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Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

On World Environment day this past June 5, the United Nations (UN) called for the end of single-use plastic. Using the #beatplasticpollution hashtag, there were all kinds of conversations on Twitter about how to minimize your plastic use.

Plastic takes significant amounts of energy to create. It doesn?t decompose, which makes it a huge environmental issue, especially for our oceans. It is all too common for birds and other animals like sea turtles to die from eating plastic. And because plastic never entirely breaks down, lots of that plastic stays in the food chain; some of it even ends up in the food we eat.

I want to share some of the top tips from the UN and the Nature Conservancy of Canada for trying to reduce your plastic footprint.

1. Do a plastic audit

This is also a fun thing to do in your workplace. After discovering how much plastic your workplace uses, set goals as a team and maybe even have prizes for successfully reaching your goal.What does that mean? It means collecting all of your plastic use for a set period of time. I suggest at least two weeks so you get a shopping trip or two in during that time. Then count all of the plastic that you have amassed so you can know how big your plastic footprint is. One idea is to gather all of the plastic so that you can have a visual for how much plastic you use. You can then set a goal to cut back and consume less of it. It is amazing how many bags, containers and other plastic objects you only use once. Set a goal that is realistic but meaningful.

2. Ditch the single-use plastic water bottle

If you haven?t already invested in a good reusable water bottle, it is the easiest way to cut your plastic consumption. By drinking out of a reusable water bottle you are not only helping to keep plastic out of the landfill and ocean, you are also saving money in the long run.

Reusable water bottles are in style right now too. They come in all shapes and sizes, but it seems like bright colors and patterns are very stylish at the moment. Get with the trend and get a reusable water bottle.

The next time you go for a hike, take a garbage bag and fill it with any trash that you find along the trail. We recommend taking plastic gloves or a trash grabbing stick. You only have to go once or twice to see a noticeable difference in your local trail, especially in the city.

3. Do a plastic cleanup

My parents do this every spring at their favorite park. One walk through the park with a garbage bag in May means the walk will be more beautiful for the rest of the summer.

Invite some friends and have a competition to see who can pick up the most garbage. You would be surprised how much fun this can be!

4. Avoid pre-made food when possible

Many groceries stores now stock ready-to-eat meals that almost always come in plastic containers. Soups, salads, sushi or sandwiches are often over-packaged in plastic. We are all busy people who sometimes want a quick meal, but you can significantly reduce your plastic use by buying fresh fruits and veggies that aren?t over packaged in plastic. Ask for them wrapped in paper if you can.

5. #Banthebag

Start saying “no” to plastic grocery bags, and bring your own reusable?cloth bags. Plastic bags are almost indestructible in nature and are easily carried by the wind. It is no wonder our oceans are becoming clogged with them. Bringing a reusable shopping bag helps lessen the number of bags ending up in nature.

It has become a global movement to avoid single use plastic bags at grocery stores. Many cities, like Montreal, have gone so far as to ban them altogether. The hashtag #banthebag has become the unofficial slogan of refusing to use single-use plastic bags.

Anything beats single-use plastic bags, but if you really want to be an eco-friendly shopper, use the multi-use polyurethane bags that are sold at most grocery stores. These bags take less energy to create than standard canvas bags, which makes them more carbon friendly.


Hopefully these helpful tips will help you try to do your part. Together we can beat plastic pollution.

This post was written by Logan Salm and originally appeared on the Nature Conservancy of Canada?s blog, Land Lines. The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada?s Summer Work Experience program.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

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The Department of Defense wants to protect itself from climate change threats it’s helping to spur

The Department of Defense may be one of the only parts of the Trump administration that openly admits that climate change is a threat. On Monday, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes $717 billion in spending and advises the military to prep for climate-related flooding and sea-level rise. The nearly trillion-dollar package will be spent on “the finest planes, and ships, and tanks, and missiles anywhere on Earth,” Trump said from Fort Drum in upstate New York.

Problem is: This same federal agency, which is actively planning for global warming, is getting new toys that are capable of emitting tons of carbon.

