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Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs

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This is grim, though Trump’s Treasury Secretary can’t see any signs of a problem. Claire Cain Miller reports in the NY Times:

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they’ve declared a different winner: the robots.

The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots.

The paper is all the more significant because the researchers, whose work is highly regarded in their field, had been more sanguine about the effect of technology on jobs. In a paper last year, they said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels. Just as cranes replaced dockworkers but created related jobs for engineers and financiers, the theory goes, new technology has created new jobs for software developers and data analysts.

But that paper was a conceptual exercise. The new one uses real-world data — and suggests a more pessimistic future. The researchers said they were surprised to see very little employment increase in other occupations to offset the job losses in manufacturing. That increase could still happen, they said, but for now there are large numbers of people out of work, with no clear path forward — especially blue-collar men without college degrees.

Continue reading the main story

“The conclusion is that even if overall employment and wages recover, there will be losers in the process, and it’s going to take a very long time for these communities to recover,” Mr. Acemoglu said.

“If you’ve worked in Detroit for 10 years, you don’t have the skills to go into health care,” he said. “The market economy is not going to create the jobs by itself for these workers who are bearing the brunt of the change.”

The paper’s evidence of job displacement from technology contrasts with a comment from the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who said at an Axios event last week that artificial intelligence’s displacement of human jobs was “not even on our radar screen,” and “50 to 100 more years” away. (Not all robots use artificial intelligence, but a panel of experts — polled by the M.I.T. Initiative on the Digital Economy in reaction to Mr. Mnuchin’s comments — expressed the same broad concern of major job displacement.)

The paper also helps explain a mystery that has been puzzling economists: why, if machines are replacing human workers, productivity hasn’t been increasing. In manufacturing, productivity has been increasing more than elsewhere — and now we see evidence of it in the employment data, too.

The study analyzed the effect of industrial robots in local labor markets in the United States. Robots are to blame for up to 670,000 lost manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007, it concluded, and that number will rise because industrial robots are expected to quadruple.

The paper adds to the evidence that automation, more than other factors like trade and offshoring that President Trump campaigned on, has been the bigger long-term threat to blue-collar jobs. The researchers said the findings — “large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages” — remained strong even after controlling for imports, offshoring, software that displaces jobs, worker demographics and the type of industry. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 3:12 pm

A Louisiana Town Plagued by Pollution Shows Why Cuts to the EPA Will Be Measured in Illnesses and Deaths

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Sharon Lerner reports in The Intercept:

When the Environmental Protection Agency informed people in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, last July that the local neoprene plant was emitting a chemical that gave them the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the country, the information was received not just with horror and sadness but also with a certain sense of validation.

For years, many of the people living on this little square of land between the train tracks and the Mississippi River levee have felt they suffered more than their share of illnesses. Troyla Keller has a rash and asthma that abate every time she leaves the neighborhood and worsen when she returns. Augustine Nicholson Dorris had breast cancer and seizures. And David Sanders has trouble breathing, a tumor on his thyroid, and neurological problems. “It took a lot away from me,” said Sanders, whose speech is slurred, when I visited the area a half-hour west of New Orleans in February. Several people spoke of shuttling their children and grandchildren to the nearby ER for asthma treatments. And many residents also frequent the neighborhood’s two busy dialysis centers. A third is under construction.

“Everybody felt there was too much sickness,” said Robert Taylor, 76, whose wife had breast cancer and is now struggling with multiple sclerosis. Taylor’s daughter Raven suffers from gastroparesis, a relatively rare autoimmune disorder that has left the 48-year-old unable to digest food and bedridden, after an attempt to treat the condition surgically led to a staph infection. But there were plenty of other unusual conditions, too. Trollious Harris, who has spent most of her life a few blocks from the Taylors, suffers from myasthenia gravis, another autoimmune condition, which has caused her muscles to weaken. Kellie Tabb has a rapid heartbeat and recently met two other people in the area who have the same condition.

“Everybody has had someone that has died of cancer,” said Taylor’s daughter Tish as she stood in the doorway of the family’s home on East 26th Street. To an outsider like me, the neighborhood looked festive, with kids playing on neatly mown lawns and Mardi Gras beads adorning many of the doors. But when Tish, who is 53 and has lived on the block since she was 4, looked at the nearby houses, she saw the people who had fallen ill. “Mr. Henry died of cancer, and he had two sons who were diagnosed with it, too. And Miss Sissy, who lives down the block toward the river, she had pancreatic cancer and died this month. Ms. Diane died of cancer, too,” Tish said, ticking off the casualties on her fingers.

