newspaper logo
Established 1973 — Last updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 9:55 AM
Aggregated news for a better world
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Clarity requires effort
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

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

Water-energy-food: can leaders at Davos solve this global conundrum? [easy! renewable energy doesn't use any water!!!]
Huge demands for water present complicated challenges, but leaders will not resolve these kinds of interconnected risks without a systems approach

Producing electricity from coal, gas and oil is a surprisingly thirsty business. The United States needs around 731,920 million litres a day (161,000m gallons) to produce and burn the nearly 900m tonnes of coal it uses each year to generate just a third of the nation’s electricity.

In India, plans to produce 500 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity by 2040, will require at least 58bn cubic metres per year (pdf). And in China, about 15% of national water withdrawals are used for coal mining, processing, ash control, and for cooling of its coal-fired power plants.

Where will all this water come from?

Global energy consumption is forecast to increase nearly 50% by 2040, driven mostly by emerging economies such as China and India. Energy strategies based on fossil fuels will require much more water to be allocated to new power plants. This additional water can come from only two sources: from those who are already using it or from the resource base, which is difficult when many river basins already face over-abstraction.

Dominic Waughray | The Guardian
Trump’s EPA nominee is more than just a climate change denier. Democrats must frame his appointment as a corporate-backed attack on science itself.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt may be a climate change denier, but that alone won’t derail his nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. So when confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial pick begin on January 18, you can expect to hear a lot about mercury. It’s part of a larger strategy by Senate Democrats to frame his nomination as the culmination of a cynical, years-long attack on science and reason whose purpose was to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry—and his own.

Opposing mercury pollution is a no-brainer. Its harms include serious damage to the nervous, pulmonary, digestive, and immune systems and developmental brain defects. In 2011, after years of study, the EPA limited how much mercury oil-fired and coal-fired power plants can emit. The agency’s Mercury and Toxic Air Standards (MATS) will save thousands of lives and prevent an estimated 11,000 premature births a year. Great, right? Not according to Pruitt, who joined more than 20 states in suing to block the rule—an appeal that was ultimately declined by the Supreme Court last summer, leaving the rule in place.

For Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the Democrats’ ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, mercury is a great example of why Pruitt should not head the EPA.

ABBY RABINOWITZ | The New Republic
The remaining climate change uncertainties point toward higher risks and greater urgency for action

While he accepted that human-caused global warming exists, Tillerson nevertheless proceeded to downplay its risks, saying:

The increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are having an effect, our ability to predict that effect is very limited.

Many climate scientists took issue with that statement, and for good reason. Climate models have been very accurate in their projections about many consequences of human carbon pollution. It’s true that there’s uncertainty in just how quickly some of those consequences will be triggered. The bad news is that recent studies have shown that many of those consequences are happening more quickly than climate scientists anticipated. Greater climate uncertainty translates into more urgency to tackle the problem, not less.

The Gulf Stream – which keeps the UK and surrounding area significantly warmer than it would otherwise be – is part of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Research has shown it could shut down as a result of global warming:

In 1997, the oceanographer Wallace Broecker, of Columbia University in New York, suggested that if the Gulf stream turned off, winter temperatures in the British Isles could fall by an average of 11°C - plunging Blackpool or Berwick to the same temperatures as Spitsbergen, inside the Arctic circle. Any dramatic drop in temperature could have devastating implications for agriculture - and for Europe’s ability to feed itself.
Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian

Senator Bernie Sanders didn’t parse words for his colleagues in the Senate who voted early Thursday morning to keep drug prices high.

Sen. Sanders (I-Vermont) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) were cosponsors of an amendment that would seek to lower prescription drug prices substantially by importing them from Canada, rather than continue paying exorbitant prices at home. The below chart, using 2013 data from the International Federation of Health Plans‘ comparative price report, shows that prices of commonly used prescription drugs are far cheaper in Canada than in the U.S.

