Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazils farmers and loggers target national park

The Sierra Ricardo Franco park was meant to be a conservation area protecting rare wildlife

To understand why the Brazilian government is deliberately losing the battle against deforestation, you need only retrace the bootmarks of the Edwardian explorer Percy Fawcett along the Amazonian border with Bolivia.

During a failed attempt to cross a spectacular tabletop plateau here in 1906, the adventurer nearly died on the first of his many trips to South America. Back then, the area was so far from human habitation, the foliage so dense and the terrain so steep that Fawcett and his party came close to starvation.

He returned home with tales of a towering, inaccessible mesa teeming with wildlife and irrigated by secret waterfalls and crystalline rivers. By some accounts, this was one of the stories that inspired his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Lost World about a fictional plateau jutting high above the jungle that served as a sanctuary for species long since extinct elsewhere.

In their wildest fantasies, however, neither Fawcett nor Conan Doyle are likely to have imagined the modern reality of that plateau, which can no longer be certain of protection from geography, the law or Brazils international commitments.

Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the parks boundaries, which exist on maps only.

Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now despite its dubious legal status one of the worlds great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

Locals say a member of President Michel Temers cabinet chief of staff Eliseu Padilha owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers to JBS, the worlds biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranho, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Par and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondnia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership reveal themselves most clearly.

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The 158,000-hectare Serra Ricardo Franco state park is supposed to be a conservation area, but farmers and loggers moved in to clear the land. Photograph: Phil Clarke Hill/Corbis via Getty Images

The 158,000-hectare Serra Ricardo Franco state park sits at the intersection of three great biomes; the Amazon rainforest, the Cerrado tropical savanna and the Pantanal wetlands. Its western neighbour, separated only by the narrow Rio Verde, is Bolivias dense Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, which covers an area five times larger. Together, they make up one of the worlds biggest and most biodiverse ecological reserves.

To the east are the light green plains of Mato Grosso a state bigger than the combined area of the UK and France which was named after the once thick bushland that has now mostly been cleared for soy fields and cattle ranches.

The plan to establish a park in this geologically and biologically important landscape was agreed amid the giddy optimism of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which was hailed as a breakthrough for international cooperation on the environment.

Ricardo Franco was one of nine conservation areas promised by the Mato Grosso government in return for a $205m loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The primary source of funds was the World Bank, which noted at the time that the money was to be used for vehicles, staff training and salaries, office construction and research. The envisaged Ricardo Franco park was supposed to cover 400,000 hectares.

The reality was very different. After several years of studies, the park that was eventually established in 1997 was less than half the expected size. At least 20,000 hectares of it had already been cleared by farmers who were supposed to be compensated and removed. This never happened. Nor could the Observer find evidence of fences ever being erected, or administrative centres built either in the park nor the nearest town of Vila Bela da Santssima Trindade.

The only signs and boundary markers are for fazendas (plantations). Although the park is supposed to be publicly owned and used only for ecotourism or scientific research, many areas could only be accessed after paying an entrance fee or requesting a key from the owner of the farm occupying the property.

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Serro Ricardo Franco is in one of the worlds biggest and most diverse ecological reserves. But reality on the ground is different, putting many animals at risk, such as Yacare caiman and giant river otters. Photograph: Angelo Gandolfi/Getty Images/Nature Picture Library

A quarter of the land has been cleared over the past four decades, but there are still areas of immense natural beauty and biodiversity that have changed little since Fawcetts time. Over two half-days, the Observer spotted an armadillo, spider monkeys, capuchins, otters, fish leaping a waterfall, clouds of butterflies, and a hand-sized spider that was slowly succumbing to the sting of a giant vespa wasp. Local guides report sightings of panthers, pumas, anaconda, pink dolphins and six-metre long alligators.

Trails now lead up to the previously undisturbed heights, but they are rarely used. The 5km hiking route to the 248-metre high Jatoba waterfall was deserted, as were the sapphire waters of the Agua Azul canyon. It was not, however, well maintained. Rubbish and used toilet paper littered one area. Another clearing was scarred with the charred remains of a barbecue (likely to be prohibited as a fire hazard in a well-run conservation area). On the banks of the Rio Verde, fishing lines were tangled on the rocks despite signs declaring Strictly no fishing or hunting. But it is undoubtedly the 20,000 to 39,000 hectares of farmland (the size is disputed) that has had the biggest environmental impact.

What is happening in the park is very sad, said a local biologist, who asked for her name to be withheld because she fears repercussions. This area is very important. There are species here not found anywhere else. But its degrading year by year.

Ranchers inside the park disagree. Ademir Talini, the manager of the Fazenda de Serra, boasts of boosting production of soy and beef on what he claims is the third most fertile land in the world.

Our municipality has the biggest abattoir in Brazil, the best beef comes from here and farms here contribute greatly to GDP, he says. He then points toward the nearby border with Bolivia. Over there is the biggest conservation area in the world. So what difference does 39,000 hectares make?

He points out that many of the farms preceded the creation of the park a refrain echoed by other ranchers.

The state government created a virtual park to get money, said Donizete dos Reis Lima, who owns the farm next to the border. Nobody here is against the park. I want a future for my children. But lets have a decent park. If we go, who is going to pay us compensation.

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About 240,000 cattle graze within the cleared forest in the park. This farm is owned by government chief of staff Eliseu Padilha. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

The issue is not black and white. The burly farmer says he is the legal owner of the land, having arrived in the area long before it was a park. But he also recounts how he opened up the roads to the region as part of his work as a logger. The area he cleared was later regularised by the land agency (Incra).

