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Globalization Will Work If We Stop Catering To The Elite, Says Larry Summers

27 min 17 sec ago

Larry Summers is an American economist. He served as chief economist for the World Bank from 1991 to 1993, U.S. treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001 and president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006. Summers is currently a professor at Harvard and a member of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council. He recently spoke to The WorldPost about globalization in the era of U.S. President Donald Trump and Brexit.

What are the key policies of a centrist politics that is pro-globalization? In the wake of Brexit and Trump’s election, you have called for a “responsible nationalism”  that responds to the needs of those voters. What does that mean in practice?

First of all, some of this is about policies. But some is about the extent to which we are projecting a global attitude that sees everyone in the world as a fellow human being and the extent to which you are projecting a concern for certain people because they are American.

'As a global leader, we have not necessarily displayed the uppermost concern for Americans in our policies.'

As a global leader, we have not necessarily displayed the uppermost concern for Americans in our policies. So, some of it is a matter of what is projected.

I would say these are the most important policies:

  1. A policy of investment in infrastructure; building things that everyone shares and can be proud of. This has the virtue of employing people who are having a tough time in the current economy. It is the best way to provide a general economic stimulus. A trillion-dollar commitment over the next 10 years would be a great step ― paid for by carbon taxes or other measures that are pro-environment.

  2. A commitment to monetary policies that create an economy in which we’d face a shortage of workers rather than a shortage of jobs. That creates a more equal leverage between employers and employees, which is the condition for real wage growth for ordinary workers. We don’t even have a central bank that takes a 2 percent inflation target seriously. We’ve gone eight years with inflation nowhere near that. We need to target 2 percent, not just be comfortable with the forecasts of inflation inching minimally up.

  3. We need a much greater level of investment in young people and their transition to work. Some of that has to do with the debt burden of a college education. But more importantly, we don’t do anything for people who don’t go to college. They are left to either sink or swim, and mostly they sink. I’m thinking here of the kind of vocational apprentice arrangements that Germany has implemented successfully.

  4. We need to reorient our international economic policy toward what benefits people, instead of benefiting the rich and focusing on the priorities of corporations. Why is it that corporate tax loopholes, which mean that ordinary Americans need to pay more taxes, is not a priority? Instead, intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical companies are at the top of the international agenda. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was recently very proud about getting credit rating agencies into China. Who cares? The shareholders come from all over the world ― and the jobs will be created for Chinese people in China. Why not tackle tax competition, jurisdiction arbitrage and tax shifting instead, all of which allow corporations to avoid their tax obligations. Tax avoidance and tax havens are the clearest example of bad international policy. And international agreement should aim as well at stopping races to the bottom on labor and environmental standards.

This should be the orientation – protecting regular people rather than protecting the interests of the people who know a lot about the international system and how to game it.

Right now, when we discuss the global economy, we mainly talk about things that improve “competitiveness” and are painful to the regular worker ― things that are aimed at promoting the interest of companies headquartered in the United States with global scope.

No wonder people don’t like globalism.

Is the greatest threat to jobs displacement and inequality from rapid technological advance or globalization?

It is pretty clearly it is from technology. Manufacturing employment as a share of GDP is substantially less in both Germany and China ― the big surplus export states ― than it was in 1990. So, I don’t see how you can avoid the conclusion that technology is the larger and more fundamental issue. And wealth is concentrating in the big tech companies. We are going to need to find ways of more progressive taxation if there is to be acceptance of the market system as a model. We should be moving toward more progressive taxation.

'If we are going to employ everybody, we’re going to have to find ways of making sure that that work can get done.'

Also, in terms of inequality, I think the idea of wage subsidies should be seriously considered. There is an important distinction between an “earning subsidy” and a “wage subsidy.” In an earned income tax credit, if I earn $20,000, the state gives me $10,000. If I am earning $30,000, the state gives me $5,000. If I earn $50,000, the state doesn’t give me anything and I pay taxes.

A wage subsidy works like this: I earn $8 an hour and the government pays an extra $4 for every hour I work. If I earn $10 an hour, the government gives me $3 dollars. In other words, because it is based on my wage rate, it doesn’t distort my level of effort. It is more complicated to enforce, but more attractive. It is a better alternative to universal basic income where no level of effort is required. I think people want to work.

There are all kinds of important work in our society to do ― such as elderly care, child care, practicing preventive medicine  ― for which there is not a readily apparent business model. If we are going to employ everybody, we’re going to have to find ways of making sure that that work can get done.

Another important thing to understand about wages and costs in this context is how the world has changed. If we assume consumer prices at 100 in 1983, the consumer price for a TV in 2017 is much, much less because the technology has improved and made it much cheaper. But the cost of a year of college has skyrocketed ― it is 600 today to compared to 100 in 1983. So, there has been a huge change in relative prices of those two goods.

