Still economically devastated by the closure of its steelworks in 1980, "The residents of Consett are key cogs in a booming online industry. A Reuters investigation has found they have served as directors of more than 1,000 businesses: poker games, pop-up get-rich-quick schemes, vendors of colon cleansers and healthfoods, and much more."
AT&T Agrees to Buy Time Warner for More Than $80 Billion [The Washington Post] “AT&T’s ambitious move to acquire Time Warner for more than $80 billion, which the Wall Street Journal first reported could be announced as soon as Saturday, would singlehandedly turn America’s second-largest wireless carrier into a content powerhouse and one of the most prominent TV, film and video-game producers in the world. AT&T and Time Warner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.” [more inside]
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy - "A former academic mathematician and ex-hedge fund quant exposes flaws in how information is used to assess everything from creditworthiness to policing tactics, with results that cause damage both financially and to the fabric of society. Programmed biases and a lack of feedback are among the concerns behind the clever and apt title of Cathy O'Neil's book: Weapons of Math Destruction." [more inside]
International investors have a private court of appeal even in criminal matters - "A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. [ISDS] operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret." (via) [more inside]
Just print money and give it to everyone by Chris Arnade: "The usual answer to why we don't do this is that it isn't politically feasible and there is no precedent. 1) That has never stopped bank bailouts, which often require a great deal of political and regulatory ingenuity to jam through. (TARP cough TARP) 2) It is a symptom of a system built by and for the bankers to benefit themselves. It is the equivalent of saying, 'We can't do it because we have never wanted to do it'. That we don't do it this way isn't just a small economic quibble with no impact. The most visceral anger I hear from voters across the country is directed at bank bailouts, which they see as evidence of a rigged system. They are right. The system is rigged in the sense that our primary method to stimulate the economy also conveniently bails out bankers." (previously; via) [more inside]
Vitalik Buterin invented the world's hottest new cryptocurrency and inspired a movement — before he'd turned 20 - "I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Kennedy was right - "Much that is valuable is neither tangible nor tradable... Gross domestic product (GDP) is increasingly a poor measure of prosperity. It is not even a reliable gauge of production."* [more inside]
World After Capital by Albert Wenger [Work in Progress; GitHub; GitBook; PDF; FAQ] - "Technological progress has shifted scarcity for humanity. When we were foragers, food was scarce. During the agrarian age, it was land. Following the industrial revolution, capital became scarce. With digital technologies scarcity is shifting from capital to attention. World After Capital suggests ways to expand economic, informational and psychological freedom to go from an industrial to a knowledge society." (previously)
Elizabeth Warren has a great idea for making Tax Day less painful - "She's taking on TurboTax and other predatory companies." [more inside]
This article [pdf] explores the health risks associated with added sugar. It then examines how, if at all, sugar should be regulated, by considering tobacco regulation as a possible model. [more inside]
If asked to think of the lasting legacies of Ronald Reagan, you might conjure up the long shadow of US military intervention in Central America or the coordinated attack on organized labor and public-sector programs. Probably few of us would think about the spectacle of Shrek hawking Twinkies. But one lasting consequence of Reagan’s reign is felt by every parent in the country every day: As president, Reagan opened the floodgates to targeted junk food marketing to children and teens.What Ronald Reagan has to do with Dora on your Popsicle package: the backstory behind Shrek hawking Twinkies (and everything else) [more inside]
In Sweden, a Cash-Free Future Nears - "Few places are tilting toward a cashless future as quickly as Sweden, which has become hooked on the convenience of paying by app and plastic." [more inside]
How the “sharing economy” has turned San Francisco into a dystopia for the working class. Oh, Canada! I’m writing you from Berkeley, California to warn you about this thing called “the sharing economy.” Since no one is really sharing anything, many of us prefer the term “the exploitation economy,” but due to its prevalence many in the Bay Area simply think of it as “the economy.” Whatever you want to call it, the basic idea is that customers can outsource all the work or chores they don’t want to do to somebody else in their area. [more inside]
For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions -"The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income." (via) [more inside]
Rewrite the rules to benefit everyone, not just the wealthy - "If there's one thing Joseph Stiglitz wants to say about inequality, it's that it has been a choice, not an unexpected, unfortunate economic outcome. That's unnerving, but it also means that citizens and politicians have the opportunity to fix the problem before it gets worse." (via) [more inside]
The Future of (Post)Capitalism - "Paul Mason shows how, from the ashes of the recent financial crisis, we have the chance to create a more socially just and sustainable global economy." (previously; via) [more inside]
In case you missed it Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Given the breathlessness, some skepticism is in order, but what if it purports to do on the tin is true? [more inside]
Joe Stiglitz on Inequality, Wealth, and Growth: Why Capitalism is Failing (video; if you don't have 30m, skip to 20m for discussion of political inequality, wealth, credit and monetary policy) - "If the very rich can use their position to get higher returns, more investment information, more extraction of rents, and if the very rich have equal or higher savings rates, then wealth will become more concentrated... economic inequality inevitably gets translated into political inequality, and political inequality gets translated into more economic inequality. The basic and really important idea here is that markets don't exist in a vacuum, that market economies operate according to certain rules, certain regulations that specify how they work. And those effect the efficiency of those markets, but they also effect how the fruits of the benefits of those markets are distributed and the result of that is there are large numbers of aspects of our basic economic framework that in recent years have worked to increase the inequality of wealth and income in our society... leading to a society which can be better described, increasingly, as an inherited plutocracy." [more inside]
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler (a former top telecom lobbyist) as chairman of the FCC, he got a lot of grief for selling out his '07 pledge to protect Net Neutrality -- the founding principle long prized by open web activists that ISPs cannot privilege certain data over others, without which dire visions of a tiered and pay-for-play internet loomed. Earlier, weaker attempts at net neutrality had failed in court, and the new chairman looked set to fold. But after an unprecedented outcry following last year's trial balloon for ISP "fast lanes" -- including a viral appeal by John Oliver, a public urging by the president, and perhaps Wheeler's own history with the pre-web NABU Network -- the FCC yesterday voted along party lines to enact the toughest net neutrality rules in history, classifying ISPs as common carriers and clearing the way for municipal broadband. ISPs reacted with (Morse) venom, while congressional Republicans are divided over what they called "Obamacare for the internet."