The amendment narrowly failed a vote in the Senate, with 52 voting “nay” and 46 voting “yea,” while two others abstained. 13 Democrats voted with the Republican majority to block the amendment’s passage, though 12 Republican senators broke with their party’s leadership to support the amendment, including former Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sanders blasted the 13 Democrats — which included 2020 presidential hopeful Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) — as incapable of standing up to well-heeled industrial lobbyists.

“The Democratic Party has got to make it very clear that they are prepared to stand up to powerful special interests like the pharmaceutical industry and like Wall Street, and they’re not going to win elections and they’re not going to be doing the right thing for the American people unless they have the guts to do that,” Sen. Sanders said. “That 13 Democrats did not is disappointing. I absolutely hope that in the coming weeks and months you’re going to see many of them develop the courage to stand up to Pharma.”

Sen. Booker responded to a constituent’s tweet by claiming his “nay” vote was to protect American consumers from potentially harmful ingredients in the drugs, as the amendment didn’t include additional protections for the imported drugs.

Zach Cartwright | US Uncut

....Dow has done its best to quantify the benefits of its product, which, along with other pesticides, helps “U.S. farmers produce 144 billion pounds of additional food, feed and fiber and reap $22.9 billion in farm income increases,” according to chlorprifos.com. But the cost of continuing to use the toxin on our food can be measured, too. Every day chlorpyrifos is in use, more kids will be exposed — and more brains altered by the chemical. The oldest of the children in Rauh’s study are now 18. And, as they age, she is learning more about how their brains are different. She recently scanned the brains of 20 of the children in her study and found structural differences in those who were most highly exposed. These kids also tend to have tremors and Rauh is now exploring whether they’re more likely to develop Parkinson’s as they enter adulthood.

Several scientists have attempted to estimate the cost of the “silent pandemic of neurotoxicity” that’s resulted from this and other toxic exposures. The TENDR scientists noted that chemicals, including chlorpyrifos, have already contributed to an “alarming increase in learning and behavioral problems in children.” An estimated 10 percent of American children are now diagnosed with ADHD, and one in 68 American children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, amounting to a 17 percent increase over the last decade.

David Bellinger, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, sliced the burden another way, estimating that exposure to organophosphate pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, has collectively cost American children almost 17 million IQ points. In Europe, researchers have even tried to put a price tag on the neurodevelopmental problems caused by chlorpyrifos and other pesticides each year: 120 billion euros, or $126 billion.

While children in farming communities get the biggest doses of chlorpyrifos, people across the country are exposed to potentially dangerous amounts of the chemical through their food. Though it’s unclear exactly how much pesticide residue can alter brain development, all of the researchers I spoke with told me they advise pregnant women and young children to eat organic fruits and vegetables.

It’s not unlike the strategy of Zenaida Muñoz, who has cloistered herself in her two-bedroom house in Cutler, California, during her pregnancy. After reckoning with the shock that chlorpyrifos could be used even though it’s known to harm kids’ brains, Muñoz has done what she can to protect her growing family. They can’t afford to buy organic. So, she’s hoping her drawn curtains and closed doors will protect her — and waiting for the government to do something about the pesticide that is all around her.

Sharon Lerner | The Intercept
Patagonia, Black Diamond take on Utah officials over public land rights [if there is a way to screw the public, Republicans are working on it...]
The outdoor industry is leading the fight to protect America’s public lands from being developed for gas and oil

...Last week, Republicans in the House in Congress voted to eliminate a rule that requires the government to calculate the value of federal land, including the value created through recreation, before transferring or selling it to states or others. That change, if enacted, could remove a major barrier for speeding up land transfers.

Mary Catherine O'Connor | The Guardian
Greenpeace study estimates air pollution kills more than 1 million Indians each year and cuts country’s GDP by 3%

The report released this week also shows that levels of the most dangerous airborne pollutants grew by 13% in India between 2010 and 2015 but fell at least 15% over the same period in China, the US and Europe.

