Archive

September 19th, 2016

Voters have a right to know about nominees' health

    The 2016 political campaign, heretofore marked by concerns over Republican Donald Trump's temperament and knowledge to be president, has suddenly pivoted to whether Hillary Clinton's health is up to the same challenge.

    Her forced interruption to her campaign over the weekend dramatically focused attention on a question that Trump had sought to make central issue: whether Clinton lacks the stamina for the job.

    In purely political terms, her failure to disclose that her doctor had diagnosed her with what is called walking pneumonia only unscored her penchant for personal secrecy, which has long plagued her political career.

    Aides sought to defend that failure as evidence of Clinton's gritty determination to "power through" the immediate difficulty and continue her strenuous schedule, despite medical advice to take a few days off the trail to recuperate.

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Understanding Hillary

   I saw Hillary once working a rope line for more than an hour, a Secret Service man holding her firmly by the hips as she leaned over the rope and reached into the mass of arms and hands reaching out to her. She had learned the art of encountering the crowd and making it look personal. It was not glamorous work, more like picking fruit, and it took the sort of discipline your mother instills in you: those people waited to see you so by gosh you can treat them right.

    So it's no surprise she pushed herself to the point of collapse the other day. What's odd is the perspective, expressed in several stories, that her determination to keep going reveals a "lack of transparency" -- that she should've announced she had pneumonia and gone home and crawled into bed.

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September 18th

Google isn't swaying voters, but it could

    Long before artificial intelligence brings about the singularity, algorithms are having an influence over our most important decisions, including which candidate to back in elections. The danger this could go too far is real and we probably need some well-considered regulatory intervention.

    Earlier this week, the U.S. psychologist Robert Epstein published a harsh article about Google's alleged manipulation of its search suggestion feature. When you start typing in Google's search window, it suggests ways to autocomplete the request. Epstein showed, for example, that when a user entered "Hillary Clinton is...," Google suggested finishing the sentence with "is winning" or "is awesome." Other search engines, Bing and Yahoo, completed the sentence differently: "Hillary Clinton is a liar."

    Epstein went on to give other examples of the purported bias and claimed that his research showed that the manipulation of search suggestions could "shift between 800,000 and 3.2 million votes" in the U.S. presidential election.

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Trump’s ‘Deplorable’ Deflections

    In August 2015, The New York Daily News published an exclusive report on a 1991 letter that Donald Trump wrote to the chairman of the state Assembly’s Committee on Cities, complaining about disabled veterans vending their wares on Fifth Avenue, home of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

    A New York state law dating from 1894 “allowed disabled veterans to work as sidewalk peddlers in New York City regardless of municipal rules,” as The New York Times wrote in 1991.

    But Trump was not empathetic to these wounded warriors’ plight, at least not on Fifth Avenue. He saw them and their vending as an eyesore.

    The Daily Beast published its own report on Trump’s efforts to get the veterans booted from this tony part of Manhattan, quoting Trump’s letter as reading:

    “While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its taxpaying citizens and businesses?”

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Trump Talks, but Can He Tango?

    Thoughts while watching Rick Perry do the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars”:

    “My name is Rick Perry and I’m the governor of the great state of Texas. I am — I’m not the governor of the great state of Texas. That’s not right. I’m the former governor,” he said in a taped introduction.

    Yes! It was definitely Rick Perry. The man who gave the nation the “oops” presidential debate was back, dancing on a map of Texas, to a song about Texas, which was sung by the group Little Texas. There was a theme there somewhere.

    Do you think Barack Obama was watching? The president hasn’t mentioned “Dancing With the Stars” recently. But he’s been beseeching the country not to confuse low-rent entertainment with high-end politics. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality TV show,” he said this week while campaigning for the ailing Hillary Clinton.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump responds to requests for the release of his medical records by taping an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show.”

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Trump's child-care entitlement is, yes, progress

    Donald Trump is taking an entire chapter from Hillary Clinton's "I'm in it for the kids" playbook.

    Hoping to improve his appeal to women voters, Trump on Tuesday proposed that the federal government guarantee six weeks of paid maternal leave. And to make good on his daughter Ivanka's promises at this summer's Republican convention, he would let families deduct some child-care expenses from their income taxes.

    The details left many left-of-center think tanks, women's groups and child-care advocates cold. They complained, for example, that Trump's plan would allow paid leave from work to only mothers, not fathers, possibly widening the gender-pay gap and signaling that women are solely responsible for staying home to care for newborns (read: forgoing salaries and career advancement). They also criticized Trump for not doing enough for low-income families and for failing to say how he'd pay for it all.

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Send facts, not rumors, on Clinton's health -- and Trump's

    Hillary Clinton kept her pneumonia diagnosis under wraps for two days because she "didn't think it was going to be that big a deal." Right. That's what she used to say about her private email server.

    Yes, I know Clinton's email server is an obsession that her rivals on the right will not let go. Fear and loathing motivate great political fundraising. But as I have written before, the former secretary of state knew that she and her ex-president husband had an abundance of political enemies before she gave them more ammunition to use against her.

    What irritated me most about the news that Clinton really was ill with pneumonia, forcing her to leave the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony in New York early, is how it gave a moment of undeserved "I told you so" satisfaction to the industry of conspiracy theorists.

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Income liftoff shows the recovery is real

    During the past two years, we have seen signs that wage pressure is building as the economic recovery grinds on. Enough evidence has now accumulated to suggest that it is already happening.

    The latest data, courtesy of the Census Bureau, which released its annual update on incomes and poverty on Tuesday, showed that median household income increased a whopping 5.2 percent in 2015 to an inflation-adjusted $56,516. As the New York Times, noted, it was "the largest single-year increase since record-keeping began in 1967."

    Some killjoys will note that median household income was $57,909 in 1999. That's true, but the dot-com crash, housing bust and the credit crisis managed to cut that a lot. Median incomes fell 2.59 percent from 2000 to 2004, before almost rebounding to the pre-crisis peak. After 2007, the collapse was greater -- a 4.94 percent drop that bottomed in 2013.

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Ignoring Due Process An Injustice To College Students

    Long ago and far away, a woman we hardly knew presented herself bruised and weeping on our doorstep one night. She told a vivid tale of woe. An old friend of our family she'd been dating had supposedly beaten her and thrown her down the stairs. Why she'd come to our house instead of police headquarters wasn't entirely clear.

    The story went on for hours. After she'd gone, I asked my wife, "What percentage of that did you believe?"

    Her eyes got big. She's a warm, compassionate soul whom people frequently seek out for advice.

    "What do you mean?" she said.

    "I mean that you've known X closely for 20 years. Do you really think he's just started beating up women at age 45?"

    When I put it that way, she did not.

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I treated kids in a Syrian hospital. We have no idea how to heal their trauma.

    One evening in June, I found myself on the roof of a bombed-out hospital in Aleppo. It was pitch black because the city's east side is without electricity. My colleagues and I watched jets fly by, dropping bombs on the outskirts of the besieged region. Exploding rockets could be heard throughout the night.

    I'm a pediatrician in Chicago. This summer I traveled with two colleagues from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) to Aleppo. There, I saw firsthand the way this war is maiming children emotionally as well as physically. The kids I encountered often struggled with debilitating trauma. Some had stopped eating; others could barely communicate.

    My experience echoes across the country. In one town, CNN reported a rash of child suicide attempts.

    "The children are psychologically crushed and tired. When we do activities like singing with them, they don't react at all; they don't laugh like they would normally," a teacher in the western town of Madaya told Save the Children. "They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and lack of food."

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