The Most Notable Medical Findings of 2016

Stephan:  This is the best survey article I have seen about developments and trends in medicine and healthcare during 2016.

In a year with more than its fair share of lies and half-truths, doctors could find refuge in scientific research, like a Yale School of Medicine study on cranberries as a remedy for urinary-tract infections.
Credit: Graeme Robertson / EYEVINE / REDUX

“At least you have your research world, where there are facts,” a journalist friend told me recently. He was referring, of course, to the sharp Orwellian turn that our public discourse has taken in the past year, when practically anyone who traffics in truth—scientists, reporters, intelligence experts, cyber-security specialists—has been dismissed by our President-elect as a liar or a shill. My friend was right: research has indeed provided a respite from the maddening media conversation, a chance to challenge the assumptions and biases of medical science and public health not with bluster and noise but with rigorous experimentation. It was with this in mind that I selected the notable findings of 2016. Welcome to the sanctuary.

Exculpating Patient Zero

The history of medicine, like the history of the justice system, is filled with cases of wrongful conviction. In the Middle Ages, […]

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The 500 richest people in the world got $237 billion richer in 2016

Stephan:  You say you had a hard year economically, Sparky? For you and your neighbors it was kind of tough this year. Well, don't worry the 500 richest people in the world got $237 billion dollars richer in 2016. In Trickle down economics that's supposed to make you feel better. Maybe some crumbs. some loose change will fall off their table. Does that make you feel better, Sparky? No? Well me neither.

Billionaire Bill Gates and World Bank head Jim Yong Kim at the 2016 edition of the hyper-elite World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Credit: AP/Michel Euler

As right-wing politicians around the world gathered power by scapegoating immigrants for the economic struggles of working people, the world’s richest people got nearly a quarter trillion dollars richer in 2016.

The 500 wealthiest individuals on a planet of roughly 8 billion humans gained $237 billion in personal net worth over the year, according to Bloomberg.

Those massive investment gains followed similarly massive convulsions — a natural byproduct of beginning the investing year with incredible wealth. The same microfraction of the species was almost $400 billion in the hole by Valentine’s Day, then up more than $300 billion in the months before Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in November’s election, before slumping to the mere $237,000,000,000 net gain by year’s end, Bloomberg reports.

The poorest 2.4 billion adults worldwide have an average wealth of under a thousand […]

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The Next Migrant Wave

Stephan:  The migrations out of the countries of the Islamic world to Europe have caused enormous social stress and disorder. And that is nothing compared to what is coming as a result of climate change, particularly the droughts around the world. Here is a first alert concerning a trend that over the next several decades will play an enormous role in world events, including in the U.S. where we will have three of our own internal migrations -- away from the coast because of searise, out of the Southwest becausse of drought, and out of the central states as a result of violent extreme weather events -- in addition to incoming international migrants. It is estimated that 25 millions are already climate refugees.

Image result for climate migrant imageMANILA, PHILIPPINES Imagine that you are a farmer. Your crops are withering as weather patterns become more volatile, your well water is too salty to drink, and rice is too expensive to buy at the market. So, you leave home in search of a better life.

Millions of people in vulnerable communities around the world do not have to imagine such a scenario. They are living it now, as an increasingly unpredictable climate takes its toll; and their numbers are likely to soar as the effects of climate change intensify.

But the world is even less prepared for these future climate migrants than Europe is for the current wave of people fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa. Most climate migrants will relocate within their own borders, but others will have no choice but to seek refuge abroad. If sea levels rise by more than one meter, entire populations of Pacific-atoll and reef-island countries might have to relocate.

If it is well planned and managed, migration can help people adapt to such threats. But if it is not, it can lead to humanitarian crises. Overall, today’s […]

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4 Critical Energy Issues to Watch in 2017

Stephan:  This is a good survey article on what to expect in 2017 given a government completely under Republican Party control.

A freight train hauling coal away from a Wyoming coal mine.
Credit: Jerry Huddleston Flickr

The U.S. may be on the cusp of a stark turning point in energy and climate policy with the election of Donald Trump, who has stocked his cabinet with a majority of people who doubt or reject established climate science.

Top priorities of the Trump transition team and cabinet nominees — many who disregard the connection between global warming and fossil fuel energy use — include rolling back eight years of Obama administration climate regulations and restrictions on coal, oil and gas development.

Trump’s energy plan reads like a wish list from the fossil fuel industry: it envisions unfettered oil, gas and coal development as a path to national prosperity and energy independence. Gone are Obama-era overtures to address climate change by modernizing fossil fuel use and development, and embracing ambitious renewable energy goals.

Though it’s unclear how far Trump can go to implement his vision for a deregulated fossil fuel industry during his first year in office, here are four developments in energy policy to keep an eye on in […]

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The Coming Exodus of Career Civil Servants

Stephan:  You have probably noticed that Trump is appointing as heads of agencies people who have made a career out of denigrating that agency. Scott Pruit at EPA being one of many examples. I assume the purpose of this is to further castrate agencies which impede unregulated profit making, whatever the social cost. I thought about what that would be like: to work for someone who has spent years, decades expressing contempt for you and what you do. My perspective in considering that question is tuned by six years in Washington, three as a journalist on the outside looking in and examining the government, and three on the inside as a civil servant, a special assistant and speech writer on a senior staff looking out. And I did something that under someone else's name attracted a lot of media attention so that it had a kind of objective reality to me. I lived through Watergate and knew a number of the people involved. Left government because of it. And I realized I could not work for a man like Trump. It would not be honorable, in my view.  And I wondered what the data was on a issue like this, what it looked like across the D.C.government. Here is some data and a good analysis. What people who only care about profit cannot even comprehend because they are under the narcotic of ideology, is that most career civil servants work very hard, because it is a lot of work administering  for 318 million people with a c0nstantly changing Congressional and Executive. Cutting government really just means cutting services. And given American social outcome data, that's a really bad idea. What we should be doing is setting wellbeing as the priority, not profit, although if you can make a profit creating wellbeing you are welcome to it.  I am going to watch what happens in those agencies.  

Capitol Beltway DC, evening exodus
Credit: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Now that Draining The Swamp is back on the agenda—and it definitely is, Donald Trump says—folks who labor in the myriad federal buildings dotting Washington are probably thinking about their options. How will Trump approach the federal government’s 2.5 million federal employees, or the 7,000-odd senior managers who assist political appointees? Will they even want to stay?

Signs point to an exodus. A study published earlier this month suggests that senior civil servants leave in droves during the first year of a new administration. They’re especially likely to quit when the incoming president’s politics are counter to the agency’s own ideological leanings.

And when these leaders leave, they take their experience and connections with them, leaving federal departments worse off.

“The government is a bundle of expertise,” said John de Figueiredo, a professor of law, strategy, and economics at Duke University, who co-authored the study. “When you lose these people who are very senior, we think that could potentially have a detrimental effect on governmental performance.”

The idea that agencies even have ideological leanings […]

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