Kleptocracy in America – By Sarah Chayes September/October 2017 Issue

“Drain the swamp!” the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shouted at campaign rallies last year. The crowds roared; he won. “Our political system is corrupt!” the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders thundered at his own rallies. His approval rating now stands at around 60 percent, dwarfing that of any other national-level elected official. Although many aspects of U.S. politics may be confusing, Americans are clearly more agitated about corruption than they have been in nearly a century, in ways that much of the political mainstream does not quite grasp. The topic has never been central to either major party’s platform, and top officials tend to conflate what is legal with what is uncorrupt, speaking a completely different language from that of their constituents.

Although the political establishment, including the justices of the Supreme Court, may cling to a legal notion of corruption, ordinary Americans’ more visceral understanding is in line with an anticorruption Zeitgeist that has swept the world in the past decade. In Brazil, huge, ongoing street protests over the course of two years have bolstered the federal police force and a crusading jurist, Sérgio Moro, as they have investigated and brought to justice high-ranking perpetrators in a web of corruption scandals. Their work has already led to the impeachment of one president, Dilma Rousseff, and her successor, Michel Temer, is also in the cross hairs. A similar movement has shaken Guatemala, where a UN-backed commission has helped prosecutors bring charges against dozens of officials, including Otto Pérez Molina—who was the country’s president until 2015, when he resigned and was arrested on corruption charges. Earlier this year, South Korean President Park Guen-hye met the same fate.

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Don’t blame addicts for America’s opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits | Chris McGreal Chris McGrealLast modified on Sunday 13 August 2017 06.01 EDT

opioid crisis
‘Opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015 and the toll was almost certainly higher last year.’ Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.”

The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said.

That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers – essentially heroin in pill form – but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.

In court filings, drug companies are smearing the estimated two million people hooked on their products as criminals to blame for their own addiction. Some of those in its grip break the law by buying drugs on the black market or switch to heroin. But too often that addiction began by following the advice of a doctor who, in turn, was following the drug manufacturers instructions.

Trump made no mention of this or reining in the mass prescribing underpinning the epidemic. Instead he played to the abuse narrative when he painted the crisis as a law and order issue, and criticised Barack Obama for scaling back drug prosecutions and lowering sentences.

But as the president’s own commission noted, this is not an epidemic caused by those caught in its grasp. “We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” it said.

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America’s Lust for Bacon Is Pushing Pork Belly Prices to Records – Benjamin Parkin July 15, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET

Prices for part of hog used to make bacon hit record highs, as pig farmers struggle to keep up with demand

Once considered an unhealthy byproduct, bacon has become a guilty pleasure—with prices to match.

Once considered an unhealthy byproduct, bacon has become a guilty pleasure—with prices to match. Photo: iStock

A national craving for bacon is pushing U.S. pork-belly prices to record highs.

Prices for the part of a hog used to make bacon have risen around 80% this year, while frozen reserves are at a six-decade low. Americans bought around 14% more bacon at stores in 2016 than in 2013, according to market-research firm Nielsen.

“The consumer has simply woken up to the joy of having bacon on more and more things,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone in Kansas City, Mo.`

Once considered a more unhealthy byproduct of a hog compared with prized cuts like pork chops and tenderloin, bacon has become a guilty pleasure amid a broader embrace of fatty meats. In the past decade, bacon has popped up on menus far from BLT’s and breakfast specials. The craze has gained pace this year.

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POTUS’ ban and five other ways Hawaii has made a mark in America By Katie Shepherd BBC News, Washington March 21 2017

Hawaii State Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum looks on at a press conference in front of the Prince Jonah Kuhio Federal Building and US District Courthouse on March 15, 2017 in Honolulu, HawaiiGetty Images
Hawaii State Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks after the ruling halting President Trump’s second travel ban

A federal judge in Hawaii has ordered that President Donald Trump’s travel ban be halted. How else has this island state influenced the rest of the country?

Days before US President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban was to go into effect, US District Judge Derrick Watson halted Trump’s plan, which would have placed a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees.

Fans of Trump’s measures, which were signed as an executive order, expressed frustration that one small state, so far from the rest of the US, could halt the plans.

“Hawaii, what do you know?” asked Twitter user @fiverights.

As it turns out, Hawaii has been pretty active in influencing American culture since well before it became a state in 1959.

“We’re the link to the Pacific and Asia in many ways,” said John Rosa, an associate professor of history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

It’s also where John F Kennedy visited in early 1963, during the height of the civil rights movement, and remarked that “Hawaii is what the United States is striving to be.”

