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Has The US Lost Its First-World Status?

Has The US Lost Its First-World Status?

Authored by Daniel Nuccio via The Brownstone Institute,

Everything is dirty. Nothing works. But everything’s…



Has The US Lost Its First-World Status?

Authored by Daniel Nuccio via The Brownstone Institute,

Everything is dirty. Nothing works. But everything’s also more expensive. And oh, by the way, you don’t have privacy anymore...

That is how I described life in the US to a friend who had been living abroad for a bit more than a decade when we met up earlier this year during his brief return to the states. 

We’re not a first world country anymore, I told him. Hopefully our decline stops somewhere around second world, I half-joked. That’s probably the best we can hope for.

Earlier that evening over dinner at what was once our regular spot, he told me of his life as a physician in Poland. I told him about my PhD work on the health effects of social isolation. He told me about the influx of young American soldiers into his current country of residence.

I described to him the dismal state of education back here at home. The lack of standards. The fetishization of boutique ideologies. The compulsory commitments to further favored political causes. 

Now, after a mediocre movie intended for teenagers (or perhaps adults longing to be teenagers again) we meandered in the vacant parking lot of the Barnes & Noble we frequented when he’d return home from college, as well as in the years immediately following our undergraduate work when we were living at home, navigating our first few grownup jobs. 

Standing under the sterile glow of aesthetically jarring LED lights, subtle symbols of our country’s progress, I told him about the drive through my hometown earlier that afternoon. The place where I’d grown up. The town where we both had attended high school.

For much of my life, it had seemed like a stereotypical suburb of the 90s, sort of akin to what you’d see in early episodes of The Simpsons. We were by no means Mayberry, but we were a largely clean, peaceful place populated by middle-class people going about their lives the best they could. 

With time, yes, a plethora of mostly little changes occurred and accrued as they do everywhere. The video rental stores and comic book shops had closed long ago. The movie theater at which I watched Independence Day, Men In Black, and so many of the other major blockbusters of my childhood with my dad became a 24-hour gym. 

The Toys R Us my parents or uncles would take me to for new video games and Nerf guns on random or special occasions was now an Indian grocery store. But for the most part, we retained many of the accoutrements of 90s suburbia well into the 2000s.

Yet, on the drive through that day, more stores just seemed abandoned. Everything appeared to have acquired a thin layer of grime I couldn’t recall being there in the Before Times or even on more recent trips home to visit family. There were also far more beggars than I had ever recalled seeing there at any time in the past. 

At the risk of sounding pretentious, beggars and homeless people had always been a rare sight where I grew up. As a child, I thought of them as a largely exclusive feature of the city, seeing them only when my father would take our family Downtown for some excursion to a baseball game or the like, reprimanding my siblings and me if he ever caught us making some discourteous remark at their expense, echoing the admonitions of the teachers and priests at my parochial elementary school that homelessness could strike anyone at any time like some unfortunate disease. I also remember never quite believing them. 

Something about the homeless populations I encountered on those rare occasions as a child always seemed indescribably but notably different. Sure, some of them could have been auto workers who lost good union jobs when their plant closed. Yeah, some may have been investment bankers who had fallen on hard times. But even then I could tell many of them seemed to be struggling with mental illness or addiction even if I failed to fully comprehend those concepts at the time. 

Now though, in my hometown, that seemed to hold less true.

The lost souls stationed at practically every major intersection along the main road appeared in many cases exceptionally ordinary – and perhaps were until only a few years or even a couple of months earlier when…what? The bar they worked at was deemed unessential by government bureaucrats? 

The restaurant they owned was forced to close because everyone was either too frightened by propaganda to eat out or didn’t wish to deal with all the multifarious government-mandated performative acts of obedience required by those simply seeking to sit down for a meal in public? They lost their low-level job as a municipal employee because they refused to take a medicine they didn’t want and in many cases likely didn’t need? Then again, maybe some still had a job but were struggling to keep up with the sudden spike in food prices?

Although I wouldn’t say I was struggling, I told my friend, it’s hard not to notice that my bag of broccoli and cauliflower seems to have a little more air than a year ago and my hummus container appears to take up a little less space in my fridge, while both items inexplicably now cost a dollar more. If someone was living paycheck-to-paycheck, especially if they had a family, it was difficult to imagine how they could keep up.

My friend reminded me this wasn’t just the US.

