Saturday midday open thread: Mercury pollution soars; Sears workers screwed; funniest words?
What’s coming up on Sunday Kos:
We now know that the current White House resident is a delusional autocratic crackpot, by Frank Vyan Walton
Straight from GM’s mouth: Demand creates jobs (not tax cuts), by David Akadjian
Donald Trump is morally bankrupt—and so are his supporters, by Mark E Andersen
Mississippi voted as most expected them to, but all is not lost, by Egberto Willies
Dear women on the U.S. mainland: Please support our sisters in Puerto Rico, by Denise Oliver Velez
Why Time’s Person of the Year should be the Democratic woman, by Sher Watts Spooner
Here’s how the new Democratic members of the House sort out ideologically, by David Jarman
Democrats should make marijuana reforms a signature justice issue. New Jersey can show the way, by Ian Reifowitz
• The funniest English words (according to these guys): University of Alberta psychologist Chris Westbury conducted a study looking at what it is that makes certain words funnier than others: meaning? sound? something else? Humor is subjective, of course. But Westbury and the other researchers were looking for what supposedly is “universally funny.” The researchers developed list of 4,974 words and asked 74 people to rate how humorous each of them is on a scale of 1 to 5. The team found six categories dominated the funny words—sex, bodily functions, party terms, insults, swear words, and animals. They then applied their computer model to a list of 45,000 words to see how well it worked. “I was amazed at how well we were able to predict judgments,” Westbury said. The 10 words they found most likely to make people laugh: • Upchuck • Bubby • Boff • Wriggly • Yaps • Giggle • Cooch • Guffaw • Puffball • Jiggly. Really? Wow. As noted: humor is subjective.
• Pollution has soared from mercury, the element once known as quicksilver: It’s now a “huge public health threat,” according to Susan Keane, a public health expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Inhaling or ingesting enough can cause brain damage and kidney failure in adults and cause birth defects and deficits by interfering with a fetus’s nervous system, leading to impaired memory, motor skills, and language ability. Mercury pollution levels grew by 20 percent between 2010 and 2015. Some 300,000 U.S. babies are born each year with dangerous levels of mercury. Last year, 101 nations signed and ratified the Minamata Convention in an effort to curb mercury pollution. Last week delegates from around the planet met in Geneva to discuss the situation. Much of the increase is attributed to the use of mercury in gold mines to tease out the paydirt in low-level ore.
— Steven Kiernan (@MsgToObserver) December 1, 2018
• Poll says more Republicans agree climate change is happening, but most of them don’t think it’s serious. The Monmouth University poll found that 78 percent of respondents believe that climate change is happening and causing things like more extreme weather. Sixty-four percent of Republicans think that, up from 49 percent three years ago. Ninety-two of Democrats believe that, up from 85 percent in 2015. But while 82 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents polled said climate change is a “very serious” problem, just 25 percent Republicans said the same—up from 18 percent three years ago.
• Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act ends in most states on December 15: If you’ve been delaying, there are only two weeks left if you need insurance! Free help is available. Answers to your questions about signing up and trained professionals who can talk your through your options are just a phone call or click away. Call 1-800-318-2596 or visit localhelp.healthcare.gov to make a one-on-one appointment now.
• Laid-off Sears workers get nothing while the CEO and other execs seek big bonuses: Going from 3,500 stories in 2005 when Sears and Kmart merged to less than a 1,000 today has cost tens of thousands of jobs in what were once retail giants. Sears, which filed for banruptcy in October, still has some 68,000 employees on the job, but how long that will last is uncertain. The company isn’t the only traditional retailer that has fallen on hard times:
Andrew Challenger, the vice-president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said traditional retail had been the biggest cutter of jobs for three years in a row. More than 92,000 jobs have gone this year already and more are coming. Sears plans to shutter 188 stores nationwide by the end of 2018.
Retailers are hiring in big numbers—but for warehouse workers, logistics and tech jobs as shopping moves ever more online, Challenger said. “But I don’t want to minimize those losses. Many are in rural communities and impact people who don’t have the skills retailers now want. Those jobs are never coming back.”