How else has Hawaii influenced the rest of the US?

Pearl Harbor

he USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941Getty Images
The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor

The United States may have never joined World War II if it hadn’t been for the attack on the navy base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 – the “date which will live in infamy”.

When Japanese forces attacked the military base on a Hawaiian island, it jettisoned the nation into a war that it would ultimately end by dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The attack on Pearl Harbor remains one of America’s most important historic events in the last century.

It also helped turn Hawaii from an exotic outpost to a place of greater US visibility.

“The attack on Pearl Harbor give greater visibility to Hawaii,” Rosa said. “You do have veterans who 10 years after getting out of the service, they remember being stationed on Hawaii briefly. They’re coming to Hawaii for vacation or at least considering it, whereas they would not consider any other place in the Pacific.”


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The Most Desirable Passports On Earth Don’t Include America’s – by Justin Bachman March 3, 2017, 12:00 AM PST

Visa-free travel, tax avoidance, and international reputation are key.screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-mar-3-2017-4-00-1

A passport allows one to be a citizen of the world—but some think it should also work for you. As in, if you’re wealthy and well-traveled, it should be a bit like an exclusive invitation-only credit card: lots of benefits, lots of perks, lots of points.

That’s the view of Nomad Capitalist, a firm that recently ranked 199 countries corresponding to their “value of citizenship.” In addition to visa-free travel options, this ranking (PDF) uses a weighted approach that considers the amount of taxes a country levies on citizens who live abroad, along with the nation’s overall global reputation, civil and personal freedoms, and the ability to hold multiple passports simultaneously. And no, America, you’re not even in the top 20.

Atop the list is Sweden, followed by a bevy of other European Union nations. A Swedish passport allows visa-free travel to 176 countries or territories, just one fewer than world leader Germany. Moreover, Swedish expats can easily “get out of the high taxes in Sweden and go live somewhere else where there are lower taxes without a lot of headaches,” says Andrew Henderson, the veteran traveler, entrepreneur, and blogger who founded Nomad.

“Not too many people are getting into fights with the Swedes,” Henderson said in a video posted on Wednesday.

Nomad aims to help wealthy adventurers reduce their tax burden by relocating abroad, obtain residence permits, and invest in other countries as a way to “grow their wealth faster.” It also advises people to obtain a second passport whenever possible.

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Everyone wants diversity. But not everyone wants it on their street. – Updated by Alvin Chang Jan 18, 2017, 8:20am EST

White America is quietly self-segregating

There’s a small town in Minnesota called Worthington. It’s a place that fascinates sociologists.

In the 1980s, Worthington was on its way to becoming a ghost town, like many other white, blue-collar communities.

But in 1989, the local pork processing plant added 650 jobs and attracted new workers, many of Mexican descent, by giving them one free week of lodging and food.

By the early 1990s, about 5 percent of the town’s population was Mexican. People told their friends and family about these jobs, and more and more Hispanic workers came to Worthington — a phenomenon called chain migration.

By 2010, more than one in three residents were Hispanic.

Worthington is so fascinating to sociologists because it shows a new type of migration — one they say they’ve never seen before. Traditionally, immigrants from Latin America and Asia live in gateway cities like San Francisco, New York, and Miami. But now, Cornell University sociologist Dan Lichter said, “You’ve got these different population groups that are spreading out in ways we haven’t seen in the past.”

Part of it is nonwhite Americans leaving urban enclaves and going to the suburbs. It’s a fulfillment of the traditional American dream — a path European immigrants took in past generations to leave poor, segregated neighborhoods that relegated them to a lower social class.

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Why America’s School Funding Crisis Is Only Getting Worse: VICE News Tonight on HBO – Published on Jan 6, 2017

American education spending fell by about $600 per student between 2009 and 2014. Meanwhile, public schools are enrolling a growing segment of students who cost states more to teach: English language learners.

By 2025, almost 30 percent of all children in U.S. public schools will be Hispanic, according to the Department of Education. Many of them will be taking classes in English, even as they learn the language.

Schools in Dodge City, Kansas, where education funding has dropped significantly since 2009, are experiencing the effects of these converging trends firsthand.