CNBC outlined some of the big-ticket items in the DoD’s goodie bag. They include: $7.6 billion for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, $85 million for 72 Black Hawk utility helicopters, and $1.56 billion for three coastal combat ships (the Navy had only requested one).

A single F-35 fighter has an internal fuel capacity of nearly 18,498 pounds. If each of the 77 fighter jets uses up just one tank, that would amount to more than 1.4 million pounds of fuel. A Black Hawk helicopter has a 360-gallon fuel tank, and the combat ships each can lug nearly 150,000 gallons.

Although it’s been difficult to get hard numbers on the DoD’s total carbon footprint, it’s largely accepted that the U.S. military is likely the single biggest energy consumer in the world. The department said that it sent out more than 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014 — roughly the amount of C02 the entire country of Romania produced that year — but that number excludes hundreds of overseas bases, vehicles, and anything classified as a national security interest.

Basav Sen, climate justice project director at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, pointed to another climate threat: The White House, even before President Trump, has made securing access to oil and gas a national security imperative. And indeed, the U.S.’s latest security strategy outlines “energy dominance” as a key priority — which includes protecting global energy infrastructure from “cyber and physical threats.” He points to the Iraq War as a recent example of the U.S. intervening in an oil-producing region with the intent of securing the crude supply.

“When you’re pumping money into the military, you’re not just pumping money into an institution that burns a lot of fossil fuels and emits a lot of greenhouse gases,” Sen says, adding that funds also go to providing armed protection to the fossil fuel industry under the guise of national security. “That is really, really disturbing.”


The Department of Defense wants to protect itself from climate change threats it’s helping to spur

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It’s World Oceans Day! Let’s Say Sayonara to Single-Use Plastic

In July 2017, a study tallied up all the plastic ever made, arriving at the jaw-dropping figure of 8.3 billion metric tons. That was 11 months ago. How much more do you think has been added since then?

Most people get that plastic is a major problem, but the extent of?that problem eludes us. This is understandable, given that we generally don’t see the results of our own actions when it comes to plastic waste.

We’ll use a plastic straw in our smoothie, for example and excuse it as one small thing.

However, all those small things add up, until eventually what you?re left with is a garbage patch in the ocean that?s two time the size of Texas. That?s a heck of a lot of plastic.

According to Reuse This Bag, we use over 320 million metric tons of plastic annually. Do the math on that, and it?s easy to understand why the action focus for World Oceans Day 2018 is centered around?stopping?plastic pollution.

Single-Use Plastic is Destroying Our Oceans

It would be bad enough if our garbage ended up only in landfills, but around 2.41 million metric tons of plastic end up in the sea each year. The resulting impact of plastic on marine and bird life is disastrous.

Just recently, a whale was found in Thailand with eighty shopping bags and other plastic debris clogging its stomach. It literally starved to death. That?s just one story out of millions.

The number of countries and cities that have banned single-use plastics is growing. It?s time for all of us to step up and do our bit. Together, we can make single-use plastic obsolete.

By properly informing ourselves, we?ll be able to view our actions as part of the collective whole, rather than standalone indiscretions that don?t make all that much of a difference.

This infographic offers an in-depth look at plastic in the ocean. Along with dispelling myths around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it shows the impact of plastic pollution on?sea birds and marine life, including the harmful effects when these creatures eat plastic waste.

This video by National Geographic does a great job of explaining the history of plastic as well as the impact it’s had on the world and what we can do to make a difference. They, too, emphasize?the importance of eliminating single-use plastic.

What can you do to help?