Then, as now, this process often involved corruption and collusion with the authorities. Elsio Ferreira de Souza, a retired municipal employee, recalls the illegal origins of land clearances in the 1970s. It was done with the connivance of local politicians and only later legalised, he says.

Regiane Soares de Aguiar, the public prosecutor who has filed multiple lawsuits against the farmers, agrees. All of the land was cleared illegally, she says. Even the landowners that were there before the creation of the park would not have had permission to deforest the land. Satellite data shows the problem has since worsened, she said, as more farmers moved inside the park, bringing more cattle that needed more pasture.

This illegal activity has done spectacular damage to forest and water sources. According to the prosecutor, JBS should share the blame because the meat company has bought livestock from inside the park despite a pledge to public prosecutors, foreign buyers and environmental NGOs not to source cattle from illegally cleared land. To get around this, it briefly launders the animals at untainted farms outside the park before taking them to the slaughter.

In a statement to the Observer, JBS said it had blocked sales from farms inside the park after being requested to do so by the prosecutors office. The company said it used data from satellites, the environment agency, ministry of labour and other sources to monitor its 70,000 cattle suppliers. The results, it said, were independently audited.

Since 2013, more than 99.9% of direct suppliers located purchases of cattle in the Amazon region comply with the Public Commitment of Livestock and agreements signed with federal prosecutors, it noted.

But cattle laundering is rife. Regulation is a challenge at the best of times. Even when the authorities impose a penalty for forest clearances or other violations, very few fines are ever paid.

I penalise them, but they challenge me in the courts and justice is so slow, says Laerte Marques, from the State Secretariat for the Environment (Sema). It has been very difficult. There is pressure from all sides. On one side there is the public prosecutor, on the other are the farmers.

The landowners have launched a campaign for the park to be abolished. Prosecutors, however, have urged the conservation area be administered on a more formal footing. Last month, they appeared to have won a victory when the Mato Grosso government announced a two-year study to determine the status of the park and what should become of its farms. But there are fears this will simply shrink the boundaries and allow the farms to be excluded.

Powerful landowners are trying to use this opportunity to reduce the limits of the park, said Aguiar. That would only benefit those who cleared forest. But there is a lot of economic power behind them, she warned.

Near the entrance of the Paredon 1 Fazenda is an overgrown airstrip and a dirt road that cuts through the state park to fields of cattle grazing among tree stumps on an otherwise bare hillside overlooking the Bolivian forest. This is one of several farms in the park owned directly or indirectly by Eliseu Padilha, the chief of staff. Locals in Vila Bela say he is an intimidating presence. He is not the only one. Several of Brazils richest businessmen as well as local politicians own land inside the park.

The forces lined up against conservation have deep roots. The post-colonial history of Brazil is, to a large extent, the history of deforestation. Following the arrival of European ships, settlers carved out roads into the jungle in search of gold. Since then, massive fortunes have been made by the clearance of forest, initially for coffee and rubber plantations and more recently for cattle and soy. Landowners happily backed the 1964-85 military dictatorship, which ensured that campaigners for indigenous rights and agrarian reform did not get in the way of farm and ranch expansions. The return of democracy initially made little difference. The first president under the new constitution was Jos Sarney, an old-school coronel who ruled the northern state of Maranho as if it were his personal fiefdom. Deforestation surged to new peaks at the turn of the 21st century.

The first time the problem came close to being brought under control was during the initial Workers party administration of Luiz Incio Lula da Silva (2003-06). His environment minister at the time, Marina Silva, put in place tougher penalties and a monitoring system that used satellites in the sky and rangers on the ground to identify farmers who burned or cut down forests. This resulted in an impressive slowdown that lasted nearly a decade, winning kudos from the international community and putting Brazil in an influential position in global climate talks.

But the effectiveness of this system weakened under Lulas Workers party successor as president Dilma Rousseff, who was much closer to the ruralista lobby than her predecessor. She had little choice. Increased demand for soy and beef, particularly from China, had made agriculture the main driver for economic growth and a political force to be reckoned with.

With 200 seats, the bancada ruralista had become the most powerful caucus in Congress. To placate them, Rousseff approved a relaxation of the Forest Code, which was the main legal tool against tree felling. It was a disaster for the Amazon.

Before that change in 2012, deforestation rates had been creeping down. After it, rates increased by 75%, according to Paulo Barreto, a senior researcher at Imazon, an independent monitoring organisation. He said this put at risk the commitments Brazil had made in international climate talks to reduce annual clearance to 3,800 square kilometres per year by 2020. At one point, we were on the right path. But last year, 8,000 square kilometres were cleared, double the goal for 2020, he points out. Two-thirds of Brazils carbon emissions come from this source.

Meanwhile, beef and soy barons have strengthened their grip on power. After last years impeachment of Rousseff, her replacement, Michel Temer, appointed several ruralistas to his cabinet and moved to dismantle and dilute the institutions and laws that slowed forest clearance.

His pick as agriculture minister is Blairo Maggi, the owner of the countrys biggest soy producer, Amaggi Group, and a former governor of Mato Grosso, who supported moves to abolish the Ricardo Franco park. The justice minister, Osmar Serraglio, is at the forefront of the beef lobby, which was his main campaign donor, and a fierce opponent of indigenous land demarcation (the most effective method of forest protection).

