Life in Late Stage Capitalism
“It’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism.”
– Slavoj Žižek
- Amazon asked Apple to remove an app that spots fake reviews, and Apple agreed.
- G20 states subsidised fossil fuels by $3 trillion since 2015.
- Minimum wage workers can’t afford average two bedroom rent anywhere in the U.S.
- India Covid-19 deaths cross four million, study shows: ten times higher than official records.
- Abuse and brutality in Naples prison, Italy:
More than 110 prison staff are under investigation, including eight in detention and 18 under house arrest. The regional director of prisons has been suspended.
- Devasting floods hit P.R. China:
Cleanup efforts were under way in Henan province and the capital city Zhengzhou on Thursday, after a record breaking rain storm flooded the city’s streets and subway, damaged dams and reservoirs, collapsed roads, cut power to at least one hospital and was linked to a massive explosion at a factory in Dengfeng city.
Authorities said 200,000 people were displaced by the floods and more than three million people were affected.
- Extraordinary forest fires burned through 1.5 million hectares of land in north-east Siberia.
- More than 170 people die in devasting floods in southern Germany, 155 still missing.
- Thai police fire rubber bullets at protesters as Covid failures fuel anti-government anger.
- Rights activists, journalists and lawyers around the world have been targeted with phone malware sold to authoritarian governments by an Israeli surveillance firm:
Media outlets working on the investigation said they had identified more than 1,000 people spanning over 50 countries whose numbers were on the list.
They include politicians and heads of state, business executives, activists, and several Arab royal family members. More than 180 journalists were also found to be on the list, from organisations including CNN, the New York Times and Al Jazeera.
Many of the numbers were clustered in 10 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the reports.
- Tesla is charging owners $1,500 for hardware they already paid for:
[…] Tesla started offering their long-awaited Full Self-Driving subscription package for $199/month. Along with the package, Tesla is offering a $1,500 hardware upgrade for early owners who have old hardware that is not capable of full self-driving tasks.
The problem is, Tesla previously told those same owners that their cars were capable of full self-driving tasks and isn’t allowing those owners to take advantage of the new subscription scheme without paying again for a hardware upgrade that they already paid for.
- At least 97 die in Florida condo collapse:
Records released by local authorities showed that an engineer […] warned in October 2018 that he had discovered “major structural damage” and a “major error” in the construction of the building.
- South Africa unrest leaves more than 200 dead:
South Africa has deployed 10,000 soldiers in addition to its police and expects to deploy 15,000 more in coming days even as the looting has lessened.
Youth unemployment is at a record 74 percent, according to government statistics. Hunger has risen sharply. And now businesses that employed and fed thousands of people have been ransacked or burned.
The damage from days of looting and arson is expected to run into billions of rands. KwaZulu-Natal Province already faces food and fuel shortages, a situation that some have warned could escalate into a humanitarian crisis. The price of a loaf of bread had doubled in KwaZulu-Natal since last week.
- Nearly 800 people believed to have died in U.S. and Canada heat wave.
- Samsung washing machine app requires access to smartphone contacts and location.
- Hunger death toll outpaces Covid-19 fatalities:
Oxfam reported that 11 people die of hunger each minute, outpacing the death toll of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed around seven people per minute.
The report said the number of people around the globe living with “extreme hunger” increased from last year by around 20 million to 155 million.
- A Facebook engineer abused access to user data to track down woman.
- “Heartbreaking” conditions in U.S. migrant child camp:
The tented camp in the Fort Bliss military base in El Paso, Texas, is the temporary home for over 2,000 teenaged children who have crossed the US-Mexico border alone and are now awaiting reunification with family in the US.
Findings from the BBC’s investigation include allegations of sexual abuse, Covid and lice outbreaks, a child waiting hours for medical attention, a lack of clean clothes and hungry children being served undercooked meat.
The Fort Bliss camp consists of at least 12 tents, some of which house hundreds of children at a time. The children spend most of their day in the tents, getting out for an hour or two of recreation, or to line up with hundreds of others for a meal.
“Hundreds of children have tested positive for Covid,” said one employee who asked to remain anonymous because staff are banned from speaking about the camp.
- German federal lawmakers generate €53 million in extra income.
- Amazon.com, Inc. has won U.S. permission to use radar to monitor consumers’ sleep habits.
- Germany introduces new surveillance laws, allowing intelligence services the use of spyware to hack into phones and computers:
But as several branches of the German police force and intelligence are facing allegations of infiltration by right wing extremists, privacy concerns are ever more sensitive. Since 2018 the contents of several racist chatgroups among officers have become public, which just this month led the state of Hesse[n] to disband one of its most elite special units. From 2018 onward, private addresses of public figures speaking out against racism had been accessed from police computers in Hesse[n] resulting in direct threats by right wing groups.
- Italy covers shrinking glacier to save it from summer heat.
- Extreme heat has killed an estimated 1 billion small sea creatures in Western U.S. and Canada over two weeks.
- Amazon, Inc. accused of inflating prices in U.K. during pandemic:
It claims to have uncovered 50 different items – including soap, antibacterial spray, face masks, and toilet paper – that were sold on Amazon “for at least double their usual price at the height of the pandemic last year.”
- U.S. gun maker sold kit that makes a real Glock pistol look like a children’s Lego toy.
- Twitter sees jump in government demands to remove content of reporters and news outlets:
In its transparency report published on Wednesday, Twitter said verified accounts of 199 journalists and news outlets on its platform faced 361 legal demands from governments to remove content in the second half of 2020, up 26% from the first half of the year.
- U.S. farm workers labour in deadly heat with only few protections:
California and Minnesota are the only two other states in the US with heat protections for workers, though Colorado has some limited protections.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53 workers died in the US due to temperature extremes in 2019, and the climate crisis is creating more hazardous conditions for workers, as temperature extremes become more common.
