Opinion | Save Our Food. Free the Seed. – The New York Times

“We think that the behemoths of agribusiness known as Big Food control the food system from up high — distribution, processing and the marketplace muscling everything into position. But really it is the seed that determines the system, not the other way around.

The seeds in my palm optimized the farm for large-scale machinery and chemical regimens; they reduced the need for labor; they elbowed out the competition (formally known as biodiversity). In other words, seeds are a blueprint for how we eat.

We should be alarmed by the current architects.

Just 50 years ago, some 1,000 small and family-owned seed companies were producing and distributing seeds in the United States; by 2009, there were fewer than 100. Thanks to a series of mergers and acquisitions over the last few years, four multinational agrochemical firms — Corteva, ChemChina, Bayer and BASF — now control over 60 percent of global seed sales.”

Opinion | The Welfare State Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It. – The New York Times

David Brooks

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

A ferry crossing the Mersey River at Liverpool, England.CreditCreditAndrea Bruce for The New York Times

“Ella is a British woman who grew up in a broken home and was abused by her stepdad. Her eldest son got thrown out of school and ended up sitting around the house drinking. By the time her daughter was 16, she was pregnant and had an eating disorder. Ella, though in her mid-30s, had never had a real job. Life was a series of endless crises — temper tantrums, broken washing machines, her son banging his head against the walls.

Every time the family came into contact with the authorities, another caseworker was brought in to provide a sliver of help. An astonishing 73 professionals spread across 20 different agencies and departments got involved with this family. Nobody had ever sat down with them to devise a comprehensive way forward.

In her mind-shifting book, “Radical Help,” the British social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam tracks how one of the social workers in Ella’s case spent his days. Roughly 74 percent of his time was spent on administrative matters — recording data, making referrals to other agencies and meeting with other agencies. Only 14 percent of the social worker’s time was actually spent with the family he was meant to be serving. And that face-to-face time was mostly with a clipboard, checking off boxes on the forms that went back to central administration.

The administrative system around Ella and her family costs roughly 250,000 pounds per year.

Cottam asked the government workers involved in Ella’s case if they could recall a time when they’d transformed a family so it no longer needed government help. They couldn’t think of one.”

The Lost History of One of the World’s Strangest Science Experiments – by Carl Zimmer – The New York Times

“. . . The scientists Joel Cohen and David Tilman wrote, “No one yet knows how to engineer systems that provide humans with the life-supporting services that natural ecosystems produce for free.”

But it would be a mistake to dismiss Biosphere 2 out of hand. For two years, eight people grew papayas, beets, bananas, rice and a host of other crops in there. Except for a sliced finger, their health remained good. The water they drank didn’t poison them. Some species went extinct, but the ecosystems endured. Biosphere 2 did not turn to slime.

As a piece of scientific research, Biosphere 2 had its problems. Countless things were happening all at once inside its walls, making it hard to pinpoint causes and effects. And without any other biospheres to compare it to, there was no way to distinguish random flukes from significant patterns. The University of Arizona scientist Bob Fry summed it up well in a newspaper interview: “It’s an experiment, but only in the sense that life is an experiment.” “

Opinion | A Nation of Weavers – by David Brooks – the New York Times

The top commenters shred this piece as off the wall, but they are poor listeners. David Brooks speaks deeply about underlying problems and solutions.

“On Dec. 7, 1941, countless Americans saw that their nation was in peril and walked into recruiting stations. We don’t have anything as dramatic as Pearl Harbor, but when 47,000 Americans kill themselves every year and 72,000 more die from drug addiction, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? When the basic norms of decency, civility and truthfulness are under threat, isn’t that a silent Pearl Harbor? Aren’t we all called at moments like these to do something extra?

My something extra was starting something nine months ago at the Aspen Institute called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. The first core idea was that social isolation is the problem underlying a lot of our other problems. The second idea was that this problem is being solved by people around the country, at the local level, who are building community and weaving the social fabric. How can we learn from their example and nationalize their effect?”