If all we did was eliminate our use of single-use plastic, we?d make massive inroads into the problem. Avoiding plastic is a struggle, but it can be done. Here are some hacks to reduce your single-use plastic consumption:

  1. Carry your own travel mug.
  2. Carry your own eating utensils.
  3. Bring your own cloth shopping bags.
  4. Bring your own fresh produce bags, too.
  5. Don?t use plastic straws.
  6. Carry a reusable water bottle.
  7. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
  8. Buy laundry detergent that comes in a box.
  9. Opt for zero waste lunches.
  10. Refuse plastic at the dry cleaner. Or skip the dry cleaner all together!
  11. Use eco-friendly shaving supplies.
  12. Stop buying single-use coffee pods.
  13. Avoid processed food.
  14. Use bar shampoo and soap.
  15. Light your fire with matches.
  16. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable.
  17. Ladies, make your period waste-free.
  18. Shop at package-free stores.
  19. Rethink your food storage options.
  20. Make reusable bowl covers?(or bribe someone to make them for you)

We all know what we need to do, it’s time to do it. Let’s all commit to saying sayonara to single-use plastic for good.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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It’s World Oceans Day! Let’s Say Sayonara to Single-Use Plastic

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7 Reusable Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic

A brief history of the invention of plastics takes us all the way back to 1839, when a fellow by the name of Eduard Simon inadvertently discovered polystyrene. In 1909 Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented the first synthetic plastic.

Fast-forward to 2017 and a study released by Science Advances tallies up all the plastic ever made. It turns out humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since 1950.

If it was at least being put to good use, that number might not be quite so disturbing. Unfortunately, most plastic production is for single-use packaging.

To put it in perspective, in 2015 humans threw out 141 million metric tons of single-use plastic packaging – almost as much as was made that year.

The amount of plastic trash littering the earth is staggering. Stopping production of this environmentally-unfriendly substance isn?t going to happen, so the next best thing is to vote with your wallet and?choose reusable alternatives to single-use plastic.

1. Plastic Straws

Straw pollution is a huge problem. Edible straws?are one solution, but what if your local smoothie bar doesn?t stock the Lolistraw?

From steel and bamboo to glass and paper, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws. You could even go rogue and opt for no straw. You rebel, you.

2. Water Bottles

There are plenty of easy hacks to reduce your plastic consumption and one of them is to get yourself a reusable water bottle. Unlike its single-use plastic cousin, the forever alternative isn?t bad for your health.

3. Plastic Shopping Bags

It?s heartening to see the growing number of countries that have banned plastic bags.

Some, like South Africa, have imposed a tax as a way to discourage people from using them. The amount is far from prohibitive, but at least the major grocery chains have made reusable shopping bags cost-effective and easily available.

4. Take-Out Eating Utensils

Living sustainably isn?t just the domain of the eco-friendly nomad. There?s nothing wrong with carrying a reusable cutlery set with you even if you do have a permanent address. What if you forget your packed lunch or need to work late and order take-out?

5. Take-Out Coffee Cups

Along with plastic straws and water bottles, one of the easiest ways to avoid adding to the world?s growing trash problem is to quit?your morning cappuccino?habit.

I?m kidding. Everyone knows the day hasn?t started until the caffeine?s been had. Just get yourself a reusable coffee cup and you?re good to go.

6. Flip-Flops

Synonymous with summer and lazy days at the beach, the trusty flip-flop is a favorite with many people. They also pose a huge hazard to ocean life.

A better idea is to find an eco-friendly sandal that will last you more than one season.

7. Kids Toys

Although technically not single-use, the cheap gimmicky toys that come in Happy Meals (or lure little hands in the checkout aisle) might just as well be. Kids will whine like there?s no tomorrow until they get it and then toss it aside an hour later. Instead, buy them some?eco-friendly toys they?ll actually appreciate.

If you want to take another step to fight single-use plastic, sign this Care2 petition asking Starbucks to?ditch plastic straws.

Photo Credits: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Reusable Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic

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10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen

Plastics seem to invade every aspect of our lives, and the kitchen is no exception. From cooking to storage to packing food for on the go, there are places that we can ditch the plastic in favor of safer, more Earth-friendly materials. Take some time to inventory the plastic in your kitchen and see if your kitchen can go plastic-free. It’s easier than you think!

