Category: Current Affairs (page 1 of 3)

Current Affairs: CT’s Fiscal Problems, April 18, 2019

Discussion leader: John Schlachtenhaufen

Everybody has an opinion – and someone to blame – but in this discussion we’ll dig deep into the data and look for realistic solutions. 

 

You’re gonna need this …

https://ctmirror.org/2017/01/30/a-legacy-of-debt-connecticut-standing-on-its-own-fiscal-cliff/

https://ctmirror.org/2017/01/31/a-legacy-of-debt-squeeze-on-states-priorities-only-getting-tighter/

 https://ctmirror.org/2017/02/01/a-legacy-of-debt-whether-taxing-or-cutting-ct-faces-painful-contentious-fiscal-future/

 https://ctmirror.org/2017/02/02/a-legacy-of-debt-as-cuts-get-ugly-legislators-forfeit-power-transparency/

 https://ctmirror.org/2017/02/03/a-legacy-of-debt-when-fiscal-reality-meets-political-spin/

https://ctmirror.org/2018/11/30/can-efficiency-save-state-government-1-billion-per-year/

The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth produced a bleak assessment of Connecticut’s fiscal health for the incoming governor and General Assembly  https://ctmirror.org/2018/11/28/second-effort-sound-fiscal-alarm-connecticut/

 https://ctmirror.org/2018/12/13/advocates-warn-fiscal-caps-tighten-social-services-local-aid/

 https://ctmirror.org/2018/12/04/lamont-taps-hartford-budget-chief-solve-cts-fiscal-crisis/

 https://ctmirror.org/2018/12/17/millionaire-suitcase-man-myth/

CT’S LEGACY OF DEBT WAS MALLOY’S ULTIMATE CHALLENGE: https://ctmirror.org/2018/12/26/cts-legacy-debt-malloys-ultimate-challenge/?utm_source=Connecticut+Mirror+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=c751074ff2-DAILY_BRIEFING_AFTERNOON&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_571d22f8e4-c751074ff2-68155097

Another article about the wealthy leaving.  This from the Yankee Institute: http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2018/12/packed-up-and-ready-to-go-those-who-can-that-is/

Current Affairs. DNA Privacy. March 21, 2019

Discussion leader: Gary Banks

DNA Privacy.  It is now inexpensive to at least partially sequence a person’s genome.  Companies like Ancestry.com and 23 & me have done it for 20 million people.  There are also growing databases, some public, with individual’s DNA gathered from medical testing or crime events.  Recently, a cold case of rape/murder was solved by taking DNA from the crime scene and quickly identifying the killer’s cousin that then lead to an arrest.  That’s good to solve a crime – now how about an employer or insurance company looking into your genome?

5 biggest risks of sharing your DNA with consumer genetic-testing companies https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/16/5-biggest-risks-of-sharing-dna-with-consumer-genetic-testing-companies.html

Genealogists Turn to Cousins’ DNA and Family Trees to Crack Five More Cold Cases https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/science/dna-family-trees-cold-cases.html


How your third cousin’s ancestry DNA test could jeopardize your privacy. Public DNA databases can be used to find you — even if you never shared your own DNA. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/10/12/17957268/science-ancestry-dna-privacy

We will find you: DNA search used to nab Golden State Killer can home in on about 60% of white Americans https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/10/we-will-find-you-dna-search-used-nab-golden-state-killer-can-home-about-60-white

How an Unlikely Family History Website Transformed Cold Case Investigations. Fifteen murder and sexual assault cases have been solved since April with a single genealogy website. This is how GEDmatch went from a casual side project to a revolutionary tool. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/science/gedmatch-genealogy-cold-cases.html

When a DNA Test Reveals Your Daughter Is Not Your Biological Child https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/10/dna-test-divorce/571684/

23 and me Privacy Policy. https://www.23andme.com/about/privacy/

Ancestry.com Privacy Statement https://www.ancestry.com/cs/legal/privacystatement

The FBI’s CODIS database: https://www.fbi.gov/services/laboratory/biometric-analysis/codis

Also on CODIS:

An overview of human genetic privacy from the NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5697154/

Current Affairs. Brexit. February 21, 2019

Discussion leader: Bryan Hooper

Current Affairs: Is Social Media Good For Democracy? January 17, 2019

Discussion leader: Jim Phillips

Intelligence Squared Debate   https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/social-media-good-democracy-0

Hard Questions: What Effect Does Social Media Have on Democracy?https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/01/effect-social-media-democracy/

