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Established 1973 — Last updated: Monday, January 23, 2017, 4:05 PM
Aggregated news for a better world
Today's posts in bigger type—>
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Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

Thursday marks exactly 1,000 days since clean drinking water last flowed from the faucets in Flint, Mich., where on April 24, 2014, state and local officials ceremoniously began supplying the city with improperly treated water from the Flint River.

Although the ensuing water crisis has long since faded from national headlines, for Flint residents, the ramifications of this disastrous, short-sighted attempt at cost saving are still very much a daily reality.

According to both both government officials and environmental researchers, there has been a steady decline in the overall levels of lead and other bacteria in Flint’s drinking water since it returned to Detroit’s system in October 2015. Still, the immense damage caused by pumping improperly treated river water through the city’s aged lead pipes is far from fixed.

Caitlin Dickson | Yahoo News

....It would be simple and easy to arrange the medical system so that someone like Stewart — and his story is very far from unique — would get the care he needed, and as good a chance as possible of living long enough to get the transplant he needs. The national income is there, the medical institutions to provide that care are there, and the risk pools could easily be made large enough to make the system solvent.

The fact that ObamaCare — a reasonably good-faith effort to make the system better — did not stop the vicious cruelty of medical billing, and in many ways only added to the system's psychotic complexity, ought to weigh on us all.

"How many catastrophes would it take to undo the security in your life?" Stewart wonders. "That is a question I think every person should ask themselves, and consider in judgment of others. I think the truth is it's usually a lot less than you'd think."

Ryan Cooper | The Week
We asked the world’s climate leaders for their messages to Trump ahead of his inauguration as the 45th US president

To fulfil his campaign slogan of “make America great again”, Donald Trump must back the boom in green technology – that was the message from the leading climate figures ahead of his inauguration as president on Friday.

Unleashing US innovation on the trillion-dollar clean technology market will create good US jobs, stimulate its economy, maintain the US’s political leadership around the globe and, not least, make the world a safer place by tackling climate change, the experts told the Guardian.

The omens are not encouraging. Trump has called global warming a hoax and is filling his administration with climate change deniers and oil barons. But reversing action on climate change and championing fossil fuels will only “make China great again”, said one top advisor.

Here are the messages to Trump from some of the key figures the Guardian contacted:

Damian Carrington and Juliette Jowit | The Guardian
Goals to be achieved by 2032 include:
  • Cutting greenhouse emissions by 66%
  • A fully-decarbonised electricity sector
  • 80% of domestic heat to come from low-carbon heat technologies
  • Proportion of ultra-low emission new cars and vans registered in Scotland annually to hit 40%
  • 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands restored
  • Annual woodland creation target increased to at least 15,000 hectares per year
Staff? | BBC News
The economic and environmental cost of pollution will drive Beijing’s policies regardless of what Donald Trump does

....For a long time, environmental protection was positioned on the opposite side of economic prosperity – the pursuit of one could only sacrifice the other. In China, this binary has fallen apart, as the enormous health impacts of air pollution have galvanised both political and public opinion against polluting industry, and as the booming clean energy industry shows the possibility to make both environmentally and economically sound investments.

Second, China feels an increased – and increasing – sense of global responsibility, as displayed in phrase after phrase of Xi Jinping’s speeches in Davos and Geneva this week. Beijing was quick to learn from its mistakes in Copenhagen. In the run up to the Paris conference, it managed to forge consensus on the most difficult political questions with other key players ahead of time.

....Third, China’s leaders have started to take ownership of combating climate change.

This new dynamic could bear promising prospects over the next few years. US-China cooperation on climate in the Obama era helped to elevate climate change to the very top of the Chinese leadership’s agenda. This has ensured the unprecedented direct engagement of the Chinese leaders for multiple years, and not only familiarised them with the technicality and politics of climate change, but also allowed them to see the strategic value it can generate.

Li Shuo | The Guardian
Tom Price went before the Senate today to sow confusion about how a Republican health plan will "replace" Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act wants you to be covered. To that end, it mandates that you have coverage. Because the ACA mandates you to have coverage, the law also makes it easier for you to obtain it. Obamacare expanded Medicaid to cover lower-income people, established state marketplaces for purchasing insurance and provided subsidies to help cover the costs of premiums. It prohibits insurance companies from denying you coverage based on a pre-existing condition. The policy goal was clear: providing as many people as possible insurance that helps them pay for medical procedures. Obviously it’s not the perfect means to that end, but the law has made historic progress in that direction.

