House Democrats staying away from impeachment for the moment
By LISA MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK
Monday, November 26
WASHINGTON (AP) — Whatever happened to trying to impeach President Donald Trump?
As House Democrats begin laying out the vision for their new majority, that item is noticeably missing from the to-do list and firmly on the margins.
The agenda for now includes spending on public works projects, lowering health care costs and increasing oversight of the administration.
It’s the balance that Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is trying to strike in the new Congress between those on her party’s left flank who are eager to confront the president, and her instinct to prioritize the kitchen-table promises that Democrats made to voters who elected them to office.
“We shouldn’t impeach the president for political reasons and we shouldn’t not impeach the president for political reasons,” Pelosi recently told The Associated Press.
The California lawmaker, who hopes to lead Democrats as House speaker come January, calls impeachment a “divisive activity” that needs to be approached with bipartisanship. “If the case is there, then that should be self-evident to Democrats and Republicans,” she said.
Those pressing for impeachment acknowledge they don’t expect action on Day One of the new majority, but they do want to see Democrats start laying the groundwork for proceedings.
“We’re for impeachment. We’re not for get-sworn-in-on-Jan.-1-and-start-taking-votes,” said Kevin Mack, the lead strategist for billionaire Tom Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign. “Our argument is the Constitution outlines a process to remove a lawless president.”
In a new ad, Steyer says Democrats “just need the will” to act. He says he’s calling on Americans to join the 6 million who have already signed on to his group to “give Congress the courage to act.”
“The American people are tired of being told to wait,” Mack said. “Our argument to Congress is you are a co-equal branch of government. It’s time to do what is morally correct.”
Twice over the past two years since Trump was elected, Democrats have tried to force votes on impeachment proceedings, winning a high-water mark of more than 60 supporters, far from the 218 needed.
Republicans are counting on, and possibly even hoping for, impeachment fervor to overtake Democrats, leading them astray from campaign promises or dealmaking with Trump.
“We know the Democrats have a plan: They want to disrupt, they want to try to impeach,” said Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California after winning the GOP’s internal election to serve as minority leader in the new Congress.
Pelosi has made it clear the new majority will not engage in what she calls a “scattershot” approach to investigating the administration.
Instead, the incoming Democratic leaders of House committees will conduct oversight of the president’s business and White House dealings. Democrats are also trying to ensure special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. They may try to add legislation to protect that probe to the must-pass spending bill in December to help fund the government. They want Mueller’s findings made public.
“You have to be very reluctant to do an impeachment,” Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said recently on ABC. Nadler, who served on the committee during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, cited “the trauma of an impeachment process.”
Democratic leaders also know that moving quickly on impeachment would not sit well with their newly elected members, who helped the party win a House majority in the recent midterms. Many come from swing districts where impeachment could prove unpopular.
“I didn’t work 18 months listening to people in my district to get involved in a political back and forth for the next 18 months,” said Rep.-elect Elissa Slotkin of Michigan. “People want to talk about health care. It’s not a coincidence that most of us who won in tough districts, we won because we talked about issues, not because we talked about internal Washington stuff.”
For now, outside liberal groups are largely standing by Pelosi’s approach, putting their emphasis on pushing Democrats to chart a bold agenda on the domestic pocketbook concerns that won over voters.
Pelosi has some experience with impeachment, serving as a newer lawmaker when Republicans led impeachment proceedings against Clinton. When she became House speaker in 2007 she resisted pressure from her liberal flank to launch impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush over the Iraq War.
Pelosi believes that if Democrats had tried to impeach Bush when she was speaker, voters may never have elected Barack Obama as president in 2008.
Politically, Democrats may be right. In 1974, Americans only came to agree that President Richard Nixon should be removed from office on the eve of his resignation, according to Pew research. Voters responded to Clinton’s impeachment by electing more Democrats to the House.
“If we had gone down that path, I doubt we would have won the White House,” she said. “People have to see we’re working there for them.”
Follow Lisa Mascaro on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick at https://twitter.com/mcjalonick and AP Politics at https://twitter.com/AP_Politics
An economist talks turkey: 5 facts about Thanksgiving pricing
November 16, 2018
Jay L. Zagorsky
Adjunct associate professor, Boston University
Jay L. Zagorsky does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Few foods are tied as closely to one holiday as turkey is to Thanksgiving. At almost every Thanksgiving feast an enormous turkey is one of the central attractions.
In fact, the typical whole turkey sold in the U.S. weighs about 15 pounds, is 70 percent white meat and has more protein than chicken or beef. But the more important question is how much will it cost?
