person:rob

  • View from Nowhere. Is it the press’s job to create a community that transcends borders?

    A few years ago, on a plane somewhere between Singapore and Dubai, I read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). I was traveling to report on the global market for passports—how the ultrawealthy can legally buy citizenship or residence virtually anywhere they like, even as 10 million stateless people languish, unrecognized by any country. In the process, I was trying to wrap my head around why national identity meant so much to so many, yet so little to my passport-peddling sources. Their world was the very image of Steve Bannon’s globalist nightmare: where you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many passports.

    Anderson didn’t address the sale of citizenship, which only took off in earnest in the past decade; he did argue that nations, nationalism, and nationality are about as organic as Cheez Whiz. The idea of a nation, he writes, is a capitalist chimera. It is a collective sense of identity processed, shelf-stabilized, and packaged before being disseminated, for a considerable profit, to a mass audience in the form of printed books, news, and stories. He calls this “print-capitalism.”

    Per Anderson, after the printing press was invented, nearly 600 years ago, enterprising booksellers began publishing the Bible in local vernacular languages (as opposed to the elitist Latin), “set[ting] the stage for the modern nation” by allowing ordinary citizens to participate in the same conversations as the upper classes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the proliferation (and popularity) of daily newspapers further collapsed time and space, creating an “extraordinary mass ceremony” of reading the same things at the same moment.

    “An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000,000–odd fellow Americans,” Anderson wrote. “He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time.” But with the knowledge that others are reading the same news, “he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”

    Should the press be playing a role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together?

    Of course, national presses enabled more explicit efforts by the state itself to shape identity. After the US entered World War I, for instance, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make Americans more patriotic through his US Committee on Public Information. Its efforts included roping influential mainstream journalists into advocating American-style democracy by presenting US involvement in the war in a positive light, or simply by referring to Germans as “Huns.” The committee also monitored papers produced by minorities to make sure they supported the war effort not as Indians, Italians, or Greeks, but as Americans. Five Irish-American papers were banned, and the German-American press, reacting to negative stereotypes, encouraged readers to buy US bonds to support the war effort.

    The US media played an analogous role in selling the public on the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But ever since then, in the digital economy, its influence on the national consciousness has waned. Imagined Communities was published seven years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, twenty-two years before Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat, and a couple of decades before the internet upended print-capitalism as the world knew it (one of Anderson’s footnotes is telling, if quaint: “We still have no giant multinationals in the world of publishing”).

    Since Trump—a self-described nationalist—became a real contender for the US presidency, many news organizations have taken to looking inward: consider the running obsession with the president’s tweets, for instance, or the nonstop White House palace intrigue (which the president invites readily).

    Meanwhile, the unprofitability of local and regional papers has contributed to the erosion of civics, which, down the line, makes it easier for billionaires to opt out of old “imagined communities” and join new ones based on class and wealth, not citizenship. And given the challenges humanity faces—climate change, mass migration, corporate hegemony, and our relationships to new technologies—even if national papers did make everyone feel like they shared the same narrative, a renewed sense of national pride would prove impotent in fighting world-historic threats that know no borders.

    Should the press, then, be playing an analogous role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together? If it was so important in shaping national identity, can it do so on a global scale?

    Like my passport-buying subjects, I am what Theresa May, the former British prime minister, might call a “citizen of nowhere.” I was born in one place to parents from another, grew up in a third, and have lived and traveled all over. That informs my perspective: I want deeply for there to be a truly cosmopolitan press corps, untethered from national allegiances, regional biases, class divisions, and the remnants of colonial exploitation. I know that’s utopian; the international working class is hardly a lucrative demographic against which publishers can sell ads. But we seem to be living in a time of considerable upheaval and opportunity. Just as the decline of religiously and imperially organized societies paved the way for national alternatives, then perhaps today there is a chance to transcend countries’ boundaries, too.

