March 20, 2018

Supreme Court okays new Pennsylvania election map

NY Times -he Supreme Court rejected on Monday a second emergency application from Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania seeking to overturn decisions from that state’s highest court, which had ruled that Pennsylvania’s congressional map had been warped by partisan gerrymandering and then imposed one of its own.

The ruling means a new map drawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will very likely be in effect in this year’s elections, setting the stage for possible gains by Democrats.

Mississippi passes worst abortion law in the country

Slate -Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the country’s most restrictive abortion measure into law Monday, immediately banning abortions after 15 weeks in almost all cases, including cases of rape and incest. The state’s previous abortion law had a 20-week deadline, but the second-term governor has publicly campaigned to make it harder for women to get an abortion in the state. In 2014, Bryant announced his goal was “to end abortion in Mississippi.”

For a sense of how far state lawmakers have restricted access to abortion services, Mississippi has a single abortion clinic, which filed suit within the hour of the Gestational Age Act being signed, seeking a preliminary injunction to keep the law from being enforced.

Hunters disappearing, cutting wildlife funding

NPR -A new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that today, only about 5 percent of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt. That's half of what it was 50 years ago and the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decade.

Meanwhile other wildlife-centered activities, like birdwatching, hiking and photography, are rapidly growing, as American society and attitudes towards wildlife change.

State wildlife agencies and the country's wildlife conservation system are heavily dependent on sportsmen for funding. Money generated from license fees and excise taxes on guns, ammunition and angling equipment provide about 60 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies, which manage most of the wildlife in the U.S.

Luck matters more than we may realize

Scientific American -In recent years, a number of studies and books--including those by risk analyst Nassim Taleb, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and economist Robert Frank-- have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science. Their argument is not that luck is everything; of course talent matters. Instead, the data suggests that we miss out on a really importance piece of the success picture if we only focus on personal characteristics in attempting to understand the determinants of success.
Consider some recent findings:

The suspicious McCabe firing

Sam Smith - There is not enough available information to provide justification for the immediate firing of Andrew McCabe. One long time justice Department official who had been involved in scores of similar cases said that he had never seen one handled so abruptly.  And the NY Times reports that:
That is one of the big unknowns. F.B.I. disciplinary matters can drag out for extended periods, and it is not uncommon for officials to retire during that process. That did not happen here, and it is not clear why. The workings of the F.B.I.’s disciplinary office are kept confidential.
Mr. McCabe’s lawyers say they were given little time to read and respond to the final report and were still receiving new evidence two days before his firing. Why the rush, they ask, if not to make sure that Mr. McCabe was fired?
“This concerted effort to accelerate the process, in order to beat the ticking clock of his scheduled retirement, violates any sense of decency and basic principles of fairness,” [McCabe lawyer Michael] Bromwich said.
 In short, we do not know what McCabe did wrong, but that the way his case was handled was highly suspicious.

A reminder for the media

Robert Mueller is involved in a criminal investigation and not a political campaign. To treat Trump as a political opponent rather than as a potential suspect is to  mislead the public. Which is just what the potential suspect wants you to do.

March 19, 2018

Word: The humanities aren't dead

James McWilliams, Pacific Standard -You've heard the case 1,000,000 times: The humanities are dying. With Justin Stover's recent essay in American Affairs, "There Is No Case for the Humanities," you can make that 1,000,001.

But in this essay there's something different: Stover, who teaches at the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, doesn't try to overstate the humanities. He argues that the humanities are "no more or less relevant now than they've ever been." It's just that now, as universities become corporate boot camps churning out productive science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) students, the humanities can no longer compete under the new rules. To try to do so is to engage in self-defeat. "The justification for the humanities only makes sense within a humanistic framework," Stover writes. "Outside of it, there is simply no case."

Many a scholar will have a hard time admitting this point, but, beyond the academy, there's not a single skill set that would be enhanced by reading Virgil. A mechanic or surgeon who reads Virgil will be neither a better mechanic or surgeon—nor a better human being. He'll just be a mechanic or surgeon who enjoys Virgil. When it comes to being relevant to a larger purpose beyond ourselves, there is no case to be made for reading Virgil.