BIG and BOT Policy Proposals (transcript) - "Many of our current economic policies originated during times of scarcity. But now, says investor Albert Wenger, we live in an era of 'digital abundance', when creating new products costs virtually nothing. To adapt to the resulting economic upheavals, we won't need just more tech, says Wenger, but some strong policies. Here he explores two: basic income guarantee and the right to be represented by a bot." [more inside]
The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution - "Unregulated banking with access to government guarantees is an enticing business model. It offers the profits of excessive risk-taking in good times, and allows passing on the inevitable losses to taxpayers in bad times." [more inside]
The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase's Worst Nightmare. "Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking." [more inside]
"The researchers found that conservatives tend to react more strongly to disgusting images having increased activity in regions of their brain that are involved in processing disgust and regulating emotion. The liberals, on the other hand, had increased activity in different brain regions." Study
Meet the Beer Bottle Dictator: For years, one man has approved virtually every beer label design in the United States. Among brewers, he’s a tyrant. A legend. A pedantic pain in the ass. Brewers and legal experts speak of him in hushed tones, with equal parts irritation and reverence. "He’s the king of beer. His will is law," said one lawyer who works with him regularly. The lawyer asked to remain anonymous, for fear of crossing the beer specialist. "There’s one dude in the government who gets to control a multibillion-dollar industry with almost no supervision." And he goes by the name "Battle."
Hell on Wheels: Are bad trucking laws partially to blame for Tracy Morgan's accident?
Two days before Kevin Roper crashed his Walmart big rig into Tracy Morgan’s limousine, critically injuring the comedian and killing his colleague James McNair, the Senate Appropriations Committee quietly loosened the laws governing truckers’ hours on the road. Senator Susan Collins slipped an amendment into an appropriations bill suspending for one year a rule limiting truckers to 70-hour work weeks, with a mandatory 34-hour “re-start” once they hit that threshold. Under the amendment, the law would revert to an 82-hour workweek. The Truck Safety Coalition denounced the measure: “What is being portrayed as a small change to the rest period actually has a large impact on crash risk and will set back safety for everyone sharing the roads with large 80,000-pound trucks.”
A couple of weeks ago, Uruguay unveiled marijuana regulation details... but it's easier written than done. The most famous cannabis activist in Latin America, Alicia Castilla, critizises the registries and points out several unknowns like supply. "I don't know how they'll come up with 22 tonnes of marijuana for November”.
This is not the typical lobbying we think about; it’s more like lobbying-through-threat: try to regulate us, and we’ll make life so miserable for innocent bystanders that you’ll drop the regulations. Here, the regulation in question simply makes banks responsible for noticing the fraud happening over the payment system they nominally control. They don’t want to do it, because they don’t want to lose lucrative business from predatory scam artists while they look the other way. -- When a division of JPMorgan Chase refused to process payments for a small business selling condoms, it was not out of prudishness, but part of an attempt to force the US government to drop their payday loan regulation by hurting small business owners through overly liberal interpretations of federal guidelines.
