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185. Current Issues, Briefly #6

31 Aug

This is the 6th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets, unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are worth repeating and emphasizing.

I have been following the career of Elizabeth Warren for many years and have always felt she would make a great President. Now she is rising rapidly as a candidate, and may well succeed. Biden is a nice guy, and would make a good president, but not great. Warren could successfully debate Trump!
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Great news! Fox Broadcasting is even more serious now in its independence from Trump in factual reporting. And his association with John Bolton seems to be eroding. An increasing number of Democrats is favoring impeachment. A few weeks ago I was feeling the stress of his administration, now I feel much more positive.
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It is great to see more Republicans becoming presidential candidates. These provide more voices that are critical of Trump’s attitudes and actions; and will help the Democrats. It shows that it isn’t only Democrats that think he is unpresidential,  untruthful, and dangerous.
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The following is a summary of one of my recent TED comments:
Brief answers to serious global problems: World-wide food supply can be increased thru scientific methods. Shortages of land space can be solved with vertical farms in city buildings and by improved crops.  Sun, wind, and similar can supply all the needed energy for the entire world. These methods are constantly improving. More difficult is this: well-educated voters can elect excellent leaders, but education tends to be controversial.  Here is a sardonic thought: Presidential candidates must be examined and pass IQ, science, and history tests before being able to run.
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Trump “loves” the  North Korean leader, Kim. But all his “negotiations” have not stopped their nuclear development. Now it appears that they are developing a submarine that can launch missiles, a great danger to the USA. Kim’s many short-range missile tests are a danger for Japan and South Korea, but ruthless Trump has ignored these. Obama warned Trump about N. Korea. Meanwhile, Trump plays with foolish tariffs.
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According to a variety of sources (e.g. University World News) American Science is in decline, while in China it is rising. Trump has been diminishing and interfering with science throughout his presidency. It appears that he has no interest in long term benefits for our country. He is only concerned with his personal needs and in supporting rich donors. He is also responsible for a general decline in USA world leadership.
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It would take only a very small percentage of our national budget to stop the torture of immigrants. Confining large numbers of persons in a small area for long periods of time is a major torture. Often basic needs for food and sanitary items are not met.  It does NOT matter what political goals are applicable, the USA doesn’t use torture for ANY reason. President Reagan (a Republican hero) believed this and he ratified the 1984 United-Nations Convention on Torture. How can Trump’s supporters not see his cruelty (or do they have the same flaw).
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A Febuary 2016 TED Talk by Ken Lacovara is brilliant and so applicable today. In his talk, he argues that a few chance events in evolution, like dinosaur extinction, led to brain development and eventually to our human species. Dinosaurs could not stop their extinction, but the destruction of our planet and human populations can be corrected by responsible citizens and leaders with integrity.
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Trump lives in a dream world. His trade policy is tit-for-tat. I raise your tariff, then you raise my tariff. Many farmers and manufacturers are negatively affected. He acts like an impulsive child, refusing to listen to experts and alienating our allies. Trade and other agreements must be a group effort! His Iran “deal” and his negotiations with N. Korea have failed. Ignoring climate-change will have catastrophic consequences for his children and all others throughout the world.
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Trump lied about and failed to produce any new wall on our southern border, and of course, Mexico refused to pay for it. His current efforts to get something done likely involve crimes and violations of law. The wall is so important to him, that at one time, he shut down the US government for weeks to force its support.
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On a happier note: “flash Mob” movie clips illustrate how universal the joys of life are. World-wide, you can see the music, dancing, and acrobatics of flash-mobs in, for example: US, Brazil, Russia, UK, Hungary, Azerbaijan. We have so much in common with people in other countries. Sad that the greed and ruthless ambition of national leaders screw things up.
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Jay Inslee (Washington State Governor) has ended his candidacy for President. This man would have made a fantastic president. His ideas, his record as governor, speaking ability, and his promotions regarding climate-change are exemplary. He simply was not well known, but I admired him for several years. Maybe next election will be his time; or maybe he can be part of the next Democrat administration.