Facebook Says Social Media Can Be Negative For Democracy  https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/22/579732762/facebook-says-social-media-can-be-negative-for-democracy

Guest Post: Is Social Media Good or Bad for Democracy?https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/01/vromen-democracy/

Without Transparency, Democracy Dies In The Darkness Of Social Media  https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2018/01/25/without-transparency-democracy-dies-in-the-darkness-of-social-media/#41017c4a7221

Why social media may not be so good for democracyhttps://theconversation.com/why-social-media-may-not-be-so-good-for-democracy-86285

Current Affairs: International Trade, October 18, 2018

Discussion leader: Harris Hester

International Trade – It’s complicated

Foreign Affairs.  Three Cheers for Trump’s Foreign Policy: What the establishment misses by Randy Schweller

Foreign Affairs & Trade

China’s Small Share of an iphone

China’s Share of iphone

This is a brief fact check on the relationship between the federal deficit and the trade deficit.

http://www.crfb.org/blogs/did-trade-deficit-cause-20-trillion-debt

This is a more in depth analysis of the same thing.

https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/us-trade-deficit-not-debt-repay

 

41-Straight-Years-Of-Trade-Deficits-Yet-America-Still-Stands-Strong

 

 

Current Affairs: Single Payer Healthcare, Nov 15, 2018

Discussion leader: Charlie Goodyear

Summary :

SINGLE PAYER HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS
USA Healthcare System
-17% of GDP (was 7% in 1971) vs. 9% Canada,10% UK, 10% Germany
-Coverage :
+50% Employer (155 million people, cost $20,000/family, employee pays
$5000)
+14% Medicare (+/- 55 million people)
+12% Medicaid, Veterans, Native Americans (+/- 50 million people)
+ 7% ACA purchased (+/- 20 million people)
+ 8% Emergency Room, Other
+ 9% Uninsured (+/- 30 million people)- 80% US citizens
-Drug costs : $1000/per person/year vs. OECD $500
-Estimated 100-130 million people have “pre-exsisting conditions”
-Life expectancy below OECD countries, Infant mortality higher
-Reasons for higher costs vs OECD countries :
+ Technology and drugs ( eg more MRIs per capita, no drug price controls)
+ Obesity (35% vs 19% OECD) and chronic illnesses (32% of Medicare costs
cover the last two years of life)
+ Much higher administrative costs (4% of GDP), double the staffing vs Canada
-Healthcare costs a major factor in personal bankruptsy( !0 million have bills they can’t
pay )
Canada Healthcare System
-Single payer system covering 100% of the population -no co-pays or deductables
-Doctors and hospitals privately owned and managed within system rules
-Managed by Provincial governments who pay all doctor and hospital charges
-System funded 50/50 with Federal government
-Provinces set prices and proceedures that comply with Federal requirements
-No private insurance allowed except for drugs and dental not covered by System
-Heavy involvement in drug pricing and approval, cost benefit analysis
-Essentially no US type media drug advertising
-Doctors earn about 2/3 of what US doctors earn/year
-Lower availability of medical devices (eg. 75% fewer MRIs per capita than US)
-Open heart and transplant surgery restricted
– Major problems: waiting times for referral to specialists (+/- 16 weeks ), doctor
choice limited, long delays for elective surgery
United Kingdom Healthcare System
-Single payer system covering 100% of the population-no co-pays or deductables
-Doctors are government employees and hospitals are government owned
-Managed by major regional authorities (ie Britain, Wales,Scotland, etc)
-Drug prices controlled by the government, strict cost/benefit analysis. No US
type media drug advertising
-Drug prescriptions cost about $12/ each, free for children.

– No dental coverage for adults
– Doctors earn about 2/3 of what US doctors earn
– Individuals may purchase insurance coverage with doctors in private practice
– Major problems: Long wait times (+/- 10 weeks for general surgery), limited availabiliy
of new(expensive) or experimental treatments, cost/benefit analysis, lack of mental
health services, very long delays for elective surgery
-Per capita costs $4K/year vs US $10K/year
-Many say “Underfunded but not broken “
Germany Healthcare System ( An alternative to “single payer” ??)
-An insurance based system with non profit and for profit insurers
-Covers 90% of population- required participation for all but highest earners
-Funded by 50/50 contribution by employers and employees -15% of earnings
up to about $70K/year (2014 data)
-Private doctors and hospitals but highly regulated
-No deductables and low co-pays -children are free
-Managed by regional authorities via “sickness funds” that are used to control
total costs
– Drug prices are controlled, cost/benefit analysis, no US type public advertising
– Doctors earn about 2/3 of US doctors/year
– Per capita costs less than 1/2 of US
– Surveys indicate significantly higher public satisfaction with the system vs US,
Canada or UK
( The relationship between the insurance companies, doctors, hospitals ,employers,
employees individuals and the regional government bodies is unclear and needs
further analysis and understanding)

