Nicholas Shaxson | The Pandora Papers Expose Britain’s Role in Money Laundering – The New York Times

Mr. Shaxson is the author of “Treasure Islands,” a book about tax havens, and “The Finance Curse,” about oversize global finance.

“In 1969, two years after the Cayman Islands, a British territory, passed its first law to allow secretive offshore trusts, an official government report struck an ominous note. A tide of glossy propositions from private developers, it warned, was washing through the islands. Cayman was fast becoming a state captured by shady finance.

Those were the pungent beginnings of a modern system brought to light by the Pandora Papers, an enormous data leak coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The papers exposed a smorgasbord of secretive and questionable financial dealings by more than 330 politicians and public officials from over 90 countries and territories — and over 130 billionaires from Russia, the United States and elsewhere. On display was a dizzying array of chicanery and wealth hoarding, often by the very people who should crack down on it.”

Binyamin Appelbaum | Break Up Big Chicken – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“President Biden wants to lead a revival of antitrust enforcement, a campaign aimed most obviously at curbing the behavior of feral tech companies.

But Mr. Biden can’t achieve his goal of expanding fair competition in the United States solely by wrangling with Big Tech. To succeed, he’ll need to confront Big Chicken, too.

Most chicken that Americans eat is processed by a handful of big companies because, in recent decades, the government gave its blessing to the consolidation of poultry processing, along with a wide range of other industries. The unsurprising result: In recent years, the surviving companies took advantage of their market power to prop up the price of chicken, overcharging Americans by as much as 30 percent.

Evidence of the industry’s misconduct became so blatant — thanks in part to lawsuits filed by wholesale poultry buyers — that regulators were roused from complacency. Beginning in 2019, the government has filed a series of charges against the companies and their executives.”

Excellent piece, and also good comments, such as:

Jack Sonville
Florida9h ago

I’ve been in Corporate America board rooms for 35 years and much of that in older, more established industries. In general, they do not have the innovation DNA of an Amazon or an Apple or a Google. Over the years they have gutted their R&D functions to save money and essentially use a commodity business model–try to be a low cost provider, take higher-cost capacity (supply) out of the market, and charge as high a price as possible whenever possible. So in response to Wall Street pressure to significantly grow, they really only have one option: Buy their competitors and consolidate their industry. This allows them to find “synergies”, which in antitrust-speak is supposed to mean lower prices and other benefits to the consumer, but which really means reducing cost by firing employees made redundant by the merger of two companies, and then taking more capacity out of the market and/or using their now-greater market share to raise price. It’s been frustrating to watch, over virtually my entire career, the same story play out time and again. Companies tell the DOJ and FTC in their antitrust filings that consumers will benefit from these mergers, but they rarely if ever do. And government economists buy the story. These mergers generally reduce incentive for innovation, eliminate jobs, put downward pressure on industry compensation, and lead to higher prices through reduced capacity. Good for shareholders? Maybe. Good for consumers? Almost never.

3 Replies207 Recommended

Biden, in a Push to Phase Out Gas Cars, Will Tighten Pollution Rules – The New York Times

“. . . In a joint statement, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — the auto company formed this year after the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot — announced their “shared aspiration” to achieve sales of 40 to 50 percent electric vehicles by 2030.

But they need government support to translate aspirations into action, they wrote. “This represents a dramatic shift from the U.S. market today that can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies,” the automakers said in the statement.

Specifically, the automakers said that they could not meet the target of 40 to 50 percent electric vehicle sales unless Congress spends billions of dollars on incentives for car buyers, a charging network, investments in research and development and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains.

Mr. Biden has asked Congress for $174 billion to pay for a network of 500,000 charging stations. The pending infrastructure bill, which could pass the Senate as soon as this week, includes just a fraction of that: $7.5 billion. A second bill, which could move through Congress this fall, could include more spending on electric vehicles, consumer tax incentives and research. But neither bill is guaranteed to pass in the closely divided Congress.”  . . .

What if Highways Were Electric? Germany Is Testing the Idea. – The New York Times

“OBER-RAMSTADT, Germany — On a highway south of Frankfurt recently, Thomas Schmieder maneuvered his Scania tractor-trailer and its load of house paint into the far right lane. Then he flicked a switch you won’t find on most truck dashboards.