Under his watch, the National Indian Foundation (Funai) has seen its finances and personnel gutted. The foundations president, Antnio Costa, was sacked earlier this year. In a parting speech, he described Serraglio as a dictator. He is the minister of one cause: agro-business, he warned.

The counterbalance ought to be the environment ministry, which is headed by Jos Sarney Filho, the son of the top landowner in Maranho state. Although his ideals are widely praised by conservationists, his ability to act has been neutered. Last year, the environment budget was cut by 51% (compared to a 31% reduction of the Environmental Protection Agency in the US under Trump).

In March, the ministers weak position was apparent when he issued a grovelling public apology to JBS after inspectors embargoed two meat-processing factories that were alleged to have bought tens of thousands of cattle from illegally deforested areas of the Amazon. Rather than assess the rights and wrongs of the case, the minister said the action was badly timed because it could hurt a major exporter that was already bogged down in scandal.

Almost every week, there is a new roll back of forest protections. Last Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that slashed protected areas in the Amazon by 597,000 hectares (about four times the area of Greater London). The previous week, the lower house of Congress paved the way for the legalisation of land that had been illegally occupied by grileiro a move that is likely to encourage more seizures and forest clearance. Environmental licensing requirements for agriculture have been emasculated.

Temers unhealthily close ties to the agriculture lobby may yet, however, come to be his undoing.

Earlier this month, the attorney-general formally accused the president and his aides of accepting bribes and colluding with top executives from JBS to buy the silence of witnesses in a corruption scandal. Temer has denied all wrongdoing. The evidence was provided in a plea-bargain by the owners of the beef company, which is reportedly looking for a clean bill of legal health so that it can relocate its headquarters to the US. If so, its links to Padilha and the cattle raised inside Ricardo Franco and numerous other conservation areas also deserves more scrutiny, as does the process for deciding whether farms will be excluded from the soon-to-be regularised park.

Foreign adventurers and Brazilian bandeirantes helped to pave the way for this development, even if their intention was to escape fazendas and cities alike. As Fawcett said: Deep down inside me a tiny voice was calling. At first scarcely audible, it persisted until I could no longer ignore it. It was the voice of the wild places, and I knew that it was now part of me forever.

With each day that passes, that voice is becoming harder to hear.

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The tatu-bola armadillo was last year reclassified as at risk of extinction. Photograph: belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto

World Cup mascot is now at risk as forests disappear

The tatu-bola armadillo, the mascot for the 2014 World Cup, is now a symbol for a very different phenomenon in Brazil: the growing impact of deforestation on biodiversity.

The small armoured mammal was chosen to represent the tournament because it rolls up into the shape of a football when threatened, but its ability to protect itself has been undermined by a loss of habitat that is also devastating thousands of other species.

Late last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature raised the alarm by reclassifying the creature also known as the three-banded armadillo from vulnerable to at risk of extinction.

This has prompted the group that led the campaign for its selection as a mascot to launch a crowdfunding drive last month to raise $500,000 to save the animal.

Samuel Portela, co-ordinator of protected areas at the Caatinga Association, estimates the tatu-bola population has declined by 30% in the past decade due to deforestation and hunting.It is fundamental that steps be taken towards the conservation of this species and its habitat, because under the present conditions, the tatu-bola could be extinct in 50 years, he said.

The animal is mainly found in the northeastern Brazil in the caatinga (an indigenous term for white or desert forest) and cerrado tropical savannas. Even more than the Amazon, these two ecosystems have been diminished by the expansion of farmland.

Scientists warn that many other animals face similar or worse threats and the risks are rising along with the pace of land clearance in Brazil, the worlds most biodiverse nation. Last year, the government reported a 29% increase in deforestation the sharpest rise in more than a decade. Forest clearing in Brazil has already condemned at least 20 species of birds, 10 species of mammals and eight of amphibians to regional extinction. Scientists estimate this is just a fifth of those that will die out due to habitat loss. Among the most endangered are giant otters and bare-faced tamarins. A 2015 study predicted half of the 15,000 tree species in the Amazon could be lost if current rates of deforestation continue.

According to the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, the tatu-bola faces a particularly hard struggle to recover its population because of the animals low metabolic rate, small litter size, prolonged parental care and long gestation periods.

WILDLIFE OF THE LOST WORLD

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/brazil-wild-amazon-faces-destruction-farmers-loggers-sierra-ricardo-franco-park

MoneyLions redesigned app gives personalized financial advice and instant access to personal loans

Personal finance management app MoneyLionwas created to help users save money, reduce debt and improve their credit. Today the app is being updated to provide users with more personalized information about how they can improve their financial health, as well as even faster access to personal loans.

Like other PFM apps, MoneyLion works by connecting with all of a users bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts and then providing them with information abouthow they could improve their financial health.

One way it does this is by giving users personalized recommendations to encourage positive financial behaviors. By analyzingtheir individual spending habits and credit, the MoneyLion app gives daily advice based on a usersmost recentfinancial information.

Anotherway it aims to help usersis byimproving their credit. It offers freecredit reports from TransUnion and Equifax, push notification credit monitoring and access to credit counseling and credit repair services.

The latest version of the MoneyLion app has anupdated user interface to make things easier to navigate and provide faster access to the information. With its new UI, MoneyLions home navigation now showsswipe-able cards to provide up-to-date information, recommendations and personalized advice.

The app also has streamlined the process of applying for personal loans from MoneyLion itself. Users who are looking to borrow from MoneyLion can now get a loan approved in as little as 15 seconds, and can have funds in their account as quickly as the same business day.

