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Last updated: Thursday, July 20, 2017, 10:00 AM
Aggregated news that corporate media willfully ignores
Today's posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
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 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451, $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

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

The wall of Republican climate denial is starting to crack; who will be the Neo that accelerates the process?

Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wants to hold televised ‘Red Team/Blue Team’ climate science ‘debates.’ The idea is that a ‘Red Team’ of scientists will challenge the mainstream findings of ‘Blue Team’ scientists. That may sound familiar, because it’s exactly how the peer-review process works. But climate deniers have lost the debate in the peer-reviewed literature, with over 97% of peer-reviewed studies endorsing the consensus on human-caused global warming, and the few contrarian papers being flawed and failing to withstand scientific scrutiny.

So Scott Pruitt is trying to put his thumb on the scale, giving the less than 3% of contrarian scientists equal footing on a ‘Red Team.’ John Oliver showed how to do a statistically representative televised climate debate (so brilliantly that it’s been viewed 7.4 million times), but it’s probably not what Pruitt had in mind:

Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
American expatriates cherish the health care they receive in the German system [and single-payer systems, generally] -- and look at their own country with disbelief.
Allison Williams | Handelsblatt GLOBAL
Air pollution is ‘the tobacco of the 21st century’ says report, which calls on government to introduce radical measures to improve air quality

Darren Baxter, researcher at IPPR North, said it was time the government took radical action:

“Too often the attention focuses on unclean air in the capital, but the reality is that it’s poisoning thousands in our regional cities too,” said Baxter. “Michael Gove [the new environment secretary] must show that the government is not prepared to sit on its hands while up to 40,000 people are killed every year from dirty air. We need to see radical plans to ditch diesel, introduce incentives for electric cars and bring in clean air zones in our major cities.”

The government has suffered two legal defeats over its plans to improve air quality in the UK after judges ruled they were so poor as to be unlawful. The courts have given ministers until 31 July to publish a new plan.

Campaigners want Gove to introduce a range of measures including charging clean air zones in the worst hit areas and a diesel scrappage scheme to compensate drivers who bought diesel cars after being told they were better for the environment.

The government’s own figures show that although London has by far the highest level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, many urban areas – including large swaths of the Midlands, the north-west, West Yorkshire and the northeast – suffer dangerous levels of pollution.

Matthew Taylor | The Guardian
Daimler acts to reduce nitrogen oxide output as diesel emissions remain under scrutiny in wake of VW scandal

The firm would not confirm how many UK owners were affected, but said 1 million vehicles in Germany and 2 million in the rest of Europe were being recalled. Last year, 170,000 new Mercedes-Benz cars were registered in the UK.

Diesel emissions have come under scrutiny since Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that 482,000 of its vehicles in the US were fitted with defeat device software to switch engines to a cleaner mode when undergoing environmental tests.

The German manufacturer said 11 million of its vehicles were affected worldwide – including almost 1.2 million in the UK.

Press Association | The Guardian
“We have time to respond. We must use it wisely.”
Click for bigger map graphics. By the end of the century, 29 communities (US Census Bureau county subdivisions) with populations above 100,000 face chronic inundation with the intermediate scenario (yellow). With the high scenario, an additional 23 (pink)—for a total of 52—are also chronically inundated. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

The threat of sea level rise because of climate change could obliterate many coastal communities in the coming decades. Given the anti-science predisposition of the current administration, a new report shows just how bad it could get if the U.S. doesn’t take action.

“The final result, late this century and beyond, may be neighborhoods under water,” researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in their new report, “When Rising Seas Hit Home.”

After analyzing flood data and interviewing community experts, researchers found that in some scenarios, almost 670 coastal communities will face problems of chronic inundation by the end of century. That means that by 2100, tidal flooding over 10 percent or more of useable land would occur, on average, twice a month, involving 60 percent of communities on the East and Gulf Coast and a smaller number on the West Coast. By 2100, if the worst predictions come true, President Donald Trump’s favorite estate and beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, will be completely submerged.

....But Americans don’t have to wait until the end of the century to see the impacts of sea level rise absent any action. According to the report, by 2035 with just moderate sea level rise, nearly 170 coastal communities will be chronically inundated. The majority of these communities will be in Maryland and Louisiana, and more than half of those communities are home to lower-income neighborhoods.

“Low-income communities face significant social and economic challenges that put them at a disadvantage when faced with natural disasters,” researchers said. This is reflected in the story of Fouche Shepard, a resident of Charleston, South Carolina who is featured in the report. She was fired after she couldn’t get to her job because of flooding. “How many people are going to lose their jobs when they can’t get to work because their car has been destroyed by flooding?” Shepard asked.

According to researchers, the U.S. can avoid catastrophic rising sea levels by limiting development in known flood areas, updating flood-risk maps so projected sea level rise is included, and building well-funded programs for communities that are forced to relocate.

“We are at a turning point where we can still avoid some of the most serious human consequences and losses that our coasts face this century,” researchers wrote. “We have time to respond. We must use it wisely.”

Read the full report here.

Trump regrets 'bizarre mistake' of Paris climate pullout, Branson claims [just hearsay? would a Republican ever dis the Koch brothers?]
  • Virgin chief tells audience in Brooklyn Trump’s decision is ‘very, very strange’
  • French president Macron is hopeful US will reverse decision

Donald Trump regrets the “bizarre mistake” of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement, Sir Richard Branson has said. The British billionaire also urged the president to help phase out the ailing US coal industry.

Speaking in Brooklyn on Friday, the Virgin Group founder said businesses and cities were firmly behind a transition to low-carbon energy, which made Trump’s decision to exit the Paris deal “very, very strange”.

“With climate change, it’s America first and our beautiful globe last, and that seems incredibly sad,” said Branson. “I’ve got a feeling that the president is regretting what he did. Maybe his children and son in law [adviser Jared Kushner] are saying, ‘Look, I told you so.’ Hopefully there is a positive change of mind.”

On Sunday, French president Emmanuel Macron said he was hopeful that Trump would reverse his decision, according to the newspaper Dimanche.

“(Trump) told me that he would try to find a solution in the coming months,” Macron told the paper, referring to meetings the two leaders had this week in Paris. “We spoke in detail about the things that could make him come back to the Paris accord.”

The US is set to become one of only three sovereign nations in the world not to be part of the Paris accord, which aims to stem dangerous global warming. Of the other two, Nicaragua feels the agreement does not go far enough, and Syria is mired in a disastrous civil war.

Oliver Milman | The Guardian
Temer Signs Law That Could See Millions of Acres Lost in the Amazon [similar to Trump's privatization of US federal public/park land]
MP 759 changes a key land program to make acquisition better for wealthy land thieves and worse for peasant families — a huge threat to the Amazon rainforest, say experts.

BRASILIA, Brazil: On 11 July, President Michel Temer signed into law important new legislation (MP 759) that paves the way for land thieves, who have illegally occupied and cleared vast areas of public land in the Amazon, to legalize their land holdings. The changes introduced by the legislation will make it easier — and very cheap — for wealthy land grabbers (even those who illegally occupied land fairly recently) to gain property rights over vast areas.

The bill was passed at a time of drastic cuts in funding for key government regulatory bodies, such as the environmental agency IBAMA, the agrarian reform institute INCRA, and the Indian agency FUNAI.

The new law which is likely to embolden land thieves, when combined with the huge enforcement cuts, could lead Brazil into a period of lawlessness and unrest believes Deborah Duprat, Prosecutor for Citizen Rights in the Office of the Attorney General (PFDC).

“Among numerous unconstitutional elements, MP 759, which was approved in the midst of protests, transfers into private hands an enormous stock of public land,” said Duprat. “With this, various policies that guarantee land for peoples, the environment and conservation units, are going to become completely compromised. We have to be prepare for a situation in the countryside where — as a result of the bankruptcy of public policies — violence will grow exponentially,” Duprat said.

Remote parts of the Amazon are especially expected to be impacted. Experts fear that the passage of MP 759 will greatly accelerate deforestation.

Sue Branford, Maurício Torres | Common Dreams
The company, an arm of Alphabet, is using mosquitoes infected with a sterilizing bacteria to fight dengue and Zika.

Alphabet’s life sciences arm, Verily, says it has built a robot that can raise a million mosquitoes a week and has used it to produce infertile male insects. The company has started releasing the first batches of what will total 20 million sterilized mosquitoes in Fresno County, California.

This field trial is expected to be the largest U.S. release to date of male mosquitoes treated with Wolbachia, a type of naturally occurring bacteria that infects many types of insects. Verily says it is using custom-built software algorithms and machines to ramp up the number of mosquitoes it’s able to grow and release. The mosquitoes are part of the company’s plan, announced last October, to fight diseases like Zika and dengue fever.

Verily’s effort represents a growing interest by industry and nonprofit organizations in using altered insects to stop the transmission of deadly diseases and protect crops from agricultural pests. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also exploring the idea of sterilized mosquitoes, and the U.K. company Oxitec is genetically engineering moths with a gene that makes the insects die off over time (see “Are Altered Mosquitoes a Public Health Project, or a Business?”).

Emily Mullin | MIT Technology Review
Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.

....In between scientific reticence and science fiction is science itself. This article is the result of dozens of interviews and exchanges with climatologists and researchers in related fields and reflects hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of climate change. What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule.

David Wallace-Wells | New York Magazine

Recent years have seen outbreaks of preventable diseases once thought controlled, what is this backlash against vaccination all about?
dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up onthe 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, whichbuild up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | ClimateProgress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would notonly spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annualoutput
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian |Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on thebrain. The July/AugustMother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirtyair 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 toexhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers whobreathe 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 percapita, 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 YorkTimes | Ref.
Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.
Tom Stafford | BBC Future
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


"Democrats in Congress must lay out a bold vision for how we create a country that works for everyone—not just the very wealthy."

Following Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's concession on Monday night that Trumpcare is likely dead, progressive groups that played an integral role in rallying opposition to the legislation are now looking to go on the offensive.

"We'll keep fighting until everyone has access to healthcare, free college tuition, a livable planet, and a job that pays a living wage.

On Tuesday, dozens of organizations—including Our Revolution, National Nurses United, and Fight for 15—announced the launch of a new initiative titled "The Summer for Progress," during which activists across the country will pressure Democratic lawmakers to embrace "a bold, progressive agenda."

This agenda, called the People's Platform, includes legislation that would make public colleges tuition free, establish automatic voter registration, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and transform the American healthcare system into one that guarantees insurance to all.

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
Pay your workers a decent wage and maybe you can stave off the pitchforks that are still coming for us.

....I don’t claim to have the all the answers on how to fix our economy, but I do guarantee that if we don’t raise wages and reverse inequality, the social cohesion that makes for a stable democracy and thriving economy is impossible. And that’s not an America where we plutocrats want to live. There are plenty of countries with yawning inequality where people like us and our children can’t go out in public without fear of being kidnapped for ransom. And then there’s Russia, where no amount of wealth can save you from the prisons or assassins of an all-powerful President Putin. So, if you are wealthy, and you rightly fear for the future of your country (not to mention your own personal safety), then I ask you to consider the possibility that the best way to defend your own interests is to improve the economic interests of others. Just do that. I think you’ll be surprised by how fast things get better. But you better act quick.

The pitchforks are coming, my friends, and whether they come in the angry hands of a desperate mob or the tiny hands of an angry dictator, they’re coming for us. You may not want to believe that your great fortune has come, at least in part, at the expense of others, but the American people believe it. And they’re righteously pissed. So, you have a choice: You can either act now to help close the vast economic divide that is tearing our republic apart—or you can follow Trump’s rhetorical lead and start building huge f*cking walls. The pitchforks are at the gate, and time is running short.

NICK HANAUER | Politico Magazine
If there are 7 million Obama-to-Trump voters, why didn’t Trump’s vote total increase by 7 million?

[The Democratic Party's Republican-Lite] mindset leads to timid tactics and tepid politics that are no match for the audacity of the right’s racist, xenophobic assault on multiracial America that is occurring every day. Fear of alienating the unicorn of the white swing voter mutes Democratic responses when the only proper response to what is happening in America is unapologetically fighting back by every means available—pushing for impeachment, conducting sit-ins to block the buses deporting people, and issuing full-throated denunciations of a judicial system that sanctions the police murders of unarmed black people. As Obama’s successful elections showed, Democrats win only when their voters are inspired to turn out in large numbers, and a bold, courageous, hopeful platform is essential to generating voter enthusiasm. In order to carry ourselves with the confidence to act with that kind of decisiveness requires the conviction that we are in fact the majority of people in America. If we look at math and not myths, we can straighten our backs, raise our voices, and do what is necessary to bring about the return of the majority in America.

Steve Phillips | The Nation
If they get their way, the next census will be seriously flawed – and will inevitably undercount African-Americans and Hispanics

The results of the U.S. census every ten years are far more important than most Americans realize. Census data are the starting point for redistricting and reapportionment – adding and removing House districts from states as population changes dictate – not to mention the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding. Housing assistance, highway maintenance and Medicare/Medicaid are just three examples of programs that distribute federal dollars to states in the form of grants based on census results. Undercounting populations guarantees that over the next decade, states will be strapped for funding in these areas.

And that is likely to happen if Republicans in Congress get their way. Under cover of the non-stop Trump circus, they are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure that the 2020 census fails – and fails to their advantage.

Ed Burmila | RollingStone
Six ways Trump is 'dismantling' the US after six months in office [multi-faceted immorality on a grand scale]
Trump has been paralyzed on healthcare and tax reform, but his administration has been active in eroding safeguards and protections elsewhere
Dominic Rushe, Oliver Milman, Molly Redden, Jamiles Lartey, David Smith and Oliver Laughland | The Guardian
Senate will vote to repeal Obamacare without replacement, after new healthcare bill stumbles [unfair, illogical and immoral government fails again because of "traitors"]
Republican Mitch McConnell calls for vote on clean repeal, after senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran come out against latest effort to replace Obamacare

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has announced that the Senate will vote on a clean repeal of Obamacare without any replacement, after two Republican senators broke ranks to torpedo the current Senate healthcare bill.

Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas came out on Monday night in opposition to McConnell’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Senate version of the controversial healthcare reform bill that passed the House in May.

Senate Republicans hold a bare 52-48 majority in the Senate and two members of the GOP caucus, the moderate Susan Collins of Maine and the libertarian Rand Paul of Kentucky, already opposed the bill, along with all 48 Democrats. The announcement from Moran and Lee made it impossible for Republicans to muster the 50 votes needed to bring the BCRA bill to the floor.

Instead, McConnell announced late on Monday night that the Senate would vote on a bill to simply repeal Obamacare without any replacement in the coming days.

The Kentucky Republican said in a statement: “Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.”

He added that “in the coming days” the Senate would vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act with a two-year-delay. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2015, which was promptly vetoed by Barack Obama.

Ben Jacobs | The Guardian

With Murkowski's defection, GOP leaders do not have the votes to move forward to an ObamaCare repeal bill that passed the Senate in 2015, but was vetoed by then-President Obama.

Earlier Tuesday, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also said they will not support moving to the repeal-only bill. Republicans can only afford two defections if Vice President Pence breaks a tie.

Decaying infrastructure taking a toll on America [can we outsource for better government?]
America's infrastructure is in a state of crisis. Roads and train lines are old, dangerous and cost the country billions of dollars in economic growth. Trump wants to repair damages but he is at the mercy of investors.

The summer of hell began for New Yorkers last Monday. Beginning at four o'clock in the afternoon people hurried home from work, clogging midtown Manhattan's Pennsylvania Station. Over 600,000 people trek to Manhattan daily from faraway places like New Jersey and Long Island, entering the city via Penn Station. More people transit through Penn Station than all three of New York's airports: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. Yet on Monday many tracks were shut down for the summer so the city can begin tackling urgently needed repairs.

"We are now beginning to see what happens when mass transit systems break down. We have a painful precursor, a series of breakdowns with Amtrak and Pennsylvania Station," said New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, "When you close down the tracks there is a series of dominoes that fall, that puts the entire system near collapse." This was during the press conference where Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the transit system.

And it is not only the subway that needs repair: Streets are littered with potholes, dilapidated tunnels are increasingly dangerous and the sewage systems need maintenance. Electricity grids, gas and oil pipelines, ports, freight rail and internet broadband are all infrastructure that require constant maintenance, yet they are privately owned and well kept.

It is the infrastructure that falls under government watch that is failing. "Everyone wants the benefits of good infrastructure and nobody wants to pay, so things are allowed to deteriorate," says Ingo Walter, Professor Emeritus of Finance at New York University, "Transportation is the lynchpin. Fixing our roads, bridges, tunnels and transportation hubs are a must and will have the biggest impact."

Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) measures the conditions of bridge, water and transportation infrastructure within the US and publishes its findings through the Infrastructure Report Card. New York received a C- in 2017. With one-third of America's entire public transport belonging to the state of New York, this is a critical and costly failure.

The report card for America's entire infrastructure system was even worse. The US scored a lowly D+.

Lindsey Rae Gjording | Deutsche Welle

Despite the better economic news, the risk remains that the younger generations will have less well than their parents, finds the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Marianne Thyssen.

Presenting the Annual report on employment and social developments in Europe on Monday, Thyssen presented the situation on the European labor market, a decade after the outbreak of the financial crisis.

EU’s labor market looks rosy again, while the unemployment rate is the lowest since December 2008 and employment has never been higher. “We are firmly on the way to economic growth and employment,” said Thyssen, but “the risk remains that the current young people and their children will be less well than their parents.”

Young people face “double burden”

The annual report clearly shows the inequality between generations, as the young people benefit a lot less from the steady improvement in the standard of living within the bloc, as it is still harder for them to find a job and often have to settle for part-time and temporary contracts as permanent solutions.

In addition, The aging of the population will put these young people in a “double burden”, leading them to pay higher pension contributions, and also make them receive a lower pension than their salary in the future.

At the moment, there are still four people of working age for every pensioner, but until 2060, it will be two for every retired person, as Thyssen told journalists. “All these difficulties have an impact on the decisions of young households, having children and buying a home,” adds the Commissioner. “This can have negative consequences on fertility rates and, therefore, on the sustainability of pension systems and growth.”

A lot of work remains to guarantee the standard of living of the next generations, adapting the age of the pension to the life expectancy, but also try to make the European working-age population more active. Policies to increase fertility and to manage migration effectively can also be useful, according to the Commission report.

Irene Kostaki | New Europe
Aid prize won by company to produce prosthetic knees that allow disabled wearers to navigate rough terrain, work and stay independent

Young amputees in some of the poorest parts of the world will be able to navigate rough terrain to access jobs and opportunities with the help of new, specially developed prosthetic knees, after a non-profit company received a grant from the UK government to develop its design.

For amputees, the type of prosthetic they get can define their lives – making the difference between finding a job and earning a living, or being unemployed and living in poverty.

D-Rev, a development company based in San Francisco, California, has been awarded around $100,000 (£76,280) in UK aid money to develop a polycentric, four-bar knee, which wearers will be able to use over uneven ground.

An estimated 30 million people need prosthetics because they have lost limbs in conflicts, accidents or disasters, but fewer than 20% can ever access them.

For many, this lack of access is down to affordability – a prosthetic knee that can handle uneven terrain and protect against stumbling, can cost as much as $400 – well out of reach of many of those who need them.

The design of the D-Rev knees should bring the cost down to roughly $80 per unit.

Kate Lyons | The Guardian
In the year since President Enrique Pena Nieto signed an anti-corruption system into law, the government and its allies have undermined it, activists say

One year ago, President Enrique Pena Nieto signed into law a new national anti-corruption system as he apologized over a damaging conflict of interest scandal in which he, his wife and his finance minister purchased properties from crony contractors – then appointed an ally to investigate the deal.

Over the next 12 months, however, the government and its allies have undermined the mechanism (known by its Spanish initials as the SNA), according to the academics and anti-graft campaigners who helped draft the legislation.

Anti-corruption activists have been harassed and spied on with surveillance only sold to national governments, civic organisations have been targeted for investigation, and congress has failed to name a new anti-corruption prosecutor or specialized judges.

David Agren | The Guardian
More people are affected by sickle cell in Nigeria than in any other country, so why is there a stigma around it – with even restrictions on who sicklers can marry?

Oshinowo, now 37, is from Nigeria, where each year, about 150,000 babies are born with sickle cell. Roughly 1 in 40 Nigerian newborns are affected.

But despite Nigeria being home to more people with sickle cell than any other country in the world, awareness is limited and there is a lot of stigma attached to the disease.

Wana Udobang | The Guardian
Lorenz J. Jarass , Anthony E. Tokman , Mark L. J. Wright | Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

....I strongly believe that these innovations will make industry – and the world – stronger and better.

The change brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is inevitable, not optional.

And the possible rewards are staggering: heightened standards of living; enhanced safety and security; and greatly increased human capacity.

For people [and corporations and governments], there must be a shift in mindset.

As difficult as it may be, the future of work looks very different from the past. I believe people with grit, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit will embrace this future, rather than cling to the status quo.

People can be better at their jobs with the technology of today—and the technology that is yet to come—rather than fearing that their human skills will be devalued.

....We have all heard the stories about computers beating even the greatest grandmasters. But the story is more nuanced; humans and computers play differently and each has strengths and weaknesses.

Computers prefer to retreat, but they can store massive amounts of data and are unbiased in their decision-making.

Humans can be more stubborn, but also can read their opponent’s weaknesses, evaluate complex patterns, and make creative and strategic decisions to win.

Even the creators of artificial chess-playing machines acknowledge that the best chess player is actually a team of both human and machine.

The world will always need human brilliance, human ingenuity and human skills.

Software and technology have the potential to empower people to a far greater degree than in the past—unlocking the latent creativity, perception and imagination of human beings at every level of every organization.

Brad Keywell | World Economic Forum
Despite the unprecedented speed of current breakthroughs investment is weak and money is either stashed away or distributed to shareholders

Prepare for the age of the driverless car and the robot that does the housework. That was the message from the World Economic Forum earlier this year as it hailed the start of a new industrial revolution. According to the WEF, the fourth big structural change in the past 250 years is upon us.

The first industrial revolution was about water and steam. The second was about electricity and mass production. The third harnessed electronics and information technology to automate production. Now it is the turn of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, 3D printing and quantum computing to transform the global economy.

“The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent”, the WEF said. “When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.”

But if this really is the dawning of a new age, it seems somebody forgot to tell the people with the power to turn ideas into products. The multinational companies that bankroll the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos are awash with cash. Profits are strong. The return on capital is the best it has been for the best part of two decades. Yet investment is weak. Companies would rather save their cash or hand it back to shareholders than put it to work.

One possible explanation for this corporate caution is that businesses think bad times are just around the corner. If, for example, companies thought the tepid recovery from the financial crisis was a brief respite before another downturn, it would make sense to stash some money away now. Any UK company that fancies a risk-averse approach has the perfect excuse for sitting pat: the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Larry Elliott | The Guardian

Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
A despot in disguise: one man’s mission to rip up democracy [BEST DESCRIPTION FOR THE WORLD'S PROBLEMS I'VE EVER SEEN! Treason is much too kind a word for this...]
James McGill Buchanan’s vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it’s being exported

It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch.

Her discoveries in that house of horrors reveal how Buchanan, in collaboration with business tycoons and the institutes they founded, developed a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich. The programme is now reshaping politics, and not just in the US.

Buchanan was strongly influenced by both the neoliberalism of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, and the property supremacism of John C Calhoun, who argued in the first half of the 19th century that freedom consists of the absolute right to use your property (including your slaves) however you may wish; any institution that impinges on this right is an agent of oppression, exploiting men of property on behalf of the undeserving masses.

James Buchanan brought these influences together to create what he called public choice theory. He argued that a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions. What he meant by this was that no one should be taxed against their will. But the rich were being exploited by people who use their votes to demand money that others have earned, through involuntary taxes to support public spending and welfare. Allowing workers to form trade unions and imposing graduated income taxes were forms of “differential or discriminatory legislation” against the owners of capital.

“Make America Great Again!”

Any clash between “freedom” (allowing the rich to do as they wish) and democracy should be resolved in favour of freedom. In his book The Limits of Liberty, he noted that “despotism may be the only organisational alternative to the political structure that we observe.” Despotism in defence of freedom.

His prescription was a “constitutional revolution”: creating irrevocable restraints to limit democratic choice. Sponsored throughout his working life by wealthy foundations, billionaires and corporations, he developed a theoretical account of what this constitutional revolution would look like, and a strategy for implementing it.

He explained how attempts to desegregate schooling in the American south could be frustrated by setting up a network of state-sponsored private schools. It was he who first proposed privatising universities, and imposing full tuition fees on students: his original purpose was to crush student activism. He urged privatisation of social security and many other functions of the state. He sought to break the links between people and government, and demolish trust in public institutions. He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy.

In 1980, he was able to put the programme into action. He was invited to Chile, where he helped the Pinochet dictatorship write a new constitution, which, partly through the clever devices Buchanan proposed, has proved impossible to reverse entirely. Amid the torture and killings, he advised the government to extend programmes of privatisation, austerity, monetary restraint, deregulation and the destruction of trade unions: a package that helped trigger economic collapse in 1982.

....But his power really began to be felt when Koch, currently the seventh richest man in the US, decided that Buchanan held the key to the transformation he sought. Koch saw even such ideologues as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan as “sellouts”, as they sought to improve the efficiency of government rather than destroy it altogether. But Buchanan took it all the way.

....In one respect, Buchanan was right: there is an inherent conflict between what he called “economic freedom” and political liberty. Complete freedom for billionaires means poverty, insecurity, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. Because we will not vote for this, it can be delivered only through deception and authoritarian control. The choice we face is between unfettered capitalism and democracy. You cannot have both.

Buchanan’s programme is a prescription for totalitarian capitalism. And his disciples have only begun to implement it. But at least, thanks to MacLean’s discoveries, we can now apprehend the agenda. One of the first rules of politics is, know your enemy. We’re getting there.

George Monbiot | The Guardian
Britons could save hundreds of millions a year as credit and debit card fees added to payments for goods and services are axed from January

All extra charges added to payments for goods and services made by card are to be outlawed, ending a “rip-off” that costs Britons hundreds of millions of pounds a year, the government has announced.

Fees for paying with plastic – most commonly a credit card – are routinely levied on everything from low-cost flights and tax bills to cinema tickets and takeaway meals, but the Treasury announced that these would be consigned to history from January 2018.

The government said the move, which builds on an EU directive, would mean “shoppers across the country have that bit of extra cash to spend on the things that matter to them”. However, some commentators said they expected that many companies would simply hike their prices to compensate for the loss of this money, or change the name of the fee.

Rupert Jones | The Guardian
An In-Depth Guide for Co-op Start-Ups and Conversions

New cooperative businesses can be started by eventual member-owners or be incubated by a development group. Existing businesses can be converted to member-ownership (either of employees or the community). Regardless of who organizes a co-op, this webinar identifies the key steps in the development process.

For more information on USDA's Cooperative programs, visit

JP Morgan chief blasts US dysfunction: 'It's almost an embarrassment being American' [enabled by the Citizens United Ruling, Birchers—founded and funded by the Koch bros. network—ruthlessly pursue personal profits, destroying America and its public as byproducts]
  • Jamie Dimon rails at Washington and laments ‘stupid shit’ in US politics
  • Dimon says bad policy is ‘holding back and hurting the average American’
Dominic Rushe | The Guardian
  • Researchers say tax reform plan would increase gap between rich and poor
  • US already does ‘very badly’ on global inequality index
Amanda Holpuch | The Guardian
The richest in our society are not worth the rewards they give themselves. It’s because they have captured ideologically the political process that these absurdities continue
Editorial | The Guardian

How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes 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 ofthe 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.

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