Michelle Obama reveals dread of Trump and how news cycle ‘turns her stomach’ – David Smith Last modified on Tue 13 Nov 2018 03.23 EST


In her new memoir, Becoming, the former first lady sometimes wonders ‘where the bottom might be’ as her husband’s legacy is aggressively unravelled

First lady Michelle Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in North Carolina on 27 October 2016. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

In her new memoir, Becoming, the former first lady sometimes wonders ‘where the bottom might be’ as her husband’s legacy is aggressively unravelled

Michelle Obama has told of her dismay that so many American women chose “misogynist” Donald Trump as their president instead of the first female nominee of a major party, Hillary Clinton.

In her new memoir, Becoming, which is published on Tuesday, the former first lady admits that some news stories now “turn her stomach” and, as her husband Barack Obama’s legacy is aggressively unravelled, sometimes wonders “where the bottom might be”.

The couple spent election night 2016 at the cinema in the White House. “As the movie wrapped up and the lights came on, Barack’s cell phone buzzed,” Obama writes. “I saw him glance at it and then look again, his brow furrowing just slightly. ‘Huh,’ he said. ‘Results in Florida are looking kind of strange.’

“There was no alarm in his voice, just a tiny seed of awareness, a hot ember glowing suddenly in the grass. The phone buzzed again. My heart started to tick faster … I watched my husband’s face closely, not sure I was ready to hear what he was going to say. Whatever it was, it didn’t look good. I felt something leaden take hold in my stomach just then, my anxiety hardening into dread.”

Obama could not bring herself to stay up through the early hours watching the climax on TV. She went to bed, hoping to “block it all out.” As she slept, the stunning news was confirmed: Trump would succeed her husband as president. She admits: “I wanted to not know that fact for as long as I possibly could.”

The couple’s daughters, Malia, who was in Bolivia, and Sasha, who went off to school in Washington, were both “deeply rattled” by the result, she recalls. “I told both our girls that I loved them and that things would be okay. I kept trying to tell myself the same thing.”

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How Disarmament Fell Apart – By Nina Tannenwald November/December 2018 Issue


PETER JOSEK/REUTERS A dream deferred: U.S. President Barack Obama speaking in Prague, April 2009

On April 5, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama stood before a massive crowd in Prague and gave a soaring speech announcing his commitment to “a world without nuclear weapons.” In pursuit of that goal, he pledged to seek an arms reduction treaty with Russia, ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(CTBT), and convene a global summit to discuss the eventual elimination of nuclear stockpiles. He acknowledged that a nuclear-free world was unlikely to be achieved in his lifetime, yet his speech marked the first time a U.S. president had set out a step-by-step agenda for abolishing nuclear arms. It represented a sharp break from the approach of U.S. President George W. Bush, who had expanded nuclear missions and rejected arms control. Much of the world was elated. Nuclear disarmament was back on the global agenda. That September, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing Obama’s vision and strengthening various disarmament and nonproliferation measures. The following month, the Nobel Committee awarded Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, citing his call for nuclear disarmament. More than six decades after humanity first harnessed the destructive power of nuclear reactions, the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons was charting a path for the world to put the genie back in the bottle.

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Fast forward to 2018. In the space of barely ten years, the dream of disarmament now seems more distant than ever. All the nuclear-armed states are devoting vast resources to upgrading their arsenals. The United States and Russia are leading the way, undertaking massive modernization programs that entail new warheads and methods for delivering them. China is steadily increasing the size of its arsenal and developing new types of delivery systems, including missiles tipped with multiple warheads. These are considered more destabilizing because they create an incentive for the other side to strike first in order to knock them out early in a conflict. India and Pakistan, locked in a dangerous rivalry, are also expanding and upgrading their arsenals. If current trends continue, the combined stockpiles of nuclear weapons in China, India, and Pakistan could grow by around 250 warheads over the next ten years, from about 560 now to more than 800. Meanwhile, several of these countries have adopted dangerously escalatory nuclear doctrines and loosened their rules on the use of nuclear weapons.

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The Risk That Ebola Will Spread to Uganda Is Now ‘Very High’ – MEGAN MOLTENI SCIENCE 11.12.1808:00 AM


Sumy Sadurni/AFP/Getty Images

Ebola is one of those scourges where the mere mention of its name strikes fear: the virus, which kills about half of those it infects and gets passed on through body fluids, is notoriously hard to contain.