It is hard to believe in that context that we shouldn’t have more spending by the government to help pay for one ― college costs ― and not the other.

Some have  argued that the centrist “third way” politics practiced by you, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair failed because of its blind spot on financial deregulation. In retrospect do you think so?

We’ve done a lot with Dodd-Frank in the U.S. and with the various global versions of financial regulatory reform.

There are still problem areas ― shadow banking probably the largest among them. Surely finance was under-regulated before 2008. But I don’t think more regulation of finance is the foremost issue today. The place that had the biggest bubble and biggest crash was Japan ― yet it was and is a highly regulated financial system. They didn’t have derivatives or financial innovation. Continental Europe has a far less financial culture than U.S. or Great Britain, and they have performed worse over recent years.

Before 2008, yes, we should have had more regulation. Is there a fundamental principle around redefining the financial sector as a public utility? I don’t think so.

'There is no question that the center of global economic gravity is moving to the South and East.'

The Chinese see the center of gravity moving to the developing world and are describing a new phase of globalization in which their “Belt and Road” investment in infrastructure initiative boosts that growth to the benefit of the entire global economy. Do you agree with them?

There is no question that center of global economic gravity is moving to the South and East. There is no question that the dislocations associated with trade are greater when the wage rates in the developed world are five to eight times greater than in the developing world. It is a dislocation that wouldn’t take place if you were talking about economies with similar levels of development and wages. We’ve never seen anything quite like China that has a total economy of immense scale and huge financial power ― $3 trillion in reserves ― but has average income levels that are 20 percent of what America has.

We just haven’t seen history put together that kind of combination before. It is hard to guess how it will play out. There is no question that economies that are large by virtue of population rather than being at the cutting edge of productivity are going to be much more defining of the global system in the future than they have been in the past.

China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is constructive – connectivity and infrastructure is constructive. It is constructive to help countries develop. The question will be if it is done in the spirit of altruism that ultimately also benefits the altruist, or a more narrow, mercantile interest on the part of China. I don’t think the path is entirely clear

Should the U.S. join up with one of the central institutions of that effort, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?

Yes. It was a mistake for the U.S. to not join the AIIB during the Obama years. We would be well advised to join it now.

Despite our not having joined it, there are Westerners such as Germany and France in prominent roles. It is open to American companies for procurement contracts. Projects so far have been co-financed with the traditional development banks so they have the kind of environmental and transparency standards that we advocate. Is that true of all the various institutions and practices involved in the Belt and Road initiative? I’m not so sure.

'It was a mistake for the U.S. to not join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.'

Economists such as Laura Tyson and Branko Milanovic are stressing the notion of “pre-distribution” policies to tackles inequality. That means investing in public higher education and finding ways to share the wealth before taxation instead of relying solely on redistribution of wealth after it is created. Do you share that view?

Yes, if it means bolstering the educational system, investing in human capital. That is central. No, if the emphasis is on giving away capital. Yes, if it means supporting universal health care and affordable housing. No, if it means regulating wages in economies beyond the minimum wage or governments getting involved in capping compensation. Here I’m more skeptical about the degree of disruption that will result. Yes, if it means leveling the playing field of opportunity.

Countries like Singapore share the wealth with all their citizens through a mandatory national savings and investment scheme ― the Central Provident Fund ― in which all share in the returns on profitable investment. Wouldn’t a scheme like that help spread the wealth and reduce inequality in the U.S.?

There is a case for a more aggressive investment of Social Security trust funds in diversified pools of equities. Yes. These proposals deserve serious attention. On balance, it would give more people more stake in the profitability of the entire country’s economy.

In the U.S. context, though, I’m skeptical of the merits of establishing a fund so the government can allocate capital. In a small export-oriented economy like Singapore where you are looking across a whole range of global opportunities for returns, that works. But the way you establish funds like that is to build chronic budget surpluses – not something the U.S. is likely to see for a long while.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Categories: News Monitor

Fitness Blogger Dies After Whipped Cream Canister Explosion

1 hour 39 min ago

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A popular French blogger and Instagram influencer died last week after a whipped cream dispenser exploded and hit her. 

Rebecca Burger, who regularly posted about fitness, lifestyle and beauty to her almost 200,000 followers on Instagram, suffered cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest by a faulty siphon on a pressurized canister at her home in Galfingue Saturday, according to French newspaper 20 Minutes.

Firefighters were able to restore her heartbeat, but she was unconscious when she arrived at the hospital and died the following day. 

Her family announced her death in a statement on Instagram. 

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on Jun 21, 2017 at 9:07am PDT

They also shared a photo of a similar canister, which uses highly pressurized nitrous oxide that expands to make cream texture, to warn others of the possible dangers. 