It adds to a growing body of research showing the problem of toxic air is not limited only to the Indian capital, Delhi, but afflicts almost all the country’s large cities, particularly in the north.

Michael Safi | The Guardian
With former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson poised to lead US foreign policy, activists like Peter Willcox, skipper of the Rainbow Warrior, are needed more than ever. But are they losing their nerve?

....As oil continues to be imported into Europe from the Arctic and Donald Trump’s presidency looks likely to intensify US exploitation of fossil fuel, Willcox believes Greenpeace faces its toughest battle yet. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, “our actions are getting harder because they don’t have the punch they once had,” he says. “In a world where you have 15-year-old girl suicide bombers, it’s pretty hard to compete.” Also, while he still has faith that Greenpeace’s actions “inspire” campaigners, he’s not sure Greenpeace itself has. “That’s something Greenpeace has maybe been forgetting for the past five years. When anybody does an action and returns to their desk, they have eight times more energy than they did the week before. That’s not to be trivialised. Doing silly actions may not be appreciated anymore, and the public may be getting tired of it, but I believe there’s a place for them.”

He doesn’t accept, yet, that Greenpeace has lost its radical edge: “Radical is being able to take stands that are difficult. Protesting whaling now – any hippie in the world can do that. Taking on the oil companies, that’s huge. It’s like that quote sometimes attributed to Gandhi: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ Now they [the oil companies] are fighting us. They are fighting us really hard, and it has been tough for us. The last five years have not been great at Greenpeace.”

But he admits he is worried that the charity is losing its nerve, citing “a bunch of difficult things” that have happened recently, including the charity having to apologise after activists accidentally damaged a Unesco World Heritage site in Peru. “We leave some footprints and we’re the biggest enemies of Peru?” he demands. “No, we’re not. We’re the enemies of the oil companies.” Was another of the “difficult things” Greenpeace’s financial challenges, the charity having to apologise, in 2014, when a staffer lost #3m on the foreign exchange market? “That was our mistake, which I’m told can’t happen again,” says Willcox. “There’s just a general climate of things getting harder because the fossil fuel industry can see the end in sight. Now they are angry, now we’re no longer a joke, and things are getting tougher.”

Willcox believes “there’ll be a place at Greenpeace for me as long as I want to keep going” – and he does. “I still wake up in the morning with an urge to burn the oil companies to the ground because that’s what they are doing to us.”

Patrick Barkham | The Guardian

Reference:
dryriver | SlashDot

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

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

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

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




Darryl Fears | The Washington Post
My black friends call it Murderland. My white friends call it Charm City, a town of trendy cafés. I just call it home

....Doing homework and adjusting to this new world helped me deal with my losses a little, but I still had sleepless nights where I sat in the park until the sun woke me, wondering why I was alive and my brother wasn’t, why couldn’t Nick study and be a student too, why was I losing so many friends, and why I never got a chance to tell these people what they meant to me.

D Watkins | aeon
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important ignored news and opinion.
The kindness of your donation would be appreciated
Subscribe for only $2.00/mo. Set low on purpose—we know we're not your main news source.

While President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration is facing opposition from Democrats, civil society, and entertainers as the president-elect deals with the disapproval of much of the country, corporate America is outpacing historical records with a flood of private money to fund the inaugural celebrations.

"This is very unfettered, brazen selling of access."
—Craig Holman, Public Citizen

Trump has raised over $100 million from private donors for his inauguration festivities, about twice the amount that President Barack Obama raised in 2008 and 2012, setting a record.

Donations include $500,000 from oil behemoth Chevron and $5 million from gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson.

"No matter which party controls the White House, corporations and wealthy individuals open their checkbooks every four years, and administrations reward their donors with private events and other incentives," writes the New York Times, which reported the record-setting amount on Sunday. "But ethics experts say Mr. Trump's donors are being given greater access and facing fewer limits on donations than those in other recent inaugurations, despite his vow to 'drain the swamp' of special interests in Washington."

