**Should-Read**: **Kevin Kelly**: [The Myth of a Superhuman AI](https://www.wired.com/2017/04/the-myth-of-a-superhuman-ai/?mbid=social_twitter_onsiteshare): "'I’ve heard that in the future computerized AIs will become so much smarter than us that they will take all our jobs and resources, and humans will go extinct. Is this true?' That’s the most common question I get whenever I give a talk about AI... >...Buried in this scenario of a takeover of superhuman artificial intelligence are five assumptions which, when examined closely, are not based on any evidence. These claims might be true in the future, but there is no evidence to date to support them. The assumptions behind a superhuman intelligence arising soon are: >1. Artificial intelligence is already getting smarter than us, at an exponential rate. >2. We’ll make AIs into a general purpose intelligence, like our own. >3. We can make human intelligence in silicon. >4. Intelligence can be expanded without limit. >5. Once we have exploding superintelligence it can solve most of our problems. >In contradistinction to this orthodoxy, I find the following five heresies to have more evidence to support them. >1. Intelligence is not a single dimension, so “smarter than humans” is a meaningless concept. >2. Humans do not have general purpose minds,...
Socioeconomic Integration of U.S. Immigrant Groups over the Long Term: The Second Generation and Beyond -- by Brian Duncan, Stephen J. Trejo
In this chapter, we document generational patterns of educational attainment and earnings for contemporary immigrant groups. We also discuss some potentially serious measurement issues that arise when attempting to track the socioeconomic progress of the later-generation descendants of U.S. immigrants, and we summarize what recent research has to say about these measurement issues and how they might bias our assessment of the long-term integration of particular groups. Most national origin groups arrive with relatively high educational attainment and/or experience enough improvement between the first and second generations such that they quickly meet or exceed, on average, the schooling level of the typical American. Several large and important Hispanic groups (including Mexicans and Puerto Ricans) are exceptions to this pattern, however, and their prospects for future upward mobility are subject to much debate. Because of measurement issues and data limitations, Mexican Americans in particular and Hispanic Americans in general probably have experienced significantly more socioeconomic progress beyond the second generation than available data indicate. Even so, it may take longer for their descendants to integrate fully into the American mainstream than it did for the descendants of the European immigrants who arrived near the turn of the twentieth century.
January 17, 2017 The Honorable Mitch McConnell Majority Leader United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 Dear Mr. Leader: As the 115th Congress begins, we write to underscore the need for additional legislation early in this session to address the economic and fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) provided Puerto Rico with important fiscal oversight and debt restructuring tools, and now the Oversight Board and Puerto Rico’s new Governor must take the critical next steps required by this federal legislation. Working with the new Governor, the Oversight Board now must certify a Fiscal Plan and set a path to comprehensively restructure the debt before the expiration of PROMESA’s automatic stay. Treasury has continued to provide both the Oversight Board and the new Governor with technical assistance as requested, and will remain able to do so after the transition to the next Administration. Despite the important progress achieved to date with bipartisan support, the work is not done. As Puerto Rico moves forward on these next steps, Congress must enact measures recommended by both Republicans and Democrats that fix Puerto Rico’s inequitable health care financing structure and promote sustained economic growth. Without congressional action to address these issues, Puerto Rico’s return to growth and opportunity will be a significant challenge. Most urgently, Congress should address Puerto Rico’s “Medicaid cliff” funding issue before April as recommended last month by the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico. Failure to do so would jeopardize health care for up to 900,000 poor U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico. CONGRESSIONAL TASK FORCE REPORT On December 20, the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, established by PROMESA, released its Final Report. The bipartisan report provides an overview of the economic challenges facing Puerto Rico and a series of potential solutions that, if crafted well and enacted quickly, are necessary for a sustainable economic recovery. It is important that Congress not only turn ideas into action, but in doing so, address Puerto Rico’s significant remaining economic and social challenges in meaningful ways to help put Puerto Rico on a path of sustained economic growth. As the report acknowledges, Puerto Rico faces an imminent shortfall in health care funding that could leave up to 900,000 Americans without coverage if Congress does not act in the near future. Puerto Rico’s already vulnerable health care system is stretched further by a Zika outbreak that, as of January 4, has resulted in over 34,000 cases, and will affect numerous women, children, and families for years to come. It is time to provide a long-term solution to Puerto Rico’s historically inadequate federal Medicaid financing, which threatens the viability of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program and worsens Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. If Congress fails to craft a long-term solution, immediate action is still needed to ensure full fiscal year 2018 financing to avoid the “Medicaid cliff” identified in the report. Without action before April, Puerto Rico’s ability to execute contracts for Fiscal Year 2018 with its managed care organizations will be threatened, thereby putting at risk beginning July 1, 2017 the health care of up to 900,000 poor U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico. Additionally, Puerto Rico continues to suffer from double digit unemployment and a labor force participation rate that is only two-thirds that of the U.S. average. A federally-financed, locally-administered Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in Puerto Rico would create incentives for work and increase participation in the formal economy – just as it has done for decades in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Instead of recommending the immediate enactment of an EITC, the Task Force only suggested Congress further explore the proposal. We strongly encourage Congress to enact this powerful economic driver to bolster Puerto Rico’s future. Our analysis of the situation over the last several years demonstrates that an EITC would be the most effective and powerful tool to address these structural challenges to economic growth. Beyond those two major issues, the Task Force recommended a number of other policies that we agree should be enacted. First, we appreciate the bipartisan recommendation for Congress to continue authorizing Treasury to provide technical assistance to Puerto Rico. Furthermore, while we recommend a different approach to expand the Child Tax Credit to more Puerto Rican families, one that is locally administered, we welcome the Task Force recommendation for Congress to expand the Child Tax Credit in Puerto Rico, to the extent it is well-designed and supplements an EITC program for Puerto Rico. We support the Task Force’s acknowledgment of the importance of data in benchmarking economic growth and fiscal developments in Puerto Rico and the recommendations to improve data quality and timeliness. Finally, we are pleased with the recommendations on small business incentives, and the need to include Puerto Rico in funding and training programs that address Puerto Rico’s differential treatment in some Federal programs. It is time for Congress to move quickly to put these recommendations into law. Last summer, Republicans and Democrats in Congress took decisive action in PROMESA to help improve Puerto Rico’s fiscal position by establishing an independent oversight board and providing it with comprehensive debt restructuring tools. As you know, these tools were provided to Puerto Rico as an alternative to a federal bailout and provide Puerto Rico’s government and the Oversight Board with comprehensive authorities to address the debt crisis. Members of Congress now must work together quickly to enact well-crafted legislation to encourage growth and opportunity for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. The Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services stand committed to working with you to achieving those goals throughout the remainder of the transition to the next Administration. Sincerely, Jacob J. Lew Sylvia M. Burwell Secretary Secretary Department of the Treasury Department of Health and Human Services Identical letter sent to: The Honorable Charles E. Schumer The Honorable Paul D. Ryan The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Today, Treasury released the 2016 US Financial Report, which can be found here: https://www.fiscal.treasury.gov/fsreports/rpt/finrep/fr/fr_index.htm Please see the Secretary's letter below: January 12, 2017 A Message from the Secretary The annual Financial Report of the U.S. Government provides to the public a comprehensive overview of the Government’s current financial position, as well as critical insight into our long term fiscal outlook. The Fiscal Year 2016 Financial Report, the final U.S. Financial Report of the Obama Administration, reflects an economy that has come a long way since 2008, with sustained private sector job growth and increasing vitality. Under President Obama’s leadership, there has been substantial economic and fiscal progress, showing what is possible when strategic investment is paired with smart reforms. Labor market conditions continue to improve, we have added millions of jobs to the economy and GDP has grown steadily. Globally, the United States remains a driver of steady economic growth. In Fiscal Year 2016, the Nation’s economic gains contributed to increased revenues and sustainable deficit financing for the next decade. The Government’s estimated long-term fiscal gap continues to be reduced by the provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, Budget Control Act of 2011, and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2013. These and other measures support our economy, allow our government to operate more efficiently, and support long term fiscal health. This Administration’s policies have created the space to address our country’s long term fiscal challenges; however, near term policies that reduce revenues or increase spending, such as through changes to our tax code or the Affordable Care Act, could increase the size of the fiscal gap and force more dramatic adjustments in later years. We must ensure that our prosperity is shared by all Americans, not just those at the top. I am proud of the work we have done as a country over the past eight years to address our economic challenges and am pleased to share this strong report. Jacob J. Lew Margaret Mulkerrin is the Press Assistant at the U.S. Department of Treasury.
