Choices and Habits are Your Roadmap to Health and Happiness

By Laura Carlson – Anyone can fall into an unhealthy routine. The trick is to recognize you could make better choices and then follow through. Through structuring good habits, you can reshape your lifestyle and map your own road to health and happiness.

Eat breakfast. Almost universally, those who successfully maintain a healthy lifestyle eat breakfast every day.

Drink water. This is an important component in healthy eating. People who are fit, healthy and happy tend to drink water, and lots of it.

Exercising. Exercise is the other biggest component in a healthy, fit lifestyle. Some research reflects that regular exercise helps reduce your risk of many life-shortening health issues, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.


Source: Choices and Habits are Your Roadmap to Health and Happiness

Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments | TheHill

Democrats on Thursday sharpened their case for removing President Trump from office, kicking off the second day of opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial by zeroing in on the first of the House’s two charges: abuse of power.

The proceedings come on the heels of Wednesday’s arguments, in which Democrats laid out a broad, if detailed, chronology of Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian leaders last year.

Source: Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments | TheHill

Amid Detroit’s Rebirth, Many African Americans Feel Left Behind | US News

An analysis from U.S. News & World Report, based on recently released U.S. Census data, shows Motown is the second-least racially diverse city of 300,000 or more. African Americans make up 80% of its 670,000 residents, one of the highest percentages of any city in the nation.

Yet as Detroit’s fortunes are changing, so, too, is its racial composition. From 2010 to 2018, Detroit saw the biggest growth in racial diversity of any city analyzed by U.S. News, a trend fueled largely by an influx of white residents. Drawn to the Motor City by its anything-is-possible buzz, experts say, the newcomers stay because of below-average costs of living – particularly cheap housing – along with low business start-up costs and gritty Midwestern street cred.

But the gentrification that’s driving Motown’s urban-renaissance narrative, analysts say, is actually creating a tale of two Detroits.

Source: Amid Detroit’s Rebirth, Many African Americans Feel Left Behind | Cities | US News

Adam Schiff’s Show: Impeachment Performance Draws Praise | US News

.. while it is not the sort of job the mild-toned Schiff seemed to want when he came to Congress, he has embraced it with an understated ferocity, standing for hours on end as he has invoked history, facts and evidence, constitutional law and the stakes for American democracy to make his case against President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, he delivered his opening statement, starting with Alexander Hamilton’s warnings of a despotic government and then laying out the evidence Schiff said proves Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress. As the House case – mounted entirely by Democrats – proceeded, Schiff would pass the prosecutorial baton to other members of the team but often came back to argue the case himself, at length.

Source: Adam Schiff’s Show: Impeachment Performance Draws Praise | The Report | US News

The case for AI transparency requirements

Everyone will welcome better automated customer service, where you can get accurate and thorough answers to questions about complex topics. For example, soon, it might be easy for AI to convey what your health insurance actually covers, based on a database of similar prior claims.

For most of these interactions, it will be obviously and intentionally clear that the text you read, voice you hear, or face you see is not a real person. However, other times it will not be so obvious. As AI technologies quickly and methodically climb out of the uncanny valley, customer service calls, website chatbots, and interactions on social media and in virtual reality may become progressively less evidently artificial.

Source: The case for AI transparency requirements

Trump impeachment prosecutor, Adam Schiff, is becoming Exhibit A in president’s defense | Reuters

Over the first three days of Trump’s impeachment trial, the head of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, has led a team of Democratic lawmakers serving as prosecutors as they lay out their evidence that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender.

Even a few of Trump’s fellow Republicans have said Schiff has made an effective case.

Source: Trump impeachment prosecutor, Adam Schiff, is becoming Exhibit A in president’s defense – Reuters

Shocking Scale Of Abuse On Twitter Against Women Politicians In India | Amnesty International India

Women politicians in India face a shocking scale of abuse on Twitter, reveals data from a new study titled “Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women Politicians in India. The study was conducted using crowdsourcing, machine learning and data science. It reviewed hundreds of thousands of tweets sent to 95 women politicians — an analysis on an unprecedented scale in India, said Amnesty International India today.

Amnesty International India, in collaboration with Amnesty International – International Secretariat (AI-IS) conducted the study to measure the nature and scale of online abuse faced by women politicians in India. It found that women who express their opinions online are targeted with abuse not just for their opinion, but also for the various immutable identities – such as gender, religion, caste, marital status and many more.

