Tag Archives | Economics

Imagining an America Without Sports

Sam Riches writes at The Pacific Standard:

What if we eliminated the institution of sport—from the high school level to the pros? Ten academics from around the country weigh in.

The National Football League, despite a reported dip in fan support this year, remains the most popular and profitable sports league in America. Though it generates in the range of $10 billion annually, it’s heavily subsidized by its fans, American taxpayers, who provide 70 percent of the capital costs in stadium construction. NFL headquarters, meanwhile, enjoys tax-free status as a non-profit organization and the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, earned more than $40 million last year.

The athletes that make the league a viable business—the majority of them having worked their way up to the professional level after years of labor exploitation in the NCAA—have an average career length of just over three years, according to the NFL Players Association.

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Obama Wants Companies to Stop Stealing Your Data. Good Luck.

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Jenna McLaughlin writes at Mother Jones:

President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, which he will deliver on Tuesday, will focus on cybersecurity, according to a speech he gave last Monday at the Federal Trade Commission. Protecting our government and corporations from foreign threats will not be Obama’s only focus—he’s also pushing for a bill that would protect internet consumers. But online privacy advocates are far from optimistic. They say Obama’s new consumer privacy bill will need to be very strong and specific to fill all the existing holes in consumer privacy law. Even then, they warn, the bill is likely doomed, because tech-industry lobbyists will spend millions to block it.

Right now, there are now very few restrictions on what data companies are allowed to scoop up from our digital apps and how they are allowed to use it. Companies routinely gather information and use it in ways consumers’ didn’t know about, much less sanction.

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Hydroponic gardener to raise plants that produce valuable medicines

 

Bob Shaw, St. Paul Pioneer Press writes at Duluth News Tribune:

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — For Dave Roeser, it’s not just about salad anymore.

St. Paul’s award-winning hydroponic gardener will still grow vegetables but is adding medicinal plants. He plans to raise 100,000 genetically modified plants to produce medicine for cancer, flu and — potentially — Ebola.

“This is exciting,” said Roeser, a retired controller for Hewlett-Packard.

Roeser has been operating a Maplewood greenhouse to produce vegetables for his company, Garden Fresh Farms. He will continue growing vegetables in a new location in St. Paul but has co-founded a new company — MnPharm — to convert the Maplewood greenhouse into a biological drug factory.

Scientists — and Roeser — see great potential in using plants to produce vaccines.

That’s because vaccines traditionally have been made by the cumbersome process of injecting weakened germs into chicken eggs.

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How Expensive It Is to Be Poor

The excellent Charles M. Blow dissects a Pew Center report entitled “The Politics of Financial Insecurity” for the New York Times:

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”

More-Financially-Secure-Are-More-Likely-to-Have-Consistent-Ideological-Views

This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.

“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.

Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.

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A Wage or A Cage: We Are All Slaves

m.a.r.c. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

m.a.r.c. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In 1865 the US formally “abolished slavery” with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. The text of the 13th reads as follows:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

That’s seriously it. Just that. Basically a resigned, “Alright guys, party’s over. No more slavin’ for us”. It even includes an “except”, because hey, there are always exceptions.

It is 2015. Slavery has only been explicitly ‘outlawed’ for the last 150 years. The historical momentum of slavery and the slave trade still informs the mentality of elites today because of its sheer ubiquity and depth as an economic system.… Read the rest

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Security is Not a Crime—Unless You’re an Anarchist

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Jannes Pockele (CC BY 2.0)

Nadia Kayyali and Kattza Rodriguez write at Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Riseup, a tech collective that provides security-minded communications to activists worldwide, sounded the alarm last month when a judge in Spain stated that the use of their email service is a practice, he believes, associated with terrorism.

Javier Gómez Bermúdez is a judge of Audiencia Nacional, a special high court in Spain that deals with serious crimes such as terrorism and genocide. According to press reports, he ordered arrest warrants that were carried out on December 16th against alleged members of an anarchist group. The arrests were part of Operation Pandora, a coordinated campaign against “anarchist activity” that has been called an attempt  “to criminalize anarchist social movements.” The police seized books, cell phones, and computers, and arrested 11 activists. Few details are known about the situation, since the judge has declared the case secret.

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Elon Musk is spending $10 million to save us from an evil robot takeover

Via Quartz:

Elon Musk may be a tech guru, but it turns out he’s just as scared of robots taking over the world as anyone else who grew up watching Terminator movies. So the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX announced yesterday that he is giving $10 million to fund research that ensures artificial intelligence will be used for good, not evil.

He donated the money to the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit research group, which will distribute the money in grants. In a video that the organization released, Musk talks about his motivations [via the Verge]:

Read more.

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Inequity is at a boiling point in today’s America

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via Times-Standard

Communities all over the country are struggling to find answers to the issue of the increasing numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty. Most of those communities are themselves struggling with budget problems and, at best, are only able to come up with Band-Aid solutions. What’s happening here in the richest country in the world? Do we just have a lot of lazy people?

Let’s take a look at some numbers (compiled by Bill Moyers and Company): families of 4 living on less than $11,510 (poverty level for one person) number 20.4 million, that’s 1 in 15 Americans, 7.1 million are children; 25 percent of U.S. jobs pay below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000/year; in 2011 28 percent of all workers earned poverty level wages. Overall 50 percent of U.S. workers earn less than $34,000/year.

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Uberize This: The “Uberization” of the economy is really about building a better trap for ideas

Via Quartz:

I can’t remember where I was—perhaps sitting in the back of a taxi cab—when I read a tweet from Anti-Fragility author Nassim Taleb that said, “To ‘Uberize’, remove the middleman, theme of the times.”

The thought struck me again this last week as I tried to find something out of CES in Las Vegas more interesting than a selfie stick. The energy and excitement, not to mention the valuations, in the economy lie in companies that ‘uberize.’ Even though those companies no longer make anything material, what they do seemed to follow a classic formula, an investing thesis that came out of the first generation of hyper valuation that took place in the 1990s.

I don’t think of Uber as a force that dis-intermediates—as we olds used to say—transportation, but one that creates value for itself, its drivers, and its users, by developing a new layer that integrates them all with maximum utility.

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How well can information be stored from the beginning to the end of time?

Plot of the transmissivity, η, of information as it travels through spacetime, shown as a function of the momentum, k, with which the universe expands. Credit: Mancini, et al. CC-BY-3.0

Plot of the transmissivity, η, of information as it travels through spacetime, shown as a function of the momentum, k, with which the universe expands. Credit: Mancini, et al. CC-BY-3.0

via Phys.org:

Information can never be stored perfectly. Whether on a CD, a hard disk drive, or a piece of papyrus, technological imperfections create noise that limits the preservation of information over time. But even if you had a perfect storage medium with zero imperfections, there would still be fundamental limits placed on information storage due to the laws of physics that govern the evolution of the universe ever since the Big Bang. But what exactly these fundamental limits are is still unclear.

In a new paper published in the New Journal of Physics, Stefano Mancini and Roberto Pierini at the University of Camerino and INFN in Italy, along with Mark M. Wilde at Louisiana State University, have investigated these to preserving on a literally cosmic scale.

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