.

Görlach: But surely globalization made many poor people less poor and a few rich people even richer.

Rees: Sure, I guess this statement can be made after 25 years of globalization. But it should also be addressed that we now witness a significant backlash in many places in terms of Brexit or the presidential election in the U.S. 

Görlach: How drastically do you think these developments will affect science, the attitude toward it and its funding? 

Rees: Many of the people who use modern information technology, such as cellphones, aren’t aware of the immense technological achievements. Back in the day, developments could be traced back to scientific innovations decades ago, which were mainly funded by either the military or the public. They may not be aware of it, but they appreciate it. So it’s unfair to say people are anti-science. They are worried about science because indeed there is a risk that some of these technologies will run ahead faster than we can control and cope with them. So there is a reasonable ground for some people to be concerned ― for example, about biotech and A.I.

But we also have to bear in mind that for technology to be developed, it’s necessary ― but not sufficient ― for a certain amount of science to be known. We can take areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand. Take one example: it took only 12 years from the first Sputnik to Neil Armstrong’s small step on the moon ― a huge development in 12 years. The motivation for the Apollo program was a political one and has led to huge expenses. Or take commercial flying ― today, we fly in the same way we did 50 years ago, even though in principle we could all fly in supersonics.

These are two examples where the technology exists but there hasn’t been a motive ― neither political nor economic ― to advance these technologies as fast as possible. In the case of IT, there was the obvious demand, which exploded globally in an amazing way.

‘There are areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: Living in a so-called post-factual era, what are “facts” to you as a scientist? 

Rees: In the United Kingdom, those who voted for Brexit voted that way for a variety of reasons. Some who voted for it wanted to give the government a bloody nose; others voted blatantly against their own interest. The workers in South Wales, for example, benefited hugely from the European Union. There is a wide variety of different motives but I don’t think people would say that they voted against technology.

Görlach: Still, there is this ongoing narrative about the fear of globalization and digitalization, and that would also imply the fear of technology. 

Rees: Sure, but that is oversimplified. We can have advanced technology on a smaller scale. I don’t think you can say that technology is always correlated with larger-scale globalization. It allows for robotic manufacturing, and it allows for more customization to individual demand. The internet has allowed a lot of small businesses to flow. 

Görlach: But there seems to be an increasing disconnect in many societies regarding the consensus on which facts matter and how facts are perceived. 

Rees: To understand this attitude you are expressing, we have to realize that there aren’t many facts that are clear and relevant in their own right. In most cases, I think people have reason to doubt. Most economic predictions, for example, have pretty poor records, so you can’t call them facts.

In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical. This is also true for the climate debate. It is true that some people deny what is clear. But the details on climate change are very uncertain. Even those who agree on all will differ in their attitudes toward the appropriate policy. That depends on other things, including ethics. In a lot of recent debates, people agreed about the science. They disagree about the appropriate policies deriving from that facts. For instance: how much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.

‘In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But how then do you judge the developments we now see in many Western societies?

Rees: I think these developments are partly caused by new technologies that have led to new inequalities. Another point is: even if it hasn’t increased, people are now more aware of inequality. In sub-Saharan Africa, people see the kind of life that we live, and they wonder why they can’t live that kind of life. Twenty-five years ago, they were quite unaware of it. This understandably produces more discontent and embitterment. There is a segment of society, a less-educated one, that feels left behind and unappreciated. That is why I think a huge benefit to society will arise if we have enough redistribution to recreate dignified jobs. 

Görlach: What political framework do you think of as an ideal environment for science?  

Rees: In the Soviet Union, they had some of the best mathematicians and physicists, partly because the study of those subjects was fostered for military reasons. People in those areas also felt that they had more intellectual freedom, which is why a bigger fraction of the top intellectuals went into math and physics in Soviet Russia than probably anywhere else ever since. That shows you can have really outstanding scientists surviving in that sort of society. 

Görlach: So the ethical implication is not paramount to having “good” science after all? 