Nika Knight, staff writer | Common Dreams
Over the past quarter century, the national Democratic Party merged with the Clinton pay-for-play money machine and lost touch with American populism. So, what must be done and what are the party’s prospects

You would think that learning from experience is a common thing to do. But, for the Democratic Party’s leadership, this seems not to be the case. After the landslide victory of Trump’s version of the Republican Party in the 2016 national election, it is fair to say that the Democratic Party is in big trouble.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders has observed, the party needs to reform. Among other things it needs to ensure that whoever is the head of the Democratic National Committee [DNC] is dedicated to growing the party in a pro-civil rights as well as populist way. The party also needs to break free of special-interest money and do away with biased “super delegates” that subvert the nominating process. Sanders suggests a reform commission to look into implementing the necessary changes.

There are millions of local Democratic voters who agree with Sanders. I am sure that their local party officials have heard from a lot from them. However, to date, none of this has transferred over to the party’s national scene. Indeed Democratic power brokers like Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House, who should be discredited in the eyes of everyone who identifies themselves with the Democratic Party, are still in place calling the shots.

And, it is almost certain that whoever becomes head of the DNC will be vetted by these obsolete leaders and will follow their lead. It is a formula for repeated political failure, but it has the sense of something inevitable nonetheless.

Lawrence Davidson | Consortiumnews
Contradicting the president-elect's claim, a new survey found that nearly half of his own supporters want him to release his financial documents

A new ABC News/Washington Post polling data released on Monday shows that 74 percent of all Americans, including 49 percent of his own supporters, say he should release his tax returns.

What's more, the number of people curious about Trump's finances has risen since he's been elected. "In May, 64 percent said he should release the returns, and in September, 63 percent said he was not justified in withholding them," ABC News reports.

Last week, the incoming president held a news conference during which he announced that he would not divest his holdings in his business empire and stood by his refusal to release his tax documents.

Lauren McCauley, staff writer | Common Dreams
And it could have disastrous consequences with Russia and China.

....Another possibility, especially on the international stage, is that mixed signals could stir confusion and even strife. Trump has taken a belligerent stance with China, calling on it to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program, saying that the longstanding One China policy is negotiable, threatening a trade war, and warning about its building islands on the South China Sea—all of which has caused Chinese state media to raise the specter of war. Tillerson has echoed some of Trump’s hawkishness on China, but in modulated ways, and on the issue of North Korea he takes a very different line: that the United States has to be “clear-eyed” in what can realistically be expected from the Chinese government. If relations between China and the U.S. deteriorate, as seems likely, there will be the added problem of who the Chinese government tries to engage with in their negotiations. Will they think the relatively conciliatory Tillerson is setting policy, in which case changing policy on North Korea can be regarded as secondary? Or will they believe Trump is driving policy, in which case they will go into negotiations with greater pessimism about finding common ground.

JEET HEER | The New Republic

John Lewis represents Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, one vote of four hundred and thirty-five. He is also the singular conscience of Capitol Hill. Lewis is a dismal institution’s griot, a historical actor and hero capable of telling the most complex and painful of American stories—the story of race. That is his job, his mission. With Dr. King and Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker long gone, Lewis remains nearly alone in his capacity to tell the story of that era as a direct witness and, because of all that he has seen and endured, to issue credible moral judgment.

Only a heedless few would reject that judgment out of hand, no matter how wounding. Who would think to call John Lewis “all talk, talk, talk—no action or results”? Who would have the impoverished language to dismiss the whole of John Lewis as “sad”? As it happens, the President-elect of the United States.

Donald Trump reveals his nature through the objects of his affection and the targets of his insults. He took his time before disavowing support from the likes of David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He has only praise for Vladimir Putin. He flatters Alex Jones, the leading crackpot conspiracy theorist of the airwaves, as a man of “amazing” reputation.

