Witless Wednesday

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For years now, Donald Trump has been screeching “No collusion!” It’s been a hollow cry, because throughout the 2016 campaign (and afterward as president), Trump aided and abetted Vladimir Putin’s attack on a US election by echoing Moscow’s disinformation that the Kremlin had not intervened. And, of course, Trump’s three top advisers—campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr.—met in June 2016 with a Russian emissary after being told she would bring them dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a secret Russian government operation to help Trump. But the argument for direct collusion—that is, Trump or his aides privately collaborating with a Russian-related person or entity for a nefarious purpose—has become stronger with recent filings in the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller against Manafort. Information disclosed by these documents, coupled with previous revelations, makes it seem that Manafort was indeed actively conniving with Russian forces while he was directing Trump’s presidential effort.

A review of the Manafort timeline provides a clear picture:

David Corn @ MOTHER JONES

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Takeout the Trash Tuesday

Rudy Giuliani

An unnamed “senior official in the Trump administration” wrote in an anonymous Daily Caller op-ed Monday that the record-breaking 24-day partial government shutdown “is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.”

While it’s unclear how “senior” this administration official is — many senior Trump officials are still being paid, while the author claims to be “one of the senior officials working without a paycheck” — the op-ed could offer a window into another goal of this shutdown, in addition to using federal workers’ paychecks as leverage in an attempt to extract border wall funds from Congress: starving the government.

The op-ed’s author wrote that “many federal agencies are now operating more effectively from the top down on a fraction of their workforce” and that “we do not want most employees to return, because we are working better without them.”

Roughly 800,000 federal employees are currently going without pay, and millions of Americans who rely on the agencies those employees usually run — everything from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of the Interior to the Department of Homeland Security — are going without services, except for those provided by workers deemed essential to national security or public safety.

Matt Shuham @ TALKING POINTS MEMO

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Minority Monday

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Many Senate Democrats are throwing in the towel on the nomination of William Barr for Trump’s attorney general (a prospect assured by Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, declaring his personal vote against Barr). Let’s ask why?

One would think that Senate Democrats would be appalled at Barr’s long-time unyielding conduct and writings asserting that the President can start any wars he wants even if Congress votes against it! An example of this is the constitutionally undeclared criminal invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush. Barr was also George H.W. Bush’s Attorney General and has been a long-time defender of executive branch lawlessness.

One would think that Barr’s insupportable drive for more corporate prisons and more mass incarceration would upset these Senators.

One would think that Barr’s view of the separation of powers, which has meant separating Congress from its constitutional powers and handing them over to the “unitary presidency,” would alarm these Senators. (Didn’t James Madison believe that Congress would jealously guard its authority vis-à-vis any new emergence of a modern King George III?)

Ralph Nader @ ALTERNET

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Windy Sunday

THE SOLAR WIND IS COMING: A hole in the sun’s atmosphere is turning to face Earth, and it is spewing a stream of solar wind in our direction. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the structure on Jan. 19th:

This is a “coronal hole”–a region where the sun’s magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. Emerging faster than 600 km/s, the gaseous material is expected to reach our planet on Jan. 22nd or 23rd.

We’ve seen this coronal hole before. It opened in July 2018 and has been spinning around with the sun, lighthouse-style, lashing Earth with solar wind once a month since then. In late Dec. 2018, it sparked a G1-class geomagnetic storm with strong bursty auroras around the Arctic Circle.

@ SPACEWEATHER

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Shutdown Saturday

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I conduct a lot of in-depth interviews with people like a woman I’ll call Angie as part of my work as a political scientist who studies poverty and public policy. When I asked the low-income mother of two, who works multiple jobs but still struggles to care for her family, about her experience with government assistance programs, she expressed dismay over benefit cuts.

“The people who make these rules, … they don’t have any poor people in their family,” she told me. “That is why they are willing to chop so many services for the poor.”

People living in poverty are now bracing for that kind of chopping as a result of the partial government shutdown that began in December. By the three-week mark, most safety-net benefits were still being funded. But should the impasse drag on, that could change.

Jamila Michener @ TRUTHOUT

Carol has her ranch under surveillance

security cameras #1 (1)

security cameras #2

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FRIday PHUHneze

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Fungus Meds Thursday

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Other varieties show promise, but for the most part research has not progressed beyond test tubes and animal studies. Those studies have found that, as with turkey tail and shiitake, components found in reishi mushrooms may strengthen the immune system to fight cancer. In mouse studies, researchers found that extracts from chaga mushrooms enhanced learning and memory, reduced inflammation, increased exercise endurance and lowered blood sugar. Lion’s mane mushrooms have been found to speed wound healing and help repair nerves in injured rats.

There’s a dearth of evidence from clinical trials on whether those varieties help prevent or treat disease in humans.

“Medicinal mushroom advocates take an absurd leap when they refer to studies on the effects of single compounds on cultured cells or lab animals as evidence for the potency of powdered mushrooms,” says Money. “It is impossible, for example, to link the immunological consequences of injecting mice with cell wall polysaccharides to the expediency of drinking hot tea brewed from shiitake,” he states in his review.

“Is there any evidence for an anti-ageing effect of smearing mushrooms on your eyelids?” asks Money. “I seriously doubt it.”

Even Paul Stamets, a mycologist and mushroom enthusiast – prominently featured in Michael Pollan’s 2018 book How to Change Your Mind – is somewhat circumspect in describing the benefits of products sold by his company Fungi Perfecti, which account for more 60% of the mushroom supplement market. “At this point the FDA only allows us to say that mushrooms have antioxidant properties, support the immune system, and support general health – that’s as far as we can go,” he says. “Without clinical studies in humans, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction.”

Teresa Carr @ THE GUARDIAN

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