What Price wants is something very different. He wants people to have access to coverage, not guaranteed coverage. This distinction matters because the Republican vision for health care substantially weakens the protections put in place by the ACA and opens up avenues for denying coverage. But Price and his colleagues are slippery in describing their intentions and consistently try to pass off access as a replacement for coverage.

While China invests heavily in renewable energy, the fossil economy in the US will be given the green light to squeeze every last cent from oil and coal

Make America Wait Again. That is what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.

Trump is the president that corporate luddites have dreamed of: the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.

....As the US burrows into the past, China is investing massively in renewable energy, electric cars and new battery technologies. The Chinese government claims that this new industrial revolution will generate 13m jobs. This, by contrast to Trump’s promise to create millions of jobs through reanimating coal, at least has a chance of materialising. It is not just that returning to an old technology when better ones are available is difficult; it is also that coal mining has been automated to the extent that it now supports few jobs. Trump’s attempt to revive the fossil era will serve no one but the coal barons.

Op-Ed: George Monbiot | The Guardian
EPA staff are ‘nervous’ after the president-elect promised to reduce the environment agency to ‘tidbits’ and named climate skeptic Scott Pruitt to lead it
Oliver Milman | The Guardian
Climate change optimism is justified – a complete transition from carbon to solar and wind power looks practical and affordable within a generation

....Even with sceptical [and willfully ignorant or bribed] politicians in charge of major democracies, the end of the era of fossil fuels is within view. And this is not just a renewables enthusiast talking; the CEO of Shell said that solar will eventually become the “dominant backbone” of the energy system.

The speed of change needs to increase but we can see how it might be possible to run an entirely carbon-free world, including giving abundant energy to people in the poorest countries.

I hope this is not an unduly complacent conclusion; we will still need to become far more efficient in our energy use and to push our politicians and business leaders to focus on sustainability. But we no longer have the excuse for inaction that it is too expensive or too difficult to wean ourselves off fossil fuel.

Chris Goodall | The Guardian
Exxon doubling Permian Basin holdings in U.S. for up to $6.6 billion [preparations are in place to quickly maximize fossil fuel extraction, pollution and life-threatening greed]

....The deal, Exxon's biggest since its 2009 buyout of XTO Energy, is the latest by oil producers across the Permian since last summer, with technological improvements and rangebound oil prices fueling the buyouts.

Exxon is exchanging an initial $5.6 billion in stock for leases covering roughly 275,000 acres from the Bass family of Fort Worth, Texas. Additional payments of up to $1 billion will start in 2020, depending on how the acreage performs, Exxon said in a statement.

....Exxon, WPX Energy Inc (WPX.N), Diamondback Energy Inc (FANG.O), Noble Energy Inc (NBL.N) and others have each paid billions since last summer to grow in the Permian.

About 250,000 acres is on three large parcels in the Permian, and the rest is on oil fields in Colorado and Louisiana.

The Permian land, which Exxon estimates holds 3.4 billion barrels of oil retrievable with current technology, produces about 18,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), most of which is crude.

Ernest Scheyder | Reuters

dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones | Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world per capita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug & medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times | Ref.

Darryl Fears | The Washington Post
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
The funereal mood of the Inauguration gave way to ebullience among the women and men making their way to Saturday’s protest in Washington, D.C.

What’s the opposite of a miracle? “Nightmare” captures the mood, but, of course, we are awake. Debacle, perhaps. On Friday morning, we could watch, on TV, President Barack Obama taking his final moments in the Oval Office, bearing up with his usual decorum and decency, leaving the traditional letter for Donald Trump, the man who’d called him illegitimate, foreign, the founder of ISIS. On MSNBC, as Al Franken talked about Obama’s greatness and dignity, we saw images of Trump, in his red necktie, and Melania Trump, in her pale-blue coat, leaving St. John’s Church. Gray drizzle, the somewhat mournful sound of a choir, black S.U.V.s, grim security guys. Sights and sounds, and not just my mood, were funereal. Then, at the Capitol: live footage of Republicans of yore, men who’d disappeared from the scene—John Boehner, Dan Quayle, Bob Dole, Dick Cheney—filing in. Here was Reince Priebus; here was Jared Kushner, smirking. (If he can’t bring peace to the Middle East, who can?) The commentary on MSNBC turned to nepotism. The new President is a man whose greatest joy, not long ago, was to have people compete for his approval, on television, and to choose one and say, “You’re fired.” “It’s hard to fire your son-in-law,” Chris Matthews said. “But Mussolini had a great solution to that: he had him executed. So if I were Jared I’d be a little careful.”

