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Airlines are under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions, and are highly vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations. These challenges have spurred strong interest in biomass-derived jet fuels. Bio-jet fuel can be produced from various plant materials, including oil crops, sugar crops, starchy plants and lignocellulosic biomass, through various chemical and biological routes. However, the technologies to convert oil to jet fuel are at a more advanced stage of development and yield higher energy efficiency than other sources.
We are engineering sugarcane, the most productive plant in the world, to produce oil that can be turned into bio-jet fuel. In a recent study, we found that use of this engineered sugarcane could yield more than 2,500 liters of bio-jet fuel per acre of land. In simple terms, this means that a Boeing 747 could fly for 10 hours on bio-jet fuel produced on just 54 acres of land. Compared to two competing plant sources, soybeans and jatropha, lipidcane would produce about 15 and 13 times as much jet fuel per unit of land, respectively.
....Lipidcane offers many advantages for farmers and the environment. We calculate that growing lipidcane containing 20 percent oil would be five times more profitable per acre than soybeans, the main feedstock currently used to make biodiesel in the United States, and twice as profitable per acre as corn.
A potential US bioenergy crop
Sugarcane thrives on marginal land that is not suited to many food crops. Currently it is grown mainly in Brazil, India and China. We are also engineering lipidcane to be more cold-tolerant so that it can be raised more widely, particularly in the southeastern United States on underutilized land.
If we devoted 23 million acres in the southeastern United States to lipidcane with 20 percent oil, we estimate that this crop could produce 65 percent of the U.S. jet fuel supply. Presently, in current dollars, that fuel would cost airlines US$5.31 per gallon, which is less than bio-jet fuel produced from algae or other oil crops such as soybeans, canola or palm oil.
Lipidcane could also be grown in Brazil and other tropical areas. As we recently reported in Nature Climate Change, significantly expanding sugarcane or lipidcane production in Brazil could reduce current global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 5.6 percent. This could be accomplished without impinging on areas that the Brazilian government has designated as environmentally sensitive, such as rainforest.
Forget rationing and waiting lists. Socialized medicine delivers comforts and convenience that Americans can only dream about.
The standard case for a single-payer health insurance system is pretty well known. Anyone can get care without courting financial ruin. Monumental personal decisions, like when to have a child or whether to leave or take a job, no longer hinge on the whims of an employer or the dysfunctions of the private insurance market. Surprise hospital bills, endless phone calls with insurance companies, juggling premiums, copays, and deductibles — all will be things of the past.
The case against single-payer often boils down to a single word: rationing. When critics peddle scare stories about Canadian or British “waiting lists,” they’re trying to conjure images of scarcity and austerity — the social-democratic equivalent of Soviet bread lines.
The truth, of course, is that you only have to look around to see that health care in America is already rationed. Try finding an in-demand specialist willing to take your “bronze-tier” insurance plan, or paying for high-priced specialty prescriptions out of pocket. Health care rationing is a fact of life in this country.
But there’s another important point to be made about single-payer and “rationing”: in many places around the world, national health insurance not only isn’t austere — it’s downright luxurious.
Americans, with our predatory health care system, can be easy to impress. The simple fact that the French can visit any health facility in the entire country, for example, seems astonishing. No provider is out of network, because there’s no such thing as a network. Instead, there’s a universal public insurance system that can’t turn applicants down, can’t terminate insurance, and almost never denies claims.
In France there’s no such thing as a deductible: insurance kicks in from the first euro billed. Since there’s no need to hire people to rifle through reams of paperwork and make judgment calls about denying claims and refusing coverage — and because the system has no stockholders to pay dividends to — the French insurance system spends next to nothing on paperwork.
Prices for treatments are fixed, and cost the patient next to nothing. For Americans accustomed to the need to change doctors every time they change plans, change plans every time they change jobs, and navigate things like claims denials, unpredictable charges, and endless paperwork, it seems extravagant.
But the conveniences don’t stop there. Since French providers aren’t carved up into networks, the government is able to issue what’s called a carte vitale, or “life card,” to all legal residents over the age of 15. With the patient’s permission, the card contains centralized information on the patient’s every medical visit, treatment, prescription, surgery and so on, going back to 1998. (Children’s records are stored on a parent’s card).
The physician inserts the carte vitale into a card-reader and the patient’s medical records pop up on a screen. Not only does it help doctors offer informed care, but it makes billing simple and eliminates much of the nightmare of transferring medical records. The physician logs the treatments, hits a button, and then waits roughly three days to be paid.
When doctors go on house calls, they take a portable card-reader with them. That’s right — in France they make house calls. Patients can request one anytime by calling a round-the-clock national hotline. The visit costs just thirty-one euros....
....the US, with the most capitalist, market-driven health care system of any developed nation, can’t boast of France’s postnatal vaginal rehabilitation therapy, Japan’s state-of-the-art elderly care robots, or Germany’s government-subsidized spa vacations for a ten euro copay. And with our raging opioid crisis, shocking infant and maternal mortality rates, and incidences of death from treatable illness, the private insurance-based system is already caught in a death spiral.