For more than 200 years, Treasury has been managing the resources of the Federal government and embracing advancements and cutting-edge practices. Today we have an opportunity to create a more data-driven government that empowers our leaders to make more strategic decisions and provide the public with greater access and insight on how taxpayer money is spent. The ongoing Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) implementation, in which Treasury is playing a leading role, is providing that opportunity as agencies work to meet new standards that could enable the use of data and analytics. In 1990, the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act) established a vision for federal financial management to “provide for the production of complete, reliable, timely, and consistent financial information for use by the executive branch of the Government and the Congress in the financing, management, and evaluation of Federal programs.” Significant achievements have been made to maintain and report high-quality financial data — but the full vision of the CFO Act is still a work in progress. The 24 CFO Act agencies have been successful at promoting new accounting and reporting standards, generating auditable financial statements, strengthening internal controls, improving financial management systems and enhancing performance information. However, there is room for growth in the way financial reporting adapts to the evolving information technology landscape. Through the DATA Act implementation process Treasury has developed a DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS) that links the financial data produced by agency CFOs with other spending data on Federal awards — including grants, loans and procurement data (as well as other related attributes). This new data set includes more than 400 data elements and significantly expands the data available to agency CFOs and other agency leadership. The DAIMS can also be extended to link to other administrative and program data to support data-driven decision-making. A New Vision for Federal Financial Management Treasury’s vision for a 21st century Federal Finance Organization includes five key levels based on leading private sector benchmarks for finance organizations. The first level covers the basics for any finance organization — budget formulation and transaction processing. The second level includes fundamental financial policies and regulatory controls to ensure appropriate accountability. Most agencies have achieved levels one and two. Levels three and above are where agencies can begin to see the added value in the investment of high-quality data and internal controls. This data can now be managed and used to support decision-making and to improve operations and outcomes. In addition to leading the government-wide implementation of the DATA Act, Treasury is also required to implement the law as an individual agency. As an implementing agency, Treasury is taking a data management and service delivery perspective, satisfying both internal and external customers who are demanding dynamic visualizations of data, meaningful reports and management dashboards. The DATA Act provides a unique opportunity to provide authoritative and standardized data across the enterprise to meet various needs, which fits into the new vision for Federal Financial Management above. At Treasury, we are expanding our data analytics and reporting efforts to gain more value from our data. The Department has been working internally to link existing enterprise data management activities to a financial data governance program working across the C suite and internal organizations. Treasury is also envisioning a new financial data service portal that will serve as the central repository for all Treasury financial data where agency leadership will have access to data, tools and resources to conduct program research and visualize the data in new ways, starting with DATA Act related insights. This data infrastructure will allow us to provide greater transparency and also create a more modern 21st century Federal Finance Organization that is a better steward of public resources. We believe that better data leads to better decisions and ultimately a better government. Christina Ho is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Accounting Policy and Financial Transparency and Dorrice Roth is the Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the Department of the Treasury.
Treasury Secretary Lew's Exit Memo: Eight Years of Progress at Treasury and a Look to the Future of American Financial Prosperity
WASHINGTON –U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has authored a departure memorandum that recounts the progress and work of the U.S. Department of the Treasury over the last eight years. The memo then outlines Secretary Lew’s visions and goals for the future of the Treasury Department. The Secretary closes his departure memorandum with personal reflections on the importance of bipartisan cooperation, his optimism about America’s future, and his hope that future policymakers will take careful stock of the successes of this Administration as they consider the next steps forward. Please see the memo attached. Treasury Exit Memo.pdf The full text of the memo is below: Department of the Treasury Exit Memo Secretary Jacob J. Lew Cabinet Exit Memo │January 5, 2017 Introduction The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) is the executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States. This role encompasses a broad range of activities, such as advising the President on economic and financial issues, encouraging sustainable economic growth, and fostering improved governance in financial institutions. Treasury’s mission was challenged like few times before in our nation’s history during the 2008 financial crisis. As few of us can forget, signs of trouble first emerged in the housing market, which set off a cascade of shocks in 2007 and 2008, including the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the freezing of credit markets, and the loss of trillions of dollars of wealth held by Americans in their homes, other assets, and businesses. By the time President Obama took office, the United States was in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The economy was shrinking at its fastest rate in 50 years and shedding more than 800,000 private-sector jobs per month. Unemployment peaked at 10 percent in 2009, a level not seen in over 25 years. The auto industry, an embodiment of American ingenuity and economic strength, was teetering on the edge of collapse; the deficit had hit a post-World War II high; and homes in neighborhoods across the United States faced foreclosure. Though the financial crisis was perhaps the most pressing challenge the country faced in 2008, it was far from the only one. Health care spending was on an unsustainable path, and millions of Americans lived in fear of facing a significant medical problem without insurance. Middle-class and working family incomes had stagnated for much of the previous three decades. Wealth disparities had grown to levels not seen since the 1920s. And after two major wars in the Middle East and strained relationships in many parts of the world, the standing of the United States around the world was in need of significant repair. We have come a long way as a country since 2008. In the following pages, I will recount the Administration’s record of progress, with a specific focus on the role Treasury has played. I will also articulate a vision for the future, and recommend steps to be taken in the coming years to make progress towards that vision. Finally, I will end with some personal reflections. Eight Years of Progress Economic Recovery Over the eight years since President Obama took office amidst the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, we have seen a sustained economic recovery and a significant decline in the federal budget deficit. We have cut the unemployment rate in half. Our economy is more than 10 percent larger than its pre-recession peak. U.S. businesses have added a total of 15.6 million jobs since private-sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Household incomes are rising, with 2015 seeing the fastest one-year growth since the Census Bureau began reporting on household income in 1967. And our financial system is more stable, safe, and resilient, providing the critical underpinnings for broad-based, inclusive, long-term growth. There are many factors that explain why the United States was able to bounce back so strongly from the recession. First and foremost, I credit the resilience of the American people. In addition, our policy response to the crisis was immediate and robust. Led by my predecessor, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, policymakers put in place a wide-ranging strategy to restore economic growth, unlock credit, and return private capital to the financial system, thereby providing broad and vital support to the economy. In February 2009, just 28 days after taking office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided powerful fiscal stimulus that resulted in a less severe recession and stronger recovery than we otherwise would have seen. Investments made through our Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) provided stability to our financial system, and the Automotive Industry Financing Program helped prevent the collapse of the U.S. auto industry. TARP also included housing initiatives that helped millions of struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure and lower their monthly payments. These efforts bolstered the housing market and strengthened consumer finances more broadly. And funds expended under TARP have been repaid in full, at a profit to taxpayers: in total, TARP invested $412 billion in financial institutions, large and small, during the financial crisis, and as of October 2016, these investments have returned $442 billion total cash back to taxpayers. Critically, we also acted quickly to reform our financial system, working with Congress to enact the most far-reaching and comprehensive set of financial reforms since the Great Depression: the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Wall