How One Startup Intends to Reshape Government Finance
By Jason Shueh
Want to monitor government expenditures? There’s an app for that. Whether it’s school district budgets or city coffers, the Michigan-based financial transparency startup Munetrix is angling itself as a company of note in 2016. Key features of the cloud platform center on its knack to create simple interactive visuals for complex financials, while at the same time curating a portion of these revenues and expenditures for the public.
From wine to lotteries: Blockchain takes off
By Mark Smith
Blockchain, perhaps Bitcoin’s cryptocurrency successor, is taking off. Imagine a world where you can vote in an election with your phone, where your buy a house in a matter of hours, or where cash simply doesn't exist.These are some of the scenarios being mooted by an increasingly excited blockchain community.The technology that underpins Bitcoin is nothing new - it's decades old. It's just an encrypted database that that's distributed across a computer network. But what makes it different is it can only be updated when everyone on that network agrees, and once entered the information can't be overwritten, making it extremely secure and reliable.
Microsoft’s new AI tools help developers build apps and bots
By Jon Brodkin
Though Microsoft's own "Tay" bot became a public relations nightmare, the company demonstrated how artificial intelligence applications built with Microsoft technology can be useful in the real world. Most impressive right now is "Seeing AI," an application to help blind people navigate the world, built by a blind Microsoft software engineer named Saqib Shaikh.
Those wasteful Europeans
By Frank Trentmann
While often singled out for their excess, Americans are no more than average wasters today. In 1965, an average American threw away four times as much as a Western European. Today, it is Danes, Dutch, Swiss and Germans who generate the most waste.
Turning Americans’ Bad Food-Waste Habit Into Renewable Energy
By Elizabeth Daigneau
Mandatory garbage disposals in all new construction projects are one of the ways Philidelphia government workers are trying to turn food waste into biogas. That sounds like something your body does after questionable food choices at 2:00 a.m.This biogas however will be used to power facilities like wastewater treatments plants. Less rotting food in landfills means less methane being released into the atmosphere, a gas that is contributing to global warming.
LABOR & ECONOMY
Oreos and the American worker caught in the middle
By Richard Trumka and David Durkee
The Chicago Tribune
Oreos are incredibly popular, one of America's top guilty pleasures. But we soon might not be able to stomach them, if the iconic cookies don't sustain good jobs in the United States. As part of the relentless killing of American manufacturing, Nabisco plans to cut in half the workforce at its largest domestic bakery, in Chicago, and send some 600 jobs to Mexico, where pay is so low that the minimum wage is measured by the day, not the hour. The daily minimum is about $4.
NAFTA May Have Saved Many Autoworkers’ Jobs
By Eduardo Porter
The New York Times
When Donald Trump threatened to “break” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), auto industry workers offered up some of the loudest cheers. Mr. Trump easily won the Republican primary in Michigan this month. The state, home base for the American auto industry, also delivered an upset victory to Bernie Sanders, the Democratic anti-NAFTA standard-bearer. But the autoworkers’ animosity is aiming at the wrong target. There are still more than 800,000 jobs in the American auto sector. And there is a good case to be made that without Nafta, there might not be much left of Detroit at all.
Worker Cooperatives Are More Productive Than Normal Companies
By Michelle Chen
Imagine an economy without bosses. It’s not a utopian vision but a growing daily reality for many enterprises. A close analysis of the performance of worker-owned cooperative firms—companies in which workers share in management and ownership—shows that, compared to standard top-down firms, co-ops can be a viable, even superior way of doing business.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Put the refugee ‘crisis’ in context -- UNHCR
By Melissa Fleming
UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming puts the refugee crisis in context for Devex. This is a crisis for refugees, not a crisis for Europeans. The 1 million that have arrived since August 2015 represent a mere 0.2 percent of Europe's population of 500 million. Over 90 percent came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost all of them said they left because of violence and war. Those who had been living as refugees in neighboring countries said they did not have the means to educate and feed their children.
Leahy asked State Dept. to investigate Israeli human rights violations
By Nahal Toosi
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and 10 House members have asked the Obama administration to investigate claims that the Israeli and Egyptian security forces have committed “gross violations of human rights” — allegations that infuriated Israel's leader, but, if proven true, could affect U.S. military aid to the countries.
Mississippi’s New Anti-LGBT Bill Claims That Women Can Be Fired For Wearing Pants
By Zack Ford
Many states have considered bills that enable discrimination against the LGBT community, but Mississippi’s proposed legislation is perhaps the most explicit in this regard. HB 1523 spells out in storied detail all of the different ways that a person should be able to mistreat people for being LGBT without consequences from the government.
Housing and the Working Poor
By Peter Dreier
As the nation’s homeownership rate declines, poor and middle-class families are competing for scarce rental housing, and so far the federal government’s responses have fallen helplessly short of alleviating the problem. In order to boost wages, they have implemented an earned income tax credit (EITC), a wage supplement for the working poor. That stands in contrast to federal housing subsidies: Federal funds to help low-income families pay the rent are disbursed via a waiting list or a lottery, not an entitlement. As separate approaches, these measures have proven to be less than effective, but is there a way to combine the best features of the EITC and the housing voucher program to address the housing crisis for America’s working families?
Most Americans Say Torturing Suspected Terrorists Is Justifiable
By Janie Velencia
In response to the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Republican front-runner Donald Trump has called for expanding the use of waterboarding and more extreme methods of torture in order to extract information from suspected terrorists. Most Americans agree with Trump — up to a point. While respondents in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll say that torture can be justified under certain circumstances, a recent Quinnipiac University poll also shows that they’re less comfortable with the idea of broadening U.S. torture laws.