World Bank to cease financing upstream oil and gas after 2019

I have no idea how important the World Bank was for financing oil and gas projects, so this may be mostly symbolic. But I think it's likely that this is a sign of change.

The World Bank will no longer finance upstream oil and gas projects after 2019, apart from certain gas projects in the poorest countries in exceptional circumstances,...

The Police Murder of Daniel Shaver

David French, on the murder of Daniel Shaver, by a police officer who was then acquitted. Supposedly the police officer's bodycam video wasn't released until after the verdict (it's graphic, and infuriating), for what reason, I don't know. This is the kind of thing that decimates trust in police and the courts.

Essentially, what the police told an innocent, law-abiding, intoxicated American was this: Follow my highly-specific, very strange instructions or die. There was no need to make him crawl. The police were in command of the situation. At no point is there a visible weapon. I have seen soldiers deal with al Qaeda terrorists with more professionalism and poise. When a man is prone, his hands are visible, and your gun is trained upon him, he is in your power.

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I’ve written about this before. Juries time and again acquit frightened cops, regardless of whether the cop botched the situation or whether his fear was objectively reasonable. I wrote this after the Philando Castile verdict:

'Legally, it’s not enough for an officer to show that he was actually afraid for his life. He has to show that “a reasonably prudent person” would also have the same fear. Clever defense lawyers twist this standard into a line of argument that goes something like this: The officer was afraid, and he can explain to you the reasons why he was afraid. Therefore, it was reasonable that he was afraid. But real fear isn’t always reasonable fear.'

That’s especially true when the police — through their own incompetence — create their own fear. Philando Castile was shot even as he followed his killer’s instructions. Shaver died trying his best to comply with a highly unusual, complicated set of commands while under extreme duress. Scared cops still need to be competent cops, and members of the public shouldn’t face death because a police officer can’t keep his emotions in check.

Finally, I know that police have a dangerous job, but they’re not at war. As I noted above, it’s infuriating to see civilian police exercise less discipline than I’ve seen from soldiers in infinitely more dangerous situations. Not one of the men I deployed with would have handled a terrorist detention the way these officers treated American citizens.

Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues

Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday.
About a third of the world's soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.
The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming.

How Big Medicine Can Ruin Medicare for All

This is the best summary I've seen of all of the problems with our healthcare system, most of which are due to the fact that NO medical-related market in this country is competitive: not wages for medical professionals, not drugs, not hospitals. Singlepayer could be used to massively reform costs of products and services (which here in the U.S.  are several times their "free market" price), but it would run into these monopolies' power in Washington.

Adopting a single-payer system might have done a lot of good—twenty years ago. But since then, a massive wave of corporate consolidations has transformed the American health care delivery system in ways that make the single-payer approach highly problematic. Most Americans now live in places where there is little or no competition among medical providers. In market after market, hospitals, clinics, physician practices, labs, and other key health care infrastructure have been merged into monopolies controlling nearly all aspects of health care in the areas in which they operate.
Switching to single-payer wouldn’t, on its own, address the fact that the lack of competition leaves these Goliaths with almost no pressure to keep costs down. Since medical monopolies are becoming too big for either party to challenge, a single-payer, Medicare-for-all-type plan would likely degenerate into super-high-cost corporate welfare, rather than achieving lower prices or improved quality. The only sure way to avoid that outcome would be to simultaneously enact aggressive antitrust and pro-competition policies to bust up the monopolies and oligopolies that now dominate health care delivery in nearly every community in America.

"Prison gerrymandering," another problem with our electoral system

Don’t blame the election on fake news. Blame it on the media.

We agree that fake news and misinformation are real problems that deserve serious attention. We also agree that social media and other online technologies have contributed to deep-seated problems in democratic discourse such as increasing polarization and erosion of support for traditional sources of authority. Nonetheless, we believe that the volume of reporting around fake news, and the role of tech companies in disseminating those falsehoods, is both disproportionate to its likely influence in the outcome of the election and diverts attention from the culpability of the mainstream media itself.
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What did all these stories talk about? The research team investigated this question, counting sentences that appeared in mainstream media sources and classifying each as detailing one of several Clinton- or Trump-related issues. In particular, they classified each sentence as describing either a scandal (e.g., Clinton’s emails, Trump’s taxes) or a policy issue (Clinton and jobs, Trump and immigration). They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal. Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.
To reiterate, these 65,000 sentences were written not by Russian hackers, but overwhelmingly by professional journalists employed at mainstream news organizations, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. To the extent that voters mistrusted Hillary Clinton, or considered her conduct as secretary of state to have been negligent or even potentially criminal, or were generally unaware of what her policies contained or how they may have differed from Donald Trump’s, these numbers suggest their views were influenced more by mainstream news sources than by fake news.

How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth

Obama inherited a mess, decades in the making, because of bad, elitist policies passed by both parties. And he had only a narrow window to push for policies, especially as Republican intransigence was ramping up.

Nevertheless, before he even took office, the likelihood that his administration would adequately deal with the crisis in a fair manner seemed low; his economics team was almost entirely either: people from previous administrations who'd had a hand in causing the crisis by deregulating finance, or former Wall St. execs. So, White House policy favored the big banks over individual homeowners (even when a mountain of proof that they were committing widescale fraud was handed to his Department of Justice).

The Obama presidency was a disaster for middle-class wealth in the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 99 percent dropped by $4,500. Over the same period, the average wealth of the top 1 percent rose by $4.9 million.
This drop hit the housing wealth of African Americans particularly hard. Outside of home equity, black wealth recovered its 2007 level by 2016. But average black home equity was still $16,700 lower.
Much of this decline, we will argue, can be laid at the feet of President Obama. His housing policies led directly to millions of families losing their homes. What’s more, Obama had the power — money, legislative tools, and legal leverage — to sharply ameliorate the foreclosure crisis.
He chose not to use it.

This Moment Isn’t (Just) About Sex. It’s Really About Work.

Masha Gessen has written for The New Yorker with perspicacity in past weeks about how this moment risks becoming a sex panic, that one of the perils at hand — as we try to parse how butt-groping or unsolicited kissing can exist on the same scale as violent rape — is a reversion to attitudes about women as sexually infantilized victims. Her concerns are valid, pressing. Yet I fear that the category collapse that makes Gessen anxious is being misunderstood in part because we are making a crucial category error. Because the thing that unites these varied revelations isn’t necessarily sexual harm, but professional harm and power abuse. These infractions and abuses are related, sometimes they are combined. But their impact, the reasons that they are sharing conversational and journalistic space during this reckoning, need to be clarified. We must regularly remind everyone paying attention that sexual harassment is a crime not simply on the grounds that it is a sexual violation, but because it is a form of discrimination.
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In other words, sexual harassment may entail behaviors that on their own would be criminal — assault or rape — but the legal definition of its harm is about the systemic disadvantaging of a gender in the public and professional sphere. ...gender inequity is what explains why women are vulnerable to harassment before they are even harassed; it explains why it’s difficult for them to come forward with stories after they have been harassed, why they are often ignored when they do; it clarifies why so many women work with or maintain relationships with harassers and why their reactions to those harassers become key to how they themselves will be evaluated, professionally. Gender inequity is cyclical, all-encompassing.
We got to where we are because men, specifically white men, have been afforded a disproportionate share of power. That leaves women dependent on those men — for economic security, for work, for approval, for any share of power they might aspire to. Many of the women who have told their stories have explained that they did not do so before because they feared for their jobs. When women did complain, many were told that putting up with these behaviors was just part of working for the powerful men in question...