Trump chose to launch his political career as a bloviating booster of the racist conspiracy theory known as “birtherism,” declaring, in effect, that the Presidency of Barack Obama was illegitimate. But when Lewis went on “Meet the Press” this weekend and challenged the legitimacy of Trump’s election, citing charges of Russian involvement in the campaign, Trump immediately reached for his phone.

Trump’s inability to restrain himself is on daily display....

David Remnick | The New Yorker
Long after the presidential nomination was settled, the contentious 2016 primary fight continues to divide the party.

The Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders rift is bubbling up in gubernatorial primaries. It’s pulsing through the race for Democratic National Committee chairman, and shaping state party leadership contests from Hawaii to Maine.

Long after the Democratic presidential nomination was settled, the bruising 2016 primary fight continues to divide the party, hindering Democrats’ ability to unite and prompting national party leaders to tiptoe around the issue in the hopes of avoiding an outbreak of Sanders-Clinton proxy wars. The bitter defeat at the hands of Donald Trump has exacerbated the tensions, leading to the rise of “Bernie would have won” and “Bernie’s challenge helped sink Hillary” camps, even if the battles are rarely framed in such explicit terms. Now, with the chairmanship of the DNC and party nominations in multiple 2017 races at stake, some Democrats are desperately trying to strike a balance and remind rank-and-file activists of the real enemy.

....the divide isn’t simply a Democratic primary rehash. It’s also about ideology, as ascendant progressives aligned with Sanders look to place Clinton’s establishment-oriented liberalism in the rear-view mirror.

GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI | Politico
The president-elect has promised to upend, if not gut, the system he is about to take over.

....It’s not clear how many of Trump’s selections will be confirmed on his first day, but lawmakers are already quickly advancing retired Gen. James Mattis as Trump’s defense secretary, who requires a special congressional waiver, along with several others.

Trump has promised an intense and aggressive early agenda, including unwinding many of the executive actions the Obama administration used in the last six years as an end-run around a Republican-controlled Congress.

“We'll be doing some pretty good signings on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday,” Trump said in his only post-election news conference last Wednesday. “And then also the next week. And you're all invited.”

He has said he also wants to announce his Supreme Court choice in his second week, as well as to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law “probably the same day, could be the same hour.”

But Trump, who has operated as the mostly autonomous leader of his own multi-national empire for decades, will now confront the reality of an often-grinding Congress, where committee work, filibusters and demands for regular order can slow even the most ambitious of agendas to a crawl — even with total Republican control.

SHANE GOLDMACHER | Politico

ExxonMobil under its CEO Rex Tillerson frequently pressed the U.S. State Department for help in negotiating complex business deals and overcoming foreign opposition to its drilling projects, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept.

The requests for help — documented in diplomatic cables obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from DeSmogBlog as well as some previously released by Wikileaks — raise a whole new series of conflict-of-interest concerns about Tillerson, who retired as ExxonMobil CEO soon after being nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next secretary of state.

Consider: ExxonMobil sent State Department officials a request to help overcome local opposition to fracking in Germany; in Indonesia, the State Department acted as a advocate for ExxonMobil during contentious negotiations between the firm and the Indonesian government over a major gas field in the South China Sea; and in Russia, ExxonMobil asked the U.S. ambassador to press the Russians to approve a major drilling program, noting that a “warming of U.S.-Russian relations” overall would also help the company.

Under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, the State Department started its own in-house energy promotion department, the Bureau of Energy Resources. The team works on a variety of energy projects, but its most high-profile programs have been focused on spurring the worldwide spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology, with the hope that doing so would blunt the influence of certain foreign powers. The Bureau’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (formerly the Global Shale Gas Initiative) has in the past engaged with ExxonMobil for projects in Poland and eastern Europe.