Unfortunately, we persist in making our cases in response to the standard attacks. Conventional critiques of the humanities—critiques that many of us in the humanities concede—condemn over-specialization, over-production, and too little teaching. Stover demurs, insisting that such realities are the necessary outcomes when humanities scholars hunker down and do what we do: Pursue intellectual and aesthetic pleasure and, when the opportunity arises, share it with students.


43% still support the Iraq war

Slate -George W. Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq fifteen years ago today. Bush said the invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of massive destruction (he wasn’t) and supporting al-Qaida (no). There are still American troops in Iraq—seven died last week, bringing the count of U.S. military fatalities in the country since 2003 to 4,540. The death toll for Iraqis has been much more severe; an estimated 200,000 civilians have died violently there over the same time period. The civil war and chaos that the U.S. invasion created resulted in the rise of ISIS.

All in all, a pretty solid showing by the ol’ USA, eh? Forty-three percent of Americans think so, Pew has found:


Trump forced staffers to sign unconstitutional non-disclosure pacts

Common Dreams-Amid reports that President Donald Trump demanded that his senior staffers sign non-disclosure agreements )—and threatened them with huge financial penalties if they breached the contracts—civil liberties advocates and legal experts said the documents show blatant disregard for public employees' constitutional rights.

"Public employees can't be gagged by private agreements. These so-called NDAs are unconstitutional and unenforceable," declared Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, in a statement.

According to the Washington Post, which first reported on the agreements, White House staffers saw the documents as legally non-binding as well, but signed them to appease Trump.

"Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel's Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event," wrote Ruth Marcus on Sunday.

How Arctic temperatures affect our weather

Inside Climate News - The warmer the Arctic, the more likely the Northeast will be clobbered by blizzards, says a team of researchers who analyzed winter weather patterns going back to 1950.

Citing disruptive storms like Snowzilla (2016), Snowmaggedon (2010) and Snowpocalypse (2009), the climate scientists wrote that "heavy snowfalls are generally more frequent since 1990, and in many cities the most extreme snowfalls have occurred primarily during recent decades."

Their study, published in the journal Nature Communications, links the increased frequency of extreme winter storms with the rapid and persistent warming of the Arctic since around 1990. When temperatures over the Arctic spike, especially high in the atmosphere, extreme winter weather is two to four times more likely in Boston and New York, while the U.S. West tends to see warmer and drier conditions, they conclude.

How we got into this mess

Sam Smith -  Disasters like President Trump don’t just happen; they typically have years of unattended, unnoticed and uncorrected precedents. For example, I have argued for at least a decade and a half that America had quietly ended its first republic and that we were in an ill-defined succession perhaps best described by a term used in Latin America: a culture of impunity.

Which is to say one based on hegemonic liberty i.e. the more power you have the more freedom you have to use it. Traditional external factors such as democracy, history, law, community, religion and cultural values move to the rear or disappear. As I described it:

In a culture of impunity, rules serve the internal logic of the system rather than whatever values typically guide a country, such as those of its constitution, church or tradition. The culture of impunity encourages coups and cruelty, and at best practices only titular democracy. A culture of impunity differs from ordinary political corruption in that the latter represents deviance from the culture while the former becomes the culture. Such a new culture does not announce itself.

In a culture of impunity, what replaces constitution, precedent, values, tradition, fairness, consensus, debate and all that sort of arcane stuff? Mainly greed. We find ourselves without heroism, without debate over right and wrong, with little but an endless narcissistic struggle by the powerful to get more money, more power, and more press than the next person. In the chase, anything goes and the only standard is whether you win, lose, or get caught.

The major political struggle has become not between conservative and liberal but between ourselves and our political, economic, social and media elites. Between the toxic and the natural, the corporate and the communal, the technocratic and the human, the competitive and the cooperative, the efficient and the just, meaningless data and meaningful understanding, the destructive and the decent.

While one can’t put a date on such a shift, a good approximation would be the Reagan administration. As I wrote in his wake:

Ronald Reagan … applied principles he had used to sell Chesterfield cigarettes to hawk a toxic form of government described well by Robert Lekachman:

"Ronald Reagan must be the nicest president who ever destroyed a union, tried to cut school lunch milk rations from six to four ounces, and compelled families in need of public help to first dispose of household goods in excess of $1,000".

