A dead WalMart in McAllen, Texas has been remodelled as a library, making it the largest single-floor library in the USA. It's award-winning design makes excellent use of all that space -- two football fields' worth -- and includes an acoustically separated teen space.
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Here's a little visual aid for any inflation hawks out there who're looking for just the right graphic to stick in a powerpoint decrying stimulus packages or extolling gold's virtue: a group of Weimar-era kids using bundles of devalued Deutsche marks Reichsmarks as building blocks.
German children using marks as building blocks, when Germany tried to pay its war debts by printing money, causing hyper-inflation. 1923.
(via Dark Roasted Blend) Read the rest
Most of the time, when somebody goes undercover inside a meat processing facility, it's done with the express goal of convincing other people to stop eating meat. But that wasn't what journalist Ted Conover had in mind. He was more just curious, especially given the growing trend of state laws preventing undercover infiltration of agribusiness facilities. So, using his real name and address, Conover got a job as a USDA meat inspector at a Cargill plant.
What's fascinating here is that the problems he finds have less to do with animal abuse (Maryn McKenna reports that Conover was surprised to find himself in a clean, safe, humane facility) and more to do with the abuse of antibiotics — a trend that is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance.
You can't read the full story for free, unfortunately. Such is the way of Harpers. But Maryn McKenna has a summary, Conover has a blog post on agribusiness gag laws, and you can buy access to the full story with a Harper's subscription. Read the rest
A new ACLU report called The Outskirts of Hope (PDF) documents the rise of illegal debtors prisons in Ohio. A majority of municipal and mayors' courts (an unregulated and rare system of courts only permitted in two states) surveyed by the ACLU routinely imprison people for their inability to pay fines, a practice banned in both the US and state constitution. 20 percent of the bookings in the Huron County Jail are "related to failure to pay fines."
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Taking care of a fine is straightforward for some
Ohioans — having been convicted of a criminal
or traffic offense and sentenced to pay a fine, an
affluent defendant may simply pay it and go on
with his or her life. For Ohio’s poor and working poor, by contrast, an unaffordable fine is just
the beginning of a protracted process that may
involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest
warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is
that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed
simply for being too poor to pay fines.
The U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and
Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons.
The law requires that, before jailing anyone for
unpaid fines, courts must determine whether
an individual is too poor to pay. Jailing a person
who is unable to pay violates the law, and yet
municipal courts and mayors’ courts across the
state continue this draconian practice. Moreover,
debtors’ prisons actually waste taxpayer dollars
by arresting and incarcerating people who will
simply never be able to pay their fines, which are
in any event usually smaller than the amount it
costs to arrest and jail them.
An opinion piece by Chris Arnade
on the asymmetry in pay (money for profits, flat for losses), which he describes "the engine behind many of Wall Street’s mistakes" That asymmetry "rewards short-term gains without regard to long-term consequences," Chris writes in a new guest blog at Scientific American
. "The results? The over-reliance on excessive leverage, banks that are loaded with opaque financial products, and trading models that are flawed." [Scientific American Blog Network] Read the rest
The British government paid out £20 million to compensate 3,000 slave-owning families for the loss of their "property" when slave ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. At the time, that sum amounted to 40% of the UK's annual spending budget; today, one could calculate the total value of the 19th-century payouts to be around £16.5 billion (=USD $25 billion; the actual sum can vary, depending on how you calculate).
In The Independent, an article digging in to the data, which will be released this week in the form of a publicly accessible database.
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Caviar vending machines have been installed in three upscale malls in LA. In addition to $500/oz caviar, they also dispense blinis, mother of pearl spoons, and other caviar essentials. The vending machines (they're billed as "ATMs for caviar") can be found at Westfield Century City, Westfield Topanga, and the Burbank Towne Center. Apparently, these are old news in Russia, where they are favorites of oligarchs and their entourages.
Finally! Caviar by ATM
(via Super Punch) Read the rest
Medbox (MDBX), a firm that makes medical marijuana dispensing machines, says its stock "is getting way too high." Shares spiked 3,000% this week (from about $4 Monday to $215 Thursday), "prompting executives to try and dampen investor enthusiasm." The surge was caused by a MarketWatch story about how to invest in legalized marijuana. Read the rest
The German pharmaceuticals maker Merck will no longer deliver the cancer drug Erbitux
to Greek hospitals, according to a statement from the company today. The drug also known as cetuximab
is often used for patients with head and neck cancers. The move to halt distribution is a sign of a worsening economic and budget crisis, and its impact on critical services including care for cancer patients. (thanks, Gerrit) Read the rest
Matthew Lasar's long Ars Technica feature, "Have we lost 41 percent of our musicians? Depends on how you (the RIAA) count" does an excellent job of digging into RIAA CEO Cary Sherman's claim that the number of working musicians in the USA has declined by 41 percent. After checking the RIAA's math, Lasar finds a gigantic discrepancy between the figures they cite and the conclusions they reach. But then Lasar delves further into the underlying sources, as well as government and industry stats, and finds that basically, the number of musicians working in America may have slightly declined, but is also projected to rise.