“In theory,” said Stephen Kretzmann, the executive director of Oil Change International, “the U.S. State Department is supposed to promote American values and human rights around the world, but in practice that often comes into conflict with an agenda to ensure access for American firms to new markets and reserves.”

In reality, said Dan Beeton, international communications director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, ”generally, the U.S. promotes ‘stability’ abroad, rather than democracy or human rights — stability that benefits U.S. businesses.”

Lee Fang and Steve Horn | The Intercept
President-elect Trump is outlining a foreign policy that rejects the interventionist tenets of Washington’s neocon/liberal-hawk establishment and puts U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control at the top of his agenda
Gilbert Doctorow | Consortiumnews
Human rights group says Britain is leading ‘race to the bottom’ with measures that threaten rights and freedoms

The UK is leading a Europe-wide “race to the bottom” with Orwellian counter-terrorism measures that seriously threaten human rights, according to a comparative survey of security laws by Amnesty International.

A 70-page report, entitled Dangerously disproportionate: The ever-expanding national security state in Europe, alleges that Britain has introduced powers in the name of national security that are “among the most draconian in the EU”.

In more than half the areas of concern highlighted by the report, the UK is judged to be at one end of the spectrum in relation to regulations on “mass surveillance”, use of “diplomatic assurances” to deport people where there is a risk of torture, stripping people of their nationality, controlling their movement and detaining without charge or sufficient legal process.

Amnesty’s stark assessment is a response to widespread changes in counter-terror laws across Europe, enacted in the wake of numerous, Islamic State-inspired attacks. It follows the UK parliament’s vote for the Investigatory Powers Act, nicknamed the snooper’s charter.

Owen Bowcott | The Guardian
Governments across the continent are assuming sweeping powers over all their citizens in response to the threat of terrorism. This endangers our way of life

....Individual EU countries and regional bodies have responded to the attacks by proposing, adopting and implementing wave after wave of counter-terrorism measures that have eroded the rule of law, enhanced executive powers, peeled away judicial controls, restricted freedom of expression and exposed everyone to government surveillance. Brick by brick, the edifice of rights protection that was so carefully constructed after the second world war is being dismantled.

In a report published today, Amnesty International reveals how a deluge of new laws and amendments rushed through by individual EU states are corroding the rule of law and undermining fundamental freedoms. The recent wave of counter-terrorism measures has often proved to be discriminatory both on paper and in practice, and has had a disproportionate and profoundly negative impact, particularly on Muslims, foreign nationals or people perceived to be Muslim or foreign.

John Dalhuisen | The Guardian
Chancellor joined by French president in making curt comments about the US president-elect’s remarks about Germany, EU and Nato
Philip Oltermann | The Guardian
The super rich flooded into London after 2008. Illicit wealth has followed

....“Thirty years ago, your average private school was solidly middle class,” said Robert Barrington, executive director of the UK chapter of Transparency International, an anti-corruption organisation. “Now a high percentage, 50% or more, will be children from overseas, countries like China and Nigeria.”

A similar picture emerges a few miles south of the leafy streets of Hampstead and Highgate down in Harley Street. The waiting rooms of the UK’s leading fertility clinics, orthodontists and cosmetic enhancement consultancies play host to wealthy families from the Middle East and the former Soviet bloc. From private schools to private healthcare, from Mercedes dealerships to Michelin-starred restaurants, the capital has benefited from a massive influx of foreign money.

A Deutsche Bank analysis in 2015 of the UK’s balance of payments data suggested that since the mid-1970s much of this money has come from one country in particular. The bank’s report noted: “There is strong evidence that a good chunk of the UK’s £133bn of hidden capital inflows is related to Russia.”

It appears more than a coincidence that much of the money has washed up following a concerted effort aimed at enticing the super wealthy to live in the UK. Eight years ago, in return for investing £2m, foreign investors were offered a “golden visa” allowing them to live in the UK. After five years they qualified for permanent residency.

