Category Archives: Business

The US spends more on its military than the next 8 countries combined

According to 2015 estimates gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States was responsible for 36% of the entire world’s military spending. Even so, President Trump is calling for a $54 billion increase in US military spending which he says is needed to “rebuild the military.” In order to pay for this, Trump is also calling for a $54 billion cut in other parts of the federal budget.

By Emmanuel Ocbazghi/BusinessInsider

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Work To Complete Disputed Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Underway

Construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under a North Dakota reservoir has begun and the full pipeline should be operational within three months, the developer of the long-delayed project said Thursday, even as American Indian activists vowed to fight in the courts to protect their water supply.

The Army granted Energy Transfer Partners formal permission Wednesday to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, clearing the way for completion of the 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline. ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed early Thursday that construction resumed “immediately after receiving the easement.”

More from Talking Points Memo

Posted by Libergirl

Israel approves permits for 566 settler homes

Building plan in East Jerusalem approved by local council after being held up until Donald Trump took office in the US.

Israeli authorities have approved building permits for 566 settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, according to local officials, a move that has drawn condemnation from Palestinian leaders.

The approval of the building plan on Sunday came two days after the inauguration of Donald Trump in the United States, with Israeli official saying the permits had been held up until the end of Barack Obama’s administration, which had been critical of Israeli settlement activity.

“The rules of the game have changed with Donald Trump’s arrival as president,” Meir Turgeman, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, told AFP news agency.

“We no longer have our hands tied as in the time of Barack Obama. Now we can finally build.”

Turgeman said that city officials approved the plans that had been previously postponed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request following a UN Security Council resolution in December against Israeli settlement building.

The new permits are for homes in the settlement neighbourhoods of Pisgat Zeev, Ramot and Ramat Shlomo, according to Turgeman, who also heads the planning committee that approved them.

Turgeman said plans for about 11,000 other homes were also in process in East Jerusalem, though he did not say when they could proceed.

‘State above law’

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and have been major stumbling blocks in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

Between 2009 and 2014, Israeli settlements expanded by 23 percent in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the building plans and called on the United Nations to take action, particularly given the recent Security Council resolution.

“It is time to stop dealing with Israel as a state above the law,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that with Trump now in the White House the Israeli government feels it can build illegal settlements on Palestinian land without facing much criticism.

“They think that this is a retooling of the relationship with the US,” Khan said. “Under President Trump the Israelis feel that they will have a lot more leeway to build on Palestinian land,” he added.

“And this is a message to the world that they can build wherever they want, including on the land of a future Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu-Trump talks

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he was to speak with Trump later in the day, their first conversation since the billionaire businessman took office.

Trump has pledged strong support for Israel and vowed during his campaign to recognise Jerusalem as the country’s capital despite the city’s contested status.

READ MORE: Abbas warns Trump not to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Israel clashed frequently with Obama over construction in areas it conquered in 1967.

But Trump’s appointed ambassador to Israel has close ties to Jewish West Bank settlements, as does the foundation run by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

From Al Jazeera and news agencies

Posted by The NON-conformist

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

A buddy of mine sent me a text about boycotting Black Friday from Nov 24 thru Jan 2….Before I begin my righteous rant I’m not even going to go into the history of Black Friday. If you don’t know the origin of the story by now, you shouldn’t be in the argument or the vicinity thereof. To brief yourself on the subject read Sarah Pruitt’s article What’s the Real History of Black Friday.

I’ve heard every argument for Black Friday and I call bullshit!. Look at it this way, why boycott if you’re pinching pennies to buy your children a gift they really want and you can get that same gift at a fraction of the cost(sorry that makes good financial sense). Doesn’t matter if you purchase your gifts a week before, the retailers are still getting your dollars anyway. Might as well save some coin! The other question, would I boycott…Hell yes! Problem is we’re not ready. We argue for freedom, justice, equality and self- determination. When Kaepernick took a knee we argued about the oppression of the flag and the racist history of the flag and how the United States Constitution wasn’t for you, we weren’t even considered a person. Yet we want to partake in European holiday that had nothing to do with enslaved Africans. Read the “Slave Narratives” how black were treated or mistreated. Some were plotting their escape while others enjoyed the time off in drunkenness. We fight tooth and nail to be a part of “Misgivings Day.”