Read “American educators teach longer for less pay than their foreign peers” – http://bit.ly/2hYv70P




It’s Time to Reclaim America’s Leadership in Education – STANLEY S. LITOW 01.07.17 7:00 AM

Gabriel Rosa poses for a portrait before his graduation ceremony from P-TECH, a six-year program that confers a high school diploma and associate's degree, June 2015. Andrew White for WIRED

Gabriel Rosa poses for a portrait before his graduation ceremony from P-TECH, a six-year program that confers a high school diploma and associate’s degree, June 2015. Andrew White for WIRED

WHEN THREE FEMALE African-American mathematicians—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson—became unsung heroes at NASA during the 1960s space race, the US was engaged in a fierce competition to become the world leader in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. As told in the recently released movie Hidden Figures, the trio’s groundbreaking calculations for rocket trajectories required programming a complex, first-of-a-kind IBM computer that helped put astronaut John Glenn in orbit. Skip ahead 54 years, and the US is a world leader in scientific innovation and advanced technologies.

But in order for the US to remain at the forefront of innovation and not lag behind, we must address the disconnect between the skills required for 21st century jobs and young people’s ability to acquire those skills. Fixing this will require us to evolve our approach to public education and training. The latest results of the PISA exam, which assesses science, math, and reading performance among 15-year-olds around the globe, show American students noticeably behind in math scores (below the international average), with science and reading scores remaining flat. This is not a small problem.

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Coming Out As An Undocumented Muslim Immigrant In Trump’s America – SARAH SHEARS 12.17.16 10:00 PM ET

She arrived in America as a baby, pays federal taxes, and has a master’s degree. Her mother even worked in a Trump casino. Now, she’s afraid for her future.

“I feel like Trump’s been stalking me my whole life.”

This is 29-year-old Fatima Ahmed, who’s been in the U.S. for 28 years. She’s a New Yorker through and through, and now an undocumented Muslim immigrant in Trump’s America.

Ahmed came here with her mother from Bangladesh when she was just over one year old. After a short stint in Queens as a toddler, she moved to Absecon, a suburb of Atlantic City, where her mother found a job at one of Trump’s casinos. Growing up, she was just another regular suburban kid, almost. Here’s her story in her own words:

“I’m from Queens, he’s from Queens. We went to just outside Atlantic City, he went to Atlantic City. My mom worked as a slot machine attendant in a Trump casino in Atlantic City for almost 15 years. It’s crazy, he talks about getting rid of undocumented people and Muslims and I’m like ‘Hey! We’ve been here the whole time. We’ve been working for you.’ There’s this common misconception of what a Muslim or an undocumented immigrant looks like or does.

We are all being labeled as criminals, as a threat, as people who have no regard for the law and that’s not true. I’ve been here since I was a baby and have followed the law to try and get legal status my entire life. I’ve always paid federal taxes. I work in a niche field as a textile specialist. I really don’t see how I’m stealing jobs or how I’m a danger to this country.

Growing up, I was really lucky. I went to good schools that were really diverse and my environment was very diverse, so although I always understood that I was an immigrant, it wasn’t a really big deal. I never really thought of myself as different. My parents were able to get work visas because of the Reagan/Bush Amnesty plan, so they always had legal work. And they both spoke English fluently. They came from very wealthy families back in Bangladesh and were highly educated.

Back in Bangladesh, my father was an art dealer with a master’s in Asian history. But when he got here, he just took whatever work he could get. For most of my adult life he was a cab driver but when I was a kid he worked in some sort of production for low-end fashion companies, like t-shirts, in the garment district. I think that’s what first got me interesting in the business side of fashion.

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What will happen if America’s president-elect follows through on pledges to tear up environmental laws – Nov 26th 2016 | MARRAKESH AND WASHINGTON, DC

The rest of the world will figure out a way to stay on course

“LIKE ice water through the veins.” That is how a UN official, in Marrakesh for the UN climate summit that ended on November 18th, described the effect of Donald Trump’s electoral victory. Her trepidation was widely shared at the two-week event—and justified. In a tweet in 2012 Mr Trump called anthropogenic warming a “hoax”. On the campaign trail he said he would abolish America’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and “cancel” the UN agreement to curb greenhouse-gas emissions adopted by 190-odd countries in Paris last year. But in an interview this week with the New York Times, he seemed to waver. Gathered in the ancient Berber city, representatives of those countries pondered whether America is about to forfeit the leadership on climate change it belatedly showed when Barack Obama helped bring about the Paris accord.

That deal, which came into force earlier this month, includes a commitment to limit the increase in the global average temperature to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Given that the world has already warmed by approximately 1.2°C, this is hugely ambitious (see chart 1). With just a few weeks to go, this year looks likely to be the hottest on record.

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