“Jesus Christ!” Rachel Maddow said. “Well, all the people waiting for a mention of Mussolini have just started drinking.”

....In D.C., by the Mall, with the Capitol in the distance, men in fatigues stood around Hummers. Venders, showing great American capitalist instincts, sold Trump and protest merchandise from the same stand. There and inside Union Station, a conflagration of MAGA hats, pussy hats, camo hats, a Pokémon hat. “It’s very unfair!” a young white man in a Trump hat said to another. (I didn’t ask.) Little boys waved Trump flags. A woman carried a sign that said “REVOLUTION IS NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT.” A Trump-outfitted guy had accessorized with patterned socks: sharks. A woman in an “I’m an Adorable Deplorable” button complimented a Democrat’s lunch: “Ooh—good-lookin’ salad!” A small marching band, in pink, carried a tuba that said “BEAUTY IS NOT POWER.” The Inauguration had drawn an estimated third of what Obama had drawn, in 2009; some violence broke out around K Street and Twelfth; much of the rest was, as we’ve heard, peaceful. Today, we march.

Sarah Larson | The New Yorker
From Washington to Los Angeles and in many cities in between, Saturday saw hundreds of thousands of Americans march in protest at the election of Donald Trump
Amber Jamieson | The Guardian
New president begins four-year term with series of executive orders setting tone for his government

Photographs of the National Mall in Washington DC and public transport figures for the city cast serious doubt on Sean Spicer’s angry insistence that Donald Trump drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”.

In his blistering debut as White House press secretary on Saturday, Spicer accused journalists of reporting inaccurate crowd numbers and using misrepresentative photographs “to minimise the enormous support” that he claimed the new president enjoyed at his swearing-in.

....According to figures shared by the Metro Washington subway system on Twitter, 193,000 trips had been taken by 11am on Donald Trump’s inauguration day, compared with 513,000 during the same period on 20 January 2009 when Barack Obama took office.

Elle Hunt | The Guardian
Grassroots populists have important work to do even as forces of oligarchy and repression are hoping for surrender

Buckle up, friends....It will surprise many of the working stiffs who voted for the blustery billionaire to learn something that he didn’t communicate in his hectoring, “truth-telling” speeches: His little-discussed economic agenda is filled with provisions that would permit 1 percenters to travel more luxuriously than ever in the smooth, fast lanes of life, while the middle class and the poor are flagged onto Trump Way for a hairy, four-year ride of even more downward mobility. The proposed package includes the following:

  1. Immediately seizing control of the National Labor Relations Board, turning it into a corporate bulldozer to destroy workers’ rights, particularly the right to organize unions.
  2. “Yuuuuge” new tax cuts for corporations and the superrich, busting the budget for addressing human needs.
  3. Privatization of such basics as public education, Medicare and Social Security.
  4. Deregulation of corporate profiteers — from Wall Street banksters to Big Oil polluters.
  5. Eliminating the federal minimum wage.
  6. Freeing corporations from rules that prohibit discrimination in hiring, paying, promoting and firing workers.
Democrats have to stop squabbling and understand the dire future ahead of us.
  1. The Party is on life support...
  2. We are now in a populist era...
  3. The economy is not working for most Americans...
  4. The Party’s moneyed establishment—big donors, major lobbyists, retired members of Congress who have become bundlers and lobbyists—are part of the problem...
  5. It’s not enough for Democrats to be “against Trump,” and defend the status quo...
  6. The life of the Party—its enthusiasm, passion, youth, principles, and ideals—was elicited by Bernie Sanders’s campaign...
  7. The Party must change from being a giant fundraising machine to a movement...
Robert B. Reich / | AlterNet
A therapeutic walk in the woods with rising progressive Jamie Raskin.

