Archive for the 'Economics' Category

“I can haz all your votes”

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

The Economist: Once considered a boon to democracy, social media have started to look like its nemesis.. “An economy based on attention is easily gamed.”

“Facebook and Google account for about 40% of America’s digital content consumption, according to Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research, a data provider[.]
[…]
Adult Americans who use Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp spend around 20 hours a month on the three services. Overall, Americans touch their smartphones on average more than 2,600 times a day (the heaviest users easily double that). The population of America farts about 3m times a minute. It likes things on Facebook about 4m times a minute.

The average piece of content is looked at for only a few seconds. But it is the overall paying of attention, not the specific information, that matters. The more people use their addictive-by-design social media, the more attention social-media companies can sell to advertisers—and the more data about the users’ behaviour they can collect for themselves. It is an increasingly lucrative business to be in. On November 1st Facebook posted record quarterly profits, up nearly 80% on the same quarter last year. Combined, Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, control half the world’s digital advertising.”

Arizona senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association said maintenance costs should fall to Congress, not visitors.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

CBS News: Grand Canyon, other popular national parks may double fees. (AP)

“The National Park Service is considering a steep increase in entrance fees at 17 of its most popular parks, mostly in the U.S. West, to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and other national parks would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the fee of $30 for a weekly pass. At others, the hike is nearly triple, from $25 to $70.

A 30-day public comment period opened Tuesday. The Park Service says it expects to raise $70 million a year with the proposal at a time when national parks repeatedly have been breaking visitation records and putting a strain on park resources. Nearly 6 million people visited the Grand Canyon last year.

“We need to have a vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement. “Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.””

Link via dangerousmeta.

“Mothers die too often because women’s health isn’t valued in the US”

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Vox: California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth. “The maternal mortality rate in the state is a third of the American average. Here’s why.” By Julia Belluz, Jun 29, 2017.

“[T]here’s been a decline in access to contraception and abortion in many parts of the US, leading to more unplanned, unwanted — and, in some cases, more dangerous — pregnancies.

The opioid epidemic certainly hasn’t made births safer for moms, and health care access remains poor for low-income and minority women, who have among the worst maternal health outcomes.”

Also:

“Large employers in California, including Disney and Apple, as well as insurance payers have recognized that making births safer saves them money. They’ve supported CMQCC by helping pressure hospitals to follow the steps to protect women in the workforce – and avoid incurring unnecessary costs that drive up insurance premiums.”

Emphases mine.

ProPublica and NPR: The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth. By Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR, May 12, 2017.

“The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: The health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.”

ProPublica: Lost Mothers. “An estimated 700 to 900 women in the U.S. died from pregnancy-related causes in 2016. We have identified 134 of them so far.” By Nina Martin, ProPublica, Emma Cillekens and Alessandra Freitas, special to ProPublica, July 17, 2017.

Links via MetaFilter.

“This is what grudging benevolence rooted in a sense of personal superiority and belief in the power of performance looks like.”

Monday, October 9th, 2017

The Washington Post: In Puerto Rico, Trump’s paper-towel toss reveals where his empathy lies.

“Nicholas Vargas, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Florida, noted that Trump doesn’t approach everyone in such a state of callous disconnect. In August, Trump said there were “very fine people” among the white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville that left a counterprotester dead. Soon after, he pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, formally expressing concern for a man known for racially profiling Latinos and housing jail inmates outdoors in tents.

In these cases, Trump showed compassion.

“But when it comes to Puerto Rico and the humanitarian crisis there, what we see is a hands-off, bitter, hardly restrained resentment that anything is expected of him at all,” said Vargas, who studies issues related to race and ethnicity. “This is a man who has the capacity to empathize. It — even in a catastrophe — is just a selective thing.”

These images show a president without mercy for certain human beings, “people unlike him,” Vargas said. “That is women, people of color — even in the most dire of circumstances.””

“She lives in a tiny rented shed that has no plumbing. She gets water from a brother who lives in a trailer across the road.”

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Washington Post: After the check is gone. “The underground economy has long been a part of rural America, where some receiving disability benefits are forced to work to survive.”

“Mallory, W.Va. — For the people of the hollow, opportunity begins where the road ends, and that was where they now went, driving onto a dirt path that vanished into forest. It was here that they came at the end of the month, when the disability checks were long gone, and the next were still days away, and the only option left was also one of the worst.

The goal was simple. Get to the top of the mountain. Collect as many wild roots as possible to sell to a local buyer. Avoid the copperheads and rattlesnakes. Descend before the rains came again and flooded their way out.”

And this is not in a third-world-coutry, it’s in the country that calls itself the “greatest country on earth”.