Outside the cab a contraption started to unfold from the roof, looking like a clothes-drying rack with an upside-down sled welded to the top. As Mr. Schmieder continued driving, a video display showed the metal skids rising up and pushing gently against wires running overhead.

The cab became very quiet as the diesel engine cut out and electric motors took over. The truck was still a truck, but now it was powered like many trains or street cars.

There’s a debate over how to make the trucking industry free of emissions, and whether batteries or hydrogen fuel cells are the best way to fire up electric motors in big vehicles. Mr. Schmieder was part of a test of a third alternative: a system that feeds electricity to trucks as they drive, using wires strung above the roadway and a pantograph mounted on the cab.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This seems like a weirdly ugly idea, but in a terrific direction. I would, in my shameful ignorance, visualize electric trains and monorails that get their electricity from the track, if that is possible. Could it possibly be flood proof? But trucks would have containers just like on ships, that already exists, and put their container on the electric train system, and another truck would pick it up at the other end of the train line system. It could be slower than regular highway speeds, and allow for locals as well as expresses, like the wonderful Paris subway system, only it would be an above ground system, and take up at least half of the current highways that we have now, for individual cars and trucks. This system could move people as well as cargo, and would be all electric. Where would you get all that electricity in the next 50 to 100 years? Probably from the 20 or so new designs for nuclear energy, such as the one designed by the Bill Gates team. These new plants are smaller, and cannot explode or melt down. The Gates version, runs on spent nuclear fuel, so it besides theoretically being safe, will reduce our nuclear waste storage issue.

Gail Collins | The Robocall Rebellion – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Let’s find something fun to talk about.

Really, we need a little break. The top topics for civic discussion right now are the pandemic, climate change and collapsing infrastructure. It’s summer, but baseball games keep getting postponed when somebody tests positive for the coronavirus. Broadway is all but closed. There’s nothing much on TV except the Olympics, and the Olympics are kind of depressing.

So let’s complain about … robocalls!

Among the nonlethal problems currently facing the nation, robocalling looms large just for raw irritation. Really large. According to the call-blocking company YouMail, Americans got about 4.4 billion robocalls in June — seriously. This is up from a mere four billion in May.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This subject always makes me angry. How about passing a bill, that phone companies have to pay 10% of their gross profits every year, if they don’t stop these calls to the public. Gail wrote, ““They used grammatical gymnastics to create an opening for Americans to be bombarded with unwanted calls on their cellphones,” complained Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts in a phone interview. Markey, who’s one of Congress’s anti-robocall crusaders, expects to come up with a bipartisan bill to undo what the court has done. Even in an era when Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on whether to hold a hearing about the assault on the nation’s Capitol, they’re pretty much in accord on robocall reform.” Shame on the Supreme Court. They are acting like they have been bribed. I pray that Senator Markey is successful, in fixing this most annoying and dangerous abuse of the phone system in the US.
David Lindsay Jr is a writer and author who blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield | Ben & Jerry’s Founders on the Company’s Israel Policy – The New York Times

Bennett Cohen and 

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield founded Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings in 1978.

“We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel.

But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government. As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation.”

Feeding Deer Does Much Harm, Little Good | The Outside Story

“Watching deer forage for whatever bits of food they can find through the cold months of winter, I can understand why some people feel an urge to feed them. Only supplemental feeding isn’t helpful at all to deer. Instead, it’s detrimental to their digestive health, and it pulls them away from safer, more nutritious food sources.

“Supplemental feeding has little or no benefit to the overall health of deer,” said Nick Fortin, Deer Project Leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “Interestingly, northern deer will lose weight in winter no matter what or how much they are fed, even in captivity.”

Like virtually all animals living in climates where winter is cold and snowy, deer use a variety of adaptations to adjust and survive. In the northern part of the Northeast, they often gather in deer yards, where softwood cover offers shelter from wind and cold as well as decreased snow depth. As deer move to and through their winter shelter, they pack down paths, allowing for easier travel to food and quicker escapes from predators.