“Something is clearly not right with this area,” said Lydia Gerard, whose husband developed kidney cancer at age 64 that recently metastasized and spread to his chest. Gerard herself suffers from sudden bouts of diarrhea and anemia as well as vitiligo and other autoimmune problems. Her lips and eyes often swell inexplicably and she has itchy welts on her arms and legs that get better when she goes to work 30 miles away — and come back with a vengeance when she returns home. While I was interviewing Gerard and her husband in their two-story home, I also broke out in hives.

Besides being a likely human carcinogen, chloroprene, the gas the plant has been releasing into this community for 48 years, is known to weaken immune systems and cause headaches, heart palpitations, anemia, stomach problems, impaired kidney function, and rashes. So the EPA’s news, bad as it was, provided a form of relief. After all these years, a government agency was helping to explain the residents’ strange predicament. The people living next to the plant might be sick, but at least they weren’t crazy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 2:46 pm

Did the Justice Department Try to Keep Sally Yates from Testifying?

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Quinta Jurecic writes at Lawfare:

This morning, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department sought to prevent former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

According to the Post, the department informed Yates that many of the topics on which she was set to testify, including former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, were likely protected by executive privilege. Yates’s lawyer responded with letters to Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel Ramer and White House Counsel Don McGahn asserting that Yates’s testimony was not privileged.

Yates had been scheduled to testify in an open hearing before HPSCI today, along with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan. However, on Friday March 24th, the day after Yates’s lawyer mailed his letter to Ramer and the same day that the letter was sent to McGahn, HPSCI Chairman Devin Nunes canceled the committee’s scheduled open hearing in which Yates was set to testify. The Post also reports that by the day before Nunes canceled the hearing, both Yates and Brennan had informed government officials that their scheduled testimony on Tuesday would likely contradict statements by the White House.

Nunes originally announced that the open hearing with Yates, Brennan, and Clapper had been canceled to make way for a closed hearing with testimony from FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers in response to Nunes’s hazy concerns about possible incidental collection of Trump transition team communications. Yesterday, however, Nunes stated that the closed hearing had been canceled as well.

HPSCI Ranking Member Adam Schiff has suggested that Yates’s response was connected to Nunes’s decision to cancel the hearing. Earlier reports indicated that Nunes publicly declared the hearing’s cancellation without first informing Schiff or the other members of the committee, and Schiff stated publicly in a press conference following Nunes’s announcement of the canceled hearing that Nunes had previously tried to cancel or close the hearing, only to face pushback from Schiff.

The latest Post report is particularly noteworthy given concerns in recent days over Nunes’s possible coordination with the White House regarding his series of public disclosures on incidental collection. Yesterday, CNN reported that Nunes was seen on the White House grounds the night before his twin press conferences on March 22nd. Additionally, in his press conference on Friday, Schiff also suggested that Nunes had canceled the hearing after “strong pushback from the White House” following the first HPSCI open hearing, asking, “What other explanation can there be?”

Schiff, who last night called on Nunes to recuse himself from the committee’s investigation, has released the following statement in response to the Post’s story: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 2:37 pm

Lunchtime links from Radley Balko

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There sure seems to be a lot of news about the sort of thing Radley Balko tracks. From his lunchtime links:

There are more at link.

This country seems to be in a bad way in the way it treats those without power: the poor, minorities, the mentally ill, Native Americans, immigrants (legal or not), and so on.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 2:11 pm

Trump doesn’t support cops. He supports cops who agree with him.

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

Back in 1970, Congress passed a couple of bills authorizing the “no-knock raid.” This was an issue that President Richard Nixon had pushed during the 1968 presidential campaign. Prior to the late 1960s, police did sometimes enter residences without knocking, but they’d only decide to do so under “exigent circumstances,” such as pursuing a fleeing fugitive or hearing screaming from inside of a house. They would then need to justify their actions to a judge. Nixon wanted cops to be able to get warrants authorizing no-knock raids ahead of time, particularly in drug cases.