Rees: I think scientists have a special responsibility to be concerned about the implications of their work. Often an academic scientist can’t predict the implications of his work. The inventors of the laser, for instance, had no idea that this technology could be used for eye surgery and DVD discs but also for weaponry. Among the most impressive scientists I have known are the people who returned to academic pursuits after the end of World War II with relief but remained committed to doing what they could to control the powers they had helped to unleash.

In all cases, the scientists supported the making of the bomb in the context of the time. But they were also concerned about proliferation and arms control. It would have been wrong for them to not be concerned.

To make an analogy: if you have teenage son, you may not be able to control what he does, but you sure are a poor parent if you don’t care about what he does. Likewise, if you are a scientist and you created your own ideas, they’re your offspring, as it were. Though you can’t necessarily control how they will be applied, because that is beyond your control, you nonetheless should care and you should do all you can to ensure that your ideas, which you have helped to create, are used for the benefit of mankind and not in a damaging manner. This is something that should be instilled in all students. There should be ethics courses as part of all science courses in university.

‘How much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: What, then, is your motivation as a scientist? 

Rees: I feel I am very privileged to have consistently, over a career of nearly 40 years now, played part in debates on topics that I think are writing the history of science in this period. As we make great, collective, scientific progress, we are able to confront new mysteries, which we couldn’t even have addressed in the past. Many of the questions that were being addressed when I was young have now been solved. Pressing questions couldn’t even have been posed back then.

Of course the science I do is very remote from any application, but it’s of great fascination and a very wide audience is interested in these questions. It certainly adds to my satisfaction that I can actually convey some of these exciting ideas to a wider public. I would get less satisfaction if I could only talk about my work to a few fellow specialists, so I am glad that these ideas can become part of a broader culture.

Görlach: What is the best idea you ever had? 

Rees: I don’t have any sort of singular idea, but I think I have played a role in some of the ideas that have gradually formed over the last 20 or 30 years about how our universe has evolved from a simple beginning to the complex cosmos we see around us that we are a part of. For me, the social part of science is very important ― many ideas emerge out of discussion and cooperation and, of course, out of experiments and observations.

The symbiosis between science and technology ― the old idea is that science eventually leads to an application ― is far too naïve! It goes two ways, because advancements made in academics are facilitated by technology. We only made advancements beyond Aristotle by having much more sensitive detectors and being able to explore space in many ways. If we didn’t have computers or ways of detecting radiation, etc., we would have made no progress because we are no wiser than Aristotle was. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 21, 2017

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Polling Methods Explain Why Donald Trump’s Approval Ratings Are All Over The Place

President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have bounced around pretty wildly during his first four weeks in office. There has been a 36-point swing across this period of time ― his net approval has ranged from a disapproval rating 18 points higher than his approval rating to an approval rating 18 points higher than his disapproval rating.

The HuffPost Pollster chart illustrates the instability: 

Several articles have been written about these widely ranging numbers, and the HuffPost Pollster team has been considering the issue. The answer seems to be less about instability in what Americans think of Trump than it is about polling methods. The variation in Trump’s job approval ratings has been driven by a few factors: how and when the poll was conducted, who was polled and whether it was conducted by a specific pollster.

To look at what’s affecting these numbers, I took all of the polls on the new president’s approval rating collected in the HuffPost Pollster database. Seventy-one publicly released polls that meet our disclosure criteria have been conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 (excluding the results by party, which you’ll see on the downloadable spreadsheet).

The HuffPost Pollster database includes a few details about how the polls were conducted in addition to recording the numbers, sample size and dates. For one thing, it considers the poll’s “mode” ― if respondents were contacted and interviewed via live interviewer telephone, internet, or a combination of automated phone and internet. The database also considers the polling “population” ― meaning whether the respondents were American adults, registered voters or likely voters.

Those differences account for the vast majority of the differences in Trump’s net approval rating (percent approve minus percent disapprove). A model that includes the poll’s mode, population, sample size, length of time in the field (number of days), undecided proportion, week of the Trump presidency (numbered 1-4), and with variables for Rasmussen’s and Gallup’s daily trackers explains 86 percent of the variance in the approval ratings across polls. 