Street Reform transformed the way the financial system operates, and Treasury and the financial regulators have continued to work together since its passage to implement important reforms such as the Volcker Rule, risk retention, and resolution planning for large, complex financial institutions. Because of these efforts, our system today is more stable, more transparent, and more consumer-focused. Wall Street Reform also created the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a body that looks across the entire financial system to identify future threats to financial stability, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency that is working hard to protect Americans from unfair, deceptive, or abusive financial practices. The progress we have made on implementing reform has resulted in a safer, stronger, and more stable American financial system—one better positioned to support growth rather than work against it, more likely for consumers to get fair treatment in their interactions with financial institutions, and less prone to major failures of financial firms that can harm Americans on Main Street. This progress must be sustained through continued follow-through, to avoid allowing a return to the recklessness and abuse that predated the worst global financial crisis of the last 80 years. A More Inclusive Economy Beyond working to bring our economy back from the brink and to spur growth, we also undertook efforts to ensure that more citizens have a fair shot at sharing in our nation’s prosperity. One of the Administration’s most significant achievements was the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which extended health insurance to millions of Americans who had not previously had it, allowed young adults to stay on the health plans of their parents, barred insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, and strengthened Medicare’s solvency. Once the legislation was signed into law, Treasury implemented the law’s many new tax provisions. Beyond the ACA, the Administration made a number of other key changes to the tax code that has made our tax system significantly fairer and more equitable. Through programs like the Community Development Financial Institution Fund and myRA, and through extensive stakeholder engagement, Treasury has worked to promote access to the financial system for underserved and vulnerable populations. We also successfully worked with Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to enable Puerto Rico to undergo a financial restructuring. With continued commitment from policymakers in both the Commonwealth and the United States, this legislation will begin to put Puerto Rico on a fiscally sustainable path so that the 3.5 million Americans living there are not denied essential services and economic opportunity. Leading in the Global Economy As we put into place the financial regulatory framework to prevent future crises in the United States, we also led the international response to the crisis. We worked through the G-20 to help mobilize $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus, expand the resources of the international financial institutions by $1 trillion, and establish new institutions like the Financial Stability Board to prevent future crises. Our approach elevated the G-20 as the premier platform for international economic cooperation and put in place a demonstrated mechanism for international response. Following the financial crisis, many countries turned to policies of fiscal austerity, and Treasury vigorously advocated for a more balanced use of policy levers. Over the next several years, Treasury engaged closely with our partners and through the G-20 and other multilateral bodies to emphasize the need for short-term growth and longer-term structural reforms to put the global economy on stronger footing. Through our sustained engagement, we achieved a number of commitments from the G-20, including moving away from austerity-only fiscal policy and avoiding competitive currency devaluation. We have used the G-20 to advance a global growth agenda, and the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue to foster increased bilateral economic coordination and engagement with China. Our sustained engagement with China has allowed us to exert positive pressure on Chinese exchange rate policy—whereas China once intervened in foreign exchange markets to drive down the value of its currency, in the past year, we have seen China intervene to prevent a rapid depreciation in the renminbi, which would have had negative consequences for the Chinese and global economies. Treasury also worked to solidify U.S. leadership by modernizing the international economic architecture to ensure that it would remain relevant in a changing world. In particular, securing the passage of International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota reform sustained U.S. leadership on the global stage. Our leadership in the IMF in turn enabled us to work through it to promote policies that supported U.S. economic and security objectives, such as economic stability in Ukraine and Greece. Promoting a Safer World Treasury has also continued to use its unique financial capabilities to address a variety of national security and foreign policy threats posed by terrorists, criminals and other bad actors. To address the changing threat posed by terrorism, including the threat posed by ISIL, we have worked with our international partners to deny terrorist financiers, fundraisers, and facilitators access to the international financial system with financial measures and targeted actions. Treasury’s sanctions against Iran played a critical role in forcing Iran to the table to negotiate a deal that cuts off the country’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. To hold Russia accountable for its aggression in eastern Ukraine and its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, we imposed sanctions that led to tighter financial conditions, weaker confidence, and lower investment in Russia. We also secured new domestic and multilateral sanctions measures against North Korea in the face of Pyongyang’s continued provocative behavior with regard to nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. All the while, we have worked to craft a cohesive vision for the use of sanctions, in which sanctions are informed by financial intelligence, strategically designed, and implemented with our public and private partners to focus pressure on bad actors and create clear incentives to end malign behavior, while limiting collateral impact. In the face of emerging cyber threats, we have also made significant progress in coordinating cybersecurity efforts among financial regulators and the private sector, both domestically and internationally, to improve the financial sector’s resilience and to establish best practices for industry and government. A Vision for the Future Looking across the next five years, 10 years, and beyond, I see four major goals that mirror the progress above. Treasury should focus on: (i) continuing to promote more inclusive growth; (ii) moving from recovery to long-term fiscal health, (iii) remaining a leader in the global economy; and (iv) adjusting to the new threats in our world. Each of these goals brings with it major challenges that we must collectively overcome in order to reach them. Continuing to Promote Inclusive Growth Through the work of this Administration, the U.S. economy is growing again. But working families have not shared fully in the benefits of economic growth over the past decade, and there is evidence that our society has undergone structural changes that have fundamentally altered the basic social compact. It is crucial that the next Administration builds on the work already done to ensure that our prosperity is broadly shared. There are many aspects to inclusive growth, including: investing in infrastructure to create good middle-class jobs and lay the foundation for future growth, giving workers a stronger voice, enacting progressive tax policies, making quality education more available and affordable, and investing in retraining programs for those who have lost their jobs. One component most directly within Treasury’s purview is increasing access to the financial system; currently, many low-income and minority families are effectively locked out, operating without a credit card or banking history. Finding creative ways to increase access to the financial system—such as fostering new technologies—will help individuals and families transfer money and make payments safely and affordably. Financial inclusion allows people to manage life’s unexpected financial shocks, build long-term financial security, and take advantage of economic opportunities, like starting a business. Our inclusive growth agenda should not, however, be limited to domestic issues: more than 2.6 billion people live in poverty around the world, and more than two billion people rely solely on cash transactions. Moving underserved populations from a cash economy to formal banking not only increases their economic opportunity but also strengthens our ability to combat illicit and dangerous finance. Moving from Recovery to Long Term Fiscal Health The actions of this Administration, and the economic recovery those actions helped support, have sharply reduced deficits since 2009. However, both the Administration and the Congressional Budget Office project that, absent any changes in policy, the deficit will rise steadily over the next decade and beyond. Thus, while the actions of this Administration have put the country on a solid fiscal footing today, we must also focus on the long-term fiscal health of our nation. In recent years, the Administration has proposed a combination of smart investments and policy reforms that would keep the deficit under three percent of GDP for the next 10 years and nearly eliminate the fiscal gap over the next 25 years. Tax reform to curb inefficient tax breaks for the wealthy, close loopholes, and reform the taxation of capital income and financial institutions would make the tax system fairer and lower the deficit. Comprehensive immigration reform would boost labor force participation, productivity, and ultimately