....Raskin watched Trump’s speech at home while working with organizers for Saturday’s Women’s March. (Later in the evening, in an appearance on MSNBC’s All in With Chris Hayes, he would call the president’s remarks “the meanest, most lowdown, insulting inaugural address in American history.”)

In Rock Creek Park, Raskin tells me the eeriness of the coming presidency set in on Thursday night, which “felt like the beginning of an occupation by an alien power.” By Friday, that occupation was complete. “It was a melancholy day,” Raskin says. “There’s something a bit surreal about it, like it’s a movie in the Batman series or something.”

Raskin is fond of Batman references. He recently said the new administration “can put the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin in charge of Gotham City—but we are still here.” So I ask him about Trump echoing Bane from The Dark Knight Rises in his inauguration speech.

“That was prescient,” he says with a smile.

If the goal of Raskin’s nature walk was therapeutic, it worked. One after another—sometimes in hushed tones—his fellow hikers and constituents tell him how grateful they are to have him on Capitol Hill. “He is refreshingly direct—honest, unafraid,” says Laura Greene from Kensington, Maryland.

Raskin will join the Women’s March on Saturday with a sign reading “This Is What a Popular Majority Looks Like.” He’s also planning to advance the anti-Trump resistance in his congressional oversight role.

GRAHAM VYSE | The New Republic
New president begins four-year term with series of executive orders setting tone for his government

Before attending a series of inaugural balls around Washington DC, the Republican sat down to sign an executive order aimed at undermining Obama’s signature healthcare law, known as Obamacare.

The order notes that Trump plans to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law. In the meantime, it allows the Health and Human Services Department and other federal agencies to delay implementing any piece of the law that might impose any economic cost.

Using similar orders, the new president also signed into law a new national day of patriotism and signalled plans to build a new missile defence system to protect against perceived threats from Iran and North Korea.

The Trump White House stripped the official website of all mention of Obama’s key policy agendas, including climate change and LGBT rights along with the civil rights history section.

The various subsections of the White House website were replaced with just six; energy, foreign policy, jobs and growth, military, law enforcement and trade deals.

In his inaugural speech, Trump put forward a nationalistic vision for the country. “The American carnage stops right here, right now,” he said. “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.”

Nicola Slawson | The Guardian
Lest We Forget [23:31 video & transcript]
Historians on the Big Lie Behind the Rise of Trump

In this web exclusive, Bill Moyers and four historians dissect the big lie Trump rode to power: the Birther lie. Nell Painter, historian and Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University; Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School; Christopher Lebron, assistant professor of African-American studies and philosophy at Yale University; and Philip Klinkner, James S. Sherman Professor of Government, Hamilton College discuss the fertile ground on which the birther lie was sown: our nation’s history of white supremacy.

BILL MOYERS | Moyers & Company

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S INAUGURAL address was fiery and nationalistic, a considerable departure from the traditional Republican Party embrace of the free market and an activist foreign policy. Trump talked of an “America First” policy and vowed that “January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”

But Trump’s words on the steps of the Capitol bore little resemblance to the reality of the administration he is building.

It’s hard to argue with Trump’s assessment that “the establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”

But that establishment will be in full force in the Trump administration. The megabank Goldman Sachs, famously close to Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party, has six alumni posed for key posts in his administration, including his treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin.

Trump spoke of “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” but Mnuchin built a fortune off of helming banks that misled borrowers and foreclosed on their homes.

One of Trump and Mnuchin’s few explicit policy priorities is to slash taxes for corporations that have stashed money overseas, so that they will repatriate their profits to the United States. On the surface, this is to encourage businesses to invest in American jobs. But corporations are already telling their investors that they’d rather use this windfall to increase dividends and mergers, not hire more Americans.

The president also complained that the United States has “subsidized the armies of other countries,” but his nominee for Secretary of State, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, wants to continue to help Saudi Arabia bomb the impoverished nation of Yemen.

“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” the president told the millions who tuned into his remarks. But that isn’t the point of view of his CIA nominee, Mike Pompeo, who has depicted the war on terror as a struggle between Islam and Christianity, or his national security adviser Mike Flynn, who has referred to Islamism as a “cancer” in the body of the world’s Muslims.