    Does the US media help create a sense of national identity? If nationalism means putting the interests of one nation—and what its citizens are interested in—before more universal concerns, then yes. Most journalists working for American papers, websites, and TV write in English with a national audience (or regional time zone) in mind, which affects how we pitch, source, frame, and illustrate a story—which, in turn, influences our readers, their country’s politics, and, down the line, the world. But a news peg isn’t an ideological form of nationalism so much as a practical or methodological one. The US press feeds off of more pernicious nationalisms, too: Donald Trump’s false theory about Barack Obama being “secretly” Kenyan, disseminated by the likes of Fox and The Daily Caller, comes to mind.

    That isn’t to say that global news outlets don’t exist in the US. When coaxing subscribers, the Financial Times, whose front page often includes references to a dozen different countries, openly appeals to their cosmopolitanism. “Be a global citizen. Become an FT Subscriber,” read a recent banner ad, alongside a collage featuring the American, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and European Union flags (though stories like the recent “beginner’s guide to buying a private island” might tell us something about what kind of global citizen they’re appealing to).

    “I don’t think we try to shape anyone’s identity at all,” Gillian Tett, the paper’s managing editor for the US, says. “We recognize two things: that the world is more interconnected today than it’s ever been, and that these connections are complex and quite opaque. We think it’s critical to try to illuminate them.”

    For Tett, who has a PhD in social anthropology, money serves as a “neutral, technocratic” starting point through which to understand—and tie together—the world. “Most newspapers today tend to start with an interest in politics or events, and that inevitably leads you to succumb to tribalism, however hard you try [not to],” Tett explains. “If you look at the world through money—how is money going around the world, who’s making and losing it and why?—out of that you lead to political, cultural, foreign-policy stories.”

    Tett’s comments again brought to mind Imagined Communities: Anderson notes that, in 18th-century Caracas, newspapers “began essentially as appendages of the market,” providing commercial news about ships coming in, commodity prices, and colonial appointments, as well as a proto–Vows section for the upper crust to hate-read in their carriages. “The newspaper of Caracas quite naturally, and even apolitically, created an imagined community among a specific assemblage of fellow-readers, to whom these ships, brides, bishops, and prices belonged,” he wrote. “In time, of course, it was only to be expected that political elements would enter in.”

    Yesterday’s aristocracy is today’s passport-buying, globe-trotting one percent. The passport brokers I got to know also pitched clients with the very same promise of “global citizenship” (it sounds less louche than “buy a new passport”)—by taking out ads in the Financial Times. Theirs is exactly the kind of neoliberal “globalism” that nationalist politicians like Trump have won elections denouncing (often hypocritically) as wanting “the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much.” Isn’t upper-crust glibness about borders, boundaries, and the value of national citizenship part of what helped give us this reactionary nativism in the first place?

    “I suspect what’s been going on with Brexit and maybe Trump and other populist movements [is that] people. . . see ‘global’ as a threat to local communities and businesses rather than something to be welcomed,” Tett says. “But if you’re an FT reader, you see it as benign or descriptive.”

    Among the largest news organizations in the world is Reuters, with more than 3,000 journalists and photographers in 120 countries. It is part of Thomson Reuters, a truly global firm. Reuters does not take its mandate lightly: a friend who works there recently sent me a job posting for an editor in Gdynia, which, Google clarified for me, is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland.

    Reuters journalists cover everything from club sports to international tax evasion. They’re outsourcing quick hits about corporate earnings to Bangalore, assembling teams on multiple continents to tackle a big investigation, shedding or shuffling staff under corporate reorganizations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “more than half our business is serving financial customers,” Stephen Adler, the editor in chief, tells me. “That has little to do with what country you’re from. It’s about information: a central-bank action in Europe or Japan may be just as important as everything else.”

    Institutionally, “it’s really important and useful that we don’t have one national HQ,” Adler adds. “That’s the difference between a global news organization and one with a foreign desk. For us, nothing is foreign.” That approach won Reuters this year’s international Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the mass murder of the Rohingya in Myanmar (two of the reporters were imprisoned as a result, and since freed); it also comes through especially sharply in daily financial stories: comprehensive, if dry, compendiums of who-what-where-when-why that recognize the global impact of national stories, and vice versa. A recent roundup of stock movements included references to the US Fed, China trade talks, Brexit, monetary policy around the world, and the price of gold.