growth, directly addressing key fiscal challenges. Continued focus on health policy to further improve health care quality and control cost growth remains critical. This policy vision shows that investments in growth and opportunity are fully compatible with putting the nation’s finances on a strong and sustainable path. It also shows that responsible deficit reduction can be achieved without endangering vital support to poor Americans or undermining commitments to seniors and workers. Under President Obama’s leadership, there has been substantial economic and fiscal progress, showing what is possible when strategic investment to grow the economy is paired with smart reforms that address the true drivers of long-term fiscal challenges. While there is some scope for additional borrowing to finance smart investments in the next few years, ever-increasing borrowing is not sustainable as a long-run strategy, particularly when used to finance spending that does not generate higher growth or improvements for the middle class and in the case of deficit-increasing tax cuts, which deepen income and wealth disparities that are already a serious concern. Instead, the long-term fiscal health of the nation depends on smart investments in the middle class, tax reforms that close loopholes for the wealthy and ensure that everyone plays by the same set of rules, comprehensive immigration reform, and health reforms that build on our progress to date without sacrificing coverage or quality. Remaining a Leader in the Global Economy The United States must continue its long history of international economic leadership. Such leadership benefits American workers and families and enables the United States to project its values abroad to achieve its larger foreign policy objectives. Of course, the world has changed since the creation of our international financial architecture after World War II, and we must change with it. Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, our influence internationally will increase if we share the benefits, as well as the responsibilities, of managing the global economic and financial system with emerging economies, such as China. Our influence, however, cannot be sustained if we either back away or insist on protecting the status quo. But we face a host of challenges. Our relationship with China is one of the most important in the world. While we have made much progress over the past eight years, the degree to which China is willing to takes the steps necessary to follow through on commitments to reorient its economy toward more sustainable growth, open up to foreign businesses, and be a partner in global governance, remains to be seen. As we saw from the example of Chinese exchange rate policy, engagement between the United States and China is an important means of maintaining pressure for China to implement policies that are necessary for China’s own medium and long-term economic health and to create a level playing field for the world economy. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union sent shockwaves through Europe and the world, and we must closely monitor the situation and continue to argue for the benefits of continued integration post-Brexit. Japan’s economy faces the ongoing challenges of an aging population and high public debt hampering the government’s ability to foster growth. We must also keep a watchful eye on emerging economies and the unique challenges they face. In particular, in recent years, we have made progress in our relations with Latin America, particularly with Mexico and Argentina, and we should build on that progress. Adjusting to the New Threats in Our World With the rise of state-sponsored and lone wolf terrorism, rogue nations, and international strongmen, we must address the reality that we live in a dangerous world. Making it safer means using every tool available—including the financial tools available to Treasury—to defeat and degrade terrorist organizations like ISIL. We must continue to leverage our ability to impose crippling sanctions on states and individuals to change behavior. We must seek to eliminate the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Cyber attacks on our financial system represent a real threat to our economic and national security, and maintaining vigilant and coordinated efforts to keep pace with and respond to these threats has been and will remain a crucial piece of Treasury’s work. And we must recognize global climate change for the economic and existential threat that it is and band together with the rest of the world to avert catastrophe. How to Make Our Vision a Reality How do we accomplish the goals laid out above? To be sure, there are a host of paths policymakers might take to do so, but I believe the following steps, which range from specific policy prescriptions to more general advice, are the most immediate. Infrastructure Spending Moving forward, we must redouble our efforts to make investments in our country’s transportation infrastructure, which help create middle-class jobs in the short term and drive broad-based economic growth in the long term. Indeed, by fixing our aging roads, bridges, and ports, we will help lay a foundation for widely shared economic expansion. The President’s business tax reform framework, discussed in more detail below, would generate substantial one-time revenues to fund new infrastructure investments. Paying for these investments by taxing overseas business profits would both be fiscally responsible and would help fix the perception that our tax system is not a level playing field. Continuing to come up with fresh, new ways to deploy capital will help the country achieve these goals. Effective partnerships between government and the private sector can play an important role in developing innovative solutions that efficiently leverage resources. And taking advantage of historically low interest rates to fund high-return public investments is simply smart fiscal policy. This Administration has long advocated for the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which would provide critical financing and technical support to foster public-private partnerships in U.S. infrastructure and establish a predictable source of long-term financing that would allow U.S. infrastructure to be consistently improved. Business Tax Reform Over the last eight years, Congress and the Administration have taken important steps to make the tax code fairer, support working families, and roll back unnecessary and unaffordable tax cuts for high-income families. In addition, using its administrative tools, the Administration has made substantial progress over the past eight years in combatting abusive tax practices. However, our business tax system remains in need of reform. As I have emphasized repeatedly throughout my time as Treasury Secretary, only Congress can enact business tax reform, which is necessary to remove incentives for businesses to relocate overseas, raise one-time revenues to promote infrastructure spending, and simplify tax compliance for smaller businesses. President Obama’s proposed plan for business tax reform sets out a framework for modernizing our business tax system. Among other elements, it would prevent companies from using excessive leverage in the United States to reduce their tax burden, impose a minimum tax abroad to help fight the global race to the bottom, impose a one-time tax on unrepatriated foreign profits, and reform the taxation of financial and insurance industry products. It also would close loopholes and special credits and deductions to lower rates without shifting the tax burden to individuals. Enacting such a plan would enhance our competitiveness and create an environment in which business rather than tax considerations drive decision-making. The President’s framework is also fiscally responsible, ensuring that business tax reform does not add to deficits over the long-term. I am hopeful that this framework will help to equip the new Congress to take responsible action on business tax reform. Housing Finance Reform Fixing our housing finance system remains the major unfinished work of post-financial crisis reform. Though the housing market has made significant strides thanks to efforts on the part of the Administration to help struggling homeowners, stabilize the housing finance system, and restore broader economic growth, many homeowners and neighborhoods continue to struggle. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain in conservatorship and continue to rely on taxpayer support. Only legislation can comprehensively address the ongoing shortcomings of the housing finance system. A starting point for such legislation should be the principles President Obama laid out in 2013, which stressed a clearly-defined role for the government to promote broad access to consumer-friendly mortgages in good times and bad. While private capital should bear the majority of the risks in mortgage lending, reform also must provide more American households with greater and more sustainable access to affordable homes to rent or own. Global Economic Integration Global economic integration, including high-standards trade, leads to better economic outcomes than isolation and protectionism. High-standard trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership can expand U.S. economic growth, open markets for American exports, and strengthen labor and environmental safeguards so that American workers can compete on a level playing field. But economic uncertainty, both domestically and abroad, threatens this framework. Whether driven by trade, technological advances, or the changing structure of the markets for labor and capital, these anxieties are real and deeply felt. In order to continue to enjoy the benefits of an integrated world, we need to focus on policies that address the real issues of inequality, such as slowing wage growth and increasing disparities in pay, to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly felt. Strengthening the rules, alone, is not enough. To preserve this important engine of economic growth and international integration the United States and other advanced economies must also design and implement policies—including fiscal and tax policies—that advance the cause of inclusive, sustainable, and broad-based growth. Not all countries have the fiscal space sufficient to meet these needs, but after years of urging by the United States, policies of austerity are one-by-one giving way to policies designed to grow demand and improve incomes. The United States must continue to be an active voice in the global discussion of these issues. The United States must also maintain its leadership in the international financial architecture and ensure that the U.S.