Comparisons of Health Care Systems in the United States, Germany and Canada

https://dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/the-u-s-health-care-system-an-international-perspective/

https://theconversation.com/why-market-competition-has-not-brought-down-health-care-costs-78971

https://theconversation.com/medicare-for-all-could-be-cheaper-than-you-think-81883

Single Payer Healthcare

Universal Coverage

The article below on drug cost shows how complicated healthcare is to understand, much less manage.  Factors such as age of population, availability of new drugs, the number of insured, etc. all interact.

Still, negotiation is an important factor.  The article states that many western countries (all government run healthcare) will only pay for improved outcomes.
But it’s not purely rational.  If some exotic drug will save your life, it’s worth a lot to you but maybe not so much to society if it starves other healthcare services.  The payers are subject to political pressure from interest groups.  Not simple.

The False Promise of ‘Medicare for All’

Cost is only part of the problem. Single-payer systems create long waits and delays on new drugs.

 

 

 

Current Affairs: Global Warming, Dec 13, 2018. Now 1:00 today

Discussion leader:Jack Neafsey

Discussion outline:

1-CYCLICAL TEMP/CO2 FLUCTUATIONS OVER THE PAST
       MINI ICE AGE FROM 1850 TO 1925
2-SCIENCE- NO HARD SCIENCE-ALL BASED ON MODELS DEVELOPED IN LATE 1980’S–MODELS HAVE BEEN         PROVEN TO BE WRONG
3-IMPACT- CO2 IS A FERTILIZER-15% OF CURRENT OUTPUT DUE TO CO2
   IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY–COST OF ALT FUELS W/O SUBSIDIES
4- PARIS ACCORD/ KTOTO PROTOCOL- US IS VIRTUALLY ALONE
       WORLDWIDE COAL USE IS INCREASING

Global Warming
What we probably agree on by Bob Baker:
Atmospheric CO2 levels are now at the highest of the past million years. This has occurred while CO2 emissions have risen since the start of the industrial revolution.

Current atmospheric level of 410 ppm compares to 280 ppm at start of industrial revolution
For the past 4-5 years CO2 emissions have leveled off at about 100 million tons per day.
This compares with about 60 million tons per day in 1990, when temperatures were rising.

Global temperatures have an erratic yr. to yr. change but have risen since 1950 by about .7 degree C at sea level and about 1 degree C at land surface.

In 1990, the temp. increases were at about their midpoint, such that if CO2 emissions were to drop to the 1990 level, we would not expect any decline in the rate of temperature increase.

The growth in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels has resulted from the consumer choice for consuming these fuels vs alternatives. The added cost for alternatives is not known.

What is at issue is the target in the “Paris Accords” to limit global temperature rise to 2.0 degrees C (but with a preferred target of a 1.5degree rise) in some target year. No agreed level of global emissions has been set; any reduction of atmospheric CO2 will need “CO2 capture and containment” which has not been demonstrated as feasible on a large scale. Lowering CO2 emissions does not lower atmospheric CO2 levels.

Estimated costs for meaningful reductions in fossil fuel use are huge, with the assumption that these will offset future costs of higher world temperatures.

About a billion persons do not have access to a reliable supply of electricity. What is the optimum method/cost for meeting this demand?

Several humanitarian uses for large expenditures can be identified which can yield with near-term results. (Between and one and two million persons die each year: lack of clean water, malaria, HIV and malnutrition).

What is the best use of huge mandated expenditures?