    Adler has led the newsroom since 2011, and a lot has changed in the world. (I worked at Reuters between 2011 and 2013, first as Adler’s researcher and later as a reporter; Adler is the chair of CJR’s board.) Shortly after Trump’s election, Adler wrote a memo affirming the organization’s commitment to being fair, honest, and resourceful. He now feels more strongly than ever about judiciously avoiding biases—including national ones. “Our ideology and discipline around putting personal feelings and nationality aside has been really helpful, because when you think about how powerful local feelings are—revolutions, the Arab Spring—we want you writing objectively and dispassionately.”

    The delivery of stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter.

    Whether global stories can push communities to develop transnationally in a meaningful way is a harder question to answer; it seems to impugn our collective aptitude for reacting to problems of a global nature in a rational way. Reuters’s decision not to fetishize Trump hasn’t led to a drop-off in US coverage—its reporters have been especially strong on immigration and trade policy, not to mention the effects of the new administration on the global economy—but its stories aren’t exactly clickbait, which means ordinary Americans might not encounter them at the top of their feed. In other words, having a global perspective doesn’t necessarily translate to more eyeballs.

    What’s more, Reuters doesn’t solve the audience-class problem: whether readers are getting dispatches in partner newspapers like The New York Times or through the organization’s Eikon terminal, they tend to be the sort of person “who does transnational business, travels a good deal, is connected through work and media, has friends in different places, cares about what’s going on in different places,” Adler says. “That’s a pretty large cohort of people who have reason to care what’s going on in other places.”

    There are ways to unite readers without centering coverage on money or the markets. For a generation of readers around the world, the common ground is technology: the internet. “We didn’t pick our audience,” Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, tells me over the phone. “Our audience picked us.” He defines his readers as a cohort aged 18–35 “who are on the internet and who broadly care about human rights, global politics, and feminism and gay rights in particular.”

    To serve them, BuzzFeed recently published a damning investigative report into the World Wildlife Fund’s arming of militias in natural reserves; a (not uncontroversial) series on Trump’s business dealings abroad; early exposés of China’s detention of Uighur citizens; and reports on child abuse in Australia. Climate—“the central challenge for every newsroom in the world”—has been harder to pin down. “We don’t feel anyone has cracked it. But the shift from abstract scientific [stories] to coverage of fires in California, it’s a huge change—it makes it more concrete,” Smith says. (My husband is a reporter for BuzzFeed.)

    The delivery of these stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter. “The global political financial elites have had a common language ever since it was French,” Smith says. “There is now a universal language of internet culture, [and] that. . . is how our stuff translates so well between cultures and audiences.” This isn’t a form of digital Esperanto, Smith insists; the point isn’t to flatten the differences between countries or regions so much as to serve as a “container” in which people from different regions, interest groups, and cultures can consume media through references they all understand.

    BuzzFeed might not be setting out to shape its readers’ identities (I certainly can’t claim to feel a special bond with other people who found out they were Phoebes from the quiz “Your Sushi Order Will Reveal Which ‘Friends’ Character You’re Most Like”). An audience defined by its youth and its media consumption habits can be difficult to keep up with: platforms come and go, and young people don’t stay young forever. But if Anderson’s thesis still carries water, there must be something to speaking this language across cultures, space, and time. Call it “Web vernacular.”

    In 2013, during one of the many recent and lengthy US government shutdowns, Joshua Keating, a journalist at Slate, began a series, “If It Happened There,” that imagined how the American media would view the shutdown if it were occurring in another country. “The typical signs of state failure aren’t evident on the streets of this sleepy capital city,” Keating opens. “Beret-wearing colonels have not yet taken to the airwaves to declare martial law. . . .But the pleasant autumn weather disguises a government teetering on the brink.”

    It goes on; you get the idea. Keating’s series, which was inspired by his having to read “many, many headlines from around the world” while working at Foreign Policy, is a clever journalistic illustration of what sociologists call “methodological nationalism”: the bias that gets inadvertently baked into work and words. In the Middle East, it’s sectarian or ethnic strife; in the Midwest, it’s a trigger-happy cop and a kid in a hoodie.

