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World News

Germany sells nearly $1 billion of 30-year negative yielding bonds

Market Watch – Germany sold 30-year bonds at a negative yield for the first time, in another sign of how investors’ desperation for safe assets is inflating their value.

The bond, set to mature in August 2050, has a zero coupon, which means it pays no interest at all. Yet investors were still willing to pay more than face value to buy €869 million ($965 million) worth of the debt, pushing the overall yield on the bond TMBMKDE-30Y, -21.65%   into negative territory, at minus 0.11%. Yields fall as bond prices rise.

The German sale adds to the roughly $15 trillion of negative-yielding bonds outstanding world-wide, many of which are from European governments or are state-sponsored agency bonds. It also adds to the smaller—but still significant—amount of new bonds that have been sold with a negative yield at issue.

More than $3 trillion of bonds have offered a negative yield when they were first sold since 2016, according to data from Barclays . While this is mostly government and agency debt, it also includes more than $11 billion of corporate debt, from companies such as French drugmaker Sanofi SA and German consumer goods group Henkel AG.

Trump calls the Danish Prime Minister ‘nasty’ after she nixes notion of Greenland sale

USA Today – Speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn on Wednesday, President Donald Trump called Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen “nasty” and “not very nice” after she rebuked discussions about a sale of Greenland to the U.S.

“All she had to do was say no,” Trump said, adding that Frederiksen was “not very nice” in her refusal.

“She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the United States of America,” Trump said.

Trump also commented on the original idea to buy Greenland, which functions as a semi-autonomous territory of Denmark.

“It was just an idea. Just a thought,” Trump said.

His interest in buying the island had been reported in media outlets last week, and Trump had said last Sunday, “We’re looking at it.”

Trump had originally planned to visit Denmark on Sept. 2 and 3 during a planned trip to Europe but wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening, he would be “postponing” their meeting because of “Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland.”

Turkey, US agree to launch first phase of Syria safe-zone plan

Al Jazeera – Turkey and the United States have agreed to launch the first phase of putting in place a safe zone in northern Syria after months of dispute over the depth of the zone and who would control it.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his US counterpart Mark Esper spoke over the phone on Wednesday and agreed to flesh out the first phase of implementing the zone, Anadolu news agency reported, adding that delegations from both sides are expected to meet in Ankara “soon”.

U.S. News, Politics & Government

US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Hit Highest Level in 5 Years; 2 More Casualties on Wednesday

CNS – The death of two more U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan on Wednesday brings to 14 the number of Americans killed in combat there this year – the highest annual combat death toll since 2014, and with more than four months of the year yet to run.

The Pentagon has yet to release details of the deaths reported by the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, withholding that information until families of the fallen are notified.

The 14 combat deaths this year compares to 13 in 2018, 11 in 2017, nine in 2016, and 11 in 2015. Forty U.S. personnel were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2014.

Since the start of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which succeeded Operation Enduring Freedom in January 2015, a total of 77 U.S. personnel have died, 57 of them in combat circumstances

And since Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001, 2,428 U.S. personnel have been killed in the conflict, 1,904 of them in combat, according to a tally of official data.

The latest deaths come amid continuing talks between U.S. envoys and the Taliban terrorist group, aimed at finding a negotiated settlement to America’s longest war.

New gun laws take effect Sept. 1

KLTV – Big changes are on the way for Texas gun laws. Beginning Sept. 1, several new laws concerning guns will take effect.

Below are some of the laws passed in the recent legislative session involving guns:

  • SB 535: Removes churches, synagogues, and other established places of worship from the list of locations where Texans cannot carry firearms. This bill clears up some of the existing statue that lawmakers have called “clunky” and “confusing.” Churches may still post signs prohibiting weapons on their premises.
  • HB 302: Will prevent landlords from restricting the carrying of firearms by tenants and says they can’t be restricted by lease agreements.
  • SB 741: Prevents Texas property owners’ associations from banning the carrying and storage of guns on rental property.
  • HB 1387: Eliminates the cap on how many school marshals can carry guns on at public and private schools. Schools that currently participate in the program can only have one marshal per 200 students or per building.
  • HB 1143: Will prevent school districts from regulating how licensed person’s gun or ammunition is store in their vehicle in parking areas, as long as it’s not in plain view.
  • HB 2363: Allows certain foster homes to store firearms and ammunition, only if the guns are stored together and locked away.

