In Kansas's poor, sick places, hospitals and debt collectors send the ailing to debtor's prison

Kansas is a living laboratory for far-right experimentation with extreme economic cruelty: a state where Medicare expansions were thwarted, where xenophobia has penetrated the state bureaucracy, where a grifty, incompetent lawyer has apologized for slavery and driven women out of his own party, even as neighboring states thrive by tending to the needs of working people, rather than the super-rich. Read the rest

The rich poop different: measuring inequality with sewage

In Social, demographic, and economic correlates of food and chemical consumption measured by wastewater-based epidemiology, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a group of researchers in Australia and Norway present their analysis of a 2016 Australian sewage census, which sampled 22 waste-water treatment facilities and looked for 42 biomarkers. Read the rest

The world's "free trade zones": hives of scum and villainy

Institutions like the IMF like to encourage poor countries to set up "free trade zones" (AKA "freeports," "special economic zones," etc): effectively unregulated import/export zones where environmental, labor, tax, customs, financial and other rules are either nonexistent or much looser than in the rest of the country. These are billed as a means to stimulate the local economy by bringing in international corporations. Read the rest

For the first time ever, taxes on the 400 richest Americans were lower than taxes on everyone else

In 2018, for the first time in recorded US history, the 400 richest American households paid a lower rate of tax than any other group of American taxpayers: 23%, down from 70% in 1950 and 47% in 1980. Read the rest

How the "Varsity Blues" admissions scam punished deserving, hard working kids so that mediocre kids of the super-rich could prosper

Propublica's latest longread is ostensibly a profile of two kids who attended Orange County's Sage Hill School, where tuition runs $40,000/year and where an estimated 25% of students get into elite colleges thanks to their parents shelling out for "independent counsellors" who run the gamut from people who help with admissions essays and strategic donations to the schools of their choice all the way up to William "Rick" Singer, who pleaded guilty to collecting millions to grease the path for mediocre rich kids to attend elite colleges by bribing coaches. Read the rest

The weak spots that let journalists expose the finances of looters, organized criminals and oligarchs

The trillions that the global looter class has stashed in offshore financial secrecy jurisdictions are protected by the joint tactics of absurd complexity and stultifying dullness, which have been created by a separate group of global looter-enablers, working for big accounting and audit firms, banks, law firms, even private schools. Read the rest

Glenlivet's marketing stunt: whiskey in lozenge form

Glenlivet capsules are edible, seaweed-derived pods filled with whiskey that you bite into. Read the rest

US prosecutors say the "bankrupt" Sacklers still have billions hidden away

The Sackler family (previously) made more money than the Rockefellers when their family business, Purdue Pharma, misled the public about the addictiveness of its flagship opioid, Oxycontin, and induced doctors to overprescribe it, kicking off an epidemic that has killed more Americans than the Vietnam war, with the body count at 400,000 and still climbing. Read the rest

Even if you pay off your student loan, be prepared to spend decades trying to get bottom-feeding debt-buyers to acknowledge it

Kaja Robinson is 53 and has a daughter about to go off to college, but she is still embroiled in bizarre, kafkaesque disputes over the $17,000 student loan she took out in the 1980s: for decades, she has had to set aside whole days to call debt collectors and try to get them to acknowledge the payments she's made -- for which she has paperwork, but which the lenders lost track of, causing her loans to balloon to $49,000. Read the rest

"I just love to solve problems": how people who work at predatory lenders avoid thinking about the pain they inflict

Elena Botella worked at Capital One -- one of the US's leading issuers of subprime credit-cards -- for three years; in a fascinating first-person account, she describes how Capital One's youthful, smart, principled and caring staff created a culture in which the lives they were ruining were replaced by obfuscating jargon and interesting mathematics puzzles. Read the rest

Stock buybacks: how Wall Street has created "profits without prosperity"

For years, the Harvard Business School fellow William Lazonick has been writing about the rise of the "shareholder value" doctrine in capital markets, and how that has driven financial engineering tactics like stock buybacks, which allow shareholders (including top executives) to prosper at the expense of the companies they have invested in, siphoning value out of profitable businesses until they collapse. Read the rest

Corporate Monster: a short, contemporary take on "They Live"

Ruairi Robinson's short sf/horror film Corporate Monster is a contemporary take on the classic (and still trenchant) 1988 John Carpenter movie "They Live": in Robinson's take, a recently fired corporate drone gets an experimental drug that lets him see the truth of his corporate overlords and their enforcer class. It's beautifully shot and acted, though the whole story arc comes off as a little slight, not sure whether it's serious or silly (a line that They Live walked beautifully). Worth 16 minutes of your time, to be sure. (via JWZ) Read the rest

Wework, Uber, Lyft, Netflix, Bird, Amazon: late-stage capitalism is all about money-losing predatory pricing aimed at creating monopolies

Wework is definitely a piece of work, a money-hemorrhaging bezzle whose recently ousted founder siphoned a reported $700m out of the company while self-dealing and presiding over a series of bizarre missteps (from serving tequila shots and hosting a dance party with Darryl from Run DMC at the same meeting where he announced mass layoffs to banning his employees from expensing meals containing meat while getting caught eating meat himself). Read the rest

Sleuths discover the source of $28m in dark money lobbying in favor of emergency room "surprise bills": private equity firms that own doctors' practices

Even if you're insured and even if you assiduously verify that the emergency rooms you visit when undergoing a medical crisis are "in network" for your insurer, you can still end up with thousands of dollars in "surprise bills" from ER docs and anesthetists who don't work for the hospital -- instead, they work for private "physician staffing firms" who can and do charge whatever they want for your care. Read the rest

Thomas Cook travel collapsed and stranded 150,000 passengers, but still had millions for the execs who tanked it

Thomas Cook is one of the oldest travel agencies in the world, operating their own flights, ships, hotels, etc, whose founders effectively invented modern tourism (listen to this excellent Stuff You Missed in History Class episode for the fascinating and fraught tale of how that happened) but a consolidation in the travel industry combined with private equity chicanery that loaded the company up with $2.1b in debt in order to pay out investors drove the company to its knees, and, last week, it finally died. Read the rest

Dynasties: in-depth reporting on the wealthy, influential political and corporate families that not-so-secretly rule Canada

The latest podcast from the Canadaland network (previously) is Dynasties, wherein host Arshy Mann delves into the scandals, backroom deals, and secret string-pulling employed by the "great families" of Canada, where wealth and political power have been gathered into just a few hands, all clinging tight to that power. Read the rest

This is your smartphone on feminism

Maria Farrell admits that comparing smartphones to abusive men (they try to keep you from friends and family, they make it hard to study or go to work, they constantly follow you and check up on you) might seem to trivialize domestic partner violence, but, as she points out, feminists have long been pointing out both the literal and metaphorical ways in which tech replicates misogyny. Read the rest

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