Americans do in fact want “great schools for their children,” as Trump advised, but his nominee to lead the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, hasn’t spent a day working in a public school. Instead, she’s an heiress who inherited billions through marriage and inheritance while waiving away Bernie Sanders’s plan for tuition-free public college for all by invoking the proverb that “nothing in life is free.”

Zaid Jilani | The Intercept
The denizens of Davos reassured themselves that free trade would go on in the Trump era, but they had for years done little about the losers such a system creates

His speech was like one normally expected of an American president. Countries must resist the temptation to retreat into harbour, the world leader said to a packed and admiring audience, but instead have the courage to swim in the vast ocean of the global market.

This was the kind of paean to free trade that might have come from John F Kennedy, George W Bush or Bill Clinton – all occupants of the White House who saw it as the United States’s role to defend the open international trading system set up at the end of the second world war.

This, though, was China’s president, Xi Jinping, in Davos last week, making it clear that he was prepared to fill the vacuum if Donald Trump went ahead with the sort of protectionist policies he had proposed in his election campaign.

The new US president has said he will renegotiate the Nafta free trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico and slap duties on imports from countries that don’t play by global trade rules. He also floated the idea of a 35% tariff on goods from Mexico, a 45% tariff on goods from China, and a border tax – which would impose a levy on imports but not exports.

Those attending Davos reassured themselves that Trump would ditch all these proposals once he was in office. But if he doesn’t, the consequences are obvious: the world will be plunged into a trade war that will bring the globalisation of the past quarter of a century to a juddering halt.

This is a possibility that some are contemplating. One breakfast in Davos, organised by law firm Clifford Chance, was entitled “The end of globalisation: has the world reached a tipping point?”

Larry Elliott | The Guardian

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Sergey Brin said that when he was in charge of Alphabet's research group he didn't pay much attention to a team working on artificial intelligence. Now the technology, operated by a division of the company called Google Brain, touches nearly every piece of its business, including translation, photography and advertising.

"This revolution," Brin said, "has been very profound and definitely surprised me even though I was right in there and could throw paper clips at them."

Business leaders, politicians, economists and others attending the annual Davos retreat in the Swiss mountains have been debating the political and economic fallout from the globalization policies that conference attendees have long advocated. Advances in artificial intelligence and automation are ushering in changes to industries ranging from manufacturing to law, threatening to eliminate many jobs. Brin said technology's evolution is "inherently chaotic" and changes require debate about the proper ways for society to adjust.

Adam Satariano / Bloomberg | Chicago Tribune
Rolling coverage of events in the US and around the world as more than 20 countries host solidarity marches in wake of Trump inauguration
Nadia Khomami | The Guardian
After telling border agents their plans to march, group’s cars were searched and phones examined, and each person was fingerprinted and had their photo taken

Would-be protesters heading to the Women’s March on Washington have said they were denied entry to the United States after telling border agents at a land crossing in Quebec their plans to attend the march.

Montrealer Sasha Dyck was part of a group of eight who had arranged online to travel together to Washington. Divided into two cars, the group – six Canadians and two French nationals – arrived at the border crossing that connects St Bernard de Lacolle in Quebec with Champlain, New York, on Thursday.

The group was upfront about their plans with border agents, Dyck said. “We said we were going to the women’s march on Saturday and they said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pull over’.”

What followed was a two-hour ordeal. Their cars were searched and their mobile phones examined. Each member of the group was fingerprinted and had their photo taken.

Border agents first told the two French citizens that they had been denied entry to the US and informed them that any future visit to the US would now require a visa.

“Then for the rest of us, they said, ‘You’re headed home today’,” Dyck said. The group was also warned that if they tried to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested. “And that was it, they didn’t give a lot of justification.”

Ashifa Kassam | The Guardian
German officials and the public are unimpressed by the festivities in Washington. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned that some of Trump's rhetoric was troublingly reminiscent of the 1920s.
Elizabeth Schumacher | Deutsche Welle
The head of France’s Front National will share the stage with far-right leaders from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands

Organisers of the conference in Koblenz, billed as a “counter-summit”, said participants would set out their joint “vision for a Europe of freedom”.