That means that the best, perhaps only, way to contain an outbreak like the one currently ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo is by obsessively tracking infected individuals—monitoring their social circles and their movements, and limiting their exposure to other people for weeks at a time. But containment is proving so difficult in DRC that last week, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested an alarming possibility. The current Ebola epidemic could be beyond control, he said, and may—for the first time since the deadly virus was first identified in 1976—become persistently entrenched in the population.

The 329 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola infection reported so far have made it the largest outbreak in the nation’s history, with no signs yet of slowing down. Militia groups clashing in DRC’s North Kivu Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, have scrambled health workers’ attempts to trace the movements of people exposed to the virus. A massive effort to vaccinate more than 25,000 of the highest-risk people has slowed transmission rates but not yet stemmed the tide. Between October 31 and November 6, 29 new cases were reported in DRC, including three health workers.

Now neighboring Uganda is bracing for the virus to cross the 545-mile boundary it shares with DRC. The border is porous and heavily trafficked, with large numbers of local farmers, merchants, traders, and refugees constantly moving through the area. A checkpoint in the region receives 5,000 people on an average day, with the busiest ones swelling to 20,000 twice a week on market days.

On Wednesday, the country began immunizing frontline health workers with an experimental vaccine that produced good results in a previous outbreak. The Ugandan Health Ministry said it has 2,100 doses of the vaccine available for doctors and nurses working in five border districts. At hospitals in these districts, four special Ebola treatment units have also been constructed, with staff on standby to manage any suspected cases. “The risk of cross-border transmission was assessed to be very high at a national level,” said Ugandan Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng at a press conference last week. “Hence the need to protect our health workers.”

Since the start of the outbreak in the DRC, anyone crossing into Uganda has been subjected to health screenings at official checkpoints—a series of questions and no-contact infrared thermometers aimed at the side of the head that read out body temperatures like a highway patrolman’s radar gun. Fever is one of the first red flags for an Ebola infection. The process isn’t foolproof; symptoms can take up to three weeks to appear, and lots of other tropical diseases in that part of Africa can also cause soaring temperatures.

The abundance of caution arises from the unstable situation in the DRC. Ebola has never before broken out in a war zone, so in many ways the current situation is unique and unprecedented. But as larger changes have swept across the African continent—ballooning populations, billions of dollars of Chinese infrastructure investments, the increase of urban-wildland interfaces—some infectious disease doctors see a lasting change to the shape of Ebola outbreaks. “It’s a cruel irony that better roads and improved connectivity of people also make it easier for the disease to travel, particularly when the public health systems are still lagging behind, “ says Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of Boston Medical Center’s Special Pathogens Unit, who worked on the front linesof the 2014 outbreak in Sierra Leone.

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Kyrsten Sinema is the first Democrat to win an Arizona Senate seat in 30 years – By Li Zhouli@vox.com Nov 12, 2018, 7:48pm EST


She beat out Martha McSally in a race that was a nail-biter to the finish.

Kyrsten Sinema participates in a coin toss at an Arizona State football game on November 3, 2018.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kyrsten Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally — becoming the first Democrat to win an Arizona Senate seat in 30 years. Her victory is another notch in Democrats’ strong 2018 midterm showing and a crucial boost for their numbers in the upper chamber.

It’s also historic: Sinema is the first woman the state has elected to the Senate and the first openly bisexual person to win a seat in the upper chamber. Her win will help Democrats work toward holding Republicans to a narrow margin, ensuring that the party keeps at least 47 seats in the Senate — with Florida and Mississippi still undecided.

As of Monday evening, Sinema led McSally by just over 38,000 votes and about 1.7 percentage points — though thousands of ballots still remained outstanding. (Because of Sinema’s lead, however, McSally is not expected to catch up.)

Democrats have long eyed Arizona — a state with shifting demographics that almost went for Hillary Clinton — as a possible target they might be able to flip, while Republicans desperately sought to defend it.

This year, Democrats were finally able to pull it off.

Who is Kyrsten Sinema?

Sinema ultimately won Arizona for the Democrats by running to the center.

Well-known for her fundraising prowess and strength as a campaigner, the current Arizona congresswoman staunchly framed herself as a bipartisan candidate who would work with “literally anyone” to get things done. Ahead of the election on Tuesday, she and McSally — who hewed closely to President Donald Trump throughout her campaign — were basically in a dead heat as they vied for Sen. Jeff Flake’s open seat.

