Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brazil’s new leader a consensus-builder who must prepare for a fight 

He is a president few Brazilians want, replacing a leader hardly any saw fit to stay.
The Senate's dismissal on Wednesday of Dilma Rousseff, the least popular president since Brazil returned to democracy three decades ago, handed power to a politician almost as unpopular, vice president Michel Temer.
For much of his five decades in politics, the softly-spoken Temer has worked in the shadows, building alliances within his fragmented Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and rising to become one of the leading dealmakers in Brazil's Congress.
His discrete manner and impeccable dress earned him the nickname among political allies and enemies alike of "The Butler."
Now the 75-year-old, who will serve out the presidential term through 2018, must win the confidence of a nation bitterly divided by the impeachment process and frustrated by the worst recession in decades.
He must also overcome Brazilians' disillusionment with the political class, which many see him embodying, after a sweeping corruption scandal at the state oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) that has ensnared his party.
"It is time to reunite the country and put national interests above those of groups," Temer said in his first televised address as president. "I repeat my commitment to democratically dialogue with all sectors of Brazilian society."
Temer has already shown he will steer Latin America's largest nation to the centre-right since he took over as interim president when Rousseff was suspended in May, unveiling plans to curb public spending and reform the generous pension system and welfare benefits. 
That agenda will make unity hard to achieve with many blue-collar voters already angry at the loss of hard-won economic gains achieved during 13 years of Workers Party rule and unemployment running at nearly 12 million, or just over 11 percent. 
After Temer's swearing in on Wednesday, hundreds of youths took to the streets of Sao Paulo, smashing shop windows and hurling rocks at riot police, who responded with tear gas.
"There is no single leader who can unify Brazil at this moment, certainly not Temer," said Sergio Praca, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a leading Brazilian university. 
"For a portion of the population, whether fair or not, he is linked to the idea that there has been a 'coup.' His challenge is not just pushing through reforms. His challenge is his political survival."
CONTRASTING STYLES
Rousseff, 68, was a gruff leader who minced no words with subordinates who made mistakes. Temer, who speaks in the rigidly formal Portuguese of a former constitutional law professor, could not be more different - from Rousseff or most of his countrymen.
The son of Lebanese immigrants who arrived in Brazil in 1925, Temer was the youngest of eight children. He began his political career in the 1960s.
He first served as an aide to Sao Paulo state's education secretary under Governor Adhemar de Barros - one of the politicians who inspired the Brazilian saying: "He steals, but he gets things done."
But behind his old-fashioned demeanour and slicked-back gray locks, Temer is not entirely what one would expect from his staid public image.
The father of five children is married to a former beauty pageant contestant 42 years his junior who has his name tattooed on her neck. He has also in recent years released a book of poetry titled "Anonymous Intimacy."
Its terse verse was penned on airplane napkins while he travelled from the capital Brasilia to his base in Sao Paulo. It includes praise for the female form and oblique allusions to Brazil's polarized politics.
He has a low-key style but is not above splashes of vanity. Several years ago, he had a nose operation that corrected a deviated septum but also, he acknowledged, improved his looks.
SEEKING CONSENSUS
Temer honed his craft over more than a decade in Brazil's bare-knuckle lower house of Congress, where he was an ally to both centrist President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Rousseff's predecessor and mentor. He earned a reputation for staying above the fray. 
Those who have worked with him say he rarely raises his voice, does not curse and refrains from the dramatic theatrics his peers employ during debates - especially the antics seen from all sides during Rousseff's impeachment.
For 15 years, he led the PMDB, an amorphous group with no consistent ideology, which holds more Congressional seats than any other.
Since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985, the PMDB has mostly been content to let other parties hold the presidency while it positioned itself as the legislative power broker, winning pork barrel perks and control of ministries and their budgets in return for support in Congress.
Now, though, the PMDB plans to field its own presidential candidate in 2018.
Although Temer himself has said he will not run, his supporters say his long career working across the ideological spectrum makes him a strong transitional leader and will help set the PMDB up for whomever it casts as its candidate.
But Rafael Cortez, a political analyst at Tendencias, a Sao Paulo consulting firm, said Temer's background and cordial manner could in fact be a liability.
"The economic and political crises we are facing will require confrontation with both opposition and allies alike to push through reforms," Cortez said. "The success of a Temer presidency will depend on his willingness to be confrontational." 
Because Temer comes from the old, elite political class, Cortez said, he does not satiate the public's deep appetite for political renewal.
"For that reason, the urgency underlying his presidency is to at least deliver on economic growth. If he achieves only that, not only does the PMDB stand a better chance in the 2018 elections, but it is not unreasonable to assume that Temer himself could make a run." 


