Thursday, July 27, 2017

Defense costs not included in the Pentagon budget

William Hartung has an interesting article, The Hidden Costs of ‘National Security', in which he lists a number of defense-related costs that are not in the Pentagon's budget. These total $450.6 billion dollars, or about 78% of the Pentagon budget. They are: 
War Budget: $64.6 Billion
Department of Energy (nuclear): $20 Billion
Veterans: $186 billion
Military Retirement: $80 Billion
Defense Share of the Interest on the Debt: $100 billion

Our friend, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a good market for our arms industry. It just sold them $110 billion of arms, which is added to the $350 billion we already had. One way the Saudis are using these arms is by bombing the hell out of Yemen. They have devastated transportation routes (both sea and air), storage facilities for holding food (including an Oxfam warehouse for food aid) and a water project funded by the European Union.

The UN’s special envoy for the secretary general for Yemen says that 20 million of Yemen’s 25 million people are affected by the war. Most of them have little access to water, sanitation, hygiene and food. Seven million of them — including 2.3 million children under the age of 5 — are on the “cusp of famine.” The UN is trying to raise $6.27 billion to prevent the famine but has been able to raise only half of it. There are now 320,000 suspected cases of cholera in the country, with 1,700 confirmed deaths because of that disease.

In 2016, a UN panel of experts concluded that the Saudi war on Yemen documented grave violations of human rights that were “widespread and systematic.”

Who pays taxes?

Getting to work

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Football is tough

Boston University researchers released a study of the brains of 202 deceased football players. The brains were donated by relatives of the players; the relatives were concerned about the behavior of the players. The players were active in various levels of football: pre-high school (2), high school (14), college (53), semi-pro (14), Canadian league (8) and NFL (111).  86.6% (177) had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease that can result in troubling behavior, disturbed moods, impaired thinking, agitation, impulsivity, explosive tempers and memory loss. More than half of the players contemplated suicide. Suicide, in fact, was the leading cause of death among those with mild CTE.

The participants played football for an average of 15 years. More than 90 percent of college players in the study sample had CTE. Among the 111 National Football League players whose brains were donated, CTE was found in all but one.

Husband and Wife. Master and Slave

China Grows

From Piketty etal

Would you like a microchip in your finger?

That's what a technology company in Wisconsin is offering its employees. Employees can choose to have a chip the size of a grain of rice injected between their thumb and index finger. Once that is done, any task involving RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology — swiping into the office building, paying for food in the cafeteria — can be accomplished with a wave of the hand. So far, more than 50 of the company's 80 employees have opted for it. 

Will the chip be hackable one day?

Child Labor is a big thing in Lebanon

While child labor is illegal in Lebanon, Unicef says that about 280,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have been forced into child labor. Some are as young as 5 years old. They're hired because they are cheap. They work because their fathers can't find work. As Syrians, the fathers can only work in agriculture, construction, and cleaning — all low-paying, temporary jobs. Otherwise, they need a work permit.

The kids have a very rough time - they work long hours, often in hazardous conditions — using dangerous machinery in factories, being abused by employers, and working under the hot sun in agricultural fields. They're missing out on the chance for an education, and the grueling nature of the work leaves them little time to process, or heal from, the emotional and psychological wounds they’ve suffered.

Furthermore, Lebanon doesn’t have formal Syrian refugee camps. So, Syrians have to pay an average rent of $200 a month to live in Palestinian camps. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Rich Get Richer

Data from Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Pikkety, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, The World Wealth and Income Database, April 5, 2016.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How does the Pentagon handle waste?

The waste is comprised of the Pentagon’s discarded contents from bullets, chemical makings from bombs, and raw explosives — all used or left over from the manufacture and testing of weapons ingredients. They are doused with fuel and lit on fire, igniting infernos that can be seen more than a half a mile away.  This waste contains health hazards, such as lead, mercury, chromium and compounds like nitroglycerin and perchlorate.  This handling of waste has poisoned millions of acres, and affected tens of thousands of residents in surrounding towns. And, this waste handling, referred to as "open burns", goes on at least 51 Pentagon sites. It affects schools, water supplies and homes. The EPA estimates that 40,000,000 acres of land has been contaminated by the Pentagon or its contractors in the U.S.

Congress had looked at the open burns situation in the 1980s and banned the practice except that it gave the Pentagon a temporary reprieve from the law. The Pentagon has a strange definition of 'temporary'.

271 to 1

That's the ratio of  the compensation of  CEOs at America’s largest firms to the average US worker. Are the CEOs really worth that much? Fifty years ago, that ratio was 20-to-1. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fighting voter fraud

Holding hands

From the NY Times interview re Trump and Macron:

TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand. 

HABERMAN: I’ve noticed. 

TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes. I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.

The beginning of the end?

Car, as opposed to the many forms of trucks, sales are down. Some models have been cancelled: Dodge Viper; the Volkswagen Eos, the Honda CR-Z hybrid 2-door; the Lincoln MKS; and Toyota’s entire Scion line. GM is getting hit harder than any of the major automakers. In the first half of 2017, GM’s car sales in the US plunged 19%, and in June 38%. The rest of the industry (without GM) booked declines in car sales of “only” 10% in the first half and 9% in June.

GM is considering eliminating more models, closing some plants or converting them to making trucks. They have begun discussions with the UAW.

Some models that may be dropped: Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac XTS, Chevrolet Impala, and Chevrolet Sonic.