Monthly Archives: August 2016

Hillary Clinton Used Bleachbit To Wipe Emails

Slashdot | August 26 2016

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin:

The open-source disk cleaning application, BleachBit, got quite a decent ad pitch from the world of politics after it was revealed lawyers of the presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, used the software to wipe her email servers. Clinton is currently in hot water, being accused of using private servers for storing sensitive emails. “[South Carolina Representative, Trey Gowdy, spoke to Fox News about Hillary Clinton’s lawyers using BleachBit to wipe the private servers. He said:] ‘She and her lawyers had those emails deleted. And they didn’t just push the delete button; they had them deleted where even God can’t read them. They were using something called BleachBit. You don’t use BleachBit for yoga emails or bridesmaids emails. When you’re using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see.'” Two of the main features that are listed on the BleachBit website include “Shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery,” and “Overwrite free disk space to hide previously deleted files.” These two features would make it pretty difficult for anyone trying to recover the deleted emails.

Slashdot reader ahziem adds:

The IT team for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the open source cleaning software BleachBit to wipe systems “so even God couldn’t read them,” according to South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy on Fox News. His comments on the “drastic cyber-measure” were in response to the question of whether emails on her private Microsoft Exchange Server were simply about “yoga and wedding plans.” Perhaps Clinton’s team used an open-source application because, unlike proprietary applications, it can be audited, like for backdoors. In response to the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, privacy expert Bruce Schneier advised in an article in which he stated he also uses BleachBit, “Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software.” Ironically, Schneier was writing to a non-governmental audience.

Have any Slashdotters had any experience with BleachBit? Specifically, have you used it for erasing “yoga emails” or “bridesmaids emails?”

Is Toothpaste Dangerous to Your Health?

Larry Schwartz | August 27 2016 | Naked Capitalism (cross posted from Alternet)

Jerri-Lynn here. This article summarizes the sad state of affairs of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of personal care products, with companies allowed to practice self-regulation. The article also embeds a link to a New York Times article describing legislation that would give the FDA authority to initiate recalls of such products and describes the lobbying muscle, both pro and anti, that has lined up around this initiative (click on current problems below to access that article).

Note that the current status quo, under which Canada, Europe, and Japan follow the “precautionary principle” and don’t authorize the use of chemicals until it is determined they are safe, would be threatened if the Obama administration gets its way and secures passage of trade agreements that incorporate Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms.

Moreover, such ISDS provisions, if enacted, would also allow potential challenges to current US regulations, and also potential future regulations, if major political change occurred and US regulators sought actively to increase the level of US health and safety or other regulatory protections.

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By Larry Schwartz, a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and American history. Cross posted from Alternet.

The average American will use 20 gallons of toothpaste in their lifetime, and a new study by the Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit organization that studies ecological best practices, makes clear we should all be concerned about exposure to toxic ingredients found in toothpastes. Chemicals in toothpaste are readily absorbed through the membrane that lines the mouth (oral mucosa), meaning that, regardless of whether you swallow toothpaste or not, you are exposing yourself to some level of absorption. Children, who we know often do swallow toothpaste, are even more at risk.

When we use personal care products, we make the assumption that what we have purchased is safe and won’t harm us. We might be assuming wrong. Look no further than the current problems faced by some users of Wen hair products. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which are regulated closely by the Food and Drug Administration, the cosmetic industry, which includes personal care products like shampoos, hair care and toothpaste, is free from scrutiny from the FDA. The regulatory agency has no power of review or recall over products, nor are industry products required to even list all of their ingredients. Instead, the $71 billion industry regulates itself. And that always works out great!

Continue reading Is Toothpaste Dangerous to Your Health?

Des Moines Register Editorial: Branstad’s legacy: Killing health care jobs

Des Moines Register | August 20 2016

For someone who talks big about job creation, Gov. Terry Branstad is doing a stellar job of jeopardizing the solvency of some Iowa employers. Four months after implementation of his plan to privatize Medicaid administration, the carnage is in full swing. Stories of small employers not being paid by managed care companies are being reported across the state.

Cedar Rapids-based JVA Mobility is no longer selling medical equipment to nursing homes. Despite obtaining prior authorizations from the insurers to repair or provide wheelchairs to residents, the company is not being reimbursed for the cost.