    His send-ups hit a nerve. “It was huge—it was by far the most popular thing I’ve done at Slate,” Keating says. “I don’t think that it was a shocking realization to anyone that this kind of language can be a problem, but sometimes pointing it out can be helpful. If the series did anything, it made people stop and be conscious of how. . . our inherent biases and perspectives will inform how we cover the world.”

    Curiously, living under an openly nationalist administration has changed the way America—or at the very least, a significant part of the American press corps—sees itself. The press is a de facto opposition party, not because it tries to be, but because the administration paints it that way. And that gives reporters the experience of working in a place much more hostile than the US without setting foot outside the country.

    Keating has “semi-retired” the series as a result of the broad awareness among American reporters that it is, in fact, happening here. “It didn’t feel too novel to say [Trump was] acting like a foreign dictator,” he says. “That was what the real news coverage was doing.”

    Keating, who traveled to Somaliland, Kurdistan, and Abkhazia to report his book Invisible Countries (2018), still thinks the fastest and most effective way to form an international perspective is to live abroad. At the same time, not being bound to a strong national identity “can make it hard to understand particular concerns of the people you’re writing about,” he says. It might be obvious, but there is no one perfect way to be internationally minded.

    Alan Rusbridger—the former editor of The Guardian who oversaw the paper’s Edward Snowden coverage and is now the principal at Lady Margaret Hall, a college at Oxford University—recognizes the journalistic and even moral merits of approaching news in a non-national way: “I think of journalism as a public service, and I do think there’s a link between journalism at its best and the betterment of individual lives and societies,” he says. But he doesn’t have an easy formula for how to do that, because truly cosmopolitan journalism requires both top-down editorial philosophies—not using certain phrasings or framings that position foreigners as “others”—and bottom-up efforts by individual writers to read widely and be continuously aware of how their work might be read by people thousands of miles away.

    Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network, but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases.

    Rusbridger sees potential in collaborations across newsrooms, countries, and continents. Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network; but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases. It also wields power. “One of the reasons we reported Snowden with the Times in New York was to use global protections of human rights and free speech and be able to appeal to a global audience of readers and lawyers,” Rusbridger recalls. “We thought, ‘We’re pretty sure nation-states will come at us over this, and the only way to do it is harness ourselves to the US First Amendment not available to us anywhere else.’”

    In employing these tactics, the press positions itself in opposition to the nation-state. The same strategy could be seen behind the rollout of the Panama and Paradise Papers (not to mention the aggressive tax dodging detailed therein). “I think journalists and activists and citizens on the progressive wing of politics are thinking creatively about how global forces can work to their advantage,” Rusbridger says.

    But he thinks it all starts locally, with correspondents who have fluency in the language, culture, and politics of the places they cover, people who are members of the communities they write about. That isn’t a traditional foreign-correspondent experience (nor indeed that of UN employees, NGO workers, or other expats). The silver lining of publishing companies’ shrinking budgets might be that cost cutting pushes newsrooms to draw from local talent, rather than send established writers around. What you gain—a cosmopolitanism that works from the bottom up—can help dispel accusations of media elitism. That’s the first step to creating new imagined communities.

    Anderson’s work has inspired many an academic, but media executives? Not so much. Rob Wijnberg is an exception: he founded the (now beleaguered) Correspondent in the Netherlands in 2013 with Anderson’s ideas in mind. In fact, when we speak, he brings the name up unprompted.

    “You have to transcend this notion that you can understand the world through the national point of view,” he says. “The question is, What replacement do we have for it? Simply saying we have to transcend borders or have an international view isn’t enough, because you have to replace the imagined community you’re leaving behind with another one.”

    For Wijnberg, who was a philosophy student before he became a journalist, this meant radically reinventing the very structures of the news business: avoiding covering “current events” just because they happened, and thinking instead of what we might call eventful currents—the political, social, and economic developments that affect us all. It meant decoupling reporting from national news cycles, and getting readers to become paying “members” instead of relying on advertisements.

