Tag Archives: IOS

Big dogs fend off big predators in U.S. trial

They’re sweet around humans but not so sweet around wolves, bears.

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal.

Ben Hofer of the Hutterite Rockport Colony near Pendroy, Montana, is greeted by a Kangal in this 2013 photo. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/Flickr)

U.S. ranchers faced with growing threats from large apex predators like wolves and bears are finding it necessary to upgrade their own four-legged defenses in response.

Over the past several years, some 120 dogs imported from countries like Portugal, Bulgaria and Turkey have been sent to guard flocks of sheep in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon. Throughout the test period, federal scientists have been keeping careful watch and logging data to see if these exotic large breeds can provide greater protection from predators.

“When we were first looking at doing this, a lot of people wanted to know: What dog do I use in dealing with wolves and grizzly bears?” Julie Young, a Utah-based research biologist with the U.S. Agriculture Department’s National Wildlife Research Center, told the AP.

That question has become more commonplace with U.S. livestock farmers as recovering populations of wolves and bears have increased beyond their protected borders. Traditional ranch dogs such as the Great Pyrenees, Akbash or Maremma Sheepdogs specialize in defending flocks against predators like coyotes and cougars, but those breeds are at a disadvantage against the more powerful and heavier wolf. To that end, the Department of Agriculture decided to research whether more robust, old world breeds might help close the gap.

“Farmers are sometimes skeptical at first, but once they see how these dogs work, they’re sold,” Tom Gehring, a biologist at Central Michigan University who has studied guard dogs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, told PRI. “Many people put them out and never have depredations again.”

The Cao de Gado Transmontanos originates from Portugal and is primarily used for flock and herd protection from wolves. The Cao de Gado Transmontanos originates from Portugal and is primarily used for flock and herd protection from wolves. (Photo: Joao Augusto/Flickr)

The three large breeds currently in service under a pilot program include the Cao de Gado Transmontanos (from the mountainous region of Portugal and weighing up to 141 pounds), the Karakachan (from the mountains of Bulgaria and weighing up to 120 pounds) and the Kangal (from Turkey, weighing up to 185 pounds).

According to Young, initial findings indicate that all three breeds perform well at keeping wolves away and excel beyond traditional guard dogs at deterring coyotes. The full results are expected to be published in several scientific papers over the next year.

Karakachans guarding sheep in Bulgaria. The dogs are known for their bravery in fighting back against both wolves and bears. Karakachans guarding sheep in Bulgaria. The dogs are known for their bravery in fighting back against both wolves and bears. (Photo: Semperviva/Wikimedia)

For environmentalists and animal activists, the use of new large breeds to help deter predation is good news for all living things. If a wolf or coyote is not killing sheep or other livestock, ranchers will feel less impetus to petition the Agriculture Department’s Wildlife Services for a permit to shoot and kill the predator.

“If a producer has a tool that prevents predators from killing their sheep, there’s no reason to kill those predators, or to have them killed by a federal agency,” Young said.

A kangal, a large livestock guardian dog originating from Turkey, on watch over a herd of cows. This Kangal, a large livestock guardian dog from Turkey, remains on watch over a herd of cows. (Photo: Patrick Sinot/Flickr)

Perhaps the most important thing, however, is how good these breeds are at not only defending their territory but co-existing lovingly with their human hosts.

“They’re good with house guests and baby livestock, but don’t like thieves,” cattle rancher Vose Babcock, who uses Kangals to guard her cattle, told Outside in 2016. “They can fight off a wolf, mountain lion, or bear and then come home and be polite with grandparents and grandchildren.”


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Kris Kobach’s Voting Sham Gets Exposed in Court

CreditHarry Campbell

This is part of a series on voting in America, which will run up to Election Day in November. For part 1, on the importance of voting, go here.

The modern American crusade against voter fraud has always been propelled by faith. That is, an insistent belief in things unseen — things like voters who show up at the polls pretending to be someone else, or noncitizens who try to register and vote illegally.

Fraud like this is so rare as to be almost unmeasurable, and yet its specter has led to dozens of strict new laws around the country. Passed in the name of electoral integrity, the laws, which usually require voters to present photo IDs at the polls or provide proof of citizenship to register, make voting harder, if not impossible, for tens of thousands of people — disproportionately minorities and others who tend to vote Democratic.

The high priest of this faith-based movement is Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate who has been preaching his gospel of deception to Republican lawmakers for years. He has won plenty of converts, even though he has failed to identify more than a tiny handful of possible cases of fraud. In his eight years as secretary of state, he has secured a total of nine convictions, only one of which was for illegal voting by a noncitizen; most were for double-voting by older Republican men.