Plastic is no good for the planet, and it’s no good for people, either. Plastic pollution is a serious environmental problem. It pollutes our waterways, causing ocean dead zones and killing countless numbers of aquatic life. You don’t want plastic coming in contact with your food, either, especially hot or acidic foods. Plastic cooking utensils and food storage containers can leach toxins into the food that it touches. No, thank you!

10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen

Luckily, there are lots of simple ways to get plastic out of your cooking processes. One word of caution: if you’re getting rid of plastic that you already have, like ladels or tupperware, see if you can come up with crafty or creative ways to reuse them elsewhere, rather than sending them to the landfill. That plastic still exists, even if it’s not in your home!

Ready to ditch the plastic in your kitchen? Here are 10 tips to get you going!

1. Store your food in glass or metal. Instead of plastic Tupperware containers, chose metal or glass food storage. Glass Mason jars are great for storing bulk items like beans, grains and nuts. You can also check retailers like The Container Store. I’ve seen some great glass and metal food storage options there.

2. No more baggies! When you’re packing lunch, choose reusable glass or metal containers instead of plastic baggies or plastic Tupperware containers.

3. Choose reusable. You don’t need plastic forks and spoons in your lunchbox! Grab metal utensils from your own utensil drawer instead. If you want something that’s just for lunch, check out these cute, reusable wooden utensils!

4. Get rid of plastic cooking utensils. Ditch the plastic tools like spatulas and serving spoons in favor of metal ones.

5. Skip the processed food and produce in plastic bags. Processed food almost always means disposable plastic packaging, so choose whole foods wherever you can. When you’re hitting the produce section, don’t buy fruits and veggies in plastic wrap or those plastic mesh bags.

6. Forget bottled water. Chances are you already don’t buy bottled water, but just in case there are any hold outs out there, this is a no-brainer. Bottled water is expensive and the plastic bottles are unhealthy. Choose filtered tap water in a reusable glass or BPA free metal bottle instead.

7. Bring your own bag to the grocery store. You probably also already have reusable grocery bags, but what about when you’re in the bulk or produce aisle? Skip the single-use plastic bags in favor of reusable produce bags instead.

8. Buy dishwasher detergent that comes in a cardboard box. Dishwasher detergent often comes in a plastic container. Skip the plastic and opt for the powdered stuff in a cardboard box. Even better? Make your own dishwasher detergent!

9. Make your own dish soap. No need to buy dish soap in a plastic bottle, either. You can make your own dish soap at home! I know, the Dr. Bronner’s in this recipe comes in a plastic bottle, but many co-ops offer bulk refills of Dr. Bronner’s, so at least you only have to buy the one bottle. If anyone has suggestions for getting around this one, I’d love to hear them!

10. Skip the nonstick. Did you know that the nonstick coating on pots and pans is actually plastic? Instead of nonstick, choose cast iron or stainless steel so you can cook plastic free!

How do you keep the plastic out of your kitchen?

Cast Iron 101: Cooking, Cleaning and Seasoning
13 Natural Ingredients to Clean Almost Anything
Your Kitchen Sponge is Gross. Here’s How to Change That.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen

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American Health Care Is Expensive. It Will Take Years to Change That.

Mother Jones

A couple of days ago I tossed off a late-night post pointing out that health care is expensive, so it’s hardly surprising that estimates of California’s proposed single-payer plan have clocked in at a net additional cost of around $200 billion. That was pretty much my only point, but this post caused quite a…stir…on Twitter from the usual suspects, who were outraged that I hadn’t assumed single-payer would radically slash medical costs. Today, Jon Walker provides a more measured version of the argument:

It is critical to address this weird claim from Drum because the idea that single-payer would cut health care costs isn’t some optimistic liberal talking point. It is a near universal assumption and the main reason achieving single-payer has politically been so difficult. It is the heart of the whole debate.

Again, this is not a liberal idea. The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm owned by UnitedHealth Group, has repeatedly concluded that single-payer would cut health care costs. For example, they analyzed a single-player plan for Minnesota and concluded, “that the single-payer plan would achieve universal coverage while reducing total health spending for Minnesota by about $4.1 billion, or 8.8 percent.” It reached the same basic conclusion looking at a national single-payer plan in years past.

