Bill Gates' net worth hits $90B, proving Thomas Piketty's point


When Thomas Piketty published his 2013 book Capital in the 21st Century, he said that capitalism's primary beneficiaries aren't those who make amazing things that improve the world (as its proponents claim) -- rather, it favors those who have a lot of money to begin with. Read the rest

Bronx cops can steal anything they want by calling it "evidence"


In the Bronx (and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere) when your belongings are seized as "evidence," it can be impossible to ever get them back, even if you're never charged with a crime. Read the rest

Fiction: Sgt. Augmento, Bruce Sterling's robots-take-our-jobs story


Bruce Sterling's new short story, "Sgt. Augmento," is an eyeball-kicky post-cyberpunk story full of Sterlingian zeitgeist: in the robots-took-our-jobs future, the narrator joins the army to augment his guaranteed minimum income, but finds that overseeing robot combat isn't to his liking, so he musters out into a precarious existence clinging to the side of the sharing economy. Read the rest

Las Vegas: high unionization rates mean smaller wage-gaps for women, especially older women


Las Vegas is one of America's most unionized cities, and importantly, the unionization rates are especially high in trades dominated by women, such as cocktail servers and hotel cleaners, making Vegas one of the most equal places in America in terms of wage-parity between women and men, and also between young workers and older workers. Read the rest

Kickstarting "The Founder": a dystopian business simulator

Francis Tseng's simulator game invites you to "grow your startup and please those investors until there’s nothing left to give" by building biotech, defense, machine learning, cloud computing, drone and space companies with a crew of employees whose low wages can be mitigated with bulletproof coffee and whose products can be sold with "causewashing" sponsorships of hip music festivals. Read the rest

John Oliver on subprime auto-lending and its killswitches

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We've been following the trade in remote kill-switches for cars sold to subprime borrowers since 2009, and watched in dismay as they got worse and worse: though John Oliver's report on the billions inflating the subprime auto-lending bubble touches on these, he focuses on the economic factors -- sleaze, corruption, moral hazard -- driving the tech. Read the rest

Parking-ticket bot will now help homeless people get benefits

Stanford computer science student Joshua Browder, whose DoNotPay bot helps you fight parking tickets in London and New York (it's estimated to have overturned $4M in tickets to date) has a new bot in the offing: a chatbot that helps newly homeless people in the UK create and optimise their applications for benefits. Read the rest

Worst of McMansions: architectural criticism of inequality's most tangible evidence


Between the Reagan years and the crash of 2008, developers absorbed the skyrocketing wealth of the 1% with monuments to bad taste and ostentation: the McMansion. Read the rest

Scalpers drive Harry Potter play prices from £140 to £8,327

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What do you get when you combine fantastic wealth-inequality with winner-take-all entertainment economics and high-speed trading algorithms? The Viagogo marketplace, where botmasters who've harvested every available ticket for the new Harry Potter play, Harry Potter & the Cursed Child are auctioning them off to the war-criminals and financiers who've colonized London since the Blair years -- with Viagogo trousering a healthy £1,772.53 transaction fee on each ticket. Read the rest

#Slaveroo: Crowdsourcing a strike-fund for exploited gig economy workers


"Gig economy" scooter drivers for London's Deliveroo service earn £7/hour plus £1/delivery, and that's nowhere near a living wage: but rather than giving their a pay rise (£9.40/hour, plus £1/delivery, plus petrol, plus tips), Deliveroo wants to cut them all to zero-hours contracts with no hourly wage and £3.75/delivery and they fired all the drivers who asked for a living wage, so naturally, drivers are crowdfunding a strike-fund to fight back. Read the rest

Cash grants to people with unexpected bills successfully prevents homelessness


In The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness (Scihub mirror), a group of academic and government economists show that giving an average of $1,000 to people in danger of losing their homes due to unexpected bills (for example, emergency medical bills) is a successful strategy for preventing homelessness, which costs society a lot more than $1,000 -- more importantly, these kinds of cash grants do not create a culture of "dependency" that leads to recklessness, nor does it have a merely temporary effect. Read the rest

Monopoly power and the decline of small business: big business vs democracy, growth & equality


In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America's complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they're due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors through unfair and corrupt practices, to the detriment of American growth, equality and democracy. Read the rest

Foreign influence: how a Chinese businessman funneled $1.3M to Jeb Bush's campaign


Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen -- Chinese nationals who live in Singapore -- own a global property speculation and development empire whose US branch is called American Pacific International Capital Inc. They followed a recipe set out in a memo by Charlie Spies, a top Republican lawyer, in order to funnel $1.3M to Jeb Bush's PAC, then Tang offered a reporter for the Intercept $200,000 not to mention that he had been investigated for smuggling, tax evasion and bribery by the Chinese government. Read the rest

Web companies can track you -- and price-gouge you -- based on your battery life


In Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis, eminent Princeton security researchers Steven Englehardt and Arvind Narayanan document the use of device battery levels -- accessible both through mobile platform APIs and HTML5 calls -- to track and identify users who are blocking cookies and other methods of tracking. Read the rest

Airport lounges will let anyone in, provided you can fake a QR code


When computer security expert and hardcore traveller Przemek Jaroszewski found that he couldn't enter an airline lounge in Warsaw because the automated reader mistakenly rejected his boarding card, he wrote a 600-line Javascript program that generated a QR code for "Batholemew Simpson," a business-class traveller on a flight departing that day. Read the rest

After repeated budget cuts, Missouri's underfunded Public Defender drafts the Governor to work for him

Brother Phil writes, "The Public Defender's Office in Missouri is chronically underfunded by a governor who can always find money for his pet projects. However, they do have the power to draft any lawyer to serve as the defense in a case if they don't have one spare.Guess who just happens to be a lawyer..." Read the rest

Residents of Silicon Valley homeless camp clear 48,000 Lbs of garbage from creek, ask for housing


Silicon Valley's legendary housing crisis -- now several decades old -- has led to the establishment of semi-permanent homeless camps on public lands, including a notable camp on the banks of Coyote Creek, on Santa Clara County Water District land. Read the rest

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