White House Touts ‘Historic’ 28 Laws Signed By POTUS, But What Are They? – Tamara Keith April 27, 20176:00 AM ET


President Trump speaks after signing the NASA Transition Authorization Act in the Oval Office on March 21, one of 28 bills that Trump has signed into law.

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Even though President Trump calls the 100-days measure “ridiculous,” the White House is still touting what one press release called the president’s “historic accomplishments” — including 28 laws he has signed since taking office.

But when it comes to legislation, political scientists say it is better to measure significance than to simply add up the number of bills. It is better, they argue, to ask whether a law changes the status quo or introduces a new policy idea.

By that measure, there is not as much to show legislation-wise for Trump’s first 100 days.

Of the 28 new laws signed by Trump, two name Veterans Affairs clinics in honor of people, one adds National Vietnam War Veterans Day to the list of days people and businesses are encouraged to fly American flags, five are related to personnel matters (including the waiver allowing James Mattis to become secretary of defense), and one extends an Obama-era policy allowing veterans in some circumstances to get health care outside of the VA system.

“Congress passes laws all the time, naming post offices after people, doing minor things that they can get through,” said Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary in the Obama administration and as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Panetta doesn’t see any major legislation in this administration’s first 100 days.

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North Korea: Washington and Seoul pledge ‘swift punitive measures’ – Spencer Ackerman in New York, Ben Jacobs in Washington and agencies Thursday 27 April 2017 04.01 EDT


Senators who attended White House briefing say no military option was presented as US prioritises sanctions and strongarm diplomacy

North Korea has accelerated its long-range missile development programme and is expected to further test its nuclear capabilities. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP

The US has signalled sanctions and diplomatic pressure are its priorities for dealing with North Korea as senators who attended a White House briefing said they had not been presented with “a specific military option”.

Tensions between the US and North Korea are already inflamed before an anticipated sixth nuclear test from Pyongyang, which has accelerated its long-range missile development programme.

A statement on Thursday from the South Korean president’s office said Seoul and Washington had agreed “to swiftly take punitive measures” against North Korea in the event of more provocation, following a telephone conversation between the US national security adviser, HR McMaster, and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin.

“The two sides pledged that in the event of additional strategic provocation by the North to swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN security council resolution, that are unbearable for the North,” the statement said.

It followed Wedensday’s joint statement from the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, secretary of defence James Mattis, and director of national intelligence Dan Coats, that said President Trump would pressure Pyongyang “by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners” – an approach adopted by the past three US administrations.

It also said past efforts had failed to stop the advance of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.

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A Cold War theory for why scientists and the government have become so estranged – Updated by Brad Plumer Apr 26, 2017, 10:05pm EDT


(Shutterstock)

These are dark times for science — or at least that’s what we keep hearing. President Trump is pushing to slash research budgets. Republicans in Congress are harassing climate scientists. Vaccine skeptics are clogging the airwaves.

Indeed, a big reason why tens of thousands of scientists rallied in cities around the country last weekend was to counter what they see as “anti-science” attitudes taking hold in the United States — particularly in the US government. The March for Science, according to organizer Jonathan Berman, a biology postdoc at the University of Texas Health Science Center, sent “the message that we need to have decisions being made based on a thoughtful evaluation of evidence.”

But this raises the obvious question: Was the United States ever pro-science? Was there a golden age? And if so, why were things so different then? What’s changed?

One of the more compelling responses I’ve seen to this question can be found in this 2008 paper by W. Henry Lambright, a political scientist at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. To simplify a bit, he argues that the glory days of US science were an artifact of the Cold War and the arms race against the Soviet Union. That era has long faded, but if scientists want to bring about a new golden age, they should study that history closely. Because it contains some valuable lessons about how politics drives public attitudes toward science — and not, as is often assumed, the other way around.

Politicians and scientists don’t naturally get along. The Cold War changed that.

When I called Lambright to talk about the politics of science in America, he started off with a simple but provocative point: There’s no inherent reason why scientists and politicians should get along. “There’s just not a natural alignment between the two communities,” he said.

Politicians, after all, have a very different job than scientists. At least ideally, scientists seek only to uncover objective truths about the world. They follow a strict methodology, explicitly meant to filter out values, biases, or preconceptions that might color their research. Politicians, by contrast, must grapple with conflicting values and interests. Adjudicating those disputes is the whole job, and most such disputes can’t be resolved by scientific facts alone. So, not surprisingly, the two communities don’t always see eye to eye.

During World War II, circumstances conspired to push the two camps into alignment. New science-based weapons — most famously the atomic bomb — aided the US in the war. Afterward, Vannevar Bush, the wartime science leader, convinced Congress that all those technological advances they admired so much were made possible by foundational scientific research conducted long before the war. If policymakers wanted to see more such advances, they should fund more basic research and stay out of scientists’ way.

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 Study Finds Connection Between Alcohol And Heart Arrhythmias : Shots – Health News : REBECCA HERSHER NPR April 26, 20175:05 AM ET


Researchers in Germany have found that getting drunk is associated with abnormal heart rhythms.

Their study was conducted in a place teeming with potential research subjects.

“Basically we were sitting over a beer or two, ironically, and talking about how to design a study about relevance of alcohol consumption on heart rate,” remembers Dr. Moritz Sinner, an assistant professor of medicine at University Hospital Munich. “This was summer [2015], and Oktoberfest happens in the fall.”

Sinner and his colleagues realized they could do their study at Munich’s Oktoberfest, the annual beer festival that attracts huge crowds of people who are enthusiastic about drinking.

So, they got all the necessary approvals and showed up at the festival with breathalyzer tests, electrocardiograms and a question: How did drinking alcohol affect people’s heart rhythms?

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Source: Study Finds Connection Between Alcohol And Heart Arrhythmias : Shots – Health News : NPR

Violent Extremism Takes Root in Burkina Faso – By Roland Benedikter and Ismaila Ouedraogo – April 25, 2017


JOE PENNEY / REUTERS The burned-out exterior of “Cappuccino” restaurant is seen in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 17, 2016, a day after security forces retook the Splendid Hotel from al Qaeda fighters who seized it in an assault that killed two dozen people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa.

 

On March 10, more than 1,000 teachers and students held a silent protest in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. They marched from the city center to the Ministry of National Education to stage a sit-in and demand state protection of their schools. Just a week before, a radical Islamist had shot dead a teacher in the village of Koursayel in the northern province of Soum, one of many such killings since terrorists found their way to Burkina Faso a year ago.

In January 2016, the sleepy capital of Ouagadougou was hit by a deadly terrorist attack. Armed fighters carried out a 15-hour siege on hotels and cafés in the city center, leaving 28 dead and 56 injured. In March 2017, terrorists expanded operations to the northern countryside, targeting police posts and military installments as well as educational facilities. At least two people were kidnapped and a school was burned down. Although one key jihadist was killed and others arrested, the psychological damage was done.

Over the last year, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansarul Islam (Defenders of Islam) have sought to turn the northern part of Burkina Faso into a stronghold through which they could potentially build a new alliance with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and turn parts of Burkina Faso into a sanctuary for jihadist recruitment and training following ISIS’ losses in Iraq and Syria.

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