This wasn’t something police chiefs or sheriffs were asking for. It wasn’t a tool they thought they needed, at least at the time. Instead, it was the brainchild of Don Santarelli, a young Senate staffer hired by the Nixon campaign to come up with wedge issues to appeal to Nixon’s “silent majority.” Letting cops bust down the doors of suspected drug offenders may have violated a centuries-old principle called the “Castle Doctrine” — the notion that the government should only be able to violate the sanctuary of the home under extraordinary circumstances — but it played well with Nixon’s favorite demographic. (Santarelli has since expressed regret for this policy.) The first bill Congress passed allowed the no-knock for federal agents conducting drug investigations all over the country. The second authorized the no-knock warrant for cops in Washington, D.C. Because Congress has jurisdiction over D.C., Nixon had decided to make the city a guinea pig for his anti-crime policies.

Federal agents embraced the policy, and commenced kicking down doors all over America, often with tragic consequences. But in D.C., it was a different story. Police Chief Jerry Wilson — a man well ahead of his time — thought the policy was dangerous, was reckless and ran roughshod over the civil rights of his constituents. He also feared that it would poison the relationship between police and the city’s residents. So he refused to implement it.

Over Wilson’s tenure, crime dropped in D.C., even as it soared in much of the rest of the country. So the Nixon administration didn’t seem to mind that Wilson hadn’t instituted one of its key policies. It was happy to take credit for the drop in crime. Congress would later repeal both no-knock bills, although the policy would come back in the 1980s and has been with us ever since.

Last week, I thought about Wilson’s stand against an aggressive law-and-order administration when the Trump administration posted the names of police agencies that refused to detain suspected undocumented immigrants long enough for federal officials to take custody of them. This will apparently be a weekly endeavor, an effort to shame local authorities for not sufficiently aiding in deportations. Like the threat to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities, President Trump’s aim here is to punish municipalities for not sufficiently contributing to his deportation goals.

It’s also a direct attack on policing and federalism, two institutions Trump and his administration claim to hold in high esteem. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump and his supporters painted him as the candidate who will support cops, who would give police officers the tools they need to do their jobs. Trump would be a stark contrast to the Obama administration, which Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and campaign surrogates reprimanded as too critical of law enforcement and too eager to impose federal authority on local police agencies.

Sessions, for example, called the use of consent decrees between the federal government and police agencies in which the Justice Department has found a pattern of civil rights violations — which increased significantly under the Obama administration — “one of the most dangerous . . . exercises of raw power.” Trump himself has repeatedly argued that the administration’s federal oversight has made police officers afraid to do their jobs, and has blamed President Barack Obama’s Justice Department at least in part for the rise in crime in some American cities.

But the decision among some police agencies to refuse to hunt down or hold undocumented immigrants for federal authorities isn’t a protest for open immigration or a way of undermining Trump. It’s about good policing. First, there’s the problem of complying with the law. As the New York Times argued in a recent editorial, complying with White House demands would likely violate the Constitution:

If a police department is about to release someone who posts bail, it can’t prolong the detention — in essence, arrest that person again — just because ICE asks it to. Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that the local police cannot be forced to honor a detainer in violation of the Constitution. That is, without an arrest warrant from a judge. Which an ICE detainer is not.

The list appears to have been pretty ad hoc and sloppily assembled. It was clearly designed more to shame agencies that have publicly opposed Trump than to be a comprehensive list of those that haven’t complied. For example, more than 60 percent of the ignored detainers listed for the first week were in Travis County, Tex. That county’s sheriff’s department instituted a new policy last month restricting its cooperation with ICE. But there’s a good reason the sheriff’s department there wants to make its own decisions about when to ask for deportations:

Maj. Wes Priddy, of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, said the agency does detain criminals convicted of serious crimes for immigration officials.

But he said his department does not turn over people awaiting trial.

“We do honor ICE detainers. But we do it selectively and in a manner which we can abide by our policy,” Priddy said, adding that in the past, immigration officials have deported people before trial, depriving defendants of their day in court and, in some cases, denying closure to crime victims. “We want to make sure that justice is served on the local level as well.”

In other words, local officials have determined that in some instances, trying serious crimes in court is more important to the local community than deporting an accused undocumented immigrant. That’s precisely the sort of decision a true federalist would let states and municipalities decide on their own. Instead, Trump wants a one-size-fits-all immigration policy — his policy — for every police agency in the United States.