“Here’s an example of the cartridge/siphon from Chantilly that exploded and struck Rebecca’s chest, killing her,” the post reads. “Take note: the cartridge that caused her death was sealed. Do not use this type of device in your home! Tens of thousands of these appliances are still in circulation.”

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on Jun 20, 2017 at 12:08pm PDT

Consumer magazine 60 Millions has been reporting on injuries due to such canisters dating back to 2010, including broken teeth and the loss of an eye. However, Burger’s death is reportedly the first. 

“It is, to our knowledge, the first time there has been a death from such an explosion ... We knew it would happen one day,” deputy editor Benjamin Douriez told the Associated Press. 

The manufacturer of the product, Ard’time, posted an announcement on its website following Burger’s death. The company has apparently been recalling the products since an incident occurred in 2013 and has reached out to more than 100,000 customers to stop using the siphon. 

France’s Local reports that the family plans to sue

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:07am PDT

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Categories: News Monitor

Accidental Alert Warns California Of An Earthquake That Happened In 1925

2 hours 28 min ago

An algorithmic error told Californians they’d be in for a major earthquake on Wednesday, but the earthquake had already happened ― in 1925.

The automatically generated report from the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that a magnitude 6.8 quake would occur in the Pacific Ocean 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. 

Alerts were sent for a M6.8 in California. This was an error. More information to come.

— USGS (@USGS) June 22, 2017

As a frame of reference, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in 1989 killed 63 people and caused $6 billion of damage in California.

So what gives with this quake scare?

Regarding: https://t.co/z8Ykmo6OXX pic.twitter.com/68Q0I2Ix2j

— USGS (@USGS) June 22, 2017

The quake did happen, but it happened in 1925,” Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Associated Press.

This should seem like good news, but the false alarm still sent shockwaves through social media. Many automated tweets, synced with the USGS alert system, were pushed out, sparking concern.

Additionally, people around the country began to scratch their heads as no one had reported feeling tremors ― something that most certainly would have happened in large numbers had an earthquake of that size actually come about.

@DrLucyJones M6.8 90 miles away Im sure we'd feel it right? Is this real? pic.twitter.com/OX1MzcgFrC

— Alex S (@alxxdes) June 22, 2017

Still, publications like the Los Angeles Times, which has automated emails from the USGS to aid in its coverage, ended up alerting the public about the fake quake and then had to rescind the messages.

Please note: We just deleted an automated tweet saying there was a 6.8 earthquake in Isla Vista. That earthquake happened in 1925.

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017

We have an algorithm (Quakebot) that automatically writes stories about earthquakes based on USGS alerts. The USGS alert was incorrect.

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017

The LA Times bot even generated an article about the fake quake:

Was the article automated too? pic.twitter.com/C8lMJa2dM9

— Colin Cooley (@runwicked) June 22, 2017

Yes: Quakebot is an algorithm that automatically writes stories based on USGS alerts.

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017

So, how did the USGS casually send out an alert that confused even the LA Times?

Apparently false alarms are fairly common, though the AP says “they rarely report quakes so big or in such populated areas.”

Also, researchers from the California Institute of Technology were using new information to analyze the epicenter of the 1925 earthquake in the Santa Barbara Channel. That earthquake ― a real one ― leveled several buildings and killed many people. You can see the LA Times’ article from that quake below:

False alarm: Caltech staffer accidentally sends alert for large 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake https://t.co/zSyy4Yzmvt pic.twitter.com/oNXJRUwZFN

— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 22, 2017

Even more intriguingly, the full quake report associated with Wednesday’s tweet listed the date as June 29, the same date as the 1925 quake, but indicated it would happen in the year 2025. So, yeah, that USGS report was all sorts of screwed up.

Let’s just hope they were wrong about any quakes in 2025 too.

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Categories: News Monitor

Trump Substitutes Policymaking For Bomb-throwing With His Job Training Plan

3 hours 28 min ago

President Donald Trump’s embrace of apprenticeships as an effective way to train workers for meaningful, middle-skill careers offered a break last week from the Trump administration’s near-total indifference to serious policy development.

For once, Trump carried out a relatively normal policy announcement, complete with a relatively cogent speech. Likewise, Trump focused on a topic of both genuine relevance (how to improve job training) and bipartisan appeal (expanding the reach of private-sector apprenticeship programs).

What is more, the president managed to get the big things right with his executive order. In noting that a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone, he spoke reasonably about the potential of paid, hands-on workplace experiences that train workers and link them to employers. In addition, Trump rightly underscored the need for industry — rather than the government — to play the largest role in structuring those experiences. While some are criticizing that emphasis, it’s actually the right one.