What’s with this wild weather? Blame an ‘extreme’ jet stream pattern.
The Washington Post

“Even veteran meteorologists with decades of experience are astounded,” said Capital Weather Gang’s severe weather expert.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2018/07/25/extreme-jet-stream-pattern-has-spurred-a-week-of-wild-weather-in-u-s/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.36353023b7f0

More from the Washington Post

WSJ – Economics of Climate Change

California’s Death Valley Will Have the Hottest Month Ever Recorded on Earth
Gizmodo

July has been one for extreme heat around the world, but every locale pales in comparison to what’s going on at Death Valley in California. Already one of the hottest places on the Earth, the heat has gone into overdrive this July. Death Valley is in line to set a record for the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.

https://earther.gizmodo.com/californias-death-valley-will-have-the-hottest-month-ev-1828001766

Startling new research suggests even faster rate of global warming
The Washington Post

More than 90 percent of global warming ends up in the oceans.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/10/31/startling-new-research-finds-large-buildup-heat-oceans-suggesting-faster-rate-global-warming/?utm_term=.28e9db8bea88

The Climate Won’t Crash the Economy

A worst-case scenario projects annual GDP growth will be slower by 0.05 percentage point.  WSJ 11/27/18

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-climate-wont-crash-the-economy-1543276899?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

Climate Change Is Affordable

A new assessment allows us to think about good policy without panicking.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/climate-change-is-affordable-1543362461?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=6

You should read this.note the comment that U S emissions are declining and are now 14% versus China’s 27%. China’s are growing rapidly.how does the pact deal with China and India?   https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/climate/greenhouse-gas-emissions-2018.html

A paper by Carolyn Holmes Coffey (Joe Holmes’ daughter)

Current Affairs: Immigration Revisited, September 20, 2018

Discussion leaders: David Mace & Charlie Goodyear

Opening summary: Immigration Opening Comments

Migrants Are on the Rise Around the World, and Myths About Them Are Shaping Attitudes – The New York Times
Migrants Around the World

Key facts about U.S. immigration policies and proposed changes | Pew Research Center
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/26/key-facts-about-u-s-immigration-policies-and-proposed-changes/

Companies Say Trump Is Hurting Business by Limiting Legal Immigration – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/02/business/trump-legal-immigration-h1b-visas.html?action=click&module=Top Stories&pgtype=Homepage


https://www.wola.org/analysis/fact-sheet-united-states-immigration-central-american-asylum-seekers/

https://www.epi.org/publication/immigration-facts/

https://theconversation.com/us/topics/immigration-411

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/16/us/immigration-family-chain-migration-foreign-born.html?action=click&module=Top Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Current Affairs: Gun Control, June 21, 2018

8:15 Lilian Gade room

Discussion Leader: Charles Salmans

Gun Control

Interpreting The Second Amendment – The Right to Bear Arms

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The historical debate over the language of this amendment, as to whether this is an individual right or a right in conjunction with service in “a well regulated militia”, has antecedents before the amendment was drafted. John Adams wrote that Congress should not prevent peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms. James Madison, in Federalist Paper 46, wrote about the right to bear arms within state militias as a means to keep in check a federal army.

In a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, District of Columbia vs. Heller, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, argued that the right to bear arms was a “right of the whole people, an individual right.” Justice Stevens disagreed in a minority opinion, arguing that this was a right in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.

The following Wikipedia entry summarizes interpretations and rulings over the years:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

Legal restrictions on weapons ownership that comply with the Second Amendment

The right to bear arms does not guarantee the right to buy or possess any weapon. Wikipedia on Federal Gun Control Laws

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_law_in_the_United_States

In 1939, in US vs. Miller, the Supreme Court upheld the law banning the right to buy, sell or possess a sawed-off shotgun.

From 1994-2004, there was a Federal ban on assault weapons, but that lapsed when Congress refused to renew it under pressure from the NRA. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban for definition of “assault weapons” under the law.

In the 2008 Heller decision, Justice Scalia wrote that the right to bear arms had boundaries. “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For example he cited laws that prohibit the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or that forbid them in places such as schools and government buildings, or impose conditions on their sale. In other words, gun enthusiasts are wrong when they claim that any limitation on firearms is unconstitutional.

President Trump has called for a ban on “bump stocks” that effectively turn a semi-automatic weapon into a full automatic weapon, but although this has been filed as a proposed rule change by the Justice Department, it has not yet been implemented by the Justice Department and will be challenged.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bump-stock-ban-trump_us_5ab92cf5e4b0decad04cb02a
There are also concerns that it will be hard to enforce, as some 500,000 are in circulation.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/proposed-bump-stock-ban-would-be-tough-to-enforce-1523185201

The President has also called for the age limit for purchase of a firearm be raised to 21. That proposal is opposed by the NRA and has not been implemented as yet. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-trump-vows-care-bump-stocks-executive-action/story?id=53421961

CDC and other Data on Gun Deaths

Gun death statistics kept by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) counted 38,658 deaths in 2016 (including suicides). Data collected by Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks media and law enforcement reports of shootings estimated that

3,964 children and teenagers were shot in 2017 including fatal and nonfatal shootings (CDC: 6,400 children and teens have been shot each year)
Incidents of defensive gun use were 2,030 in 2017 (the majority of gun owners cite self defense as their primary reason for owning a gun.
Unintentional shootings dropped by 9%. Only four states have some form of law requiring gun owners to safely store their guns when not in use, a practice linked to lower rates of accidental shootings.