The race between the two candidates was a highly tempestuous one filled with numerous attack ads and even, at one point, allegations of treason. Because of how close it was up until the very end, it was also one of the most expensive races this cycle, with $30 million in spending across the board.

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The growth of yoga and meditation in the US since 2012 is remarkable The number of Americans who meditate has tripled. Yoga is up 55 percent. Eliza BarclayNov 11, 2018, 5:35pm EST In 2017, about 14.3 percent of US adults surveyed said they had done yoga in the past 12 months. That’s up from 9 percent in 2012. Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images Yoga and meditation, two ancient practices, are now officially the most popular alternative health approaches in the United States, each used by around 35 million adults. That’s the word from two reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out Thursday, which looked at the changes in the use of yoga, meditation, and chiropractors between 2012 and 2017. In 2017, about 14.3 percent of US adults surveyed by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said they had done yoga in the past 12 months, while 14.2 percent had meditated, the reports show. That’s up from 2012, when 9 percent were doing yoga and 4 percent meditating. And it’s not just adults; more kids are doing yoga and meditation too. In 2012, fewer than half a percent of kids had meditated, while now it’s now 5 percent. Yoga for kids grew from 3 percent in 2012 to 8 percent last year. The report also showed a smaller increase in Americans’ use of chiropractors: It climbed from 9.1 percent in 2012 to 10.3 percent in 2017. The big growth in yoga and meditation is clearly linked to better availability, with a boom in studios, classes, and apps, some of them free and online. Related Meditation is thriving under Trump. A former monk explains why. But as more Americans find they are struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, distraction, and physical issues like chronic pain, they’re seeking therapies that don’t involve pharmaceuticals. “Many forces in our culture have conspired to elevate anxiety and stress — in part due to a lot of messages related to fear in the media — and this makes people unsettled,” Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin Madison and founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, told Vox. “I think there is an increasing interest in strategies like yoga and meditation that can help people adjust to modern circumstances.” Scientists like Davidson, meanwhile, are finding that yoga and meditation can be at least somewhat effective for a wide array of health concerns — with few side effects. Here’s a quick summary of what we know about yoga and meditation’s potential health benefits. Yoga’s promising health benefits Researchers who have studied the health effects of yoga say it’s probably just as good for your health as many other forms of exercise. But it seems particularly promising for improving lower back pain and, crucially, reducing inflammation in the body, which can help stave off disease. There are also several randomized controlled trials suggesting that yoga may improve quality of life for diabetes patients, reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, and even help people manage high blood pressure. How can this be? One possibility has to do with inflammation. You can think about inflammation in two ways. There’s helpful inflammation, as when your body’s immune system mounts a response to bacteria in a cut. There’s also harmful inflammation. When you’re stressed, your body’s inflammatory response can go into overdrive, hampering its ability to fight off viruses and disease. People who are inactive or obese or who eat an unhealthy diet have higher levels of harmful inflammation. And researchers have found associations between inflammation and various chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Yoga — like other mind-body exercises such as tai chi and meditation — seems to be particularly helpful in reducing harmful inflammation. A 2014 meta-analysis on the effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system found that yoga reduces inflammation-based blood markers. So did this 2014 randomized controlled trial looking at women with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors. Michael Irwin at UCLA’s medical school, one of the authors of a 2015 descriptive review on inflammation and mind-body exercises, told Vox, “When you look at the aerobic exercise necessary to decrease inflammation, people have to maintain very vigorous levels.” But not with yoga, he continued. “Even practices with minimum levels of physical activity [like Iyengar stretches] can have large effect sizes.” Researchers don’t yet know why, though they think the meditative components of yoga, tai chi, and meditation may have something to do with it. Yoga also helps alleviate lower back pain, in both the short and long term. The most recent Cochrane systematic review on yoga and chronic low back pain, published in 2017, sums up the results of the best available studies, which mostly focused on the Iyengar, Hatha, or Viniyoga forms of yoga: There is low- to moderate-certainty evidence that yoga compared to non-exercise controls results in small to moderate improvements in back-related function at three and six months. Yoga may also be slightly more effective for pain at three and six months, however the effect size did not meet predefined levels of minimum clinical importance. So while