Luxury socialism isn’t just a meme — it’s a working theory that holds that social care, among other things, isn’t a zero-sum game. Marx and Engels saw that a society divided by class and driven by the profit imperative produces an abundance of resources alongside an abundance of unmet needs. Socialism, if it’s about anything, is about matching our resources to our needs, to improve our collective quality of life. Socialized health insurance — and the comforts it provides — would be a pretty good start.
After months of intense hurricanes, heat waves, and droughts, a survey finds a record number of Americans worried about climate change
Americans are connecting the dots to specific extreme weather events. About 54% said that climate change worsened the extreme heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes that pummeled the country in 2017.
They’re generally correct; in fact, a recent study by MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel found that global warming made the extreme precipitation associated with Hurricane Harvey (the largest rainfall of any US hurricane on record) more likely. Previously a 1-in-100 year event for Texas and 1-in-2000 year event for Houston, Harvey’s extreme precipitation has already become a 1-in-16 year event for Texas and a 1-in-325 year event for Houston – six times more likely due to human-caused global warming.
Overall, 42% of those surveyed believe that Americans are being harmed by global warming right now – an increase of 10% from the response in March 2015, and a record high in the survey that began in 2008. That increase is likely due to the beating America took from extreme heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods in 2017. It’s difficult to deny global warming when its effects are punching us in the face.
At the same time, only 15% of Americans realize that the expert consensus on human-caused global warming is over 90%. That’s an important result because the expert consensus is a ‘gateway belief.’ Research has shown that support for climate policy is linked to perceptions about scientific agreement on climate change.
There is a growing urgency around the struggle for environmental justice as the Trump administration peels away rules designed to protect clean air and water, say political leaders, academics and activists
Activists and some in Congress now view the blight of pollution as a vast, largely overlooked civil rights issue that places an unbearable burden on people of color and low-income communities.
Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, recently said: “Civil rights have to include, fundamentally, the right to safely breathe your air, plant tomatoes in your soil. Civil rights is the right to safely drink your water.
“If your children don’t have access to clean air and water, all the ideals we preach in this country are a lie. Environmental justice must be at the center of our activism in our fight to make real the promise of America.”
A clean energy package will have a zero pollution outcome compared with 40m tonnes under Coalition’s plan to extend the NSW plant, UTS modelling reveals
Replacing the Liddell coal power station with clean energy technologies would slash pollution and be at least $1.3bn cheaper than the Turnbull government’s plan to extend the life of the New South Wales plant by five years, a new analysis has found.
A second report released on Monday also found Australia has the potential to lead the world in developing large and home-scale energy storage systems if public uncertainty can be overcome.
Both reports will give the Coag energy council food for thought when it meets in Hobart on Friday to discuss the federal government’s national energy guarantee.
Modelling by the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, commissioned for the Australian Conservation Foundation, found a clean energy package including battery storage, solar thermal and bioenergy, would have a zero pollution outcome compared with 40m tonnes of pollution by extending Liddell.
Nebraska regulators will decide Monday on the last major regulatory hurdle facing the project. Here’s what you need to know
....The Nebraska public service commission’s ruling is on the Nebraska route TransCanada has proposed to complete the $8bn,179-mile pipeline to deliver oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The proposed Keystone XL route would cross parts of Montana, South Dakota and most of Nebraska to Steele City, Nebraska...
What options does the commission have?
The five-member Nebraska public service commission is forbidden by law from factoring pipeline safety or the risk of spills into its decision, because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility. So, it will not take into account a spill of 210,000 gallons of oil on the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota announced on Thursday.
The simplest choice is a yes-or-no vote on TransCanada’s “preferred route” through a dozen Nebraska counties. But the commission could include major caveats that would add years to the project’s timetable.
Commissioners could tweak TransCanada’s proposed route, or pick one of the company’s “alternative” routes. Company officials have said their preferred route causes the least amount of disruption.
If the commission denies the request outright, state law gives TransCanada a 60-day window to revise and resubmit its proposal for another review.
“It’s not as simple as a ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ verdict,” said Brian Jorde, an attorney for Nebraska landowners who are fighting the project. No matter what the commission decides, any group that presented arguments at an August hearing could appeal the decision to a state district court. The case would likely end up before the Nebraska supreme court.
Around 35,000 brave [stupid] runners registered for the race after more than a week of hazardous pollution levels
This will cause problems in pollination and food supplies for animals.
Officials do not believe the leak in TransCanada Corp’s pipeline, which carries oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, affected drinking water
Veteran climate scientist says litigation campaign against government and fossil fuels companies is essential alongside political mobilisation in fighting ‘growing, mortal threat’ of global warming
"A climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry is one way to reverse the injustice of climate change, and ensure the fossil fuel industry pays for its damage—not poor people."
A little too easy...
The revelations in the Paradise Papers followed quickly on the release of the Panama Papers (English majors please note the allusion to the Pentagon Papers).