Not all of those things are statistically significant predictors of variance, though. The chart below shows the regression model effects with 95 percent confidence intervals. If the vertical blue bar crosses the black horizontal zero line, the effect is not statistically significant ― meaning we can’t say with 95 percent certainty that it affects Trump’s ratings. If the blue vertical bar is completely above or below the zero line, then we can say with 95 percent certainty that the aspect of the poll affects Trump’s ratings. 

The most important factors are population, mode, the timing of the poll ― week of the presidency and how many days the poll was collecting data ― and whether it was conducted by Rasmussen. The only factor that is even remotely attributable to Trump’s actual job performance is the week of the presidency. The rest are about the surveys’ methods.

The model also included the sample size of the poll and the proportion of undecided responses in the poll, but both had effects near zero, so were eliminated from the chart. 

A brief technical note: Daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup only appear on the chart when all of the data are new (e.g., every three days for a three-day rolling average), but this analysis includes all of their daily reports. (R code is available here. Data available here.)

Rasmussen polls are giving Trump the largest bump in his net approval, even accounting for all of the other factors in the model. That can’t be attributed to their using a different mode or population than other polls, since both factors are also included in the model. We don’t have enough information to say what is causing it, but no other pollster has a significant effect on net approval, much less an effect that large.

Polls of registered voters give Trump about a 5 to 6 percentage point boost over those that report results for all American adults. That makes sense: All Americans tend to be more liberal than registered voters. Internet polls give Trump about an 8 percentage point jump in net approval over polls conducted by telephone. And for each additional day the poll is in the field, Trump loses a little more than a percentage point in his net approval rating.

The one variable that probably is related to Trump’s actual performance as president is the timing of the poll. As Trump’s presidency has progressed over the past month, his approval has dipped. He’s lost nearly 3 percentage points in net approval each week across the first four weeks.

Since the Rasmussen effect was so large, I re-ran the model without any of those polls. Nothing changed ― no other pollster stood out in Rasmussen’s absence, and the same variables were statistically significant at very near the same values. That model explained 78 percent of the variance in Trump’s net approval ratings.

All of these effects make a great case for looking at polling aggregates to assess Trump’s approval ratings. There’s no way of knowing which set of numbers most accurately measures what Americans think of the job Trump is doing in office. Unlike election polls, which can be compared to election results, there won’t be a national vote on approving or disapproving of Trump for comparison.

The discrepancy between individual poll results is precisely why polling aggregates are useful to those without the in-depth polling expertise to discern why numbers vary and which might be right. And HuffPost Pollster’s charts allow customization and filtering for those who do have the expertise and want to look at differences by population, mode or pollster. 

So for Trump’s approval ratings, keep calm and look at the polling aggregates. And maybe consider Rasmussen a Trump-friendly outlier.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/17/trump-job-approval_n_14890310.html
div class=”embed-asset embed” data-type=”embed-asset” data-provider=”Embed” data-title=””>

President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have bounced around pretty wildly during his first four weeks in office. There has been a 36-point swing across this period of time ― his net approval has ranged from a disapproval rating 18 points higher than his approval rating to an approval rating 18 points higher than his disapproval rating.

The HuffPost Pollster chart illustrates the instability: 

Several articles have been written about these widely ranging numbers, and the HuffPost Pollster team has been considering the issue. The answer seems to be less about instability in what Americans think of Trump than it is about polling methods. The variation in Trump’s job approval ratings has been driven by a few factors: how and when the poll was conducted, who was polled and whether it was conducted by a specific pollster.

To look at what’s affecting these numbers, I took all of the polls on the new president’s approval rating collected in the HuffPost Pollster database. Seventy-one publicly released polls that meet our disclosure criteria have been conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 (excluding the results by party, which you’ll see on the downloadable spreadsheet).