RED FLAG Gun Laws: Connecticut Man’s Firearms Seized Because His SON Shared a Meme on Facebook       

Activist Post – Due to the recent mass shootings, there is a major push for so-called “red flag” gun laws at both the state and federal levels. These laws are the latest tool for gun control advocates to confiscate guns from people based upon only tips and suspicion. No crime has to be committed to trigger an investigation or confiscation.

Red flag laws violate multiple rights protected by our Constitution. The Hill has an excellent article on how red flag laws violate more than the 2nd Amendment, including:

Hopefully you’ll never commit a mass shooting, murder, or violent assault. But while you might not have a criminal connection to such individuals, you do share at least one thing in common: you both have unalienable rights. The right to face your accuser. The right to due process. The right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Every one of these rights are explicitly violated under red flag laws. (source)

What could possibly go wrong?

Just ask Brandon Wagshol and his dad, from the anti-gunner haven state, Connecticut.

Brandon’s No Innocent Angel

Before I write anything else, let me be clear. Wagshol is not some squeaky-clean, innocent angel. He wrote some vile racist and transphobic tweets. He also seemed to taunt the FBI in his tweets, which certainly isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do. That being said, holding bigoted views is not the same things as acting on those views. Voicing his bigoted opinions, while disgusting, is not a criminal act. The First Amendment protects his right to voice his hate in the same way that it protects flag burning. No one has to like it, but it’s not a criminal act.

Wagshol may also have been caught in a few lies made on Facebook. According to Norwalk police Lt. Terry Blake:

A Facebook page for the younger Wagshol said he was a former U.S. Marine and worked at the Department of Homeland Security as a janitor. Blake said both of these statements on Facebook are untrue. (source)

Wagshol also admitted to purchasing four 30-round magazines at a Bass Pro Shop in New Hampshire to circumvent Connecticut law limiting magazines to ten rounds. Wagshol is now facing four felony counts for possessing those magazines. Whether or not you support Connecticut’s ban on 30-round magazines, he will be found guilty under current CT law for possessing them.

Finally, Wagshol did admit to ordering a kit to build an AR.  A lot of preppers and gun enthusiasts have done the exact same thing. That’s more than understandable with the government chomping at the bit to enact more gun control.  Wagshol will likely be in legal trouble in CT for that too.

Be Careful What You Post on Social Media

This is where a “concerned citizen” stepped in. Wagshol shared a meme on Facebook that someone found scary.

According to News12 Connecticut:

FBI investigators say the Norwalk Police Department received a tip about Wagshol’s activity from a concerned citizen. The joint investigation began after the FBI received a tip that Wagshol was trying to buy high capacity magazines from out of state.

Police say all the weapons recovered from the home are legally owned and registered to Wagshol’s father, but that the 22-year-old had access to them. Investigators also recovered body armor with a titanium plate, camouflage shirt, pant and belt, ballistic helmet, tactical gloves, camouflage bag and computers. (source)

That’s right. The confiscated guns belong to his father. The son “had access” to them by living in the same house, but they are his father’s property. His father didn’t do anything wrong, but his property has been seized nonetheless.

This might be a good time to remind your own kids, both young and adult, to watch what they say on social media because it has real-world implications.

Anti-vaccine activist assaults California vaccine law author, police say

MSN – An anti-vaccine activist was cited for assault by the Sacramento Police Department on Wednesday after he livestreamed a physical confrontation with state Sen. Richard Pan, author of legislation to restrict vaccine exemptions.

Pan, a Democrat from Sacramento, was pushed from behind by Kenneth Austin Bennett, who challenged the senator in the 2018 primary but did not qualify for the general election. Bennett filed a recall petition against Pan earlier this year alleging the senator was committing treason by authoring bills to increase vaccination rates in the state.

A video Bennett posted to Facebook shows he confronted Pan near the state Capitol and was livestreaming when he struck him. Afterward, Bennett said on the video that “I probably shouldn’t have done that.” The Sacramento Police Department said Bennett was cited for assault and released. The Los Angeles Times was unable to reach Bennett for comment.

Pan, who was not injured in the attack, was walking with Democratic Assemblyman Ash Kalra during the incident.