For the past two weeks, however, Mr. Kobach has been forced to make his case in a far more rigorous setting — the fact-finding process of a federal trial. In a Kansas City courtroom, Mr. Kobach and his fellow true believers have struggled to defend a 2013 state law that requires prospective voters to prove their citizenship before they can register.

It has not gone well for Mr. Kobach. The lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kansas residents who were blocked from voting under the new law, contends that the legislation violates federal law, which requires only that prospective voters attest to their citizenship under penalty of perjury. Meanwhile, it disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans, who were disproportionately younger voters or voters with no party affiliation.

And how many noncitizens did the law stop from voting? Squint really hard. One would think that after all these years, Mr. Kobach would have something to show for his dogged efforts. Yet according to his own witnesses, Kansas, which has 1.8 million registered voters, has identified 129 noncitizens it says registered or tried to register since 2000. Of those 129 people, 11 actually voted, and it’s not clear how many of these cases represent intentional fraud, as opposed to honest mistakes or clerical errors. But Mr. Kobach is convinced, calling these findings “the tip of the iceberg.” If so, the iceberg is melting fast.

Mr. Kobach’s game may work with partisan lawmakers, but not with federal judges. At the beginning of the trial, Mr. Kobach, who is representing himself, tried to introduce what he said were new data on the number of Kansans whose voter registrations were suspended for lacking proof of citizenship. Judge Julie Robinson of Federal District Court said no, reminding him that the deadline for introducing pretrial evidence had passed the night before. “We’re not going to have a trial by ambush here,” the judge said when Mr. Kobach tried again a few days later.

How does it feel to have your papers out of order, Mr. Kobach?

Of course, restrictive voting laws like these have never been about protecting electoral integrity. They’re about keeping certain people away from the ballot box, often based on who they are — or are assumed to be. On Tuesday, one of Mr. Kobach’s witnesses, a political scientist, Jesse Richman, testified that up to 18,000 noncitizens have registered or tried to register in Kansas. When the A.C.L.U.’s lawyer asked him about his methods for analyzing the state’s list of suspended voters, Mr. Richman said that, among other things, he flagged foreign-sounding names. What about a name like “Carlos Murguia,” the lawyer asked. Would he flag that one? Yes, Mr. Richman said. He was then informed that Carlos Murguia is a federal district judge who sits in the courthouse where the trial is being held.

It all seems like a big joke until you remember that laws like these have already had their intended effect. In Kansas, more than 22,000 people who tried to register had their applications suspended or canceled for not having proof of citizenship. And in Wisconsin, which President Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes, a strict voter-ID law kept at least 17,000 voters from the polls in 2016.

Remember also that just days after the 2016 election, Mr. Kobach scored a meeting with President-elect Trump in which he urged the passage of a nationwide proof-of-citizenship requirement. A few months later, Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Kobach to lead his so-called election integrity commission. In January, after months of futility and infighting, the commission folded, having made no findings and issued no recommendations. No surprise there — there’s virtually nothing to find. There has been no epidemic of noncitizens voting, despite Mr. Trump’s baseless claim (endorsed by Mr. Kobach) that he lost the popular vote only because of millions of illegal voters. And there are hardly any examples of in-person voter fraud, the only kind that could conceivably be stopped by voter-ID laws. A federal judge once compared such lawsto using “a sledgehammer to hit either a real or imaginary fly on a glass coffee table.”

Unfortunately, the courts have not always brought the appropriate degree of skepticism to these laws. The Supreme Court upheld the first voter-ID law it considered, in 2008, even though the Indiana lawmakers who passed it had not identified a single case of fraud that the law would have prevented. Former Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion in that case, later called it a “fairly unfortunate decision.” Richard Posner, a former federal appeals court judge who also upheld the Indiana law, later said that voter-ID laws are “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

More recently, courts have gotten better about questioning the evidence and rationale for these laws, striking down some of the strictest ones, in Texas and North Carolina, for deliberately discriminating against minority voters. That’s the right approach. These laws masquerade as common-sense measures, but they are in truth anti-democratic shams, and it is gratifying to see them unravel in the harsh light of a federal courtroom.


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Russian Hackers Attacking U.S. Power Grid and Aviation, FBI Warns

Russian Hackers Attacking American Services

Russian hackers are conducting a broad assault on the U.S. electric grid, water processing plants, air transportation facilities and other targets in rolling attacks on some of the country’s most sensitive infrastructure, U.S. government officials said Thursday.