The price of basic food items like eggs had gone up considerably in Poland, he informed me. Having traveled more than I have in our current period of Reset and Reconstruction, he also told me how he’s noticed that sex-segregated restrooms were being phased out in a lot of places, circling back to our earlier discussion of the fetishization of boutique ideologies, albeit no longer relegated to university soil. 

His saying this reminded me of how a colleague of mine reported something similar when traveling to New York earlier this year, describing the city as Gotham with gender-neutral bathrooms, zombified homeless people wandering the streets, and the constant smell of weed in the air.  

Before parting ways for what would likely be another who knows how long, we went for a drive under the watchful eyes of the automatic license plate readers that sprouted up on practically every street light sometime between the Pandemic Period and our current Reset and Reconstruction phase – more undeniable signs of our country’s progress. We talked about the future. My friend was working through whether he wanted to stay in Poland, move to Canada where his then-girlfriend resided, or return to the US. 

I told him I didn’t really know how things were in Poland, but at least the US wasn’t quite as explicitly totalitarian as Canada…yet. I also told him that I had come to acknowledge that pursuing a career as a professor and a scientific researcher long-term may no longer be an option for me given that I had spent the past two years publicly criticizing many of the political positions you’re required not only to profess but actively promote if you wish to teach at a university or do scientific research in the US.

Something else I thought about while we were driving around, or maybe sometime later as I left behind the area in which I had spent so many formative years was how so few people seem to notice so many of these changes – or casually accept them as normal if they do.

One particular example that sticks out to me now is something that occurred not long after my brief reunion with my expat friend. Once more I was driving down the main road in the town in which I grew up. Many stores still just seemed abandoned. Everything still appeared to possess a thin layer of grime. Beggars were still stationed at nearly every major intersection. 

This time I was returning to visit my mother for a small dinner. On the way home, I stopped at a Starbucks not far from the Indian grocery store that used to be the Toys R Us where I got my first Mario Kart game as a kid and my first Resident Evil game as a middle-schooler. 

Outside the Starbucks was an elderly woman, probably living on the streets, a little more reminiscent of my childhood notion of a homeless person than most of the seemingly newly-minted beggars at the intersections. 

While I waited for my order, I overheard the baristas talking with a couple of customers about her. Apparently, she was always there, always troubled by demons no one else could see. Sometimes she came in and made a mess in one of the bathrooms. Sometimes she harassed customers in a way that went beyond just asking for a couple bucks or some change. 

One of the customers with whom the baristas were speaking nodded along with the conversation, mentioning that she worked at a retirement home, authoritatively stating there was a full moon coming. From what she said, the old folks always get like this as the full moon approaches. The baristas nodded along in agreement.

Listening to this, I remember thinking we’re not a first world country anymore, but are we really a 1930s depiction of Nineteenth Century Romania? I knew we had accepted outrageous food prices and a steady population of beggars and homeless people in our suburbs as part of the New Normal, but I didn’t know we had accepted moon madness too.

Then again, maybe I was being overly pessimistic, overlooking obvious positives.

I mean, for all I know, the bathroom in which this old homeless woman suffering from moon madness regularly made a mess was gender-neutral, in which case, if that’s not a sign of progress, I don’t know what is. 

Tyler Durden Fri, 11/10/2023 - 16:20

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English football is ready for a rule change when it comes to financial management

Why creating an independent regulator is a good move.




Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Football fans are frequently involved in heated arguments over the rules of the game. Soon it will be the turn of elected politicians to debate new regulations which govern how the sport in England will be run.

On November 7 2003, the UK government announced a new bill which aims to “safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans”.

Central to the new legislation would be the creation of an independent football regulator to address “systemic financial issues in football”. It would also seek to preserve club heritage, protect the voice of fans, and safeguard against breakaway competitions such as the doomed attempt by six Premier League clubs to form a European Super League in 2021.

When that happened, fans were quick to show their anger, the government threatened a “legislative bomb” and eventually the English clubs backed down.

But that episode was part of what led to the fan-led review of English football being published in November 2021. And one of its main recommendations was the creation of an independent football regulator to deal with the finding that “without intervention, football at many levels risks financial collapse”.

Ultimately, the concern is that English football club finances are not in a strong position, with many clubs losing money both before and after the pandemic. This has been particularly bad in the Championship (English football’s second tier), where efforts to get promoted to the extremely lucrative Premier League have led to risky behaviour.

The potential disastrous outcome of weak finances was illustrated in 2019 by the sad demise of Bury FC, which was expelled from the English Football League (EFL) after 125 years of membership for being unable to pay its bills. (Fans have since worked hard to rebuild the club, which now plays in a regional league.)