-led international financial system is adapting to best preserve U.S. interest in a changing world. This includes continued governance reforms of the IMF and multilateral development banks to reflect a changing world. Clear global rules create opportunities and incentives for innovation, invest, and work, which are critical to the United States and drive economic progress in other regions of the world. Continued Engagement with Challenging Partners Just as global economic integration has fueled economic growth, that integration—and our economic strength—provides us with additional tools to advance our priorities on the international stage. We should continue to use these tools judiciously to maintain pressure on those countries that take aggressive and destabilizing actions, such as Russia and North Korea, and provide sanctions relief when the targeted malign behavior changes, as with Iran and Burma. And, as we chart new courses with other countries, such as Cuba, we should be mindful of how we can use our economic tools to create the conditions for a changed relationship. We must always take care to avoid the overuse of sanctions, particularly our most unilateral tools like secondary sanctions that extend to non-U.S. persons. If we overuse these powerful tools, we risk lessening their impact when they are most needed and ultimately threaten our central role in the global financial system. Looking Forward with Optimism We have learned the hard way that deadlock does not produce good results—government shutdowns and near default on our debt cost the United States both economically and in standing around the world. It did not work in the 1990s, and it did not work over these past eight years. What has worked is finding opportunities in the sometimes quiet periods when bipartisan cooperation can lead to honorable compromise. In recent years, we have seen that targeted budget agreements could pave the way for more orderly and economically beneficial outcomes. We have seen that, on issues like creating a path forward for Puerto Rico and multi-year funding for our surface transportation programs, bipartisan compromise is still possible. But there is much more that requires this kind of progress. Treasury plays a critical role in finding areas where bipartisan solutions are possible. In a period when many thought little could be accomplished legislatively, we reached agreement on IMF Quota Reform, an approach to deal with Puerto Rico, and a permanent extension of expansions to the earned income tax credit and child tax credits that will reduce the extent or severity of poverty for millions of families with children. We have also used our existing authorities to limit corporate tax inversions, shed greater light on beneficial ownership to limit tax avoidance, realize tax parity for same-sex spouses, and opened relations with Cuba. And we have used our sanctions authorities to bring Iran to the negotiating table and limit the resources available to terrorist regimes and groups. I am proud of the record we have built over the past eight years. But during calmer economic times, policy makers are often tempted to roll back regulations, weaken reforms, and reduce oversight. I hope that future policymakers will take careful stock of the successes of this Administration as they consider the next steps forward. I remain an optimist about America’s future and wish the next team entrusted with responsibility for governing much success as it tackles the many challenges that remain and the new challenges that will present themselves over the coming years. Margaret Mulkerrin is the Press Assistant at the U.S. Department of Treasury. ###
There is one way to assure that your supply chain is not impacted by the upcoming trade wars: bring all your manufacturing to the host nation and no longer rely on foreign suppliers. That's precisely what Apple appears to be doing because in a move that may cause a dramatic shake-up among the key vendors to the world's biggest company, Bloomberg reports that Apple is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its Cupertino headquarter to make small numbers of the screens for testing purposes; if successful the numbers will grow far bigger. In the latest indication that Tim Cook wants to eliminate any supply bottlenecks, and really, any suppliers - recall the historic crash of Dialog Semi which plunged the most in 16 years after a report that Apple would bring its power-management chip production in house - the tech giant is making a significant investment in the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, according to Bloomnerg sources. MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry. Since MicroLED screens are more difficult to produce than OLED displays, not to mention expensive, the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, but since then engineers have been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results. Bloomberg adds that, as noted above, this ambitious undertaking "is the latest example of Apple bringing the design of key components in-house." And while the company has designed chips powering its mobile devices for several years (see Dialog) its move into displays has the long-term potential to hurt a range of suppliers, from screen makers like Samsung Electronics Co., Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp. and LG Display Co. to companies like Synaptics Inc. that produce chip-screen interfaces. It may also hurt Universal Display Corp., a leading developer of OLED technology. As one would expect, the stocks of several key Apple suppliers have been whacked early in the Asian session, with Japan Display dropping as much as 4.4%, Sharp tumbling up to 3.3%, Samsung sliding 1.4% and BOE Technology Group down 2.7%. Analysts, especially Apple bulls, are ecstatic at the opportunity: Ray Soneira, who runs screen tester DisplayMate Technologies, told Bloomberg tgat bringing the design in-house is a “golden opportunity” for Apple. “Everyone can buy an OLED or LCD screen,” he says. “But Apple could own MicroLED.” Because arguably, customers care if the phone they can't afford at over $1,000 has OLED or MicroLed (spoiler alert: they don't, what they care about is the price tag). And speaking of the price tag, it will only go up as mass producing the new screens will require new manufacturing equipment, and massive new sunk costs. Furthermore, by the time the technology is ready, something else might have supplanted it. Apple could run into insurmountable hurdles and abandon the project or push it back. Somewhat bizarrely, Bloomberg downplays its own scoop by saying that "ultimately, Apple will likely outsource production of its new screen technology to minimize the risk of hurting its bottom line with manufacturing snafus. The California facility is too small for mass-production, but the company wants to keep the proprietary technology away from its partners as long as possible, one of the people says. “We put a lot of money into the facility,” this person says. "It’s big enough to get through the engineering builds [and] lets us keep everything in-house during the development stages." Which is not good for the stock: any dollar that goes into silly R&D and projects is one less dollar that can be used to buyback AAPL stock. Some more details on the not-so-secret project: The secret initiative, code-named T159, is overseen by executive Lynn Youngs, an Apple veteran who helped develop touch screens for the original iPhone and iPad and now oversees iPhone and Apple Watch screen technology. The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked Apple offices. There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of “growing” LEDs. Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen. Apple inherited the intellectual property for that process when it purchased startup LuxVue in 2014. Apple’s screen development and manufacturing facility in Santa Clara, CaliforniaThe complexity of building a screen manufacturing facility meant it took Apple several months to get the California plant operational. Only in recent months have Apple engineers grown confident in their ability to eventually replace screens from Samsung and other suppliers. But not for a long, long time. As Bloomberg calculates, it’s unlikely that the technology will reach an iPhone for at least three to five years, the people say. While the smartphone is Apple’s cash cow, there is precedent for new screen technologies showing up in the Apple Watch first. When it was introduced in 2014, the Apple Watch had an OLED screen. The technology finally migrated to the iPhone X last year. So until MicroLED is ready for the world to see, Apple will still - at least publicly - be all-in on OLED. The company plans to release a second OLED iPhone in the fall, a giant, 6.5-inch model, and is working to expand OLED production from Samsung to also include LG. Until then, however, Apple has bigger problems: in a note released on Sunday, Nomura analyst Anne Lee was the latest to slash iPhoneX volume estimates to 12million / 8 million units from previous forecast of 18 million/13m "as many component suppliers have seen very low shipments since February, which could cause low plant capacity utilization rate and poor mix for 1H. She warned that 1Q results could still cast earnings downside risk vs. market expectations. And with a market cap of over $900 billion, and a forecast that is priced to perfection, while Tim Cook may be hoping to distract from the overall woes plaguing the company which gambled on ultraexpensive phones and lost with MicroLED factories and other diversions, should demand for the company's top products continue to deteriorate, Apple's shareholders are about to be rudely introduced to "imperfection."