Opinion | White Identity Politics Aren’t Going Anywhere – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

How should Democrats understand — and confront — them?

By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Dec. 20, 2018, .137

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Voters at Merry Acres Middle School in Albany, Ga. on Nov. 6, 2018CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

“For 50 years Republicans have battered the Democratic coalition, wielding the so-called southern strategy — built on racism and overlaid with opposition to immigration — to win control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress.

At the same time, Democrats have struggled to piece together a coalition strong enough to deliver an Election Day majority. In the 1950s, the Democratic coalition was 87 percent white and 13 percent minority, according to the American National Election Studies; it is now 59 percent white and 41 percent minority, according to Pew Research.

As the Democratic Party has evolved from an overwhelmingly white party to a party with a huge minority base, the dominant strategic problem has become the tenuous balance between the priorities of its now equally indispensable white and minority wings.

President Trump has aggressively exploited Democratic vulnerabilities as no previous Republican candidate had dared to do. The frontal attack Trump has engineered — in part by stigmatizing “political correctness” — has had a dual effect, throwing Democrats back on their heels while simultaneously whetting their appetite for a fight.

“. . . In other words, pro-immigration, pro-diversity Democrats face clear obstacles breaking the Republican hold on white voters — and a challenge in repelling Trump’s race-and-immigration-focused offensive. Still, the accumulating insights on how and where Republicans have successfully worked these levers may help demonstrate — as President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and the results of this year’s midterm elections prove — that these obstacles are not insuperable and that they can be overcome.”

Suicides Among Japanese Children Reach Highest Level in 3 Decades – The New York Times

By Motoko Rich and Makiko Inoue

“TOKYO — Suicides by young people in Japan rose to their highest level in three decades in 2017, according to new figures released by the government.

Japan has a persistent problem with suicides, although the number has been declining over all. But child suicides have risen recently, with experts pointing to school pressures and bullying as likely triggers.

Last year 250 children in elementary, middle and high schools committed suicide, the highest number since 1986, according to data released last month by the Education Ministry.

According to the Education Ministry survey of schools, most of the students did not leave any explanation for why they decided to take their own lives. Of those who did, the most frequently cited reason was worries over what path to take after graduation. Other reasons included family problems and bullying.”

Source: Suicides Among Japanese Children Reach Highest Level in 3 Decades – The New York Times

David Lindsay: Apparently, the schools do not have a School Counselor, like American public schools all do.

Opinion | The Trump Legions – By Thomas B. Edsall- NYT

Thomas B. Edsall
By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Nov. 1, 2018, 98
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Thumbs up on President Trump in Murphysboro, Ill., last week.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“When reporters asked President Trump last week if he bore any responsibility for the pipe bombs sent to many of his critics and adversaries, he declared his innocence:

“Not at all, no. There is no blame. There is no anything.”

At the same time, an Oct. 29 PRRI survey revealed that 69 percent of voters believe that Trump has “damaged the dignity of the presidency.”

Trump reinforced this public assessment in his answer to another question: Did he plan to phone any of the officials who had been targeted with bombs, including his predecessors in the White House, the Clintons and the Obamas? His reply:

“I think we’ll probably pass, thank you very much.”

These exchanges raise the same two questions that have been posed repeatedly during the Trump presidency:

How could this man have been elected to the highest office in the land? And how can Trump not only remain in office but, for the moment at least, appear to stand a reasonable chance of being renominated and even re-elected?

To get some answers to these questions, I turned to a 2018 paper by Ronald Inglehart and two fellow political scientists at the University of Michigan, as well as to a new book by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, who are political scientists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

In “The Silent Revolution in Reverse: Trump and the Xenophobic Authoritarian Populist Parties,” Inglehart, Jon Miller and Logan Woods provide fresh insight on a subject to which Inglehart, at times writing with Pippa Norris of Harvard, has devoted much of his career: the ongoing tension between materialist and post-materialist values and the political consequences of that tension.”