Bennett posted the video with the caption: “yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us and for treason.” He added in the video that if Pan “Got what he deserved he would be hanged for treason for assaulting children, for misrepresenting the truth.”

Pan’s spokeswoman Shannan Velayas said the senator has been routinely targeted by anti-vaccine activists since he introduced a bill in 2015 that created strict vaccine requirements for schoolchildren. Pan is carrying a bill that would further tighten California’s vaccine laws, prompting a new round of threats.

Unconventional warfare training being staged in 21 North Carolina counties, Army says

Charlotte Observer – A series of Special Forces military training exercises — including gunfire with blanks — is being staged across 21 North Carolina counties starting Aug. 30, and the Army is telling the public not to be alarmed at the suspicious-looking activity.

Known as Robin Sage training, the unconventional warfare exercises can be likened to live-action role playing in the extreme, with hostile engagement playing out between Special Forces students, volunteer civilians and soldiers out of Fort Bragg. It continues through Sept. 12, said a press release.

Heavily populated counties like Wake, Cumberland and Union counties are among training sites, according to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg.

The students will match wits with more seasoned soldiers, who will “act as realistic opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters,” officials said in a release.

Bernie Sanders unleashes $16 trillion climate plan that builds on Green New Deal

USA Today – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has released a $16.3 trillion climate plan that builds on the Green New Deal and calls for the United States to move to renewable energy across the economy by 2050 and declare climate change a national emergency.

While the Vermont senator had already endorsed the sweeping Democratic proposal to combat climate change and had teamed up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on climate legislation, Sanders’ climate plan provides the most detail yet on how he envisions the climate change moonshot taking shape if he is elected president.

Sanders describes his plan, released Thursday, as a “ten-year, nationwide mobilization centered on equity and humanity” that would create 20 million new jobs. The Green New Deal resolution, which Ocasio-Cortez put forth with Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, calls on the nation to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2030 and to shift away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Among Sanders’ ideas is sourcing 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-emissions power. He is calling for committing $2.18 trillion in grants for low- and middle-income families to weatherize and retrofit their homes and businesses, with the goal of reducing residential energy consumption by 30%. He would charge the Energy Department with making sure that both new and existing commercial structures, as well as high-income home owners, meet his administration’s energy retrofitting goals.

Sanders also is calling for an overhaul of the nation’s transportation system by investing in electric vehicles, high-speed rail and expanded public transit. He calls for spending $526 billion in modernizing the electrical grid across the United States.

San Francisco board rebrands ‘convicted felon’ as ‘justice-involved person,’ sanitizes other crime lingo

Fox – Crime-ridden San Francisco has introduced new sanitized language for criminals, getting rid of words such as “offender” and “addict” while changing “convicted felon” to “justice-involved person.”

The Board of Supervisors adopted the changes last month even as the city reels from one of the highest crime rates in the country and staggering inequality exemplified by pervasive homelessness alongside Silicon Valley wealth.

The local officials say the new language will help change people’s views about those who commit crimes.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, from now on a convicted felon or an offender released from custody will be known as a “formerly incarcerated person,” or a “justice-involved” person or just a “returning resident.”

A juvenile “delinquent” will now be called a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”

And drug addicts or substance abusers, meanwhile, will become “a person with a history of substance use.”

“We don’t want people to be forever labeled for the worst things that they have done,” Supervisor Matt Haney told the newspaper. “We want them ultimately to become contributing citizens, and referring to them as felons is like a scarlet letter that they can never get away from.”

The sanitized language, though unlikely to do much to address the crime problem, may result in some convoluted descriptions of crimes in the future.

Obama’s Harvard Professor: Trump Is a ‘F*****g Racist’; Wants to ‘Reverse Outcome of the Civil War’

Infowars – Long time anti-Trump professor Laurence Tribe called the President a “fucking racist” Wednesday, and declared that Trump wants to “reverse the outcome of the Civil War.”

Tribe linked to a Daily Kos hit piece, which declared that Trump was racist for suggesting he is looking into ending US birthright citizenship, meaning that babies born in the country wouldn’t automatically become US citizens.

“Over half a million lives were lost in that sacred cause.” Tribe tweeted, referring to the Civil War.

“If you agree we can’t let this lunatic get away with that, SAY SO!!! If you’re silent, you’re complicit.” the Constitutional Law professor also stated.

