Donald Trump Faces Obstacles to Resuming Waterboarding (including being persuaded himself)

Donald Trump has made many claims and promises during his presidential campaign. This week, I found an article in the New York Times about his “promise to bring back waterboarding, a banned method previously used by C.I.A. interrogators, and allow unspecified practices he called “a hell of a lot worse.” The New York Times followed this by stating that many prisoners have developed psychological issues after going through torture and other inhumane interrogation tactics that took place in CIA prisons and at the military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Lasting damage is a crucial aspect in whether a tactic is seen as being torture. Government lawyers said that techniques such as waterboarding, dousings with ice water, and sleep deprivation did not create long-term effects and were therefore permissible however this belief no longer stands to be true. In addition to torture being morally wrong, it has also been shown to be ineffective in gaining results.

Luckily, there are quite a few reasons why torture will likely not be welcomed back into practice. The first obstacle would be to rescind Obama’s executive order that banned many harsh interrogation techniques and prohibited the C.I.A. from running secret prisons. There would be a huge outcry both domestically and internationally. He would also have to consider international treaties requiring the humane treatment of prisoners. The most important reason why torture will not be used is that Trump has recently met with James N. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who is under consideration for defense secretary. He is against the use of torture and seems to have convinced Trump to feel the same.

A quote from the article I enjoyed was that of Trump explaining his meeting with Mattis: ““I said, ‘What do you think of waterboarding?’ ” Mr. Trump said. “I was surprised. He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer.”” This was followed with the NYTimes article stating although Trump seems convinced, he has not officially shut out the idea. I am pretty sure that torture will not/cannot be brought back but it was assuring to read this article that backed up the multiple reasons why!

Marlboro Attracts Millennials With a New Image

An article posted on November 28, 2016 in The Wall Street Journal discusses Marlboro Black, a new, cheaper type of Marlboro cigarette that is designed to attract millennial smokers who do not necessarily identify with cowboy, rugged, all-American man that Marlboro typically markets to.  Marlboro refers to this lower-priced cigarette as a “bold, modern take” on Marlboro that attracts edgy, motorcycle-driving, tattooed millennials.  According to the article, about 85% of young adults do not smoke, and Marlboro has struggled with capturing this demographic of the market.  Since Marlboro Black debuted, it obtained 1% of the US cigarette market share in its first year.  According to analyst Bonnie Herzog, this 1% equates to about $320 in annual revenue for Altria.  Additionally, the cigarette has helped Marlboro reach a record high market share of 44.1%.  Marlboro Blacks have also significantly helped boost the market share among 18 to 25 year-olds by 3 percentage points from 2011.  The article does an excellent job of providing a graphic that shows the different market shares by cigarette brand.

The marketing of Marlboro Black appears to have had a significant impact on the company, specifically in terms of the market share.  Marlboro’s “manly man” was not appealing to the younger generation and the new marketing initiative gave the cigarette a more upscale image.  The marketing team did not want to completely abandon Marlboro’s masculine traits or Western heritage, but instead modernize it.  I found this article especially interesting because it made no mention of how or if Marlboro markets to women.  I wonder if Marlboro Black will continue to be a successful venture for the company or if it will eventually decline due to the low number of young smokers.

D.C. Council to vote on nation’s most generous family leave law: 11 weeks off, up to 90 percent pay

This article talks about new legislation in D.C. that will add time to paid leave for parents for childbirth. It also includes 8 weeks to care for a parent or grandparent. The benefit would be cut off at $100,000 a week or 90% of pay, whichever is lower. On top of that, it would be paid by increased employer taxes evenly across all business sizes. The negative for parents is that they cannot take paid time for their own sickness or health problems outside of childbirth.

Socially, this is a huge plus. As the article points out, the U.S. is the only industrialized country without a paid leave law. It does create a burden for employers however. This could mean cutbacks in other areas to make up the difference. This law would also allow parents to take leave for foster children as well. Another thing to consider is whether the increased taxes would be better used for some other cause. Also, the cost breakdown is different depending on what you make. The first $46,000 are replaced at 90% but then they fall to 50%. They are also taxed on the benefits.

The legislation is very progressive, but it leaves much to question. Why is the burden solely on companies and not at all on employees. On top of that, the costs would be large coming from a district that already has high tax rates. The benefits also fall mainly on low wage workers. There will always be issues with any plan, but is this the right direction or is 11 weeks too long?

World Chess Has a Big Problem

Taking a break from the election and financial market coverage, an article in Bloomberg this week highlighted the problems facing the sport of chess. The game is growing fast, and the top players, grandmasters, are making more money than ever. Sponsors and fans are pouring money into the sport and it is generating the top players more money than pro bowlers, and surfers. However, the Chess Federation has come under fire recently for its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, for his ties to Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Mummar Qaddafi. Another interesting thing about him, is that he claims he was abducted by aliens in 1997 and says that the aliens introduced chess to humans 2000 years ago.This is having negative affect on sponsors. The current sponsors tend to be companies with ties to Russia and not american sponsors because of sanctions on the president. There clearly needs to be change at the top. One former world champion, Anatoly Karpov, wants the job, and claims “Any d*ckhead could do a better job.” Clearly there is some conflict at the top within the sport. Chess has been on the verge of popularity before with Bobby Fisher in the 1970s. However, like the current president of the chess federation, Bobby had characteristic flaws that turned people away. Chess.com is thriving and the future of the sport looks bright with a leadership change at the topand if new sponspors can participate in the sport.

