Category Archives: Economics

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.

California Becomes First State to Abolish Cash Bail

indexBy Free Radical

On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Money Bail Reform Act which ended the state’s cash bail system.

The new plan, which is set to go into effect in October 2019 will now use an algorithm that weighs if someone should be jailed based on how likely the defendant is to show up for court, the seriousness of the crime, and the chances for recidivism.

“Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete, but today it made a transformational shift away from valuing private wealth and toward protecting public safety,” said California Senator Robert Herzberg, a co-author of the bill.

Yet the new legislation has also attracted a slew of opponents. The bail bond industry, which is likely to be devastated is likely to sue for a reversal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of California, which initially backed the bill, eventually withdrew its support as it disputed the level of discretion given to judges whether to jail defendants or not.

“We are concerned that the system that’s being put into place by this bill is too heavily weighted toward detention and does not have sufficient safeguards to ensure that racial justice is provided in the new system,” said Natasha Minsker of the ACLU.

Nonetheless, California’s new system will likely be studied by other legislatures considering alternatives to cash bail.