The executive order is welcome not only because it seeks to build on — rather than trash — ApprenticeshipsUSA, a popular grant program that was previously championed by the Obama administration. Equally important, Trump’s move to reorient and grow the program seems to reflect a constructive bid to enhance the effectiveness and reach of the nation’s main apprenticeship program by nudging it into closer alignment with the private sector.

The executive order seeks to build on ApprenticeshipsUSA, a popular grant program that was previously championed by the Obama administration.

Industry influence is not always desirable, to be sure, especially given the Trump administration’s excessive coziness with powerful interest groups in the oil, gas and financial sectors. But in the case of workforce training, a high degree of coordination with industry — ideally on everything from program design to curriculum, certifications and job placement — is now seen by most stakeholders as a crucial dividing line between programs that work and programs that don’t. Such alignment ― and ideally co-development ― of programs with the private sector serves as a strong check on the biggest problem of American workforce training: training divorced from market demand. 

And so Trump’s moves to encourage the establishment of more “industry-recognized” — as opposed to “government-registered” — apprenticeships are actually the most welcome element of the new executive order, after the doubling of the program’s budget to $200 million. Trump-weary critics are wary of the order’s plan to give more flexibility to “third parties” — including companies, trade associations and unions — to design new apprenticeship programs. However, the order’s flexibility represents a needed reduction of overly rigid regulations, even as it responsibly tasks the secretary of labor to establish a new review process for maintaining the quality of both the existing government-registered and the new industry-certified apprenticeships. As such, the order represents a welcome encouragement to employers to embrace apprenticeships as an effective way to recruit and train workers.

Now of course, there are some problems here ― the usual Trump flimflammery. For one thing, last week’s announcement follows Trump’s endorsement of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s “moonshot” challenge to Trump to create 5 million apprenticeships in five years ― but the numbers don’t add up. Specifically, Trump proposes to multiply the nation’s 500,000 registered apprenticeships by a factor of 10 but appears committed to only doubling the program’s $90 million budget. In similar fashion, the new expansion of apprenticeship comes against the backdrop of draconian cuts to the entire workforce development budget. In this regard, the president’s budget proposal for 2018 calls for slashing the Labor Department’s budget to $9.6 billion, a reduction of about 21 percent.

Development of programs with the private sector serves as a strong check on the biggest problem of American workforce training: training divorced from market demand.

And then, in the same vein, there is Trump’s focus on apprenticeships to the exclusion of all else in the workforce development realm. While the creation of 5 million apprenticeships would be a worthy strike against the nation’s alleged “skills gaps,” apprenticeships won’t solve the nation’s other large labor market problems. Apprenticeships won’t by themselves address the “hollowing out” of the middle of the market as technology substitutes for routine-based tasks, for example. 

Nor will expanding apprenticeships do much to address the problem of skill obsolescence in a changing economy, when many employers may prefer to return to the entry-level market rather than retrain their existing workforce. And neither, for that matter, will apprenticeships help much with addressing the increasing numbers of prime-age workers who choose not to participate in the labor force at all.

And yet, with that said, Trump’s initiative to expand apprenticeships by allowing new actors to develop standards for a new crop of industry-recognized apprenticeships to complement the existing ones is — at least in concept — an incremental but genuine advance. For once, a reckless president has brought forth a constructive plan for supporting a beneficial development in the economy. 

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Categories: News Monitor

Wall Street Journal Fires Reporter Jay Solomon For Alleged Spy Plane Deal

20 hours 46 min ago

The Wall Street Journal has fired longtime foreign affairs correspondent Jay Solomon for what it said was a violation of “his ethical obligations as a reporter.”

The paper announced the move minutes before The Associated Press reported that Solomon was offered a 10 percent stake in a company headed by a news source ― an Iranian-born businessman who was once an arms dealer with CIA ties. Among the ventures Solomon discussed was a $725 million contract that would allow surveillance planes to spy inside of Iran, according to AP.

AP said it could not confirm whether Solomon received money from Farhad Azima, the businessman, or accepted a stake in his company, Denx LLC. Denx ceased operations last year, according to AP.

Solomon’s firing ― and the idea that a reporter could have positioned himself to collect more than $70 million in a shady international arms deal ― seemed straight out of Hollywood, and immediately sent shockwaves through journalism circles. 

Solomon denied any business venture with Azima. “I clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand,” he told the AP on Wednesday. “I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities.”

The Wall Street Journal told HuffPost that Solomon was no longer employed by the paper and said it was conducting its own investigation into the allegations.

“We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgement of Jay Solomon,” a spokesman for the paper said. “The allegations raised by this reporting are serious. While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards. He has not been forthcoming with us about his actions or his reporting practices and he has forfeited our trust.”

Paul Beckett, the Journal’s Washington bureau chief, notified staff Wednesday afternoon that Solomon was fired following ethical violations, but did not go into great detail, according to sources. He informed staffers that publication of an AP story was imminent. 