Free Money for Everyone - "A wacky-sounding idea with surprisingly conservative roots may be our best hope for escaping endless, grinding economic stagnation." (via) [more inside]
"One night in August 2004, I awoke to a man and a woman in my room whom I had never seen before telling me that they were "escorts" and we were going to a place called "wilderness."...There is a legal process where parents can sign over custody of kids who need residential care, which makes sense, because if a kid has to be housed in a mental health facility, the staff needs to be able to make all of the day-to-day decisions for her care. But that same process works for "unruly" teens like me, which meant the company that ran my camp had total legal control over where I went and what I did." --Cracked.com takes on the Tough Love for Troubled Teen camps that, mostly unregulated, are "treating" more and more children every year. [more inside]
Previously, covering Part One (out of Six) of the Chicago Tribune investigation Chemical flame retardants are everywhere. Our furniture. Our homes. Our bodies. Yet they don’t seem to stop fires. They do, however, seem to make us sick. TOXIC HOT SEAT is a documentary which takes an in-depth look at a nexus of money, politics and power – and a courageous group of firefighters, mothers, journalists, scientists, politicians and activists as they fight to expose what they assert is a shadowy campaign of deception that has left a toxic legacy in America’s homes and bodies for nearly 40 years. Set against the backdrop of the award-winning 2012 Chicago Tribune investigative series “Playing with Fire,” TOXIC HOT SEAT tells an intricate story, detailing how chemical companies that produce flame retardants spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, publicists and influencers, and how Big Tobacco had a hand in convincing fire-safety officials to back a standard that, in effect, requires all furniture to be filled with toxic flame retardants. [more inside]
Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio actually makes a case against austerity and for redistribution, but also for money printing (and, arguably, for bailouts), while stressing the need to keep making productivity-improving public and private investments. However, it could be equally entitled: How The Industrial Age Political-Economy Doesn't Work Anymore, viz. Surviving Progress (2011)... [more inside]
The Council of the European Union recently released a proposal to amend the General Data Protection Regulation. Scaling back from becoming the most strict privacy regulation in the world, the amendment greatly favors corporate interests while reducing the rights of data subjects. [more inside]
As part of the Affordable Care Act, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released data that show significant variation across the country and within communities in what hospitals charge for common inpatient services. (via) [more inside]
Did my wife's cosmetics give her breast cancer? During her first round of chemo in 2009, some volunteers at the hospital came calling with a little red bag [from the Look Good Feel Better program] that contained products from Clinique, Estée Lauder, and Del Laboratories. Upon reviewing the contents of her bag, she realized that several of the products contained parabens — chemicals that mimic estrogen and that according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are linked to cancer. (previously, previouslier, previousliest in AskMe)
"Trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things that a parent has to do — and in the United States, it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess. About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. Most of them are in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares.... In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian."
Boston taxi cab drivers, often cheated, work in a world where risk and reward are a mismatch. [more inside]
The comment period for the DRAFT Wireless code [PDF] to address some cellular provider abuses is expiring soon (February 15th). Comments can be made here. Highlights of the draft code include:
- A $50 (or less) monthly cap on incurred fees.
- A limitation of cancellation fees equal to the remaining amount of the prorated incentive amount
- Mandatory unlocking at no cost for non subsidy phones with no waiting period.
- Limits on deposits and non payment cancellations.
- No termination fee, 15 day cooling off period
- Mandatory listing of limits on "unlimited" plans.
Six and a half hours of surgery later, he and his colleagues had dug out small chunks of bone from the woman's eyelid and tissue surrounding her eye, which was scratched but largely intact. The clicks she heard were the bone fragments grinding against one another.
Popular “prediction market” Intrade is shutting its doors to US Customers, following a suit (filed post-election fortunately) by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Some see this as inevitable, given their history of dissembling to regulators. Other (predictably) see it as another restriction of internet freedom. [more inside]
England has a drinking problem. Since 1990, teenage alcohol consumption has doubled. Since World War II, alcohol intake for the population as a whole has doubled, with a third of that increase occurring since just 1995. [...] The United States, although no stranger to alcohol abuse problems, is in comparatively better shape. A third of the country does not drink, and teenage drinking is at a historic low.How a vertically integrated alcohol industry is to blame, and why the US could find itself in the same position soon.
Incandescent lightbulbs are now banned across the entire European Union as of September 1. "Concerns about poor performance of replacement bulbs have been proved wrong." It is predicted to save 39 terawatt-hours of electricity across the EU annually by 2020. "The phase-out has been very smooth." BanTheBulb said "..the vast majority of the public have adjusted to using the next generation of lighting technologies with the absolute minimum of fuss and drama." [more inside]
During his tenure as Mayor of New York City, "public health autocrat" Michael Bloomberg has attempted to regulate trans fats, smoking and sugar-filled sodas. Now, he has a fresh target: moms who don't breastfeed. Beginning September 3, NYC hospitals participating in a new, voluntary program: Latch-On NYC (press release / posters / FAQ -pdf-), will make formula less accessible, to encourage moms of newborns to breastfeed instead of using formula. [more inside]
JP Morgan's manipulation of California energy market is a massive, illegitimate tax on the entire state. 'The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the regulator of the ISO and its trading markets, has started a formal investigation into Morgan's allegedly manipulative energy deals in California and with the Midwest ISO, which covers 11 states from Michigan to Montana.' [more inside]