There is considerable evidence that the collapse of the First American Republic began in no small part with Reagan’s inauguration:

- The number of federal inmates increased from approximately 25,000 in FY1980 to nearly 219,000 in FY2012.

- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives financial assistance from the federal government. Back in 1983, that number was less than 30 percent.

- From 1947 to 1979 family income of the bottom 20% went up 116% and those in the top 20% went up 99%. Between 1980 and 2009, the bottom 20% went up 15% while the top 20% went up 95%

- Hours worked per employees are the highest since the 1980s.

- Middle class debt is the worst since the 1980s.

- Personal bankruptcies are up 400% since the 1980s.

- Student loan debt is the worst since the 1980s

- In the 1980s there were 50 corporations controlling most of the major media. Now there are six.

- During the Reagan administration the number of families living below the poverty line increased by one-third.

Just recently David F. Ruccio wrote that: “In 2014, the top 1 percent (red line) owned almost two thirds of the financial or business wealth, while the bottom 90 percent (blue line) had only six percent. That represents an enormous change from the already-unequal situation in 1978, when the shares were much closer (28.6 percent for the top 1 percent and 23.2 percent for the bottom 90 percent).

There are other aspects of the Reagan years we tend to forget. For example, the Reagan administration was among the most corrupt in American history including, by one estimate, 31 convictions of top officials. By comparison 40 government officials were indicted or convicted in the wake of Watergate. 47 individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine were convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes with 33 of these occurring during the Clinton administration itself.

David R. Simon and D. Stanley Eitzen in Elite Deviance, report that 138 appointees of the Reagan administration either resigned under an ethical cloud or were criminally indicted.

The Reagan administration also had secret plans for an unconstitutional takeover of the federal government under an ill-defined national emergency. Members of the government created by the coup had been selected and included Richard Cheney.

Reagan's policies also led to what was then the greatest financial scandal in American history: the savings & loan debacle which cost taxpayers billions of dollars.


Contrary to our faith in national immortality,  anthropologist Alfred Kroeber noted that elements of a culture do die out, "dissolve away, disappear, and are replaced by new ones. The elements of the content of such cultures may have previously spread to other cultures and survive there. Or their place may be taken at home by elements introduced from abroad. Or they may survive, with or without modification, at home, in the different configuration that gradually takes the place of the old one as a successor culture." 

As an example, Kroeber says that there came a time when the ancient Egyptians had clearly attained "the greatest military might, expansion, wealth, excellence of art and development of thought. The inherent patterns of their culture may be said to have been fully realized or to have been saturated then. After that, with pattern potentialities exhausted, there could be only diminished or devitalized repletion; unless the patterns can be reformulated in the direction of a new set of values - which would be equivalent to recasting the civilization into a new one or into a thoroughly new phase of one. This latter did not happen in Egypt; so more and more sluggish mechanical repetition within the realized but fully exhausted patterns became the universal vogue."

So while it is easy to blame Trump for everything that is going wrong, it is important that we recognize these and other factors. For example: 

- The rise of television advertising which shifted politics  from a community-based to an image based standard, aided by factors like the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court

- The rise, thanks in no small part to cable, of round the clock television news and commentary. Before cable, people got their news from a relatively few programs that tended to be more objective. Steady coverage quickly runs out of actual news. It also makes news programs increasingly dependent on highly biased but convenient sources such as the White House. As seen on TV, presidential news conferences, for example, were once far less frequent than they are now. 

- The over reliance by national news programs on politicians and other journalists, with a noticeable decline in the use of those outside the political establishment such as professors, ministers, local and state officials and leaders of non-political organizations. 

- The close ties of major media to corporate America described in one article this way: “Project Censored researched the board members of 10 major media organizations from newspaper to television to radio. Of these ten organizations, we found there are 118 people who sit on 288 different American and international corporate boards proving a close on-going interlock between big media and corporate America.”