Both of these Papers were revealed by an organization with the cumbersome name of The International Consortium of Independent Journals (ICIJ)—a group in need of a new name and a publicity agent. That name gives the impression of some mining cartel intent on keeping up the price of gold and diamonds.
To the contrary, it is a group of dedicated journalists who recognized that they could not honestly report on tax evasion when they were working for mainstream media. The media barons and major advertisers are prime users of the tax evasion system. So these journalists gave up successful and lucrative careers to dedicate themselves to exposing offshore tax fraud. The Panama and Paradise Papers are a tribute to their courage, sacrifice, and dedication.
However, the mainstream media uses the press tactic of ‘burying the lede’ by focusing on political leaders or corporate use of loopholes to the exclusion of a more serious underlying problem: the billions of dollars that the 1% do not pay in taxes so that we bear the burden of maintaining the upkeep of the country and its growing debt. Of course, everybody hates paying taxes. The super wealthy are no different in attitude, only in means. They can afford the ways to avoid paying taxes. In 2012, the Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 trillion and $32 trillion—the size of the U.S. and Japanese economies combined—was hidden in secrecy jurisdictions. If the tax evaded by wealthy individuals was collected, it would likely cover most of the annual deficit in each of the G7 countries.
However, most reporting has obscured the tax fraud aspect, the most outrageous aspect of the disclosure. There are two types of these schemes: one is evasion, i.e. tax fraud, by which individuals do not pay taxes. At least 31,000 of the individual and corporate clients included in the Paradise Paper records are U.S. citizens or have U.S. addresses, more than from any other country.
The other scheme is tax avoidance, by which large corporations use government-provided loopholes and willful blindness to reduce their taxes paid by pretending to have made sales or expenses in low tax jurisdictions and reduce tax liability in the US. Apple and Amazon are examples that have been in the news for the avoidance type.
In this article, I’m going to focus just on how wealthy individuals elude the tax man, how easy it is to do, and how easy it would be to stop it if the politicians of either party had the will to do it. That would mean, of course going against the wishes of their wealthy campaign donors. The corporate avoidance schemes will come in a later article.
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
In Alabama, Evangelicals Once Again Choose Ideology Over Basic Human Decency
Roy Moore with a monument of the Ten Commandments (photo: Christian Militant), along with photos of his accusers
Most insidiously, you are groomed to accept damaging messages that affect your own self-worth in grim ways.
....When you are brought up in communities that adhere to biblical code, you are conditioned to block out anything that might interfere with your faith. You are conditioned to expect and participate in culture wars that only exist because evangelicals cannot abide letting everyone in this great country enjoy equal rights. You are conditioned to believe you are persecuted, daily and often, for your faith.
The Evangelical-Authoritarian Hierarchy
Evangelical fundamentalist leaders have mastered the art of perpetuating white male power over women and people of color. Worse, this system is rigged for them to stay in their appropriated seats of power. Here’s the hierarchy of who matters in Evangelical America, neatly articulated by George Lakoff:
This construct will always place a man’s word above a woman’s—especially a girl’s—and if this man cries persecution of the Christian faith as Moore has countless times throughout his career, his victory is sewed up tight.
- God above Man
- Man above Nature
- The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak)
- The Rich above the Poor
- Employers above Employees
- Adults above Children
- Western culture above other cultures
- America above other countries
- Men above Women
- Whites above Nonwhites
- Christians above non-Christians
- Straights above Gays
Where evangelicals are concerned, authoritarianism starts and ends in the home—with a male father at the helm, firmly in charge. This heartless hierarchy demands self-reliance—and a ridiculous amount of “luck” as to how one enters the world.
This moral hierarchy makes it easy to see how evangelicals were able to justify slavery at one time and how easy it is for them to justify their discrimination towards the LGBTQIA+ communities. It also spells out the plain truth of how Alabama evangelicals could possibly support Roy Moore at all costs. This is how they can justify sending a known sexual aggressor—a pedophile—to the U.S. Senate over Doug Jones, who successfully prosecuted two of the Klansmen who assisted in the bombing of a church in 1963 that killed four young girls. They will choose the man who will fight for their God-blessed right to outlaw abortion, rather than check the box for the man who actually sent people to prison for killing humans already born.
After laboring for years to close the gender gap, GOP strategists are finding Trump’s party a hard sell.
Women wearing pink pussy protest hats look over the Women's March on Washington, following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017. Brian Snyder / Reuters
It turns out those pink kitty-cat hats weren’t just for show after all.
Among its many electrifying aspects, the early Trump era has had a politically galvanizing effect on women. They are organizing in the streets and on social media, running for office in record numbers, training to enter future races, and volunteering on campaigns. And on November 7, they flocked to the polls to officially have their voices heard.
What they had to say more or less boiled down to: Things around here have got to change. Now. Which has many folks in the Republican Party reaching for the Xanax.