The saga at Bury showed how football clubs going into administration has a wider impact on local communities, with businesses losing custom and people losing jobs. The independent regulator is due to oversee changes that will seek to avoid a repeat of this happening elsewhere in the top five tiers of men’s football in England (Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two and the the National League).

The precise make up of the independent regulator – who will appoint the key personnel, where the funding will come from, what scope it will have in terms of sanctions and punishments – is yet to be made clear. But so far, the idea has received plenty of backing from the football world.

Fans appear supportive, as has the EFL. Research also indicates that regulators in other industries have been known to fix issues where the market has failed its customers (which in this case would be fans and local communities).

Financial fitness

But not everyone is cheering. The Premier League has objected to the idea, fearing that increased requirements over financial reporting and monitoring may put off future investors. Research suggests they may have a point, and that heavy regulation can lead to inefficiency and reduced resources.

But despite those concerns, change to the financial side of football looks to be gaining momentum. Uefa has updated its regulations to limit squad costs to 70% of income for all clubs playing in European competitions .

And there have already been governance changes in English football since the publication of the fan-led review. The English Football Association brought in a rule to protect team strip colours and club crests from unwanted changes, as well as a code of governance which includes board member term limits and targets for diversity and inclusion.

Meanwhile the Premier League has introduced a “fan engagement standard” designed to improve the involvement of fans in decision-making, and have moved to strengthen ownership tests.

All of these changes are designed to make the sport more resilient; to prevent the collapse of clubs which have been part of their communities for decades. Football fans throughout the leagues will be hoping they succeed.

Christina Philippou has consulted with DCMS, teaches on the Premier League's Workforce Learning and Development program and is affiliated with the RAF FA.

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UN’s ‘global stocktake’ on climate is offering a sober emissions reckoning − but there are also signs of progress

Many countries still plan to increase fossil fuel production in the coming years and are offering big subsidies. Negotiators have their work cut out for…

Fossil fuel emissions are still growing in much of the world. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

When this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference begins in late November 2023, it will be a moment for course correction. Seven years ago, nearly every country worldwide signed onto the Paris climate agreement. They agreed to goals of limiting global warming – including key targets to be met by 2030, seven years from now.

A primary aim of this year’s conference, known as COP28, is to evaluate countries’ progress halfway to the 2030 deadlines.

Reports show that the world isn’t on track. At the same time, energy security concerns and disputes over how to compensate countries for loss and damage from climate change are making agreements on cutting emissions tougher to reach.

But as energy and environmental policy researchers, we also see signs of progress.

Global stocktake raises alarms

A cornerstone of COP28 is the conclusion of the global stocktake, a review underway of the world’s efforts to address climate change. It is designed to pinpoint deficiencies and help countries recalibrate their climate strategies.

A report on the stocktake so far stressed that while the Paris Agreement has spurred action on climate change around the globe, current policies and promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions still leave the world on a trajectory that falls far short of the agreement’s aim to limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial temperatures.

Governments worldwide plan to produce twice as much fossil fuel in 2030 than would be allowed under a 1.5 C warming pathway, another U.N.-led report released in early November found.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 C rather than 2 C (3.6 F), may appear to be a minor improvement, but the accumulated global benefits of doing so could exceed US$20 trillion.

Escalating greenhouse gas emissions are the primary factor driving the rise in global temperatures. And fossil fuels account for over three-quarters of those emissions.

To avoid overshooting 1.5 C of warming, global greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall by about 45% by 2030, compared with 2010 levels, and reach net zero around 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But emissions aren’t falling. They rose in 2022, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The global average temperature briefly breached the 1.5 C warming limit in March and June 2023.

A line chart of daily temperatures since 1940, by month. 2023 veers sharply upward around May, reaching above the line showing a 1.5 C increase.
A line chart of daily temperatures since 1940, by month, shows how extreme 2023’s temperatures have been. Years before 2014 are in gray. European Union Earth Observation Program

The global stocktake unambiguously states that, to meet the Paris targets, countries must collectively be more ambitious in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. That includes rapidly reducing carbon emissions from all economic sectors. It means accelerating adoption of renewable energy such as solar and wind power, implementing more stringent measures to stop and reverse deforestation, and deploying clean technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles on a wide scale.

The significance of phasing out fossil fuels

The report underscores one point repeatedly: the pressing need to “phase out all unabated fossil fuels.”