Hillary Clinton had another embarrassing tumble in India while on her endless book tour... Newsweek reports that Hillary “was staying at Umaid Bhawan Palace, the one-time residence of the former royal family of Jodhpur, when she slipped in the bath, DNA India reported.” Clinton reportedly had a hairline fracture on her wrist. This would be at least Clinton’s second fall while abroad. She slipped on stairs while in India this week, needing the assistance of two men to walk down a flight of stairs. As The Daily Caller notes, Hillary has a long history of falling down and having issues standing up in general. In the 2016 campaign, she slipped on a flight of stairs in South Carolina. She also infamously collapsed during a 9/11 memorial during the 2016 campaign. GrrrGraphics' Ben Garrison visualizes Hillary's long list of 'falls'... If you’re a member of the Deep State, you have a lifetime stay out of jail free card. You may commit any crime you like - steal from Haitians, murder witnesses, lie to Congress about classified information, accept ‘pay for play’ money while secretary of state, allow people to be murdered in Libya, be involved in child trafficking, or even rig an election - and no harm will ever come to you. Hillary always gets away with it. ...If Hillary continues to skate, then we’ll know for sure who still runs the show: The Deep State and the Shadow Government, otherwise known as “The Swamp.” * * * Cartoons that are Politically Incorrect? we got them! Support at Patreon
The Heartbreaking Reason This 29-Year-Old Woman With Brain Cancer Went to Great Lengths to End Her Life
Your end of life rights are limited to only a few states. This woman took control over when and how she died.
Update: As polls close in Russia, state-run TV is reporting exit polls (conducted by state-run VTsIOM polling company) showing a landslide victory for Vladimir Putin with 73.9% of the vote (above The Kremlin's pre-election whisper number of 70%). He faced seven minor candidates on the ballot. Putin's most vehement and visible foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was rejected as a candidate because he was convicted of fraud in a case widely regarded as politically motivated. Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin placed second with 11.2%. * * * As we detailed earlier, Vladimir Putin is expected to win by a landslide in today's Russian election. As both prime minister and president, he is the second longest serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin who was in power for 10,636 days. Source: Statista The last polls close in Kaliningrad at 2 p.m. ET. But, as Putin looks set to begin his fourth term in office, Reuters notes that, the only possible blemish for the Kremlin is if large numbers of voters do not bother taking part because the result is so predictable, and opponents alleged officials were compelling people to come to the polls so that a low turnout does not tarnish the win. Opinion polls give Putin, the incumbent, support of around 70 percent, or nearly 10 times the backing of his nearest challenger. and Axios reports that The Kremlin had initially set a target of a 70 percent result for Putin with 70 percent turnout, though it may have backed off on that in the past few days. Reuters reports that turnout nationwide was at 51.9 percent by 1400 GMT, official data showed. A low turnout would diminish Putin’s authority within the ruling elite, which is founded in large part on his ability to mobilize the public behind him. “I voted for Putin,” said Lyubov Kachan, a teacher in the settlement of Ust-Djeguta, in southern Russia. “If anything is not going our way right now, that’s thanks to the world which treats us so negatively, while he is trying to stand up to that,” she said. But not everyone is so enthusiastic. The first politician in years to challenge the Kremlin’s grip on power, Alexei Navalny, is barred from the race because of a corruption conviction he says was fabricated. He is calling for a boycott of the election, saying it is an undemocratic farce. “They need turnout,” Navalny told a briefing. “Across the country people are being driven to the polling stations.” He said he would decide later on Sunday whether to call supporters out into the streets in protest. Nina Bostanova, a pensioner in Ust-Djeguta, said she decided not to vote. “What’s the point? They’ll get elected anyway. Why go and vote?” she said. The majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and state-run television, where most people get their news, and many Russians believe he has restored stability after the chaos that ensued after the Soviet Union collapsed. Despite his high approval ratings and lack of strong opposition, for many there is a big question mark over the legitimacy of Russia's elections. Source: Statista As Gallup surveys over the last few years have shown, even in Russia, those confident their elections are 'honest' are in the minority. Although the share of people trusting in the democratic process has increased since 2012, the results, as shown in the chart above, are rather damning. But, as Reuters reports, Ella Pamfilova, head of the commission organizing the vote nationwide, has said any fraud will be stamped out. She said those already alleging the election was rigged were biased and peddling “Russophobia”, echoing a line used by the Kremlin to describe Western criticism of Russia. Putin's predictable win, and possibility of remaining on office until 2024, may usher in a 'different' era for Russia as the leader plans for a Russia without him. In the West, Putin is labeled a narcissist, despot and would-be king for holding onto power for 18 years. But, as Stratfor details, rebuilding an empire out of the wreckage of the Soviet Union took time, and now he faces a string of pressing challenges that threaten his legacy and the future stability of Russia. His next term will look qualitatively different from his previous terms, as he maneuvers varying chess pieces for Russia's long game. Looming Challenges Even at its most bellicose, Russia is an inherently weak country. Geographically, it is the largest state in the world, and transporting energy, food and resources across it is daunting. Throughout its history, the country has maintained a dependency on commodity exports. Russia is home to 160 distinct ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. And strong rival powers sit on or near its long borders. For these combined reasons, Russian leaders, like Putin, are forced to hold onto stability with an iron fist. Going into his fourth term, two large shifts — economic and demographic — threaten Putin's ability to maintain stability and his hold on power. Even at its most bellicose, Russia is an inherently weak country. Putin's Social Contract. When he came to power, Putin brokered an informal social contract with the Russian people to maintain financial and economic stability. The contract includes dependable paychecks, secure pensions, a reliable banking system, state backing of strategic assets, and opportunities for the next generation. Russia's economic position shapes the loyalty (or at least the compliance) of the elites, the general population, and the military and security services. Under Putin, Russia has bounced back relatively well from economic hiccups; however, the country currently is settling into a prolonged period of post-recession stagnation that is reverberating across the country. Russia's poverty level is rising at its fastest pace in two decades, and its minimum wage is below subsistence levels. Average Russians are spending half of their paychecks on food, and more than 25 percent report regular interruptions or cuts to their salaries. The Kremlin blew through its Reserve Fund at the start of the year, and it is now dipping into the National Welfare Fund, which is intended to secure pensions. The Russian banking system also is rapidly shrinking, with the Central Bank having closed one-third (or 300) of the country's struggling banks over the past three years. The economy is overwhelmingly the top concern among Russians. Of the more than 1,100 protests in 2017, two-thirds were related to the economy. Signs held by protesters during widespread demonstrations in June 2017 called on the Kremlin to pay for bread, not bombs — a jab at Moscow's high-profile military interventions in Syria and Ukraine. Corruption also is driving disaffection in Russia, which ranks in the bottom 45 countries on Transparency International's corruption index. The Russian people largely ignored the rampant corruption of Putin and his cronies while the country thrived, but calls for an anti-corruption campaign against the Kremlin have grown, helped along by the popularity of opposition heavyweight Alexei Navalny and his anti-corruption exposes. A similar discontent is developing among the Russian elites, both within the Kremlin and among the oligarchy. The elites supported Putin as long as their fiefdoms were protected and growing. But now their business and financial opportunities