- The media’s growing distance from those to whom it is reporting. When I started out as a Washington reporter in the 1950s, only about half of American journalists had more than a high school degree. They naturally identified with their readership rather than with their publishers or elite sources. I didn't let anyone know I had gone to Harvard because that would not have improved my standing either with staffers on the Hill or colleagues in the media.

Ben Bagdikian, a bit older than myself, described the craft in his memoir, Double Vision, this way:

"Some of us on that long-ago paper had college educations but we learned to keep quiet about it; there was a suspicion that a degree turned men into sissies. Only after the war did the US Labor Department's annual summary of job possibilities in journalism state that a college degree is 'sometimes preferred.'"

All this hasn’t helped the reputation of the media among the public. For example the British paper, the Independent, noted:

Almost a third of Americans support Donald Trump’s belief that the media is an “enemy of the American people” and favor government restrictions on the press, according to a new survey.

A smaller but still significant number of Americans — roughly a quarter — endorsed allowing the government to halt publication of “a story that government officials say is biased or inaccurate,” an extraordinary rebuke of precedent barring such government control of the media.

-The rise of corporatism  -  In countries such as Italy, corporatism was the precursor of fascism. We’re not quite there yet, but seem at times clearly headed on the path. 

Until the last decades of the 19th century, Americans believed in a degree of fair distribution of wealth that would shock many today. Most free workers in this country were self-employed well into the 19th century. They were thus economic as well as political citizens. James L. Huston writes in the American Historical Review:

"Americans believed that if property were concentrated in the hands of a few in a republic, those few would use their wealth to control other citizens, seize political power, and warp the republic into an oligarchy. Thus to avoid descent into despotism or oligarchy, republics had to possess an equitable distribution of wealth."

Although the practice was centuries old, the term capitalism -- and thus the religion of the same name -- didn't even exist until the middle of the 19th century.

Americans were instead intensely commercial, but this spirit was propelled not by Reaganesque fantasies about competition but by the freedom that engaging in business provided from the hierarchical social and economic system of a monarchy. Business, including the exchange as well as the making of goods, was seen as a natural state allowing a community and individuals to get ahead and to prosper without the blessing of nobility or feudalism.

In the beginning, if you wanted to form a corporation you needed a state charter and had to prove it was in the public interest, convenience and necessity. During the entire colonial period only about a half-dozen business corporations were chartered; between the end of the Revolution and 1795 this rose to about a 150. Jefferson to the end opposed liberal grants of corporate charters and argued that states should be allowed to intervene in corporate matters or take back a charter if necessary.
It wasn't until after the Civil War that economic conditions turned sharply in favor of the large corporation.

Says Huston: "The rise of Big Business generated the most important transformation of American life that North America has ever experienced."

By the end of the 19th century the Supreme Court had declared corporations to be persons under the 14th Amendment, entitled to the same protections as human beings. It was during this same time that the myth of competitive virtue sprouted, helping to justify one of the great rapacious periods of American business

The populist, progressive and New Deal eras helped to reverse much of this. But all that is now in the past. The new robber barons are not only underpaying and mistreating their workers they are moving their jobs overseas.

The political movement of populism, which Jonathan Rowe called the "last spasm of economic freedom in an American context," did battle with the new corporations but lost, as did the eurocentric socialists who followed. Save during the depression, generations of Americans would come to accept the myth of the free markets and free enterprise. Today, only about 7 percent of non-farm workers are self-employed.

 - The rise of a gradocracy.  In the 1950s universities were turning out less than 5,000 MBAs a year.

By 2005,  these schools graduated 142,000 MBAs in one year.

There are plenty of worthy arguments to be made correlating the rise of business school culture with the decline of our economy and our country. A cursory examination of American business suggests that its major product has become wasted energy. And not just the physical sort. Compute all the energy loss created by corporate lawyers, Washington lobbyists, marketing consultants, CEO benefits, advertising agencies, leadership seminars, human resource supervisors, strategic planners and industry conventions and it is amazing that this country has any manufacturing base at all. We have created an economy based not on actually doing anything, but on facilitating, supervising, 

planning, managing, analyzing, tax advising, marketing, consulting or defending in court what might be done if we had time to do it. The few remaining truly productive companies become immediate targets for another entropic activity, the leveraged buyout and the rise of the killer hedge fund.