Fossil fuels currently make up 80% of the world’s total energy consumption. Their use in 2022 resulted in an all-time high of 36.8 gigatons of CO2 from both energy combustion and industrial activities.

Despite the risks of climate change, countries still provide huge subsidies to the oil, coal and gas industries. In all, they provided about US$1.3 trillion in explicit subsidies for fossil fuels in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund’s calculations. China, the U.S., Russia, the European Union and India are the largest subsidizers, and these subsidies sharply increased after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 disrupted energy markets.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed the importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels, criticizing the extensive profits made by “entrenched interests” in the fossil fuel sector.

African countries also made their view of subsidies clear in the “Nairobi Declaration” at the first Africa Climate Summit in 2023, where leaders called for the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and endorsed the idea of a global carbon tax on fossil fuel trade.

The global stocktake highlights the significance of eradicating fossil fuel subsidies to eliminate economic roadblocks that hinder the shift to greener energy sources. However, it’s important to note that the report uses the phrase “unabated fossil fuels.” The word “unabated” has been contentious. It allows room for continued use of fossil fuels, as long as technologies such as carbon capture and storage prevent emissions from entering the atmosphere. But those technologies aren’t yet operating on a wide scale.

Solutions for an equitable transition

Several initiatives have been launched recently to expedite the move away from fossil fuels.

In July 2023, Canada unveiled a strategy to terminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, becoming the first G20 nation to pledge a halt to government support for oil and natural gas, with some exceptions.

The European Union is broadening its carbon market to include emissions from buildings and transport, targeting decarbonization across more sectors. Concurrently, the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act commits US$10 billion to clean energy projects and offers $4 billion in tax credits to communities economically affected by the coal industry’s decline.

To help low-income countries build sustainable energy infrastructure, a relatively new financing mechanism called Just Energy Transition Partnerships is gaining interest. It aims to facilitate cooperation, with a group of developed countries helping phase out coal in developing economies that are still reliant on fossil fuels.

South Africa, Indonesia, Senegal and Vietnam have benefited from these partnerships since the first was launched in 2021. The European Union, for instance, has pledged to support Senegal’s shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This includes managing the economic fallout, such as potential job losses, from shutting down fossil fuel power plants, while ensuring electricity remains affordable and more widely available.

Three men with miners' hats with lights on them and reflective jackets sit in a bus headed for a mine.
A just transition takes into account a future for coal miners, like these men headed for a South African coal mine. Luca Sola/AFP via Getty Images

By COP28, a comprehensive plan to help Senegal aim for a sustainable, low-emissions future should be in place. France, Germany, Canada and various multilateral development banks have promised to provide 2.5 billion Euros (about US$2.68 billion) to increase Senegal’s renewable energy output. The goal is for renewables to account for 40% of Senegal’s energy use by 2030.

To align with the Paris Agreement objectives, we believe global initiatives to reduce fossil fuel dependency and invest in developing nations’ sustainable energy transition are essential. Such endeavors not only champion reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also ensure economic growth in an environmentally conscious manner.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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AstraZeneca’s Q3 financial report bodes profit growth

This is the third consecutive quarter that the company came in ahead of analyst predictions. Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical…



This is the third consecutive quarter that the company came in ahead of analyst predictions. Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical enterprise, Pascal Soriot, said:

Our company continued its strong growth trajectory in the third quarter with Total Revenue from our non-COVID-19 medicines up 13% compared to last year.

To boost its future growth prospects further, AstraZeneca announced it bought an exclusive licence for a weight-loss candidate from Eccogene, a China-based pharmaceutics outfit that focuses on metabolic and auto-immune diseases. This deal of an estimated $2bn launches AstraZeneca into the rapidly growing anti-obesity market.

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As one of the top performers among listed European pharmaceutical businesses, AstraZeneca’s third-quarter profits came in at $11.49bn, narrowly beating the market forecast of $11.47bn. A year-on-year comparison shows an increase in total revenue of 15%.

China sales made up 13% of the company’s revenue in 2022. The Q3 report shows a 1% increase in these sales. Although not much, it is the fifth consecutive China-based quarter of growth. Expressing his satisfaction with the financial performance, Soriot further commented:

I am excited about the acceleration of our cardiometabolic and obesity pipeline with today’s licensing agreement for ECC5004, a potential best-in-class, oral GLP-1RA2. This molecule could offer an important advance, as both a monotherapy and in combinations, for the estimated one billion people living with cardiometabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes and obesity.

The post AstraZeneca’s Q3 financial report bodes profit growth appeared first on LeapRate.

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