The Wealth Olympics
September 3, 2019
“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Neighbors Up North Got A New Pool
It should come as no surprise that in America, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. As for the middle-class, international income comparisons show that those Americans in the middle are losing ground to their peers in other rich countries. The US also underperforms other wealthy nations in terms of health outcomes, education levels and other such metrics. Evidence can be seen close to home, in comparison with our neighbor to the north, Canada.
A 2014 New York Times analysis of numbers from the Luxembourg Income Study Database showed that by 2010, the median income in Canada had caught up with that of the US. And a report released this summer by a Canadian nonprofit contends that by 2016, Canada had actually pulled ahead of the US in median household income. The study also compares incomes in every percentile of the income distribution, and finds that up through the 56th percentile Canadians are better off than their American counterparts.
The wealthiest Americans still make far more than their Canadian counterparts, but even at the lowest income level, poorer Canadians have higher incomes than poorer Americans. According to the World Bank, from 1990 through 2018, per-capita real gross domestic product grew at the same 1.5 percent annual rate in the US, the EU and 36 other affluent democracies on five continents. But because income distribution in the US is concentrated at the top, Americans in the middle and the bottom are falling behind their counterparts in other countries.
Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Karachi
- Karachi, Pakistan, was inundated with weeks of heavy monsoon rains, causing lengthy power outages and sending sewage and trash throughout the city. Now residents are having to contend with the largest infestation of flies and mosquitoes ever experienced.
- Experts say the rains only compounded the city’s botched approach to urban planning, sewage, solid waste management and water contamination. (NYT)
- The country disappearing under rising tides: Rising sea levels are making traditional ways of life impossible. Rural Bangladeshis are having to adapt to survive. (BBC)
- ‘Don’t beat us, just shoot us’: Kashmiris allege violent army crackdown: Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir have been accused of carrying out beatings and torture in the wake of the government’s decision to strip the region of its autonomy. (BBC)
- A Mass Citizenship Check in India Leaves 2 Million People in Limbo (NYT, $)
Truancy < Democracy
- After another weekend of violent clashes between Hong Kong police and demonstrators, thousands of university and secondary students skipped classes and held rallies on the first day of the new term, calling on the government to withdraw a controversial extradition bill, among other demands.
- Students wearing helmets, goggles and masks filled the grounds of the Chinese University of Hong Kong holding black banners that read “Boycott for freedom,” and periodically shouting “Reclaim Hong Kong.”
- The protests have continued unabated for 13 weeks, with more than 1,000 people arrested since June. Beijing characterizes the protests as “extreme and violent actions” and state media warns “the end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong and antagonise China”. (Guardian)
- The Mask I Wear on the Weekends: In Hong Kong, I go to work and see my friends as usual. But I also spend time in a parallel universe of tear gas, barricades and anonymous allies. (NYT, $)
- Hong Kong leader says she would ‘quit’ if she could, fears her ability to resolve crisis now ‘very limited’ (Reuters)
- Chinese deepfake app Zao sparks privacy row after going viral: Critics say face-swap app could spread misinformation on a massive scale (Guardian) and What You Need To Know About Fake Video, Audio And The 2020 Election (NPR) and How not to get scammed, according to a former con artist: Frank Abagnale of Catch Me If You Can fame explains why we’re in the golden age of scamming. (Vox)
- Denise Ho: Hong Kong has reached ‘a point of no turning back’: Cantopop star says city has become a police state as young people fight for their lives (Guardian)
Things Are About To Get Hairy
- Pharmacies in Spain dispensed mislabeled medicine that caused at least 17 babies and young children to develop a form of “werewolf syndrome.” The children began growing hair all over their bodies after taking minoxidil, a drug used to fight baldness, that had been erroneously labeled as omeprazole, a drug that treats acid reflux.
- The mother of a two-year-old girl said the toddler started to grow hair on her face, then elsewhere, after ingesting seven milliliters of a syrup thought to be omeprazole last May.
- The recommended dose for minoxidil is two milliliters a day. The Spanish laboratory that dispensed the mislabeled drug to pharmacists was eventually shut down and the medicine removed from the market. (NYT)
Baby You Can Ban My Car
- To fight air pollution, European cities clogged with automobiles are embracing bike lanes and car-free zones. Hamburg’s Ottensen district is experimenting by making two streets entirely car-free for six months.
- Bremen, Germany wants the center of its city to be entirely car-free by 2030.
- Paris, France and Oslo, Norway are moving even faster to cut down on automobile traffic by 2020, opening large areas to cyclists and pedestrians only. Municipalities that have changed traffic patterns to reduce cars and increase bicycles have significantly cut carbon emissions, and eliminated traffic deaths. (Spiegel)
- Why inclusive cities start with safe streets (Curbed)
For Whom The News Polls
- All the top Democratic presidential hopefuls lead President Trump by at least 5 points. In both the Fox News poll and Quinnipiac’s latest poll Trump trailed his most likely challenger, Joe Biden, by double digits. Quinnipiac’s poll showed Biden up by 16 points.
- Trump has not been ahead of Biden in a single national poll taken this entire cycle. The 2020 election may still be 14 months away, but it’s worth noting that no incumbent president has ever polled this poorly against his likely challengers at this point in the campaign.
- We don’t know if these polls will continue to hold, but we do know that Trump’s approval rating has been consistently below his disapproval rating. (CNN)
- A Fox host’s tirade against Trump exposes depths of the president’s corruption (WaPo, $)
- Bolton sidelined from Afghanistan policy as his standing with Trump falters (WaPo, $)
The Federal Bureau Of (Selective) Investigations
- A former federal agent who spent years infiltrating white supremacist groups said the work of the groups constituted “organized criminal activity,” but the Justice Department and FBI de-prioritize the investigation and prosecution of far-right violence as a matter of policy, not a lack of authority.
- Michael German said claims by the FBI Agents Association and other current and former Justice Department officials that the government needs new laws to target white supremacists are false. “I worked successful domestic terrorism undercover operations against white supremacists in the 1990s, and no one ever suggested we didn’t have all the authority we needed.” German says the FBI’s handful of recent arrests of alleged white supremacists is a result of increased public pressure to do something about the mass murders in El Paso and elsewhere.
- The ‘reasonable’ rebels: Conservatives say we’ve abandoned reason and civility. The Old South used the same language to defend slavery. (WaPo, $)
- Leaked Emails Show How White Nationalists Have Infiltrated Conservative Media (Splinter)
- What happened when Trump visited the African American History Museum, according to its founding director (WaPo, $)
- Tanya Gersh Was the Target of a Neo-Nazi ‘Troll Storm.’ Then She Fought Back—and Was Awarded $14 Million. (Esquire)
- Aaron Burr — villain of ‘Hamilton’ — had a secret family of color, new research shows: The vice president is best known for killing rival Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel. But he was also a notorious rake, historians say. (WaPo, $)
- How ’80s Hollywood and Ronald Reagan fueled each other — and paved the way for Trump: Film critic J. Hoberman discusses how movies during Reagan’s administration reflected the nostalgia and uncertainty of the era. (Vox)
Our Mind, Your Business
- It’s been 70 years since George Orwell published 1984, his dystopian novel about a repressive surveillance state. “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull,” Orwell wrote. Back then brains were still private. That’s about to change.
- Mark Zukerberg’s Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have recently announced they’re building tech to literally read your mind. Zukerberg is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words; the researchers say they’ve built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.
- The science is moving faster than most people realize, suggesting something arguably disturbing: your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer, and our laws aren’t ready for it. (Vox)
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