So before shelling out your hard-earned money for a large bird, there are five fast financial facts I think you should know.
Your’re getting a bargain if you buy frozen
Frozen turkeys do not provide much, if any, profit for your local store.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors both the wholesale and retail price of turkeys throughout the year. The wholesale price – what grocery stores have to pay for an item – during the first full week of November was about 81 cents per pound for a frozen turkey. The USDA found the national retail price was about 83 cents per pound a week later, which is about the time needed to get the bird from a wholesaler to your store.
This means the typical store in the U.S. is selling a frozen turkey about two cents over its cost. In other words, that 15-pound bird earns the retailer just 30 cents, which doesn’t begin to cover the cost of taking it from the delivery truck to the shelf, ringing it up for sale or keeping it frozen through the whole process.
Why are stores willing to make so little money on such a big seller?
Stores know that people coming in to buy turkeys are likely to purchase other items, too, such as seasonings, disposable roasting pans and soda. The other items are where stores make their money since the profit margins on these items are much higher than on frozen turkeys.
Fresh turkeys are a lot more profitable
While stores do not make money on frozen turkeys, fresh turkeys are a different bird altogether.
The USDA weekly report from early November shows that the wholesale price for a fresh turkey is US$1.12 per pound. The current retail price for fresh hens, which is the bird most people like to serve, is $1.51 per pound, 68 cents more than frozen. This means stores will make $5.85 for a 15-pound bird before factoring in other expenses.
Tom turkeys, which have larger bones and less edible meat, were selling for a more modest $1.25 a pound.
Stores understand that people looking to buy fresh turkeys are less price sensitive than those buying frozen birds. This makes fresh birds a more profitable item.
On a side note, is a fresh turkey worth it? I’ll leave that non-economic question to the foodies to figure out, since I don’t really like turkey either fresh or frozen.
Where you buy your turkey matters
Many people travel from one part of the U.S. to another to celebrate Thanksgiving with distant friends or family.
Is it worth buying a turkey in one place and lugging it in a cooler across the country?
Maybe. Turkey prices vary greatly depending on where they are purchased.
Right now, USDA data show the cheapest place in the country to buy frozen turkeys is in the Southeast, where the average price of a frozen hen from Virginia to Florida is just 72 cents per pound.
But if you don’t live in that region – or plan to visit someone there – I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip just to buy a turkey. The price difference isn’t that large. In the most expensive parts of the continental U.S., frozen turkeys cost about $1.06 per pound. These high prices are found in the South Central states, which stretch from New Mexico to Arkansas.
Why the difference? It’s not because of shipping costs. Arkansas is among the states with the highest average price even though it raises roughly 1 out of every 10 turkeys eaten in the U.S.
The more likely reason is because of store competition. There seem to be a lot more stores fighting for consumer dollars in the Southeast than in other parts of the country. The USDA tracks turkey prices in 7,400 supermarkets in the Southeast. But it is able to track prices in just 4,900 stores in the South Central part of the country.
No need to stockpile turkeys
There is no need to stock up at Thanksgiving if you want to serve Turkey in December. That’s because the retail price for frozen turkey is typically lower in December than it is in November.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking the price of a few specific brands and weights of frozen turkey for decades as part of its effort to determine rates of inflation in the U.S.
Over the last 10 years, the price of the turkeys the bureau tracks was lower in December than in November six times. The other four times the price in December was only 2 or 3 cents per pound higher.
Cheaper over time
Last, turkey has gotten a lot cheaper over time compared to other items people buy.
In November 1980, the year the bureau began tracking turkeys, it found the price was almost $1 per pound. That would equate to almost $3 after adjusting for inflation, which is almost double the bureau’s current average of $1.58.
In simple terms the per pound retail price of frozen turkeys has fallen by almost half since Jimmy Carter was president.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to spend with family and friends. Perhaps more importantly, since turkeys are getting cheaper, my family has more money to spend on the best part of the meal: dessert.
Largest-Ever Connected Vehicle Project Shows Future of Transportation
Ohio testing state-of-the-art smart technology to make roads safer and smarter
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – What if your car could tell you when the road ahead is icy or the driver three vehicles ahead of you suddenly hit their brakes? It seems futuristic, but the technology is already a reality in Ohio. The largest-ever research project into connected vehicle technology is shaping the future of transportation nationwide. It allows vehicles, traffic lights, crosswalks and other infrastructure to communicate, making the roads safer and smarter.