- Thousands of flamingos die in drought in central Turkey.
- Hottest day on record measured in North Ireland.
- Amazon, Inc. tells managers to conceal when employees are on performance review.
- New York Bitcoin power plant is turning a 12,000-year-old glacial lake into a hot tub.
- Advertisers seek to plug into the dreams of consumers:
Coors encouraged people to watch a short online video before bed, then play an eight-hour “soundscape” through the night. If successful, this “targeted dream incubation” would trigger “refreshing dreams” of Coors, according to the company.
- Global retailers, including Uniqlo and the makers of Skechers shoes and Zara clothes, allegedly rely on forced labour of minorities in China’s Xinjiang region.
- North America endured hottest June on record:
At the start of the month, the record-breaking heatwave conditions were centred over the south-west of the US. They then moved over the north-west of the US and south-west Canada, causing more than 500 heat-related deaths and creating tinder for wildfires. The town of Lytton in British Columbia broke Canada’s heat record three days in a row. The latest hydrological bulletin shows many of the affected regions had unusually dry soil.
- Miami offers its nuclear power to Bitcoin miners as it aims to become crypto capital of the world.
- Argentina sees steep climb in poverty:
In the 31 large cities that were studied, the country’s poverty rate rose from 40.9 percent in the first half of the year to 42 percent in the second […].
This represented a steep climb of 6.5 percentage points from the last six months of 2019.
More than 57 percent of children up to age 14 lived in poverty, the data showed.
- Legislative staff of U.S. government make “poverty wages”.
- More than 230 people fatally shot in U.S. over the 4th of July weekend:
In New York, where gun violence has been rising to levels not seen in years, there were 35 victims -- two fatal -- from 29 shootings that occurred Friday to Monday, a decrease from the same period last year when 78 people were shot in 55 shootings, […].
So far this year, gun violence incidents in New York have spiked almost 32% over the same period in 2020, with 773 shootings and 895 victims.
In Chicago […] 100 people were shot and 18 people were killed from 6 p.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Monday […]. There were 69 shooting incidents during that period, police said.
- Hungarian prime minister is the first European leader on Reporters Without Borders’ “enemy of press freedom” list.
- Thousands of people in India may have been scammed into getting fake Covid-19 vaccines:
More than 2,600 people went to camps in India to get COVID-19 vaccines but may have instead been scammed and given saltwater shots as part of a scheme […].
Authorities said they confiscated over $20,000 from the suspects. They said organizers of the sites, which included medical professionals, charged up to $17 per dose.
- Property price surge sparks bidding wars for homes globally:
From the U.S. to the U.K. to China, housing is riding an extended boom. Global valuations are soaring at the fastest pace since 2006, according to Knight Frank, with annual price increases in double digits. Frothy markets are flashing the kind of bubble warnings that haven’t been seen since the run up to the financial crisis […].
- U.S. police officers plays Taylor Swift to keep video of him off YouTube.
- Amazon contract drivers fired by A.I.
- 349 banks in Germany charging negative interest rates to private customers.
- U.S. summer camp is offering kids as young as 5 a crash course in cryptocurrencies.
- U.S. healthcare providers let computers decide who gets care:
The cuts have hit low income seniors and people with disabilities in Pennsylvania, Iowa, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Arkansas and other states, after algorithms became the arbiters of how their home health care was allocated – replacing judgments that used to be primarily made by nurses and social workers.
- Facebook is now worth $1 trillion.
- Covid vaccines to reach poorest countries in 2023 – despite recent pledges.
- Indian families face high medical bills amid pandemic, pushing people back to poverty:
According to a research report published by the Azim Premji University, 230 million additional individuals had fallen below the national minimum wage poverty line between March and October last year.
- Mind reading and mind control technologies are coming.
- $20 billion meltdown of asset management company Archegos Capital led to more than $10 billion in losses for several banks:
Credit Suisse was most exposed to Archegos’ liquidation, having lost upwards of $5 billion from the fiasco. Nomura is thought to have lost at least $2 billion, while Morgan Stanley lost less than $1 billion.
- U.S. median existing house price accelerated a record 23.6% from a year ago.
- Johnson & Johnson agrees to pay $263 million to settle opioid lawsuits filed in New York:
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed by states, cities and counties against opioid makers, drug distributors and pharmacy chains over their roles in fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic, which has claimed the lives of almost 500,000 Americans over the last 20 years. Most of those claims are pending.
- U.S. life expectancy decreased by an “alarming” amount:
Between 2018 and 2020, the decrease in average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. was roughly 1.9 years — 8.5 times the average decrease in 16 comparable countries, which was about 2.5 months.
Life expectancy for Black men living in the U.S. fell to just under 68 years, its lowest level since 1998. As of 2020, Hispanic men have the second-lowest life expectancy at birth, at 74.5 years, which closely follows the 74.7 years for white men. Black women have a life expectancy at birth of 75.3 years, which is lower than white women at 80 years and Hispanic women at 81.4 years.
- One in five young adults is neither working nor studying in U.S.:
In the first three months of the year, about 3.8 million Americans age 20 to 24 were not in employment, education or training, known as the NEET rate, the Center for Economic Policy and Research said in a report. That’s up by 740,000, or 24%, from a year earlier, before many lost their jobs or opted to defer college enrollment as campuses shut down at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Fitness company Peloton forced all owners of $4,000 treadmill to pay $39 monthly fee to use the machine.
- 51% increase in suicide attempts among U.S. teenage girls:
Overall, the number of psychiatric-related hospital visits among young people increased 31 percent last year. […] Suspected suicide attempts in girls increased 50.6 percent, compared to a 3.7 percent increase in young men.
- Oil and gas donors gave over £400,000 to U.K. Conservative party in the past year, while the government mulled controversial new licences to explore the North Sea for fossil fuel production sites.