That combination of personalized financial advice and access to personal loans is helping users improve their financial health, MoneyLion says. Customers have saved more than $5 million in rate reductions and rewards by demonstrating good financial behavior, andusers save $46 on average in overdraft fees each month, the company says.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/26/moneylion-app-update/

The US healthcare system is at a dramatic fork in the road | Adam Gaffney

The Congressional Budget Office has given the revised American Health Care Act a dismal score. Will we let this terrible plan define our healthcare future?

The US healthcare system and with it the health and welfare of millions is poised on the edge of a knife. Though the fetid dysfunction and entanglements of the Trump presidency dominate the airwaves, this is an issue that will have life and death consequences for countless Americans.

The Congressional Budget Offices (CBO) dismal scoring of the revised American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Wednesday made clear just how dire Americas healthcare prospects are under Trumps administration. But while the healthcare debate is often framed as a choice between Obamacare and the new Republican plan, there are actually three healthcare visions in competition today. These can be labelled healthcare past, healthcare present, and healthcare future.

Let us begin with healthcare past, for the dark past is precisely where Republicans are striving to take us with the AHCA. The bill narrowly passed by the House on 4 May is less a piece of healthcare reform than a dump truck sent barreling at high speed into the foundation of the healthcare safety net.

Wednesdays CBO score reflects the modifications made to the AHCA to pacify the hard-right Freedom Caucus, changes that allowed states to obtain waivers that would relieve health insurers of the requirement that they cover the full spectrum of essential healthcare benefits, or permit them to charge higher premiums to those guilty of the misdemeanor of sickness, all purportedly for the goal of lowering premiums.

In fairness, the CBO report did find that these waivers would bring down premiums for non-group plans. This, however, was not the result of some mysterious market magic, but simply because, as the CBO noted, covered benefits would be skimpier, while sicker and older people would be pushed out of the market.

In some states that obtained waivers, over time, less healthy individuals would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all. Moreover, out-of-pocket costs would rise for many, for instance whenever people needed to use services that were no longer covered say mental health or maternity care.

Much else, however, stayed the same from the previous reports. Like the last AHCA, this one would cut more than $800bn in Medicaid spending over a decade, dollars it would pass into the bank accounts of the rich in the form of tax cuts, booting about 14 million individuals out of the program in the process. And overall, the new AHCA would eventually strip insurance from 23 million people, as compared to the previous estimate of 24 million.

Its worth noting here that Trumps budget released Tuesday proposed additional Medicaid cuts in addition of those of the AHCA, which amounted to a gargantuan $1.3tn over a decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The tax plan and budget best characterized as a battle plan for no-holds-barred top-down class warfare drawn up by apparently innumerate xenophobes would in effect transform the healthcare and food aid of the poor into bricks for a US-Mexico border wall, guns for an already swollen military, and more than anything a big fat payout to Trumps bloated billionaire and millionaire cronies.

What becomes of this violent agenda now depends on Congress and on the grassroots pressure that can be brought to bear upon its members.

But assuming the AHCA dies a much-deserved death quite possible given the headwinds it faces in the Senate we will still have to contend with healthcare present.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control released 2016 results from the National Health Interview Survey, giving us a fresh glimpse of where things stand today. And on the one hand, the news seemed good: the number of uninsured people fell from 48.6 to 28.6 million between 2010 and 2016.

On the other hand, it revealed utter stagnation: an identical number were uninsured in 2016 as compared with 2015, with about a quarter of those with low incomes uninsured last year (among non-elderly adults). It also suggested that the value of insurance is declining, with high-deductible health plans rapidly becoming the rule and not the exception: for the privately insured under age 65, 39.4% had a high-deductible in 2016, up from 25.3% in 2010.

Healthcare present, therefore, is an unstable status quo: an improvement from healthcare past, no doubt, but millions remain uninsured and out-of-pocket health costs continue to squeeze the insured.

Which takes us to the third vision, that of healthcare future. As it happens, another recent development provided a brief glimmer of hope for that vision. As the Hill reported, the Democratic congressman John Conyers held a press conference yesterday (Physicians for a National Health Program, in which I am active, participated) to announce that his universal healthcare bill the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act had achieved 111 co-sponsors, amounting to a majority of the House Democratic Caucus and the most in the bills history.

This bill like other single-payer proposals is the precise antithesis of Paul Ryans AHCA. Rather than extract coverage from millions to provide tax breaks for the rich, it would use progressive taxation to provide first-dollar health coverage to all.

Which of these three visions will win out is uncertain, but the outcome of the contest will have a lasting impact on the country. We can only hope that the thuggish, rapacious vision championed by Trump and his administration does not prevail.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/us-healthcare-system-fork-road

Deputy, EMTs exposed to opioids get medical treatment

(CNN)A Maryland sheriff’s deputy and two emergency medical technicians received treatment for possible heroin and fentanyl exposure after responding to a drug overdose.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/24/health/maryland-deputy-emts-treated-for-heroin-overdose/index.html

It Doesn’t Sound Like Senate Republicans Are Anywhere Close To A Deal On Obamacare Repeal

WASHINGTON It took the House months of infighting and a failed first attempt to ultimately pass a bill torepeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. More than two weeks later, Senate Republicans are nowhere near reaching an agreement on a bill of their own.

As scandal after scandal piled up for the Trump administration last week, Republicans were given some cover. Rather than being flooded with questions as they exited multiple meetings about their own disagreements on how to repeal and replace Obamacare, they were asked about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the investigation into Russias meddling in the presidential campaign.