10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR TODAY


1. TRUMP MAKING SURPRISE VISIT TO MEXICO

The Republican presidential nominee is scheduled to meet privately with President Enrique Pena Nieto, just hours before delivering a highly anticipated speech on immigration in Arizona.

2. BRAZIL'S SENATORS MULL REMOVING PRESIDENT FROM OFFICE

Dilma Rousseff's fate is the culmination of a long political fight that has consumed Latin America's most populous nation.

3. JEWISH AVENGERS TARGETED NAZIS AFTER WWII

A recently declassified U.S. military investigation report adds new mystery to why the mass poisoning of former SS men 70 years ago in an American prisoner-of-war camp failed to be lethal.

4. WHERE OBAMA IS FOCUSING HIS EFFORTS

The U.S. president opens a two-day tour aimed at showcasing conservation efforts before traveling to Asia, where climate change is high on the agenda.

5. MADELINE HURTLES TOWARD HAWAII

Residents of the Big Island are evacuating animals and stockpiling water, bracing for what could be the first hurricane to make landfall in the state in decades.

6. HISTORIC COMMERCIAL FLIGHT FROM US TO CUBA SET TO TAKE OFF

JetBlue Flight 387 is slated to depart at 9:45 a.m. EDT from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a 72-minute journey that will open a new era of U.S.-Cuba travel.

7. WHAT TECHNOLOGY MAY HELP LOST LUGGAGE

Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, should allow for more accurate tracking of bags so the luggage gets on the correct airplane.

8. STATE DEPARTMENT EVALUATING TALIBAN VIDEO

A video released by the Afghan Taliban shows a Canadian man and his American wife warning that their captors will kill them and their children unless Kabul ends its executions of Taliban prisoners.

9. LOW-WAGE WORK MAY SUFFER IN BREXIT

If and when Britain leaves the European Union, labor supply could shrink dramatically, pushing up prices for food and hurting key sectors, particularly agriculture.

10. CHRIS BROWN IN TROUBLE - AGAIN

Following a bizarre, hours-long standoff with Los Angeles police, the singer is arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and is later bailed out of jail after posting $250,000.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can you treat anxiety with YouTube videos?