“We’re able to warn drivers before they enter an intersection if there’s a car coming that’s going to run the red light, or there’s an emergency vehicle approaching, or there’s a pedestrian on the sidewalk where you’re about to make a right turn,” said Jim Barna, executive director of DriveOhio. “This technology is going to disrupt transportation for the better like we haven’t seen since the creation in the interstate system.”
The project is a collaboration between DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation dedicated to developing and testing smart mobility innovations, local partners and Honda, which has manufacturing and research facilities near Marysville and recently demonstrated their smart intersection technology in the city. It includes a 35-mile stretch of highway as well as the entire city of Marysville, where all 27 traffic lights and 1,200 vehicles will be upgraded with connected technology.
“That’s about 10 percent of the traffic here, making it the highest concentration of connected vehicles in the country,” said Mike Andrako, Marysville public services director. “That’s important because it shows us how the technology will work when it’s is rolled out to more cars and larger cities across the U.S.”
In cities where the commute is a daily struggle for thousands of people, the smart system can make a huge impact. Data from each vehicle is completely anonymous, but the information will help traffic management centers make adjustments like retiming traffic lights, opening the shoulder to traffic or adjusting speed limits in order to alleviate congestion. Experts say the pilot project will make implementing the technology nationwide faster and easier in the near future.
Connected technology installed on a traffic light in Marysville, Ohio communicates with connected vehicles as they approach. The technology can warn drivers about hazards ahead as well as feed information to traffic management centers, allowing officials to make adjustments to alleviate congestion.
Marysville public service director, Mike Andrako, drives a connected vehicle through town. A simple installation can connect almost any car on the road to a network that allows it to communicate with traffic signals, crosswalks and other connected vehicles. The technology generates real-time alerts on what lies ahead, making the roads safer and smarter.
DriveOhio is conducting the largest-ever research study into connected vehicle technology. Data collected along a 35-mile stretch of high-tech roadway will serve as a test ground for the future of transportation in America.
A connected technology application displays traffic signal information and speed recommendations on an on-board tablet as a driver pulls up to an intersection. The technology allows vehicles, traffic lights, crosswalks and other infrastructure to communicate, making the roads safer and smarter.
Executive director, Jim Barna, leads a team meeting for DriveOhio, a division of ODOT that is dedicated to the development and testing of smart mobility innovations. They’re conducting the largest-ever research study into connected vehicle technology, which will help shape the future of transportation nationwide.
Ohio Cities Sign Agreement Allowing Autonomous Vehicle Testing
COLUMBUS, Ohio – When it comes to testing autonomous and connected vehicle technology, Ohio is open for business – and so are a growing number of municipalities across the state.
The Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program, created earlier this year by Gov. John Kasich, links private industry with cities interested in serving as testing sites for autonomous and connected vehicle technology. Athens, Columbus, Dublin, and Marysville have signed agreements with DriveOhio, the state’s center for smart mobility, to test autonomous and connected vehicles along with other smart mobility infrastructure. The City of Springboro is close to finalizing an agreement. Several other cities, including Dayton, Youngstown and Cleveland, have also expressed interest in participating in the program.
“Companies that create technologies for autonomous and connected vehicles want to test their innovations in real-world environments and Ohio offers the best variety of conditions and locations for that,” said Jim Barna, executive director of DriveOhio. “Our Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Program connects these companies with communities that want to serve as test beds.”
When municipalities participate in the program, DriveOhio provides assistance in several areas.
It helps communities determine specific locations to promote, such as neighborhoods that have particular needs (e.g. first mile/last mile issues) or regions designated as specific districts (e.g. entertainment or commercial).
It helps municipalities figure out what attributes they have that would be particularly attractive to researchers and testers, such as geography, population density, unique weather patterns the availability of a connected vehicle infrastructure.
It helps communities educate their local law enforcement about autonomous and connected vehicles.
It promotes the partnerships to companies and other organizations that partner with DriveOhio.
Dublin became the latest city to join the program. The Columbus suburb plans to equip about 1,200 vehicles with onboard units that can communicate with dedicated short-range communications devices installed in roads, traffic lights and other types of infrastructure. The data will be used to alert drivers, law enforcement and traffic managers about road and traffic conditions.
“Self-driving cars are going to reshape our transportation system, and we want to be ready for it,” said Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel. “The best way to prepare for an autonomous future is to begin integrating these technologies into our vehicles and infrastructure. Participating in the pilot program will make it easier for us to do that.”
The program gives companies involved in smart mobility yet another reason to locate in Ohio. The state already has an unparalleled combination of assets – from its collaborative environment and well-maintained infrastructure to its four-seasons climate and exceptional research and test facilities – that make it an ideal location for researching, testing and deploying autonomous and connected vehicles.