The HuffPost Pollster database includes a few details about how the polls were conducted in addition to recording the numbers, sample size and dates. For one thing, it considers the poll’s “mode” ― if respondents were contacted and interviewed via live interviewer telephone, internet, or a combination of automated phone and internet. The database also considers the polling “population” ― meaning whether the respondents were American adults, registered voters or likely voters.

Those differences account for the vast majority of the differences in Trump’s net approval rating (percent approve minus percent disapprove). A model that includes the poll’s mode, population, sample size, length of time in the field (number of days), undecided proportion, week of the Trump presidency (numbered 1-4), and with variables for Rasmussen’s and Gallup’s daily trackers explains 86 percent of the variance in the approval ratings across polls. 

Not all of those things are statistically significant predictors of variance, though. The chart below shows the regression model effects with 95 percent confidence intervals. If the vertical blue bar crosses the black horizontal zero line, the effect is not statistically significant ― meaning we can’t say with 95 percent certainty that it affects Trump’s ratings. If the blue vertical bar is completely above or below the zero line, then we can say with 95 percent certainty that the aspect of the poll affects Trump’s ratings. 

The most important factors are population, mode, the timing of the poll ― week of the presidency and how many days the poll was collecting data ― and whether it was conducted by Rasmussen. The only factor that is even remotely attributable to Trump’s actual job performance is the week of the presidency. The rest are about the surveys’ methods.

The model also included the sample size of the poll and the proportion of undecided responses in the poll, but both had effects near zero, so were eliminated from the chart. 

A brief technical note: Daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup only appear on the chart when all of the data are new (e.g., every three days for a three-day rolling average), but this analysis includes all of their daily reports. (R code is available here. Data available here.)

Rasmussen polls are giving Trump the largest bump in his net approval, even accounting for all of the other factors in the model. That can’t be attributed to their using a different mode or population than other polls, since both factors are also included in the model. We don’t have enough information to say what is causing it, but no other pollster has a significant effect on net approval, much less an effect that large.

Polls of registered voters give Trump about a 5 to 6 percentage point boost over those that report results for all American adults. That makes sense: All Americans tend to be more liberal than registered voters. Internet polls give Trump about an 8 percentage point jump in net approval over polls conducted by telephone. And for each additional day the poll is in the field, Trump loses a little more than a percentage point in his net approval rating.

The one variable that probably is related to Trump’s actual performance as president is the timing of the poll. As Trump’s presidency has progressed over the past month, his approval has dipped. He’s lost nearly 3 percentage points in net approval each week across the first four weeks.

Since the Rasmussen effect was so large, I re-ran the model without any of those polls. Nothing changed ― no other pollster stood out in Rasmussen’s absence, and the same variables were statistically significant at very near the same values. That model explained 78 percent of the variance in Trump’s net approval ratings.

All of these effects make a great case for looking at polling aggregates to assess Trump’s approval ratings. There’s no way of knowing which set of numbers most accurately measures what Americans think of the job Trump is doing in office. Unlike election polls, which can be compared to election results, there won’t be a national vote on approving or disapproving of Trump for comparison.

The discrepancy between individual poll results is precisely why polling aggregates are useful to those without the in-depth polling expertise to discern why numbers vary and which might be right. And HuffPost Pollster’s charts allow customization and filtering for those who do have the expertise and want to look at differences by population, mode or pollster. 

So for Trump’s approval ratings, keep calm and look at the polling aggregates. And maybe consider Rasmussen a Trump-friendly outlier.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 20, 2017

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More Seniors Than Ever Are Combining Brain-Affecting Drugs

The number of Americans over the age of 65 who take at least three prescribed psychotropic drugs ― a category that includes opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics and tranquilizers ― doubled over a recent nine-year period, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

What’s more, the rate tripled among seniors in rural America.

“The rise we saw in these data may reflect the increased willingness of seniors to seek help and accept medication for mental health conditions,” Dr. Donovan Maust, the study’s lead author and a geriatric psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine, said in a release. “But it’s also concerning because of the risks of combining these medications.”