YouTube has become the go-to social platform for life hacks. Hoards of chipper lifestyle vloggers upload new self-improvement videos every day, ranging from recipes for hot chocolate served in an orange to the secrets toeffective to-do list writing. But among the homemaking tips and makeup tutorials, a crop of these videos are tackling a more serious subject: mental health.
Prominent figures like Zoe “Zoella” Sugg, who has a YouTube following of 10 million, is among the dozens of celebrity vloggers to have uploaded personal stories and tips for overcoming anxiety to the Google-owned video platform.
At a time when access to mental health treatment is under increasing strain and stigmas still abound, could YouTube videos about anxiety be a viable means of treatment for sufferers?
“Watching videos about people talking [about] their anxiety on YouTube is a net positive,” mental health advocate and anxiety sufferer Ashley Womble said. “It can make people feel less alone and encourage them to take action to deal with their mental health issue.”
Womble, who runs mental health support website Psyched, said that one of the biggest benefits of these videos is removing the stigma of talking about living with mental health issues.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults. It’s an umbrella term for a number of mental health disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. These are characterized by persistent and unrealistic worry about everyday things. Treatment typically involves talk therapy, such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, and more severe cases can be treated with medication.
Brian Primack, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, also agrees that YouTube videos about anxiety are a big step towards talking about mental health. Primack, who specializes in the effect of social media on mental health, adds that the impact of these videos is strengthened when they’re made by prominent YouTube personalities with large fanbases.
“Instead of a stuffy doctor giving you jargon and terminology that’s complicated, the information is coming from a peer,” he said.
After the success of Sugg’s videos, the UK mental health charity Mind appointed her a digital ambassador in 2014 and worked in partnership with YouTube and Sugg to launch a social media campaign around anxiety and panic attacks. Recognizing the potential therapeutic and awareness benefits of these videos, the charity also hosts a YouTube series of its own, called #mentalhealthseries, in which it encourages viewers to upload a video of themselves sharing their personal stories.
The charity vets the videos before uploading them to its channel of over 6,000 subscribers and links to Mind resources for further information and support for viewers.
Eve Critchley, Mind’s head of digital, says social media can help anxiety suffers feel less isolated. “Increasingly social media is giving young people a way of voicing their experiences,” Critchley said. “Mind actively encourages people to create their own ‘mental health selfies’ because sometimes the best mental health advice we get is not from professionals, but from people who’ve been through the same thing as us.”
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than half of US counties have no mental health professionals. For most Americans, therapy is limited to what their insurance covers, which often isn’t a whole lot and many patients report the process of finding a therapist through their plan a frustrating – and even discriminating – process.
The American Psychological Association estimates that 30% of therapists don’t take insurance at all, and in some states, like California, that figure is closer to 50%.
“In those situations where there really is no other information, I think there are a lot of benefits to getting it in other ways,” Primack said.
However, Womble cautions that no matter how good the information might be, videos will never be a substitute for therapy.
“One of the things that’s a little [disconcerting] is that many of these videos don’t suggest talking to a mental health professional or thinking about any types of therapy, even a support group,” she said.
Womble also stresses that for a true anxiety disorder, some form of professional therapy is a requirement. She points to online resources such as TalkSpace,InYourCorner and Joyable as affordable and accessible remote treatment options for sufferers.
Womble adds that many of the videos on YouTube do not make a clear enough distinction between anxiety as a mental health disorder and anxious feelings that are normal for everyone. Referring to the videos that are tip-based, she says they are more like stress management techniques than something that addresses anxiety disorder.
“It’s fine to talk about your feelings of anxiety but that’s very different to having anxiety disorder,” Womble said. “It could be a little off-putting for people with serious mental health issues to see people talking about chewing gum and drinking tea as ways of dealing with anxiety.”

Yes, I am in debt. But I won't allow that to make me unhappy
  by Melanie Buer


Debt: $49,000

Source: Credit cards, student loans (deferred until 2017), auto loan, medical expenses

Estimated years until debt-free: 10 years

Every morning, I sit down with a cup of coffee at my roommate’s dining room table to check my email. Inevitably, as I’m reading through the junk mail, I’ll look up at the stack of bills laying on my desk in my room. Many of them have been sitting unopened for months, gathering dust and taunting me from their permanent place among the clutter.

Every once in awhile, the pile grows with new overdraft notices and payment requests. I’ll pick through the stack every few days or so, double-checking (maxed out) credit card balances and feeling unsurprised as yet another medical bill has been moved to collections. My phone rings and I screen the call – it’s a collector for my two-month-late car payment. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in debt.

There are many reasons for my financial situation. I applied for credit cards I didn’t need, took out student loans instead of looking for more scholarships and bought a car when it just wasn’t the right time. It was only a matter of time before it all caught up with me.