Tribe is a fervent anti-Trumper. He even teaches a class at Harvard dedicated to the “impeachment and removal by other means” of President Trump.

Tribe, who was Barack Obama’s law professor, has repeatedly called for Trump to be impeached, has labeled the President ‘dangerous’, and even charged that Trump could fabricate ‘another national emergency’ specifically with the goal of staying in power in 2020.

Economy & Business

U.S. budget deficit set to hit $1 trillion 2 years earlier than expected

Axios – A new report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that the U.S. budget deficit is expected to breach $1 trillion by 2020, two years earlier than previously projected.

The big picture: The growing deficit has been driven by President Trump’s tax cuts, increased government spending and rising health care costs. The shortfall is expected to be widened by the recent budget deal reached by Trump and Congress to lift spending caps by $320 billion, as well as the emergency spending package that Congress passed to help manage the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Washington Post reports.

By the numbers: The U.S. budget deficit is expected to hit $960 billion this year and reach a $1.2 trillion average per year between 2020 and 2029.

  • The deficit projection for 2019 is up $63 billion from the CBO’s last report in May.
  • The CBO says Trump’s tariffs have affected business investment and are expected to make gross domestic product 0.3% smaller by 2020 than it otherwise would have been. Additional tariffs could curb growth even further.
  • Trump’s trade wars are projected to reduce average income by $580 per U.S. household, The Hill reports.

Of note: CBO director Phillip Swagel told CNBC the deficit is expected to be even more strained after 2029, as a boom in aging population, increased interest costs and health care spending will have taken its toll.

Between the lines: Axios’ Jim VandeHei notes that Trump “promised in a 2016 interview, with the WashPost’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, to wipe out the national debt in eight years. Instead, he’s increased the deficit and inflated the debt by trillions.”

Go deeper … Chart: How the U.S. budget deficit has fluctuated since the 1980s

U.S. created 500,000 fewer jobs since 2018 than previously reported, new figures show

Market Watch – Turns out hiring wasn’t nearly as strong in 2018 and early 2019 as the government initially reported — by about a half-million jobs.

The economy had about 501,000 fewer jobs as of March 2019 than the Bureau of Labor Statistics initially calculated in its survey of business establishments. That’s the largest revision since the waning stages of the Great Recession in 2009.

The newly revised figures indicate the economy didn’t get a huge boost last year from President Trump’s tax cuts and higher federal spending. They also signal the economy is a bit weaker than previously believed and could give the Federal Reserve even greater reason to cut interest rates in September.

“This makes some sense, as the 223,000 average monthly increase in 2018 seemed too good to be true in light of how tight the labor market has become and how much trouble firms are said to be having finding qualified workers,” said chief economist Stephen Stanley of Amherst Pierpont Securities.

The average 223,000 monthly increase in employment in 2018 — the strongest in three years — could be trimmed to 180,000 to 185,000, economists estimate.

One Of The Largest “Too Big To Fail” Banks In America Boldly Declares That “The Wheels For A Slowdown Are In Motion”       

Michael Snyder – Now even one of the biggest banks in the entire country is openly admitting that a “slowdown” is upon us.  Over the past week or so, the mainstream media has been filled with chatter about the possibility of a recession and what that would mean for the Trump campaign in 2020, and we continue to get more evidence on a daily basis that economic activity really is decelerating.  All of the numbers are pointing in the same direction, and I am going to share some brand new figures with you in this article.  But first, I want to address what Morgan Stanley just released to the public. In a note that was just published, Morgan Stanley’s chief economist unequivocally stated that “the wheels for a slowdown are in motion”

The downtrend in some global economies is becoming contagious as weakness in the manufacturing sector begins to spread, according to Morgan Stanley, which warned clients that “the wheels for a slowdown are in motion.”

“Even as we have been revising our growth projections lower, we continue to highlight that the risks remain decidedly skewed to the downside,” Chetan Ahya, the bank’s chief economist, warned in a note published Tuesday. “We expect that if trade tensions escalate further … we will enter into a global recession (i.e., global growth below 2.5%Y) in three quarters.”

When “too big to fail” banks throw in the towel and start warning of “a global recession”, that is a really bad sign.

