By Robert A. Vella
Tourism to the U.S. is declining due to international concerns over mass shootings, xenophobia, trade wars, and foreigners’ dislike of President Trump. The loss of revenue to American businesses is estimated to be in the tens of billions from 2018-2020. GOP officials in several states are planning to cancel their presidential primary elections in order to protect Trump from challengers to his reelection campaign. Embarrassed by his contrived, inaccurate, and illegal publicized “weather forecast” for Hurricane Dorian, Trump apparently coerced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into rebuking its own National Weather Service (NWS) agency for having the temerity to tell the truth. NOAA’s statement was suspiciously authorless and the timing of its release suggest that the White House ordered it as an act of retribution and to protect Trump’s prodigious yet fragile ego. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is involved in another internal party dispute this time over its refusal to commit to a pledge against using disinformation in social media during the election season. Medical studies have identified serious public health concerns regarding diet soft drinks and e-cigarette vaping.
U.S. tourism drops
According to the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency, the number of international tourist arrivals around the world reached 1.4 billion last year. That represented a 6 percent increase, and the organization forecast the number to grow by 3 or 4 percent this year.
But in the first half of this year, the number of international visitors coming to America has actually dropped nearly 1.7 percent. That’s according to preliminary data from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office, which shows that slightly more than 37 million foreign travelers came to the country between January and June.
According to a forecast from the U.S. Travel Association, an industry trade group, the outlook for 2019 is for visitor numbers to remain just about the same as last year. Even if that holds true and the country doesn’t see a dip for the full year, the news is not good.
GOP to cancel primaries
Republican officials in multiple states are on the verge of canceling their 2020 presidential primary elections in a show of support for President Donald Trump, even as some GOP candidates plan to challenge him.
Party leaders in South Carolina, Nevada and Arizona have all expressed support for nixing their presidential primaries, and are expected to make it official over the coming weeks. Leaders of the South Carolina and Nevada Republican parties will each meet Saturday to reach a decision, while the Arizona GOP Executive Committee will discuss its decision at a Sept. 14 meeting. Kansas Republicans are also considering nixing their primary, according Politico, which was the first to report on the moves by state Republican parties to cancel their primaries.
Trump coerces NOAA
The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service has sided with President Trump over its own scientists in the ongoing controversy over whether Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian.
Released six days after Trump’s first tweet on the matter, the NOAA statement was unsigned, neither from the acting head of the agency nor any particular spokesman. It also came a day after the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser released a statement justifying Trump’s claims of the Alabama threat.
The NOAA statement Friday makes no reference to the fact that when Trump tweeted that Alabama was at risk, it was not in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty,” which is where forecasters determine the storm is most likely to track. Alabama also had not appeared in the cone in days earlier, and no Hurricane Center text product ever mentioned the state.
The weather service’s office in Birmingham, Alabama, had said in a tweet on Sunday that “no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama,” contradicting the president, who has persisted in arguing that his warning had been accurate.
On Friday night, Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, tweeted: “Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight.”
In a telephone interview, Sobien said that the statement was “like nothing I’ve ever seen, ever,” and could prompt people to ignore future warnings. “I can’t think of another word for it other than managerial malpractice,” he said.
“NOAA needs to withdraw the statement,” he added, “they need to apologize to their employees and they need to go out and do a serious public relations campaign to try to renew the confidence of the American public in the National Weather Service.”
As illegitimate tactics like manipulated videos, troll farms, and fake social media accounts spread, state Democratic officials are demanding an official policy disavowing disinformation warfare.
Earlier this year, all Democratic state party chairs sought to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans by backing a pledge to rule out the use of such tactics. Supporters viewed it as a basic first step to shape the tone of political discourse in the primary and guard against manipulation and online disinformation.
But party leaders did not bring the proposal to a vote at a meeting of the full DNC in San Francisco late last month, despite the pleas of the state chairs.
From: Death by Diet Soda?
There was a collective gasp among Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi drinkers this week after media reports highlighted a new study that found prodigious consumers of artificially sweetened drinks were 26 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who rarely drank sugar-free beverages.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 450,000 Europeans over 16 years and tracked mortality among soft-drink consumers of all persuasions — both those with a fondness for sugary beverages and those who favored sugar-free drinks.
But what grabbed headlines, and prompted widespread angst, was the suggestion that drinking Diet Coke could be even more deadly than drinking Coca-Cola Classic.
The recent rise of acute lung illnesses linked to vaping has deepened concerns about the safety of the devices. E-cigarettes were intended to help smokers quit traditional cigarettes by providing a way to satisfy an addiction to nicotine without the deadly toxins that come from burning tobacco.
But in 2018, vaping among American teenagers exploded and large numbers of young people who had never smoked started using e-cigarettes. They were especially attracted to sleek devices made and marketed by Juul Labs, which now dominates the market. A 2018 survey sponsored by the federal government found that 21 percent of high school seniors had vaped within the previous 30 days, compared to 11 percent a year earlier.
Now young people are being sickened by the new wave of lung illnesses. C.D.C. officials said they believe that some “chemical” is involved as the cause but they have not identified a single responsible “device, product or substance,” Dr. Meaney-Delman said.