The First Estimate of 2017 Gun Deaths Is In

A trauma surgeon describes high velocity wounds, such as from an AR-15 or an AK-47, that are much more destructive than those from a low velocity weapon. The bullet destroys whole areas of the body and shatters bone into hundreds of microscopic pieces.

When a Bullet Enters a Body: Gun Violence as Seen by a Trauma Surgeon

Correlation between rate of gun ownership and gun violence, effect of Background Checks on gun deaths and suicide rates

Among US states and among countries, there is a correlation between the rate of gun ownership and gun violence.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/2/16399418/us-gun-violence-statistics-maps-charts

Gun ownership correlates with gun deaths. Connecticut and other New England states rank low in gun ownership and gun deaths.

Developed countries with more guns have more gun deaths.

America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, 16 times as many as Germany.

The US has 4.4% of the world’s population, but nearly half of all civilian-owed guns around the world.

There have been more than 1,600 mass shootings since Sandy Hook (defined as four or more people shot in an incident) but these are a tiny percentage of firearm deaths.

States with Universal Background Checks had fewer gun deaths and those with stricter gun provisions had fewer suicide deaths.

https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21739193-washington-dithers-and-argues-some-states-show-way-what-works-reduce-gun-deaths?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/whatworkstoreducegundeathsfirearmsandthelaw

Federal law requires background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm through a licensed dealer, but says nothing about private sales or transactions at gun shows. Many buyers slip through this loophole. A survey of 1,613 gun-owners published in 2017 found that 42% had acquired their most recent weapon without a background check. The internet has made sales even harder to police. A probe by private investigators hired by New York City in 2011 found that 62% of online private sellers agreed to sell guns to people who stated they “probably could not pass a background check”.

Proposals to further restrict gun ownership

Constitutional Amendment or Supreme Court ruling that departs from the 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller ruling and links the “right to bear arms” to militia (National Guard?) membership.

Both these seem unlikely.
Proposals by the Parkland Students.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2018/mar/23/parkland-students-manifesto-americas-gun-laws?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=268684&subid=13072209&CMP=GT_US_collection
Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high velocity rounds.

Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons such as bump stocks.

Establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks paired with data on individuals’ infringement of gun laws, criminal offenses, and mental records.

Change privacy laws to allow healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement.

Close gun show and secondhand sales loopholes.

Allow the CDC to make recommendations for gun reform.

Raise the firearm purchase age to 21.

Dedicate more funds to mental health.

Increase funding for school security.
Other proposals:

“Red Flag Laws” – Extreme risk protection orders allowing the police to take away guns from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous, often after a family member or acquaintance raises concerns. Connecticut was the first state, in 1999, to pass such a law.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/us/red-flag-laws-guns.html

Require gun-buyers to apply for permits or licenses and to pass safety training. Twelve states and Washington, DC have such laws, several of which require would-be handgun-buyers to pass safety training. Canada has such a requirement. Some require people to turn up at their local sheriff’s office or police department. This may deter so-called “straw purchases”, in which someone stands in for a debarred buyer.

The Australian Solution. Make it illegal to own an unregistered firearm and then have periodic amnesties to allow people to turn over firearms without prosecution. To date, some 700,000 firearms have been surrendered to authorities in Australia.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-43236421
“The good guy with a gun” proposal.

Australia had a serious problem with gun violence. Here’s what happened after the country tried gun control

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-05-31/australia-tried-gun-control-and-here-s-what-happened-video-jhuqhlci?utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=bd&utm_source=applenews 

Allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools. Case history of an Ohio school where unnamed teachers have received training and have secured access to firearms.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/us/armed-teachers-guns-schools.html

Allow concealed carry without a permit and in more places. Concealed carry reciprocity would allow citizens who live in a state that allows concealed carry to legally carry in states that do not have concealed carry.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States

Problem of Overhang of Guns already in Private Possession

If new controls were imposed upon the sale and/or possession of firearms of various types, there still would be the problem of the weapons already in circulation. Presuming that the US attitude toward guns is different than in Australia, it’s unlikely that a high percentage of guns in private ownership would be turned in. Arguably, those that remained would command a high price on the black market (and bid on by those with nefarious purposes).