- The world’s 500 richest people added $1.8 trillion to their combined net worth last year.
- Ransomware attack payments might be tax deductible according to U.S. government.
- Facebook will start putting ads in Oculus virtual reality system.
- Toxic “forever chemicals” widespread in top makeup brands.
- Number of people forcibly displaced in the world has risen to a record 82.4 million, a further four per cent increase on top of the record-high 79.5 million displaced at the end of 2019.
- Amazon is destroying millions of items of unsold stock in one of its U.K. warehouses every year:
In one week in April, a leaked document from inside the Dunfermline warehouse showed more than 124,000 items marked “destroy”. To repeat, that’s just for seven days. In contrast, just 28,000 items in the same period were labelled “donate”.
- Texas power companies automatically raised the temperature of customers’ smart thermostats in the middle of a heat wave.
- Utah governor urges residents to pray for rain, to combat a drought emergency.
- California declares state of emergency amid heatwave.
- South African crypto currency traders vanish with $3.6 billion in Bitcoin:
Following a surge in Bitcoin’s value in the past year, the disappearance of about 69,000 coins – worth more than $4 billion at their April peak – would represent the biggest-ever dollar loss in a cryptocurrency scam.
The saga is unfolding after last year’s collapse of another South African Bitcoin trader, Mirror Trading International. The losses there, involving about 23,000 digital coins, totaled about $1.2 billion in what was called the biggest crypto scam of 2020 […].
- Arizona wants to use Zyklon B to execute inmates on death row.
- U.S.-based CCTV company is paying remote workers in India to yell at armed robbers:
Apart from pointing out robberies, the remote human operator will also monitor the activities of the store’s employees. For example, if the cashier makes a mistake in the bill, the store clerks will be yelled at for the error.
- Scientists have successfully grown monkey embryos containing human cells for the first time:
Researchers hope that some human–animal hybrids — known as chimaeras — could provide better models in which to test drugs, and be used to grow human organs for transplants.
- Software developer community Stack Overflow sold for $1.8 billion to investor.
- Canon put A.I. cameras in its Chinese offices that only let smiling workers inside.
- New law allows Australian government to indefinitely detain refugees:
The law allows for the government, where it had cancelled the visa of a refugee but could not send them back to their country of origin because they would face persecution there, to detain them indefinitely.
- U.S. Federal Reserve continues to purchase $120 billion in bonds per month.
- Irish police to be given powers to make people hand over passwords:
Police in Ireland are to be handed new powers, including the right to issue a fine of up to €30,000 to anyone who refuses to surrender an electronic device’s password, according to new legislation in the Republic.
- Texas will spend $250 million to build its own wall at border with Mexico.
- Regular power shortages occur in Texas:
ERCOT data indicated that 11,000 megawatts of generation capacity is currently offline for repairs and maintenance, well above the 3,600 MW that is normally offline for this time of year.
The guidelines under which ERCOT operates force it to automatically approve offline requests if they are received from generators at least 45 days in advance, just one more feature of Texas’s de-regulated market system that effectively increases its level of instability.
- Famine in Ethiopia becomes worst hunger crisis in a decade, afflicting at least 350,000 people.
- Greek security forces use sound cannons at border to deter asylum seekers.
- U.S. billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in federal taxes:
The 25 richest Americans “saw their worth rise a collective $401bn from 2014 to 2018,” the publication reported. But collectively those Americans paid a total of $13.6bn in federal income taxes over those five years, which was a collective true tax rate of just 3.4 per cent.
Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg all held a true tax rate that was lower than 1.5 per cent, despite reporting income in the billions between 2014 and 2018.
- Widespread homelessness in California:
In 2018, a U.N. official visited San Francisco on a world tour examining housing conditions. She was shocked by what she saw. Her official report concluded that the city’s treatment of unhoused people "constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights, including rights to life, housing, health, water, and sanitation." The number of homeless San Franciscans has only grown since then to more than 8,000 people, most of whom sleep on the streets, not in shelters.
[…] Tent cities filled with poverty-stricken people have sprouted up from San Diego to Seattle. As of January 2020, California alone had about 151,000 inhabitants experiencing homelessness.
- U.S. administration backs Alaska drilling project set to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil each day for 30 years.
- Microsoft’s Irish subsidiary paid zero corporation tax on $315bn profit.
- Colombia deploys military against anti-government demonstrations.
- Nearly 600,000 Germans consult debt advice service.
- U.S. experiences fuel shortages after pipline operator hit by cyber attack:
About 70% of North Carolina’s gas stations were still without fuel amid panic-buying and about half the stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia were tapped out, GasBuddy.com reported. Washington, D.C., was among the hardest-hit locations, with 73% of stations out, the site’s tracking service showed.
- A growing number of people around the world are dying from heart disease and stroke because of overwork,
U.N. study shows:
In 2016, the data show 1 in 10 people around the world, or 450 million, worked excessively long hours, leading to 745,000 heart disease and stroke deaths.
- Germany rejects plans to waive Covid-19 vaccine patents:
The German government said while they support global vaccine supplies, “the protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future.”
- Pharma industry funds media voices against sharing vaccine patents.
- Cost of policing G7 summit estimated at £70m, with around 6,500 police securing the event.
- U.S. pension funds and private-equity firms are snapping up single-family houses to rent out or flip:
The bubble has room to grow before it bursts, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. But it is inflating fast. The firm expects home prices to climb 12% this year—on top of last year’s 11% rise—and increase at least 6% in 2022, a period of appreciation reminiscent of 2004 and 2005.
- U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world:
Some 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers reported feeling stress on a daily basis, up by eight percentage points from the year prior and compared with 43% of people who feel that way globally, according to Gallup’s 2021 report.
- Internal Nestlé document says majority of its food portfolio is unhealthy.