And it was not just business school graduates that were the problem. In 2009, the Washingtonian Magazine estimated there were 80,000 lawyers in Washington.

The law has always been a favored profession for the Congress. Even Thomas Jefferson complained, “If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour? "

It was a given until recent times, that from a political point of view, understanding law or economics or business was a valuable asset but one that fell far behind social intelligence upon which successful politics relied. As my father, a lawyer who worked in the New Deal, would tell my buddies, “Go to law school, then do something else.” Roosevelt wasn’t as gracious towards the academic elites: “"I took economics courses in college for four years, and everything I was taught was wrong."

Today, the gradocracy has increasingly determined the views and strategies of liberals. People with less education are considered a lesser group and even, to borrow the word of the last Democratic presidential candidate, “deplorables.”

One of the effects is that instead of organizing, liberals increasingly analyze, criticizing the very people they should be converting or activating. The term “white privilege,” for example, isn’t all that appealing to that portion  of white America in poverty, a group twice as large as blacks of all incomes. And the analyses rely heavily on errors of history making me wonder sometimes whether we haven’t become a national dysfunctional family, forever trapped in our past rather than breaking out of it. As I  hope this essay illustrates, history can be  useful, but to let it define today’s limits can be painfully ineffective.

- The decline of study of matters of importance to maintaining a democracy. The current indifference to matters such as history and civics in our schools means that we are creating generations that don’t have a firm handle on what a democracy is and how it functions.  We don’t even talk about it. But a recent poll found that in 1995, only 16% of 16 to 24-year-old Americans believed that democracy was a bad way to run the country. By 2011, that share had increased to 24%. Further, only 43% of older Americans did not think that the military should be allowed to take over when the government is incompetent or failing to do its job. Amongst younger people the figure is much lower at 19%.

- The decline of community – With urbanization as well the niche building of cable television and the Internet, communities and their values are less important. One of the characteristics of a community is that it is common ground for varied souls. In a small community, you learn to speak decently to those with whom you may not agree in religion or politics because you still share something in common. Identity politics, for example, emphasizes self-realization and pride but often combined with a harshly judgmental attitude towards others.  I find myself wondering sometimes whether Martin Luther King – who admonished his colleagues that among their dreams should be that  someday their enemies would be their friends –could have flourished in today’s atmosphere. 

- The damage to the voting system. Citizens United, redistricting, and numerous requirements designed to reduce voting by certain groups have caused great damage to voting system.

- The unravelling of the Democratic Party – With the arrival of Bill Clinton on the national scene, his party lost interest in the issues that had created the New Deal and the Great Society. The party became Republican Lite . 

After Clinton’s first term, I wrote, “Even that otherwise egregious warlock of Whittier, Richard Nixon, practiced domestic affairs in the tradition of social democracy. He was, in fact, our last liberal president, an amazing claim until one considers that he favored a negative income tax; revenue sharing; a guaranteed income for children; supplementary programs for the aged, blind, and disabled; uniform application of the food stamp program; better health insurance programs for low income families; aid to community colleges; aid to low-income college students; the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities; and increased funding for elementary and secondary schools. Today someone of Nixon's domestic political tendencies might be considered too radical for C-SPAN.
The party and the media also ignored the Arkansas corruption and that of the Clintons in a manner later replicated in many ways by the media coverage of the Trump campaign. Hegemonic power had begun trumping reality. 


All this began happening well before Donald Trump took office and it makes more sense to recognize that he is the outcome of recent years of failure on our collective part rather than its creator. We have moving towards a Trump regime for a long time. 

There are things we can do about it, but I’ll leave that for another day. 

This essay includes excerpts from previous articles by the author.

March 18, 2018

US healthcare costs soar over other high-income countries

JAMA Network -  In 2016, the United States spent nearly twice as much as 10 high-income countries on medical care and performed less well on many population health outcomes. Contrary to some explanations for high spending, social spending and health care utilization in the United States did not differ substantially from other high-income nations. Prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals and devices, and administrative costs appeared to be the main drivers of the differences in spending.