By now, you’ve likely heard some of the Election Day stats and stories. In Virginia, women went from holding 17 seats in the House of Delegates to holding 27. Winners include Danica Roem, who became the state’s first transgender delegate-elect by beating an incumbent who bragged of being the state’s “chief homophobe.” In the gubernatorial contest, women favored Democrat Ralph Northram by 22 points—5 points more than Hillary Clinton’s margin among them last fall. Particularly concerning for Republicans: Fifty-eight percent of white college-educated women went for Northram vs. only 50 percent for Hillary.
Among other spotlighted wins, Seattle chose its first woman mayor since 1926. Manchester, New Hampshire, and Provo, Utah, elected their first female mayors ever, as did tiny Milledgeville, Georgia. In New Jersey, Ashley Bennett, a first-time candidate, won a spot on the Atlantic County legislative board by unseating a guy who had irked her with his sexist Facebook posting about the January Women’s March. (Mock the pink hats at your peril, gentlemen.) The hot storyline out of this first election of the Trump administration: “Revenge of the Fired-Up Woman.”
Trump’s supporters backed a time-honored American political tradition, disavowing racism while promising to enact a broad agenda of discrimination.
Chris Kindred / The Atlantic
....During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.
It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who, as had been the case with those who had backed Duke, searched desperately for any alternative explanation—outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety—to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.
Vote to eliminate Title II net neutrality rules scheduled for December 14.
The Federal Communications Commission today announced its plan to deregulate the broadband industry and eliminate net neutrality rules, setting up a December 14 vote to finalize the repeal.
As expected, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to reverse the commission's classification of home and mobile ISPs as common carriers, eliminating the legal justification for the net neutrality rules and numerous other consumer protections. The Republican-controlled FCC is likely to vote 3-2 along party lines in favor of Pai's plan at its regular monthly meeting in December, ignoring Internet users who voiced widespread support for net neutrality rules.
Pai's decision is a big win for cable companies, telcos, and mobile carriers that will no longer face regulation of their broadband businesses under Title II of the Communications Act. Pai ignored numerous calls from consumer advocates, website operators, and Internet users who urged the FCC to preserve the rules that force Internet providers to treat all Web content fairly.
Study finds ‘strong association’ between high levels of fine particulate matter and abnormal sperm shape - but impact on wider fertility remains unclear
The study assessed sperm quality and measured the level of fine particulate pollution among 15 to 49-year-old men in Taiwan. Photograph: doc-stock / Alamy/Alamy
A team of scientists, led by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studied the sperm of nearly 6,500 men and found a “strong association” between high levels of fine particulate air pollution and “abnormal sperm shape.”
The report, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, said that although the effect is “relatively small in clinical terms” it might still lead to infertility for a “significant number of couples” given the extent of air pollution in cities around the world.
....The study looked at 15 to 49-year-old men in Taiwan between 2001 and 2014. It assessed sperm quality and measured the level of fine particulate pollution, which is caused by cars, dust from construction and wood burning, around participants’ homes.
The scientists found a strong association between PM2.5 exposure and abnormal sperm shape. It was associated with a heightened risk of being in the bottom 10% of normal sperm size and shape, after taking account of potential factors, such as smoking and drinking, age and weight.
The study acknowledged that it was unclear how air pollution, which is known to contribute to millions of deaths around the world each year, could impair sperm development. But researchers said many of the components of fine particulate matter, such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, have been linked to sperm damage in previous experimental studies.
After meeting with Bashar al-Assad, Russian president plans summit with leaders of Turkey and Iran, bypassing UN
President Vladimir Putin spoke to his US counterpart, Donald Trump, for more than an hour. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/Tass
Putin briefed his American counterpart on the phone for more than an hour, as the Russian president prepared to host a summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi with the leaders of Turkey and Iran – two other powers heavily involved in the conflict in Syria.
The summit, a display of Russia’s restored influence in the Middle East, is expected to discuss Putin’s plans for fresh deconfliction zones and a Syrian national dialogue to draw up a new Syrian constitution that would leave President Bashar al-Assad entrenched and entitled to stand for election again.
Moscow said Putin, in his talks with Trump, conveyed “the message of the necessity to keep the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, and to reach a political settlement based on principals to be worked out in a full-scale negotiation process in Syria”.
Increasingly confident that he has marginalised both pluralist and Islamist groups still holding out against Assad, Putin plans to hold a Syrian national dialogue in early December to which he will invite hundreds of Syrian groups that have reached reconciliation agreements with Assad.
Western diplomats fear Putin has decided in effect to bypass the deadlocked UN Syrian peace process in Geneva, which is due to restart on 28 November, and will instead oversee a parallel peace track.
....Western diplomats are urging Putin to recognise that an imposed settlement that leaves dissidents excluded will only lead to further bloodshed, and a European refusal to provide reconstruction funds.
....But Putin is facing problems persuading Turkey, long-term backers of the Syrian opposition, that any settlement will not strengthen Kurdish independence forces in Northern Syria. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, regards the Syrian Kurds, the key military force in pushing back against Isis in Raqqa, as inextricably linked with Kurdish PKK forces, which Turkey says is operating as a terrorist group inside its borders.
