Category Archives: Economics

Designing Phenom Charles Henry Harrison Transitions

Chuck Henry Harrison with his patented View-Master device.

Chuck Henry Harrison with his patented View-Master device.

By Free Radical

African-American inventing marvel Charles “Chuck” Harrison passed on Wednesday. Harrison is credited with designing a number of modern day conveniences and even toys that have become commonplace in the United States and around the world.

Harrison’s list of inventions is extensive and include the plastic trash can, electronic sewing machine, riding lawnmower, and the View-Master toy among other devices.

Harrison is a native of Louisiana. His father was a professor of industrial arts at Prairie View A&M, an HBCU in Texas. Despite having dyslexia, Charles entered the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Upon graduating, he developed an impressive resume as an industrial engineer. And while working for Robert Podall Associates, he gave the View-Master its sleek design and signature orange color.

In 1961, he became the first ever Black executive in the history of Sears. Ironically, he was denied a position at the company just years later because of his race.

According to Black Enterprise, while at Sears he developed power tools, sewing machines, steam irons, the see-through measuring cup, televisions, toys, baby cribs, radios, and kitchen appliances, including the electric mixer. It was at Sears that he designed the plastic trash can as an alternative to more noisy metal containers. This is his most popular and widely used creation.

Harrison retired from Sears in 1993. Altogether, he worked on more than 700 products for the company. In retirement, he taught courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Columbia College in Chicago.

In 2008, he became the first Black professional to be awarded a Lifetime Achievement National Design Award by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Harrison is survived by his son Charles and two grandsons. His wife, Janet Eleanor Simpson passed in 1999.

Climate Change Report Sees Further Destruction if Unaddressed

By Free Radical

According to a new government report, climate change will make the fires that ravaged California a common occurrence.

According to a new government report, climate change will make the fires that ravaged California a common occurrence.

According to the fourth installment of the National Climate Assessment, climate change will continue to inflict extensive damage to U.S. infrastructure, ecosystems, health, and the economy. If it goes unabated, the highly destructive natural disasters such as the wildfires that have ravaged California will not only persist but grow in intensity and frequency.

“Climate change is already affecting every part of the United States, almost every sector of the United States, be it agriculture or forestry or energy, tourism,” says George Mason University professor Andrew Light, one of the report’s editors. “It’s going to hurt cities, it’s going to hurt people in the countryside, and, as the world continues to warm, things are going to get worse.”

Although wildfires on the West Coast are likely to increase, the southeastern United States is prone to experience similar infernos.

And though precipitation across the country has decreased, the report argues that sudden destructive deluges will be common as has been seen with hurricanes and flooding caused by rampant thunderstorms.

The report argued that continued climate change will cause higher incidents of respiratory problems and an escalation of disease carrying insects that thrive in warm weather such as mosquitos and ticks.

The report resolved that human beings act immediately to reverse these trends as climate change is man made.

The resolutions of National Climate Assessment, however, are in stark contrast with the Trump administration’s policies. Shortly after being elected, the president withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Trump has equivocated and not proclaimed his belief that climate change is in fact man made. Just recently, in response to the California wildfires, he attributed blame not on climate change but on forestry management.

Similarly, when asked about wildfires in August, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, posited “This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.”

23andMe Partners With Big Pharma

By Free Radicalindex

In light of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent revelation of her Native American heritage, we have seen the political importance of genetic testing. However, gene testing is not only politically significant, it is also extremely profitable as genomic company 23andMe partnered with pharmaceutical giant Glaxo in July for $300 million. Glaxo will use the data culled from 23andMe’s more than 5 million customers to create new drugs.

“By working with GSK, we believe we will accelerate the development of breakthroughs,” said 23andMe CEO Anne Wojciki.

While some observers agree that the new partnership has scientific merit, they are concerned with more proprietary matters. The data will be aggregated and de-identified from individual customers. Individuals also had the option to opt in to the program (nearly 80 percent did).  They can opt out of the program, which will happen at different levels and after a grace period as some data is required to stay on file.

The new program, however, raises important questions about ownership. There is no provision in place that would provide compensation to former 23andMe customers for any profit made from new drugs. Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest asked, “Are they going to offer rebates to people who opt in so their customers aren’t paying for the privilege of 23andMe working with a for-profit company in a for-profit research project?”

And though security measures have been implemented to protect users’ privacy, the recent hacking of both government, nonprofit, and commercial entities highlights the danger of having so much valuable information that can be taken by enterprising cyber thiefs. Some observers say that a potential breach can have even greater ramifications. If an individual’s genetic identity is compromised, their family members are also vulnerable as a hacker has to simply browse social media to find blood relatives.

This is of special concern to African-Americans who have a history of enslavement and displacement and have turned to genetic companies to find traces of their heritage.

Basic Income Pilot to Begin in Mississippi

indexBy Free Radical

A pilot program will grant fifteen Black mothers a guaranteed basic income of $1,000 a month for a year. Magnolia Mother’s Trust is organized by Springboard to Opportunity and will begin in the city of Jackson in December. It will track the social impact of having discretionary income. The women, who will be low-income, will be selected through a lottery system.

“Women are going to use the money on day-to-day things we take for granted,” said Aisha Nyandoro, Springboard to Opportunity’s CEO.

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation and has one of the most stringent welfare programs. To receive food stamps, applicants must endure drug tests, work requirements, and a woefully underfunded bureaucracy. If successful, the average welfare recipient in Mississippi will receive $170 while the national average is $442.

Along with the additional funds, the women will receive leadership training and social work services.

According to Nyandoro, “Our hope is that with a little extra breathing room and not constantly having to operate in survival mode, our families will have an opportunity to dream about goals for their own lives and, just like the incredible women before them, become leaders who help organize for change in their communities.”

If successful, Nyandoro would like to expand the pilot to one hundred families for three years.

Yet Springboard to Opportunity has decided to start modestly due in part to the challenges faced by similar programs. Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup company delayed its guaranteed income project in Oakland, California because of fears that recipients would lose their government benefits. In the Canadian province of Ontario, a change of government leadership forced a similar program in Toronto to end prematurely.

Nonetheless, projects will continue in the United States. Economic Security Project, which is backing the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, is slated to begin an 18-month basic income pilot involving 100 families in Stockton, California next year.