Energy & Environment

Blown Away: Wind tosses restaurant worker onto roof

WNKY – Two people were hurt Monday night while trying to secure an event tent during a storm in Clemson, South Carolina.

Managers at the Esso Club said they set up a large event tent earlier that morning for a Clemson University event. A storm hit the area later that afternoon and began to blow the plastic tables, chairs and tent around the parking lot.

Employees at the Esso Club raced outside to try to secure the tent during the storm, the managers said, and that’s when a strong gust lifted the tent into the air, along with two Esso Club employees who were attempting to hold it down.

Samuel Foster was lifted into the air and hit the gutter on the roof on his way down.

“It took a second to register, but then I’m, like, 20 feet in the air. And all I could think about was, ‘I’ve got to land on this roof,’” Foster said.

Science & Technology

Amazon, Microsoft, ‘putting world at risk of killer AI’: study

AFP – Amazon, Microsoft and Intel are among leading tech companies putting the world at risk through killer robot development, according to a report that surveyed major players from the sector about their stance on lethal autonomous weapons.

Dutch NGO Pax ranked 50 companies by three criteria: whether they were developing technology that could be relevant to deadly AI, whether they were working on related military projects, and if they had committed to abstaining from contributing in the future.

“Why are companies like Microsoft and Amazon not denying that they’re currently developing these highly controversial weapons, which could decide to kill people without direct human involvement?” said Frank Slijper, lead author of the report published this week.

The use of AI to allow weapon systems to autonomously select and attack targets has sparked ethical debates in recent years, with critics warning they would jeopardize international security and herald a third revolution in warfare after gunpowder and the atomic bomb.

A panel of government experts debated policy options regarding lethal autonomous weapons at a meeting of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva on Wednesday.

Google, which last year published guiding principles eschewing AI for use in weapons systems, was among seven companies found to be engaging in “best practice” in the analysis that spanned 12 countries, as was Japan’s Softbank, best known for its humanoid Pepper robot.

Twenty-two companies were of “medium concern,” while 21 fell into a “high concern” category, notably Amazon and Microsoft who are both bidding for a $10 billion Pentagon contract to provide the cloud infrastructure for the US military.

Others in the “high concern” group include Palantir, a company with roots in a CIA-backed venture capital organization that was awarded an $800 million contract to develop an AI system “that can help soldiers analyse a combat zone in real time.”

“Autonomous weapons will inevitably become scalable weapons of mass destruction, because if the human is not in the loop, then a single person can launch a million weapons or a hundred million weapons,” Stuart Russell, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley told AFP on Wednesday.

Google DeepMind Co-Founder Placed on Leave From AI Lab

Bloomberg – The co-founder of DeepMind, the high-profile artificial intelligence lab owned by Google, has been placed on leave after controversy over some of the projects he led.

Mustafa Suleyman runs DeepMind’s “applied” division, which seeks practical uses for the lab’s research in health, energy and other fields. Suleyman is also a key public face for DeepMind, speaking to officials and at events about the promise of AI and the ethical guardrails needed to limit malicious use of the technology.

“Mustafa is taking time out right now after 10 hectic years,” a DeepMind spokeswoman said. She didn’t say why he was put on leave.

Suleyman did not return multiple email requests for comment. He founded DeepMind in 2010 alongside current Chief Executive Officer Demis Hassabis. Four years later, Google bought DeepMind for 400 million pounds (currently $486 million), an ambitious bet on the potential of AI that set off an expensive race in Silicon Valley for specialists in the field.

DeepMind soon began working on health-care research, eventually creating a division dedicated to the area. Suleyman, nicknamed “Moose” and whose mother was a nurse, led the development of the DeepMind Health team, building it into a 100-person unit.

But DeepMind was heavily criticized for its work in the U.K. health sector. DeepMind Health’s first product was a mobile app called Streams that was originally designed to help doctors identify patients at risk of developing acute kidney injury. In July 2017, the U.K.’s data privacy watchdog said DeepMind’s partner in the project, London’s Royal Free Hospital, illegally gave DeepMind access to 1.6 million patient records. Suleyman apologized in a statement at the time.

In late 2018, Alphabet Inc.’s Google said the team that created Streams would join a new Google division called Google Health. The DeepMind Health brand was shelved, and Suleyman was removed from the day-to-day running of the unit.

