Leaked presentation from AI snake-oil salesmen to AAA game company promises horrific, dystopian manipulation of players to drain their wallets

Techpowerup has published a redacted presentation from an unnamed AI company to an unnamed big-budget multiplayer video-game publisher, setting out a suite of surveillance capitalism tools combined with machine-learning to manipulate players to make them as addicted as possible and drain them of as much money as possible. Read the rest

Trump wants to cap lifetime Medicaid benefits, even for disabled people, the chronically ill, and people with Alzheimer's

If Trump gets his way, your elderly relatives will be evicted from nursing homes after their Alzheimer's care eats up their lifetime Medicaid benefits; as Yves Smith writes, "are family members supposed to let them wander out into traffic and have nature take its course?" Read the rest

Oklahoma schools go on 4-day weeks so teachers can work at Walmart on Mondays to make rent

In 1992, Oklahoma passed a ballot initiative saying that the state could only raise taxes with a three quarters majority in the state assembly, creating a one-way ratchet where every tax cut becomes effectively permanent, including the sweetheart deals cut for frackers and the deep cuts to taxes on the wealthiest residents of the state. Read the rest

Facebook hired a pollster to track Zuck's public image, but he quit because working for Facebook filled him with shame

Tavis McGinn came to a job interview at Facebook to do the kind of work he'd done at Google, using analytics to help advertisers refine their campaigns; instead he was offered a job as Zuck's personal pollster, tracking the CEO's approval rating in fine-grained detail as he toured America and the world. Read the rest

Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks's excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians. Read the rest

Kimberly Clark says the Trump tax-cuts let it fire 5,500 US workers and pay out dividends to its shareholders

Kimberly Clark, makers of Kleenex and Huggies, says it will lay off 10-12% of its US workforce and divert the savings to shareholder dividends and capital investment (presumably robots to replace the workers, or infrastructure to import finished goods from lower-cost offshore labor markets), and it says that action was triggered by Trump's tax-cuts, which freed up the cash needed to effect the changes. Read the rest

The world's richest 2000 billionaires could wipe out extreme poverty with one seventh of what they gained last year

Oxfam's released its annual report on inequality, timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum, and unlike previous reports (which focused on attractive but misleading stats about the relative wealth of poor and rich people), the new one focuses on the growth in the fortunes of the world's richest people, a stat that is a much more reliable indicator of growing inequality. Read the rest

California's lax usury laws means out-of-state loan sharks are charging desperate Californians 183% APRs

California regulates payday loans (good thing, since Trump's about to kill the federal rules preventing payday loansharking), but not "installment loans" of $2,500 to $5,000 and that means that out-of-state lenders are able to target desperate Californians; they're getting seven-year loans of $5,000 that cost $42,000 to repay. Read the rest

Sears Canada execs paid hundreds of millions in dividends before declaring bankruptcy and leaving 16,000 workers' pensions unfunded

Sears Canada has been in serious financial trouble since 2013, when workers wrote to the CEO and regulators and senior politicians to ask that their pensions be safeguarded. They were ignored, as they had been since 2009, when they first started asking for greater scrutiny of the pension fund. Read the rest

Apple, Google add 45 minutes to commuter-bus run to avoid 280 highway, where the buses' windows keep getting smashed

No one's sure how the windows on commuter buses between San Francisco and Silicon Valley keep getting smashed on a stretch of the 280 -- maybe it's a pellet gun, maybe it's thrown rocks -- but Apple and Google have informed employees who use the service that their commute is about to get 45 minutes longer as they take alternate routes to avoid that highway. Read the rest

To keep their bond-ratings, hedge-funds have to publicly demonstrate that they are the most ruthless of landlords

After the subprime crisis, vulture funds swept into the hardest-hit areas and bought thousands of foreclosed-upon homes at firesale prices and floated bonds based on the expected returns from the rents they'd be able to charge in an America with the lowest levels of home-ownership in modern history. Read the rest

Trump's "consumer protection bureau" will let the $50B payday lending industry gouge the poorest Americans with triple-digit interest rates

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, founded by Elizabeth Warren prior to her career as a senator, was once the gem of the US political system, a consistently effective force for punishing finance industry wrongdoing, until Trump let Wall Street robber barons loose on it, under the direction of a lawyer who represented loan sharks before going to work for the Trump administration. Read the rest

Leaseholders in building sheathed in flammable Grenfell cladding sent a £2m bill for repairs

In the UK, many people who live in multiunit buildings -- the sort of thing that would be a condo or co-op in the US -- live under the leaseholder/freeholder system, a relic of feudalism that has been updated for the age of inequality thanks to hedge funds and other socially useless financial engineers. Read the rest

Peter Thiel, "libertarian," wants to buy Gawker's archive, which would give him the power to censor stories he didn't like

Libertarian wisdom holds that "the answer to bad speech is more speech," but if you're a Peter Thiel libertarian (that is, the kind of "freedom lover" who doesn't think women should vote, wants to spy on everyone in the world, and secretly wields power to censor the free press), then "the answer to bad speech is secretly backing lawsuits by washed-up pro-wrestlers in order to kill a media outlet whose reporting you don't like." Read the rest

Scottish police confirm requests from world governments to find money laundered through "the UK's homegrown secrecy vehicle"

Scottish Limited Partnerships (previously) are notorious corporate entities whose true owners are easily disguised, making them perfect vehicles for money laundry. Read the rest

UK tax authority, gutted by austerity and buried by Brexit, can't deal with the crime revealed by the Paradise Papers

HMRC, the British tax authority, is 'struggling to deal with fallout of Paradise Papers leak,' according to Parliament's public accounts committee, whose new report describes an already understaffed agency whose workload has been increased by the preparations for Brexit. Read the rest

Publicly funded private school creates "poor kids' playground" for kids whose parents wouldn't contribute to new playground equipment

Wednesdbury Oak Academy in the West Midlands is an "academy school," similar to a US charter school -- a publicly funded, privately operated school, which, theory goes, is able to "experiment" with new educational techniques, by deviating from the standard curriculum, rejecting students on the basis of selection criteria, and hiring teachers without formal qualifications. Read the rest

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