In the dying days of the battle of Mosul, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
followed Iraqi soldiers during the last push against Isis. But following their victory, a new wave of savagery was unleashed
Iraqi soldiers and federal police resting and washing in the Old City of Mosul few days after the end of the fighting. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad for the Guardian
Growth must go on – it’s the political imperative everywhere, and it’s destroying the Earth. But there’s no way of greening it, so we need a new system
Everyone wants everything – how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.
But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly. In the name of autonomy and choice, marketing uses the latest findings in neuroscience to break down our defences. Those who seek to resist must, like the Simple Lifers in Brave New World, be silenced – in this case by the media.
With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.
Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction. Among the snow saunas, portable watermelon coolers and smartphones for dogs with which we are urged to fill our lives, my #extremecivilisation prize now goes to the PancakeBot: a 3D batter printer that allows you to eat the Mona Lisa, the Taj Mahal, or your dog’s bottom every morning. In practice, it will clog up your kitchen for a week until you decide you don’t have room for it. For junk like this, we’re trashing the living planet, and our own prospects of survival.
....Research by Oxfam suggests that the world’s richest 1% (if your household has an income of £70,000 or more, this means you) produce about 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. How, in a world in which everyone is supposed to aspire to high incomes, can we avoid turning the Earth, on which all prosperity depends, into a dust ball?
....A global growth rate of 3% means that the size of the world economy doubles every 24 years. This is why environmental crises are accelerating at such a rate. Yet the plan is to ensure that it doubles and doubles again, and keeps doubling in perpetuity. In seeking to defend the living world from the maelstrom of destruction, we might believe we are fighting corporations and governments and the general foolishness of humankind. But they are all proxies for the real issue: perpetual growth on a planet that is not growing.
Those who justify this system insist that economic growth is essential for the relief of poverty. But a paper in the World Economic Review finds that the poorest 60% of the world’s people receive only 5% of the additional income generated by rising GDP. As a result, $111 (£84) of growth is required for every $1 reduction in poverty. This is why, on current trends, it would take 200 years to ensure that everyone receives $5 a day. By this point, average per capita income will have reached $1m a year, and the economy will be 175 times bigger than it is today. This is not a formula for poverty relief. It is a formula for the destruction of everything and everyone.
....We need a different system, rooted not in economic abstractions but in physical realities, that establish the parameters by which we judge its health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, a world of private sufficiency and public luxury. And we must do it before catastrophe forces our hand.
Exclusive: Frontier Economics’ modelling commissioned by government says 6,000MW of renewable capacity entering market will reduce prices in 2018-20
Government accused of failing billpayers by agreeing to fixed price for 35-year contract that will cost £30bn
MPs have accused the government of failing to protect consumers over the price it has promised to pay for power from the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.
The Commons public accounts committee said the subsidy contract for Hinkley Point C, agreed in 2016 after years of delays, would hit poorest households hardest.
The power station is expected to cost billpayers £30bn over the lengthy of the 35-year contract, adding £10-£15 to the average household energy bill.
China has huge investments in Zimbabwe – including tobacco, diamonds, and power generation – and is by far the country’s largest benefactor.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) and his wife Peng Liyuan (4th L) greet dignitaries as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (L) looks on in Harare, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
....Zimbabwe typifies China’s approach to Africa. The sheer scale and scope of Chinese investment and aid – both government and private – is rightly astonishing. And Chinese will go places nobody else will. But it all might lack staying power.
That’s because it’s largely based on throwing money around – and a lot of it.
The modus operandi is to buy off (literally) parts of the local ruling class while building stadiums, government buildings and the like – in exchange for insinuating Chinese companies into a country’s natural resources, land, infrastructure, and local industry and business.
Not surprisingly, dictators (even if called ‘president’) and corruptible officials and businesspeople are preferred partners. Besides the Mugabe’s, the Dos Santos family that runs Angola, and President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta’s in South Africa, and others have done well with the Chinese, and vice versa.
A decade ago, one East African president reportedly sent a bag-man to Europe every month to deposit the Chinese loot
And Chinese infrastructure projects often use imported Chinese labor rather than employing many locals. Not exactly how one makes friends.
....Although Beijing is on a roll of sorts, its ‘Africa play’ is going to be hard to pull off over the long run. Cash only buys friendship for so long. And relatively few locals benefit, leading to popular resentment.
Before too long, expect to see the People’s Liberation Army showing up to protect Chinese investments – especially natural resource extraction projects – in Africa.
And Chinese expeditionary forces based in Djibouti (for now) will likely intervene to protect local Chinese communities when local resentment at corruption and Beijing’s economic rapaciousness boils over.
G.O.P. lies about taxes generally involve two issues: who is hurt or helped by tax changes, and what these changes will do to the budget.
