Class Warfare: Winners and Losers The media are full of shocking stories of income inequality. While the median household income continues to drop, the wealth of the richest continues to rise. The income of the top 0.01% has skyrocketed, the income of the upper middle class has gone up a little, but lower and middle class incomes have fallen. In California, upper crust wages were 72% higher than the median income. Remember when America was the place where you could go from rags to riches? That fairy tale is over. But if you are already very rich, there is a good chance you can become filthy rich. The 25 top managers of hedge funds earned $11 billion in 2016. For these tycoons, it scarcely mattered if their returns were ugly. How does it feel when the CEO in your company earns in 2 hours what you earn in a year? Disney CEO Bob Iger got an 80% pay raise this year. He now earns $65 million a year, 1,424 times the salary of his employees. Even Disney heir Abagail Disney (net worth $500 million) called this “naked indecency.” But her worth is peanuts compared to Bloomberg’s estimate of the $163 billion worth of the Walmart heirs. (Think of that every time you buy something at Walmart.) In Britain, they are fighting back with “name and shame” the executives with outlandish incomes. Britain now has a public register which lists lavish salaries and their ratios to the salaries of workers in their company. Surprisingly, there is even some blowback from the 1%. As 5000 of the world’s richest gathered at a Beverly Hilton conference, they were warned about looming class warfare. The free enterprise system is not working and only a few are benefiting. According to the LAT, the message for Capitalism is: “Reform or Revolution.”
Self-Destruction in Britain Have you been watching the downward spiral of what was once a great nation? The politics of “No” has permeated every level of government and society. Political chaos, social distrust, and signs of collapse everywhere (America take note).
Robo Call Alert One thing politicians say they agree on is the need to do something about robo calls. Unfortunately, robo callers remain a few steps ahead of any attempts to regulate them. The head of one company called YouMail says he makes 2.3 billion calls a month. Robocallers from Uzbekistan can make it look like your neighbor is calling. When you suspect a robo call, answer but remain silent. Most robo calls are simultaneous multiple dials which are voice activated and will quickly drop you if you don’t activate it. Here is how to rebel or retaliate.
Who Assesses Trump’s Mental Health? The 25th Amendment empowers Congress to assess a president’s mental health. But who can decide or agree upon a clinical judgment? There is plenty of speculation that Trump is mentally ill, but no one seems to know what to do.
Big Tobacco Hooks Children on Sugar Drinks When the walls were closing in on tobacco, Big Tobacco diversified into another form of addiction: sugary drinks. They used their expertise in selling addiction to make sugar drinks attractive to children. A third of American children are now considered obese or overweight, and rates of Type 2 diabetes are soaring. “We’ve decided to focus our marketing on kids,” boasted a Kool-Aid executive. (Kool-Aid is part of General Foods which is owned by RJR Tobacco.)
The Drug Industry Spends Lavishly not only to influence doctors but also with paid ads targeting the public. Drug advertising has risen by 70% according to the American Medical Association. Drug companies now spend $30 billion a year to push their drugs.
The Eyeglasses Scam Getting ripped off on eyewear? Tired of bloated eyewear pricing? These are the headlines of an expose by LAT writer David Lazaus. After Italy’s Luxottica merged with France’s Essilor there is very little competition in eyewear and price gouging is the rule. Luxottica (owner of Lens Crafters) owns almost all of the brands you can buy. The founder of Lens Crafters admitted that the best designer frames and lenses cost about $15, everything above is gouging.
Why Are Tourists Flocking to Bhutan? A centuries old tradition in Bhutan is to celebrate the phallus. They are painted on walls, carved over doorway entrances, and worn as necklaces to ward off evil. Phallus art is thriving in Bhutan!
Beware, The Grannies Are Marching! Last month we celebrated teenagers who are taking up social protest. Now the Grannies are Marching. In Vienna, Grannies are holding weekly protest marches, mostly against the rise of right wing Fascism. Maybe the Grannies of the US should get organized?
Fascism on the Rise LAT reporter Scott Timberg writes that democracies are falling victim to the allure of authoritarianism. Formerly secret groups are now more open and brazen, and publishers are releasing many new titles claiming that the public is getting more interested in fascism. Even Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, has a new book Fascism: A Warning. Look at what is happening in Turkey, Venezuela, Russia, North Korea, Hungary, Poland, and the Philippines. She asks, can it happen here?
The Great Republican War on Democracy This is the disturbing title of an Op-Ed by Jamelle Bouie. Paul Krugman has a similar piece, “The Great Republican Abdication: A party that no longer believes in American values.” Republican advisor Scott Jennings explains that Republicans will never quit Trump – the former Republican Party is now the Trump Party.
