Bloomberg recently reported on some interesting new data from the Economic Policy Institute. The percent of Americans earning poverty wages -- pay that would leave someone's family impoverished even if they worked full-time -- is at its lowest level since data began to be collected in 1986.

As Judge Brett Kavanaugh prepares for his confirmation hearings, no institution of American government is more shrouded in mythology than the Supreme Court. The uber-myth is that the court is an objective institution that makes decisions by applying the facts of a case to the relevant statute, constitutional text, intent of the framers and precedents. But in fact, scholars such as Eric Segallwrite,the role of politics is so substantial that "the Supreme Court is not a court and its justices are not judges." Here are five of the most persistent misconceptions.

How serious are President Donald Trump's latest trade threats against China? The scale of the new measures -- 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese products -- will certainly get Beijing's attention. But the headline figure matters less than the industries being targeted and their relative importance to China's economy. By that metric, this latest attack is a serious escalation.

I was about to enjoy my morning cup of tea at my favorite coffee shop when I realized there were no plastic straws. For most people, this would be a minor annoyance or inconvenience. For me, a disabled person, no straw means no drink -- if I try drinking my tea without a straw, I risk choking or burning myself with the hot liquid. Unwilling to take the risk, I offered the tea to my friend.

Two ideas have emerged among the energized socialist wing of the Democratic Party in response to inequality, wage stagnation, poverty and unemployment. One is a federal guarantee of a job, while the other is a pledge for each person to receive a minimum cash payment from the government, an idea known as universal basic income. Socialist candidates such as New York City’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running for the U.S. House, have emphasized the job guarantees in their platforms, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has endorsed it as well. Meanwhile, basic income remains largely confined to internet discussion circles and the pronouncements of a few tech-industry leaders.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the nation's highest court comes at a watershed cultural moment in America's history as a constitutional democracy. Life in the nation's capital these days all too frequently turns into a shouting match. Seemingly gone are the days when political archrivals - think President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill - could wrestle over policy by day and then enjoy a convivial drink together once the sun had set.

There is no controversy about breastfeeding. It is the biological norm. It saves families money. It provides optimal health for infants and children. The more breastmilk a child receives, the more extended benefits through childhood. And these are big-ticket illnesses to be avoided — slashing the odds of childhood obesity, cutting the sudden infant death syndrome risk in half (the leading cause of death during the first year), increasing the odds of survival for infants born prematurely, not to mention reducing the incidence of ear infections that require parents to miss work for another pediatric visit and another round of antibiotics. These named benefits are only a few headliners and do not include the lifesaving benefits for the breastfeeding mother.

Less than a day after President Donald Trump nominated federal judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it's too soon to know what kind of fight Trump has on his hands: what battles about the timing of Senate consideration, the availability of George W. Bush administration documents, Kavanaugh's role in the Kenneth Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton and more, lie ahead of an uncertain vote on the nominee's confirmation. But one thing is already clear: If Trump thinks this is going to be "Gorsuch 2.0" - a relatively smooth process that inured to the president's political benefit on the way to an inevitable confirmation - he is sadly mistaken. There are five reasons the Kavanaugh confirmation battle will divergefrom Justice Neil Gorsuch's path to the court.

After decades of rightful dissatisfaction with the governing parties of Mexico, Mexicans elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as their next president in the July 1 elections. Garnering 53 percent of the reported vote, the anti-establishment president-elect had a landslide victory that has resulted in a majority of the nine governorships up for election and absolute majority in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies for Lopez Obrador’s coalition.

President Donald Trump is about to set out on a European summer vacation. Meeting with HRH Queen Elizabeth (or at least Prime Minister Theresa May)? Lunch with NATO frenemies? A chance to renew the bromance with Vladimir Putin? All on the agenda. Putting together our combined 50 years of experience in public relations, lobbying, runway scares and crossing the pond, we offer Donald these helpful tips and policy proposals.

As our community continues to grow, health leaders are required to manage population health with the most thoughtful approaches while also remaining at the cutting edge of advanced medical innovation. Consumers are looking for health-care solutions at the right place at the right time for an affordable cost at the touch of a button. To meet these growing and dynamic needs, we must determine the best ways to provide a convenient, affordable and effective array of health-care options.