If we want to get serious about boycotting we have to completely get out of the business of celebrating European holidays. I understand we live in a ready made world but can we not make our personal stamp and create our own belief systems. Think for a second, didn’t we have a truth, a practice or belief system before we were exported here and made to forget that rich history. Read the works of Cheikh Anta Diop, Robin Walker, Ivan Van Sertima,Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan. Our history is presented to us as slavery to the Civil Rights Movement.

The question remains, what do you want? If you want to boycott from Nov 24 to Jan 2, we can’t partake in “Misgivings Day” by spending it on traditional fare such as turkeys which alone bring in roughly $670 million. If we want self- determination we have to come out from  under the thumb of tradition and be a separate people in order to be taken seriously.

I receive funny looks when I tell people I don’t partake in American holidays especially from white people. It didn’t start out this way but  I’m happier for it. The argument continues to be an economic boycott for justice. We are not a unified group so a massive boycott is not in our best interest. We have to focus on one company. Let’s take Coke for instance, the group that created fat white Santa, Funny, yet true.

Coke doesn’t really spend money with black businesses so lets buy stock and become major stake holders (companies are beholden to share holders). This is called a power play: your money is your voice. We didn’t created the rules but we must play by them at times. We also must fight injustice by voting for those who have a divested interest. We have to chose people we want and back them financially, we also can’t be scared to chose people who look like us. We have to be completely divested and not partake in European holidays, until then I can’t take your boycott seriously. So much more can be added, this was just a primer!

Written by The NON-Conformist

Robot takeover begins? Corporate giant Capita replaces staff with automatons


Outsourcing giant Capita is to sack 2,000 staff and replace them with robots in a move some fear will be repeated across the economy, leading to more than 1 million job losses.
The FTSE 100-listed firm, which collects the BBC license fee and provides services for the NHS, said it needed to ax 2,000 jobs to save money due to poor trading with corporate clients.

It said it would use the money it saved to fund investment into robotic workers across the whole company, according to the Guardian.

The announcement will add to fears the world is a facing fourth industrial revolution powered by artificial intelligence (AI) which will result in unprecedented job losses.

A study published by Oxford University and consultancy firm Deloitte in October predicted there is a 77 percent probability Britain will lose 1.3 million “repetitive and predictable” administrative and operative jobs within 15 years.

More than 850,000 public sector jobs – including teachers, social workers and even police officers – could also be replaced by computer programs.

MPs warned in October the government is unprepared for the coming technological revolution.

The Science Technology Committee said the government’s role in preparing for the impact of AI is “lacking” and cautioned that “science fiction is slowly becoming science fact, and robotics and AI look destined to play an increasing role in our lives over the coming decades.”

Capita saw its shares drop to a 10 year low at one point following its December statement, in which the company announced it would be selling off assets and trimming costs to protect its balance sheet after Brexit.

The company will use robots to help eliminate human error and make decisions faster, said chief executive Andy Parker, whose salary rose nine percent to £600,000 (US$756,000) this year, according to Unite the Union.

“It doesn’t remove the need for an individual but it speeds up how they work, which means you need less [sic] people to do it,” he said in the statement.

Parker added that a human assisted by robotic technology could do a 40-minute job in much less time.

“They can then do 10 times the amount they used to, so you need less [sic] people to do the same amount of work.”

Rehana Azam, national secretary for public services at the GMB union, said in a statement, “Public services are predominantly delivered by people so it’s hard to see how they’re going to provide a cost-efficient service from call centers in another country.

“We’d want to sit down with Capita and make sure people are treated fairly in any process that ends with them losing jobs.