Source: Shocking Scale Of Abuse On Twitter Against Women Politicians In India – Amnesty International India

The Bezos Hack and the Dangers of Spyware in the Hands of Autocrats

What is more shocking is that anyone truly believes that another investigation into Saudi malfeasance will curb the use of spyware by autocratic governments against their perceived critics at home and abroad. To be sure, for the sake of accountability, the FBI should heed the call by U.N. experts Agnes Callamard and David Kaye to open an investigation into how the heir to the Saudi kingdom apparently used Israeli-made spyware to breach the personal phone of the world’s richest man, who owns a leading American newspaper and runs one of the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies.

But in the grand scheme of things, investigating the hack of Bezos’ phone might not make all that much difference in preventing these kinds of abuses.

Instead, the best defense against dangerous surveillance technology is to treat the spyware that MBS deployed against Bezos the same way that the U.N., the United States and others deal with weapons of mass destruction: regulate it as much as possible and insist on more global oversight.

Source: The Bezos Hack and the Dangers of Spyware in the Hands of Autocrats

Facebook’s lie-friendly ads policy is showing in Trump’s ads

What did Facebook expect?

The company has doubled down on its policy of allowing political ads that contain lies, explaining that it shouldn’t be in the business of evaluating ads.

One unfortunate (and predictable) consequence of that is that the Trump campaign, the biggest overall buyer of Facebook ads, would take advantage. In fact Facebook’s policy looks almost tailor-fit to Trump’s Facebook ad game.

Source: Facebook’s lie-friendly ads policy is showing in Trump’s ads

Trump’s Incoherent Iran Policy Undermines U.S. Priorities Everywhere Else

No president has lived up to the Project Solarium standard, but U.S. President Donald Trump has set a new one on the opposite side of the scale. The current White House runs a foreign policy with irreconcilable objectives, no internal coherence, and no pretense of gaming out critical decisions before they are taken. Maximalist objectives are set with little thought to what might be required to achieve them. When the real world intrudes, with adversaries, competitors, or allies pursuing their own objectives independent from the United States’, Trump lurches from doubling down on risky bets to quitting the field altogether, as happened recently in Syria, leaving friends bewildered.

Nowhere is this incoherence more apparent than in policy toward Iran. On December 18, 2017, Trump signed his National Security Strategy, followed one month later by the National Defense Strategy. These documents set priorities among competing interests and direct U.S. departments and agencies to follow suit. Those the Trump administration issued emphasized a new “great-power competition” against Russia and China—with Asia now the priority region for U.S. engagement.

Those of us working on the Middle East following the adoption of Trump’s new National Security Strategy understood that we should not expect significant new resources, even for the military campaign against ISIS. In fact, resources would be cut. In early 2018, Trump eliminated long-planned stabilization funding for Syria, allocated military resources only where strictly necessary for defeating ISIS, and declared, “It’s time to come back home.”

And yet, despite these resource constraints and a supposed grand strategic shift toward Asia, the Trump administration expanded American aims across the Middle East—focusing above all on Iran. The administration stipulated that all Iranians must leave Syria, even as Trump himself made clear that he wanted to see all Americans leave Syria. Within months of endorsing the National Security Strategy, Trump unilaterally pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, increased sanctions on Iran, and embarked on a policy of economic strangulation—known as “maximum pressure”—with no objective on which his administration could agree.

Trump said that the objective was to ensure that Iran could never produce a nuclear weapon. His national security adviser at the time said that the objective was regime change. His secretary of state articulated 12 demands—among them, that Iran mothball its nuclear and missile programs, end support for proxy groups, and remove all militias from Iraq and Syria—that few Iran experts believed Tehran could meet absent regime change. In announcing these maximalist goals, moreover, nobody in the administration discussed new resource commitments to the Middle East. To the contrary, the acting Secretary of Defense told the Pentagon that the priority was “China, China, China.” The Iran policy was all ends and no means.

The assumption that drove this resource-free policy was that economic pressure through sanctions would force Iran either to return to the negotiating table on its knees or to collapse altogether. A contrary assumption—that Iran would not return to the table but instead fight back asymmetrically and draw the United States deeper into the region—does not seem to have been seriously considered.

This cycle of actions and reactions has drawn nearly 20,000 additional U.S. military personnel back into the Middle East since May of last year. Washington appears to have narrowly avoided a significant conflict mainly because Iran’s ballistic missiles narrowly missed American service members. Trump implausibly claimed that Iran was “standing down” the morning after it had fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. troops, and despite Tehran’s having promised further reprisals.