    This, he hoped, would help create a readership not based on wealth, class, nationality, or location, but on borderless, universal concerns. “We try to see our members. . . as part of a group or knowledge community, where the thing they share is the knowledge they have about a specific structural subject matter,” be it climate, inequality, or migration, Wijnberg says. “I think democracy and politics answers more to media than the other way around, so if you change the way media covers the world you change a lot.”

    That approach worked well in the Netherlands: his team raised 1.7 million euros in 2013, and grew to include 60,000 members. A few years later, Wijnberg and his colleagues decided to expand into the US, and with the help of NYU’s Jay Rosen, an early supporter, they made it onto Trevor Noah’s Daily Show to pitch their idea.

    The Correspondent raised more than $2.5 million from nearly 50,000 members—a great success, by any measure. But in March, things started to get hairy, with the publication abruptly pulling the plug on opening a US newsroom and announcing that staff would edit stories reported from the US from the original Amsterdam office instead. Many of the reasons behind this are mundane: visas, high rent, relocation costs. And reporters would still be reporting from, and on, the States. But supporters felt blindsided, calling the operation a scam.

    Today, Wijnberg reflects that he should have controlled the messaging better, and not promised to hire and operate from New York until he was certain that he could. He also wonders why it matters.

    “It’s not saying people who think it matters are wrong,” he explains. “But if the whole idea of this kind of geography and why it’s there is a construct, and you’re trying to think about transcending it, the very notion of Where are you based? is secondary. The whole point is not to be based anywhere.”

    Still: “The view from everywhere—the natural opposite—is just as real,” Wijnberg concedes. “You can’t be everywhere. You have to be somewhere.”

    And that’s the rub: for all of nationalism’s ills, it does instill in its subjects what Anderson calls a “deep, horizontal comradeship” that, while imagined, blossoms thanks to a confluence of forces. It can’t be replicated supranationally overnight. The challenge for a cosmopolitan journalism, then, is to dream up new forms of belonging that look forward, not backward—without discarding the imagined communities we have.

    That’s hard; so hard that it more frequently provokes a retrenchment, not an expansion, of solidarity. But it’s not impossible. And our collective futures almost certainly depend on it.

    https://www.cjr.org/special_report/view-from-nowhere.php
    #journalisme #nationalisme #Etat-nation #communauté_nationale #communauté_internationale #frontières #presse #médias

  • Les cafards sont devenus résistants à la quasi totalité des insecticides. Étude parue dans Nature diffusée sur RT

    Estudio advierte que las cucarachas se están volviendo imposibles de matar
    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/ciencia-tecnologia/estudio-advierte-que-las-cucarachas-estan-volviendo-imposibles-matar_28

    Probaron diferentes insecticidas en edificios de Indiana e Illinois, que alternaban cada mes. Encontraron que las poblaciones aumentaron o se mantuvieron estables

    Un grupo de investigadores expuso a cucarachas comunes a diferentes tipos de productos químicos durante seis meses, y encontraron que las poblaciones aumentaron o se mantuvieron estables.

    Las cucarachas están evolucionando rápidamente para ser resistentes a casi todo tipo de insecticida y pronto podrían ser casi imposible de matarlas solo con pesticidas, se desprende de un estudio publicado en la revista Nature difundido por el sitio web RT.

    En una búsqueda para determinar los métodos de erradicación más óptima de estos insectos, entomólogos de la Universidad Purdue de Indiana, Estados Unidos, establecieron un experimento para evaluar su resistencia a los pesticidas en generaciones sucesivas y analizaron concretamente la especie más común: la Blattella germanica, más conocida como cucaracha rubia o alemana.

  • La grande typographe Patricia Saunders (1933–2019) est décédée - Women In Type
    https://research.reading.ac.uk/women-in-type/patricia-saunders-1933-2019

    Patricia is more specifically remembered for her contribution to a series of typefaces produced by Monotype in the early 1980s, and which were adopted by Microsoft as their core fonts, most notably Arial (co-developed with Robin Nicholas and based on Monotype Grotesque) as well as the script face Corsiva. In 1992 she designed Columbus, a digital typeface ‘with a Spanish flavour’ as a tribute to explorer Christopher Columbus.