“We’ve never had a good track record with private providers delivering computerized systems. I’d like to see where there have been good examples of that kind of automation.”


Posted by The NON-Conformist

Simply Repealing Obamacare Will Hurt the White Working Class

Donald Trump’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act threatens to harm the voters who put him into office.

On January 20—quibbling over the Electoral College notwithstanding—Donald Trump will become president. For the first time in the seven years since its passage, Republicans will have what they need to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Trump has made some remarks indicating a full repeal of Obamacare might not be in the cards. But his own repeated campaign promises, the Republican Party platform, and dozens of congressional votes make it fair to expect that most of the law will be repealed or rolled back over the coming months. The three biggest provisions of the ACA—Medicaid expansion to all low-income people, the individual mandate to buy insurance, and the creation of a subsidy-backed private-insurance marketplace—are the most obvious candidates for the axe. Unfortunately for many of the millions of voters who elected a Republican president and Congress, cutting those provisions could place their lives in disarray.

The full-throated Republican rebellion against Obamacare since its passage was both a rejection of Obama’s policies and a reaction to a dysfunctional health-care system that proved unaffordable to many. Trump has been widely credited for tapping the economic anxiety of many white working-class voters, promising to help them make ends meet and make their lives better.

But white people who make less than $50,000 annually have derived particular benefit from Obamacare’s provisions, especially in the Rust Belt and in rural, white Republican strongholds. It’s been widely reported that rates of uninsurance dropped more for people of color than for white people in the years since Obamacare was passed, but that’s largely because people of color are generally more likely to fall into lower income brackets, where the Medicaid expansion and tax subsidies had the greatest effect on increasing coverage.

When stratified by income, however, it appears that among those whose incomes are less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level—just around $49,000 for a family of four this year—whites actually gained insurance at relatively high rates. Data from the 2016 and 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement shows that the proportion of uninsured low-income white people dropped by 8.6 percentage points from 2013 to 2015, a reduction that was roughly similar to the decrease among Hispanic people, but which outpaced the national average of 8.1 percentage points, and dwarfed the decrease among black people in the same income groups. Members of the white working class, in other words, were particularly likely to gain coverage from Obamacare.

A closer look at some of the states that Trump captured reveals a much more nuanced picture of Obamacare’s role in the lives of low-income white people than his campaign-trail rhetoric might suggest. In the “coal-miner country” of Appalachia, the Affordable Care Act has been vital in shoring up collapsing rural-health systems that have become overburdened with the mounting health problems of their constituents.
West Virginia, which has been wracked by public-health problems, pollution, and has the most per-capita drug deaths in the country, has had to embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies in order to provide affordable healthcare for all those coal miners, other low-income workers, and their extraordinary rates of disease and disability. While premiums for exchange plans have increased by double digits across the state, that largely reflects the cost of covering such a sick pool of rural enrollees, and most people in the state will never see those increases because of subsidies.

Just across the Big Sandy River, Kentucky’s corner of Appalachia is dealing with the same issues for similar populations of rural, low-income white people with similar health problems. Kentucky also expanded Medicaid to all low-income people, and over 60 percent of all the state’s residents approve of that expansion. Even more support maintaining the expansion in the future. Notably, the support for all of the Obamacare provisions in the state is lower when referred to by that name then when referred to by Kentucky’s own branded name for its exchange program—Kynect.

In the vaunted blue-collar pieces of the Rustbelt, where Trump broke through Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” in his near-sweep of Midwestern battlegrounds, Obamacare also holds sway in the lives of lower-income working white people. In Ohio—whose Republican Governor John Kasich accepted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion—the law helped cut uninsurance to 6 percent. The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, prompted an emergency expansion of Medicaid to care for mothers and children affected by lead poisoning. And although Flint is a majority-black city, its lead crisis is a harbinger for other lead-related infrastructure crises in Rustbelt towns, which mostly skew rural and white. For citizens in those towns—quite literally in Middle America—maintaining robust federal public insurance could be a matter of life and death, and of the future of their children.