Opinion | Congress Has No Clue What Americans Want – By Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Matto Mildenberger and Leah C. Stokes – NYT

By Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Matto Mildenberger and Leah C. Stokes
Mr. Hertel-Fernandez is an assistant professor of public affairs at Columbia University. Mr. Mildenberger and Ms. Stokes are assistant professors of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Oct. 31, 2018

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People on Capitol Hill are often in the dark as to what policies Americans support.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
Whether the Democrats or the Republicans seize control of Congress after the midterms, you can be sure of one thing: They will have very little idea what laws the public actually wants them to act on.

The current Republican-controlled Congress is a good example. Its signature accomplishment is a tax-cut bill that hardly anyone likes or asked for and that is estimated to add about $2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

Only about 30 percent of Americans supported it — unlike the well over 70 percent of Americans who consistently support raising the minimum wage, background checks for gun sales and taking action on the climate crisis. Bills were actually proposed on these issues, but you would hardly know it; they were barely considered, and it goes without saying that none passed.

Congress doesn’t know what policies Americans support. We know that because we asked the most senior staff members in Congress — the people who help their bosses decide what bills to pursue and support — what they believed public opinion was in their district or state on a range of issues.

Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think | HuffPost

What Is Petroleum Jelly?

Petroleum jelly, commonly known by the most popular brandname Vaseline, is a derivative of oil refining. Originally found coating the bottom of oil rigs in the mid-1800s, it’s a byproduct of the oil industry and therefore an unsustainable resource (read: not eco-friendly). It’s commonly used topically to cure everything from dehydrated, flakey skin to diaper rash.

Why Is It Potentially Harmful?

Though generally regarded as safe, the components that are removed from the oil during the refining process of petroleum jelly are carcinogenic in some cases. “Vaseline supposedly has all of these [components] removed,” Dr. Dattner says. “But there are probably plenty of petroleum jelly imitators, and one doesn’t always know the extent that they’re removed.” Denno also points out that, since petroleum jelly can be found in “different grades of purity,” you don’t always know how non-toxic your petroleum jelly-based beauty products really are. (For the record, Vaseline is highly-refined, triple-purified and regarded as non-carcinogenic.)

As for your skin? According to Denno, Petroleum jelly can create the illusion of moisturized, hydrated skin, all the while suffocating your pores. It’s water-repellant and not water-soluble, meaning it merely seals the barrier so that moisture does not leave the skin. So while you might feel the instant gratification of a softened surface, you’re actually drying out your pores by keeping out air and moisture. What’s more, the thick texture makes it difficult to cleanse from the skin, so never slather Vaseline on an unwashed face if you want to avoid breakouts. “It essentially seals in the dirt,” he said. (Vaseline says on its website that its product is non-comedogenic, which means that the product does not itself block pores.)

via Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think | HuffPost

Best Natural Moisturizer For Chapped Lips | Rodale’s Organic Life

CHAPSTICK
Pros: The classic tube gets props for combining both protective and moisturizing ingredients, with aloe and vitamin E for hydration and white petrolatum (petroleum) to keep out the elements. It also scores points for convenience (no finger dipping) and portability. Plus the SPF versions protect against sun damage.

Cons: “Many of the ingredients are considered potentially toxic,” warns Shillington, including propylparaben, a preservative linked to fertility problems and breast cancer. “It also contains mineral oil, which can block the absorption and limit the efficacy of the moisturizing ingredients.” Fun flavors like cherry and pumpkin pie may smell good, but they can encourage lip licking, which irritates and dries out lips, Carroll notes. (Here’s the most toxic stuff in your drugstore makeup—and 8 natural brands to try instead.)

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THE WINNER?
Coconut oil wins for its one-two punch: It both moisturizes and protects. While it can be high-maintenance to divvy up and cart around, it’s certainly the most natural option and feels the best on your lips. Opt for virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, and contains more antioxidants than the refined stuff.

via Best Natural Moisturizer For Chapped Lips | Rodale’s Organic Life