Of the roughly 300 million firearms owned by Americans, an estimated 8.5 million to 15 million are AR-15 and similar assault style rifles according to the NRA
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article201882739.html

Even if the ban on “bump stocks” was imposed today, there are some 500,000 in circulation.

I was unable to find an estimate of the number of high capacity magazines in circulation.

American Gun Violence and Culture

It is not more difficult to buy guns or ammunition in Canada than the US, but the rate of homicide by guns is much less. Homicides in Canada are 5.1 per 100,000 vs 29.7 in the US. Virtually every gun used in an American mass shooting is legally available for purchase in Canada.

One difference: nobody legally buys a gun in Canada without first taking the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. Then they have to submit an application for a license where they are screened for risk factors such as criminal history and mental health. Unlike the US, where gun ownership is closely correlated with self defense, according to surveys most Canadians believe the only reason for owning a gun is to kill animals or to shoot at paper targets.

Most guns in school shootings come from home.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-school-shootings-most-guns-come-from-home-1522920600?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

 

NYT’s Opinion – How to Reduce Shootings
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/06/opinion/how-to-reduce-shootings.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

 

NBC News: Rural America is mad about proposed gun laws. So they’re creating ‘gun sanctuaries.’

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/rural-america-mad-about-proposed-gun-laws-so-they-re-n877481

Active Shooter Video Game
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/29/us/parkland-shooter-video-game.html

We don’t have much that discounts the importance of gun control relative to psychology/sociology. I was listening to The New Yorker Radio Hour on NPR this morning and there was an 11 minute segment by Malcolm Gladwell that argued that there are too many guns already in circulation to make gun control an effective way of stopping school shootings. (He also pointed out that there were plenty of guns out there before school shootings became commonplace.

The segment cites a study that showed that incidents once regarded as so rare as to be almost unique motivate copycats as the second, then third, then fourth…incidents take place. In effect, school shooters have become part of a self-perpetuating subculture.
https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/the-new-yorker-radio-hour/malcolm-gladwell-on-school-shootings-and-the-return-of-paul-schrader

Women Should Be at Vanguard of the Gun-Control Movement –
Murders by firearms by husbands, boyfriends and other male partners surpass the number of victims of mass shootings.
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-30/women-should-be-leading-the-fight-for-stricter-gun-laws

Current Affairs: End of Life Care – Issues and Policies, May 17, 2018

Discussion leader: Jim Phillips
Just because we can extend life, should we? The U.S. is expected to spend $2.8 trillion on health care in 2012. Medicare alone will cost taxpayers $590 billion, with over 25% going toward patients in their last year of life. If health care is a scarce resource, limited by its availability and our ability to pay for it, should government step in to ration care, deciding whose life is worth saving? In other words, how much is an extra month of life worth?

For The Motion
The U.S. spends more on health care than any other industrial nation—in 2012 we are expected to spend $2.8 trillion. We cannot afford our health care system and expensive end-of-life care costs are a major contributor to this problem.
Rationing means getting better value for the trillions we spend every year.
Rationing already happens. Medicare decides what it will reimburse, private insurance decides what they will cover, and individuals go without care and medicine every day when they can’t afford it.
We must ration based on cost-effectiveness, not on an individual’s ability to pay.
If we spent less on those who, with or without treatment, have only a few months left to live, we would be better able to help those who may have decades.
Against The Motion
The government should not have the power to determine who lives, who dies, and who gets treatment based on calculations of quality and quantity of life.
Health care costs can be reined in without rationing care.
Targeting “end-of-life” care specifically would result in very little cost savings.
Rationing care will lead us down a moral slippery slope. How many years of life is enough? Who is productive and worthy, and who is not?

https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/ration-end-life-care

In 1994, Oregon voters passed the Death with Dignity Act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Since then, it has become legal in 4 more states, including New Mexico, where the state court ruling that it is constitutional is under appeal. Is it, in the words of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics, “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer”? Will these laws lead to a slippery slope, where the vulnerable are pressured to choose death and human life is devalued? Or do we need to recognize everyone’s basic right to autonomy, the right to end pain and suffering, and the right to choose to die with dignity?