The Associated Press obtained tens of thousands of Azima’s emails that include communications between the businessman and Solomon. The AP also obtained an March 2015 operating agreement for Denx, which listed “an apparent stake for Solomon.”

AP reported that Solomon’s early email conversations with Azima appear aimed at cultivating him as a source. But the emails suggest their relationship evolved.

“Our businessman opportunities are so promising,” Solomon texted Azima in October 2014, the AP reported. Later that month, Solomon asked Azima if he had mentioned their business plans to a mutual friend. “Hell no!” Azima wrote.

The next year, Azima wrote Solomon to discuss a $725 million contract with the United Arab Emirates that would allow surveillance planes to spy inside of Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Azima, a U.S. citizen and an aviation magnate, asked Solomon to float the idea with the UAE government at an upcoming lunch, according to an April 2015 email obtained by the AP.  

“We all wish best of luck to Jay on his first defense sale,” Azima wrote to Solomon and two of his business partners ― former CIA officers Gary Bernsten and Scott Modell. 

Before Deux was shuttered, its partners considered a scheme to instigate regime change in Kuwait, AP reported. It’s unclear if they acted on the plan.

Solomon, who had been nominated by the Journal for multiple Pulitzer Prizes, led the paper’s coverage of secret negotiations that culminated in a nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S., and five world powers. In a book published last year, Solomon criticized the nuclear accord, arguing that “rather than calming the world’s most combustible region, [it] risks inflaming it.”

Investigators in the U.S. and abroad are now probing whether Azima, in a separate deal, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing an Emirati official to profit from a hotel sale in Tbilisi, Georgia, AP reported on Tuesday.

Azima has a decades-long history of questionable business deals. But until recently, he evaded law enforcement, in part because of past work with the CIA.

Jeffrey Fegley, a former employee of Azima’s airline, Global Airways, described himself to AP as “the guy who filled up the briefcases with $100,000 worth of small bills so you could bribe the ground crew to get your cargo unloaded in a foreign land.” When AP pressed Fegley on who Global Airways’ clients were, he named the CIA.

Azima’s CIA connections later served him when prosecutors began investigating a Kansas bank  in the 1980s with possible mob ties. Azima was one of the bank’s directors, but he was off-limits to law enforcement, a retired prosecutor told AP.

“It became apparent that we were not able to pursue prosecution of Azima, Lloyd Monroe said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Categories: News Monitor

People Are Convinced The Queen's Hat Is A Subtle Dig At Brexit

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 21:33

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Queen Elizabeth II officially opened parliament in the United Kingdom on Wednesday with a speech, but it was her outfit that made the real statement.

Scheduling conflicts led to a more casual ceremony than usual, with the queen foregoing the typical ceremonial robes and crown. Instead, the monarch wore a festive yellow and blue floral dress with a blue overcoat and a hat with blue and yellow flowers ― or are those really meant to be the stars in the flag of the European Union?

Social media appears to think so. Twitter users were quick to claim the hat’s design is really a subtle message the queen is a “remainer,” or a person who is against the U.K. leaving the European Union in Brexit.

Love the fact that Her Majesty delivered today’s Queen’s Speech wearing an EU hat ;-) pic.twitter.com/4THPv0vsXr

— Phil Moss (@philmoss5) June 21, 2017

It’s very possible that the queen, who boasts an extensive hat collection, chose the blue and yellow outfit at random and the hat is just a coincidence. She hasn’t given an opinion publicly one way or the other on Brexit, but there has been speculation she supported the vote to withdraw.

Either way, hats off to this moment, because coincidence or not, the possibility the queen was sending a subtle message makes her outfit way more fun. Check out the best reactions to her buzz-worthy topper below:

Loving the Queen's aptly themed hat #QueensSpeech #Brexit #Europe pic.twitter.com/jf9RkCru73

— Rebecca Pearson (@ibexi) June 21, 2017

"Your majesty, you can't be seen to take sides on this issue"
"Gonna wear a fucking massive EU hat tho"

— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) June 21, 2017

Clearly the EU still inspires some in the UK #QueensSpeech pic.twitter.com/vqTWnxKk1V

— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) June 21, 2017

Today is not the longest day of the year. It only feels that way because everyone is making the same joke about the Queen's hat.

— Stu Royall (@stu_bot3000) June 21, 2017

Not to be facetious but the Queen's hat looks like the European Union flag pic.twitter.com/1nDJ3sWDTd

— Federica Cocco (@federicacocco) June 21, 2017

Queen's hat
Message received. pic.twitter.com/oJfBUYpYSV

— Maciej Sokołowski (@sokoIowski) June 21, 2017

Woah, anyone else notice the subliminal message in The Queen's hat? #QueensSpeech pic.twitter.com/CyOzrpsMB1

— Ciara (@Ciara_Knight) June 21, 2017

Is it me, or is the Queen's hat a subtle nod to the EU?! #QueensSpeech pic.twitter.com/n8vLk1axfu

— Chris Coombs (@ChrisCoombs88) June 21, 2017

I like how the Queen's hat looks like the EU flag. Always knew she was a remainer.

