Sunday, February 3, 2019


The gig economy didn’t deliver
Two experts on the “gig economy” now say the Great Recession made them overestimate its growth.  Economists Alan Kreuger and Lawrence Katz said in a 2015 study that a growing number of people cobbling together a living from odd jobs, especially via apps like Uber, would upend traditional work arrangements.  That didn’t happen.  The predictions were driven off base by a downturn in which workers sought odd jobs to make ends meet.  Then as the economy returned to normal, they returned to more familiar work arrangements.  The researchers also blame spotty data from the Labor Department, which had repeatedly sought, but been denied, funding for a survey that examined contingent and alternative workers.
--Josh Zumbrun, Wall Street Journal

Where do experts stand on cannabidiol (CBD)?
Research may be sparse, but unlike, say, crystals and healing bracelets, CBD clearly does have biological effects.  “I think there is a legitimate medicine here,” says CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon.  “We’re talking about something that could really help people.”  

That said, there is plenty of skepticism that CBD is a magical elixir.  “There’s an enormous placebo effect,” said Dr. Margaret Haney, director of Columbia University’s Marijuana Research Laboratory.  “If you go in with this expectation, with all of society saying this will cure whatever ails you, it often will.”  Some call CBD “the new avocado toast”—a fad for wellness obsessives—but DeLand, the ad exec, believes that CBD’s benefits will be confirmed or debunked before too long.  “The future of this industry,” he said, “is going to be based on fact, not fiction.”
--The Week
Why China poses the greatest threat
China is America’s biggest rival, and despite the media’s obsession with Vladimir Putin, “Russia isn’t even close.   American journalists are primarily focused on Russia because Trump’s friendly posture toward Putin fits their narrative of Russian collusion in the 2016 election.  But China poses a far more serious  geopolitical threat.   Its rapidly growing economy dwarfs Russia’s; indeed, China is on track to challenge the U.S. for global economic supremacy.  China is also engaged in a massive military buildup, and its adventurism in the South China Sea and establishment of military bases and ports throughout East Asia signals its grand ambitions as a true global power.

At the same time, China is seeking technological supremacy on the world stage, as it expands its hacking abilities and theft of intellectual property while it attempts to establish a faster, 5G telecom network throughout the world.  At home, Chinese President Xi Jinping is strengthening his Orwellian control of his country’s 1.4 billion citizens, who have no choice but to obey the Communist Party’s dictates.  Putin’s Russia  is hanging onto the vestiges of a bygone era,, but China is forging a new era—one it intends to lead.
--Kenny Xu,

Why 2018 was the best year ever
Everyone knows that the world is going to hell, but let me try to make the case that 2018 was actually the best year in human history.   It’s the nature of the news business to focus on disasters, war, starvation, and environmental threats, but such coverage leaves most people spectacularly misinformed.  In polls, 90 percent of Americans say global poverty is getting worse or not improving; in fact, poverty is rapidly retreating. In the early 1980s, 44 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty—defined as less than $2 per person per day.  

Now fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. Every day on average last year, 295,000 people gained electricity for the first time, 305,000 got clean drinking water for the first time, and another 620,000 were hooked up to the Internet.  Lifespans and literacy are rapidly increasing. It may seem “Pollyannaish” to celebrate these victories, but a failure to acknowledge global progress can leave people feeling hopeless and ready to give up.  What has already been accomplished should show us what is possible and help fuel our efforts to make the world a better place.
--Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

Bus tickets won’t fix the economy
Big cities are no longer the places struggling Americans can find opportunity and prosperity.  That’s a surprise, because economic data show that employment growth in the U.S. over the past decade has occurred almost entirely in big cities.  It turns out, though, that living in these places only pays off if you have a college degree.  For those who don’t, big-city wages have stagnated while housing costs have soared. 

This is bad news for those who subscribe to the “Greyhound theory of economic growth” and believe that residents of economically troubled regions should just get a bus ticket out.  In fact, research shows that urban middle-class jobs for those with middle-tier skills—in fields such as manufacturing and administration—are vanishing.  Newcomers wind up working low-skill jobs with low wages and little opportunity for advancement. 

Telling Americans that they should leave job-starved places like upstate New York isn’t the answer to economic malaise. Most people have already grasped this truth, which is why the share of Americans who moved last year, 11 percent, was the lowest on record.  If we want to make the economy work for everyone it has been failing, we need to raise pay in the big cities.  And stop talking about leaving the small towns for dead.
--Henry Grabar,

Get rid of Wi-Fi dead zones
When your home seems like a Wi-Fi death trap, it’s time to invest in a mesh Wi-Fi router system.  Unlike a stand-alone, traditional router that struggles with long distances, a mesh is a team of routers  that can  blanket your home with connectivity.  There’s a main base station that connects to your broadband modem—the black box you likely got from your Internet provider—and then several smaller routers to place around your house.  Systems cost about $120 to $500—well worth it if you think about all the money you waste on monthly Internet connection that you can barely use. This may be the most underrated home technology of the past five years.
--Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal
The original border fence
The first federally funded border fence went up in 1911. But it wasn’t built to keep people out.  Instead, it was meant to stop tick-infested cattle from wandering into the U.S.  The tick-borne disease Texas fever decimated herds on both sides of the southern border at the start of the century, driving up beef prices.  While the disease was nearly eradicated in the U.S., it remained prevalent in Mexico.  The Saturday Evening Post described the fence as “the finest barbed-wire boundary line in the history of the world,” but it was only somewhat effective.  

The border region has since seen repeated outbreaks of Texas fever, including as recently as 2017. The U.S. Department of Agriculture still employs mounted “tick riders” to patrol the border for wandering cattle crossing over from Mexico. “As long as there’s cattle across the river, or horses,” said USDA inspector Jorge Solis, “we’ll continue to have this problem.” 
--The Week

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