The announcement was the first official confirmation that Russian hackers have taken aim at facilities on which hundreds of millions of Americans depend for basic services. Bloomberg News reported in July that Russian hackers had breached more than a dozen power plants in seven states, an aggressive campaign that has since expanded to dozens of states, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

“Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors” have targeted “government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors,” including those of energy, nuclear, water and aviation, according to an alertissued Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Critical manufacturing sectors and commercial facilities also have been targeted by the ongoing “multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors.”

Rick Perry during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington on March 15.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Cyber-attacks are “literally happening hundreds of thousands of times a day,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry told lawmakers during a hearing Thursday. “The warfare that goes on in the cyberspace is real, it’s serious, and we must lead the world.”

Separately Thursday, the U.S. sanctioned a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm,” two Russian intelligence services, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian citizens and businesses indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of meddling with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A joint analysis by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security described the hackers as extremely sophisticated, in some cases first breaching suppliers and third-party vendors before hopping from those networks to their ultimate target. The government’s report did not say how successful the attacks were.

Read More: Russia Is Said to Be Suspect in Hacks of U.S. Power Plants

The Russian hackers “targeted small commercial facilities’ networks where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks,” according to the Homeland Security alert.

An industry-government partnership provided potential indicators of compromise for electric companies following Thursday’s announcement, said Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness at the utility trade group Edison Electric Institute. The federal government alerted grid operators to a threat targeting the energy and manufacturing sectors last summer, but the incident didn’t affect operations, he said.

The hackers deliberately selected targets and methodically went after initial victims as a way to reach their ultimate prizes, including industrial control systems used by power plants and other infrastructure. Their tactics included sending spear-phishing emails and embedding malicious content on informational websites to obtain security credentials they could then leverage for more information and access.

And once they obtained access, the attackers “conducted network reconnaissance,” and moved within the systems to collect information on industrial control systems.

The government’s alert on Russian cyber-attacks does not cover suspected meddling by the country in the 2016 election.

An October report by researchers at Symantec Corp., cited by the U.S. government Thursday, linked the attacks to a group of hackers it had code-named Dragonfly, and said it found evidence critical infrastructure facilities in Turkey and Switzerland also had been breached.

The Symantec researchers said an earlier wave of attacks by the same group starting in 2011 was used to gather intelligence on companies and their operational systems. The hackers then used that information for a more advanced wave of attacks targeting industrial control systems that, if disabled, leave millions without power or water.

The disclosure comes amid mounting calls from lawmakers to step up protection of the nation’s electric grid. Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pushed for a cyberthreat assessment of the grid last year, to better defend the infrastructure against potential attacks.

“I hope today’s belated response is the first step in a robust and aggressive strategy to protect our critical infrastructure,” Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, said in an emailed statement.

U.S. intelligence officials have long been concerned about the security of the country’s electrical grid. The recent attacks, striking almost simultaneously at multiple locations, are testing the government’s ability to coordinate an effective response among several private utilities, state and local officials, and industry regulators.

The operating systems at nuclear plants also tend to be legacy controls built decades ago and don’t have digital control systems that can be exploited by hackers.


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What Will the Nationwide School Walkouts Accomplish?

They won’t immediately prompt congressional action on gun control, but they’re vital to activists’ momentum.

High-school students release a white dove in La Crescenta, California, as part of the nationwide school walkouts on Wednesday.Kyle Grillot / Reuters
At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, students at 3,000 schools and across every U.S. time zone were in, or will be in, a state of protest. They locked arms. They formed hearts across football fields. They prepared press packets for journalists.

They were participating in a nationwide walkout—17 minutes long, to commemorate the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, exactly one month ago. The protests are the latest channeling of activist momentum following the Parkland shooting—momentum that previous school shootings were not able to produce.

In some ways, Wednesday’s protests fit neatly into a long tradition of youth-driven activism around the world in the past century. The clearest historical parallel, historians who study student activism said, is probably the South African anti-apartheid movement in 1976, when thousands of black students across the country walked out of their schools; many of them were shot and killed by police. Dawson Barrett, an assistant professor of U.S. history at Del Mar college in Texas, also pointed to the 1969 Moratorium To End the War in Vietnam, a nationwide movement and teach-in, as well as Earth Day, an environmental teach-in day in 1970.