As it happens, I’ve found Lewin Group estimates in the past to be a little optimistic, but set that aside. I put the ballpark additional cost of national single-payer health care at $1.5 trillion, but if someone wants to assume it would be $1.36 trillion instead, that’s fine. That’s still in the ballpark. More important, though, is this chart, which accompanies that Lewin report on Minnesota:

This is basically right. As I mentioned in the original post, “If we’re lucky, a good single-payer system would slow the growth of health care costs over the long term, but it’s vanishingly unlikely to actually cut current costs.” And that’s pretty much what Lewin shows. The initial cost saving is small, but the cost containment measures inherent in a government-funded plan push the cost curve down over time. Their estimate is that within a decade Minnesota’s proposed plan would have been a third less expensive than business-as-usual. This is roughly what I’d expect for a national single-payer plan too.

Is it technically possible to cut initial spending more? Sure. We could nationalize the whole medical industry, cut nurse and doctor pay by a third across the board, and create a mandatory formulary for drugs at a tenth of the price we currently pay. When the revolution comes, maybe that will happen—and doctors and pharma executives will be grateful we didn’t just take them out and shoot them. In the meantime, I’m more interested in real-world movements toward single payer. Obamacare was a good start. Adding a public option would be another step. Medicare for all might be next. And something better than Medicare would be the final step. That will be hard enough even if we don’t make mortal enemies out of every single player in the health care market.

Roughly speaking, if we adopted national single-payer health care today it would cost us an additional $1.5 trillion in taxes. That’s reality, and as a good social democrat I’m fine with that. In theory, after all, my taxes might go up 30 percent, but Mother Jones will also increase my salary 30 percent because they no longer have to provide me with health insurance. Roughly speaking, this would be a good deal for half the country, which pays very little in income taxes; a wash for another third; and a loss for the top 10 percent, whose taxes would go up more than the cost of the health insurance they currently receive. If we decide to tax corporations instead of individuals, the incidence of the tax would pass through to individuals in a pretty similar way.

So that’s that. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, and I don’t believe that we can pass a bill that slashes health care costs to European levels. They’ve had decades of cost containment that got them to where they are. We, unfortunately, haven’t, so we have to start with our current cost structure. One way or another, that’s what we have to deal with.

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American Health Care Is Expensive. It Will Take Years to Change That.

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Senate Republicans Are Arguing About How Badly to Screw the Poor

Mother Jones

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Medicaid doesn’t get a lot of attention in the debate over Trumpcare, but it’s likely that more people would be affected by Medicaid cuts than by any other single part of the bill. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Senate conservatives still aren’t satisfied:

Some conservative Senate Republicans, such as Mike Lee, want to immediately start phasing back federal money for expansion enrollees, a process that would take 10 years….Conservatives also hope to use a different formula to calculate federal Medicaid funding that would mean less money for states. The House bill would slash an estimated $839 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, according to the CBO. Senate conservatives want to change federal funding of Medicaid in part by pegging it to a different inflation measure, which long term would mean less generous payments to the states than under the House GOP bill.

….Centrist GOP senators are on board with some Medicaid cuts but disagree over how best to implement them. Some say the House plan to halt federal funding for new expansion enrollees in 2020 is too harsh and want a longer sunset of the program.

Nearly a quarter of all Americans depend on Medicaid as their primary (or only) source of health coverage. That’s the American health care system for you. Nonetheless, of course Republican centrists are on board with “some” Medicaid cuts. They only want to quibble over whether 10 million poor people should be tossed out of the program by 2026 or if it would be more humane to toss out 9 million poor people by 2028. Decisions, decisions.

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Senate Republicans Are Arguing About How Badly to Screw the Poor

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Obamacare Is Doing Well, But Trump and Ryan Can Change That If They Want

Mother Jones

Today brings a couple of pieces of tentative good news for Obamacare. First there’s this:

The Trump administration says it is willing to continue paying subsidies to health insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act even though House Republicans say the payments are illegal because Congress never authorized them….The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to reduce deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for certain low-income consumers. The “cost-sharing” subsidies, which total $7 billion a year, compensate insurers for these discounts.