are shrinking because of the stagnant economy and because of increased pressure from Western sanctions stemming from Moscow's foreign activities. Many elites have lost or fear losing their financial support systems (personal banks at home or the safety of cash abroad), and the Kremlin is increasingly taking on responsibility for those systems. This has sparked increased competition among the elites and diminished Putin's ability to curb or intervene in the battles. The most prominent example is Rosneft chief Igor Sechin's takedown of Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev last year for attempting to prevent the oil czar from snatching up assets — a move Putin forbade without effect. Other examples are the revived battles for the control of assets by the metals oligarchs and the unchecked transformation of Chechnya into a mini-fiefdom based on conservative Islamic values under Ramzan Kadyrov. Additionally, the large security services are flexing their muscles over key assets and portfolios, leading to a likely challenge in Putin's fourth term over the power to target other elites. Demographics. Putin's fraying contract with his people and elites comes as he faces another distinct challenge: demographics. The country's ethnic Russian population is in steep decline, with United Nations estimates predicting an overall decline of 10 percent by 2030. The decline is despite a sharply rising ethnic Muslim population, from 13 million in 1990 to a projected total of more than 20 million in 2030. This trend exacerbates social tensions between ethnic groups, particularly because many Russian Muslim regions, such as Chechnya and Dagestan, are heavily subsidized by the Kremlin, and many Russian Muslims are flooding the more ethnically Russian cities for jobs. This demographic shift also heightens the prominence of Muslim leaders, such as Kadyrov, and their ability to wield power. A generational change is gripping Russia as well, with nearly one-third of the country's population born after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This demographic class has largely known only Putin as the country's leader, and it holds nearly no memory of the chaotic 1990s. The Russians currently coming of age are not anti-Putin per se, though they largely want leadership options instead of a blanket expectation of continued rule by Putin. A recent survey by independent pollster Levada found that only 15 percent of Russians ages 18-24 believe Putin serves the interests of the Russian people, and 74 percent believe Putin is responsible for Russia's problems. This new generation is social-media savvy, diluting the Kremlin's messaging to its people. Young faces have overwhelmingly populated protests in recent years, compared with the more middle-aged appearance of the 2011-12 protests. Demonstrations are increasingly organized on social media, making them difficult for the Kremlin to curb or disrupt. External Challenges. The deepening internal challenges facing Russia are juxtaposed with its efforts to maintain its position in the greater world. Russia faces an enduring standoff with the West, which only exacerbates the economic situation at home brought by U.S. sanctions. Russia is expanding its ambitious rearmament program, as a new arms race speeds up and existing arms control treaties are undermined. The country's national defense is an issue Putin repeatedly has refused to bend on, and he is injecting even more capital into the defense sector, despite a tight budget at home. The state is taking over responsibility for many of the defense firms so it can easily surge cash into their programs. As relations with the West continue to sour, Russia is shoring up ties with China and many Middle Eastern countries. Besides arms, Russia is investing in expensive energy links with Turkey, China and others to give it flexibility when depending on the Western energy market. Putin is attempting to position Russia strongly abroad to insulate the country from shocks at home. However, greater exposure on the world stage increases the attention of foreign players who can meddle in Russia in return. The Kremlin has tried to crack down on foreign attempts to reach into Russia via media and social media, but the government's heavy hand risks further inflaming discontent at home. Politics and Putin The longer a leader stays in power, the more resourceful he or she must be to retain such power. One strategy that Putin is employing allows a degree of political debate to return to Russia after a decade in which debate was stifled by the censure of independent and foreign media, the assassinations and arrests of journalists and opponents, and the spread of state-controlled messaging. Questioning and dissenting points of view have started to surface over the past few years, even in state-backed media. The Kremlin understands that the Russian people — at all levels — require an outlet to voice their discontent and to promote their agendas. Relatively progressive political discourse can be heard from the protesters, the media, think tanks, business leaders and politicians, spreading across class and faction. This dialogue comes with a risk, and Putin's regime is tinkering with how far it allows these voices and views to resonate without backlash. The Kremlin is also toying with a plan to include various opposition leaders in government debates on both domestic and foreign policies to create a less antagonistic and more constructive opposition scheme. The longer a leader stays in power, the more resourceful he or she must be to retain such power. Discourse with opposition and independent factions comes as the government faces difficult decisions about how to address a spate of Russian woes. The Kremlin is considering a series of difficult reforms to the state budget, energy sector, security services and banking system. Which direction such wide-ranging reforms will go is not clear, but the Kremlin appears to be taking conflicting views into account. The return of political debate does not mean Putin faces a real challenger or formidable opposition yet. Instead, his true rivals are the challenges facing the country and the cultlike system he has built around himself. This has Putin — and much of the country — thinking of the future of Russia without him — a topic previously barred from most Russian media. Over the past year, a string of Putin-picked officials in their 30s and 40s have churned through key posts, from governors to ministers, in what is seen as Putin's tests for future leadership and higher office. Some notable standouts are Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, 35; presidential chief of staff Anton Vaino, 40; and Russian Agricultural Bank CEO Dmitry Patrushev, 40, whose father is also head of the Russian Security Council. In the Soviet period, Kremlin watchers studied the order of seating in the Politburo's boxes at the Bolshoi Ballet to gauge prominence and favor among the elites. Today, Kremlinologists watch Putin's hockey matches on Red Square or video of the elites' macho antics, such as footage from October that showed regional officials diving from cliffs. The appointments and exhibitions are Putin's way of tutoring this next generation for fitness for office and public appeal. It's unlikely Putin will choose a sole successor, but he may attempt to turn the personalized system into more of a collective, much like a latter-day Soviet Politburo. Attempting to create a post-Putin system with Russia facing so many domestic and international challenges looks to become Putin's greatest test. Aware of Russia's recent history, Putin will attempt to succeed where other Russian leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev failed. The extent of his success will become clearer in the coming years, which will show the viability of Russia's continued stability and ability to maintain its place in the world.
Macron and Merkel seek to overcome stalemate in negotiations to reach deal by June
Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat with ardent anti-abortion views, has never before been seriously challenged – until now On a cold Friday morning in early March, the biggest fossil in Chicago was not the Tyrannosaurus Rex perched in the Field Museum downtown. It was standing, wearing a parka, outside a suburban train station. Related: Trump lawyer calls for end to Russia investigation after McCabe firing Continue reading...
Recent events on US college campuses illustrate how the right has fine-tuned its formula for pushing progressives’ buttonsHow do you make a speech at a provincial liberal arts college into national news? As it turns out, the basic requirements are simple: a shareable video, provocation and persistence.For the past few months, this recipe was developed and fine-tuned in a series of speeches at Portland-area universities featuring controversial speakers. All have involved a small group of Portland State University students and faculty associated with an atheist student club. Continue reading...
Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog, The Guardian ran an article yesterday by one of its editors, David Shariatmadari, that both proves and disproves its own theme at the same time: “An Information Apocalypse Is Coming”. Now, I don’t fancy the term apocalypse in a setting like this, it feels too much like going for a cheap thrill, but since he used it, why not. My first reaction to the headline, and the article, is: what do you mean it’s ‘coming’? Don’t you think we have such an apocalypse already, that we’re living it, we’re smack in the middle of such a thing? If you don’t think so, would that have anything to do with you working at a major newspaper? Or with your views of the world, political and other, that shape how you experience ‘information’? Shariatmadari starts out convincingly and honestly enough with a description of a speech that JFK was supposed to give in Dallas right after he was murdered, a speech that has been ‘resurrected’ using technology that enables one to make it seem like he did deliver it. An Information Apocalypse Is Coming. How Can We Protect Ourselves? “In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality, and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.” John F Kennedy’s last speech reads like a warning from history, as relevant today as it was when it was delivered in 1963 at the Dallas Trade Mart. His rich, Boston Brahmin accent reassures us even as he delivers the uncomfortable message. The contrast between his eloquence and the swagger of Donald Trump is almost painful to hear. Yes, Kennedy’s words are lofty ones, and they do possess at least some predictive qualities. But history does play a part too. Would we have read the same in them that we do now, had Kennedy not been shot right before he could deliver them? Hard to tell. What’s more, not long before JFK was elected president America had been in the tight and severe grip of J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign, in which lots of reality was replaced with rhetoric, something Kennedy undoubtedly had in mind while writing the speech. JFK was not just addressing future threats, he was talking about the past as well. But the writer slips into a much bigger faux pas right after: injecting Trump into the picture. It’s fine if someone doesn’t like Trump, but naming him there and then, in an article about ‘information apocalypse’, also means confusing objectivity with regards to your topic with subjectivity concerning your political ideas. While the Kennedy speech item relates to -advancing(?)- technology, a valid part of the apocalypse, mentioning Trump has nothing to do with that apocalypse, at least not objectively. Back to David Shariatmadari: The problem is, Kennedy never spoke these words. He was killed before he made it to the Trade Mart. You can only hear them now thanks to audio technology developed by a British company, CereProc. Fragments of his voice have been taken from other speeches and public appearances, spliced and put back together, with neural networks employed to mimic his natural intonation. The result is pretty convincing, although there’s a machine-like ring to some of the syllables, a synthetic stutter. Enough to recognise, if you already know, that this is a feat of technology, not oratory. We like to think of innovation as morally neutral. We empower scientists and engineers to range freely in the hope they might discover things that save labour and lives. The ends to which these are put aren’t the responsibility of the researchers. The agile robots produced by Boston Dynamics might look like they could cheerfully pin you up against a wall and snap your neck, but do we really want to close off this avenue of research? After all, they might equally be capable of performing life-saving surgery. The methods used to resurrect JFK can also help people with illnesses such as motor neurone disease – like the late Stephen Hawking – that affect their ability to speak. It’s certainly true that we are so ‘geared’ towards progress, we ‘conveniently’ forget and ignore that every next step carries its own shadow side, every yin comes with its yang. ‘Progress’ and ‘innovation’ – and related terms- ring so positive in our eyes and ears it borders on -wilful- blindness. That blindness is set to play a major role in our future, and in our acceptance as gospel of a lot of ‘information’. “Dual use” of technology is not a new problem. Nuclear physics gave us both energy and bombs. What is new is the democratisation of advanced IT, the fact that anyone with a computer can now engage in the weaponisation of information; 2016 was the year we woke up to the power of fake news, with internet conspiracy theories and lies used to bolster the case for both Brexit and Donald Trump. Ouch! See, he does it again. This is not an objective discourse on ‘information disinformation’, but a way to make people think -through a method he’s supposed to be exposing- that ‘fake news’ led to Brexit and Trump. That’s a political view, not a neutral one. Yes, there are many voices out there who connect ‘fake news’ directly to things they don’t like, but that’s just a trap. And as I said, it may have to do with the fact that the writer works for a major newspaper, which of course he wants to, and wishes to, see as some kind of beacon against fake news, but if he lets his own personal views slip into an objective treatment of a topic this easily, it automatically becomes self-defeating. There is no proof that Trump and Brexit’s success are down to fake news more than their opposite sides, ‘fake news’ is everywhere, and that very much includes the Guardian. The coverage of the UK government accusations against Russia in the poisoning case proves that more than ever. You can be anti-Trump, anti-Brexit and anti-Putin all you want, but they don’t define fake news or an information apocalypse, any more than ‘commies’ did in the days of Hoover and McCarthy. We may, however, look back on it as a kind of phoney war, when photoshopping and video manipulation were still easily detectable. That window is closing fast. A program developed at Stanford University allows users to convincingly put words into politicians’ mouths. Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos. Quite soon it will be all but impossible for ordinary people to tell what’s real and what’s not. That is am almost bewildering line. Does the writer really think ‘ordinary people’ can today tell apart what’s real and what’s not? If his paper had honestly covered his country’s, and his government’s, involvement in the wars all over the Middle East and North Africa over the past decades, would his readers still be supportive of the politicians that today inhabit Westminster? Or does the paper prefer supporting the incumbents over Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, because it owes its reputation and position and revenues to supporting the likes of Theresa May and Tony Blair? Yeah, I know, with a critical view, yada yada, but when has the Guardian labeled any UK politician a war criminal? Much easier to go after Farage, isn’t it? The question is: what part of this is fake, and what is not? What will the effects of this be? When a public figure claims the racist or sexist audio of them is simply fake, will we believe them? How will political campaigns work when millions of voters have the power to engage in dirty tricks? What about health messages on the dangers of diesel or the safety of vaccines? Will vested interests or conspiracy theorists attempt to manipulate them? This appears to make sense, but it does not really. We are way past that. ‘Ordinary people’ have already lost their capacity to tell truth from fiction. Newspapers and TV stations have long disseminated the views of their owners, it’s just that they now have -newfound- competition from a million other sources: the blessings of social media. The core issue here is that 1984 is not some point in the future, as we for some reason prefer to think. We are living 1984. Perhaps the fact that we are now 34 years past it should give us a clue about that? People tend to think that perhaps Orwell was right, but his predictions were way early. Were they, though? Also: Orwell may not have foreseen the blessings and trappings of social media, but he did foresee how governments and their media sympathizers would react to them: with more disinformation. Unable to trust what they see or hear, will people retreat into lives of non-engagement, ceding the public sphere to the already powerful or the unscrupulous? The potential for an “information apocalypse” is beginning to be taken seriously. This is a full-blown time warp. If it is true that people only now take the potential for an “information apocalypse” seriously, they are so far behind the curve ball that one must question the role of the media in that. Why didn’t people know about that potential when it was an actual issue? Why did nobody tell them? The problem is we have no idea what a world in which all words and images are suspect will look like, so it’s hard to come up with solutions. Yes, we do have an idea about that, because we see it around us 24/7. Maybe not with images as fully fabricated as the JFK speech, but the essence is manipulation itself, not the means by which it’s delivered. Perhaps not very much will change – perhaps we will develop a sixth sense for bullshit and propaganda, in the same way that it has become easy to distinguish sales calls from genuine inquiries, and scam emails with fake bank logos from the real thing. David, we ARE all bullshitters, we all lie all the time, for a myriad of reasons, to look better, to feel better, to seem better, to get rich, to get laid. It’s who we are. We lie to ourselves most of all. A sixth sense against bullshit and propaganda is the very last thing we will ever develop, because it would force us to face our own bullshit. But there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the onslaught, and society could start to change in unpredictable ways as a result. Like the generation JFK was addressing in his speech, we are on the cusp of a new and scary age. Rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, are becoming difficult to separate. We await a figure of Kennedy’s stature to help us find a way through. Until then, we must at the very least face up to the scale of the coming challenge. We are not 'on the cusp of a new and scary age', we are smack in the middle of it. We haven’t been able to separate rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, for ages. What’s different from 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, is that now we are faced with an information overload so severe that this in itself makes us less capable of separating chaff from wheat. So yes, that perhaps is new. But bullshit and propaganda are not. And labeling Trump and Brexit the main threats misses your own topic by miles. You could make an equally valid point that they are the results of many years of bullshit and propaganda by old-style politics and old-style media. Maybe they’re what happens when ‘ordinary people’ switch off from an overload of bullshit and propaganda forced upon them by people and institutions they grew up to trust. And then feel they were betrayed by. A sixth sense after all.
With only 24 seats needs to win back the House of Representatives, Democrats boast of at least 100 GOP districts they're targeting this fall. Is a more practical strategy to repeat what worked for the party back in 2006 -- a less ambitious approach that places electability over progressive ideology?
There has been criticism that the ‘genetic revolution’ heralded by the completion of the Human Genome Project has failed to meet the more optimistic expectations of 15 years ago and that patient outcomes have not materially improved. This column analyses the extent to which basic genetic science has fuelled early-stage drug innovation. The results suggest that alleged ‘slower-than-expected’ progress has been partly caused by the amount of complexity in human biology, which was unexpected prior to the Project’s completion but has been progressively revealed since then.
Doug Schoen, The HillThe party must move away from the progressive left and toward the moderate center to win elections.
Retail jobs can be a nightmare. But if you have one of these roles, you can make good money and never have to deal with actual customers.