But insurance coverage is only a means to an end, and that end is health. While it is undeniable that several million Americans face rising or unaffordable premiums and prescription drugs, it is also true that millions of the worst-off Americans gained coverage at low cost or at no cost, and that it allowed many of them to visit physicians or go for check-ups without fear of bankruptcy for the first time in their lives. Most of those first-timers are white people working low-paying jobs, and for them that security couldn’t have come at a better time. Especially in the rural, whitest pockets of America, the opioid crisis and a staggering number of other morbidities have actually reversed the declining trend in mortality rates among white Americans that has often been taken as a birthright. For much of this group of people, their generation is the first to give birth to children who will not live longer than them.

For all the angst about Obamacare’s overreach, rural white America has long been dependent on public insurance. For one, these residents tend to be older than urban counterparts and thus rely more on Medicare. But even among the non-elderly, a quarter of all rural residents rely on Medicaid or other public insurance for their basic health-care needs. Many of these residents rallied around Trump’s vague plans to ease their economic issues, including the erosion of stable union-protected jobs. But one of the benefits that these people have lost the most and that has contributed to family economic woes the most is employer-sponsored health care. Public insurance—now bolstered by Obamacare—has taken up much of the slack.

Extending health-insurance coverage is not, of course, a guarantee of affordable or useful healthcare. But the ACA actually does fund several direct public-health initiatives that attempt to address rural America’s deepening health issues. The president-elect has largely neglected these in his scathing analysis, but the law authorizes funding for hundreds of new community-health centers and for sending physicians to long-neglected communities outside of urban centers. While so far, the law’s implementation has been a severe strain on rural hospitals, clinics, and the healthcare workforce that caters to many low-income white patients, that strain has come because millions of people with lifetimes of unmet medical need now have a way to finally get into the system. If the goal is to help these people, that might be a case for expanding the ACA’s coverage and capacity-building measures, not abandoning the attempt.

All but one of the plans currently in consideration by the congressional Republican leadership, however, would not only diminish Obamacare’s subsidies, but also restrict Medicaid in historically novel ways. The sudden removal of billions of dollars of Medicaid and subsidized private payments to rural health centers, reducing support below even 2012 levels, could be the final blow for many places that are the last lines of defense for America’s whitest communities.

Although tax reductions and lower premiums would likely benefit many of the healthiest and youngest adult residents of white America, they would distinctly harm exactly the kinds of vulnerable people that Republicans have placed at the center of their narrative.

According to an analysis from The Economist, the health of a county was the strongest predictor aside from race and education of the likelihood of its voters to switch from voting for President Obama in 2012 to voting for Trump in 2016. There might not be causality there, since on a county level, poor health outcomes are strongly associated with rurality, which is itself associated with whiteness, low-incomes, and less education. But the places that suffer the most and have flipped for Trump by the highest margins stand out as Rustbelt counties that have been hit hard by a number of other issues. While Obamacare has not been enough to solve their problems, the plans so far advanced by Republicans restrict federal funding for health crises and public health, as opposed to extending new avenues of coverage, care, and access.

The people who desperately need better health-insurance coverage and a more robust healthcare infrastructure among the stereotypical Republican base are black-lunged ex-coal miners in West Virginia who’ve lost pensions and union protections; children with opioid-addicted parents; hard-scrabble farmers who work 100-hour weeks just to rise above the poverty level; and abandoned auto- and steel-industry employees in polluted towns who now need public benefits just to feed their families. If anything, the years of experimentation with Obamacare have indicated that more investment is necessary to protect them. But it appears America will be going the other way.

By Vann R. Newark II

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Protesters Brace for Confrontation With Police

(CANNON BALL, N.D.) — Protesters trying to stop construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline are bracing for a confrontation with police Thursday after the demonstrators refused to leave private land in the pipeline’s path. A months-long dispute over the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline reached a crisis point when some 200 protesters set up camp…

More from Time Magazine

Posted by Libergirl