— Andy Parmo (@andyparmo) June 21, 2017

#QueensSpeech "Queen's Hat"
(Credit to @Wok_Chi_Steve for spotting this) pic.twitter.com/b2RvUNeCfL

— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) June 21, 2017

Monarch trolls Brexit morons https://t.co/Qu8RTXHmV9

— Dan Kay (@dankay) June 21, 2017

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Categories: News Monitor

Trump's Apprenticeship Program Should Help Train Coal Miners For Solar Jobs

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 21:30

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that boosts American apprenticeships. It will double the amount of money for apprenticeship grants and move control of the program away from the federal government to the private sector. Often with these internships, workers are paid while being trained for a new job, so it preferentially benefits the nearly half of Americans finding it hard to make ends meet. This program could be a real boon for industries like solar, which are desperate for skilled workers, as well as existing workers trapped in declining industries.

Trump has repeatedly shown great interest in America’s coal industry, which has faced a steep decline in profitability. One major American coal company after another has filed for bankruptcy, and coal is declining globally. Even China is moving away from it. The industry is shedding jobs, and it has an enormous negative impact on health. Coal is responsible for killing about as many Americans every year from pollution (about 52,000) as it currently employs (about 53,000).

It is clear that coal is all but dead no matter what Trump does to help it. Coal investors can simply call their brokers to move their money to more profitable and less risky industries, but coal workers are left with pink slips and mortgages in blighted coal country. But Trump can still help the coal workers themselves by retraining them for a more profitable industry.

Trump's executive order will double the amount of money for apprenticeship grants and move control of the program away from the government to the private sector.


How can a coal worker get a solar career?

study I co-authored for the journal Energy Economics provides an analysis of the need to retrain current coal workers for employment in the solar industry. In the study, we evaluated the skill sets of current coal workers and tabulated salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and tried to match current coal salaries, and then we quantified the time and investment required to retrain each worker.

The results show that a relatively minor investment in retraining would allow the vast majority of coal workers to switch to solar-related positions even in the event of the elimination of the domestic coal industry. This good news for coal workers should be compounded by Trump’s apprenticeship program announcement, assuming it will make retraining easier for many of them.

Since the rapid decrease in the costs of solar photovoltaic technology, unsubsidized solar is now often the least expensive source of electric power, and solar deployment is rising rapidly. This is creating a lot of jobs in the U.S. solar industry, which is bringing on new workers 17 times faster than the overall economy. The solar industry increased employment by 25 percent last year — adding about as many new jobs in one year (51,000) as there are in the entire coal industry. As Tom Kimbis of the Solar Energy Industries Association pointed out in a discussion with me, “These aren’t just punch-the-clock jobs — these are careers.”

As Christopher Turek, a director at Solar Energy International, pointed out, “One interesting opportunity for many of these coal miners is that many of them have transferable skill sets.” Although coal workers have skills, they still often need some retraining — just like anyone moving to a new industry. California’s solar apprenticeship program, a state program run through a private company, started in 2009, for example. There are others: one in Oregon, for example, and another through the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

There are many apprenticeship models and educational pathways to follow ― under President Obama’s ApprenticeshipUSA state accelerator grants, for example, states used funds to develop strategic plans and build partnerships for apprenticeship expansion and diversification. In areas where there are no formal solar apprenticeships, workers can be trained through an apprentice program in another field. In many states, an electrician has the qualifications required to connect solar systems to the electric grid, so an electrician apprenticeship is a particularly good career move. The Independent Electrical Contractors runs an apprenticeship program that can be accessed through local chapters.

This can help real people, Turek explained: “[Solar Energy International] is headquartered in the heart of the declining Western Colorado coal country — this hits home for us. ... The good news is that they have the solar industry’s leading technical training school right here in their backyard.”

These aren’t just punch-the-clock jobs — these are careers.


Apprenticeships are not for everyone.

Apprenticeships can be great for many workers — about 90 percent are gainfully employed by the conclusion of their apprenticeship — but it is not a panacea. The vast majority of Americans who can go to college, should. A typical bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn about 66 percent more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate. In the end, college graduates (electrical engineers, for example) earn $830,000 more than those who skip college. And potential earnings rise with a master’s degree or Ph.D. 

America needs tens of thousands of engineers to remain competitive in the energy sector; they will be well-paid for helping modernize the grid. For some workers, apprenticeships will help make the jump to the growing solar industry. For others, a more traditional university education will provide a richly compensated career. The bottom line is workers in dying industries like coal could have a lifeline to jobs in growing industries like solar if they take advantage of retraining opportunities like the new apprenticeship program.