But there is something truly rare about the scale of Wednesday’s protests. Lots of other student movements, such as Black Lives Matter or the Day Without Immigrants in 2006, were more localized, and hit many key cities but didn’t resonate on the national level in the way that these walkouts have.

Wednesday’s walkout also exhibits an unusually ambivalent dynamic between schools and activists. Earth Day, as Barrett pointed out, was a relatively uncontroversial cause, so schools across the country were participating in the movement and collaborating with students. Black Lives Matter fell on the opposite end of the spectrum, with many schools not participating or supporting the protests because they were politically controversial.

This walkout falls somewhere in between. Some schools collaborated with the students on actions, moments of silence, or programming with guest speakers. But other schools have forbidden students from participating in the walk-out, with some even threatening suspension. Some superintendents cited safety concerns for these restrictions, arguing that they didn’t have enough staff to protect students from potential violence while they were outside of classrooms. But other schools explicitly objected to students’ political activism: One middle school in Fresno, California, allowed students to walk out, but strongly discouraged them from speaking about gun policy, noting that some students wanted to make a statement of solidarity rather than engage in an act of political protest.

The protesters’ decision to walk out of school is loaded with symbolic meaning, argued Ben Kirshner, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder who has studied youth activism. “They’re seen in the public eye as under the care and protection of high schools, and that [implies] a more vulnerable view of students as children in need of care and protection,” he said. “So when they walk out of schools, it defies the more dominant discourses about youth or students [and identifies them] as not vulnerable, not apolitical.”

Indeed, the protesters—who were organized by activists ranging in age from 14 to 23 involved with Youth Empower, a group affiliated with the Women’s March—want political change. What does success look like for them? The end goal may be Congressional action, but as many of the protesters well know, that seems far off, particularly since the White House walked back some of its stronger gun-control proposals earlier this week.

Instead, the protests are a means of, in the organizers’ words, “sustain[ing] outrage.” That outrage started with rallies and visits to the Florida State Capitol in the days after the shooting, and it is set to continue, with a march on Washington later this month and another walkout planned for April.

The protests could end up serving another useful, quite different purpose—inspiring adults across the country to get behind the movement. The historians of activism I spoke with all pointed out that in order for a youth movement to succeed, it does still need adult support. “[Legislators] are not actually being pressured” by this display of youth activism, Barrett said. “When you look at the history of student movements among high schoolers, they have to have adult allies in order to pressure people in power, because they can’t vote and they don’t have money.”

Another effect of the walkout, whatever else it accomplishes, is that it will make a much wider group of teens and pre-teens entertain the idea of demonstrating. “I think it is noteworthy that however you feel about the issue, by May, every high-school student in the United States is going to have contemplated protesting,” Barrett said. In this way, Wednesday’s walkouts might be best interpreted as a protest that begets yet more protest.


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ICE spokesman in SF resigns and slams Trump administration officials

By Dan Simon –

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents detain an immigrant on October 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. ICE agents said the immigrant, a legal resident with a Green Card, was a convicted criminal and member of the Alabama Street Gang in the Canoga Park area. ICE builds deportation cases against thousands of immigrants living in the United States. Green Card holders are also vulnerable to deportation if convicted of certain crimes. The number of ICE detentions and deportations from California has dropped since the state passed the Trust Act in October 2013, which set limits on California state law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)© John Moore/Getty Images LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 14: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents detain an immigrant on October 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. ICE agents…
James Schwab, a spokesman for the San Francisco Division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has resigned, citing what he says are falsehoods being spread by members of the Trump administration including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I just couldn’t bear the burden — continuing on as a representative of the agency and charged with upholding integrity, knowing that information was false,” he told CNN on Monday.

Schwab cited Acting Director Tom Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as being the purveyors of misleading and inaccurate information, following Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s controversial decision to warn the community of an upcoming ICE raid.

ICE released a press release on February 27 about the operations in Northern California in which Homan stated that “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community, and I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision.”

Sessions also repeated a similar estimate in his remarks while visiting Sacramento last week.

“Those are 800 wanted criminals that are now at large in that community — 800 wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue with more difficulty in more dangerous situations, all because of one mayor’s irresponsible action,” Sessions had said.

Schwab said he took issue with their characterization.

“Director Homan and the Attorney General said there were 800 people at large and free to roam because of the actions of the Oakland Mayor,” he told CNN. “Personally I think her actions were misguided and not responsible. I think she could have had other options. But to blame her for 800 dangerous people out there is just false.”

“It’s a false statement because we never pick up 100% of our targets. And to say they’re a type of dangerous criminal is also misleading.”