this isn’t an end-all treatment, the evidence we have points in the direction of a benefit. And that’s why, in February 2017, the American College of Physicians advised doctors and patients try “non-drug therapies” such as exercise, acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, and even chiropractics, and avoid prescription drugs or surgical options wherever possible. Meditation is one of the best tools humans have for training our minds Mindfulness meditation has been practiced in East and Southeast Asia since the Buddha began teaching it 2,600 years ago. As the Burmese teacher S.N. Goenka has noted, the Buddha didn’t teach a sectarian religion, but rather a way of life, a tool for achieving clarity, peace of mind, and liberation from suffering. In the past few decades, it has taken off in the West, with the help of teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Tara Brach, and Jack Kornfield. Related An ancient Buddhist strategy for overcoming paralyzing fear The goal of meditation is sometimes misunderstood as emptying the mind. But as Davidson has put it, “It’s really about discovering what the true nature of our mind is. It’s more of an exploration, an investigation, an opening, a kind of radical honesty about who it is that we are.” Its power to stabilize the frenzied mind and body has also become a fascination of neuroscientists, psychologists, and doctors. “Meditation is a discipline … that liberates you from the tyranny of feelings,” the evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright, author of Why Buddhism Is True, said in an interview with Vox’s Sean Illing. “It’s a technique for taking things ranging from anxiety to remorse to actual physical pain and they’re taking a perspective on them that somewhat releases you from their grip.” Recently, scientific researchers have shown in clinical settings that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety and depression, as well as pain. Related Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens, on how meditation made him a better historian Though there are few randomized controlled trials on meditation and mental health, a 2014 meta-analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that meditation, and in particular mindfulness, can have a role in treating depression, anxiety, and pain in adults — as much as medications but with no side effects. Meditation can also, to a lesser degree, reduce the toll of psychological distress, the review found. There’s also some evidence that meditation may help prevent cardiovascular disease, although, as the American Heart Association noted in a 2017 statement, “the overall quality and, in some cases, quantity of study data are modest.” When it comes to kids, more and more schools are implementing mindfulness meditation programs. The research on meditation for kids is still fairly preliminary, but a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions in kids and adolescents published in October in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found there were significant positive effects on executive functioning, attention, depression, anxiety/stress, and negative behaviors. Though there’s clearly momentum around yoga and meditation, the new CDC data show that access to these tools isn’t equal. White adults were more likely to use yoga and meditation compared with Hispanic and black adults. And as more people see yoga and meditation as a business opportunity, “there’s a challenge around preserving the authenticity of these practices and ensuring they are taught with fidelity,” said Davidson. That means respecting and sharing the long history of the practices, and teaching them in a rigorous way. One of the final big takeaways of the new data from the CDC is that we have options for experimenting with these practices — be it Tibetan Buddhist meditation techniques or Iyengar yoga, on apps, videos, or in-person classes. “One size does not fit all,” said Davidson. “Some people may benefit from apps; others may not. But there’s a real urgency to train our mind, as our attention is increasingly being captured by digital devices.” – Eliza Barclay Nov 11, 2018, 5:35pm EST


The number of Americans who meditate has tripled. Yoga is up 55 percent.

In 2017, about 14.3 percent of US adults surveyed said they had done yoga in the past 12 months. That’s up from 9 percent in 2012.
Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Yoga and meditation, two ancient practices, are now officially the most popular alternative health approaches in the United States, each used by around 35 million adults.

That’s the word from two reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out Thursday, which looked at the changes in the use of yoga, meditation, and chiropractors between 2012 and 2017.

In 2017, about 14.3 percent of US adults surveyed by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said they had done yoga in the past 12 months, while 14.2 percent had meditated, the reports show. That’s up from 2012, when 9 percent were doing yoga and 4 percent meditating.

And it’s not just adults; more kids are doing yoga and meditation too. In 2012, fewer than half a percent of kids had meditated, while now it’s now 5 percent. Yoga for kids grew from 3 percent in 2012 to 8 percent last year.

The report also showed a smaller increase in Americans’ use of chiropractors: It climbed from 9.1 percent in 2012 to 10.3 percent in 2017.

The big growth in yoga and meditation is clearly linked to better availability, with a boom in studios, classes, and apps, some of them free and online.

Article continues: