AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1921654 times)

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Sales of holidays, beer and even tickets to see Butt Detective the Movie slump amid trade tensions

One South Korean petrol station owner said he saw ‘a Japanese flag’ whenever he saw a Japanese car.

Petrol stations and garages in South Korea are refusing to fill up or service Japanese cars as part of a growing boycott of Japanese goods sparked by trade and political tensions.

Sales of trips to Japan, Japanese beer and even tickets for the anime work Butt Detective the Movie have all been affected, and there are demonstrations outside Japan’s embassy in Seoul, though some now worry the campaign is setting Koreans against each other.

Anti-Japan feelings have been strengthening since Tokyo announced on 1 July it was restricting exports of materials used in the manufacture of semi-conductors, a major industry for Korea. The two neighbours have been trading accusations ever since.

Comments on the Korea Oil Station Association homepage earlier this month called for petrol stations to join the protests by refusing to serve customers driving Japanese cars, while on 19 July an alliance of garages announced it would not repair cars from Japan.

One petrol station owner said he saw “a Japanese flag” whenever he saw a Japanese car, while another said the campaign would “scare off those interested in buying Japanese cars”, according to the Korea Times.

However, some worried the campaign was setting Korean against Korean. “A war can never be won if we don’t know if those we are shooting at are our friends or enemies,” wrote online news outlet E Today. “The victim of the gas stations refusing to fill up Japanese cars isn’t the Japanese government but the car owners. If people don’t use gas stations, the victim is not the Japanese government but the gas station owners.”

Sales of Japanese beer in Korea were reported to be down as much as 40% last week, with sales of other imported beer rising. Convenience store chain CU reported sales of Korean beer had grown only 2.8% over the period, suggesting even patriotism had its limits.

Bookings for trips to Japan have fallen up to 70%, while travel agents have reported cancellations for previously booked holidays are reaching 50%.

Butt Detective: The Movie, a spin-off from a popular anime series featuring a hard-boiled detective with a head shaped liked a backside, has also been caught up in the furore. Released in Korea on 11 July, it had a maximum 10 stars on review sites in the country, but was then targeted by posts calling for a boycott on Japanese films.

“We are currently reducing promotional marketing or events to meet public sentiment and taking public interest into account,” a representative for the movie’s Korean distributor told Korea Biz Wire.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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100m bacteria a day keep the doctor away, apple research suggests
« Reply #13486 on: July 24, 2019, 06:42:56 AM »
Study finds organic apples have more diverse and balanced bacterial community

 Bacteria found in apples colonise the gut and contribute in maintaining a healthy gut environment.

The impact of an apple a day in keeping the doctor away may be partly down to the beneficial bacteria it carries and their subsequent colonisation of your gut, according to scientists.

A study has found that a typical apple carries more than 100m bacteria. Some of these microbes are important in maintaining a healthy gut environment, or microbiome, says Prof Gabriele Berg from Graz University of Technology, Austria, one of the authors of the research.

“The bacteria, fungi and viruses in our food transiently colonise our gut,” she said. “Cooking kills most of these, so raw fruit and veg are particularly important sources of gut microbes.”

The researchers compared the bacteria in shop-bought apples with those in visually matched organic ones. The apple’s stem, peel, flesh, seeds and calyx – the straggly bit at the bottom where the flower used to be – were all analysed separately.

Although organic and conventional apples were occupied by similar numbers of bacteria, the researchers found organic apples harboured a more diverse and balanced bacterial community, which they said could make them healthier and tastier than conventional apples.

Variety in the microbiome is thought to be key to a healthy gut and the researchers said there appeared to be more microbial diversity in organic apples.

“Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbour a significantly more diverse, more even and distinct bacterial community, compared to conventional ones,” explained Berg. “This variety and balance would be expected to limit overgrowth of any one species, and previous studies have reported a negative correlation between human pathogen abundance and microbiome diversity of fresh produce.” In other words, the more varied your diet, the fewer harmful bacteria are found.

The research may also vindicate the people who claim to be able to taste the difference between organic and ordinary produce, say the researchers. A microbe known as methylobacterium, which is known to boost strawberry-flavoured compounds, was significantly more abundant in organic apples, Berg said.

Birgit Wassermann, also at Graz University of Technology and the lead author of the study, said the next step would be “to confirm to what extent diversity in the food microbiome translates to gut microbial diversity and improved health outcomes”.

She also suggested that this information might one day appear on supermarket food labels. “The microbiome and antioxidant profiles of fresh produce may one day become standard nutritional information, displayed alongside macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to guide consumers,” she added.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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U.S. to pay $15 minimum per acre to farmers hurt by China trade war
« Reply #13487 on: July 24, 2019, 06:48:46 AM »
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government will pay a minimum of $15 per acre to farmers hurt by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China under an aid package to be unveiled before the end of the week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Tuesday.

“We’ll have information for you before the week ends,” Perdue told reporters when asked about the aid, which is planned to total about $16 billion.

U.S. farmers, a key Trump constituency, have been among the hardest hit in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Soybeans are the most valuable U.S. farm export, and shipments to China dropped to a 16-year low in 2018.

A new aid program would be the second round of assistance for farmers, after the Department of Agriculture’s $12 billion plan last year to compensate for lower prices for farm goods and lost sales stemming from trade disputes with China and other nations.

The USDA has redesigned last year’s aid program based on feedback. The new package will have a single payment rate per county, calculated by the damages in that area, instead of a rate for every commodity across the nation.

Perdue said the minimal payment would be $15 an acre. “We’re anticipating right now three tranches; probably 50 percent ... or minimum there of $15 an acre initially,” he said, adding the second and third tranches would be dependant on market conditions.

Craig Ratajczyk, chief executive of the Illinois Soybean Association, said the $15-per-acre minimum would make agricultural lenders more comfortable.

“This will help provide some type of stability for that type of lending institution. It’s confidence,” he said on the sidelines of an agriculture technology conference in Chicago.

Farmers are more focused on how big their autumn corn and soybean harvests will be than on the details of the USDA aid program, after severe planting delays this spring, Ratajczyk said. “Our farmers are waiting on what’s going to come out of the ground.”

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at last month’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, to restart trade talks that stalled in May. Trump said at the time he would not impose new tariffs and U.S. officials said China agreed to make agricultural purchases. But Trump said on July 11 that China was not living up to promises to buy U.S. farm goods.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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University of Guelph researchers are the first to uncover how the cannabis plant creates important pain-relieving molecules that are 30 times more powerful at reducing inflammation than Aspirin.

The discovery unlocks the potential to create a naturally derived pain treatment that would offer potent relief without the risk of addiction of other painkillers.

“There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids,” said Prof. Tariq Akhtar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who worked on the study with MCB professor Steven Rothstein. “These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”

Using a combination of biochemistry and genomics, the researchers were able to determine how cannabis makes two important molecules called cannflavin A and cannflavin B.

Known as “flavonoids,” cannflavins A and B were first identified in 1985, when research verified they provide anti-inflammatory benefits that were nearly 30 times more effective gram-for-gram than acetylsalicylic acid (sold as Aspirin).

However, further investigation into the molecules stalled for decades in part because research on cannabis was highly regulated. With cannabis now legal in Canada and genomics research greatly advanced, Akhtar and Rothstein decided to analyze cannabis to understand how Cannabis sativa biosynthesizes cannflavins.

“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” said Akhtar. “There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the genome of Cannabis sativa, which can be mined for information. If you know what you’re looking for, one can bring genes to life, so to speak, and piece together how molecules like cannflavins A and B are assembled.”

With the genomic information at hand, they applied classical biochemistry techniques to verify which cannabis genes were required to create cannflavins A and B. Their full findings were recently published in the journal  Phytochemistry. The Toronto Star  also recently wrote about the research.

These findings provide the opportunity to create natural health products containing these important molecules.

“Being able to offer a new pain relief option is exciting, and we are proud that our work has the potential to become a new tool in the pain relief arsenal,” said Rothstein.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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If You Hate Capitalism You Will Love This Map
« Reply #13489 on: July 24, 2019, 07:49:25 AM »
The Black Socialists of America are hoping to put alternatives to capitalism on the map with their newest project.

 The Black Socialists of America (BSA), a coalition of "anticapitalist, internationalist Black Americans," just launched its Dual Power Map. The map promises to plot every single worker cooperative, small business development center, community land trust, and dual power project in America so "you can support them right now."

But what are any of these things? What is dual power? Why should you care?

At its heart, dual power is a socialist strategy concerned with helping people who are unable to have their needs met by capitalism. The strategy calls for “counter-institutions” that not only meet the needs of those left behind but are run by those very people. It also calls for people to protect and develop these institutions into forms of social, economic, and political “counter-power” through social movements or organizing efforts.

Simply put, counter-institutions try to help realize a just world, while counter-power aims to fight against an unjust one.

Worker cooperatives are typically businesses that are owned and self-managed by workers, instead of bosses and CEOs. Small business development centers are essentially spaces for businesses to receive advice and support that will help them thrive in their specific locale. Community land trusts are local nonprofits that permanently maintain ownership of land for the good of the community, such as building affordable housing.

All of these are counter-institutions, but none are explicitly anticapitalist. They may be better equipped to meet the needs of people who want dignified work, safer working conditions, or affordable housing, but these are also things that some self-professed capitalists like Andrew Yang or Elizabeth Warren are currently calling for. The crux is whether or not the counter-institutions are utilized in a way that challenges capitalism while supporting and expanding anticapitalist alternatives.

Enter Cooperation Jackson, a socialist cooperative in Jackson, Mississippi that seeks to develop an alternative economy that is explicitly anticapitalist. The cooperative's ambition is to build a project based on a network of counter-institutions concerned with “organizing and empowering the structurally under and unemployed sectors of the working class, particularly from Black and Latino communities."

Cooperation Jackson wants to create a new economy as the basis for a new society that can sustain itself without relying on the politics that dominate the world around them. The organization aims to use community trusts to "decommodify as much land as possible" by making housing a guaranteed right instead of something you rent or buy on the market. It wants to create an alternative manufacturing base that responds to the needs of the community as opposed to the needs of the market, valuing sustainability over waste and endless growth. Cooperation Jackson plans on using its community center as a space for political education and developing an economy where collective decisions are made by workers and communities, as opposed to investors and executives. The organization’s small business development center will work as an incubator that supports and expands anticapitalist alternatives to an economy that doesn’t meet the needs of everyone.

Z, one of the BSA’s co-founders, explained how the purpose of the map is to help inform people of counter-institutions so that they can help develop local efforts and make their own dual power projects. “Most left organizations are focused on electoral politics or reactive activism or mutual aid,” Z told Motherboard in a phone call. “All those things are important, but if we want to dismantle capitalism, then we have to build institutions and we have to deal with the economy.”

Co-ops might be a great place to work, and your local community land trust might give a good price for rent, but at the end of the day, they are still institutions that have to be utilized a certain way to build anticapitalist alternatives like Cooperation Jackson.

On their website, the BSA points out that the goal is to infuse these alternatives with "political ideologies that will lead us to a fully democratic society and world where the workers themselves control the means of production in a democratic and decentralized fashion." That means the map should serve as a tool for activists who hate capitalism and want to see their communities’ needs met, but aren’t sure how it all fits together. To that end, building dual power is a great place to start.

“If we are talking about revolution, we have to be about revolutionary system change,” Z said. “We can’t just do things within the limits of the capitalist framework. We have to build to transcend it.”
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Team Trump files odd new lawsuit to keep his tax returns hidden
« Reply #13490 on: July 24, 2019, 08:00:32 AM »

Donald Trump has quite a few lawyers, but part of his legal team has a very specific task: keeping the president’s personal finances hidden. With this in mind, Trump’s attorneys have gone to extraordinary lengths in recent months to meet their client’s needs, mostly by fighting against congressional efforts to obtain the federal tax returns the president doesn’t want anyone to see.

But the overall fight isn’t limited to Congress. State policymakers in New York, Trump’s longtime home, recently approved a law that would extend access to the president’s state tax returns to select federal lawmakers. To date, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) hasn’t taken advantage of this opportunity – a development that’s frustrated more than a few progressive.

The mere possibility, however, has nevertheless led Trump’s lawyers to go back to court, filing a new lawsuit yesterday intended to block enforcement of the newly passed New York law and prevent anyone on Capitol Hill from seeing the president’s state tax returns.

    The suit asks the court to provide a declaratory judgment that the committee “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose for obtaining the President’s state tax information.”

    The lawsuit asserts that the law, called the TRUST Act, violates Trump’s First Amendment rights. It seeks to block the Ways and Means Committee from being able to request the taxes through the law, prevent New York Attorney General Letitia James from enforcing it, and stop New York Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Michael Schmidt from complying with any request for Trump’s tax filings.

Even by Trump World standards, it’s difficult to take the lawsuit seriously. As Jon Chait noted last night, “Reading over the document, it is astonishing to believe its authors attended law school. It should be written in crayon.”

The president’s lawyers argue, for example, that Trump hid his tax returns before the 2016 election; he won anyway; and he’s therefore earned the right to keep his financial materials hidden from scrutiny. Whether one finds this political argument persuasive or not, it’s just that: a political argument.

As a rule, legal filings written by lawyers try to make legal arguments.

The First Amendment claim is even more baffling. Hiding tax materials is directly related to the president’s right to free speech?

Chances are, lawsuits like these are not designed to succeed; they’re designed to delay. The longer Trump’s lawyers can keep legal proceedings going, the better the likelihood that the Republican can get through the 2020 campaign cycle without having to disclose elements of his personal financial history (as every major-party presidential nominee has done since Watergate).

But the fact that these strange efforts are even underway reinforces the fact that Trump is obviously desperate to prevent the public from learning the truth.

All of which raises anew the question of what the president is so zealously trying to hide.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Here's Why Climate Change Deniers Are Winning The Perception Battle
« Reply #13491 on: July 24, 2019, 08:04:04 AM »
We Can't Change Their Minds With Facts Alone

Everybody bonds over the weather. It’s a very integral part of our consciousness. When you can’t think of anything interesting to talk about, there’s always the weather. It’s the most cliched, yet effective, conversation starter of all time. But, in the context of climate change, the weather has unfortunately failed to get us talking.

The scientific community is in unanimous agreement that human activity, industry, pollution, and other factors are causing the Earth’s climate to change. It represents a huge threat to humanity and to the planet. It is like a ticking time bomb and we can only speculate when it will go off. That begs the question, why have we failed to do anything about it?

We are faced by a monumental danger to our existence but choose to be listless about it. This apathy is the fundamental challenge in driving action against climate change. There is so much information and evidence for climate change, that it is impossible to miss. It’s on the news, and even for those who are skeptical of whatever is on the news, it’s all around us in the form of unprecedented extreme weather events like drought and flash floods.

Environmentalists see these disasters as an opportunity to sensitize people about climate change. After all, when an aberrant weather event is causing destruction in communities, it should be difficult for deniers to not accept the reality of climate change.

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the scientific community, news outlets have started connecting aberrant weather conditions and natural disasters with climate change. A recent CNN news report about the heatwaves and the unbelievably delayed monsoon in India, includes several data points and analyses to warn people about the very real possibility that 40 percent of our country will run out of groundwater by 2030.

    If this doesn't disturb you,
    you probably deserve to die of climate
    — Zainab Sikander (@zainabsikander) July 22, 2019

Yet, all the information, evidence, and timing have failed to convince climate change skeptics. On the contrary, the conversation has shifted from reducing the pace of global warming to questioning whether global warming is even for real. More information about climate change has not helped, because it does nothing to address the underlying causes or prompt initiative.

The truth is that news and content connecting aberrant weather and natural disasters to climate change has a boomerang effect on climate change deniers. One would think that sharing established facts is enough to convince the skeptics, but it backfires and sends them in the opposite direction. To the contrary, an overdose of facts could even upset people who are otherwise scientific and aware of the adverse impacts of climate change.

Unlike what the news would have you believe; political orientation can’t be used to predict someone’s acceptance or resistance to climate change claims. Its true that several right-wing populist world leaders are climate change deniers. But when it comes to citizens, conservatives and liberals can be equally averse to accepting the reality of climate change.

Climate change deniers are likely to react negatively to a news story that talks about climate change and show increased resistance to the facts. They will likely even downplay the severity and scale of impact of a natural disaster. However, the very same news items will send those who accept the reality of climate change into a state of panic and alarm. In their minds, the hazards of climate change just moved up a notch.

Hence, it is not possible to change peoples’ minds about climate change through the daily barrage of data and apocalyptic predictions about the melting permafrost, rising sea levels, and raging drought. One climate change denier’s ‘research-based’ reasoning and another denier’s lack of empathy for future generations who will likely pay a heavy cost for our apathy towards the environment, cannot be dealt with through the same set of facts and messages.

A person’s upbringing, political orientation, personal emotions about a place’s future, their gender, and mix of some or all these factors play a role in their denial of climate change. It is a psychological challenge that we have before us, not merely a political or a scientific one. And that’s why the dangerous denial of climate change has been finding more and more takers.

All the news and data only work to give climate change deniers an opportunity to rationalize their bias, or in other words, make the facts suit their preconceived notions.

While these natural disasters are ‘naturalized’ by climate change deniers, a lot of the resistance is also the result of a cognitive failure to perceive climate change as a threat because it doesn’t take the form of a typical enemy – like a hostile nation or individual. Climate change is happening so slowly that we fail to observe or feel its impact. Our brain refuses to be alarmed unless we have been sensitized about it beforehand.

Moreover, progress has its cost, right? Nationalism is a major reason why climate change is not a priority for world leaders right now. “Why should we curb our greenhouse emissions when our neighbour (or some other country) who pollutes more than us isn’t doing enough about it?” or “We’re on the track to becoming the world’s fastest growing economy. We can’t let the climate change rhetoric interfere with our economic goals!” You get the drift.

So, maybe it's time we changed tactics and attacked the roots of the attitude that motivates climate change deniers to reject scientific evidence. And this can only be done by challenging their world views, beliefs in conspiracy theories, personal and social identity, vested interests, and most importantly, their unknown fears and phobias.

Short of that, climate change deniers are winning the perception battle. It might sound like a very dystopian thought, but it is possible that soon it might become taboo to even talk about the impending doom brought upon us by rapid climate change.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Facebook Says F.T.C. Has Opened Formal Antitrust Investigation
« Reply #13492 on: July 24, 2019, 05:55:35 PM »
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook came under siege on multiple fronts on Wednesday, agreeing to new layers of oversight and two fines to settle privacy and disclosure violations, even as it acknowledged that it was under investigation from the Federal Trade Commission for antitrust concerns.

Early in the day, the company was penalized by the F.T.C. with a record $5 billion fine for deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal data. As part of a settlement, the company was also ordered to create a new privacy committee on its board and to make other structural changes to increase the transparency and accountability of its data practices.

But the agreement was criticized for failing to limit Facebook’s gathering, sharing and use of people’s personal information, a practice that has repeatedly raised privacy questions. And the F.T.C.’s commissioners were divided on partisan lines this month when they voted 3-to-2 to approve the measures, which provide immunity to Facebook’s officers and directors and shield the company from known claims of violations through last month — essentially giving it a pass on its past.

At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission said on Wednesday that it had imposed a $100 million penalty against Facebook for making misleading disclosures to investors about the risks of misuse of user data. The S.E.C. said Facebook had known for two years about that misuse, but had presented those risks to investors as merely hypothetical.

Hours later, Facebook also disclosed that it was the target of an antitrust investigation by the F.T.C. While the agency was known to be looking into the company and whether it had used its reach and clout to reduce competition, a formal investigation starts a more intensive phase of examination.

The developments highlighted the new reality for big tech companies: Scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers has become a constant. Just Tuesday, the Justice Department announced a sweeping antitrust review of the tech giants.

For the past few years, American regulators appeared to be lagging as authorities around the world have stepped up their actions to crimp the power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The contrast was starkest with European officials, who have passed laws and imposed a series of large penalties against big tech companies. But in recent months, American lawmakers and regulators have also ramped up their activity.

“The online technology industry and our company have received increased regulatory scrutiny in the past quarter,” Facebook said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said at an employee meeting at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley that he supported the privacy settlement with the F.T.C. and that it would change the way the social network operated because “if we don’t, then we’re going to be held accountable for it.”

Mr. Zuckerberg did not specifically address the antitrust concerns but said on a conference call with investors, “with the guidance and expectations from regulators, we have a clearer path forward.” He called for more government oversight of the tech industry at large.

The F.T.C. confirmed the antitrust investigation against Facebook and declined to comment further.

The agency’s five commissioners put out dueling statements on the privacy settlement. The three Republican commissioners — including the F.T.C. chairman, Joseph J. Simons — who voted to approve the deal said they were “proud” of the agreement and believed the measures “will provide significant deterrence not just to Facebook, but to every other company that collects or uses consumer data.”

But the two Democratic commissioners disagreed. One of them, Rohit Chopra, warned that the terms of the settlement legally shielded Facebook from liability for a wide range of past problematic practices. “This shield represents a major win for Facebook, but leaves the public in the dark as to how the company violated the law and what violations, if any, are going unaddressed,” he said.

Even as the scrutiny around Facebook has grown, its business has remained strong. It said on Wednesday that revenue for its second quarter rose 28 percent from a year ago to $16.9 billion. While profits fell 49 percent to $2.6 billion because of a one-time $2 billion charge to pay the F.T.C.’s fine and an accounting charge related to tax deductions, Facebook still performed better than Wall Street had expected.

“Facebook, with all of its missteps over the past two years, is going to remain a strong stock over the next few years,” said Shawn Riegsecker, chief executive of the ad-technology company Centro.

The F.T.C.’s privacy settlement with Facebook follows an investigation over the past year into whether the company had violated a 2011 privacy agreement with the agency. Under that earlier agreement, the social network had said it would not deceive people over how their information was used and shared.

Then last year, a report from The New York Times and The Observer of London revealed how Facebook had allowed Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm to the Trump campaign, to harvest the personal information of its users. Cambridge Analytica had used the data to build profiles of American voters without the consent of Facebook users.

In its settlement with Facebook on Wednesday, the F.T.C. said it had mandated that the social network create an independently appointed privacy committee on its board to review decisions affecting user privacy. That would reduce the ability of Mr. Zuckerberg and others to unilaterally make decisions, the agency said.

The F.T.C. also ordered Facebook to designate compliance officers to oversee a privacy program, undergo regular privacy audits that Mr. Zuckerberg and others must submit to, and appoint an outside assessor to monitor the handling of data. All of these would increase Facebook’s transparency and accountability, the agency said.

Yet the F.T.C.’s two Democratic commissioners said the measures were inadequate. Facebook’s officers should be held personally liable for privacy transgressions, they argued, and more needed to be done to curb the company’s data-mining practices. They also said that a $5 billion fine was a drop in the bucket.

“When companies can violate the law, pay big penalties and still turn a profit while keeping their business model intact, enforcement agencies cannot claim victory,” Mr. Chopra said in his dissent.

The three Republican commissioners said that the $5 billion fine was “record breaking” and that it reset the baseline for privacy cases.

They also said the F.T.C. did not have a strong enough case to move forward with any litigation against Facebook. Ultimately, Mr. Simons and the other two Republican commissioners, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson, said the concessions they were able to extract with a settlement were more valuable — and far more certain — than what might be achieved with a drawn-out legal battle.

“Is the relief we would obtain through this settlement equal to or better than what we could reasonably obtain through litigation?” they said. “If the answer had been ‘no,’ it would have made sense to aggressively move forward in court. The answer, however, was ‘yes.’”

Lawmakers were sharply critical. The F.T.C. agreement “utterly fails to penalize Facebook in any effective way,” said Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican of Missouri.

Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor at Howard University, said the F.T.C.’s antitrust investigation represented a commitment of staff and agency resources. “It also suggests there is reason to believe there is anticompetitive behavior to look at,” he said.

The F.T.C.’s lengthy privacy inquiry into Facebook could well have brought out evidence that helped persuade the agency to pursue an antitrust investigation, said Mr. Gavil, who is a former senior F.T.C. official.

Investigations can take months or even years. They result in staff presentations, by the agency’s economic bureau and by its competition bureau, made in private to the five commissioners. The politically appointed commissioners then decide whether to bring a case or not, or try to reach a settlement.

Unlike with the privacy case, there is no provision for fines in a civil antitrust case. But what can happen, if a corporate defendant is found to have violated the nation’s antitrust law, is follow-on cases by private plaintiffs such as other companies.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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France braces for another heatwave as record temperature revised up to 46°C
« Reply #13493 on: July 24, 2019, 06:06:15 PM »
 France braces for another heatwave this week as its national weather service revised the country's all-time record-high temperature to 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees F), which was recorded last month in southern France.

France’s second heatwave in as many months is set to be accompanied by high humidity and a spike in air pollution levels, the weather service has warned.

Much of Europe sweltered through sizzling heat in late June, with temperatures in France in particular breaking all-time records.

At the peak of the heatwave on June 28, Meteo-France had said the record was 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.6 degrees Fahrenheit) registered in Gallargues-le-Montueux, a village in the southern department of Gard near Montpellier.

But it announced on Friday that after a new analysis of the data, a record 46.0 degrees Celsius had been recorded in Verargues in the nearby Herault department on the same day.

The announcement came as forecasters warned of a new blast of hot weather in France next week, although it is not expected to last long or challenge the records set in June.

French authorities activated a heatwave alert plan, classing the risk as 'orange'. The scale, which goes from green, to yellow, orange and then red, indicates the level of care that needs to be taken to keep safe during the heatwave. At the orange level, people are told to remain 'very vigilant', drink regularly, have frequent showers, and not to go outside at the hottest times of the day.

Weather woes hit vineyards

Wine production in France this year will be down by between six and 13 percent over 2018, notably because of the ongoing heatwave, the agriculture ministry said Saturday.

France was hit hard by poor weather conditions, including a heatwave at the end of June.

That and other factors meant that production should be between 42.8 and 46.4 million hectolitres -- the lowest figures in the last five years, said the ministry, based on estimates drawn up on July 12.

Unfavourable weather conditions hit the flowering of the vine, particularly in the western wine regions of France, such as Val de Loire, Charente, Bordelais the wines of the southwest.

Hailstorms also affected some vines but they did less damage nationally.

France, along with Spain and Italy, is one of the world's top three wine producers and exporters, according to industry figures released last week.
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Climate scientists drive stake through heart of skeptics' argument
« Reply #13494 on: July 24, 2019, 06:34:49 PM »
New research shows that the recent rise in global temperatures is unlike anything seen on Earth during the past 2,000 years.

Global warming skeptics sometimes say rising temperatures are just another naturally occurring shift in Earth’s climate, like the Medieval Warm Period of the years 800 to 1200 or the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling that spanned from roughly 1300 to 1850.

But a pair of studies published Wednesday provides stark evidence that the rise in global temperatures over the past 150 years has been far more rapid and widespread than any warming period in the past 2,000 years — a finding that undercuts claims that today’s global warming isn’t necessarily the result of human activity.

“The familiar maxim that the climate is always changing is certainly true,” Scott St. George, a physical geographer at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said in a written commentary about the studies. “But even when we push our perspective to the earliest days of the Roman Empire, we cannot discern any event that is remotely equivalent — either in degree or extent — to the warming over the last few decades.”

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global average temperature on Earth has risen by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. A consensus of climate scientists pins the increase primarily on the burning of fossil fuels, which spews carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the air. In the absence of concerted efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations says, the global average temperature could rise an additional 5.4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

One of the studies, published in the journal Nature, shows that the Little Ice Age and other natural fluctuations affected only limited regions of the planet at a time, making modern warming the first and only planetwide warm period in the past two millennia. The other study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that the rate of modern warming has far outpaced changes that occurred before the rise of the industrial era.

For the research, a team led by Raphael Neukom, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bern’s Institute of Geography in Switzerland, analyzed 2,000 years' worth of climate data. In the absence of direct temperature information — thermometer measurements were scarce before the middle of the 19th century — the scientists looked at data on old trees’ growth rings, layers of glacier ice and the remnants of corals, whose layers have different chemical compositions depending on the temperature of seawater.

The Nature study mapped the temperature fluctuations across the planet, finding, for example, that the Little Ice Age didn’t affect the whole world at once. Temperatures bottomed out in the Pacific Ocean around 1500, the scientists found; Europe and North America didn’t fully chill out for another two centuries.

The same pattern was observed for the higher temperatures seen during the Medieval Warm Period. The researchers found that less than half of the planet felt the heat at once.

The research indicates that during the current period of warming, more than 98 percent of the Earth’s surface has experienced record high temperatures. The finding shows just how dramatically today’s global rise in temperatures differs from previous periods of temperature change, the scientists said.

“What we show is that these periods aren’t globally coherent as previously thought,” said Nathan Steiger, a climate scientist at Columbia University in New York City and a co-author of the Nature study. The current period of warming “stands in stark contrast” to today’s warming, he added, calling it “a globally coherent warm period that is very different from what we see in the past.”

For the Nature Geoscience study, the researchers charted global temperature averages over time, and then compared the data to a set of climate simulations to figure out what might have driven the changes. Neukom and his colleagues found that the fastest warming in the last two millennia occurred during the second half of the 20th century.

The researchers also found that the main cause of temperature fluctuations changed over time. Prior to 1850, fluctuations were mainly linked to volcanic eruptions, which cooled the planet by spewing sun-blocking ash into the stratosphere; after 1850, greenhouse gas emissions took the wheel.

“It’s exciting to see studies like this that combine rigorous statistics with huge databases to make clear conclusions about past climate change,” said Gabriela Serrato Marks, a graduate student in paleoclimatology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who wasn't involved in the new research.

Serrato Marks said the records the researchers used could be incomplete, adding that subsequent research could benefit from more robust data. “Future studies will be strengthened even more with data from the Southern Hemisphere and more high-resolution data,” she said.

Jennifer Hertzberg, a paleoclimatologist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, who wasn’t involved in the research, called the study “very important” and praised its use of multiple statistical methods to reconstruct temperature change over time. She urged the public to take the results to heart.

“The global temperatures that we’re seeing now are higher than they have been in the last 2,000 years,” she said. “What we’re seeing now is uncharted territory. It’s time for everybody to wake up and make changes now.”
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Oscar Mayer heir: It’s time for a 100% tax on billionaire estates
« Reply #13495 on: July 24, 2019, 06:39:14 PM »

Chuck Collins is the great grandson of the meatpacker Oscar Mayer and the author of Born on Third Base and, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. He is a founding member of the Patriotic Millionaires.

Since President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted, corporate America and the billionaire class have had a field day. As CNBC recently reported, the beneficiaries of these policies don’t fall that far our of the president’s orbit, let alone his cabinet: Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and her family’s generational wealth have skyrocketed since the policies were signed into law.

At a time when wealth disparity in the United States continues to grow and the lion’s share of the expanding economy moves toward the wealthiest among us, the news that Devos is profiting off the policies of the administration she serves in is anything but surprising, yet wholly counterproductive to a healthy economy and functioning democracy.

I’m watching this trend with personal interest: As the great grandson of the meatpacker Oscar Mayer, like Devos, I had the immense privilege of being born into the 1 percent.

For me, being part of a family that had amassed vast amounts of wealth came with a sense of responsibility, and I knew individual acts of philanthropy wouldn’t be enough alone to reduce the widening chasm between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the country. That’s why I gave away my inheritance at 26. And that’s why I’ve spent the following three decades mobilizing to create a fairer tax system.

Many wealthy American families, the Devos’ chief among them, are using their considerable resources, political influence and media holdings to help rig the rules of the economy in order to protect and grow their own dynastic wealth. Billionaires are expanding their shares of the pie at the expense of investments in our social safety net, infrastructure, and education systems.

Earlier this year, at the behest of their campaign donors, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2019, arguing that the estate tax is “an onerous and unfair” tax on “hard-working families”.

Keep in mind that the 400 wealthiest billionaires today have as much wealth as the bottom 64 percent of the US population combined.Three wealthy dynastic families – the Waltons, Kochs and Mars clans – together hold over $348 billion. Since 1983, their wealth has expanded almost 6,000 percent, adjusted for inflation. Over the same period, the median U.S. household wealth has declined 3 percent.

If we are concerned (and we should be) about the health of our economy, strengthening – not eliminating – the estate tax is the solution.That is the kind of policy that will ensure our government represents the average person, rather than becoming a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.

When Congress established the estate tax a century ago to put a brake on the build-up of concentrated wealth and power, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis observed, “You can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or democracy. But you can’t have both.”

We are hurtling towards a destabilizing level of inequality and bold measures are required. Our elected leaders can’t make the 1 percent be generous, and I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath waiting for Devos to give away her inheritance. But we can require them to pay their fair share.

Democrats in Congress should advocate for a progressive estate tax: with graduated tax rates starting at current levels of 40 percent on wealth over $10 million and rising to 100 percent over a billion. Under current estate tax law, someone with $15 million and $15 billion pay the same rate.

This proposal is not without precedent. In 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress instituted an estate tax of over 90 percent to thwart the “economic royalists” of that day.

Not comfortable with 100 percent or even 90 percent? Well, a good first step is to support Senator Bernie Sander’s new estate tax initiative that would levy a 77 percent rate on inheritances over $1 billion.

We are at an inflection point: Do we protect our democracy or become a plutocracy? It’s time to knock the crown off the Devos crowd, so we can build toward an economy that doesn’t serve the interests of a few households.

Chuck Collins is the great grandson of the meatpacker Oscar Mayer and the author of Born on Third Base and, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. He is a founding member of the Patriotic Millionaires.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Noam Chomsky: To Make the US a Democracy, the Constitution Itself Must Change
« Reply #13496 on: July 24, 2019, 06:45:46 PM »
Why do so many people in the U.S. today find Trump’s racist rants and authoritarian mindset appealing? What are the political checks and balances — or lack thereof — that can ward off the impact of the Republican leadership’s disastrous policies? Is a constitutional crisis on its way? And how do we face the consequences of an administration that is essentially competing for the title of most dangerous organization in human history? In this exclusive Truthout interview, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona Noam Chomsky, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of all time (ranking among the top 10 cited sources of all time, along with Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Hegel and Freud), dissects Trump’s racist attacks, Trumpism and the current condition of the country in the second decade of the 21st century.

C.J. Polychroniou: According to popular conception, the United States is a “nation of immigrants,” although this formulation significantly excludes Native people — who were already here, and were subjected to colonization, displacement and genocide at the hands of European immigrants — and also excludes African Americans, whose ancestors were kidnapped and enslaved. When it is described as a “nation of immigrants,” the U.S. is often portrayed as a varied nation where people have the freedom to pursue their dreams of a better life while maintaining their own cultural, ethnic and religious distinctiveness or uniqueness. Yet, the truth of the matter is that inequality and oppression of the “Other” have been ongoing political and social realities since the origins of the republic. In fact, today we have a president in the White House who makes no bones about wishing to see non-white people, even elected representatives of the U.S. Congress, leave the country because they challenge the status quo and seek a United States with a more humane and democratic polity. Meanwhile, the very rich are enjoying political privileges like never before. Noam, what are some of the tangible and intangible factors that seem to be pushing the country — socially, politically and economically — backward rather than forward?

Noam Chomsky: Trump’s diatribes successfully inflame his audience, many of whom apparently feel deeply threatened by diversity, cultural change, or simply the recognition that the White Christian nation of their collective imagination is changing before their eyes. White supremacy is nothing new in the U.S. The late George Frederickson’s comparative studies of white supremacy found the U.S. to be almost off the chart, more extreme even than Apartheid South Africa. As late as the 1960s the U.S. had anti-miscegenation laws so extreme that the Nazis refused to adopt them as a model for their racist Nuremberg laws. And the power of Southern Democrats was so great that until ‘60s activism shattered the framework of legal racism — if not its practice by other means — even New Deal federal housing programs enforced segregation, barring Black people from new housing programs.

It goes back to the country’s origins. While progressive in many ways by the standards of the day, the U.S. was founded on two brutal racist principles: the most hideous system of slavery in human history, the source of much of its wealth (and England’s too), and the need to rid the national territory of Native Americans, whom the Declaration of Independence explicitly describes as “the merciless Indian savages,” and whom the framers saw as barring the expansion of the “superior” race.

Immigrants … were supposed to be white immigrants — in fact, basically “Anglo-Saxon,” in accord with weird racist myths of the founding fathers that persisted through the 19th century. That includes the leading Enlightenment figures. Benjamin Franklin urged that Germans and Swedes be barred because they were too “swarthy.” Thomas Jefferson was greatly interested in Anglo-Saxon language and law, part of his immersion in the “Saxon myth” that English democracy and law trace back to a pre-Norman Saxon period. The first Naturalization Act, 1790, restricted the option to whites, extended to ex-slaves after the Civil war.

The country of course needed immigrants to settle the “Indian country” from which Indigenous nations were expelled or “exterminated” (as the Founders put it). But they were supposed to be “white” — a somewhat flexible culturally constructed category. By the late 19th century, Asians were excluded by law. The first more general immigration law was in 1924, designed to bar Jews and Italians primarily. There is no need to review here the horrendous record of how Jews were prevented from fleeing Nazi barbarism, crimes that persisted even after the war. Truman sent Earl Harrison on a mission to inspect the concentration camps where Jews were still held, under grotesque conditions as he reported. About the only effect was to intensify efforts to ship them to Palestine.

The 1924 law remained in place until 1965. By the 1980s immigration began to be criminalized. Treatment of Haitians fleeing terror was particularly despicable. Guantánamo was first used as a detention center by the Bush I and Clinton administrations, a place to get rid of Black people fleeing in terror from the murderous coup regime that [U.S. leaders] were supporting, despite pretenses to the contrary. They were classified as “economic migrants,” a cynical pretense in gross violation of international law and minimal decency.

Another ugly story.

It’s not terribly surprising, then, to read a report of a conference of conservative intellectuals where one esteemed speaker, University of Pennsylvania Law professor Amy Wax, explains learnedly that “our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites,” since immigrants may not quickly come to “think, live and act just like us” because the social and cultural climate of their places of origin.

Wax failed to elaborate on whether her parents, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, came from a cultural and social climate where people were thinking and acting like “us.”

It’s not hard to understand why these deep currents are becoming more manifest, and ominous, today, after 40 years of the “savage capitalism” unleashed by the neoliberal assault. It’s enough to recall that for a large majority of the workforce, wages have either stagnated or declined since 1979, when the neoliberal assault was just taking off. From the country’s origins, U.S. workers benefited from the world’s highest wages…. Since the 1980s, though the unusual advantages persist, working people have fallen behind the rest of the developed world by many measures. For review of their current status, see Amanda Novella and Jeff Madrick’s February 2019 contribution to the journal Challenge.

The effects of the assault are sharp concentration of wealth and power, increasingly in largely predatory financial institutions, stagnation or decline for the majority, deterioration of benefits, astonishing collapse of infrastructure, a form of globalization designed to pit working people against one another for the benefit of international investors, weakening of institutions to protect worker rights, undermining of functioning democracy, and much else that is all too familiar.

The result, in the U.S. and in Europe, is an upsurge of anger, resentment and, all too often, a search for scapegoats — typically those even more disadvantaged, who are portrayed as being coddled by liberal elites. It’s a dangerous mix: fertile territory for demagogues.

The threats are far more extreme than the incipient fascist-style tendencies, which are severe enough. It cannot be overlooked that humans are facing a decision of extraordinary significance, which must be made very soon: Will organized human society survive in anything like its present form, or will it be devastated by global catastrophe? The two most ominous threats are nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, both increasing. On the latter, major energy corporations are apparently planning on a future with 5º Celsius above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, and with that in mind, are racing to accelerate what climate scientists recognize to be indescribable catastrophe by maximizing the profitable production of fossil fuels, joined by the biggest banks and other major capitalist institutions.

Meanwhile the Republican administration, determined to safeguard its credentials as the most dangerous organization in human history, is anticipating a slightly less overwhelming catastrophe — a rise of 4º[C] by end of the century, also far above what scientists recognize to be a colossal danger. And it concludes from this detailed environmental assessment that we should not limit automotive emissions, because — what’s the difference? We’re going over the cliff anyway.

If there is anything like this in world history, I haven’t found it. And this passes with scarcely a raised eyebrow.

Of course, this is only science, and as [right-wing radio host] Rush Limbaugh instructs his tens of millions of radio listeners, science is one of the “four corners of deceit,” along with government, academia, and media (of the wrong sort).

All of this tells us that the tasks ahead are urgent, on many fronts.

Another common (mis) perception is that American culture and society adapt easily to change. Yet, this is a country where it is immensely difficult to change even outdated and dysfunctional political processes and institutions, such as the Electoral College and the distribution of Senate seats. It is very hard to pass amendments to the Constitution. And so far, we have faced many barriers to moving away from the two-party system. How do we explain the inflexibility of U.S. political processes and institutions?

In the 19th century the U.S. Constitution was in many ways a progressive document, even though it was a “Framers’ Coup” against the democratic aspirations of most of the public — the title of Michael Klarman’s impressive study of the making of the Constitution, generally regarded as the “gold standard” in the scholarly literature.

The document has inherent problems, which are leading to a likely constitutional crisis. The problems are serious enough for law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, writing on “America’s constitutional crisis,” to entitle his article “The First Priority: Making America a Democracy” (contrary to the intentions of the Framers). He reviews some of the familiar problems. One has to do with the Electoral College, which was designed by the Framers because of their distrust of popular government. By now states with 23 percent of the population have enough electoral votes to choose the president. Even more importantly, the same radical imbalance makes the Senate a highly undemocratic institution — in accord with the intentions of the Framers. In Madison’s constitutional design, the Senate was the most powerful branch of government, and the most protected from public interference. It was to represent “the wealth of the nation,” the most “responsible” men, who have sympathy for property and its rights. Furthermore, though the Framers did not anticipate this of course, social and demographic changes have placed this excessive anti-democratic power in the hands of a part of the population that is mostly rural, white, Christian, socially conservative and traditionalist — generally sympathetic to the Wax principle.

Some of these undemocratic features were virtually unavoidable. The Constitution would never have been ratified if the smaller colonies were not granted an equal voice. But by now the effects are severe — and unchangeable by amendment because of the same radical imbalance in voting power.

These problems are exacerbated by the monopolization of politics by the two political parties and “winner take all” state laws that bar proportional representation, which can permit a variety of voices to enter the political arena, sometimes growing to major parties. Some have argued, not implausibly, that if a country with the U.S. system tried to join the European Union, the application might be rejected by the European Court of Justice.

The impending crisis is becoming more severe because of the malevolence of the Republican leadership. They are well aware that their formula of abject service to wealth and corporate power along with mobilization of a voting base of the kind that shows up at Trump rallies is not enough to overcome their growing minority status. The solution is radical gerrymandering of the kind now authorized by the reactionary Roberts Court, and stacking the judiciary with far-right justices who will be able to hold the country by the throat for many years. Here the evil genius is Mitch McConnell, who maneuvered to block appointments under Obama, a campaign of obstruction that left 106 vacancies at the end of Obama’s second term (including the scandalous case of Merrick Garland), and is now rushing through appointment of Federalist Society choices.

Another recurring theme of U.S. history involves religious fundamentalism, which is still widespread throughout the country. Does the United States, in some ways, look more like a fundamentalist nation rather than an advanced secular republic?

Throughout its history the U.S. has been an unusually fundamentalist society, with regular Great Awakenings and beliefs that are far off the spectrum of developed societies. Almost 80 percent of Americans believe in miracles. There is a huge Evangelical community, a large part of Trump’s base, which he keeps in line by throwing them crumbs. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a devout Evangelical Christian, speculated recently that God might have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran — which is threatening Israel with destruction in the fantasy world of doctrinal verities. Fully 40 percent of Americans expect Jesus to return to earth by mid-century (23 percent certainly). It’s possible that this accounts for some of the “looking away” that we were discussing earlier. All in all, it is a curious form of exceptionalism that goes back to the earliest settlers.

The United States remains a global superpower, but its domestic society is strikingly unequal and poverty is rampant. Given that, should we interpret Trumpism as a political phenomenon akin to the same dynamics that gave rise in the prewar era to fascism and other forms of authoritarian rule in Europe and elsewhere?

Already in the 1950s, economist John Kenneth Galbraith described U.S. society as marked by private affluence, public squalor. It’s true that in the public sphere it often resembles a “third world” country. The Infrastructure Report Card of the American Society of Civil Engineers regularly ranks the U.S. down at the bottom, D+. And one can hardly walk through a U.S. city or travel in poor rural areas without being shocked at the squalor. The same holds for social justice measures. Among OECD countries, the U.S. ranks near the bottom. I don’t think this relates specifically to Trumpism, except insofar as the contemporary Republican Party leadership is a virtual caricature of long-standing features of U.S. political economy, based on business power that is unusual by historical standards, with a pervasive impact on the political system and also on the “hegemonic common sense,” in Gramscian terms. The business classes are not just unusually powerful, but are also highly class conscious, constantly engaged in bitter class war, in some ways vulgar Marxists, with values inverted.

There is variation. The New Deal period brought the U.S. somewhat closer to European-style social democracy, but from the ‘80s that has been sharply reversed. By now, when Bernie Sanders calls for renewing and extending the New Deal — ideas that would not have greatly surprised Eisenhower — he is considered a radical who wants to destroy “American values.”

Trumpism and pre-war fascism seems to me a different matter. There surely are resemblances. Just speaking personally, Trump’s Greenville, North Carolina, rally evoked my childhood memories of listening on the radio to Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies, not understanding the words but the mood was apparent enough, and frightening. The not-so-subtle appeals to racism, xenophobia, misogyny, the treachery of dissent, demonization of media that do not kowtow abjectly to the Grand Leader — all this and more is reminiscent of pre-war fascism. And the social base of Trumpism has similarities to prewar fascism as well: superrich power and petty bourgeois popular base.

But prewar fascism was based on control of all aspects of the society — business included — by a powerful state in the hands of a totalitarian all-powerful ruling party: Gleichschaltung. The situation here is quite different, almost the opposite, with the increasingly monopolized business world, particularly its financial sector, having overwhelming power in sociopolitical life and doctrinal management….

In the 1980s, Japan was regarded as the most likely power to replace U.S. hegemony. We know what happened to that forecast. Now, many pundits see China as a future global superpower. Is this a realistic assessment of future geopolitical developments given the huge economic and military gap that exists today between China and the United States?

The “Japan is #1” fantasy traces in large part to the incompetence of U.S. management, which was unable to compete with superior Japanese production methods. Reagan took care of that with “voluntary export restraints” — where “voluntary” means do it or else, making clear who is #1 — and a number of other devices. One was SDI (“Star Wars”), sold to the public (and maybe to Reagan himself) as defense against the evil enemy, but to the corporate world as a great business opportunity, courtesy of the taxpayer, a familiar benefactor.

As for China, it has made substantial economic and technological progress, but remains a very poor country. It is ranked 86th in the 2018 update to the UN Development Index, right below Algeria. (India is ranked 130th, barely above East Timor.) China has huge internal problems unknown in the West. It is argued that China is comparable to the U.S., maybe ahead, in Purchasing Power Parity, but that means that it is far below per capita. China has been pursuing systematic plans to expand its influence through Eurasia in a somewhat uneasy partnership with an economically much weaker Russia, first through the Shanghai Cooperation Council, now with the Belt and Road Initiative. In some areas of technology — solar panels, electric cars — it may be in the lead. But it still has a long way to go to reach the level of the rich industrial societies.

The U.S. is concerned with Chinese growth, and is seeking (pretty openly) to impede it — not a very attractive policy stance.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that in the age of neoliberal globalization, national accounts are a less meaningful measure of economic power than in the past. Political economist Sean Starrs has done informative work on a different measure: proportion of world wealth held by domestically based multinational corporations. By that measure the U.S. is far in the lead internationally, owning a spectacular 50 percent of world wealth — more than the U.S. share of global GDP at the peak of its power in 1945 — and U.S. corporations are in the lead in just about every category.

China is sure to have a major role in world affairs. A sane policy would be accommodation and cooperation, which doesn’t seem out of the range of possibility.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Madoff Asks Trump to Commute His 150-Year Sentence
« Reply #13497 on: July 25, 2019, 06:19:14 AM »
Bernard L. Madoff, 81, pleaded guilty in 2009 to 11 counts of financial crimes after admitting to running a Ponzi scheme.

After Bernard L. Madoff admitted to masterminding the largest Ponzi scheme in history and bilking thousands of investors out of their cash, he was punished with a sentence that made it likely he would die in federal prison — 150 years.

Now, a decade into his time, at the age of 81, Mr. Madoff is seeking to have his sentence commuted by President Trump. He has filed a petition for clemency with the Justice Department, according to their website.

It was not clear when Mr. Madoff filed his petition, or what arguments he is making for the request. The Justice Department declined to comment. The department’s website said that information in its online clemency database was last updated on July 1, and that Mr. Madoff’s request, which was first reported by CNBC, was still pending on that date.

Petitions for clemency, which include pardons and sentence commutations, are sent to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department. The office reviews petitions and makes recommendations on their merits to the president, who has constitutional authority to grant pardons and make final decisions on cases.

As president, Mr. Trump has increasingly wielded pardons as a way to push back against a justice system he frequently has called unfair. He has granted clemency to several prominent public figures whose politics resonate with him, like Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff in Arizona, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former aide to Dick Cheney.

It was not clear whether Mr. Trump would consider Mr. Madoff’s application for clemency. The White House referred requests for comment to the Justice Department.

Years before he became president, Mr. Trump expressed contempt for Mr. Madoff in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 2009.

Mr. Trump told The Times that he had met the notorious financier several times, both at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private, members-only resort in Palm Beach, Fla., and at Mr. Trump’s nearby golf course.

At one point, Mr. Madoff, who once owned a waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, asked Mr. Trump to invest in his fund, Mr. Trump said.
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“I said jokingly, ‘No thanks, I can lose my own money,’” Mr. Trump said.

In 2008, in an interview with CNN, Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Madoff as a “sleazebag” and “a total crook.”

Mr. Madoff’s former lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, who represented Mr. Madoff during his criminal case, said that he had no information about the clemency request. He did not know if another attorney had assisted Mr. Madoff with his petition.

Mr. Madoff has been incarcerated at a federal prison in Butner, N.C., since July 2009, after he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering, perjury and theft. He received the maximum possible sentence.

He was accused of using his investment firm to steal billions from his clients, cheating many of them out of their life savings. Rather than investing their money, Mr. Madoff spent it on family and friends. He then took in money from additional investors to pay earlier ones and cover up his fraud.

In 2008, Mr. Madoff told his sons, both of whom have since died, that his investment advisory firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, had committed massive fraud. His family notified federal agents, who arrested him the next day.

Less than a year into his sentence, Mr. Madoff was moved to a low-security medical center at the prison complex, where he is currently located, according to online Bureau of Prisons records.

The Bureau of Prisons, cutting time off Mr. Madoff’s sentence for good behavior, gave him a projected release date of Nov. 14, 2139, when he would be 201 years old.

Mr. Madoff was not the only one seeking clemency related to the fraud scheme at his investment firm.

His former secretary, Annette Bongiorno, who was sentenced to six years in prison on fraud charges, also filed a petition for clemency, according to the Justice Department’s website.

Her lawyer, Roland G. Riopelle, said he did not have more information about Ms. Bongiorno’s petition, but he noted that Ms. Bongiorno, 70, was moved to home confinement by the Bureau of Prisons in April.

She had previously asked a federal judge last year to move her into home confinement as permitted by the First Step Act, a criminal justice bill signed into law by President Trump in December.

The law allows certain offenders over 60, who are not considered a threat to others, to be released into home confinement if they have completed two-thirds of their sentence.
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Most YouTube climate change videos 'oppose the consensus view'
« Reply #13498 on: July 25, 2019, 06:28:39 AM »
Scientist behind study urges platform to tweak algorithms to ‘prioritise factual information’

The majority of YouTube videos about the climate crisis oppose the scientific consensus and “hijack” technical terms to make them appear credible, a new study has found. Researchers have warned that users searching the video site to learn about climate science may be exposed to content that goes against mainstream scientific belief.

Dr Joachim Allgaier of RWTH Aachen University in Germany analysed 200 YouTube videos to see if they adhered to or challenged the scientific consensus. To do so, he chose 10 search terms:



    Climate change

    Climate engineering

    Climate hacking

    Climate manipulation

    Climate modification

    Climate science


    Global warming

The videos were then assessed to judge how closely they adhered to the scientific consensus, as represented by the findings of reports by UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 2013 onwards.

These concluded that humans have been the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s. However, Allgaier found that the message of 120 of the top 200 search results went against this view.

To avoid personalised results, Allgaier used the anonymisation tool Tor, which hides a computer’s IP address and means YouTube treats each search as coming from a different user.

The results for the search terms climate, climate change, climate science and global warming mostly reflected the scientific consensus view. Allgaier said this was because many contained excerpts from TV news programmes or documentaries.

The same could not be said for the results of searches related to chemtrails, climate engineering, climate hacking, climate manipulation, climate modification and geoengineering. Very few of these videos explained the scientific rationale behind their ideas, Allgaier said.

Most of these videos also supported the chemtrail conspiracy theory, which claims toxic substances are sprayed on to members of the public from the condensation trails from aircraft to modify the weather, control our brains, for biological or chemical warfare, or other sinister reasons.

Allgaier noted, however, that although chemtrails videos received a lot of views, it does not mean the people watching them believed what they were told.

He said it was important to examine the algorithms that decide which videos to show people, but did not suggest YouTube should remove climate denial material.

“Effectively, this would be censorship, and YouTube says they are against censorship,” Allgaier said. “Perhaps they could change their algorithms to prioritise factual information, especially for health and medicine.”

A YouTube spokesperson said: “YouTube is a platform for free speech where anyone can choose to post videos, as long as they follow our community guidelines.

“Over the last year we’ve worked to better surface credible news sources across our site for people searching for news-related topics, begun reducing recommendations of borderline content and videos that could misinform users in harmful ways, and introduced information panels to help give users more sources where they can fact-check information for themselves.”

Allgaier suggested more scientists should start taking YouTube seriously as a platform for sharing information. “YouTube has an enormous reach as an information channel, and some of the popular science YouTubers are doing an excellent job at communicating complex subjects and reaching new audiences,” he said.

“Scientists could form alliances with science communicators, politicians and those in popular culture in order to reach out to the widest possible audience. They should speak out publicly about their research and be transparent in order to keep established trustful relationships with citizens and society.”

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Communication.
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Gillibrand calls for $10T to combat climate change
« Reply #13499 on: July 25, 2019, 06:37:35 AM »

Gillibrand, like many other candidates, wants to neutralize nationwide carbon emissions by 2050.

en. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) outlined what her administration would do to fight climate change. Her proposal measures up with many 2020 rivals, though she differs in some key areas on how to address rising emissions.
What would the plan do?

Gillibrand, like many other candidates, wants to neutralize nationwide carbon emissions by 2050. She also set a nearer target to achieve net-zero electricity emissions within a decade. Her plan would tax and phase out fossil fuels while tightening regulations. Many of those efforts — like closing the so-called “Halliburton loophole,” which exempts fracking operations from drinking water standards — would require help from Congress. Gillibrand also wants to boost the green jobs sector with prevailing wages, union protection and training to transition fossil fuel-dependent workers into emerging clean technology fields.
How much would it cost?

$10 trillion
$10 trillion in public and private financing over a decade. At least $3 trillion of that sum would come from the federal government, raised through new taxes.
How would it work?

The plan relies on on several policy levers: government procurement, stronger regulations, pollution fees and research and development spending.

Gillibrand wants to impose a $52 per metric ton carbon tax, spending the $200 billion of annual revenues on renewable energy, and a separate fossil fuel “excise tax” to generate $100 billion per year for projects to adapt to climate change. Like other candidates, she’d also end tax incentives for fossil fuel companies.

Gillibrand would reduce the federal government’s carbon footprint through purchasing and infrastructure permit requirements. She also wants to fund a clean energy “space race” and spend $100 billion improving the electric grid in rural communities.

Matching other candidates, she would end new fossil fuel exploration on public lands. She also would phase out existing leases.
How does it differ from other candidates?

The carbon tax — many candidates have been silent on the issue. South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have backed a carbon tax, but others have been less explicit. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has called for a “legally enforceable standard” that would send a "price signal to the market." Ex-Vice President Joe Biden wants an “enforcement mechanism” to achieve emissions reductions.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for $2 trillion in public spending; Biden sees $1.7 trillion in federal spending driving $5 trillion in total investment; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for $3 trillion from the federal purse to get an additional $6 trillion in outside dollars; O’Rourke called for a $5 trillion combined private and public spending surge.
Who would oppose it?

The progressive wing of the party could be skeptical of a plan that relies on a carbon tax, especially given the perception of Gillibrand's cozy relationship with Wall Street. The leftward flank of the Democratic base has drifted from the market-oriented policy, deeming it too permissive of industry and likely not aggressive enough to quickly and sharply curb emissions.

Republicans would generally oppose any policy like Gillibrand's that combines carbon pricing with new environmental regulations and spending.

NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)