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Friday, January 24, 2020

For years, the company has moved billions in profits to Puerto Rico to avoid taxes. When the IRS pushed it to pay, Microsoft protested that the agency wasn't being nice. Then it aggressively fought back in court, lobbied Congress and changed the law. read more

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Trees, plastics and favorable tax policy are at the core of House Republicans' new push on climate change -- an effort to reassure voters they care about the problem after a decade of dismissing it. read more

The Republican Party has dominated state-level politics for the past decade. That's unlikely to change in any dramatic fashion this year.

Democrats added to their numbers among both governors and legislatures in 2018 and 2019, but it's possible they've already plucked most of the low-hanging fruit. Even Democratic strategists admit that their target lists aren't terribly long this year.

There are only 11 races for governor in 2020. Most of those aren't going to be competitive in November. Meanwhile, some 5,000 legislative seats will be in play, but it's more likely that existing Democratic and Republican majorities are going to grow, as opposed to partisan control of many chambers switching hands.

"My sense is there's not a lot of potential for there to be huge changes, in terms of legislative competition," said Kyle Kondik, who edits a political newsletter at the University of Virginia.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Malaysia is refusing to turn into the world's dumping ground amid growing disposal needs, the AP reports. read more

There's an old saying that "the proof is in the pudding," meaning that you can only truly gauge the quality of something once it's been put to a test. Such is the case with climate models: mathematical computer simulations of the various factors that interact to affect Earth's climate, such as our atmosphere, ocean, ice, land surface and the Sun. For decades, people have legitimately wondered how well climate models perform in predicting future climate conditions. Based on solid physics and the best understanding of the Earth system available, they skillfully reproduce observed data. Nevertheless, they have a wide response to increasing carbon dioxide levels, and many uncertainties remain in the details. The hallmark of good science, however, is the ability to make testable predictions, and climate models have been making predictions since the 1970s. How reliable have they been? Now a new evaluation of global climate models used to project Earth's future global average surface temperatures over the past half-century answers that question: most of the models have been quite accurate. read more


Coronavirus: Hong Kong on alert as China lockdown tightens

...Chinese officials on Saturday announced that Wuhan was also building a second 1,000-bed makeshift hospital to deal with the crisis, to be completed February 3. It will be modeled on a SARS hospital built within six days in Beijing in 2003 during the deadly SARS outbreak....

When I watched DW news this morning, they showed video of back-hoes clearing the site.

China's battle with the Wuhan coronavirus is shackled by a toxic relationship with information

...Beyond mainland China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the US and Hong Kong have confirmed cases, and more countries could report cases as China's biggest travel season gets underway: Chinese Lunar New Year.

People are panicking. When a new disease is discovered, it's undeniably hard to identify and inform the public about it quickly. Yet China is making the problem harder to solve, even though it should have learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003, when the government admitted to underreporting cases in the initial stages. Nearly 800 people died in that epidemic, which saw desperate people emptying shops for Chinese herbal medicines and vinegar that would turn out to be ineffective.

That frenzy was driven by the lack of accurate information and rumors because of a vacuum in top-down communication. The idea of wei wen, or maintaining stability in China's political system made "conceal as many as possible and keep it at the local level" a natural immediate response to a crisis like this. That approach to information might work on other kinds of issues, but not when it comes to a potential epidemic. Trying to control information in that case becomes a kind of shackle in the face of something that can progress and change swiftly beyond one's control....

More info is emerging...

Lawyer alleges Giuliani associate recorded Trump comments on Ukrainian ambassador

...What they're saying: Lev Parnas' lawyer Joseph Bondy told The Daily Beast that Parnas' former business partner Igor Fruman recorded the exchange....

Parnas' lawyer Bondy: "Last year, before he was arrested, Mr. Parnas personally heard a recording of his April 30, 2018, dinner with the president and others, made by Mr. Fruman, at which the subject of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed. We have hoped that, to the extent this recording still existed, it would be released to Congress for use in the impeachment trial." ...

Worth noting: ABC News originally reported on Friday it reviewed the recording, which Axios has not obtained or reviewed....

Senator Says CDC to Confirm Third Case, S&P Falls: Virus Update

...U.S. lawmakers said health authorities are expected to confirm a third case of coronavirus in the U.S., following a closed-door briefing between lawmakers in Washington and federal health officials.

Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Josh Hawley of Missouri said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told lawmakers about the new case at the briefing. The CDC earlier Friday announced a second case, in Illinois, and has said it expects more to emerge as it monitors more than 60 people....

I am fairly sure Mr Giuliani has something. Whether or not that something is real, or has been fabricated by an associate of his so that associate can get an extradition proceeding cancelled, remains to be seen.

Then there's this...

Is a Ukrainian Oligarch Helping Trump Smear Biden to Evade U.S. Corruption Charges?
Robert Mackey
October 17 2019, 4:50 p.m.

...The latest phase of the disinformation campaign has focused on what Giuliani calls crucial new evidence: an affidavit from the Ukrainian prosecutor Biden got fired in 2016. But the sudden appearance of this sworn statement, six months after Giuliani and his allies began claiming that Biden had acted with corrupt intent to get that prosecutor removed, raises questions about who orchestrated the filing of that affidavit and how the effort to smear Biden might be related to a Ukrainian billionaire's fight against extradition to the United States to face bribery charges.

In the sworn statement, which was submitted to a court in Austria last month, Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine, claims that he was forced out because he was leading "a wide-ranging corruption probe" of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company that paid Biden's son Hunter to sit on its board.

In fact, there is no evidence that such a probe ever existed. Shokin was forced to resign following complaints from international donors to Ukraine, and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, that he had failed to pursue cases against corrupt former officials " including the owner of the gas company that employed Hunter Biden. By threatening to withhold U.S. aid unless Shokin was removed, Joe Biden had, in fact, made it more likely that his son's employer would be prosecuted for corruption, not less likely....

Some good background info...

Snakes could be the original source of the new coronavirus outbreak in China

...Snakes " the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra " may be the original source of the newly discovered coronavirus that has triggered an outbreak of a deadly infectious respiratory illness in China this winter. ...

Using samples of the virus isolated from patients, scientists in China have determined the genetic code of the virus and used microscopes to photograph it. The pathogen responsible for this pandemic is a new coronavirus. It's in the same family of viruses as the well-known severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which have killed hundreds of people in the past 17 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

We are virologists and journal editors and are closely following this outbreak because there are many questions that need to be answered to curb the spread of this public health threat....

This new 2019-nCoV causes similar symptoms to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. People infected with these coronaviruses suffer a severe inflammatory response.

Unfortunately, there is no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment available for coronavirus infection. A better understanding of the life cycle of 2019-nCoV, including the source of the virus, how it is transmitted and how it replicates are needed to both prevent and treat the disease....

Worth the read if you want to get up to speed ..

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