 

168. What Stands Out, in This Complicated World

7 May

For an ordinary citizen of the USA, I would guess that there are so many political events and ideas reported by the media — that it may be difficult to decide what is important and what to focus on. I see my role as a blogger, to help explain important current issues in a clear way. And, of course, I admit that I see the world in my own special way and with my own set of beliefs. Maybe I should explain just a little more. I believe in the following: Kindness wherever possible, a strong and prosperous middle class, the spirit of the US Constitution, respect for 99% of the law, and that the vote of every citizen should have an equal effect. To further explain the last point, a very wealthy person should not have extra influence on elections.

Here are my choices for the most outstanding and important current ideas and issues.

Climate-Change disasters are already here and we must make every effort to work on this problem, including considerable research and construction of “green” devices. This effort will take some money, but next to nothing compared to the expense of neglecting it. Briefly, numerous populated lowland areas will be permanently flooded, there will be massive migrations, and increased fires and hurricanes. Actual global warming is increasing faster than previously estimated. Climate change work must be funded, just like our military, government and other necessary agencies without asking where will the money come from.

We must put much more effort into protecting our elections from Russia and maybe other meddlers. Generally, our voting system must be hardened and reliable. Trump has put little effort into protecting our election system, but there are some efforts by various agencies and state governments to help. Our President has little interest because the meddlers have helped him.

Our government must support scientific and tech research, which can improve our lives and help with increasing population. For example, we must stop condemning GMO foods (see my blogs) and do sufficient research to improve trust in this valuable method. Nature is constantly modifying the DNA of all living things, and does not inform us of changes. GMO changes are known and we can test their safety. Humans have changed DNA for many centuries by animal and plant breeding; GMO is a similar, but quicker and more effective.

We clearly need improvements to our health care system. Abolishment of ObamaCare without a good replacement would be a catastrophe for millions of US citizens. ObamaCare provides more citizens with insurance and more safeguards for insurance loss due to various limits and pre-existing conditions.

We must maintain good relationships with our traditional allies: Canada, Mexico, members of the EU (and UK), Australia, India, Scandinavians, Japan, and others. We must very carefully work out an appropriate relationship with China and Russia. International relationships are very complicated and require the participation of many experts. Our current gov is simplistic and often resorts to coercion when good diplomacy is better. It also uses trade policies without considering all the possible effects.

Although sanctions can be useful in forcing more responsible government, they can be ineffective because the leaders of a country will always have plenty of food and various  luxuries. It’s the ordinary citizens that suffer the most. Sometimes really good, intelligent negotiation is better.

Immigration issues at our Southern border must be worked out in a reasonable and humanitarian way. This, of course, is a very complicated issue, with many valid interests to consider. Repubs and Dems must work together and form a viable plan. Our current gov has ignored real solutions and has taken action for purely political purposes, causing needless suffering for many.

The Robert-Mueller-Report makes NO statements of innocence, and includes facts related to many administration crimes, illicit actions, various wrongdoings, and suspicious activity. Ignoring these findings would be a disaster for our country. In order to satisfy certain rules and traditions, conclusions have been ignored, and left to Congress. The evidence provided in the Report can be used for various legal actions and when appropriate for articles of impeachment.

Our new Attorney General, William Barr, is a Trump sycophant who lies, and cannot be trusted. He must be nullified in some way.

Those who believe in democracy always include a free and independent press as one of the most important requirements. The best reporters, like those who work at major newspapers, don’t attack anyone without good cause. If a leader hates the press, then likely he is corrupt and making big mistakes.

Many writers have tried to explain the bizarre behavior of our President. Here are my thoughts: his desperation to keep voters leads him to contradictions, such as supporting both Israel/Jews and Neo-Nazis (Charlottesville conflict). He has no ideals or patriotism, and is only motivated by self-interest. Like most older people, he is somewhat affected by Alzheimer’s disease, which produces memory loss, repetition, and confusion. Stress and sleep loss may be other factors.

For more ideas, please read my other blogs and my tweets,   @RichardLeeWB.

 

162. Tired of Gridlock? Explore Easy-to-Read SCIENCE

16 Apr

Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.  Tired of Trumpism, never-ending gridlock, endless speculation, and deranged  government??  To avoid this frustration and engage in something both beneficial and practical,  I suggest exploring recent findings of science. I have listed some fascinating and easy to read sources for doing this.