Analysis by Transparency International shows that, out of the 3,048 visas granted since the scheme began in 2008, 60% were awarded to Chinese and Russian nationals.

Amid widespread disquiet that the wealthy were being allowed to buy their way into the country, the programme was quietly scrapped. But the lucky millionaires and billionaires who bought their way into the UK remain, their wealth and web of influence growing.

Jamie Doward | The Guardian
Thousands are dying trying to reach Europe. World leaders meeting at Davos should adopt a strategy to stop this unnecessary loss of life

....Mass migration to Europe isn’t going to end – not for decades. Economists forecast that with Europe’s birth rate falling and its native-born population rapidly ageing, the continent’s available labour force is contracting. In fact, Europe faces a worker shortage measured in the millions until at least 2050.

And with Africa’s population expected to double during that same period (and African economies unlikely to create jobs fast enough to absorb the emerging talent), there is simply no way two opposites – ageing Europe and youthful Africa – won’t attract. Nonetheless, Europe’s citizens need to feel their borders are secure.

Right now, they don’t, so we must do better. We can start by abetting regular migration, which experience has shown has the direct impact of reducing irregular migration.

We can assist those fleeing conflict with temporary protective status that offers asylum-seekers safety, but not permanently. We can accept young workers with short-term employment visas, while at the same time offer higher-skilled migrants student visas, which pay long-term dividends to issuers both by filling current labour gaps while generating higher incomes for migrant families for years to come.

Opinion: William Lacy Swing | The Guardian

DAVOS – Governments around the world are facing a huge challenge. The number of international migrants has surged in recent years, reaching 244 million in 2015 – a 41% increase from 2000. With that total including 20 million refugees, preventing a humanitarian nightmare demands swift and responsible integration into host societies. The logistical challenge of doing so is placing mounting pressure on the countries facing the largest influxes.

Germany, which received about 1.1 million people in 2015, knows this pressure all too well. Yet Germany has not buckled. On the contrary, it has handled the pressure exceedingly well, proving that through sustained collaboration among governments, business, and civil society, countries can develop effective approaches to meeting the needs of refugees and the countries that receive them.

To succeed, each country must ensure that it has the capabilities, resources, and structures in place to manage refugees’ needs efficiently. Sound management and coordination among transit and destination countries can enable governments, businesses, NGOs, and aid agencies to address more effectively the challenges that will inevitably arise along the way. At the same time, to ensure that actors in transit and host countries actually provide what the refugees need, the challenges that arise must be viewed from the refugees’ perspective.

Fortunately, the needed cooperation and commitment seems to be emerging. From my own vantage point in Germany, I’ve seen growing numbers of businesses seize the opportunity to tackle logistical and humanitarian challenges, offering services that help refugees rebuild their lives, while sharing the costs of infrastructure, technology, health care, training, education, and more.

NORBERT WINKELJOHANN | Project Syndicate
The economics of corporate crime [white-collar crime must be more effectively regulated, prosecuted and fined to be deterrent]

Why do companies break the law? Poor morals on the part of their executives, perhaps. But another basic economic explanation is that companies are more likely to break the law if the upsides of doing so outweigh the risks. If either the odds of getting caught or the penalties for lawbreaking are too low, then companies will find it profitable to engage in illegal behavior.

And there's some evidence that this is the world we live in: The Economist's Free Exchange column looks at some recent economic research on 283 instances of antitrust behavior between 1990 and 2005. This included companies illegally colluding with each other to overcharge customers. The firms reaped about $300 billion, all told, by doing so. And the penalties levied on companies that got caught (which includes both government fines and private lawsuits) were far too low to offset those profits:

The first step is to measure the expected gain from crime which fines need to offset. In the study by Messrs Connor and Helmers, the median amount that cartel members overcharged was just over 20% of revenue in affected markets.