In winter, deer reduce their energy expenditures by hunkering down during extended cold stretches; this way they can focus their activity during times when temperatures are warmer. Similar to animals that hibernate, deer store fat – it can constitute up to 20 percent of their body weight, said Fortin – and they can use that fat as a sort of energy savings account.

A deer’s digestive system also goes through changes to cope with less abundant – and different – food sources. Deer are ruminants, which means they have a four-chambered stomach, like cows and sheep. Each chamber contains microorganisms to help with digestion. These microbes become tuned in to a winter diet of twigs and buds, nuts, any fruits and berries that persist, and whatever grasses they can find. A sudden change in diet – say to supplemental corn or rich hay – can wreak havoc on this system.”

Source: Feeding Deer Does Much Harm, Little Good | The Outside Story

Feeding deer can be dangerous to their health

“According to this study, conducted by the DIF&W, supplemental feeding of deer has increased over the last two decades. It states that in many areas, supplemental feeding contributes to winter mortality of deer, and “there is good biological justification to ban feeding of deer.”

The DIF&W’s website features a section on feeding deer that begins with the admonition, “The best option is to not feed deer at all.” If you do, however, the department provides some useful tips.

• Locate deer feeding sites in or near deer wintering areas and at least a half-mile from plowed roads to minimize road-kill losses.

• Distribute feed in many locations every day to reduce competition among deer. Remember that concentrating deer in small areas can create a feeding ground for predators.

• Proper feed is natural browse items such as dogwood, birch or witch hobble. Oats or acorns can be given as diet supplements. In winter, the microorganisms within the deer stomach are different from the microorganisms the rest of the year. This change allows deer to ingest a diet of woody browse and turn the high-fiber diet into protein.

• Do not feed hay, corn, kitchen scraps, potatoes, lettuce trimmings or any animal proteins from animals rendered into feed. Deer may actually starve when fed supplemental foods during winter if they have a full belly of indigestible foods. Many deer have starved to death with stomachs packed full of hay.”

Source: Feeding deer can be dangerous to their health

PAID POST by Volkswagen in NYT— Volkswagen ID.4: The Journey to An All-Electric Automotive Future

“Ready for an electric vehicle future?
The Volkswagen ID.4 may be the electric vehicle that carries you into it.

(MSRP $40k, range 250 miles)

The world is on the precipice of a revolution, but it’s not necessarily the one most people would think of. In his recent book, “The Global Rise of the Modern Plug-In Electric Vehicle,” John D. Graham, a professor at Indiana University, wrote that the current moment in electric vehicle (EV) adoption is at least as radical as the invention of the gasoline-powered engine. Consider how huge that is: as major a difference as going from a horse and buggy to a sedan.

The EV’s moment stems from a perfect mix of government support, consumer interest, regulation and price. In March of this year, the United States reached the benchmark of 100,000 public EV charging stations, and the Biden administration committed $15 billion to fund a network of an additional 500,000. There is more variety coming to the EV market than ever, including cars with zero direct emissions like Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.4, which is the first truly versatile electric crossover SUV. Taken together, our society is moving beyond simply talking about electric vehicles changing the world, and actually starting to make the switch.”

”  . . . There are, of course, simpler reasons to get behind the wheel of an electric SUV: All-wheel drive is available on the ID.4 later in 2021; and the $39,9954 MSRP of the ID.4 Pro doesn’t even account for the potential federal tax credit of up to $7,5005. It also includes three years of unlimited public DC fast charging at no additional cost6 at Electrify America stations, the largest fast-charging network in the country. ”  (range 250 miles, plus or minus about 10)

Farhad Manjoo | Summer Travel Post-Covid Has Arrived. Earth Can’t Handle It. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“To cruise or not to cruise? To safari or stay put? To fly — perchance to hang glide or kite surf into some un-Instagrammed country. So goes the great moral dilemma now lurking in the travel and tourism industry, perhaps the beating heart of global consumerist extravagance. Now that our year-plus fast is close to over, shall we commence gorging once more?

In 2019, according to an industry trade group, the world spent about $9 trillion — nearly a tenth of global G.D.P. — on tourism. It was the 10th consecutive year of growth in travel, and expansion looked endless.”