Authorities in the central German city are bracing for a large protest later on Saturday by a coalition of leftwing groups, mainstream political parties and unions. More than 1,000 police officers have been deployed to keep the demos peaceful.

Gathering under the banner “Koblenz stays colourful, no room for rightwing populism”, the demonstrators say they plan to play a rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the EU’s anthem, outside the conference venue.

The conference has already caused controversy after organisers banned many news organisations from attending on the basis that they had “not met journalistic standards in past reporting”, the German newspaper Die Welt said.

The German broadcaster ARD has threatened to sue over its exclusion. Its programme director, Volker Herres, condemned what he described as a “massive encroachment” against the freedom to report.

Nicola Slawson | The Guardian
A narcissistic bully will face nationalist leaders just as dangerous. Prepare for a direct clash with China

Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House reflects a wider phenomenon: a new era of nationalism. He joins Vladimir Putin of Russia, Narendra Modi of India, Xi Jinping of China, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and a score of other nationalist leaders around the globe.

While it might be unfair to describe Theresa May as a nationalist, her announcement that she’s going for a hard Brexit reflects the pressure of English nationalism on the British right, and will encourage the nationalism of others. Of course, eras of nationalism are nothing new. But precisely because we have experienced them before, we know that they often start with high hopes and end in tears.

For now, the nationalists are giving one another the Trumpian thumbs-up across the seas. Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader, says he is “massively excited” by the advent of President Trump, who in turn tells Michael Gove in the Times that he thinks Brexit “is going to end up being a great thing”. In a photograph that should become notorious, the Brexiteer Gove gives Trump a sycophantic thumbs-up, with a curiously goofy expression on his face, making him look like a teenage Star Trek fan who has caught 10 seconds with Patrick Stewart. The vice-president of France’s Front National responded to May’s Brexit speech by declaring: “French independence soon.” And so it goes on.

This world of mutually reinforcing nationalisms is also one in which both the relative power and the internal coherence of the west are being eroded from both sides of the Atlantic. The deterrent effect of the United States’ Nato security guarantee to Europe is being undermined from Washington itself.

Comment: Timothy Garton Ash | The Guardian

....My reading of the evidence is that it was both globalization and technological change, not predominantly one or the other. And since globalization was aided and abetted by technological change -- e.g., it’s much easier to stay in touch with and manage distant subsidiaries due to digital technology, and innovations such as giant container ships have also fueled the move to globalize production -- it’s difficult to separate the two explanations in any case.

What’s important is not what caused so many people to lose their jobs or to find a job (if they could at all) that’s not as good as the one they lost. It’s that the “global elite” begin to fully comprehend how much resentment people feel over what has happened to their lives, to their communities and to their children’s futures.

I don’t mean to imply that economists shouldn’t continue trying to sort this out. It’s useful to have the best information we can get about the source of this disruptive change, but workers just want decent jobs.

So far, those who have benefited so much from globalization and technological change -- the type of people who attend Davos -- have managed to find scapegoats that deflect blame from themselves.

The working class is told, for example, that immigration is to blame and a wall is the answer, or that their troubles arise from a government that devotes all of its attention to the “undeserving” poor while ignoring them -- and with Donald Trump in power all that will change. Workers are told it’s because of taxes or regulation: Take care of those and the economy will boom -- America will be great again!

But take a look at what has happened to the share of income since the 1970s. For the majority of Americans, the people who toil all day to provide for their families and do their best to make ends meet each month, wages (adjusted for inflation) have not grown at all, while the incomes of those at the top of the distribution have grown remarkably.

Globalization and technological change have produced large gains, but they’ve mostly gone to those at the top. The typical worker hasn’t benefited and in many cases has been hurt deeply from the change that made the wealthy even wealthier.

There’s more than enough wealth to go around, more than enough to make everyone better off. But the winners from globalization and technological change have been unwilling to share.

Mark Thoma | CBS News
Beijing and state media strike a conciliatory tone amid fears the new president could set the countries on a collision course

....Since his shock election last November Trump has repeatedly put Beijing’s nose out of joint, challenging it over the militarisation of the South China Sea, alleged currency manipulation and North Korea and threatening to up-end relations by offering greater political recognition to Taiwan.

The billionaire has also handed jobs to several stridently anti-China voices including one academic who has described its rulers as a cabal of despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless totalitarians.