Eli Lilly’s Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug Fails in Large Trial

This week I read an article from the New York Times on Eli Lilly’s latest clinic trial on an Alzheimer’s drug that ended up coming back as not statistically significant in terms of progress made with patients. This drug was seen to make improvements in prior trials and was put forward to more extensive trials to see if they can gather more evidence to prove that this drug is the first to alleviate Alzheimer’s/dementia symptoms.  Unfortunately, the drug didn’t even show statistic improvement in even mild cases of dementia. The drug, solanezumab, focused on amyloid buildup, which many researchers have hypothesized to be a major factor in dementia in why these symptoms occur. Although this drug did focus on amyloids, researchers say that it does not mean the amyloid hypothesis can be dismissed as there are many variables that go into trials and diseases.

Likewise, Alzheimer’s researchers in the article are now saying that Alzheimer’s is probably more complex than we previously anticipated. Some say that the entire brain could be damaged by this disease and targeting one thing may not work in alleviating symptoms, while others take a stance on the onset of the disease. Researchers are now in a dilemma where they want people that are medically tested as likely to develop dementia later in life as these people are more likely to be effected by these drugs, yet difficult to measure and expensive to test people that may not be relevant to the trial. It is a tricky situation that exemplifies just how complex and dangerous this disease is. Although this was a drug from a private company, the executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute made it clear that they were rooting for solanezumab because it would’ve been a win for the entire field.

This article got me thinking about ways of to conduct clinical trials, as well as how complex our brain is. We have such a long way to go in understanding how our brain works and what parts are truly related to other parts and our actions. As far as trials go, how do we balance the need for a large number of patients that may or may not be beneficial to the study, while keeping in mind the cost of the trial. It’s a tough balance, especially when you have lives at stake and families all over the world that are counting on these clinical trials.

Rising Sea Levels and Falling Real Estate Values: Climate Change is Damaging Coastal Property Values

A long-read published in the New York Times over the Thanksgiving holiday discussed the growing conflict between real estate and climate change. People have always settled on coastlines, and ocean-front property typically carries a much higher value than a similarly-priced home inland. Though sea levels have not yet risen to the dramatic levels predicted by climate scientists, recurring “nuisance” flooding has already significantly depressed coastal property values. Some property owners can afford to lift their house onto stilts and waterproof the basement, but for many others, the price of flood insurance alone makes the cost of living infeasible.

The article reports that in the last five years, the number of homes sold in flood-prone coastal areas was twenty-five percent less than in places that are not prone to floods. Six of the ten U.S. urban areas most prone to storm surge flooding are located in Florida, and while southeast Florida is currently experiencing just 10 floods per year on average, climate scientists are predicting that number will rise to 240 per year by the year 2045. Economists cited in the article warn of a coming housing meltdown worse than the real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.

One of the areas highlighted in the article is Norfolk, a coastal city in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Norfolk has the highest annual sea level rise rate of any area on the East Coast, with predictions topping out around six feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. Virginia has already taken measures to protect current residents and potential new residents in the market for a coastal home from the dangerous effects of sea level rise, but, as the article notes, President-Elect Trump poses a significant threat to environmental legislation. This article shows that the consequences of a Trump administration’s lax environmental regulations could have an impact beyond climate change itself: it could potentially lead to the next big housing crisis.

Trump Cites Progress in Keeping Carrier Air Conditioning Plant in Indiana

An article from the New York Times tells the tale of Trump and his quest to keep companies from moving jobs abroad. The most recent development revolves around a campaign promise Trump made a few months back. Carrier, an air conditioning company based in Indiana, has decided to move a plant to Mexico, putting thousands of jobs at risk. The new administration has struck up negotiations with Carrier and its parent, United Technologies, in hopes of keeping these jobs in the United States.

As of right now, Carrier pays its US workers about $15 to $26 per hour while workers in Mexico are willing to work for that amount per day. The article mentions the company is profitable at its current numbers, but it is obvious it would be much more cost effective to move those jobs abroad.

Trump has mentioned putting large tariffs on American companies who choose to move jobs abroad in the past, but it is hard to see what other bargaining chips Trump holds at his disposal. As some workers at Carrier believe, there is not much he can really do. Some think that the company will move anyway. It is possible that this demonization of companies moving abroad could affect consumer behavior and on top of a tariff, wreak havoc on demand for products not manufactured domestically. Regardless of whether or not Trump is successful, this is a symbolic battle that may help to gain him more support across the country. People have been desperate for a leader who honors the promises they made and this is a chance for Trump to do just that. If he is able to gain large scale support from the public, it will be easier for him to garner and pass the more turbulent parts of his agenda.