But even with some of the pressure off, they appear to have made only a little headway enough to identify the key issues dividing them but not to make much progress on resolving those differences.

A substantial number of Senate Republicans have made it clear they cannot vote for the House bill, which would reduce regulations on health insurance, rearrange tax credits for people buying health insurance and dramatically cut funding for Medicaid leaving many millions of Americans without health insurance while exposing older, sicker people to some combination of higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

The Medicaid cut is a big sticking point for senators from states such as Ohio and West Virginia that have expanded the program and have come to rely on it to finance treatment amid an opioid addiction epidemic.

Asked if she still had concerns about the health care talks, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said her problems havent changed from weeks ago when the House passed its bill.

Well, still the Medicaid expansion piece, and whether the tax credits are sufficient at the lower end, she said, referring to credits afforded to older Americans who face higher premiums under the House bill. Those are the two biggest.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) backed up Capitos complaints and added that the House billgoes too far in not protecting communities reeling from the opioid epidemic. Still, Portman wouldnt offer details on where talks are headed.

And scaling back the Medicaid cuts or bolstering tax credits for older consumers a priority for many GOP senators costs money. And the Republicans dont have a lot of money at their disposal.

Under the rules of the budget reconciliation process a procedural mechanism Republicans are using to avoid a Democratic filibuster the Senates bill cant increase the deficit. The only way to free up money would be to keep more of Obamacares taxes in place and doing that risks losing the support of more conservative members who, all things being equal, would rather the Senate bill look more like the House bill, not less.

The parliamentary math for GOP leaders is difficult. Even under reconciliation rules, which allow Republicans to pass legislation with just 50 votes assuming Vice President Mike Pence breaks the tie, leadership can afford to lose only two members. And there are plenty more than two members who seem convinced the Senate is far from agreeing on anything.

Asked to share what major sticking points are holding up the talks, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) laughed and said: Where do I start?

Its totally fluid. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on the health care talks

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told HuffPost he isnt even sure where negotiations are headed.

Its totally fluid, he said, adding that he has no clue when the Senate would even be ready to bring a bill to the floor.

Im not ducking. I just cant answer it, Cassidy said. I dont know.

And the current disagreements among Republicans could only become worse once the Congressional Budget Office releases its projection on the effects of the House bill.

The CBO score, which is expected Wednesday, is very important, Cassidy said. He stressed that it will help inform policy decisions facing Republicans in the Senate, and he appeared hopeful that it would steer his colleagues away from the House bill.

Theres still some idea that we might use the House plan as a basis for which to proceed, he said.

Of course, the prospects for getting a repeal bill through the House looked bleak until it didnt. After House leaders pulled the bill in March because it didnt have the votes, senior members began negotiating quietly on their own until theyd worked out a deal capable of just barely getting enough votes to pass.

It looks as if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to do the same thing by having his caucus work out a deal behind closed doors and then bring it to the floor right when he is within striking distance of a majority. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is among the senators whoarent happy about the process. On Tuesday, that irritation came to a boiling point for him.

Its a very awkward process, at best, Corker said. There are no experts. Theres no actuarials. Typically, in a hearing, youd have people coming in, and youd also have the media opining about if a hearing took place and X came in and made comments.

Later Corker called the entire saga very difficult at best, adding that theres been a lot of progress in understanding the problems senators have with the House bill, and between each other, but theres no bill written.

But leadership hasnt indicated a desire to move negotiations out into the open, and its not so hard to imagine how, eventually, they could work out a deal that would get them close to the 50 votes they need while still keeping the guts of the House plan and its dramatic effects on insurance coverage.

Leaders might try to win over holdouts like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has said she wants to protect her states Medicaid population, by offering extra money for Alaska much as Democrats in 2009 used special funding for Nebraska to bring along then-Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in what became known as the Cornhusker Kickback. Maybe they could win over Capito and Portman with extra money for opioid treatment as a way to replace a little bit of the money their states would lose from Medicaid.

On the Medicaid expansion front, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) offered some insight into where the talks are at, saying theres an interest among many Republicans to have a longer tail on [repeal] phase-out. Under the House bill, the extra federal funds for Medicaid expansion would phase out starting in 2020.Senate Republicans could push back that date or find some other way to make the transition more gradual, although, notably, the debate seems to be over when and not whether to end federal funding for the expansion.

Theres also the issue of pre-existing conditions and the tax credits, which are sticking points for Thune himself.

Weve had a lot of members whove made statements and are very committed to having a solution in place for pre-existing conditions. There are just a lot of ideas about how to do it, Thune said.

And the tax credits are a work in progress, Thune said. A big concern there, he said, is that the House bill unlike the Affordable Care Act doesnt tailor the tax credits to income, making it a lot harder for the poor and even some middle-class consumers to afford coverage.

A lot depends on whether external political events, like the upcoming special House elections in Georgia and Montana, change the political calculus of Republicans so many of whom seem convinced that the political cost of doing nothing is worse than the political cost of doing something that appears to be highly unpopular.

About the only sure thing seems to be that neither GOP leaders nor members want to be dealing with health care forever. They continue to say they would like a vote no later than the August recess, even though the possibility of reaching a deal by then seems highly uncertain.

As Thune put it, At some point we need to vote, and so that day of reckoning will come.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senate-republicans-health-care-repeal_us_5924b986e4b00c8df29fd656

Trump’s budget: major slashes to social programs but $1.6bn for the wall

Millions of people stand to lose Medicaid access, alongside cuts to welfare and food stamps, under a proposed budget that still has numerous hurdles to jump

Donald Trump will embrace hardline right-wing economics on Tuesday with a budget that proposes swingeing cuts to social safety net programmes while allocating $1.6bn to a border wall.