For people with certain problems, like chronic pain or sleeplessness, these drugs are often necessary. But regularly taking a cocktail of several medications can be dangerous. There have been warnings, including from the Food and Drug Administration, about the risks of combining pain medications, anti-depressants and sleeping aids. Still, the number of seniors who say they do combine these drugs is on the rise.

Even on their own, many of these drugs affect the central nervous system and pose special risks to older adults who could fall or experience problems with driving, memory and thinking. 

Drugs are being prescribed without a clear diagnosis

The team from the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System analyzed data from a sample of doctors’ offices between 2004 and 2013.

In 2004, only 0.6 percent of doctor visits by people over the age of 65 involved three or more CNS-affecting drugs; the number jumped to 1.4 percent in 2013. If that percentage were applied to the entire U.S. post-65 population, it would mean 3.68 million doctor visits a year involving seniors taking three or more CNS drugs, up from about 1.5 million visits in 2004, according to a press release on the study. 

Perhaps even more worrisome, almost half of seniors taking these drug combinations had not been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition, a pain condition or insomnia ― the three issues these medications are most often prescribed for. Patient-reported complaints appear to be enough to get these prescriptions.

“One of the big concerns to me is the amount of prescribing that occurs without a clear diagnosis,” Maust told The Huffington Post in an email.

“These patients don’t have the condition for which the medication was approved, but still suffer the side effects regardless,” he went on. “For example, if you are down (but don’t actually have Major Depression) and start an antidepressant, there is no evidence that the antidepressant will help your mood, but you could still experience nausea.”

It’s possible that a confluence of factors has led to the increase in prescriptions. On the bright side, the stigma once attached to mental illness has decreased.

“People are more open to using prescription medication for mental illness,” Maust said. “If people are more open to using psychotropic medication in general, then it’s not surprising people might end up on multiple medications.”

Rural America suffers the most

The especially high increase in drug combinations among people in rural areas may be partially due to lack of access to specialty care, Maust said ― meaning primary care doctors “resort to prescribing a lot since they don’t have other resources to offer.”

The country’s rural communities have fewer specialists, so medication tends to take the place of care. “Older adults in general are less likely [than younger adults] to see psychiatrists and access to psychiatrists is especially poor in rural areas,” Maust said, citing research that appeared in the journal Health Affairs last year.

Chronic pain in rural areas has historically been a larger problem than in urban communities. Rural residents report greater frequency and intensity of pain, and experience more pain-related disability and depression, than people with pain who live in urban areas. The disparities in health care between rural and urban areas are widely recognized, and people in rural areas often experience difficulties related to availability, accessibility and affordability of health services.

Meanwhile, painkiller prescriptions are up across the board, which some argue is a result of the U.S. health care system beginning to treat pain as the “fifth vital sign.”   

What you can do about it

It would make sense for everyone ― especially older adults ― to discuss with their doctors each medication they’ve been prescribed, with an eye toward identifying drugs that could be reduced or stopped, Maust said.

Older adults are not immune to the dangers of abuse and addiction, he noted. For older people taking psychiatric drugs, there’s a case to be made that less is sometimes more.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/14/seniors-brain-affecting-drugs_n_14775932.html
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The number of Americans over the age of 65 who take at least three prescribed psychotropic drugs ― a category that includes opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics and tranquilizers ― doubled over a recent nine-year period, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

What’s more, the rate tripled among seniors in rural America.

“The rise we saw in these data may reflect the increased willingness of seniors to seek help and accept medication for mental health conditions,” Dr. Donovan Maust, the study’s lead author and a geriatric psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine, said in a release. “But it’s also concerning because of the risks of combining these medications.”

For people with certain problems, like chronic pain or sleeplessness, these drugs are often necessary. But regularly taking a cocktail of several medications can be dangerous. There have been warnings, including from the Food and Drug Administration, about the risks of combining pain medications, anti-depressants and sleeping aids. Still, the number of seniors who say they do combine these drugs is on the rise.