There was a time in my life when all I felt was the increasing pressure of the mountainous bills stacked up against me, and I woke up every day unhappy and fearful of my future. It was no way to live my life. Something needed to change. I started with my attitude about my finances, and soon moved toward every aspect of my life. I resolved to wake up every morning happy, and focus on the progress I was making on bringing down my balances.
I decided to have confidence in myself that in time, I would be able to get out of this hole. That helped maintain my sanity while dealing with the incredible stress that comes with living in debt. Many mornings it means just sitting with a cup of coffee and telling myself that the balances are getting lower, and that as long as I keep working, things are okay. It seems so simple, but it actually worked. I made sure to remind myself that I wasn’t complete trash (even though my credit might be) as a result of my foolish financial decisions. The more I did that, the more I could look myself in the mirror each morning and actually feel good about what I had in my life
The last time I pulled together my finances, I made a few key decisions in reducing the amount of money I was spending per month. One of those decisions was to focus more on cooking at home instead of eating out. As a result, I’ve discovered that spending time in the kitchen is a wonderfully meditative practice.
Cooking is especially poignant in times when I have to decide between buying groceries or making more than the minimum payment on some of my bills. For the longest time, I couldn’t even make a payment if I wanted to eat more than once a day. As I’ve pared down my expenses and begun a regular payment schedule again, the act of cooking myself a meal reminds me of the importance of taking care of myself. I’ve discovered I’m actually a pretty decent cook. I just never gave myself the chance to discover that side of me, all for the sake of convenience.

Probably the best way that I’ve managed to stay happy through the insanity of major debt has been to spend time around the truly awesome people in my life. There’s nothing more soothing after a stressful day than a night of commiseration and laughter with my closest friends – many of whom are in the same boat.

It seems to be an awful trend that many people my age are up to their ears in what seems to be insurmountable debt. Many of my friends made the same mistakes I did. Some of them have lost jobs or made tricky financial gambles that cost them their savings. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their bills, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.
These days, we spend Saturday nights sitting in a friend’s garage, soaking up the last of the summer and enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t take long before the stresses melt away and we’re left with the pure joy of human interaction. The support I have from my friends takes an enormous weight off my shoulders. I wouldn’t find the balance I need without it.
I don’t want my dreams of being debt-free to remain something just out of reach. I know that it’s possible to get out of this vicious cycle. But I’ll never get there if I don’t retain some sanity while working through it. I’m constantly reminded that my finances do not define who I am as a person, and for that I am grateful.






10 THINGS TO KNOW FOR TODAY
1. AP: ISLAMIC STATE GROUP BURIED THOUSANDS IN 72 MASS GRAVES
The known victims buried are staggering - 5,200 at the very low end to more than 15,000 - in territory that has been held by IS in Syria and Iraq.
2. TRUMP'S DEPORTATION INDECISION HIGHLIGHTS CAMPAIGN WEAKNESSES
The Republican presidential candidate and his aides used to say that voters didn't care about the nitty-gritty of policy details - but now those details are tripping up his campaign.
3. HOW AMERICANS KNOW HUMA ABEDIN
The longtime Hillary Clinton aide has won plaudits for her campaign instincts, her loyalty and her personal style, but most know her as a wronged political wife.
4. BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT MOUNTS FORCEFUL DEFENSE
On what could prove to be her last day as president, Dilma Rousseff warns senators that ousting her would hurt a young democracy.
5. SEATTLE PROPOSES NEW RULES FOR RETAIL, FOOD-SERVICE INDUSTRIES
Proposals would require the businesses to schedule shifts two weeks in advance and compensate employees for last-minute changes.
6. GENE WILDER KEPT HIS SERIOUS SIDE OFF CAMERA
The "Young Frankenstein" star was a humble man who downplayed his comic gifts, was a serious director and remained deferential to Mel Brooks.
7. CAROLINAS BRACE FOR STORMS
A tropical weather system off the coast of North Carolina's Outer Banks is expected to strengthen in the next day, bringing winds up to 45 mph and heavy rains that could flood low-lying areas.
8. WHO VEGAS IS NOW TARGETING
Sin City is eyeing the burgeoning Chinese tourist market with themed hotel-casinos and non-stop flights from mainland China for the first time. CHINESE TOURISM-VEGAS
9. DOGS USE SAME PARTS OF BRAIN AS HUMANS TO PROCESS LANGUAGE
Canines register that they are being praised only if the words and intonation match, lighting up both hemispheres of the brain, a study in the journal Science finds.
10. DJOKOVIC'S RIGHT ARM GIVES HIM TROUBLE DURING US OPEN
The defending champion needed treatment from a trainer but emerged with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jerzy Janowicz of Poland.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

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Second Week of Congressional Hearings Increases Pressure on Trump US President Donald Trump faces the threat of further testimony that ...