Thus, when George W. Bush cut taxes in 2001 and 2003, he and his party repeatedly insisted that the tax cuts were primarily for the middle class. In fact, while there were some middle-class tax breaks in the package, such as an increase in the child tax credit, these were dwarfed by cuts in tax rates on high incomes, reduced taxes on dividends and repeal of the estate tax. Over all, the richest 1 percent saw a much larger increase in after-tax income than middle-class families did.
At the same time, the Bush administration used a series of gimmicks to hide the true fiscal cost of the plan, such as delaying the implementation of some tax cuts while pretending that others would expire when the actual intention was to make them permanent.
When Obama took office, these tricks were simply flipped on their head. Republicans insisted, falsely, that Obama had imposed a “massive tax increase” on the middle class; in fact, for the most part he actually cut middle-class taxes. Meanwhile, they insisted that the surge in the budget deficit caused by the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis was permanent, and ridiculed the Obama administration’s claims that deficits would fall sharply once crisis spending ended and tax receipts recovered; in fact, that’s exactly what happened.
So what’s different this time? As in the Bush years, Republicans are claiming to be offering a middle-class tax cut. But where Bush truly was cutting taxes on the middle class, just much less than he was on the wealthy, current Republican plans would raise those taxes on many lower- and middle-income families, even as they go down for the wealthy. (Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, claims that only “million-dollar earners” would see tax increases. This is the opposite of the truth.)
....So we’re really looking at an unprecedented level of dishonesty here. But what happens when you try to explain what’s going on? When Senator Sherrod Brown tried to point out, correctly, that the Senate G.O.P.’s tax bill heavily favors the rich, Senator Orrin Hatch exploded, calling it “bull crap” and asserting that he grew up poor (which is relevant why, exactly?).
Sorry, but this isn’t the righteous anger of a man falsely accused of wrongdoing. It’s the rage con men always exhibit when caught out in their con.
But what’s the con about? The very incoherence of the arguments Republicans are making for their plans shows that it’s not about helping the economy, let alone ordinary families. It really is about making the rich richer, at everyone else’s expense. If this be bull crap, make the most of it.
Things are going to get even harder for families suffering the most from inequality.
Inequality, like a malignant tumor, is growing out of control, and the only response from Congress is to make it even worse. Those at the richest end of the nation seem to have lost all capacity for understanding the meaning and values of an interdependent society. They've convinced themselves that they deserve their passively accumulated windfalls, and that poorer people have only themselves to blame for their own misfortunes.
It's Getting Uglier Every Year
The average 1% household made nearly $2.6 million in the 12 months to mid-2017, mostly from the stock market. Here's how:
- The U.S. increased its wealth by over $8.5 trillion (see Table 2-4, mid-2016 to mid-2017).
- The 1% took $3.27 trillion of that (38.3 percent: see Table 6-5).
- Each of 1.26 million households, on average, took nearly $2.6 million. In greater detail, the poor segment of the 1% averaged about $1.44 million for the year, the .1% averaged about $7.2 million, and the .01% (12,600 households) averaged nearly $65 million in just the past year.
The administration’s tax proposals are a blunt attack on civil society that will ultimately damage American life
Not so long ago, conservative thinkers and Republican leaders were strong champions of private charity. George HW Bush talked about a “thousand points of light”, while his son created a new White House office to engage nonprofits.
But lately the right’s love affair with philanthropy and civil society has fizzled. Donald Trump – whose claims of generous giving were debunked during the campaign – has shown no interest in forging partnerships between government and philanthropy since taking office. He has wooed a parade of business executives and minor celebrities while largely ignoring leaders from the nonprofit world – save for allies on the religious right such as Jerry Falwell Jr.
The administration’s proposed cuts to agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Arts would choke off billions of dollars in grants that flow to universities, hospitals, museums and community development groups.
A Trump-dominated Republican party seems to have no such social conscience [a.k.a. sociopaths]. And, increasingly, the populist right views the nonprofit world with hostility.
Now, Republicans in Congress are advancing tax proposals that would lower charitable giving by billions of dollars and deal a major blow to the nonprofit sector.
The Republican’s new cold shoulder toward nonprofits – which employ 10% of the labor force and enrich every corner of American life – isn’t so surprising. It reflects the rising grip of libertarianism within the party, as well as a tribal fixation with cultural enemies.
These trends have marginalized conservatives who actually care about the poor and see local nonprofit organizations and faith-based social service groups as key players in the fight against poverty. While such thinkers have sometimes peddled the fantasy that charity could replace the government safety net, they’ve channeled a genuine belief – one long shared across party lines – in the power of civil society to lift up the downtrodden and improve American life in myriad other ways.
A Trump-dominated Republican party seems to have no such social conscience. And, increasingly, the populist right views the nonprofit world with hostility.
In other countries that have veered into authoritarianism, like Russia, civil society groups have faced outright suppression. Nothing like that is happening in the US yet, but Trumpist culture warriors have cast nonprofits and philanthropists as key villains in a narrative that pits coastal elites against the common (white) man.