Even on their own, many of these drugs affect the central nervous system and pose special risks to older adults who could fall or experience problems with driving, memory and thinking. 

Drugs are being prescribed without a clear diagnosis

The team from the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System analyzed data from a sample of doctors’ offices between 2004 and 2013.

In 2004, only 0.6 percent of doctor visits by people over the age of 65 involved three or more CNS-affecting drugs; the number jumped to 1.4 percent in 2013. If that percentage were applied to the entire U.S. post-65 population, it would mean 3.68 million doctor visits a year involving seniors taking three or more CNS drugs, up from about 1.5 million visits in 2004, according to a press release on the study. 

Perhaps even more worrisome, almost half of seniors taking these drug combinations had not been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition, a pain condition or insomnia ― the three issues these medications are most often prescribed for. Patient-reported complaints appear to be enough to get these prescriptions.

“One of the big concerns to me is the amount of prescribing that occurs without a clear diagnosis,” Maust told The Huffington Post in an email.

“These patients don’t have the condition for which the medication was approved, but still suffer the side effects regardless,” he went on. “For example, if you are down (but don’t actually have Major Depression) and start an antidepressant, there is no evidence that the antidepressant will help your mood, but you could still experience nausea.”

It’s possible that a confluence of factors has led to the increase in prescriptions. On the bright side, the stigma once attached to mental illness has decreased.

“People are more open to using prescription medication for mental illness,” Maust said. “If people are more open to using psychotropic medication in general, then it’s not surprising people might end up on multiple medications.”

Rural America suffers the most

The especially high increase in drug combinations among people in rural areas may be partially due to lack of access to specialty care, Maust said ― meaning primary care doctors “resort to prescribing a lot since they don’t have other resources to offer.”

The country’s rural communities have fewer specialists, so medication tends to take the place of care. “Older adults in general are less likely [than younger adults] to see psychiatrists and access to psychiatrists is especially poor in rural areas,” Maust said, citing research that appeared in the journal Health Affairs last year.

Chronic pain in rural areas has historically been a larger problem than in urban communities. Rural residents report greater frequency and intensity of pain, and experience more pain-related disability and depression, than people with pain who live in urban areas. The disparities in health care between rural and urban areas are widely recognized, and people in rural areas often experience difficulties related to availability, accessibility and affordability of health services.

Meanwhile, painkiller prescriptions are up across the board, which some argue is a result of the U.S. health care system beginning to treat pain as the “fifth vital sign.”   

What you can do about it

It would make sense for everyone ― especially older adults ― to discuss with their doctors each medication they’ve been prescribed, with an eye toward identifying drugs that could be reduced or stopped, Maust said.

Older adults are not immune to the dangers of abuse and addiction, he noted. For older people taking psychiatric drugs, there’s a case to be made that less is sometimes more.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 15, 2017

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3 Emerging Travel Trends (and How They’ll Impact Business This Year)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/young-entrepreneur-council/3-emerging-travel-trends_b_14719696.html

2017-02-13-1486992542-3555408-cliffjohnson.jpg
By Cliff Johnson

In the first quarter of the new year, businesses are thinking about how industry trends will affect their culture, their teams and their bottom lines. As co-founder and chief development officer at a fast-growing travel company, I’m especially interested in how travel and hospitality trends will impact businesses this year. Here are a few developments in our industry that could affect those in yours:

The Death of the Big Brand

The influence of well-known brands will be less and less important to travelers in 2017. Instead of gravitating toward widely recognized brands, travelers will continue to rely on marketplaces and reviews when deciding where to spend their money. According to a recent survey conducted by BrightLocal, 84 percent of people now trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. 

As travelers move away from relying on the generic offerings of big brands, they’ll gravitate more toward customized travel experiences, which provide specialized experiences and amenities. Rather than depending on brand recognition alone, companies should cultivate their reputations on sites like Yelp, Glassdoor and TripAdvisor, where user-generated content drives decision-making.