Millions of people would lose access to Medicaid, the government insurance programme for the poorest and many disabled Americans. Food stamps for people on low incomes would be cut over the next 10 years under the White House plan and the families of undocumented workers would be frozen out of key tax breaks.

We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programmes or the number of people on those programmes, budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. Were going to measure compassion and success by the number of people we help get off of those programmes to get back in charge of their own lives. Were not going to measure our success by how much money we spend but by how many people we actually help.

The Trump blueprint is unlikely to become law because it will face opposition from both moderate Republicans and Democrats worried about its social impact and from fiscal conservatives who fear it will increase the deficit.

Chuck Schumer, Democratic minority leader in the Senate, condemned the proposed cuts to Medicaid. This would pull the rug out from so many Americans who need help: those suffering from opioid and heroin addiction, people in nursing homes and their families who care for them, the elderly, the disabled, and children, he said on the Senate floor.
Medicaid helps not only the poor but increasingly the middle class, as well as 1.75m veterans, Schumer added. Heres what candidate Trump said when he campaigned: Im not going to cut social security like every other Republican and Im not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. He promised he would help take care of those suffering from opioid addiction. If it cuts Medicaid, hes breaking that promise right in half.

Economic experts were also quick to dismiss Mulvaneys claims that Trumps tax plans and budget would boost economic growth to 3%, balancing the federal budget within a decade.

Although Trump is an unconventional president, the budget shares much with the conservative orthodoxy of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It is entitled A New Foundation for American Greatness and Mulvaney said if he had a subtitle it would be, The taxpayer first budget.

Budget
Budget director Mick Mulvaney. We need everybody to pull in the same direction. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Cuts to Medicaid over the next decade exceed even the more than the $800bn reductions contained in a health bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The president also aims to slash welfare by $274bn over a decade, including $193bn on food stamps, driving millions of people off the programme. This would be several times bigger than cuts attempted by House Republicans in the past. The number of people claiming food stamps spiked to 47m people at the height of the 2007-08 recession and had not come down as expected, still totalling 44m people, Mulvaney said, despite near full employment in the US.

Some $72bn over 10 years would come from social securitys disability insurance programme, including $50bn in savings which would be achieved by helping recipients get off the programme and find a job.

Mulvaney continued: If youre on food stamps and youre able bodied, we need you to go to work. If youre on disability insurance and youre not supposed to be, if youre not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.

He added: Theres a dignity to work and theres a necessity to work to help the country and succeed and we need everybody to pull in the same direction.

The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit would be limited to those who are authorised to work in the US. They would be required to show proof of a social security number a move that would have a negative impact on children who are US citizens but whose parents are undocumented.

I could ask you for your money I think, in good faith and good conscience, and say, Look, I need to take some of your money and give it to this family, who deserves the Child Tax Credit, but I cant do it to give the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to help folks who work, to give it somebody whos in the country and working illegally. Its just not fair. Its not right when you look at it through the perspective of the people paying the taxes.

Trump would also reduce federal employee pensions and farm subsidies while keeping campaign pledges to leave core Medicare and social security benefits for the elderly untouched.

He also promised a groundbreaking proposal to provide six weeks of paid family leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, championed by Trumps daughter, Ivanka, and costing $25bn over 10 years.

Mulvaney confirmed that the budget plan defunds Planned Parenthood, on the premise that the American Health Care Act will become law, and winds down the support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which feeds the money to outlets such as the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

The blueprint also shaves 31.4% off funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and 29.1% off that for the state department and other international programmes.

The cuts to domestic spending would be redirected to the US military, law enforcement and supporting veterans. It allocates $2.6bn to border security, including $1.6bn for the bricks and mortar construction of a wall on the Mexican border, with the remaining $1m allotted to technology and infrastructure.

But the plan a wish list to fund the Trump agenda faces numerous hurdles. The healthcare bill is likely to undergo significant changes in the Senate while a rewrite of the tax code only has a broad outline so far. It also makes assumptions about growth.

People
People protest the Trump administrations bid to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Photograph: David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images

Mulvaney said Trumps package of spending cuts and tax breaks would boost the USs economys growth rate to 3% over the next decade, a considerable increase from the 1.9% forecast under current policy by the Congressional Budget Office.

The director, due to testify to the House and Senate this week, said: I think what Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3% economic growth in this country again. I think its sad that the previous administration was willing to admit that we couldnt get better than 1.9% growth over the next 10 years … That assumes a pessimism about America, about the economy, about its people, about its culture that were simply refusing to accept. We believe that we can get to 3% growth.

But economists were skeptical of the claim. Gus Faucher, PNC Financial Services chief economist said US productivity growth had averaged 1.75% over the last 45 years and that the period between the late 1990s and early 2000s when growth topped 3% was the exception. Its asking a lot to expect the exception not the rule, said Faucher.

Marc Goldwein, head of policy at non-partisan thinktank Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the budgets numbers did not add up. He said Mulvaneys promise of returning to the 3% growth rates were unrealistic at best.

We are not bringing the 90s back, he said. Three percent was normal then because the baby boomers were in their prime and we had a tech boom. Now baby boomers are aging out of the workforce and the tech booms impact has fizzled, Trumps budget would likely add decimal points not percentage points to US growth, he said.