What Country Develops the Most Sport Champions? In the Winter Olympics Games, Norway has won more medals than any other country. The score: Norway, 39 (population 5.3 million), United States 23 (population 328 million). The secret is surprising: Norway lets Children be Children (that is the headline of the paper edition of the study). Compare the way Norway raises its children and the way America raises its children.
What Countries Are the Happiest? The first four are Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. USA came in 19th. See the whole list:
The Kansas Experiment Ends in Failure Remember all the conservative Republican ballyhoo about the marvels of supply side economics? Slash taxes (especially for the rich). Slash government spending! Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback championed this policy slashing taxes more than any other state. The Republican legislature slavishly followed his wishes and the result was a disaster for the state. Brownback (now out of office) became even more unpopular than Donald Trump and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.
Israel Successfully Fires Missile Designed to be Hidden in Shipping Containers The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries has successfully test fired is LORA missile. It is designed to be concealed in a standard shipping container. It can launch a 3500 lb. projectile 250 miles within t0 minutes of opening. This system can convert any civilian vessel into a missile launching platform. The price is unclear as is who the customers will be but think of this as you watch the ships near the horizon (about 17 miles away). There are over 50,000 cargo ships registered to 150 nations. A medium-sized cargo ship can carry 1,000 containers. The Port of Los Angeles is the #1 container port in the country logging 9.5 million containers. Shipping companies lose track of about 1,500 containers a year. What could possibly go wrong?
Humans Origins and Extinctions A new 1,500 page report by international scientific experts paints a grim future for life on planet Earth. As many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because one species (homo sapiens) continues to plunder ecosystems. As long as human beings are around, it appears other forms of life will suffer. As for our origins, new fossils question the standard theory that modern humans drifted out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. Fossils in China, Australia, and Saudi Arabia suggest that homo sapiens may have started their migrations much earlier.
Learn How Insignificant You Are Surprise! The universe has 10 times more galaxies than previously thought! The Hubble Space Telescope reports that there are about 2 trillion galaxies in the cosmos. Each galaxy may have 100 million stars. There are probably 19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars similar to ours with at least one planet similar to Earth. Even our own Milky Way probably has 40 billion Earth-sized planets. Scientists say that the key to understanding the universe is to study supermassive black holes. The good news is that none is close enough to suck up our entire solar system and make it disappear. The bad news is that there are so many black holes that it is impossible to count them. Some of the biggest black holes (300 million light years away) may have gobbled up 21 billion suns. To understand how insignificant our species is, consider a 2 hour documentary film about life on Earth. Footage about human beings would take up the last 2 seconds. The way we are going, how long will we be around? Some scientists specular that this is our last century.
The News in Brief
New Trump plan to reduce poverty: change how you define poverty. This would allow him to achieve his goal of taking away health care and food assistance from millions of Americans….The Pentagon has spent $300 billion on anti-missile defense but half of the tests have failed, even when there is only one incoming missile and the “defense” knew in advance the timing and location of the missile….Rhode Island has initiated a “lunch shaming program.” Poor students who can’t pay could receive nothing other than jelly sandwiches to embarrass them in front of all the other students….Trump picked a Kathleen White to head of the Council on Environmental Quality even after she said that carbon dioxide is harmless and renewable energy is parasitic. Then Trump picked a coal lobbyist to head the EPA and a Boeing executive to be Secretary of Defense in spite of allegations of ethics violations. White was eventually dropped but the other two now control EPA and DOD….The 20 warmest years on record have all come in the last 22 years….The F-35 fighter jets cost $100 million each….Since plastics were invented, over 9 billion tons have been produced. Up to 14 million tons of it wind up in the ocean every year….The ban on plastics straws? Devin Nunes retorts: “Welcome to Socialism in California!” Meanwhile, the Conservative Politicial Action Conference warns America that the Democrats are coming after your hamburgers, “just like Stalin!” ….The Justice Dept. announced that it will no longer defend prohibitions against female genital mutilations. Your Justice Dept. has also stopped defending the Affordable Care Act and instead now attacks it….The Pentagon says it has killed only 108 civilians in bombing and drone attacks in Africa and Asia. The non-profit group Airwars says your tax dollars killed somewhere between 800-1,700 civilians….Economists say that declining wages are not because of automation. Rather they are caused but the current political environment which is deeply hostile to labor. Let’s face it, says Paul Krugman, our system is rigged against workers….Facebook has been selling sensitive user health information. A tool called Flo Health allows women to predict when they ovulate. Results are secretly reported back to Facebook which then sells the information to advertisers who then target her for products. Users are not informed and there is no way they can stop the data transfer….In the U.S., a gun is stolen every 2 minutes. There are now over 400 million guns in the country….On the brighter side of things, a group of astronomers on April 10 successfully photographed a black hole near the center of the Milky Way. This particular black hole has the gravitational mass of 4 million suns that have disappeared from the visible universe.