On a similar note, rather than delivering a blandly consistent experience for customers, businesses should look for ways to differentiate their offerings based on users’ patterns and preferences. For example, Netflix does a stellar job of tailoring recommendations to individual users, rather than showing everybody the same lineup.

Going Virtual

Speaking of getting exactly what you’re looking for, virtual reality will become more ubiquitous (and more in demand) this year. In our industry, this means travelers will seek out virtual tours that give them detailed insight into the quality, feature, and amenities of their vacation rental, hotel room or airplane cabin.

Just this year, Airbnb began testing live streaming on its social platforms to market its rentals to users.

Businesses across the board can use virtual reality to appeal to end-users. Virtual reality is already in use in industries like cognitive behavioral therapy, treatment for amputees, automotive design, education and training, law enforcement, and of course entertainment. As virtual reality becomes increasingly ubiquitous, businesses should be thinking about how they can leverage it to create innovative marketing campaigns, improve customer satisfaction and increase market share.

A New Kind of Customer

In 2016, direct flights to unexpected locations like Reykjavík and Dubai became more affordable than ever, helping to push travelers out of their comfort zones. This year, we can expect countries that were once considered off-limits for travel, like Cuba and Colombia, to be popular destinations in 2017.

Budget-conscious young travelers will take advantage of these offerings to pursue spur-of-the-moment adventures in undiscovered countries. According to Hospitality Net, adventure-driven millennials can be expected to dominate travel over the coming year. In fact, millennials, who are now the largest living demographic, will change the way businesses in every sector design and market their products.

The increasing ubiquity of remote work opportunities will make it easier for people to book longer stays that blend work with leisure. For businesses interested in recruiting and catering to millennials — which should be all businesses, given the enormous size and influence of this demographic — extending a remote work option or creating tools that make it easier and more efficient to work away from the office will be key. Industry players that neglect the attitudes of millennials will be leaving money on the table.

This year, we can expect customers in all sectors to expect user-generated and customized content that’s super relevant to them. They’ll look to technology to give them intense, immersive user experiences. And lastly, they’ll expect employers and tools to empower them to work from anywhere. Companies that incorporate the best aspects of the sharing economy and leverage technology to market their offerings to tech-savvy millennials will be in the strongest position to take advantage of these developments.

In 2009, Cliff Johnson co-founded Vacasa, a technology-enabled vacation rental management firm. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 14, 2017

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Republicans will regret confirming Betsy DeVos

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dale-hansen/republicans-will-regret-c_b_14720168.html

The recent appointment of Betsy DeVos has proved one thing – conservatives are far more concerned about politics than they are about educating children. A sampling of their self-serving arrogance can be seen in the numerous Fox News opinion articles from the likes of Bobby Jindal, Ralph Reed, Liz Peek, and the entire New York Post Editorial Board.

The New York Post believes “The War on Betsy DeVos Is All About the Teachers’ Unions”. Conservatives have long believed that unions are bad for the country, but the data doesn’t support that assertion when it comes to teachers. If these conservatives were being honest they would acknowledge that multiple studies show teachers’ unions have a positive impact on educational outcomes, while another study showed that in areas where union membership was greater, children in low income families were more likely to achieve higher incomes.

Beyond that, if unions were the biggest obstacle to improving education, then why do so many countries that outperform the U.S. have higher rates of unionization among their teachers?

Of course the idea that unions need public schools to maintain their power ignores the fact that 12% of charter school teachers are represented by unions.

Ralph Reed feels that the opposition to Betsy DeVos is due to the “liberal war on religion” despite the fact that her faith and religiosity were not a reason given by any of the fifty Senators that voted against her appointment. Having said that, there are clearly concerns that DeVos, who was quoted as saying she wanted to confront the education culture “in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom” while her husband – Dick DeVos – stated it is “certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education”.

Given the multiple cases that have helped define the separation of church and state within public schools, it would seem there is little DeVos can do to push her faith as the Secretary of Education; however, she wouldn’t be the first conservative to advocate for getting public funding to flow to private religious schools. If following the constitution constitutes a war on religion, conservatives should get ready for a battle.