This is like pretending you have won the lottery when all you have is a handful of scratch cards, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/22/donald-trump-budget-proposal-2018-social-care-border-wall

Trump’s doublespeak in Saudi Arabia

(CNN)If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Donald Trump, it is that he has no qualms about contradicting himself to get what he wants. In Saudi Arabia, he wanted a $110 billion arms deal — not to promote peace and tolerance, as he later proclaimed in his Sunday speech.

Thus, his speech will not “be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East,” as he loftily put it, but rather a boost to the war that is ravaging it. Nor will Trump’s speech put an end to the Islamophobia and bigotry that he has spent the past two years inciting. After all, he needs scapegoats to blame when the terrorism in the Middle East inevitably reaches the United States.
Given Trump’s opportunistic leadership style — what he calls “principled realism”– we can expect more contradictions between his rhetoric and his actions. Four specific contradictions warrant exploring to predict what is in store for American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as for the treatment of Muslims in the United States.
    First, Trump preaches peace and prosperity in his speech, but then sells weapons to the Saudis, which will inevitably fuel war. Trump treats terrorism in the Middle East as a business opportunity to create jobs at home and enrich defense industry tycoons.
    While addressing the world’s longest-ruling dictators about terrorism, Trump failed to mention how state violence and repression feeds ISIS and al Qaeda’s propaganda campaigns. Instead, he proclaims the Arab leaders to be defenders of the people’s freedom. As he advised his allies to allow “young Muslim boys and girls (to) be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence and innocent of hatred,” he disingenuously pretended that the Arab Spring never occurred. The people revolted against their authoritarian governments seeking just those things, but found themselves abandoned by the United States and violently repressed by Arab regimes — which he is once again arming.

      Trump to Muslim world: Drive out terrorists

    Thus, we should not expect any meaningful attempts by the Trump administration to decrease terrorism in the region. Rather, the focus of US counterterrorism strategy will be to geographically contain the violence within the Middle East and prevent it from crossing the Atlantic.
    This brings us to the second of Trump’s contradictions — deliberately disconnecting Islam from terrorism in his speech to his Saudi arms purchasers while bolstering Islamophobia in the United States. Over the past two years, Trump has repeatedly stated that “Islam hates us” and Islam is a “hateful foreign ideology,” a kind of rhetoric that has emboldened his white nationalist supporters to discriminate against and attack Muslims. The growing anti-Muslim bigotry could give his administration free rein to disproportionately target Muslims in counterterrorism investigations, surveillance and prosecutions.
    Third, there is little evidence Trump is willing to participate in the global effort to “counter extremist ideology,” a new term he strategically coined instead of “radical Islamic terrorism” that he’s been peddling to his right-wing base. As Trump announced a “groundbreaking new center (that) represent(ed) a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization,” he took no responsibility for his own divisive rhetoric that radicalizes the political right in the United States. Indeed, over the past five years, extremist ideology from the right has risen at troubling levels.
    Accordingly, we should expect the continued use of “radical Islamic terrorism” in his speeches to American audiences and willful blindness to the rise in violence of the alt-right, right-wing militia groups, and the Ku Klux Klan.
    Finally, Trump stated that in “the scenes of destruction, in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni.” Here he intimates sympathy for Muslims, even as his domestic policies single out and discriminate against Muslims. His first executive order barred millions of people from Muslim-majority countries from lawfully entering the United States. The refugee clause in the order applied only to Muslim Syrian refugees while exempting Christian Syrian refugees — as if the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Muslim Syrians killed were of no value. And in all of his speeches warning about terrorism committed by Muslims, he has never acknowledged the rise in hate crimes, mosque vandalizations and bullying suffered by Muslims in the United States. For Trump, there is a major difference between Muslims and everyone else.

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    While citizens in the Middle East and America may find his contradictions repugnant, his audience in Saudi Arabia will not. On the contrary, Middle East authoritarians see Trump as a fellow demagogue who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. And what he wants has little to do with peace, stability and prosperity for the people of the Middle East.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/21/opinions/trump-muslim-speech-opinion-aziz/index.html

    The bizarre naming trends that modern startups follow

    Startups put great effort into finding the perfect name. Ideally, it should be short, memorable, descriptive, and easy to pronounce.

    Names that meet all the criteria are commonly taken, however, so most founders find a compromise. They settle on a creative misspelling, add a word or just string together sounds they like. In the end, the hope is that a well-named startup will have an easier time attracting customers and capital.

    Observing companies founded and funded in the past couple years, its apparent that startups are often thinking along the same lines when it comes to choosing a name. Theyre making reference to hot technologies like AI, opting for two- or three-word names, or simply making up words.

    Were surprised at how many names we can make up that sound like they should be in the dictionary, even if theyre not, says Athol Foden, founder of Brighter Naming, a corporate naming consultancy. Hes also impressed by how many really good names come out of creative combinations of common nouns and verbs.

    We crunched through names of more than 1,000 startups founded in the past two years to look for trends. We narrowed the query to startups that have raised $200,000 or more in an effort to focus on names of companies that secured investment.

    Here is a rundown on some of the recent trends.

    AI

    Venture capitalists love artificial intelligence companies lately, and AI is a concise, universally recognized abbreviation. So its not surprising to see funded startups cropping up with AI in their names. We counted at least 23 funded companies founded in the past two years that have AI in their names.

    By far the biggest funding recipient with an AI name is Argo AI, a startup in the ultra-hot autonomous vehicle space that secured a $1 billion investment from Ford in February. Other sizeable rounds went to Aidoc, a provider of AI-powered medical imaging tools for radiologists, and Rulai, which incorporates AI into customer experience software.