- Without ID card, no vaccination in Indonesia:
Starting in 2011, the simple laminated document with a photo and fingerprints was to be replaced by a microchipped card backed up by a huge online database.
Applicants needed to bring their birth certificate and their Family Card, a document issued to the so-called “head of the family” — typically the eldest male — which lists all of their family members. They also had to get written permission from the head of their local neighborhood unit, take their documents to their sub-district office and then to the civil registry office, and then wait three months for their card to be issued. The card had to be renewed every five years, which meant starting the process all over again.
The cards were supposed to be free, but many people hired middlemen to avoid the process. The going rate was between $14 and $35 (200,000 and 500,000 rupiah) — a hefty sum in a country where 25 million of its population of 270 million still live on less than $1 per day.
- The U.S. Postal Service is running a “covert operations program” that monitors Americans’ social media posts.
- 39 U.K. postmasters wrongfully convicted for fraud due to a software bug.
- YouTube C.E.O. gets “Freedom Expression” award sponsored by YouTube.
- People in India are being cremated in parking lots, with so much demand that families have to take tickets and wait.
- Canadian school custodian got fired for refusing to download smartphone app that monitors location.
- German Federal Ministry of Agriculture admits social security (Hartz IV) too low to allow healthy nutrition, Federal Ministry of Labour vetoes.
- At least 15 journalists covering migrant stories were wiretapped in Italy:
According to daily newspaper Domani, hundreds of pages of phone conversation transcripts were part of the investigation led by prosecutors in Trapani, Sicily, into the activities of humanitarian rescue groups.
- Google blocks advertisers from targeting Black Lives Matter YouTube videos:
Google’s ad buying platform Google Ads also blocks the term “Black power,” a phrase associated with the African American civil rights movement but offered more than 100 million YouTube videos and channels it said were related to the White supremacist phrase “White power.”
- I.R.S. estimates tax cheats are costing the U.S. $1 trillion a year.
- Netflix made record profits of $2.8 billion in 2020, paid a tax rate of less than 1 percent.
- Florida declares state of emergency as reservoir with millions of gallons contamined, radioactive wastewater leaks:
In 1989, for instance, a 23,000-gallon leak of sulfuric acid from a holding tank forced the evacuation of hundreds of people.
After the owner went bankrupt, the Piney Point fertilizer plant was shut down in 2001. But the waste from more than three decades of phosphate mining still sits in massive piles at the site […].
About 223m gallons remained in the leaking pond at Piney Point on Friday, according to the Florida department of environmental regulation; so far, about 215m gallons of wastewater have been pumped into Tampa Bay.
- Russian President has signed legislation formally granting him the right to stay in power until 2036.
- Oklahoma Senate passes bill allowing drivers to hit protesters without being charged.
- New York 106-megawatt power plant produces electricity for Bitcoin mining only.
- Amazon prohibits German warehouse workers the use of FFP2 masks to prevent longer breaks.
- Google is saving over $1 billion a year due to remote work policy.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew a Predator drone over Minneapolis in an effort to surveil the ongoing protests against police brutality occurring there.
- U.K. call centre staff to be monitored via webcam for home-working “infractions”.
- 6-year-old boy from North Carolina arrested for picking flower at bus stop:
While the 6-year-old ending up before a judge may seem shocking, around 7,300 complaints were actually filed against 6- to 11-year-olds from 2015 to 2018, Juvenile State data showed […].
- Microsoft wins U.S. Army contract for augmented reality headsets, worth up to $21.9 billion over 10 years.
- U.S. hunger crisis persists, especially for children and older adults:
The food banks that agreed to let Feeding America publicly share their data, 180 out of 200 total, collectively distributed far more food — about 42% — during the last quarter of 2020 than in the same period of 2019.
Over $1.675 billion in emergency funding has gone to nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act to pay for food, gas and drivers to deliver meals, along with masks, gloves and sanitizer to protect staff.
- Weight-loss drug linked to death of up to 2,000 people in France, court finds.
- U.S. administration denies journalists access to border facilities amid a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.–Mexico border.
- IKEA France allegedly snooped on employees and customers by using private detectives and police officers.
- E.U. adopts €5 billion fund to train and equip foreign military forces.
- U.S. president says he won’t let P.R. China become most wealthy, powerful country:
“They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not gonna happen on my watch,” Biden said.
- U.S. sinks below Mongolia and Argentina in global ranking for freedom.
- U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson says “greed” and “capitalism” behind Covid-19 vaccine success.
- Over 30 million people in more than 20 countries “one step away from starvation”, U.N. warns.
- Low-income families eligible for free cash under Oakland, California programme – if they are people of colour.
- Tesla violated U.S. federal labour law in its efforts to discourage workers from unionising.
- Covid-19 curfew violation tickets issued to Quebec homeless people.
- Indian lenders are turning to coercive loan apps that shut down smartphones if customers fall behind on payments:
Vendors are selling smartphones to first-time borrowers on high-interest payment plans financed by loan companies, but only after users install an undeletable app at the point of sale. The apps can then monitor repayment behavior throughout the duration of the loan. One late payment leads to instant blocking of the phone, rendering it useless. For loan providers and smartphone sellers, this form of lending opens their products to a new class of consumers. But users purchasing phones on loan are bearing the brunt of the coercive repayment tactics built into their devices.
- 533 million Facebook users’ phone numbers and personal data have been leaked online.
- Amazon U.S. delivery drivers have limited access to bathrooms, forced to urinate in bottles or elsewhere in public.
- German government paid external consultants €430 million in 2020.
- Several €100 million in losses for small German towns after Greensill bank declared insolvent:
A person familiar with the bank said it is currently estimated up to €700 million in deposits from a total of €3.6 billion won’t be covered by insurance. The majority likely will be from local governments.
- U.K. police warns students and universities against using “the Pirate Bay of science”:
Russia-based Sci-Hub describes itself as “the first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers”, and is run in support of the Open Access movement, responding to the increasingly large fees charged by publishers.