….House Republicans sued the Obama administration, saying that the spending — in the absence of an appropriations law — was unconstitutional. A Federal District Court judge agreed and ordered a halt to the payments, but suspended her order to allow the government to appeal.

This is a huge deal. CSR payments are critical for insurance companies, and the Trump administration could have decided to stop defending the law and let House Republicans kill the payments by default. That could still happen, but it sounds like it won’t happen this year, at least. This was the single biggest bit of uncertainty facing insurance companies this year, and this announcement should ease a lot of their short-term concerns.

So with this temporarily out of the way, how does the overall Obamacare market look? According to Standard & Poors, profit levels for insurers are still too low, but they’re improving and the market seems to be in pretty good shape:

The U.S. ACA individual market shows signs of improvement, as most insurers’ 2016 results were better than 2015 results….2016 results and the market enrollment so far in 2017 show that the ACA individual market is not in a “death spiral.”

….We believe the continued pricing correction and network design changes, along with regulatory fine-tuning of ACA rules, will result in closer to break-even underwriting results, on average, for the individual market this year….As insurers continue to adjust their products and pricing, we expect some premium rate increase in 2018 as well. If it remains business as usual, we expect 2018 premiums to increase at a far lower clip than in 2017.

S&P’s biggest worry is Congress futzing around with things: “Every time something new (and potentially disruptive) is thrown into the works, it impedes the individual market’s path to stability.”

Two things are pretty clear. First, contrary to what folks like Donald Trump and Paul Ryan say, the Obamacare market is not on the verge of collapse. It’s working pretty well and is likely to get better in the future. But second, Trump and Ryan certainly have the power to put Obamacare on the verge of collapse if that’s what they want to do. Now we just have to wait to find out what they want to do.

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Obamacare Is Doing Well, But Trump and Ryan Can Change That If They Want

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How Do American Kids Do In Math? Pretty Well, It Turns Out.

Mother Jones

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Earlier this evening I promised more on the TIMSS math test, and now I’m here to deliver. I could pretty easily just copy the full ranking table and consider it a job well done, but there’s a problem with that: a bunch of Asian tigers are always at the top, light years ahead of everyone else. There’s not much point in comparing ourselves to them. Do we really care that we do worse than countries that goad their kids into studying math until their eyes fall out? Likewise, there are lots of poor countries clustered near the bottom. There’s not much point in comparing ourselves to them either. It might make us feel good, but do we really care that we beat out Malaysia and Oman?

Really, what we want to know is how we compare to peer countries. We also want to know if we’re improving over time. So without further ado, here’s the answer for 8th graders:

Basically, this isn’t bad. We do pretty well among our peers, and our scores have been improving steadily for the past two decades. The full report is here, and it has lots of interesting tidbits.

It’s worth noting that there are two big international math tests: TIMSS and PISA. The United States usually does fairly well on TIMSS and not so well on PISA, which claims to be more about concepts and actual problem solving. If your ideological preference is to show that American kids are doing fine, you’ll focus on TIMSS. If your ideological preference is to show that American education is a cesspool and needs massive reform, you’ll focus on PISA. Take your pick.

One other note. If you really want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it’s the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to America schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts. But I guess the white working class wouldn’t be very happy about that.

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How Do American Kids Do In Math? Pretty Well, It Turns Out.

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You Have to Read This Amazing Tweetstorm by Jeb Bush’s National Security Adviser About Trump

Mother Jones

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The former national security adviser for both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney let loose this morning on the irresponsibility of giving Donald Trump the keys to nuclear warfare. John Noonan, a devout #NeverTrumper who is now a national security analyst and commentator, tweeted that electing Trump as president has consequences that threaten global peace.

Read his take below:

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You Have to Read This Amazing Tweetstorm by Jeb Bush’s National Security Adviser About Trump

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