Suleyman sat on an external panel of experts Google created to review thorny ethical issues related to AI. Bloomberg News also reported that he served on a smaller group within the company to vet particular projects, formed after an uproar over a Google AI contract with the Pentagon.

Health

‘Forever chemicals’ linked to cancer and developmental issues lurk in the blood of almost every American. Here’s how to avoid them.

Business Insider – A class of “forever chemicals” is found in the bloodstreams of 99% of Americans.

Last month, Congress held a hearing about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have been linked to cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and developmental issues. The chemicals can linger in water and air for thousands of years, so consuming or inhaling them means they could stay in the body for life — hence the “forever” nickname.

At the July hearing, Harley Rouda, chairman of the House environmental subcommittee, called PFAS a “national emergency.”

Here’s how to reduce your PFAS exposure.

Ski wax contains PFAS, but it’s mostly a problem for people who work with the product.

When it comes to toxic chemicals, the dose matters: People exposed to PFAS on a regular basis generally have a higher risk of experiencing negative health effects.

Technicians who work with ski wax, a product that often contains PFAS, may be particularly vulnerable.

In 2010, a Swedish study found that workers who waxed skis as part of their job showed elevated levels of PFAS in their blood compared to the general population. That was likely because the workers ingested chemicals after they were released into the air.

But DeWitt said you don’t have to work with PFAS constantly to be susceptible to health problems.

“We haven’t yet fully recognized all of the ways in which people are susceptible,” she said. “There are some individuals who might experience adverse health effects at very low concentrations of PFAS in their blood.”

PFAS can be found in personal-care products like hairspray and foundation.

In 2018, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency found PFAS in various beauty products, including foundation, concealer, hairspray, and eyeliner.

That research relied on data from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which examined 75,000 cosmetics and personal-care products, nearly 200 of which contained PFAS. The EWG has made its database public so consumers can research products on their own.

DeWitt said the Green Science Policy Institute, which she has worked with, is also helpful for screening household items.

Carpets or rugs are a primary source of PFAS exposure for toddlers and infants.

Determining whether a household item contains PFAS is “a really challenging situation,” since there are nearly 5,000 variants of the chemicals, DeWitt said. Even as a PFAS researcher, she can’t be certain that a new carpet she purchases is PFAS-free, she said.

In 2018, a group of watchdog organizations tested a small sample of US carpets and found that six of the nation’s largest carpet manufacturers used PFAS in their products.

The National Center for Environmental Health has also identified carpeting as a major source of PFAS exposure for infants and toddlers, who are likely to put their hands in their mouths after touching the material.

PFAS can leach out of microwave-popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers.

DeWitt said food packaging can be a direct source of exposure to PFAS, since the chemicals can leach from the package into your food.

In March 2018, Washington became the first US state to ban PFAS from food packaging, including microwave-popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers. A few months later, San Francisco banned PFAS from single-use food containers, utensils, napkins, plates, straws, trays, and lids.

Last year, three environmental watchdog groups found PFAS in paper to-go boxes and one type of sandwich wrapper used at Whole Foods. The items were replaced with PFAS-free versions.

Drinking water could also be contaminated with PFAS in areas where firefighting foam was used, like near a military base.

Starting in the 1970s, PFAS were used in firefighting foam for military training exercises and emergency response efforts. The chemicals seeped into groundwater, contaminating water supplies and locally grown food.

A map from the Environmental Working Group shows more than 700 areas that have been contaminated with PFAS across 49 states in the US. More than 200 of these locations are around military sites. PFAS have also been found near industrial plants, where manufacturing companies may have dumped the chemicals into the environment.

CDC probes 153 possible cases of lung illness associated with vaping

Axios – The CDC is working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state health officials to gather information on new cases of lung-related illnesses possibly caused by vaping, per a Wednesday press release.

What’s happening: 16 states have reported 153 possible cases of “severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette product use” between June 28 and August 20, according to the CDC. There is no evidence that an infectious disease is the culprit of the illnesses and no deaths have been reported, per the CDC.

  • Those affected are reporting a gradual onset of symptoms: chest pain, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath. Some also report vomiting, fatigue, and diarrhea.