    Robotics

    You might think it would be natural for a robotics company to call itself one. Looking at companies in the space that raised funding recently, thats clearly the trend. Crunchbase records show at least ten companies founded and funded in the past two years with robotics or robot in their names.

    But in previous investment cycles, when the industry was less in vogue with venture capitalists, many companies chose names that didnt reveal their robotics focus. One of the most prominent was Kiva Systems, a developer of robot technology for warehouses that Amazon bought for $775 million five years ago. Others include Harvest Automation and Blue River Technology. Of course, there are also some older companies, such as Roomba-maker iRobot, that chose names reflecting their robotics roots.

    First names

    Giving companies a human first name isnt a new thing in startup circles. Perhaps the best-known startup in this category is Oscar, a four-year-old health insurance company that has raised over $700 million. Lynda.com, an online learning provider that sold to LinkedIn two years ago for $1.5 billion, also follows the first name trend. Perhaps Oscar, Lynda, and, more recently, Viv, served as an inspiration to others.

    In the past two years, weve seen Albert, Lucy, Ollie, Penny, Pearl, Riley, and Yoshi crop up, among others. Extra points go to Aiden, an AI-powered tool for marketers, for scoring a brand that includes both an AI reference and a popular first name.

    Food names for tech companies

    Apple did pretty well with this strategy. Now others are hoping itll work for them. Were seeing a number of tech startups turning to the grocery shelves for naming ideas in the past couple years. From the dairy aisle, we have Butter.ai, a digital personal assistant, and Cheddar, an online financial news network that closed a $19 million round this week. Representing the produce section, theres Plum, an online saving tool. And from the bakery, we have Bagel Labs, developer of a smart tape measure, and Donut Media, a startup targeting auto enthusiasts.

    Misspellings

    Is your dream startup name taken? No worries. Just delete the i and replace it with a y, change that c to a k, or try a different vowel. Those are some popular techniques in creative misspelling that startups are using to secure names that sound like common words. Names featuring a y in place of I include Mylestone and Shyft Technologies. For the c and k switcheroo, theres Kustomer and Kard. For other catchy typo names, see our list here.

    In konclusion

    As Foden told Crunchbase News, founders creativity has allowed for a much wider array of catchy startup names than even naming professionals would have thought possible. Hed predicted a few years ago that startups would turn to obscure foreign languages for names; instead. they are still mostly using their native tongues.

    Startups have also managed to stretch out the name supply by going with two words, Usually, the first name is the brand and the second indicates sector.

    But according to Foden, the two-word naming trend is likely temporary for founders with big ambitions. Once a company passes the $100 billion valuation mark, its common to drop the second word. No one calls Cisco Systems anything but Cisco anymore. And as for Apple, most young people probably dont even remember that it used to be Apple Computer.

    Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/20/the-bizarre-naming-trends-that-modern-startups-follow/

    Peter Dutton’s office tells Canadian-Australian: ‘go back to US and deal with Trump’

    Doug Stetner, who has represented Australia in underwater rugby, called Duttons office to voice support for asylum seekers

    A Canadian-born Australian citizen who called Peter Duttons Brisbane office to voice opposition to treatment of asylum seekers says an electorate officer told him to go back to the United States then and deal with Trump.

    Doug Stetner, an Australian citizen for 21 years, who represented the national mens team at the 2015 underwater rugby world cup in Colombia, said the response from the immigration ministers staffer was both offensive and comical.

    Basically, go back to where you come from. I felt like I was talking to Pauline Hansons party. It was very disappointing, Stetner said.

    The Brisbane resident, who has been eligible to vote in the last eight federal elections, said he decided to contact his local MP Ross Vasta after reading of revelations of the strategic worsening of conditions for Nauru and Manus Island detainees.

    But Vastas office did not pick up, so Stetner decided to contact the immigration ministers electorate office in Strathpine. He said a male staffer fielded the call.

    Stetner, 55, a university computer systems administrator, said he was polite but firm. Basically I said I disagreed with the way they were handling things over there [on Nauru and Manus Island] and they should bring all of these people back to Australia until they can determine whats going to go on with them.

    Douglas
    Douglas Stetner (front, left) and his colleagues in the Australian underwater rugby team. Photograph: Douglas Stetner

    He said the staffer told him he did not know what it was like in the detention centres as reporters are not telling you whats real.

    I said, If you let the reporters in there, we might get whats real, but theyre blocking the media so you just get to a point where you dont trust the government on anything theyre saying, Stetner said.

    Stetner told the electorate officer it made him embarrassed or ashamed to be an Australian to see this going on in Australian-run detention centres. And then he came out with, Well, why dont you just go back to the US then and deal with Trump?

    I was a bit surprised by that. I said I was an Australian citizen and Canadian, not American. Anyway, they represent us and all I can do is call them and tell them this is what Im thinking.

    Guardian Australia twice contacted Duttons electorate office to seek the staffers account of the conversation. Two male staffers who answered calls denied having a conversation with Stetner.

    Neither the office, nor Duttons ministerial media spokesman, also contacted by Guardian Australia, provided a response.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/20/peter-duttons-office-tells-canadian-australian-go-back-to-us-and-deal-with-trump

    Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

    Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

    Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

    Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

    The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

    The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

    The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

    Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

    She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

    The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

    Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

    YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

    However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

    Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

    Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

    Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

    However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

    Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

    May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

    In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health