Importance Health care spending in the United States is a major concern and is higher than in other high-income countries, but there is little evidence that efforts to reform US health care delivery have had a meaningful influence on controlling health care spending and costs.

Meanwhile. . .

According to someone close to Andrew McCabe, the fired FBI official has given memos of his conversations with Donald Trump to Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Russian links to Cambridge Analytics 

Cambridge Analytics gather informtion on 50 million Facebook users


New stody on binge drinking

Generic House poll

Jared Kushner's company routinely filed false New York City paperwork

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Guardian  -Cambridge Analytica is a company that offers services to businesses and political parties who want to “change audience behaviour”.

It claims to be able to analyse huge amounts of consumer data and combine that with behavioural science to identify people who organisations can target with marketing material. It collects data from a wide range of sources, including social media platforms such as Facebook, and its own polling.

With its headquarters in London, the firm was set up in 2013 as an offshoot of another company called SCL Group, which offers similar services around the world.

In an interview with the website Contagious, Cambridge Analytica’s founder, Alexander Nix said it had been set up “to address the vacuum in the US Republican political market” that became evident when Mitt Romney was defeated in the 2012 presidential election.

March 17, 2018

Study finds Trump connected hotel in Panama was used for drug money laundering

Newsweek -President Donald Trump made tens of millions of dollars in profits by allowing Colombian drug cartels and other groups to launder money through a Trump-affiliated hotel in Panama, according to a new investigation by the organization Global Witness.

In the early 2000s, Trump was having financial difficulties and began selling his high-profile name to real estate developers around the world, the report said. One of these developed Panama’s Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower.

The report said the drug cartels purchased hotel units to hide the origins of money earned through drug trafficking and other criminal activity, and Trump is estimated to have earned tens of millions of dollars from the deals.

The report said the Panama project is a textbook case of money laundering.

“Investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely,” the report noted. “Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere.”

27 women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct

Mnuchin wastes large sums of public money on air trips

Salon -A new report by a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group claims that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been spending taxpayer money on expensive flights using military and non-commercial aircraft — and completely avoiding commercial.

"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has billed taxpayers for the most expensive flight options available at every turn, appearing to never even consider flying commercial as his predecessors did," explained Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. ...

"The documents CREW obtained show that between the spring and fall of 2017, he took eight separate trips on military aircraft at a total cost of nearly $1 million," the report explained.

Democratic lawmaker offer McCabe a job

The Hill -Democratic lawmaker offered to hire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe in an effort to help McCabe qualify to receive his pension after being fired from the agency two days before he qualified to receive it.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) was responding to a tweet from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said the former FBI official might still be able to receive his pension if he’s hired by a member of Congress.

Key figure in Mueller probe once sentenced for child pornography

Newsweek -The Lebanese-Amrican businessman who features prominently in special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry was once sentenced to six months on child pornography charges in Virginia, Newsweek has learned.

George Nader, 58, has emerged as a key player in the investigation. An adviser to the Emirati crown prince, Nader is believed to have represented the kingdom’s interests in White House meetings, and frequently met with Jared Kushner during the early months of the Trump administration to discuss U.S. policies toward Persian Gulf states.

But before he reemerged as a Middle East power broker, the onetime publisher of a niche foreign policy magazine accrued a record of criminal charges. In 1985, federal authorities charged Nader for importing sexually explicit materials, including magazines and pictures that depicted “nude boys,” and other materials showing boys “engaged in a variety of sexual acts,” according to federal court records. The case was dropped shortly before trial. And in 2003 he was convicted on 10 counts of sexually abusing underage boys in the Czech Republic, the AP reported Thursday. Nader served one year in prison abroad for those charges.

Finland rated happiest nation

GuardianIf you can’t buy happiness, perhaps you should move to Helsinki. Finland has emerged from a 10-year economic depression to be ranked by the UN last week as the happiest place to live on the planet. The most important factor in Finland topping the UN’s happiness ranking is the country’s history of equality. It has managed to strike an amicable balance between the sexes, between workers and bosses, and within the education and welfare systems. An equal society can bond together to survive the bad times when so many countries pull themselves apart.