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It is worth ending this cautionary tale with a review of the BLS's own occupational handbook projection for musician/singer employment in the near future. Note that the handbook cites a much higher employment figure for both trades in 2010 than mentioned in the above tables: about 176,200 musicians and singers. That's because it comes from the Bureau's National Employment Matrix, I was told, which adds additional data sources.
Employment for musicians and singers is expected to grow by ten percent over the decade—"about as fast as the average for all occupations," the government notes:
The number of people attending musical performances, such as orchestra, opera, and rock concerts, is expected to increase from 2010 to 2020. As a result, more musicians and singers will be needed to play at these performances.
There will be additional demand for musicians to serve as session musicians and backup artists for recordings and to go on tour.
2009: "Between the hours of 1:22 a.m. and 3:41 a.m., [Steve Perkins] gradually bought 69 percent of the global market [7 million barrels of crude oil], while driving prices up from $71.40 to $73.05, by bidding higher each time. At 6:30 a.m., presumably sobering up and realizing what he’d done, he sent a message to his managing director claiming an unwell relative meant he would not be able to make it into work." 'Drunken' Broker Sent Oil to 8-Month High in 2009 Read the rest
Ian Welsh writes on Naked Capitalism with 21 dismal and compelling "basics" about the economy and the so-called "recovery."
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7) Europe, ex. Germany, is in recession.
8 ) the developed world is in depression, it never left depression. During depressions there are recoveries (such as they are) and recessions, but the overall economy is in depression.
9) China’s economy is slowing down. Since China is the main engine of the world economy, followed by the US, this is really bad. If it goes into an actual recession, bend over and kiss your butt goodbye.
10) Austerity is a means by which the rich can buy up assets which are not normally on the market for cheap.
11) the wealth of the rich and major corporations has recovered and in many countries exceeded its prior highs. They are doing fine. Austerity is not hurting them. They control your politicians. The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so, or their wealth and power is broken.
12) The US play is as follows: frack. Frack some more. Frack even more. They are trying the Reagan play, temporize while new supplies of hydrocarbons come on line. Their bet is that they’ll get another boom out of that. If they’re right, it’ll be a lousy boom. If they’re wrong (and the Saudis think they are, and the Saudis have been eating their lunch since 2001) then you won’t even get that. Either way, though, they’ll devastate the environment, by which I mean the water you drink and grow crops with.
* Clockwork fairy. Steampunk! Steampunk! Set aside the impulse to tedious kvetching about nonfunctional gears and sit agog with me. (via)
* Stop Pretending Art Is Hard. From botched art restoration to manifesto in one t-shirt.
* The Science News Cycle [PhD Comics]. Don't believe the hype. DING DING! (via)
* Talk on Beat SF, Turing and Burroughs. Rudy Rucker being as Ruckerian as is humanly possible, and we're all better for it.
* The Real Romney. Biography of the man before he became a quadrillionaire sovereign nation in a vat. (via)
* Spanish microcurrency boom. When the going gets tough, the tough issue fiat scrip. (via)
* Anarchist scaremongering at RNC. Black bloc bogeymen for everyone! They've got acid-filled eggs, you know. Because that would totally work. (via)
* Deporting parents of children born in America. No human is illegal*. If your family values demand that the mothers of American children should be sent abroad forever, you're doing it wrong. (via)
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The Canadian Border Service Agency has been ordered to stop hunting for illegal drug exporters and worry instead about catching nuclear material and stolen car smugglers. Lee Berthiaume writes for Postmedia News:
The directive, contained in an internal memo to Canada Border Service Agency managers that was obtained by Postmedia News, is unlikely to make officials in the United States and other countries very happy.
But analysts say that in an age of finite resources, the agency has decided it makes more sense to target areas where it thinks it can make a difference.
The article goes on to quote Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, describing how hard it is to catch dope smuggling, versus big things like cars and radioactive things like uranium.
Border guards told to forget about illegal drug exports
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In Mother Jones
, Gabriel Thompson goes gonzo with a stint doing "on demand" grunt work for one of America's hottest growth industries: temping.
I grab a chair from a stack in the corner and take a seat, studying a sign that implores me to be "true" and "passionate" and "creative." In reality, passion and creativity have nothing to do with it. Labor Ready provides warm bodies for grunt work that pays minimum wage or thereabouts. "Here's a sledgehammer, there's the wall," is how Stacey Burke, the company's vice-president of communications, characterized the work to Businessweek back in 2006.
Read the whole piece here: "Everyone Only Wants Temps" (Mother Jones). Read the rest
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