But first, here are some good general places to find current science facts. (Note: anything you read has the possibility of error or bias. If your research is important, use several sources.)

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), “today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues”  Sign up for free emails.

Scientific American and other science magazines. Scientific American has both easy to read and more technical articles. Its reputation is tops.

The New York Times Science section is excellent and tops. Many other good  newspapers have similar sections. The online NY-Times costs very little.

Kurzweil Newsletter. This is an excellent source for many science topics and has much special info on artificial intelligence. There are many other similar newsletters. Do a search on “newsletters on science topics” to see what might interest you. Most are free.

Curiosity Stream. For a small fee, this service has many interesting lectures for the layman.

Khan Academy is a free source of excellent tutorials for the layman. It started very simply as some rough tutorials by Salman Khan for his cousins. It was so good that it eventually got great financial support and now is much improved.

Wikipedia is a free source for everything, including science. I have used it many times and found it to be generally authoritative. The articles submitted are examined by a board of editors.

Here are some very excellent entry points for studies of science.

Manned vs un-manned space exploration is a current issue. First of all, for several years, the SETI program (see Internet) searches for electronic transmissions from intelligent species on other planets. Recently, it has been established that there are many more stars with planets than originally thought. Most recent space exploration (beyond our planet) has been done with un-manned space-ships and have provided very valuable info. This method is much cheaper and safer than exploring with astronauts. Non-scientists unfamiliar with this issue may support only manned missions.  Here is a good reference: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/robots-vs-humans-who-should-explore/   I should also add a fantastic tour of the international space station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doN4t5NKW-k   The NASA website has much more information and inspiring pictures.

Studies of DNA and gene editing are producing incredible results. To see a broad range of topics for the layman, go to the “TED” website and select DNA (and/or CRISPR) as the topic. There are several wonderful presentations on gene editing for curing diseases and improving crops, super computers made with DNA, and studies of derived new life made with a modified (un-natural)  DNA structure. The advances are amazing and are already in progress. If you really study gene-editing you would support GMO foods, which will be more important Earth’s population increases. Nature modifies genes all the time (that is how evolution works). Scientist modifications of DNA are immediately known and can be tested, whereas natural changes could be harmful and go undetected.

Some of the most amazing findings are in the area of physics known as quantum mechanics. There is so much happening here, that I have decided to mention only one topic, “entanglement.”  This is seen with studies of the tinyest particles, such as electrons and photons.  Two electrons could be entangled: a change in electron A is also seen in a distant electron B. Recent research has eliminated any possible field interaction between the two electrons, which could be miles apart. See Wikipedia: “quantum entanglement” for a discussion. Also, there is a recent Scientific American article, December 2018, page 58, Hanson and Shalm, that supports the basic notion.

Meat can be grown from animal stem cells so that animals do not have to be raised at great cost, and then killed. See Scientific American, December, page 33, by Owen Schaefer. Currently, it is very expensive but research will bring the costs down — and people like it.

Here are some other exciting topics that can be explored using Wikipedia, TED, and general Internet searches:

Battery improvements that can enhance electric cars and green electric power grids. When green sources like windmills and solar panels are at low levels, energy stored in advanced batteries during peak functioning can fill in gaps.

There are many interesting studies of the human brain. One fruitful area is the way in which the brain recognizes human faces. Do a search on “biologist Doris Tsao” for details.

There is always something exciting in astronomy.  The latest is the very first  picture of a “black hole.”  (Search “picture of black hole.”)  Also read about “supernova.” This is an extremely powerful explosion of a star, which causes the production and distribution of heavy elements, necessary for human life and many structures.

There are many other topics for exploration, depending on your interests.  I suggest the following, for people that have little science education (see above). For interesting lectures, subscribe to the very inexpensive “Curiosity Stream.” Or, for actual education, the free “Khan Academy” works well.

Finally, studying science helps with understanding very important issues such as “climate-change”, health factors, green resources, stress reduction, and safety regulations. In practice, science is not always perfect, but it is devoted to finding truth and to rejecting bias and self-serving interests.