Why People Are Adding Mushrooms to Everything From Coffee to Smoothies

Real Simple – Mushrooms not only taste delicious, but they’re also a nutritional powerhouse. While most people consume mushrooms in grilled, sautéed, or roasted form, a growing number of brands have come out with mushroom-based coffee, hot chocolate, and even matcha, as well as mushroom powder blends that you can mix into smoothies and juices.

“Mushrooms are packed with a long list of nutrients. For example, they contain significant amounts of B vitamins, which help give you energy and are involved with repairing cell damage,” says Dan Nguyen, a registered dietician in New York. “Mushrooms are also a good source of potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure and, if exposed to a UV light before or after they’re harvested, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D, which is involved in many things like bone health, the immune system and heart health.” This is very important to underline because very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. “Mushrooms are also packed with antioxidants and fiber,” he adds.

There are many types of mushrooms, however, and while these benefits apply generally to all of them, each type of mushroom provides its unique set of advantages. “For example, white buttons provide 19 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B3 (also known as niacin), which may promote healthy skin and digestion,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietician and nutrition expert. “One serving of cooked shiitake mushrooms is an excellent source of copper, offering 85 percent of the recommended daily intake, which helps keep bones and nerves healthy, while one serving of cremini mushrooms is an excellent source of selenium, containing 40 percent of the recommended daily intake. Selenium may help the immune system function properly, so it’s a great mushroom to add to winter dishes, like soups, stews, and casseroles.” Lastly, she singles out maitake (aka Hen of the Woods): “One serving of these mushrooms contains 119 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D.”

Smartphones may be leaking more radiation than we think

CNET – Apple and Samsung phones released over the last three years may be producing radio frequency radiation at levels higher than current Federal Communications Commission limits allow, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune. Scientists and consumers have shown increasing concern that radio frequency radiation from our devices may have adverse effects on human health, especially with 5G rolling out across the globe. The new report demonstrates that older phone models, operating in the 3G and 4G bands, have the potential to exceed the FCC’s safe limits by up to as much as five times.

Smartphone manufacturers are required to abide by the FCC guidelines in regard to radio frequency radiation absorption by the body. The current measure used to determine the safety limit is known as the “specific absorption rate,” or SAR, and the FCC set this at 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6W/kg), averaged over 1 gram of tissue. The FCC states that this limit is “well below that at which laboratory testing indicates … adverse health effects could occur.”

For a phone to receive approval, the FCC states that any device will never exceed the maximum SAR level, but the Tribune’s investigation shows a handful of older models do.

The Tribune’s extensive investigation tested 11 different models: Four iPhone models (the iPhone 7, 8, 8 Plus and X), three Samsung Galaxys (the S8, S9 and J3), three Motorolas (the e5, e5 Play and g6 Play) and a BLU Vivo 5 Mini. The phones were tested by RF Exposure Lab, an FCC accredited laboratory in San Marcos, California. The investigators placed smartphones within 2, 5, 10 or 15 millimeters of a “simulated body” — a mix of sugar, water and salt — and measured levels of exposure with a series of probes.

The results show that iPhone 7 radio frequency absorption levels were among the worst offenders, with a SAR almost two to four times higher than the safety limit when tested 2 mm from the body. The three Samsung Galaxy models also showed higher absorption at the same distance, with the Galaxy S8 topping out with a reading of 8.22W/kg, five times higher than the current standard.

The report states that the FCC will now conduct its own tests over the coming months but they told the Tribune the testing was “not as comprehensive” as those usually filed for official compliance reports.

Native Immunity

Nourishing Traditions – I have long believed that native peoples—in the Americas, in Africa and in the South Seas—began to suffer from infectious disease as soon as they came in contact with European colonists. In fact, many have asked me how such healthy people could succumb to disease so quickly.

My answer—and not a very good one—was that in traditional cultures that had not had contact with infectious disease, the people did not need to build a strong immune system during growth, so that the nutrient-dense diet could be vectored into building a strong body, keen eyesight and good hearing; and I theorized that having never consumed sugar and therefore not needing a supercharged pancreas to produce a lot of insulin, these people were much more vulnerable to the effects of sugar when they consumed it. This explanation is just another version of the “immunologic inadequacy” and “lack of genetic resistance” arguments that allow doctors and public health officials to ignore the main cause of disease, whether in the Old or New Worlds: malnutrition.