“They’ve come up with all sorts of answers why,” owner Vince Wolrab told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “Some say it’s trial and error — we’ve used the wrong (billing code). But then some they just flat out deny and tell us it needs to be billed to Medicare, when they know Medicare won’t cover it.”

Senior Resources in Muscatine, a nonprofit organization that helps older Iowans live independently, may soon need to take out more loans. It has no other way to make up for the loss of revenue after being stiffed by private insurers.

Continue reading Des Moines Register Editorial: Branstad’s legacy: Killing health care jobs

Iowa: Time to Pull the Plug on the Medicaid Mess?

Iowa House Democrat Leader Mark Smith | August 11 2016 | Journal Express

A few months ago, Governor Terry Branstad and Republicans privatized health care for over 500,000 Iowans on Medicaid. After months of delays, confusion, and scandal, Branstad’s privatization scheme is now officially a disaster.

All around the state, we’ve been hearing horror stories from Iowans and local providers dealing with the new private, out-of-state companies Branstad picked to manage Medicaid (called MCO’s).

Providers are facing huge financial burdens because of payment delays and lower reimbursement rates from the MCO’s. According to a recent survey, nearly 80% of providers said they aren’t getting paid on time while nearly every provider said their own administrative costs have increased trying to navigate the new system.

We heard similar stories from providers at a legislative health committee hearing at the State Capitol last week. I held a listening post in my hometown of Marshalltown just a few weeks ago to get feedback as well. When I asked what was going well with Medicaid privatization, the room went silent.

My biggest fear about Branstad’s privatization scheme has always been the impact on health care services Iowans depend on.

Continue reading Iowa: Time to Pull the Plug on the Medicaid Mess?

Where Median Incomes Have Fallen the Most

Justin Fox | August 19 2016 | Bloomberg View

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Of all the indicators describing the not-very-impressive U.S. economic performance of the first decade and a half of the 21st century, the least impressive is probably median household income. It hit an all-time high in 1999 of $57,843 (converted into 2014 dollars), and as of 2014 stood at $53,657 — a 7.2 percent decline. Monthly estimates by the former U.S. Census Bureau officials at Sentier Research indicate that median income made a big recovery in 2015 (the official 2015 numbers aren’t out yet), but as of this June was still below the 1999 level. The typical American household remains poorerthan it was 16 years ago.

In a nation as vast and diverse as the U.S., economic trouble like that tends not to be evenly distributed So I was curious: How does the Great Median Income Slide break down by state? Thanks to a Census Bureau spreadsheet that you can download right here, I have the answer. Here are the states where median household income has slid the most since 1999:

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Continue reading Where Median Incomes Have Fallen the Most

Most Welfare Dollars Don’t Go Directly To Poor People Anymore

Andrew Flowers | August 25 2016 | FiveThirtyEight

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Protesters demonstrate against welfare reform outside the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles Sunday, Aug. 4, 1996. AP PHOTO/FRANK WIESE

Twenty years after President Bill Clinton fulfilled his vow to “end welfare as we know it,” it’s fair to say: mission accomplished. The old U.S. welfare system is dead. Whether the system that replaced it is better for the poorest Americans remains the subject of fierce debate.

The welfare reform bill that Clinton signed into law 20 years ago this month fractured the U.S. welfare system, from one managed mostly by the federal government to one largely directed by individual states. As each state became empowered to spend its welfare grant as it saw fit, one monolithic system devolved into 50 different ones — with far less money going directly to low-income families.

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The 1996 reform didn’t result in a reduction in total spending on welfare, now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Since 1998, the first year for which we have complete data, total TANF spending — both from federal block grants as well as required state matching funds — has remained essentially flat, after adjusting for inflation,1 according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank that is critical of welfare reform. Per-person spending has fallen, however: In 2014 there were about 12 million more people below the poverty level than in 1998, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. population has grown nearly 20 percent during that time.

Continue reading Most Welfare Dollars Don’t Go Directly To Poor People Anymore

Escalating the War on Low-Income Families

Paul Buchheit | August 22 2016 | Common Dreams

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For the nation’s poor, things are not getting better. They are getting worse. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Illinois Governor Rauner recently cut “Meals on Wheels” for seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.

