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San Francisco Is Burning

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A series of strange and unsettling fires in the Mission District have people wondering: Are the city’s landlords using arson to drive out low-income tenants? And is this the deadly endgame of gentrification and tech-boom greed?
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freeAgent
12 hours ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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NASA Calls Bullshit on Goop's $120 'Bio-Frequency Healing' Sticker Packs

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The product, which is literally a sticker, supposedly uses "NASA space suit material" to "rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies."
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freeAgent
13 hours ago
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I guess this is easier than sticking a rock in your vagina.
Los Angeles, CA
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The orca wars escalate, with special reference to the economics of fisheries

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The orcas will wait all day for a fisher to accumulate a catch of halibut, and then deftly rob them blind. They will relentlessly stalk individual fishing boats, sometimes forcing them back into port.

Most chilling of all, this is new: After decades of relatively peaceful coexistence with cod and halibut fishers off the coast of Alaska, the region’s orcas appear to be turning on them in greater numbers.

“We’ve been chased out of the Bering Sea,” said Paul Clampitt, Washington State-based co-owner of the F/V Augustine.

Like many boats, the Augustine has tried electronic noisemakers to ward off the animals, but the orcas simply got used to them.

“It became a dinner bell,” said Clampitt.

John McHenry, owner of the F/V Seymour, described orca pods near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands as being like a “motorcycle gang.”

“You’d see two of them show up, and that’s the end of the trip. Pretty soon all 40 of them would be around you,” he said.

A report this week in the Alaska Dispatch News outlined instances of aggressive orcas harassing boats relentlessly — even refusing to leave after a desperate skipper cut the engine and drifted silently for 18 hours.

These are not Coasean orcas, or are they?  And sperm whales are now in on the act:

Fishing lines are also being pillaged by sperm whales, the large square-headed whale best known as the white whale in Moby Dick.

“Since 1997, reports of depredation have increased dramatically,” noted a report by the Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project.

A remarkable 2006 video by the Avoidance Project captured one of the 50,000 kg whales delicately shaking fish loose from a line. After a particularly heavy assault by sperm whales, fishers are known to pull up lines in which up to 90 per cent of the catch has disappeared or been mangled.

Here is the full story, with video, and further points of interest.  For the pointer I thank the excellent Mark Thorson.

The post The orca wars escalate, with special reference to the economics of fisheries appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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freeAgent
13 hours ago
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Hmmm
Los Angeles, CA
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Why Fewer Lower-Class Americans Are Getting Married

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Marriage is increasingly becoming the province of the middle and upper classes.
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freeAgent
1 day ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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The Silk Road Is Dead, But the Internet's Illicit Drug Economy Is Alive and Well

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Dark-web drug transactions increased 50 percent between 2013--the year the FBI shut down the Silk Road--and January 2016, according to a new report from the United Nations.

The Silk Road may be dead, but the dark web drug economy is very much alive.

"While drug trafficking over the darknet remains small, there has been an increase in drug transactions of some 50 per cent annually between September 2013 and January 2016 according to one study," the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime notes in its annual report on global illicit-drug trends. "Typical buyers are recreational users of cannabis, 'ecstasy,' cocaine, hallucinogens and [novel psychoactive substances]."

The increase in dark web transactions post-Silk Road has been documented before. "After Silk Road was taken down by the FBI in October 2013," the RAND Corporation reported last year, "it was only a matter of weeks before copycats filled the void." As of 2016, the research group had counted 50 "so-called cryptomarkets and vendor shops" where anonymous buyers and sellers could conduct transactions using Bitcoin and PGP encryption. (Several sites are now also accepting the cryptocurrency Ethereum.)

Boston College sociologist Isak Ladegaard, meanwhile, noted a massive increase in sales directly following the arrest of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht in late 2013. In a recent interview with Wired, Ladegaard theorized that media coverage of the case essentially served as earned marketing for the dark web.

More observations from the UN's report:

  • While Global drug trafficking cases increased only slightly from 2013 to 2015, the Global Drug Survey of 2017 found the amount of product moving through the dark web has increased dramatically. Roughly 8 percent of global drug users acquired an illicit substance through the dark web in 2017, up from 4.7 percent in 2014. Perhaps due to the passage of the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, the UK has seen the biggest increase in crypto sales: In 2016, 18.3 percent of British users acquired drugs on the dark web, while 25.3 percent of users have in 2017. These numbers are probably off, but the trend is likely real. (Crypto buying is down slightly in the U.S.)
  • "Vendors in countries in Asia seemed to be more involved in the wholesale business, while retail sales were dominated by vendors in North America and Europe." As I noted in my piece on steroids, Asia is a dominant supplier of raw chemicals used in making America's illicit drugs. (Americans tend to think of Mexico as our biggest supplier, but it's really just an intermediary.)
  • Silk Road was, in hindsight, a relatively small operation. "Overall, the value of transactions in the eight markets that dominated the darknet in January 2016 was 2.6 times greater than that of transactions on the Silk Road market in September 2013, which dominated the darknet at that time." This is also not surprising. If Silk Road taught the drug community anything, it's not to put all of your Bitcoin supply in one dark wallet.
  • Heroin is not a popular dark web drug: "When compared with the overall distribution of drugs in the United States and European Union markets, methamphetamine and heroin appear to be underrepresented on the darknet, while 'ecstasy' and 'psychedelics' (hallucinogens) are overrepresented in sales over the darknet."