Next, you need an assumption about the chances of being found out: a detection rate of one cartel in three would mean trustbusters were doing well. In this example, that would mean a fine of 60% of revenue is needed to offset an expected benefit of 20% of revenue — far higher than the fines in the study, which were between 1.4% and 4.9%.

So, judging by recent cartel behavior, penalties for illegal behavior should be set at around 60 percent of a company's revenue. In theory, that would be enough to deter law-breaking. In reality, however, the fines were much, much smaller.

Brad Plumer | The Washington Post

CAMBRIDGE – It is a post-financial-crisis myth that austerity-minded conservative governments always favor fiscal prudence, while redistribution-oriented progressives view large deficits as the world’s biggest free lunch. This simplistic perspective, while perhaps containing a grain of truth, badly misses the true underlying political economy of deficits.

The fact is that whenever one party has firm control of government, it has a powerful incentive to borrow to finance its priorities, knowing that it won’t necessarily be the one to foot the bill. So expect US President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, conservative or not, to make aggressive use of budget deficits to fund its priorities for taxes and spending.

....If a Trump presidency does entail massive borrowing – along with faster growth and higher inflation – a sharp rise in global interest rates could easily follow, putting massive pressure on weak points around the world (for example, Italian public borrowing) and on corporate borrowing in emerging markets. Many countries will benefit from US growth (if Trump does not simultaneously erect trade barriers). But anyone counting on interest rates staying low because conservative governments are averse to deficits needs a history lesson.

KENNETH ROGOFF | Project Syndicate
A new report by Oxfam warns of the growing and dangerous concentration of wealth

The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population, according to a charity warning of an ever-increasing and dangerous concentration of wealth.

In a report published to coincide with the start of the week-long World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.

The development charity called for a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

Oxfam blamed rising inequality on aggressive wage restraint, tax dodging and the squeezing of producers by companies, adding that businesses were too focused on delivering ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives.

Larry Elliott | The Guardian
Trump holds first post-election presser, confirming plans to hand over control of corporate empire to sons

Any proposal that lets them keep their hands in the coffer, leaders of the watchdog group Public Citizen warned Wednesday, is an ethical failure.

"There is only one way to avoid the conflicts of interest that will engulf his presidency and America: He must sell the family business," Weissman said. "Unfortunately, President-elect Trump has today declined to take this simple step. The measures he plans to put in place will do nothing to solve the most serious conflict problems."

Trump "has failed his ethics test," Weissman said. "Now, America will suffer the consequences."

Nadia Prupis, staff writer | Common Dreams
Rising inequality, an unfair political system, and a government that spoke for the people while acting for the elites after the 2008 financial crisis created ideal conditions for a candidate like Donald Trump. American leaders who have mismanaged the process of globalization have only themselves to blame for the coming era.
JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ | Project Syndicate
Labour leader says cap on earnings is needed to address inequality and avoid UK becoming bargain basement economy

Jeremy Corbyn has called for a maximum wage for the highest earners, saying he fears Brexit will see the UK become a “grossly unequal, bargain basement economy”.

The Labour leader would not give specific figures, but said radical action was needed to address inequality. “I would like there to be some kind of high earnings cap, quite honestly,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.

When asked at what level the cap should be set, he replied: “I can’t put a figure on it and I don’t want to at the moment. The point I’m trying to make is that we have the worst levels of income disparity of most of the OECD countries.

“It is getting worse. And corporate taxation is a part of it. If we want to live in a more egalitarian society, and fund our public services, we cannot go on creating worse levels of inequality.”

Corbyn, who earns about £138,000 a year, later told Sky News he anticipated any maximum wage would be “somewhat higher than that”.

“I think the salaries paid to some footballers are simply ridiculous, some salaries to very high earning top executives are utterly ridiculous. Why would someone need to earn more than #50m a year?”

Jessica Elgot | The Guardian

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

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

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
Google
Web BaltimoreChronicle.com
We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.
Copyright © 2017 The Baltimore Chronicle and the SENTINEL. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.