Schwab said he brought up his concerns to ICE leadership and was told to “deflect to previous statements. Even though those previous statements did not clarify the wrong information.”

“I’ve never been in this situation in 16 almost 17 years in government where someone asked me to deflect when we absolutely knew something was awry — when the data was not correct” he said.

The Oakland mayor said in response to the former spokesman speaking out, “I commend Mr. Schwab for speaking the truth while under intense pressure to lie. Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard.”

Schwab also said he is a registered Democrat, but has been a loyal federal servant, regardless of which party is in power.

CNN has reached out to ICE in Washington and the Department of Justice for comment.


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Why This Bull Market Can’t Be Stopped

The bull market has lasted nine years, and investors rightly wonder how much longer it can continue. Economist and longtime market watcher Ed Yardeni is unabashedly bullish, predicting 3,100 on the S&P 500 Index (SPX), or 11.2% above the March 9 close, in an interview with Barron’s. “The earnings story is phenomenal. The tax cut has added seven percentage points to earnings growth this year,” as he told Barron’s. On trade and tariffs, he said that “the president will get a lot of pushback; then the underlying power of earnings will carry the market higher.”

Since the low point of the last bear market, reached during intraday trading on March 6, 2009, the S&P 500 has gained 318% through the close on March 9, 2018, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is up by 292%. However, most analysts, including Yardeni, use closing prices to determine market peaks and troughs. On that basis, the last bear market ended three days later, on March 9, 2009. From that point onwards, the respective gains have been 312% and 287%.

Driving Forces

Yardeni sees several driving forces for further stock price gains. Given low inflation, he expects the yield on the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Note to stabilize between 3% and 3.5%, and unlikely to exceed 4%. “I’m expecting inflation will remain low because of the powerful forces of globalization, technological innovation and aging demographics,” he adds.

With nominal GDP growth at about 4.4%, he projects S&P 500 earnings to be up by 16.8% in 2018, and by another 7.1% in 2019. His forecast of 3,100 on the S&P 500 is based on anticipated 2019 earnings of $166 valued at a forward P/E ratio of 18.7. That’s above his March 9 calculation of 17.3, per his firm’s Stock Market Briefing. Nevertheless, skeptics see a variety of reasons for be bearish. Historically high stock valuations are just one of them. (For more, see also: 6 Forces That May Push the Stock Market Even Lower.)

‘The One Poll Trump Follows’

On trade, Yardeni told Barron’s, “The stock market is the one poll Trump follows. If it continues to decline, it will make him realize that [imposing tariffs] isn’t the way to proceed.” Yardeni coined the phrase “bond vigilantes” in the 1980s to describe investors who sold bonds, forcing interest rates up, in protest against federal deficit spendingper CNBC. Today, Barron’s notes, he talks about “Dow vigilantes” who send a message to Washington by dumping equities.

Nonetheless, he shrugs off the recent “trade-war scare” that sent stocks downward as “panic attack No. 61 since the beginning of the bull market in 2009.” Still, he acknowledges that trade wars are not good for economic growth, and recognizes that eventually one of these “panic attacks” will start a genuine bear market. Last week, Daniel Pinto, co-president of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM

), warned that stocks may tumble by 40% in the next three years, possibly triggered, in part, by tariffs. (For more, see also: Stock Investors Should Brace for 40% Plunge: JPMorgan.)

‘Making Trade Fairer Would Be Positive’

“Assuming Trump succeeds in making trade fairer for Americans without crippling free trade overall, it would be positive for the U.S. and for stocks,” Yardeni said. He observed that “Ronald Reagan also came in as a protectionist, and imposed 100% tariffs on Japanese semiconductors and twisted their arms with auto export restraints. It worked: It brought a lot of Japanese production here.” Yardeni believes that President Trump is taking “extreme stances” on trade as a negotiating tactic, “then compromises to get more or less what he wants.”

More Bullish Signs

Fundamentals remain strong, with strong corporate earnings, growing at the fastest pace since 2011, and unemployment in the U.S. at a 17-year low, against a background of accelerating global economic growth, per The Wall Street JournalContrarians are cheered, meanwhile, by relatively “muted” optimism among investors, the Journal adds. Roughly 26% of individuals surveyed last week by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) think that stocks will rise in the next six months, well below the long-term average of 39%, and sharply below the 75% who were bullish in January 2000, during the Dotcom Bubble, also per the Journal.

