Iran Claims Republicans Tried To Delay Return Of US Prisoners Until After The Election

Tasnim News  – Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said a recent prisoner exchange between Iran and the US went ahead as planned despite calls by Republicans for a delay until US presidential elections.

“In the course of the talks for exchanging prisoners, the Republican rivals of the current US administration who claim to be humanitarians and advocates of human rights sent a message telling us not to release these people (American prisoners) and continue this process (of talks) until the eve of US presidential elections,” Shamkhani said Thursday in an address to a rally held in the central city of Yazd to mark the 37th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution’s victory.

“However” he said “we acted upon our independent resolve and moved the process forward.”

Snopes is currently categorizing this as “unproven“. Given the Reagan hostage shenanigans and the recent attempted Republican derailment of the Iran nuclear disarmament deal, people are prepared to not be surprised if this turns out to be true. Headline swiped from Politico.

Physicists Detect Gravitational Waves, Proving Einstein Right

New York Times, By Dennis Overbye, February 11

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.
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Impact of Automation puts 85% of jobs in developing nations at risk

Kurzwei – A new report [PDF] from the Oxford Martin School and Citi considers the risks of job automation to developing countries, estimated to range from 55% in Uzbekistan to 85% in Ethiopia — a substantial share in major emerging economies, including China and India (77% and 69% respectively).

The impact of automation may be more disruptive for developing countries, due to lower levels of consumer demand and limited social safety nets. With automation and developments in 3D printing likely to drive companies to move manufacturing closer to home, developing countries risk “premature de-industrialisation.”

Digital industries have not created many new jobs. Since 2000, just 0.5% of the US workforce has shifted into new technology industries, most of which are directly associated with digital technologies.

North Korea satellite ‘tumbling in orbit’

CNN – The satellite North Korea fired into space on Sunday is “tumbling in orbit” and incapable of functioning in any useful way, a senior U.S. defense official told CNN.

Sunday’s launch of the long-range rocket triggered a wave of international condemnation and prompted strong reaction from an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea maintained the launch was for scientific and “peaceful purposes.”

“Read My Lips: No New Taxes” Redux

magnify-dollarBernie Sanders wants to convince you his tax plan will save you money. The Tax Foundation disagrees:

“On a static basis, the plan would lead to 10.56 percent lower after-tax income for all taxpayers and 17.91 percent lower after-tax income for the top 1 percent. When accounting for reduced GDP, after-tax incomes of all taxpayers would fall by at least 12.84 percent.

“This decrease in GDP would translate into an 18.6 percent smaller capital stock and 6.0 million fewer full-time equivalent jobs. After accounting for the economic effects of the tax changes, the plan would end up increasing federal tax revenues by $9.8 trillion over the next decade.” – far short of the $16 trillion plan to be initially enacted.

We’ll want to take these numbers with a grain of salt, given the Tax Foundation’s conservative leanings. Any criticism of their methodologies is welcome. Infrastructure spending might stimulate secondary employment more than expected. Cheap college might bring new minds and industry into the economy. There’s room for optimism in campaign season.

But let’s ignore the GDP for a moment and look at how this might go wrong for an average American.
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An honest, supportive note to Sanders fans

democrat-logoBernie fans, New Hampshire tomorrow is really important for you guys and the campaign narrative. If Hillary gets a 4-4 delegate tie your media momentum stalls a bit going into South Carolina on the 27th (Clinton 63/33) right before Super Tuesday, March 1st.

If you haven’t phone banked, it’s the single most effective thing you can do right now short of donating a gazillion dollars. And it’s easier than you think after the first couple calls. Some of you have put a lot of soul into progressive projects. Right now, giving Bernie three weeks of your time, or even 4 hours tonight, could be a another big contribution toward your greater goals.

Yes, I’m a Hillary supporter, because I think her plans make a lot more pragmatic sense. I also like Bernie’s intentions, and I respect that extreme lefties are engaging in the political process, perhaps learning some history and a bit about the art of (and need for) compromise along the way.

Bernie Panders Anti-GMO

cornAlthough Sanders uses an appeal to the authority of climate scientists on the issue of climate change, his approach to GMO food is anti-scientific, misinformed, and potentially dangerous.

Scientific American explains some of the populist appeal of his stance: Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe: Intuition can encourage opinions that are contrary to the facts.

Inattention to the food industry when building policy can be lethal. Remember the Ethanol Effect? Our push to get off Middle East oil led to skyrocketing prices on staples and literal malnutrition, starvation, and poverty reinforcement in poorer countries.

Developed nations have the luxury of attaching sentimentality to their food, circling toward a pioneer purism. The poor who literally subsist off cheap rice, wheat and corn do not. GMO and glyphosate are the most studied subjects in the history of science, and the consensus is that the technology can be safe if precautions are followed. When a country nevertheless votes to ban or even label GMO, customers of the world food markets suffer.

It is selfish, entitled, and immoral for us to deny the world all available tools for feeding its hungry.

Bernie Sanders would serve his country better by listening to input from a wider array of sources.

Plutocracy In Action

The Spectator interviews Michael Lewis on the 2008 financial crisis.

      The author of The Big Short weighs in:

“Not nearly enough has been done — the regulatory response has been totally inadequate. The big banks have blocked serious reforms, meddling in the process so incentives haven’t changed enough to attack the heart of the problem — which is why it could happen again.”

“We still have the same short-term-oriented compensation, the same big bonuses at year-end…”

“I’ve never gotten over the feeling when I learnt Goldman Sachs had designed securities that would fail, so they could then short them.”

“The 1997 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act was part of the problem [] but it goes back even before that. The earlier transformation of investment banks into public corporations was a big mistake — with bankers using shareholders’ money to bet, rather than their own.”

“It isn’t just the big campaign contributions. Anyone at the table talking about financial reform is a potential hire and likely to end up working in the financial sector for huge sums, so they get captured.”