For The Motion
The right to die as one chooses—and to decide when life is no longer worth living—is integral to human freedom, liberty, and personal autonomy. Neither the government, nor religious institutions, should impose their own conceptions of morality upon individuals who are not harming others.
As an option in end-of-life care, aid in dying would allow terminally ill, mentally competent individuals to retain dignity and bodily integrity in the face of insurmountable pain and suffering.
In places where assisted suicide is legal—namely, Oregon and the Netherlands—there is no evidence that the law is being abused, that vulnerable populations are being targeted, or that patients are being coerced by doctors and/or their families to choose death.
If physician-assisted suicide remains illegal, lesser and more dangerous alternatives—shooting oneself, enlisting doctors or family to break the law, DIY suicide—will spread in its place.
Against The Motion
If assisted suicide is legalized, we will be led down a slippery slope towards pervasive medical killing, endangering vulnerable populations—disabled, elderly, minority, or poor—whose lives are seen as a burden on society.
If pain is treated effectively, there is no need to treat the patient as if the patient were the “problem to be eliminated.”
Starting with the Hippocratic Oath, medical professional codes prohibit killing, holding the intrinsic value of human life and dignity above all other ethical principles. Assisted suicide erodes the doctor-patient relationship and has grave potential for misuse and abuse.
Many physicians do not want to have God-like power over others, and they should not be pressured, against their own convictions, to assist in a patient’s suicide.
https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/legalize-assisted-suicide

 

As people approach the end of their lives, they and their families commonly face tasks and decisions that include a broad array of choices ranging from simple to extremely complex. They may be practical, psychosocial, spiritual, legal, existential, or medical in nature.

http://www.apa.org/topics/death/end-of-life.aspx

End-Of-Life Policy Solutions: A Cautionary Note
https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20170710.060992/full/

Ethical Issues Surrounding End-of-Life Care: A Narrative Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934577/

How to Curb the High Cost of Caregiving
https://www.barrons.com/articles/how-to-curb-the-high-cost-of-caregiving-1521253021

HOW TO ENROLL IN VETERANS HEALTH INSURANCE (TRICARE)
http://www.dummies.com/personal-finance/veterans-benefits/how-to-enroll-in-veterans-health-insurance-tricare/

How to grow old in your own home
https://www.fidelity.com/insights/retirement/aging-in-place

Paying for Care
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/paying-care

Problems and Solutions in End-of-Life Healthcare
http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/leadership/problems-and-solutions-end-life-healthcare#

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-talk-with-your-dying-loved-one-1523891127

Current Affairs: Refugees, April 19, 2018

Discussion leader: David Mace

 

Here is a good overview piece from the Pew Research Center on refugees

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/30/key-facts-about-refugees-to-the-u-s/

IQ2  Debate:

Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Most have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, but many have risked death to reach Europe and the possibility of a better life. Unlike Europe and Syria’s neighbors, the United States has had the advantage of picking and choosing from afar, taking in just over 2,000 Syrian refugees since the war’s start. The Obama administration has pledged to take another 10,000 in 2016, but there are some who suggest that we are falling well below the number that we can and should accept. What are our moral obligations, and what are the cultural, economic, and security issues that must be taken into account? Should the U.S. let in 100,000 Syrian refugees?

https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/us-should-let-100000-syrian-refugees

Fact sheet supporting the debate:

http://sma.darien.org/wp-content/uploads/Refugee-Facts-Oct-2015-FINAL.pdf

And a rebuttal to the fact sheet:

https://cis.org/Report/FactChecking-Fact-Sheet-Refugee-Resettlement

 

 

Current Affairs: Inequality and increasing job automation, March 15, 2018

Discussion leader: Bryan Hooper

The American Dream is still alive, but it has been fading into the distance with the growth of inequality of income and wealth distribution over the past few decades. There are some good research guides to help us understand the current situation and provide a basis for discussion of how changes in automation might affect the situation in future. In particular, the economists Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Raj Chetty of Stanford University specialize in the study of inequality and its causes and possible cures, and the reading items suggested in these notes draw on their work.