Cross-marketing between the open web and the dark web isn't mentioned in the U.N. report, but that may have been noted elsewhere. Several open web steroid forums, for instance, feature user handles shared by dark web vendors. Users will post in the open forums about new products--but not actually sell them there--because it's easier to market to a wide audience on the open web.

I haven't seen anything quite so brazen in forums for other drugs, but posters in other places suggest to neophytes that setting up a cryptomarket account, buying bitcoin through conventional channels, and then tumbling that currency into a dark web account is a wiser (if more laborious) choice than trying to score mystery pills at a rave.

I suspect the dark web is at least partially responsible for the increased availability of unadulterated MDMA. We know there's a correlation thanks to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. But the U.N. report has little to say about the purity of dark web drugs versus street drugs.

Ecstasy Data, which facilitates testing of MDMA and LSD, has reported a large increase in samples of "pure" MDMA over the last decade. Between 2004 and 2011, less than a quarter of the samples tested by the group contained unadulterated MDMA. But purity has steadily increased since 2012, with nearly half of the samples tested this year and last coming back as uncontaminated by other stimulants or dissociatives. That's probably a function of dark web market and more awareness on the part of users and the advancement of harm reduction strategies.

The big takeaway from the U.N. report is that the drug war continues to be a massive failure, and even though the dark web has made drug buying safer--and even drug use safer--it is still inferior to a regulated market with clear product data.

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freeAgent
1 day ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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Carrier Will Move Jobs to Mexico, Despite Trump’s Promise to Keep Them in Indiana

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Cronyist-in-chief Donald Trump promised in December that he would do whatever was necessary to keep Carrier, an HVAC manufacturer, from laying off employees at an Indiana factory and shifting those jobs to Mexico.

On Thursday, Carrier announced it will lay off 600 workers in Indiana and shift those jobs to Mexico.

While the decision is understandably devastating for the people who will lose their jobs, it's heartening to know that the government's influence over the economy does not extend so far that the president can point his finger and tell CEOs how high to jump.

Before he had even been sworn into office, Trump promised about $7 million in economic incentives to Carrier in return for keeping about 1,100 jobs at the company's Indiana facility. Trump also announced that Carrier was making a $16 million investment in upgrades at its Indiana facility. Those upgrades, the president-elect promised, would result in more jobs in future years.

But as it stands today, "the jobs are still leaving," Robert James, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, told CNBC. "Nothing has stopped." CNBC reported Thursday that Carrier would make the first round of cuts—338 jobs—in mid-July, and another 290 cuts in December.

The $16 million in upgrades Carrier had promised will be used to automate sections of the factory, likely resulting in a further reduction in the number of workers needed to run the plant.

Carrier has little reason to stay, as CNBC points out. The company generated more than $57 billion in revenue last year. The promise of paltry $7 million over 10 years to stay in an outdated facility with high labor costs was not much of an incentive.

David Henderson broke down the details of the Carrier deal in a cover story for Reason earlier this year:

The tax credit amounts to $700 per job per year. Is that enough, on its own, to keep Carrier from moving the jobs? It seems unlikely. Companies don't relocate factories on a whim; the firm would have expected significant and lasting gains from the move. In fact, according to a Washington Post story, Carrier had claimed that its move to Mexico would have saved $65 million per year. That's two orders of magnitude more than the new tax credit.

I'm not privy to Carrier's reasoning here, but it's safe to guess that one of three things happened. Either Trump has become so politically toxic that breaking a promise made to a president doesn't matter anymore (and might actually reflect favorably on Carrier in some quarters); or the company never really planned to keep those jobs here and merely used Trump's willingness to grandstand to score a bunch of free advertising (dutifully provided by the cable news networks that just can't get enough of our celebrity president).

Or, perhaps, Carrier is negotiating against Trump for an even better deal.

Regardless, the Carrier deal is further evidence that the government negotiating deals with individual companies is a foolish way to run an economy. The United States gained more than 138,000 jobs in May. In a country of 326 million people, jobs will come and go by the thousands on any given day. A president can't play whack-a-mole with every company looking for a better situation somewhere else.

Keep in mind Carrier CEO Robert McDonough said the decision to relocate had nothing to do with the business climate in Indiana, but that they were frustrated with the "rising red tape" in Washington D.C.

Rather than spending money to bribe companies to remain or relocate to certain places, governments should aim to reduce the cost of doing business for all employers. Lower regulatory burdens, better tax climates, and greater worker freedom will give both employers and employees the chance to succeed at home.

States and local governments spend more than $70 billion annually on various economic incentive programs, according to Good Jobs First, a union-backed nonprofit. That money could be better spent on infrastructure and schools, the nonprofit argues. Or, I would add, to reduce the overall tax burden to make states and localities more attractive to all businesses, not just the favored few.

If President Donald Trump, the most powerful elected official in the world and the self-described maker of great deals, can't use his influence to stop businesses from relocating to other countries, maybe it's time to try a different tactic.

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freeAgent
1 day ago
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I'm so glad we're giving money to Carrier so they can automate their factory.
Los Angeles, CA
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