[T]he City of London Police’s detective inspector Kevin Ives said: “Students should be aware that accessing such websites is illegal, as it hosts stolen intellectual property.
- More than 4,000 people are arrested daily while trying to cross the U.S.–Mexico border.
- In Germany, the richest 5% own 51% of all wealth, 50% of the population own less than 4%, study shows.
- Roughly 160,000 people in Jackson, Mississippi, without safe drinking water for weeks.
- German private hospital gives €5 gift coupons to nursing staff struggling in the pandemic.
- Finland had a patent-free Covid-19 vaccine months ago, but struggled to attract $50 million funding required for Phase III clinical trial.
- Afghan refugee father faces up to 10 years in prison for child endangerment as his son died on the journey from Turkey to Greece.
- Elderly couple deported to Kosovo after living in Germany for 28 years. The husband died weeks later from untreated medical conditions.
- Global warming causes permafrost soil in Siberia to explode:
Methane gas builds in a cavity in the ice, causing a mound to appear at ground level. The mound grows in size before blowing out ice and other debris in an explosion and leaving behind the massive crater.
- Global middle class shrank for first time since the 1990s:
[…] [R]esearchers at the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that the ranks of the global middle class – those “middle income” and “upper-middle income” people earning $10-$20 and $20-$50 per day respectively – fell by 90 million people to almost 2.5 billion last year. That helped swell the ranks of the poor, or those living on less than $2 a day, by 131 million, Pew estimated.
- U.S. girl sells lemonade, raises more than $370,000 for brain surgeries.
- Record high killing of Philippine lawyers: 61 lawyers murdered during Duterte administration.
- Energy companies have left Colorado with billions of dollars in oil and gas cleanup:
Companies that drill wells in Colorado are legally required to pay for plugging them. They must also put forward financial assurances in the form of bonds, which the state can call on to pay for the plugging. These bonds are meant to incentivize cleanup and to protect the state, in case a company is unable to pay. But as it stands today, Colorado has only about $185 million in bonds from industry […]. But even using the state’s more conservative number, the overall cleanup would cost nearly $5 billion, of which the money currently available from energy companies would cover less than 5%.
- Facebook shows off mind-reading technology it hopes to use one day with smart glasses.
- Damaged Amazon rainforest is most likely now a net contributor to global warming, study shows.
- Junior bankers at Goldman Sachs Group beg to work only 80 hours per week.
- U.K. foreign secretary seeks trade deals with nations that violate human rights.
- U.K. couple whose business was awarded £1.8 billion in contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) by the government subsequently bought a £6 million mansion and a Bentley.
- Amazon expands gamification programme that encourages warehouse employees to work.
- About 30 million Africans were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and even more could follow this year.
- Three in four South Sudanese in need of urgent food assistance:
“The greatest concern is that over 100,000 people are anticipated over the next several months to be in ‘catastrophic’ levels of food insecurity, at risk of dying from starvation, malnutrition and related disease,” […].
The situation is similar to 2017, when war raged and famine hit the northern Unity State leaving 100,000 people starving. That violence left 400,000 people dead, disrupted oil production and devastated the economy.
- Executives at Serco, one of the companies behind the U.K. government’s much-criticised £37bn test-and-trace scheme, were handed pay of £7.4m for 2020, including bonuses worth £5.5m.
- U.K. Test and Trace programme has “no clear impact” despite £37bn budget.
- German conservative lawmakers earned more than €14.5 million through additional income between October 2017 and July 2020.
- Amazon expands its palm recognition payment tech to more of its stores.
- Lebanon’s financial crisis has driven nearly half of the population of six million into poverty.
- Warren Buffett’s net worth exceeds $100bn:
Mr Buffett’s net worth comes almost entirely from owning about one-sixth of Berkshire Hathaway, a roughly $600bn company.
Its share price is up 15% this year, surpassing $400,000 a share. The investment firm had been struggling in recent years to find deals to spark its growth given its sheer size.
- Filipinos go hungry amid rising pork prices, inflation, and job losses :
At least 4.5 million Filipinos were unemployed last year, a 15-year high, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. On top of that, consumer prices are rising. Inflation in the country hit 4.7 per cent in February, the quickest pace in two years. The uptick was driven by higher prices of non-alcoholic drinks and food, particularly meat, which rose by 20.7 per cent.
- Illinois’ pension debt tops $300 billion:
As of June 30, 2020, the report stated, the total unfunded liabilities of the state’s five pension systems stood at $317 billion, a 19 percent increase from the prior year. That was largely due to historically low interest rates, which have depressed pension fund earnings throughout the country.
- TV manufacturers let smart TVs show additional ads based on watched content.
- Dozen police officers guarded dumpsters filled with perishable food outside a Portland, Oregon, super market as people attempted to take the items that were discarded when the store lost power.
- U.S. crypto currency exchange is valued $68 billion ahead of planned stock market listing.
- Food prices are soaring faster than inflation and incomes:
As the pandemic wrought havoc on the global economy, it ushered in new concerns about hunger and malnutrition, even in the world’s wealthiest countries. In the U.K., the Trussell Trust gave out a record 2,600 food parcels a day to children in the first six months of the pandemic. In the U.S., the Covid-19 crisis pushed an additional 13.2 million people into food insecurity, a 35% jump from 2018, according to estimates from Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.
[…] The poorest Americans already spend 36% of their income on food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and mass layoffs in lower-wage work like retail and transportation have increased the strain on household budgets.
Meanwhile, the price of staples like grains, sunflower seeds, soybeans and sugar have soared, pushing global food prices to a fresh six-year high in January.
- San Fransisco tent-camping spots for the homeless costs city $16.1 million per year ($61.000 per tent):
The cost boils down to $190 per tent per night, which includes 24-hour security, bathrooms, maintenance, and three meals per day. This is cheaper than the per-day cost for the hotel program, but the hotel program is getting 100% federal reimbursement.