The Bears Respond

Per MarketWatch, highly bearish indicators of excessive stock valuations include price to sales ratios as well as P/E ratios. Most bearish of all, MarketWatch says, is the high ratio of equities to total household financial assets. (For more, see also: Why The 1929 Stock Market Crash Could Happen In 2018.)

Meanwhile, despite regulatory initiatives taken in the years since 2008, a new banking and financial crisis is entirely possible. Sheila Bair, who headed the FDIC during the last crisis, is among those who warn that its lessons have been forgotten or ignored. Worse yet, she sees similar negative forces building today. (For more, see also: 4 Early Warning Signs of the Next Financial Crisis.)

For their part, Investopedia’s millions of readers worldwide are very concerned about the securities markets, as measured by the Investopedia Anxiety Index (IAI). Nonetheless, their level of worry has abated in recent weeks.

Read more: Why This Bull Market Can’t Be Stopped | Investopedia
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Vision Zero is a failure; it’s time to Stop de Kindermoord


NL Cycling
Public Domain Public Archives/ NL cycling

Vision Zero has become a meaningless response to continuing tragedy; we have to learn from the Dutch.

Vision Zero is a lovely concept; In Sweden, where it started, they believe that “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society” – nothing matters more than human lives. It means that safety is prioritized over speed and drivers’ convenience.

In the last week, two children were killed in New York City and one in Toronto. Authorities in both cities insist that they believe in and are implementing Vision Zero. In New York, people have long been complaining about the road design where the kids were killed; in Toronto, instead of dropping a pile of Jersey barriers to slow traffic down where Duncan Xu was killed, they closed off a pedestrian walkway. In both cities, the authorities talk about the 3 E’s, Engineering, Education andEnforcement, but always manage to ignore the first, because true vision zero slows cars down and inconveniences drivers. In both cities, the mayors care more about drivers losing a minute of time than they do about dead children, or they would fix this problem.

While all this was happening, I saw a tweet that reminded me of what happened in the Netherlands in the seventies. Dutch cities, like Amsterdam, saw a huge decline in cycling, from 80 percent of the population to 20 percent between the fifties and the seventies. Meanwhile the number of people killed by cars climbed dramatically, to 3,300 deaths in 1971, including 400 children.

protest against carsStop the Child Murders Campaign/Public Domain

Being the early seventies, parents took to the streets in protest, and a grassroots campaign, Stop de Kindermoord (“stop the child murder”) took off. Renate van der Zee of the Guardian talks to organizer Maartje van Putten:

The 1970s were a great time for being angry in Holland: activism and civil disobedience were rampant. Stop de Kindermoord grew rapidly and its members held bicycle demonstrations, occupied accident blackspots, and organised special days during which streets were closed to allow children to play safely: “We put tables outside and held a huge dinner party in our street. And the funny thing was, the police were very helpful.”

Stop the murders campaingNL Cycling/Public Domain

Soon after that, a cyclists union was formed that pushed for safer bike infrastructure. Meanwhile, the oil embargo caused the energy crisis of the seventies, which gave good cover for campaigns to find alternatives to cars.

Gradually, Dutch politicians became aware of the many advantages of cycling, and their transport policies shifted – maybe the car wasn’t the mode of transport of the future after all. There was a constituency here, perhaps bigger and louder than the drivers. And years later, Dutch cities are safe for kids and for cyclists, because of grassroots activism and emotion. Instead of “vision zero” they did “stop the child murders.”

zig ziglar© Zig Ziglar Estate

Emotion is powerful; the great salesman Zig Ziglar said it was the key to motivating people. He found that “people don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” As a tool for selling safety, Vision Zero no longer has any emotional resonance, because it no longer has any real meaning in North America. “Stop murdering our kids” does.

Slow down signsLloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

A few years ago in Toronto, after a child was killed in a nice upper middle class neighbourhood, these signs started appearing all over the city. With typical Canadian politeness, they say “Children playing, please slow down.” This isn’t good enough anymore. It should be reprinted to say “Slow the f**k down right now and don’t murder our children.”

Instead of listening to the politicians, engineers and police and their 3Es and ten year plans that don’t inconvenience drivers, we should learn from the Dutch. We have to lose the devalued “vision zero” and simply “stop the murders.”

kindernoordDutch Archives/Public Domain

The parallels to the seventies in Europe are all there: we have our own oil and climate crisis, we have lost faith in our politicians who are pandering to car crowd. The only way we are going to get change is to do what the Dutch did: take back the streets. Forget Vision Zero, just Stop the Murders.


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