  • The first recommendation is the World Inequality Report, which was part-authored by Thomas Piketty, and released in December, 2017. Download the executive summary from their website below and you will see in pages 4 through 16 a comprehensive review of the global situation, including an analysis of reasons for the rise in inequality and some suggestions to change the situation into a more equitable distribution. The use of well-designed charts is outstanding, and Figure E3 that illustrates the comparison between the USA and Western Europe is a good example. It shows that in the USA over a period of 36 years the share of national income of the top 1% doubled to 20% through 2016, while the bottom 50% saw its share decline from 20% to 13%. In Western Europe, in contrast, the top 1% share grew from 10% to 12%, and the bottom 50% declined from 24% to 22%. Figure E8 shows that the share of wealth (as opposed to income) rose for the top 1% in the USA from 22% in 1980 to 39% in 2014. The report is on:
    http://wir2018.wid.world/

    For those of you with really limited time go to the review of key findings from the report in a New York Times article from 12/14/2017:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/14/business/world-inequality.html

    • The second major recommendation is to pull up The Equality of Opportunity Project website, and look at the second chart on the home page that provides the support for the first sentence of these notes. To quote, “Our work shows that children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century.” One of the Project Directors is Raj Chetty and a podcast on Freakonomics Radio expands on his research on the American Dream: there is a link to the podcast in the second paragraph of the item on Project Motivation next to the chart. You can either listen to the 40 minutes of the broadcast, or for the time-challenged, try reading the on-screen transcript instead. To save even more time read a summary of his key points below:
    Young kids who move out of a high-poverty neighborhood do much better later on in life because of several factors:
    – Residential integration.
    – Income inequality.
    – Family influence.
    – Social capital.
    – School quality.
    The investment in moving these children is repaid to society by the income taxes they pay back on the higher earnings they eventually make as adults.
    The website is:
    http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/

    Chetty is also working on a project using Facebook data to help understand better the causes of inequality:
    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/19/facebook-inequality-stanford-417093

    The Brookings Institution has Chetty in 14 Charts on this site:
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2018/01/11/raj-chetty-in-14-charts-big-findings-on-opportunity-and-mobility-we-should-know/

    • A third suggestion is to read the key points from the IPPR report titled Managing Automation which is mainly about the UK economic outlook in this area, but contains on page 17 chart 1.6 using data from the McKinsey study cited below indicating that 60% of occupations in the USA consist of activities that are 30% automatable. (Does that mean that 18% of those jobs will disappear?) It also states that occupations with zero chance of being automated include psychiatrists and legislators! The executive summary on pages 2 to 5 is a quick read, but section 2 on pages 24 to 30 covers their forecast for the growth of inequality due to automation. The potential loss of wages associated with automating activities is estimated as $1.1 trillion in the USA.
    https://www.ippr.org/files/2018-01/cej-managing-automation-december2017.pdf

    • The fourth recommendation is to review the key findings of a McKinsey Global Institute study titled A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity. Pages ii to iii provide a quick summary. The subsequent executive summary is on pages 1 to 3, and for those with perseverance the full report covers an additional 16 pages of analysis and opinion.
    https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global Themes/Digital Disruption/Harnessing automation for a future that works/MGI-A-future-that-works-Executive-summary.ashx

    • For the fifth reference point, if you still have the time and energy, have a look at the debate on Intelligence Squared from October, 2014, Income Inequality impairs the American Dream of Upward Mobility. Again, you can download a transcript to read in a shorter time than listening takes – 1:44 hours – and it will also save you having to listen to the self-centered moderator. Note that the motion was judged to have failed by their scoring system, but a majority of the audience ended up supporting it.
    https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/income-inequality-impairs-american-dream-upward-mobility

    • And for those with even more stamina here is a selection of newspaper articles to browse on this subject:
    From the New York Times 2/28/18: The Unmet Promise of Equality:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/28/opinion/the-unmet-promise-of-equality.html

    As the World Economic Forum convenes in Davos, the powerful are feeling optimistic because of waning worries about populism and global economic growth.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/22/business/davos-world-economic-forum-populism.html

    From The New York Times: Open Societies Under Siege. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. That is why he will be hard to dislodge.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/open-societies-under-siege.html

    Hidden in the middle of this article is McKinsey’s estimate that “roughly half of all jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.” Increased expenditures on training and development of people is suggested as the answer to the problem.
    From The New York Times: How C.E.O.s Should Spend Their Tax Cuts. Bonuses are nice, but the best investment is in training your employees.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/opinion/ceo-tax-cuts.html

    From The New York Times:The Redemption of Chris Hughes. The Facebook co-founder’s rise was meteoric. He argues that the same forces that helped him succeed have made it harder for others. In a new book, “Fair Shot,” he proposes a bold solution.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/books/review/chris-hughes-facebook-fair-shot.html
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