It’s déjà vu all over again. Within days, the world will turn its attention to Helsinki, Finland, where a summit between Russia and the United States will take place — a summit that will, in my opinion, be heavy on rhetoric, light on substance. Just as with the recent U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore, we shouldn’t expect much.

The campaign to sway public opinion and President Donald Trump about his choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement is in its final hours. On a closely divided court there is much at stake with this nomination. As a lifelong Republican, I am angry about the unfair public treatment of some of the potential nominees and am ashamed of some of the anonymous sniping coming from my fellow conservatives.

What is the difference between an illegal immigrant and a refugee? In some cases, the only difference would seem to be perspective. When we Americans look around the world at people escaping extremely dangerous living conditions in one country, moving to another one without formal permission by the host country, we call them “refugees.” When we Americans look at people escaping extremely dangerous living conditions in their countries, moving to our country without formal permission, we call them “illegal immigrants.” When people around the world look at them, they call them “refugees.” Fortunately, some people in our own country also call them refugees rather than illegal immigrants.

Cut through rhetoric for and against immigration law and you find three separate parts of the general problem: temporary guest workers, refugees seeking asylum and undocumented children including but not limited to those who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Before we succumb to more debate about the latest Republican failure to pass immigration reform (actually twice last month) and the Trump administration policy of separating children from immigrant parents, let’s study up on these three categories.

WASHINGTON — Her Mexican father had raised her to abide by the law. Her Guatemalan mother told her that she was crazy to go. But there was Maritza Solano, sitting on the cool marble floor of the Hart Senate Office Building, wrapped in an aluminum blanket in solidarity with detained immigrant children, about to be carted away by a police officer for unlawfully demonstrating with 500 other chanting women. A former teacher from Silver Spring, Maryland, Solano had never risked arrest as an activist, but this past month — horrified by the stories and images from the border — she’d felt especially angry and powerless. The moment, she realized, called for an escalation.

There is a strain of conservatism in the United States that suffers from what might be called “Euro envy.” It is not mainstream and it was not the conservatism of former presidents Ronald Reagan or either of the Bushes. It has evolved from a hatred of socialist manifestations in European economies.

The Supreme Court vacancy presents more peril for Republicans than Democrats. Democrats want you to believe that somehow the president’s eventual nominee represents a frightening goose step to the right. They want you to think that freedoms and progress around gay marriage, all abortions, the environment and other liberal go-to causes would be eviscerated by a suddenly right-wing activist court.

I worked at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., from 1989 to 1992 as the editorial writer. It wasn’t my favorite job; I had differences of opinion and style with management. The staff, though — the staff was amazing, and fiercely dedicated to community journalism. A reporter or editor then could stay at the Capital for years because it paid well for a community newspaper — and many did stay. It covered politics (then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, used to send handwritten notes raging against stories and editorials), the Naval Academy (breaking a story about a female midshipman chained to a urinal), schools, the environment and those community events that, though seemingly minor, are what weave us together. Its leaders used to brag about its market penetration.

An earthquake rocked the Democratic Party last Tuesday night as political neophyte and self-proclaimed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District primary. The defeat of the party’s fourth-ranking leader by a candidate from the ideological fringe calls to mind the shocking 2014 loss by Eric Cantor, then Republican House majority leader and speaker-in-waiting, to tea party hard-liner and political newcomer Dave Brat. The big question now: Does Ocasio-Cortez’s victory herald the long-predicted metamorphosis of the resistance into a full-blown tea party of the left?

In the fall of 1956 my Baylor University professor was discussing the Cold War between Russia and the United States. After class, I approached Dr. Ralph Lynn and made what seems to me now an incredibly naive comment, even for a college sophomore. “The thing is,” I said, “the Russians know that the United States is not going to attack them. But we don’t know that they will not attack us.”

Shortly after a shooting rampage erupted at an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper office that left four journalists and a sales assistant dead, a friend with whom I have occasionally crossed swords in matters of politics phoned me. She said she wanted to hear my voice. She reassured me that, at a time when the president of the United States regularly declares war on the press, she and many others in this community are squarely behind what the Waco Tribune-Herald does daily.

Today, three days before our own national birthday, Canada celebrates its 151st National Day. Yet relations between our neighboring giants haven’t been worse since the 1850s when the United States and Canada simmered over the boundary between the state of Washington and what was then known as British North America, later British Columbia. Back then they more often than not settled matters like gentlemen.