But six of Illinois’ largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit.

It’s much the same around the nation, as 25 of the largest U.S. corporations, with over $150 billion in U.S. profits last year, paid less than 20% in federal taxes, and barely 1% in the state taxes that are vitally important for K-12 education.

Sticking It To Low-Income Mothers

Because of the missing corporate tax revenue, House Republicans have tried to break even by proposing cuts to programs that are essential to mothers and children, such as Centers for Disease Control health programs, family planning, contraception, and—unbelievably, again!—food stamps. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of the proposed cuts would largely impact low- and moderate-income families.

At the state level, the suffering residents of Louisiana are facing some of the steepest regressive tax increases, along with cuts to vital programs that investigate child abuse and provide pediatric day care. The maternal death rate rose dramatically in Texas after women’s health programs were cut. In Kansas, where a Republican state senator has called Governor Brownback’s lowering of taxes on the rich a “train wreck,” 2017 cuts are targeting universities, Medicaid recipients, and the Children’s Initiatives Fund.

Sending Mental Health Patients to Prison

A 2014 government report found that nearly one in five adult Americans experienced mental illness the year before. Yet in the four years before that report, states cut $5 billion in mental health services and eliminated nearly 10 percent of the nation’s order lasix drug psychiatric hospital beds. Over half of U.S. counties don’t have a single psychiatrist or social worker.

Continue reading Escalating the War on Low-Income Families

Overwhelming Evidence that a Guaranteed Income Will Work

Paul Buchheit | August 29 2016 | Common Dreams

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A giant poster in Geneva reading “What would you do if your income was taken care of?” ahead of Switzerland’s vote on a proposed “basic income” set the Guinness World Record for the largest poster ever printed. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

We’ll have to do something drastically different to employ people in the future. Our jobs are disappearing. The driverless vehicle is here, destined to eliminate millions of transport and taxi-driving positions. Car manufacturing is being done by 3-D printing. An entire building was erected in Dubai with a 3-D printer. Restaurants are being designed with no waitstaff or busboys, hotels with no desk clerks, bellhops, and porters. Robot teachers are interacting with students in Japan and the UK.

There are plenty of naysayers and skeptics, of course. The Atlantic proclaimed, “The job market defied doomsayers in those earlier times, and according to the most frequently reported jobs numbers, it has so far done the same in our own time.” But this is a different time, with no guarantees of job revolutions, and in fact a time of unprecedented machine intelligence that threatens the livelihoods even of doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, and lawyers.

Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and personal health care and food service. The only one of the eight fastest-growing occupations that pays over $33,000 per year is nursing — and even nursing may give way to Robotic Nurse Assistants. The evidence for downsized jobs keeps accumulating. A US Mayors study found that ‘recovery’ jobs pay 23 percent less than the positions they replaced. The National Employment Law Project estimates that low-wage jobs accounted for 22 percent of job losses but 44 percent of subsequent job gains. Business Insider, Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal all concur: the unemployment rate is remaining low because of low-paying jobs.

We’re fooling ourselves by believing in a future with satisfying middle-class jobs for millions of Americans. It’s becoming clear that income should be guaranteed, so that recipients have the wherewithal and incentive and confidence to find productive ways to serve society.

Evidence from Research

Credible research overwhelmingly supports the concept. A World Bank analysis of 19 studies found that cash transfers have been demonstrated to improve education and health outcomes and alleviate poverty…concerns about the use of cash transfers for alcohol and tobacco consumption are unfounded. An MIT/Harvard analysis of seven cash transfer trials found “no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.” The Brooks World Poverty Institute found that money transfers to the poor are used primarily for basic needs. Basic Incomes have been shown to lead to reductions in crime and inequality and malnutrition and infant mortality.

Successes in North America

One of the earliest experiments with guaranteed incomes was the “Mincome” (minimum income) program conducted in the town of Dauphin, Manitoba during the 1970s. The results were never made clear, partly because of a change to a more conservative government, which put the program’s records in storage, unevaluated. One study, however, found improved health outcomes for the recipients of the basic income payments.

Continue reading Overwhelming Evidence that a Guaranteed Income Will Work

Great Depression Unemployment Would Be 1.7% Using Today’s Unemployment BLS Calculations

The Great Depression’s highest unemployment came in 1933 at 24.75% (or 25% if you round up).