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Listen To This Star-Studded 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' Cover For Grenfell Tower

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 21:24

The record industry has banded together to release a gorgeous cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to raise money for those impacted by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Simon Cowell organized the cover of the classic 1970 Simon and Garfunkel song, gathering more than 50 artists to take part in the project. Proceeds from the single, which is available on iTunes, will go toward The London Community Foundation.  

The artists who you’ll hear on the track include:

5 After Midnight
Brian May – Queen
Carl Barât – The Libertines
Craig David
Dua Lipa
Ella Eyre
Ella Henderson
Emeli Sandé
Fleur East
Gareth Malone & The Choir for Grenfell
Geri Halliwell
Gregory Porter
James Arthur
James Blunt
Jessie J
Jessie Ware
John Newman
Jon McClure – Reverend and the Makers
Jorja Smith
Kelly Jones – Stereophonics
Leona Lewis
Liam Payne
London Community Gospel Choir
Louis Tomlinson
Louisa Johnson
Matt Goss
Matt Terry
Mr Eazi
Nathan Sykes
Nile Rodgers
Paloma Faith
Pixie Lott
Rita Ora
Robbie Williams
Shane Filan
The Who (Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend)
Tokio Myers
Tom Grennan
Tony Hadley

Here's who sings which lines on the #ArtistsForGrenfell #bridgeovertroubledwater song. pic.twitter.com/cBIpb0irX2

— Dave Taylor (@RadioDaveTaylor) June 21, 2017

In addition to those artists, there was a 300-strong choir involved in the cover composed of local residents and survivors from the fire.

The choir was led by Gareth Malone, who told The Sun that “seeing how emotional the local residents became while singing was really moving.” 

“Some of them actually lived in Grenfell Tower. Their homes have been destroyed. It’s very raw for a lot of them.”

As well as buying the single, we hope people can support those affected by the Grenfell fire by donating. https://t.co/071cWmDNs1

— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) June 20, 2017

You can download the song on iTunes or stream it on Spotify, but you can also make donations to The London Community Foundation directly on artistsforgrenfell.com.

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Adorable New Photos Of Will And Kate Will Give You Royal Wedding Déjà Vu

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 03:30

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We’d all love to repeatedly relive the magic that was Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. And it looks like they’ve done just that.

Will and the former Kate Middleton attended the Royal Ascot in Ascot, England on Tuesday in looks that were only slightly less fancy than what they wore to their nuptials in 2011.  

Kate even stuck to wearing Alexander McQueen, the fashion house that designed her iconic wedding gown, for the occasion. She looked lovely in a white lace dress and matching fascinator. Will looked like a groom handsome in a suit and large top hat. 

When Will and Kate weren’t busy looking painfully adorable, Kate was engaging in one of her other strong suits, managing to kiss people hello while also wearing an elaborate headpiece. 

Can you say “vow renewals?”

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A Big Oil-Backed GOP Proposal For A Carbon Tax Is Just As Suspect As It Sounds

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 02:34

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In February, a cadre of Republican elder statesmen unveiled their plan to put a tax on carbon emissions, arguing that “mounting evidence of climate change is growing too strong to ignore.”

That plan got the backing of Big Oil on Tuesday, as Exxon Mobil Corp., BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total announced a new campaign to push Congress to consider passing a carbon tax.

Those companies are getting a lot of credit for supporting a carbon tax. But they also have a record of doing so when it seems highly unlikely that such a policy would pass Congress and get a presidential signature. And the industry has a history of working to undermine plans to price carbon when they do stand a chance of becoming a reality.

The Republican-backed carbon tax already has the support of former Treasury Secretary James Baker and former Secretary of Labor George Shultz, who have aligned with business and environmental leaders under the banner of the Climate Leadership Council. Industrial heavyweights, including Johnson & Johnson and General Motors, also have backed the plan. It calls for a $40 per ton tax on emissions, and would phase out much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Revenue from the tax would be returned to taxpayers in the form of quarterly dividends administered through the Social Security Administration.

“We have been encouraged by the proposal put forth by the Climate Leadership Council as it aligns closely with our longstanding principles,” Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are pleased to support the Council as a Founding Member and work constructively to support their policy development process.”

On the face of it, support from a group that includes Exxon Mobil may seem like a coup for those seeking to avert catastrophic climate change. After all, the company spent decades funding a disinformation campaign to discredit climate science, and remains so politically influential its last chief executive, Rex Tillerson, became the secretary of state without any diplomatic experience.