But on the eve of Trump’s swearing in, China’s government and state-run media struck a conciliatory tone with the man about to become the United States’ 45th president.

“Both sides should try to be friends and partners, rather than opponents or enemies,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters.

The Global Times, a Communist party-run tabloid, toned down its usually pugnacious rhetoric, telling readers it hoped the most “singular” president in US history would build a “better world” and “show a sense of responsibility that matches his power”.

“The Trump team should project an aura of humility,” the newspaper advised in an editorial. “The US system advocates an assertive political style, but inner modesty is essential.”

Tom Phillips | The Guardian
Billionaire investor delivers bleak Brexit forecast at World Economic Forum and says Donald Trump is ‘gearing up for trade war’ but will fail
Graeme Wearden, Larry Elliott in Davos and agencies | The Guardian
It's not that trickle-down economics "doesn't work." The problem is that it has "worked" exactly how the wealthy and powerful have always wanted it to work: for them

As the Republican Congress begins to execute its latest attack on poor and middle class Americans (the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; cuts in education spending, Social Security and Medicare; attacks on worker rights, and, of course, more tax cuts for the rich), it’s worth putting this assault in context.

The United States is, by every reasonable measure and by far, already the most unequal of the world’s rich countries. For decades, the U.S. has been suffering from a crisis of inequality, and it has only gotten worse over time. The Democrats have not taken this crisis seriously enough. The Republicans remain hell-bent on making it worse. And in the process (and in the service) of this massive redistribution, the GOP has enthusiastically stoked the fire of racial resentment, relentlessly blaming the victims in order to enrich the privileged.

"The GOP economic agenda is about plunder. It’s that simple."

Evidence of extreme and rising economic inequality in the U.S. is quite overwhelming. In 1979, the top 1 percent captured about 9 percent of all income; in 2014, they grabbed 22 percent. The incomes of the top 0.1 percent have grown even faster. More than half of all economic growth since 1976 has ended up in the pockets of the top 1 percent. Meanwhile, the incomes of the shrinking middle class have stagnated, while the incomes of those with a high school education or less have fallen substantially. The purchasing power of the federal minimum wage is 15 percent lower than in 1979, despite a doubling of labor productivity. In the meanwhile, CEO pay has soared. In 1965, the typical CEO earned 20 times as much as the average production worker. In 2015, they earn 300 times more. One in five kids in the US lives in poverty. And the US is the only rich country in the world without universal healthcare.

And while much has been made of the (very real) hard times endured by the “white working class” in recent decades, profound racial inequality remains a defining feature of the US economy. The income of the median African American household is about 60% that of the median white household. The wealth of the median African American household is one thirteenth that of the median white household. 24% of African Americans live in poverty—nearly three times the rate for whites—and a third of African American children live in poverty. This racial inequality manifests itself in other realms of social life as well: education, health care, housing, employment, capital markets, the criminal justice system, exposure to toxins, and more.

Tim Koechlin | Common Dreams
IMF head wins support from outgoing US vice-president Joe Biden as she demands action over rising inequality

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has called for urgent action to tackle a middle-class crisis as she warned that inequality, distrust and a lack of hope were fuelling growing populism.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Lagarde said she had first highlighted the dangers of rising inequality four years ago but had been ignored. “I hope people will listen now,” she said.

Lagarde said the gulf between rich and poor was evident from an Oxfam report showing that eight billionaires own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population – 3.6 billion people.

“With lower growth, more inequality and much more transparency, you have the good ingredients for a crisis of the middle classes in the advanced economies,” she said.

Lagarde added that the answer was not for countries to turn their back on globalisation but a mix of policies designed to stimulate activity and ensure the fruits of growth were more evenly spread.

Larry Elliott | The Guardian

How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes that are enabling vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine | Ref.

The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
The agency has been looking into possible Trump-Russia connections for months
The whistleblower, who has been imprisoned for six years for leaking state secrets, is now set to go free on 17 May
Ed Pilkington, David Smith and Lauren Gambino | The Guardian
López Rivera, whose commutation was announced with 208 others, has been incarcerated for 35 years for his role in fighting for Puerto Rico’s independence
Sam Levin | The Guardian
In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important ignored news and opinion.
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