The 1933 U.S. population was 125,579,000; the Labor Force was 51,840,000; the number of unemployed was 12,830,000.  As a percent of the Labor Force, 24.75% were unemployed; as a percent of the entire population, 10.2% were out of work.

This is what is remembered most about The Great Depression: massive unemployment at 25% and long lines to the soup kitchens.

They calculated unemployment simply back then:
Unemployed / Labor Force  = Unemployment Rate  (12,830,000 / 51,840,000 = 24.75%)

 19321933Jan 1997Jan 2009Dec 2012Jul 2016
1. Population (U.S.Census Bureau)124,840,000125,579,000272,650,000307,000,000313,914,000322,762,018
2. Labor Force (DLT not for 1932 & 1933)51,250,00051,840,000135,456,000154,210,000155,597,000159,287,000
3. Percent of population working (labor force / population)41.1%41.3%49.7%50.2%49.6%49.4%
4. Unemployed (BLS)7,158,00012,058,00012,299,0007,700,000
5. + Not in Labor Force (BLS)66,829,00080,529,00087,918,00094,333,000
6. + Discouraged Workers (BLS)397,000734,0001,068,000591,000
7. = All Unemployed

12,060,00012,830,00074,384,00093,321,000101,285,000102,624,000
8. Labor Force Unemployment Rate (unemployed / labor force)23.5%24.7%54.9%60.5%65.1%64.4%
9. Population Unemployment Rate (unemployed / population)9.7%10.2%27.3%30.4%32.3%31.8%
10. Actual number of people working (labor force – unemployed)39,190,00039,010,00061,072,00060,889,00054,312,00056,663,000
11. Employment Rate (Actual Number of People Working / Labor Force)76.5%75.3%45.1%39.5%34.9%35.6%
Modern U-3 unemployment rate (BLS)1.6% (7% of 23.5%)1.7% (7% of 24.7%)4.9% (7% of 64.4%)
Change in population from 1932 (people added since 1932)739,000147,810,000182,160,000189,074,000197,922,018
Population growth (number of times the population has doubled) 2.52.52.6

Since The Great Depression, the following categories (definitions included) have been added (the common thread in all these categories is that people are all without jobs):

  1. 1948 – Unemployed persons (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary):
    Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
  2. 1975 – Not in the labor force (Current Population Survey)  (from the BLS Glossary):
    Includes persons aged 16 years and older in the civilian noninstitutional population who are neither employed nor unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching.
  3. 1994 – Discouraged workers (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary):
    Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but who are not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.

In addition, in 1994, Marginally attached workers (Current Population Survey) (from the BLS Glossary) was added, they are identified as a percent:
Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.

Continue reading Great Depression Unemployment Would Be 1.7% Using Today’s Unemployment BLS Calculations

“July Jobs Data Nowhere As Strong As Headline”

Tyler Durden | August 06 2016 | Zero Hedge 

One week ago, the BEA admitted that it had “found a problem” when it comes to calculating GDP numbers. Specifically it blamed “residual seasonality” adjustments for giving historical GDP numbers a persistent optimistic bias. This came in the aftermath of last week’s shocking Q2 GDP report which printed at 1.2%, less than half of Wall Street’s consensus.

Today, seasonality made another appearance, this time however in the much anticipated July jobs number, which unlike the woeful Q2 GDP number, was the opposite, coming in far higher than expected. In fact it was higher than the top Wall Street estimate.

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And, just like in the case of GDP, it appears that seasonal adjustments were the culprit for today’s blowout headline print which excluding the Arima X 13 contribution to the headline number, would have been notably weaker.

As MUFG Securities strategist John Herrmann wrote in a note shortly after the report, the “jobs headline overstates” strength of payrolls. He adds that the unadjusted data show a “middling report” that’s “nowhere as strong as the headline” and adds that private payrolls unadjusted +85k in July vs seasonally adjusted +217k.”

In Herrmann’s view, the government applied a “very benign seasonal adjustment factor upon private payrolls to transform a soft private payroll gain into a strong gain.

Continue reading “July Jobs Data Nowhere As Strong As Headline”