Trump himself said he intended to end wars and move forces out of the Middle East region altogether. The unforeseen escalatory cycle is evidence of a policy not working as intended.

As for the aims the secretary of state listed two years ago, the maximum pressure policy is failing to achieve any of them. Iran is now behaving more provocatively, not less.

The policy justifications are increasingly circular: when Iran attacks U.S. interests in the Gulf, American officials claim that this shows “panicked aggression” due to economic pressure. When the attacks pause, American officials claim that they’ve “restored deterrence,” at least until the next attack, requiring further economic pressure and a bolstered U.S. military presence in the region. There seems to be no serious effort, either within the administration or in Congress, to measure the policy against the goals declared from its outset.

More sanctions are unlikely to change Iran’s calculus.

Worse, the maximum pressure campaign allows Tehran to externalize the blame for its dysfunction and to justify further crackdowns on Iranians striving for reform and accountability.

The continued application of maximum pressure absent recalibration in either direction, however, is an insolvent policy. Its unlimited ends misalign to limited means, and initiative rests dangerously in the hands of Tehran, which has a greater interest in its own survival than the United States does in forcing its demise.

This strategic muddle is the focus of discussion in regional capitals, as well as in Moscow and Beijing. Foreign leaders see Washington as pursuing maximalist policies under a minimalist president with no clear, let alone achievable, aims. Their shared assessment is that Iran can continue to harass U.S. friends in the Gulf, intrigue against the U.S. presence in Iraq, and consolidate Assad’s grip on Syria. So long as Tehran does not draw Americans into its fire, Trump will do little. If Americans are drawn into its fire, then risks of a major and uncontrollable conflict are extremely high. All with no serious prospect for diplomacy, which most view as a prerequisite for sustained de-escalation.

Such an assessment has drawn Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates toward Russia and China—and even Iran—as hedges against a careening and uncertain Washington. In this respect, not only is the U.S. pressure campaign against Iran failing to achieve its stated aims but it is also benefiting the two great powers that the National Security Strategy is designed to confront.

The United States has increasingly imposed what are known as “secondary sanctions” on Iran. These constrain U.S. allies, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, as well as their private companies, from engaging in trade with Iran that is otherwise legal. Washington is effectively using its economic might to coerce allies into enabling a policy that those allies believe is self-defeating and unacceptably high-risk. This strong-arming may have lasting consequences for American stewardship of the global economy, which has long been based in part on the assumption that Washington would not weaponize the dollar’s dominance in pursuit of purely unilateral aims. China and Russia are seeking to exploit these concerns by developing trading networks, including with India and Turkey, that avoid the net of American sanctions.

At bottom, Washington’s policy today is defined by incoherence: maximalist ends, minimalist means, false assumptions, few allies, all pressure, no diplomacy. The Middle East in turn is stuck on an escalatory ladder, and Iran’s proxy groups may prove even less predictable with Soleimani dead. By Trump’s new standard, any attack that draws American blood may warrant an enormous retaliatory response. Yet with no diplomacy, plus additional sanctions, the risk that such an incident will occur—and the danger to Americans in the region—has only increased. And so the United States must maintain a significant military force forward and ready in the Middle East, even as its fight against ISIS has stalled and its guiding grand strategy calls for shifting resources out of the region altogether.

The administration lacks a process to resolve these contradictions, but Congress can force them into the open. Even after four decades of hostilities, Congress has never authorized the use of military force against Iran. But Trump’s maximum pressure campaign now requires the continuing threat of such force. With economic tools largely exhausted, Iran promising further reprisals, and no prospects for diplomacy, the United States must retain a significant military force in the Middle East region with a credible threat to use it.

There is no reason to avoid this debate until the next inevitable crisis, or to keep it behind closed doors hidden from the American people. If the Trump administration truly believes that the United States must be in a position to finish a war with Iran, then it should make the case to Congress and seek its authorization. Even the administration would gain by being forced to clarify its objectives, the means for achieving them, and the metrics by which it should be held accountable.

The current crisis in the Middle East should be a moment to demand a return to the most basic principles of sound foreign policy, with clarity in objectives and the alignment of resources necessary for achieving them. Objectives that cannot be met absent unacceptable tradeoffs, costs, or risks should not be pursued.

Source: Trump’s Incoherent Iran Policy Undermines U.S. Priorities Everywhere Else