In addition, Gov. Kasich signed an executive order last January creating DriveOhio as a one-stop shop for researchers, developers and manufacturers to collaborate on autonomous and connected vehicle initiatives.
“Maintaining a leadership role nationally and globally as a premier testing ground is in the state’s best interest,” Barna said. “It promotes economic development and brings the jobs of the future to Ohio. At the same time, it makes our roads safer and gives people more mobility options.”
Inspired by sci-fi, an airplane with no moving parts and a blue ionic glow
November 21, 2018
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Steven Barrett received funding for this work from the MIT Bose Fellowships, MIT Lincoln Lab, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.
Since their invention more than 100 years ago, airplanes have been moved through the air by the spinning surfaces of propellers or turbines. But watching science fiction movies like the “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Back to the Future” series, I imagined that the propulsion systems of the future would be silent and still – maybe with some kind of blue glow and “whoosh” noise, but no moving parts, and no stream of pollution pouring out the back.
Science fiction inspires research and reality.
That doesn’t exist yet, but there is at least one physical principle that could be promising. About nine years ago, I started investigating using ionic winds – flows of charged particles through the air – as a means of powering flight. Building on decades of research and experimentation by academics and hobbyists, professionals and high school science students, my research group recently flew a nearly silent airplane without any moving parts.
The plane weighed about five pounds (2.45 kilograms) and had a wingspan of 15 feet (5 meters), and traveled about 180 feet (60 meters), so it’s a long way from efficiently carrying cargo or people long distances. But we have proved that it is possible to fly a heavier-than-air vehicle using ionic winds. It even has a glow you can see in the dark.
A plane powered by ionic wind takes flight.
Revisiting discarded research
The process our plane uses, formally called electroaerodynamic propulsion, was investigated as far back as the 1920s by an eccentric scientist who thought he had discovered anti-gravity – which was of course not the case. In the 1960s, aerospace engineers explored using it to power flight, but they concluded that wouldn’t be possible with the understanding of ionic winds and the technology available at the time.
More recently, however, a huge number of hobbyists – and high school students doing science fair projects – have built small electroaerodynamic propulsion devices that suggested it could work after all. Their work was pivotal to the early days of my group’s work. We sought to improve on their work, most notably by conducting a large series of experiments to learn how to optimize the design of electroaerodynamic thrusters.
A homemade lifter using the same principle as the new MIT airplane.
Moving the air, not the plane parts
The underlying physics of electroaerodynamic propulsion is relatively straightforward to explain and implement, although some of the underlying physics is complex.
We use a thin filament or wire that is charged to +20,000 volts using a lightweight power converter, which in turn gets its power from a lithium-polymer battery. The thin filaments are called emitters, and are nearer the front of the plane. Around these emitters the electric field is so strong that the air gets ionized – neutral nitrogen molecules lose an electron and become positively charged nitrogen ions.
Farther back on the plane we place an airfoil – like a small wing – whose leading edge is electrically conductive and charged to -20,000 volts by the same power converter. This is called the collector. The collector attracts the positive ions toward it. As the ions stream from the emitter to the collector, they collide with uncharged air molecules, causing what is termed an ionic wind that flows between the emitters and collectors, propelling the plane forward.
How MIT’s airplane works.
This ionic wind replaces the flow of air that a jet engine or propeller would create.
I have led research that has explored how this type of propulsion actually works, developing detailed knowledge of how efficient and powerful it can be.
My team and I have also worked with electrical engineers to develop the electronics necessary to convert batteries’ output to the tens of thousands of volts needed to create an ionic wind. The team was able to produce a power converter far lighter than any previously available. That device was small enough to be practical in an aircraft design, which we were ultimately able to build and fly.
Steven Barrett speaks in a ‘Nature’ mini-documentary about the first flight of an ionic-wind-driven plane.
Our first flight is, of course, a very long way from flying people. We’re already working on making this type of propulsion more efficient and capable of carrying larger loads. The first commercial applications, assuming it gets that far, could be in making silent fixed-wing drones, including for environmental monitoring and communication platforms.
Looking farther into the future, we hope that it could be used in larger aircraft to reduce noise and even allow an aircraft’s exterior skin to help produce thrust, either in place of engines or to augment their power. It’s also possible that electroaerodynamic equipment could be miniaturized, enabling a new variety of nano-drones. Many might believe these possibilities are unlikely or even impossible. But that’s what the engineers of the 1960s thought about what we’re already doing today.