But it’s worse even than that. Trump also made crime a key part of his campaign. He demagogued and exaggerated the rise in violent crime in some cities. Police officials, especially those in large cities with large populations of undocumented immigrants, aren’t opposing Trump’s immigration policies out of spite or distaste for him. They’re opposing them because they fear those policies will lead to more crime, not less. Over and over, in city after city, law enforcement officials have stated that when you create a climate of fear in immigrant communities, it makes undocumented people, their friends and their families less willing to report crimes, and less likely to cooperate with police investigations. This is why groups such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association have expressed concern about Trump’s threats to sanctuary cities, and why police officers in those cities say Trump is making their jobs more difficult. From the L.A. Times: . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 11:49 am

Price tag of North Carolina’s LGBT law: $3.76B

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Apparently it was very important to them, and they probably think the $4 billion loss is well worth it. Emery Dalesio and Jonathan Drew report for Associated Press:

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state’s biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.

North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions more because the NCAA is avoiding the state, usually a favored host. The group is set to announce sites for various championships through 2022, and North Carolina won’t be among them as long as the law is on the books. The NAACP also has initiated a national economic boycott.

The AP analysis (http://apne.ws/2n9GSjE ) — compiled through interviews and public records requests — represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.

Still, AP’s tally ( http://bit.ly/2o9Dzdd ) is likely an underestimation of the law’s true costs. The count includes only data obtained from businesses and state or local officials regarding projects that canceled or relocated because of HB2. A business project was counted only if AP determined through public records or interviews that HB2 was why it pulled out.

Some projects that left, such as a Lionsgate television production that backed out of plans in Charlotte, weren’t included because of a lack of data on their economic impact.

The AP also tallied the losses of dozens of conventions, sporting events and concerts through figures from local officials. The AP didn’t attempt to quantify anecdotal reports that lacked hard numbers, or to forecast the loss of future conventions.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan — who leads the largest company based in North Carolina — said he’s spoken privately to business leaders who went elsewhere with projects or events because of the controversy, and he fears more decisions like that are being made quietly. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Lawsuit Seeks Transparency as Searches of Cellphones and Laptops Skyrocket at Borders

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I think borders generally are starting to close as countries batten down the hatches, as it were, in anticipation of the disruptions that climate change will bring. Certainly the U.S. military has been studying the national-security aspects of climate change. (OTOH, I know a young man who has a good job and a college degree, who totally denies the reality of climate change, seeing it as a political movement and conspiracy of scientists, with absolutely nothing to back it up. His attitude is not all that uncommon, I think.)

Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

A LAWSUIT FILED today by the Knight First Amendment Institute, a public interest legal organization based at Columbia University, seeks to shed light on invasive searches of laptops and cellphones by Customs and Border Protection officers at U.S. border crossings.

Documents filed in the case note that these searches have risen precipitously over the past two years, from a total of 5,000 searches in 2015 to 25,000 in 2016, and rising to 5,000 in the month of February 2017 alone. Among other questions, the lawsuit seeks to compel the federal government to provide more information about these searches, including how many of those searched have been U.S. citizens, the number of searches by port of entry, and the number of searches by the country of origin of the travelers.

Civil rights groups have long claimed that warrantless searches of cellphones and laptops by government agents constitute a serious invasion of privacy, due to the wealth of personal data often held on such devices. It is common for private conversations, photographs, and location information to be held on cellphones and laptops, making a search of these items significantly more intrusive than searching a simple piece of luggage.

A number of recent cases in the media have revealed instances of U.S. citizens and others being compelled by CBP agents to unlock their devices for search. In some instances, people have claimed to have been physically coerced into complying, including one American citizen who said that CBP agents grabbed him by the neck in order to take his cellphone out of his possession.

The legality of warrantless device searches at the border remains a contested issue, with the government asserting, over the objections of civil liberties groups, that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply at ports of entry. Some particularly controversial cases of searches at the border have involved journalists whose electronic data contains sensitive information about the identity of sources. Last year, a Canadian journalist was detained for six hours before being denied entry to the United States after refusing to unlock devices containing sensitive information. It has also been alleged that border agents are disproportionately targeting Muslim Americans and people with ties to Muslim-majority countries for both interrogation and device searches.

This February, Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly stating that . . .

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 1:06 pm

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