Meanwhile, the tent program is giving temporary shelter to 314 people in 247 tents.
- Kroger opened America’s first automated warehouse:
The $55 million, 335,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center features digital and robotic capabilities that allow Kroger to assemble an order of approximately 50 items in six minutes with robotics instead of approximately 30 to 45 minutes with a Kroger employee picking them up from various areas of the store.
- 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since World Cup awarded.
- Facial recognition technology can expose political orientation from naturalistic facial images:
A facial recognition algorithm was applied to naturalistic images of 1,085,795 individuals to predict their political orientation by comparing their similarity to faces of liberal and conservative others. Political orientation was correctly classified in 72% of liberal–conservative face pairs, remarkably better than chance (50%), human accuracy (55%), or one afforded by a 100-item personality questionnaire (66%).
- U.K. Department for Education awards another £190m contract to a company blamed for the problems with a school meals voucher system that left families without food during the first lockdown.
- German conservative lawmakers earned hundreds of thousands of euros on deals to procure masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Samsung Electronics, Mastercard and Samsung Card develop fingerprint biometric payment card.
- Crime-fighting robot patrols Las Vegas apartment complex:
“It’s been very useful in several ways,” said complex manager Carmen Batiz. “It can advise people when they are out past the 10 p.m. curfew and the four video cameras tend to make people avoid it. When we have vandalism reports we can go through the video and get a time frame of when it happened. It has a button so people can get human help quick in an emergency.
“People don’t want to get caught on the cameras so they will avoid it,” Batiz said.
- Sidewalk robots get legal rights as “pedestrians” in several U.S. states.
- Spy pixels in emails have become endemic.
- Several employers in Kent, U.K., refused to let staff leave work to get Covid vaccines.
- U.S. customer spent $10,000 to buy an ad in The Wall Street Journal to tell AT&T’s C.E.O. he wasn’t happy with his internet service.
- People with learning disabilities in the U.K. have been given do-not-resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic.
- Metallica’s online performance ruined by copyright filters, audio was replaced by some easy listening bell music, presumably to avoid having the event organiser banned for a false D.M.C.A. notice.
- Software bug keeping hundreds of inmates in Arizona prisons beyond release dates.
- Freshwater fish are in “catastrophic” decline with one-third facing extinction, report finds.
- Amazon rainforest plots sold via Facebook Marketplace ads.
- Texas electric bills were $28 billion higher under deregulation:
Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration.
- Cold temperatures caused catastrophic failure of Texas’ power grid, leaving millions of people without heat, electricity, and food. Meanwhile, the price of electricity skyrocketed: Texas’ largest and oldest electric power cooperative filed for bankruptcy, citing $1.8 billion grid debt.
- Global debt soars to 356% of G.D.P.
- Oracle sold the company’s data analytics for use by police and security industry contractors across China.
- Republicans in 33 U.S. states introduce 165 bills to restrict voting access.
- Fake Amazon reviews “being sold in bulk” online.
- Donald Trump made $1.6 billion while president, according to financial disclosures.
- Google scans Gmail for invoices & receipts to track what users buy online.
- New York Police Department is testing $74,000 “robotic dog”:
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said empowering a robot to do police work could have implications for bias, mobile surveillance, hacking and privacy. There is also concern that the robot could be paired with other technology and be weaponized.
- Brazil high-risk groups get “shot of air” instead of coronavirus vaccine:
Police in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation […] into reports that doses of the coronavirus vaccine may have been diverted after images emerged of healthcare workers sticking needles into elderly people without injecting them.
- The U.S. could have averted 40% of the deaths from Covid-19.
- U.S. life expectancy lower than in other rich countries, due to obesity, homicides, opioid overdoses, suicides, road accidents, access to healthcare, poverty and economic inequality.
- $35,000 robots introduced in Stop & Shop and other stores throughout the U.S.
- Nyan Cat GIF sold for more than $476,000.
- McKinsey to pay $573 million to settle claims over U.S. opioid crisis role.
- Bitcoin consumes more electricity annually than the whole of Argentina.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents can conduct in-depth searches of phones and laptops now.
- Hack exposes vulnerability of cash-strapped U.S. water plants.
- Counterfeit N95 protection masks sold in at least five U.S. states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies:
Officials in Washington state examined their mask supply, which had come from a different company, and discovered that 300,000 masks they had purchased for about $1.4 million were counterfeit. […]
Beth Zborowski of the Washington State Hospital Association said the fraud has the potential to affect 1.9 million masks but they are mostly in stockpile now rather than general circulation.
- U.S. company has 30 million N95 protection masks it can’t find buyers for:
In one of the more confounding disconnects between the laws of supply and demand, many of the nearly two dozen small American companies that recently jumped into the business of making N95s are facing the abyss — unable to crack the market, despite vows from both former President Donald Trump and President Biden to “Buy American” and buoy domestic production of essential medical gear.
These businesses must overcome the ingrained purchasing habits of hospital systems, medical supply distributors and state governments. Many buyers are loath to try the new crop of American-made masks, which are often a bit more expensive than those produced in China. Another obstacle comes from companies like Facebook and Google, which banned the sale and advertising of N95 masks in an effort to thwart profiteers from diverting vital medical gear needed by frontline medical workers.
- Beverly Hills cop is accused of playing music to avoid being livestreamed on Instagram by triggering the app’s copyright filters.
- Facebook knew calls for violence plagued “Groups”:
The researchers told executives that “enthusiastic calls for violence every day” filled one 58,000-member Group, according to an internal presentation. Another top Group claimed it was set up by fans of Donald Trump but it was actually run by “financially motivated Albanians” directing a million views daily to fake news stories and other provocative content.