I recently learned that native peoples did not contract infectious disease immediately on contact with the Europeans. For example, fishermen and early explorers visited the northeastern waters along the Atlantic coast during the 15th and 16th centuries, yet we have no historical commentary on the existence of disease or epidemics among the aboriginal peoples during that time. According to Raymond Obomsawin, in his document “Historical and Scientific Perspectives on the Health of Canada’s first Peoples (2007), “Since the prime purpose of this early contact was to commercially exploit natural resources, any visible evidence of the physical weakness or sickness of the indigenous inhabitants would surely have excited some keen interest.”  Instead these early reports marveled at the Native American’s good health and robust constitution.

Extra News

Seeing Is Believing: Fake News May Lead To False Memories, Voter Study Finds

Study Finds – “Fake news” is a term that has been impossible to escape in the United States over the past few years. Misinformation and fabricated stories, especially those posted on social media, played a troublingly large role in the 2016 election, and unfortunately there is every indication that this trend is going to continue heading into another big election year in 2020. But, just how persuasive is fabricated news? According to a joint study conducted by both American and Irish researchers, fake news almost certainly influences voters, and can even cause many to form false memories based on fabricated news reports they’ve seen.

After analyzing voters in the week leading up to the 2018 Irish referendum on abortion, researchers say that individuals are more likely to form false memories based off of a fake news report if it aligns with their political beliefs. Furthermore, the more a topic elicits an emotional response, the more likely a person is to form false memories that support their preconceived notions. With this in mind, the study’s authors say they expect fake and fabricated news to have a similar effect on U.S. voters in 2020.

“In highly emotional, partisan political contests, such as the 2020 US Presidential election, voters may ‘remember’ entirely fabricated news stories,” explains lead author Gillian Murphy of University College Cork in a media release. “In particular, they are likely to ‘remember’ scandals that reflect poorly on the opposing candidate.”

A total of 3,140 potential Irish voters were surveyed. Each person was asked about their voting plans heading into the abortion referendum. Then, each participant was given six news reports. Two of those news stories were completely fabricated, and consisted of political figures on both sides of the abortion debate engaging in illegal or immoral behavior. After reading each of the six news stories, participants were asked if they had heard about the depicted events before, and if so, they were requested to recall specific memories.

Next, participants were told that some of the news stories they had just read were false, and were asked to identify which reports they believed to be fake. Each study subject also completed a cognitive test.

Almost half of the participants reported a memory pertaining to at least one completely fabricated news story, and many even recalled intricate details about a fake story. Interestingly, those in favor of legalized abortion were more likely to remember a false claim about anti-abortion figures, and those against legalized abortion were more likely to recall a false memory about pro-abortion political figures.

Newsweek: Time to Rethink Taboo on Cannibalism?

Breitbart – Since cannibalism is found throughout the animal kingdom and therefore is something natural, perhaps it is time for humans to rethink the “ultimate taboo” against eating human flesh, Newsweek proposes in an article Wednesday.

There is nothing necessarily unethical or unreasonable about eating human flesh, declare psychologists Jared Piazza and Neil McLatchie of Lancaster University, but careful reasoning over the merits of cannibalism is often “overridden by our feelings of repulsion and disgust.”

While not going so far as to recommend cannibalism, saying “there is no need to overcome our repulsion for the foreseeable future,” the two authors suggest that humans could master their aversion for human flesh if they needed to.

“Many people develop disgust for all kinds of meat, while morticians and surgeons quickly adapt to the initially difficult experience of handling dead bodies,” they note. “Our ongoing research with butchers in England suggests that they easily adapt to working with animal parts that the average consumer finds quite disgusting.”

Moreover, the psychological revulsion experienced over the prospect of consuming human flesh is not the product of reason and may even contradict reason, they argue in Wednesday’s article, which originally appeared last week in The Conversation.

“Survivors of the famous 1972 Andes plane crash waited until near starvation before succumbing to reason and eating those who had already died,” they propose.

All sorts of animals eat members of their own species, from spadefoot tadpoles and Australian redback spiders to gulls and pelicans, they state.

And cannibalism can even be found among mammals, they add, such as with many rodents as well as bears, lions, and chimpanzees.

Yet humans seem entrenched in their conviction that anthropophagy is simply wrong, no matter how many conditions are placed on hypothetical scenarios.

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