China will have installed 54 gigawatts of new solar energy by the end of 2017, instead of the 15 gigawatts forecast last January or the 30 gigawatts forecast as late as last June.
As of last June, the US installed solar capacity was only 47 gigawatts, accounting for less than 2% of American electricity generation. That is, China is putting in more solar energy in 2017 than has ever been installed in the whole history of the United States. The US was installing an anemic 2.5 gigawatts a quarter this year, way down from the 20 gigs of new solar it did in 2016. Republican, dirty-oil politicians in many states have adopted punitive policies intended to hurt solar and help fossil fuels, at the sow-like teats of which their political campaigns suck.
Not only is the sheer amount of solar power generation increasing at blinding speed but the cost is plummeting in unrigged markets, as well. Mexico just accepted bids of 1.77 cents per kilowatt hour. That is, if you had 10 light bulbs with a brightness of 100 watts each, and you burned them for one hour using electricity generated by the solar farm to be built in Mexico by 2020, that would cost you 1.7 cents. In most states in the US it would now cost you 8 cents to 22 cents, if the electricity were generated by coal and natural gas.
Mexico has pledged to get 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2025, but unless they up their game, this goal seems unrealistic. Still, at these prices, it costs them a lot of money *not* to go 100% solar by 2025.
- Wealthy families are looking at new corporate structures
- Crackdown already targeted officials, princes and businessmen
Wealthy Saudis are seeking to restructure their businesses to ring fence assets in case authorities widen their declared crackdown on corruption, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
Several family groups and businessmen who aren’t implicated in the purge are talking to local banks and international law firms about how to structure their companies to make it harder for the kingdom to confiscate or seize assets, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.
One option could be to split assets between more than one holding company, one of the people said, though it’s not clear how successful these plans could be because the government is closely scrutinizing business activity in the kingdom as part of the crackdown, he said. Talks are also tackling ways to protect overseas assets by moving them to offshore centers such as the Cayman Islands, he said.
The discussions reflect the fear among many wealthy Saudis that the unprecedented purge, seen by many as an attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to tighten his grip on power, is set to widen. Dozens of officials, princes and billionaires, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the global investor whose Kingdom Holding Co. owns stakes in companies such as Citigroup Inc., have already been targeted.
The purge has prompted some Saudi billionaires and millionaires to sell investments in neighboring Gulf countries and turning them into cash or liquid holdings overseas to avoid the risk of getting caught up in the sweep, people familiar with the matter said this month. Few, however, are trying to shift money out of Saudi Arabia amid fears of attracting unwanted attention from authorities, they said.
Glen Carey , Archana Narayanan , and Alaa Shahine | Bloomberg
....Mohammad Bin Salman (MbS) is purging the religious establishment, the military, the competing members of the families, the business people and the bureaucracy. He wants to run the state on his own. He demands the right to review any decision in the legal, business and foreign policy realm. He has authority to punish people responsible for decisions he dislikes. Under his system any personal initiatives will become extinct.
The country is too big for one person to control. MbS can not take all decisions by himself. No large system can work like that. The people will soon become unhappy with his centralized and unresponsive control.
That centralization does not work well is already visible in his failing foreign policy. MbS wants to be seen as the indisputable "leader of the Islamic world". His hate for everything Iran originates there. The Iranian system of a participatory and democratic Islamic state is a living alternative to the autocratic model he wants to implement in Saudi Arabia. The western model of a "liberal democracy" does not adapt well to the historic social models that are prevalent in the Middle East. But the Iranian system is genuine and fits the local culture. It is the sole competition he fears. It must be destroyed by any means.
But all his attempts to counter Iran (even where it was not involved) have been unsuccessful. Saudi interventions in Yemen, Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have been disastrous. Over the weekend the Arab League delivered the usual criticism of Iran but decided on nothing else. Half of the Arab League states, including the powerful Egypt, are not willing to follow the aggressive Saudi course. Mohammed bin Salman's grand scheme of using Israel and the U.S. to fight Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iran itself is unraveling.
The Saudi response to the competition of the Iranian system is a move towards more authoritarian rule. This is hoped to allow for more agile policies and responses. But the move breaks the traditional ruling system. It removes the sensible impediments to impulsive foreign policies. It creates the conditions for its very failure.
Most of us have known no other leader, and now hope that this young nation can realise its potential
....Zimbabwe is often portrayed as the standard African banana republic. We face-palm when we read distorted western portrayals of the country we live in; we side-eye the talking heads on CNN as they call us a failed state. Zimbabwe has suffered greatly, but we remain a young nation still bursting with unrealised potential. We are relieved, but cautious. The changes are a chance to start over, even though we are not quite sure what change exactly this is. Despite all the years of decline, Zimbabwe’s infrastructure – from roads to communications – is largely intact. Banks are without cash, but the financial sector is modern.
The population is young, well educated and desperate to use its idle skills. From the rolling hills in the east to the game parks in the west, Zimbabwe has some of the best tourist attractions in Africa. The country is rich with minerals, from gold to lithium, with demand for latter growing as it is used in rechargeable devices.