Roughly “70% of the top 100 most active US Civic Groups are considered non-recommendable for issues such as hate, misinfo, bullying and harassment,” the presentation concluded.
- Corruption in U.S. at worst levels in almost a decade.
- First fully private astronaut crew paying $55 million each for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
- Austria deports children by night:
[I]n the middle of a raging global pandemic, Austria’s Interior Ministry chartered a plane to deport children back to the Eastern Caucasus. Among those to be deported are 12-years-old Tina and her sister 5-years-old Lea, who were both born in Austria.
- 84% of Mexican hand sanitisers toxic or flawed.
- 40 million Americans filed for unemployment during the pandemic, but billionaires saw their net worth increase by half a trillion dollars:
From March to June 2020, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos saw his wealth rise by an estimated $48 billion. The founder of the video-conferencing platform Zoom grew his nest egg by over $2.5 billion, and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s net worth increased by $15.7 billion.
[…] Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson saw his wealth increase by $5 billion, while Elon Musk saw an increase of $17.2 billion.
[…] From 2009 to 2012, the incomes of the bottom 99% grew by only 0.4%, but the income of the top 1% grew by a staggering 31.4% in the same time span.
[…] Taxes paid by billionaires have decreased 79% since 1980.
- U.S. hospital donors got special access to Covid-19 vaccine:
Molly Stearns, chief development officer at Overlake Medical Center & Clinics, emailed about 110 donors who gave more than $10,000 to the Eastside hospital system, informing them that highly coveted vaccine slots were available.
- Next “James Bond” movie to be partly re-shot, as sponsors fear that mobile phones and other gadgets shown in product placements are out-of-date after two years of production hold-ups.
- U.S. has “moral imperative” to develop A.I. weapons:
The US should not agree to ban the use or development of autonomous weapons powered by artificial intelligence (AI) software, a government-appointed panel has said in a draft report for Congress.
The panel, led by former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, […] concluded two days of public discussion about how the world’s biggest military power should consider AI for national security and technological advancement.
Its vice-chairman, Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said autonomous weapons are expected to make fewer mistakes than humans do in battle, leading to reduced casualties or skirmishes caused by target misidentification.
[…] A member from Microsoft for instance warned of pressure to build machines that react quickly, which could escalate conflicts.
The panel only wants humans to make decisions on launching nuclear warheads.
- U.S. law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year:
Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.
- U.S. police continues to use facial recognition, despite bans.
- Car makers may delay recalls of defective products in order to minimise damage to their stock prices, putting customers in unnecessary danger, according to a study based on 48 years of U.S. data:
Researchers found that automakers tend to issue recalls in “clusters,” meaning that a recall by General Motors makes it more likely that Ford will issue a recall shortly thereafter, for example.
The researchers also showed that the first automaker in a cluster to issue a recall experiences significantly larger damage to its stock price than firms that issue recalls shortly thereafter, incentivizing automakers that are aware of problems to sit on the information until a competitor reveals a defect.
- Workers around the world cumulatively lost $3.7 trillion in earnings during the coronavirus pandemic – an 8.3% decline, study shows.
- Italy failed to rescue over 200 migrants in 2013 Mediterranean disaster:
More than 200 people who had been on board drowned on 11 October 2013 after repeated requests for help were ignored, according to a ruling by the committee on a case brought by Syrian and Palestinian survivors who lost their relatives.
The boat was carrying 400 people, many of them Syrians, when it left Libya. It sent out a call for help after shots were fired at it from another boat.
More than 1,000 people died or went missing trying to reach Europe from north Africa in 2020 and another 480 died or went missing from the west African coast.
- U.S. suffers sharpest rise in poverty rate in more than 50 years.
- Sleeping pods for homeless people installed in German city:
The wood and steel cabins, which can fit up to two people, protect against the cold, wind, and humidity. They also guarantee fresh air circulation.
The pods were introduced to the city of Ulm, 75 miles west of Munich, on 8 January in parks and at other places where homeless people sleep, a city spokesman said.
- Facebook took down groups, pages and individuals involved in socialist politics without explanation.
- Amazon requests in-person union vote in Covid-hit Alabama:
Amazon.com Inc. is asking the National Labor Relations Board to consider having workers vote in person – rather than by mail – on a proposal to form a union at an Alabama warehouse.
The world’s largest online retailer said that a mail election raised the risk of fraud and the coercion of workers.
- Electronic wristband introduced that allows employers to track the emotional state of their employees.
- Departing C.E.O. paid $5.2 million “retention” bonus by one of America’s largest nursing home chain that lost 2,800 residents to Covid-19.
- Microsoft patent shows plans to revive dead loved ones as chatbots. The patent also mentions using 2D or 3D models of specific people.
- Michigan auto shop pays $2,033 to clear unpaid school lunch debts.
- Microsoft president Brad Smith confesses politics are pay-to-play in response to criticism over the company’s donations to lawmakers who objected to U.S. election results:
“It plays an important role. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works,” Smith said, according to CNBC. “Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate.”
Smith argued to employees […] that the contributions are still important because they get Microsoft’s lobbyists access to politicians, which helps them build relationships so the lawmakers are more receptive when Microsoft wants to lobby them on an issue.
- Missouri town started GoFundMe page to fund new emergency warning system.
- Indian billionaires increased their wealth by 35% during the lockdown.
- Doctors locked out from Houston hospital, treat patients in parking lot:
At the Heights Hospital, medical workers ready to open the on-site clinic discovered a notice on the door saying the hospital owed more than $1 million in back rent and fees.
“Please be advised that the door locks to the leased premises have been changed and tenant shall be excluded therefrom due to non-payment of rent,” the note read, adding that keys would be provided “upon payment of delinquent rent and other sums due under the lease.”
- Netflix paid £3.2m in tax on £940m of U.K. subscription revenue.