Like many others, Liz Peek pretends our schools system is broken and that the ideas DeVos supports are the answer. Unfortunately for DeVos supporters like Peek, they are woefully uninformed on the problems of education. Data show that we have a poverty problem not an education problem. In fact, when adjusted for poverty, the U.S. test scores rank number one in the world.

The reality is that, if conservatives spent as much money and effort on ending poverty as they do trying to end public education, the system we have in place would already be producing the best results in the world.

Unlike the others that were mainly interested in presenting biased information to make liberals look bad, Bobby Jindal presented biased information to pat himself on the back in addition to making liberals look bad. In Jindal’s mind, DeVos will save education because she agrees with the policies he has followed as the Governor of Louisiana. Jindal goes on to talk up the value of charter schools while ignoring the most recent data that show there is virtually no difference between the performance of charter schools and public schools. Making matters worse is the fact that the data used to show this doesn’t include some of the best performing public schools in the country. This means charter school are only as good as the public schools people have deemed failing. That is faint praise to only be as good as the bad public schools.

Of course Jindal also fails to mention a number of other issues with charter schools that should trouble most people that claim to care about children, like the fact that charter schools spend less on teachers yet don’t save tax payers any money. Charter schools are less transparent, give parents less control over the direction of their child’s education, and take money out of local communities. Despite costs tax payers as much as their local public school, Charter schools serve fewer special needs and English learner students which tend to cost more to educate. Charters weed out students with lower test scores and expel more students, yet still don’t outperform their local public school.

Beyond this, as Fox News contributor Todd Starnes noted, over the last eight years, where charter schools have increased by 47 % under President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. test scores have gone down. Odd that this free market competition has led to a general decline in outcomes given the rhetoric from conservatives.

When you analyze the data you see that charter schools aren’t the panacea of education reform but just another type of school plagued by the problem of poverty.

Jindal also believes that Betsy DeVos has proven she is dedicated to improving the education system because she has “spent millions of dollars of her own money” on education reform. Well Governor, if spending her own money shows the level of commitment DeVos has to our children then it should be mentioned that teachers across the U.S. spend $3.5 billion of their own money to buy supplies for their classroom and for students who can’t afford the necessities. In fact, some of the lowest paid teachers spend the largest percentage of their own money. How is it DeVos’s spending shows her dedication, yet opposing her view of reform while spending a greater percentage of your income directly on students suggests you want kids to fail?

The concerns that most Senators – including two Republicans – had with DeVos was the fact that she had never been part of the public education system as a student, parent, or staff and that she couldn’t answer some simple policy questions that are quintessential to the job.

The question these opinion writers should really be asking themselves is not does DeVos support charters, the reduction of unions, and the transfer of public funds to private institutions, since every person Donald Trump would nominate for this position would have backed these ideas; but rather, is Betsy DeVos the best candidate for this position. It seems ideologically inconsistent to suggest that DeVos’s lack of experience is an asset while also arguing that teachers should be assessed, reviewed, and rated to determine if they are “highly qualified” for their job.

In the end, this hypocrisy and willful ignorance in supporting an unqualified candidate tells you all you need to know about the motives of the conservatives that back Betsy DeVos. Unfortunately, the well-being of America’s children seems to fall a distant second to the political motivations of killing unions, weakening the separation of church and state and enriching the same corporate interests behind the explosion in defense spending.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 13, 2017

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Adele Looks Gorgeous In Green On The 2017 Grammys Red Carpet

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/12/adele-grammys-green-dress_n_14712222.html
p>Adele once again proved she can do no wrong.

The “Hello” songstress ― who usually gravitates toward black ― wowed us on the red carpet at the 2017 Grammys Sunday night in a gorgeous green Givenchy couture dress with intricate beading.

Sporting blond highlights, Adele wore her hair up and kept her look simple with classic black eyeliner, a nude lip and delicate gold jewelry. Everything about this is perfect: 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 12, 2017

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