I appreciate the opportunity to write my opinion of Trib contributor and Baptist pastor Glynn Beaty’s “Cult of Donald” assertions. To compare this president to the “Branch Davidians” is a total stretch of the imagination. The attempts to highlight any comparison require the reader to assume they are not even in touch with real facts.

News reports about coral reefs these days focus on all we could lose within our lifetimes. Corals’ extinction would affect hundreds of species, including our own. According to an estimate by the World Wide Fund for Nature, coral reefs provide close to $30 billion each year in goods and services that people depend on, including fisheries, tourism and coastal protection. Increasingly frequent heat waves linked to climate change are decimating living corals, leading to some projections that corals could be gone in a couple of decades. Their demise would be a disaster for one of the world’s most diverse and economically important ecosystems.

Because the Supreme Court ruling last week that gave states more power to tax Internet sales was quite technical, its momentousness was easy to miss. Reporters treated it, accurately, as a case about whether a company had to have a physical presence in a jurisdiction for it to have a duty to collect taxes there. But the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, came out the way it did because two justices used it to reconsider a crucial legal doctrine that goes back almost as far as the United States.

Democrats just can’t help themselves. They were winning the battle over family separations at the southern border. Americans of all political persuasions were horrified by the images of children in cages separated from their parents. Despite President Trump’s efforts to blame Democrats for the catastrophe, polls showed that a plurality of Americans placed the blame squarely on the president’s shoulders.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week decided a major case that will affect the purchasing power of most Texas consumers and the livelihoods of thousands of small-business owners across the state. The court ruled that states can now require virtually any retailer located outside of their state borders to collect and remit sales taxes on Internet purchases made by residents of their states.

We must assume that most of the 75 “local faith leaders” (so called by our local newspaper) had good-faith religious or moral concerns and honorable intentions in publicly opposing the government’s separation of immigrant children from their parents and baby sitters. Some undoubtedly had a different or additional motivation, that being a partisan political and/or anti-Trump agenda. It’s unlikely they would ever admit, perhaps even to themselves, to having an ulterior motive.

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected our president, I wrote a column expressing my faith that our constitutional form of government was designed to prevent any one particular person from taking control of our government. I expressed confidence that the checks and balances written into our Constitution would enable Congress to act as a counterbalance to any excesses or corruption in the executive branch — particularly important given a chief executive who, for all his possible good intentions, seemed ignorant of the Constitution.

Never has the Trump White House managed to divide, infuriate and confuse so many people as last week. The president’s short-lived policy of separating immigrant children from parents illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border played great with his immigrant-bashing, mostly white base of “patriots,” even as Republicans in Congress scrambled to contain a huge public relations disaster clouding election-year prospects. Even evangelical leaders who typically overlook the president’s provocative utterances and stances condemned his immigration policy as inhumane. By week’s end, the president’s followers were left propping up a policy he had abandoned under pressure.

Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, which was merely the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

The Trump administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents in an effort to deter unauthorized border crossings has stirred an uproar. Aghast and enraged, opponents — ranging from chief executives to members of the clergy to average Americans — have called this practice and the detention of children cruel and illegal. Protests have sprung up, and members of Congress have flocked to the border to decry the “inhumane” detention of children, calling it “un-American.”

If civic-minded locals are expected to know anything about prehistoric behemoths, it’s that the Columbian mammoths that once favored our parts aren’t dinosaurs. Millions of years passed between the last of the great dinosaurs and the ice age in which mammoths flourished. Yet when tourists visited the Waco Mammoth National Monument this past Fourth of July, one asked a familiar question: Which came first, the mammoths or the dinosaurs?

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

History will note that, for a time anyway, local home renovation experts Chip and Joanna Gaines gave Waco something it has long sought: status as a destination point. Through the charisma, ability and resourcefulness showcased on their popular, Emmy-nominated HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” the Gaineses have drawn to Waco waves of tourists eager to track down the homes they’ve overhauled and to shop at the mecca that is Magnolia Market at the Silos. The couple is even credited with revitalizing home sales in the Waco area. The home-marketing site Realtor.com reports all 10 of the top home-search locations in the nation last year were in Texas — with the 76712 ZIP code in Woodway topping the list. And the 76710, 76711 and 76707 ZIP codes in Waco came in at two, three and four.