- Ontario’s for-profit nursing homes have 78% more Covid-19 deaths than non-profits:
[…] [T]he three largest publicly traded long-term care operators paid nearly $171 million in dividends to shareholders in the first three quarters of 2020 while receiving $138.5 million in provincial pandemic pay for front-line staff, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and other pandemic funding.
- World’s ice melting 57 percent faster than in 1990s, the rate of ice loss has increased from 0.8 trillion to 1.2 trillion tonnes per year.
- U.S. grocery delivery company Instacart is firing every employee who voted to unionise:
Instacart Inc. is cutting about 1,900 employees’ jobs, including 10 workers who recently formed a union, as the company seeks to boost its ranks of contract workers.
The grocery delivery company already classifies most of its workers as independent contractors, whose numbers have ballooned to more than 500,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Covid-19 “vaccine vacations“ offered to rich customers:
A package is being offered by Knightsbridge Circle, a £25,000-a-year private members club for those who can afford it. The trip can include first-class or private jet flights, accommodation for up to one month while you wait for your second dose, and a private vaccination. Trips can cost around $55,000 (£40,000). Currently, the options on offer are either Dubai, which now has private appointments for the Pfizer jab, or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in India, which is being sold at 1,000 rupees (£10) on the private market. The club told The Telegraph it is also discussing using Marrakesh to fly supplies from India to get around Indian visa problems.
- Central African Republic is facing serious food shortages amid election violence.
- Malware found on laptops given out by U.K. government to support the home-schooling of vulnerable children during lockdown.
- Twitter bots are a major source of climate disinformation:
Researchers also categorized the 885,164 tweets those users had sent about climate change during the two-month study period. The most popular categories were tweets about climate research and news.
Marlow and the other researchers determined that nearly 9.5% of the users in their sample were likely bots. But those bots accounted for 25% of the total tweets about climate change on most days.
The researchers weren’t able to determine who deployed the bots. But they suspect the seemingly fake accounts could have been created by “fossil-fuel companies, petro-states or their surrogates,” all of which have a vested interest in preventing or delaying action on climate change.
- Rolling Stone magazine is offering “thought leaders” the chance to write for its website if they are willing to pay $2,000.
- Intelligence analysts use U.S. smartphone location data without warrants:
A military arm of the intelligence community buys commercially available databases containing location data from smartphone apps and searches it for Americans’ past movements without a warrant, according to an unclassified memo obtained by The New York Times.
Defense Intelligence Agency analysts have searched for the movements of Americans within a commercial database in five investigations over the past two and a half years, agency officials disclosed in a memo they wrote for Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.
- Trump allies have collected tens of thousands of dollars from pardon seekers.
- Bill Gates is now America’s biggest private-farmland owner.
- 2020 was joint hottest year ever recorded.
- Elon Musk is now the richest person in the world, with a net worth of more than $185 billion.
- All coronavirus patients in an intensive care unit in Egypt have died after the oxygen supply to the ward failed.
- Flawed facial recognition leads to arrest and jail for New Jersey man:
A New Jersey man was accused of shoplifting and trying to hit an officer with a car. He is the third known Black man to be wrongfully arrested based on face recognition.
Mr. Parks spent 10 days in jail and paid around $5,000 to defend himself. In November 2019, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
- Singapore police can access Covid-19 contact tracing data for criminal investigations.
- Nationwide power blackout plunges Pakistan into darkness. Second major incident in less than three years.
- Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after F.B.I. complained.
- Facebook pushed users to join partisan political groups. The platform especially peppered Trump voters with political group recommendations.
- Landlocked Lesotho faces food crisis amid Covid border closures:
More than 580,000 people out of a population of 2.2 million are estimated to be food insecure, despite predictions of normal to above average rains this year and the potential for above average cereal production.
- Ticketmaster admits it hacked rival company before it went out of business. Ticketmaster used stolen passwords and URL guessing to access confidential data.
- Baltimore Police lied about almost every aspect of its spy plane program:
For six months this year, a spy plane flew over Baltimore for hours every day conducting aerial surveillance of everything that happened in 90 percent of the city—an area that encompasses 32 square miles.
The AIR program is a partnership between the BPD and Ohio-based company Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), which owns the spy planes and employs the analysts that examine the footage when BPD makes a request. The $3.7 million initiative was paid for entirely by a nonprofit founded by John Arnold, a hedge fund billionaire who used to work for Enron.
- U.K. Department for Education handed £96m laptop contract without an open tender to Tory donor’s firm.
- U.S. asks Tesla to recall 158,000 vehicles for touchscreen failures.
- U.K. now free to make trade deals with genocidal regimes after Commons vote.
- L.A. County paramedics told not to transport some patients with low chance of survival:
Paramedics in Southern California are being told to conserve oxygen and not to bring patients to the hospital who have little chance of survival as Los Angeles County grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 patients that is expected to get worse in the coming days.
- Japanese company NEC launched facial-recognition system that identifies people wearing masks.
- Boeing to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle criminal conspiracy charge over 737 Max crashes.
- The U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. All of them were held by women.
- U.K. government breaks promise to maintain ban on bee-harming pesticide:
A pesticide believed to kill bees has been authorised for use in England despite an EU-wide ban on its use outdoors two years ago and an explicit government pledge to keep the restrictions.
- The world has lost tropical forest equivalent to the size of California over a 13-year period.
- Facebook has been showing military gear ads next to insurrection posts.
- U.S. police three times as likely to use force against leftwing protesters than rightwing protesters.
- U.S. Secret Service paid $3,000 a month for a bathroom near the home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The agents were instructed not to use any of the six bathrooms inside the couple’s house.
- Pro-Trump mob storms U.S. Capitol building. One person was shot dead at the Capitol and three others died in medical emergencies amid Washington, D.C. unrest.
“[E]mancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a ‘natural order’, must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable.”
– Mark Fisher