Climate change has become impossible to deny outright, and an overwhelming majority of Americans on both ends of the political spectrum want lawmakers to do something about it. At this point, regulations to limit emissions from burning fossil fuels, industrial farming and deforestation seem inevitable. Big polluters are likely to face fewer restrictions and have a bigger say under a plan sanctioned by business-friendly Republicans. 

“What seems interesting about today’s announcement is Exxon Mobil,” Joseph Majkut, director of climate policy at the libertarian think tank Niskanen Center, told HuffPost by phone. “As far as I can tell, this is the first time they’ve been publicly attached to such a specific set of policy ideas.”  

“We’ve known for a while that Exxon is supportive of carbon pricing as a mechanism,” he added. “They add a weight that, along with all these other large business leaders, could provide political cover for Republicans to embrace carbon pricing.”

But the oil industry has publicly supported curbing planet-warming emissions for over a decade while quietly working to sabotage any such legislation ― both by funding the campaigns of climate change deniers and torpedoing aggressive policy proposals.

In June 2009, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to create a cap-and-trade system, which would allow companies to buy and sell credits to pollute. Much of the oil industry came out hard against the legislation: The American Petroleum Institute launched a PR campaign insisting a cap-and-trade market would put regular Americans out of work en masse, a compelling message at any time, but particularly in the midst of the Great Recession. Exxon Mobil, a member of API, ramped up its own lobbying, spending a total that year of $27.4 million ― more than the entire environmental lobby combined, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Other oil giants, such as BP and ConocoPhillips, initially supported cap-and-trade talks, though their influence seems to have largely kneecapped the legislation as they pushed aggressively for compromises on transportation fuel. A year in, they abandoned negotiations.  

Tillerson, meanwhile, made a splash in 2009 during deliberations over the cap-and-trade bill by declaring that Exxon Mobil supported a tax on carbon instead ― a first for a company whose public messaging previously dismissed the science behind global warming as nonsense. Some environmental leaders said discussing a carbon tax at that point was “a distraction” from the urgent need to put a cap on carbon emissions. Sure enough, the cap-and-trade bill failed to gain traction in the Senate.

In 2015, a number of oil companies advocated for the Paris climate agreement. Exxon Mobil and Shell also prominently urged President Donald Trump not to withdraw the U.S. from the nonbinding deal to cut emissions two years later. But public statements aside, big corporations, including Exxon Mobil, continued funding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other powerful trade associations that lobbied for the new administration to leave the accord and pull back on climate action.

A carbon tax has an uphill climb to gain support among the most hard-line fossil fuel allies in Congress. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a vehement climate change denier, leads the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and is up for re-election next year. Trump, who dismissed climate change as a hoax during his campaign, has aggressively rolled back environmental regulations and moved to bolster fossil fuel use and production. He has indicated he wouldn’t push for a carbon tax.

Myron Ebell, a once-fringe climate change denier who oversaw Trump’s EPA transition team, said the proposal is, for now, “dead on arrival.” He rejected the tax plan as tilted in favor of urban dwellers who he said require less energy than rural folks. 

At least for now it's dead on arrival.
Myron Ebell, former Trump adviser

“One of the things that is particularly objectionable about the Shultz-Baker carbon tax dividend is it rewards people in highly urban areas who have very non-energy-intensive lives and jobs,” Ebell, who leads climate policy at the Washington, D.C.-based conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, told HuffPost by phone. “So say you’re somebody who commutes to work on the Washington Metro, as I do. I would get a check equal to somebody who has to drive a long way to work every day, who required a four-wheel-drive vehicle because he lives in an area with lots of snow and may have a job that includes heavy hauling, like a plumbing business.”

“We should introduce a bill to allow any company that wants to put a carbon tax on itself to do so and send the money to the U.S. Treasury every year,” he added. “Consumers would then have the opportunity to go to an Exxon station and pay more for their gasoline because that would be great, because those consumers who agree there should be a tax would be able to put it on themselves.”

Oil prices remain another significant factor in the tax proposal’s viability. A glut, fed in part by the boom in U.S. shale production, has kept prices per barrel below $100 since mid-2014. Prices hovered around $44 per barrel on Tuesday. That’s bad for oil producers, who historically needed prices at $80 to $85 per barrel to break even. Some producers are now breaking even at $50 to $60 prices today, according to data from the firm Rystad Energy cited by The Wall Street Journal. Some companies are even making money on $40 per barrel. Multinational energy giants such as Exxon Mobil and Total can hedge their business enough to remain profitable under a carbon tax, but smaller producers may not be as receptive.

Those low prices, however, may mean this is the best time to get voters behind the proposal.

“From a political point of view, on any big moves toward carbon pricing ― which will have visible price effects for consumers, drivers and industries that use energy ― the low-price future that we apparently have in front of us might ease the pain of standing up a carbon price,” Majkut said. “It’s easier to do at $2 a gallon than it is at $4.”

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