Proposals from European commission would compel businesses to positively discriminate when hiring new executives until quota is reached
Under the proposals, companies whose non-executive directors are more than 60% male would be required to prioritise women when candidates of equal merit were being considered for a post.
Previous attempts by the EU’s executive to set a 40% goal for women in the top ranks of listed companies have been blocked by Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden overs fears that Brussels was overreaching into domestic affairs. Hungary and Poland have opposed the move on ideological grounds.
The result of the impasse has been slow progress to greater diversity at the top of companies. Women made up 29% of recruits to UK boards in 2016, down from 32.1% in 2014 and 31.6% in 2012, according to research by the recruiter Egon Zehnder.
"The choice is between resolution, or complicity in the suffering; there is no third option."
The tax haven has a luxury housing crisis – it doesn’t have enough land for the 2,700 multimillionaires forecast to settle there over the next decade
Recognizing the design flaws in our default programming is the first step to envisioning the world we know is possible.
Many of us—read: anyone paying attention—are worried about problems like climate disruption, biodiversity loss, toxins in our foods, income inequality and the hollowing out of towns. Such troubles seem impossible to solve, hopeless to untangle. But maybe our woes are not so complicated. Perhaps these interrelated challenges stem from a basic design flaw. And we can fix it.
I contend this messy moment reflects the fact that our “operating system” is outdated and not suited to our current circumstances. I’m talking about the economy: the system that runs our society’s conceptual software. For the way that we produce, trade, value and distribute goods and wealth interferes with our ability to address the major trials of our time. We have come to accept the present framework as inevitable, but that’s far from the case. The rules our economy plays by are not natural law, like gravity or the properties of the Periodic Table. Rather, they are the result of human decisions, the consequences of which were not apparent at the time.
There is stark irony in the fact that the stock market has soared while large chunks of the country have been covered by water from hurricanes or ash from wildfire. This suggests the gaping disconnect between finance and reality. There’s something screwy with the books when economic indicators rise in tandem with environmental calamity and loss of life and property. It’s reminiscent of the “big short”, when financiers bet and made money on failure in the housing market. If Wall Street’s got its numbers right, Earth futures are not looking so good right now.
One defect in our economic model is its dependence on growth. We know that resource and ecological limits dictate that we can’t grow indefinitely. And yet, because money is created by debt that must eventually be paid, the growth imperative is baked into the system. Economists have evaded the social and environmental costs associated with relentless growth by choosing not to count them. In a deft accounting trick, the negatives linked with profitable enterprise (like water and air pollution, landscape degradation, blighted downtowns) are deemed “externalities”. Again, this is a design flaw, which can be mended by internalizing such costs so that they are borne by the entity that creates the problem instead of by the public.
Understanding faulty design at the root of our economy can help clarify certain kinds of conflicts that frequently arise. Let’s take a scenario where an energy company wants to drill in a pristine area and that this will harm vulnerable species, increase greenhouse gases and disrupt local communities. The company claims the environmental damage is a small trade-off for boosting the economy and creating jobs. A functioning system wouldn’t require people to give up their assets and autonomy in order to be economically viable; indeed, those assets and agency are their basis of wealth. It has become standard to see such scenarios through a political lens—a matter about which “liberals” and “conservatives” hold different views. Instead, we can regard the fact that companies profit amidst human and environmental exploitation as a glitch in the system that could bring the whole thing down, like a kind of malware.
....Recognizing the design flaws in our default programming is the first step to envisioning what is possible. Let’s not forego the chance due to a failure of imagination. Or of courage.
Increasing taxes on those already drowning in student loan debt to give the rich a tax break denounced as "the height of Republican insanity"
"Soaking broke-ass grad students to pay for a private jet subsidy. All-out class war on the 99 percent."
"An educated population is dangerous to an oligarchy. The GOP claims to be for jobs and economic prosperity for all, but this action shows otherwise."
—Jess Phoenix, California congressional candidate
That was how one commentator described a pair of provisions buried in the GOP tax plan that passed the House on Thursday and is likely headed to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week.
One provision—crammed in the middle of the latest version of the so-called "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act"—would provide a windfall to the wealthy few who own or lease private planes by exempting them from certain taxes related to "maintenance and support," "the hiring and training of pilots and crew," and "administrative services such as scheduling, flight planning, weather forecasting, obtaining insurance, and establishing and complying with safety standards."
Graduate students, however, would not fare so well if the GOP plan becomes law.
As CNBC reports, "[s]ome programs provide graduate students with a modest stipend for food and housing. For instance, Ryan Hill, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at MIT, receives a $30,000 living stipend and a tuition waiver allowing him to forego paying $50,000 in tuition. He currently pays taxes on his $30,000 stipend, but under the proposed House tax bill, his tuition waiver would also be taxed—meaning he would be taxed as if he was earning $80,000 a year."
In total, the House GOP tax plan would raise taxes by 400 percent on many graduate students, the Harvard Crimson estimated.
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