    Sa page dans le catalogue Monotype :
    https://www.linotype.com/fr/3262/patricia-saunders.html

  • Connecticut legislators to consider minimum pay for Uber and Lyft drivers - Connecticut Post
    https://www.ctpost.com/politics/article/Connecticut-legislators-to-consider-minimum-pay-13608071.php

    By Emilie Munson, February 11, 2019 - Prompted by growing numbers of frustrated Uber and Lyft drivers, lawmakers will hold a hearing on establishing minimum pay for app-based drivers.

    After three separate legislative proposals regarding pay for drivers flooded the Labor and Public Employees Committee, the committee will raise the concept of driver earnings as a bill, said state Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, who chairs the committee, on Friday night.

    A coalition of Uber and Lyft drivers from New Haven has been pressuring lawmakers to pass a pay standard, following New York City’s landmark minimum pay ordinance for app-based drivers approved in December. The legislation, which set an earnings floor of $17.22 an hour for the independent contractors, took effect on Feb. 1.

    Connecticut drivers have no minimum pay guarantees.

    Guillermo Estrella, who drives for Uber, worked about 60 hours per week last year and received $25,422.65 in gross pay. His pay stub doesn’t reflect how much Estrella paid for insurance, gas, oil changes and wear-and-tear on his car. Factor those expenses in, and the Branford resident said his yearly take-home earnings were about $18,000 last year.

    Estrella and other New Haven drivers have suggested bill language to cap the portion of riders’ fares that Uber and Lyft can take at 25 percent, with the remaining 75 percent heading to drivers’ pockets. The idea has already received pushback from Uber, which said it was unrealistic given their current pay structure.

    Connecticut legislators have suggested two other models for regulating driver pay. State Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, filed a bill to set a minimum pay rate per mile and per minute for drivers. His bill has not assigned numbers to those minimums yet.

    “What (drivers) were making when Uber started and got its name, they are not making that anymore,” said Cassano. “The company is taking advantage of the success of the company. I understand that to a point, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the drivers.”

    State Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, proposed legislation that says if drivers’ earnings do not amount to hourly minimum wage payments, Uber or Lyft should have to kick in the difference. Connecticut’s minimum wage is now $10.10, although Democrats are making a strong push this year to raise it.

    As lawmakers consider these proposals, they will confront issues raised by the growing “gig economy”: a clash between companies seeking thousands of flexible, independent contractors and a workforce that wants the benefits and rights of traditional, paid employment.

    Some Democrats at the Capitol support the changes that favor drivers.

    “I thought it was important to make sure our labor laws are keeping up with the changes we are seeing in this emerging gig economy, that we have sufficient safeguards to make sure that drivers are not being exploited,” said Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown.

    But the proposals also raise broad, difficult questions like what protections does a large independent contractor workforce need? And how would constraining the business model of Uber and Lyft impact service availability around the state?

    Sen. Craig Miner, a Republican of Litchfield who sits on the Labor committee, wondered why Uber and Lyft drivers should have guaranteed pay, when other independent contractors do not. How would this impact the tax benefits realized by independent contractors, he asked.

    Uber and Lyft declined to provide data on how many drivers they have in the state, and the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles does not keep count. In Connecticut, 82 percent of Lyft drivers drive fewer than 20 hours per week, said Kaelan Richards, a Lyft spokesperson.

    Last week, Hearst Connecticut Media spoke to 20 Uber and Lyft drivers in New Haven who are demanding lawmakers protect their pay. All drove full-time for Uber or Lyft or both.

    An immigrant from Ecuador, Estrella, the Branford driver, struggles to pay for rent and groceries for his pregnant wife and seven-year-old son using his Uber wages.

    “A cup of coffee at the local Starbucks cost $3 or $4,” said Estrella. “How can a trip can cost $3 when you have to drive to them five minutes away and drop them off after seven or eight minutes?”

    In December, 50 Uber and Lyft drivers held a strike in New Haven demanding better pay. The New Haven drivers last week said they are planning more strikes soon.

    “Why is Uber lowering the rates and why do we have to say yes to keep working?” asked Carlos Gomez, a Guilford Uber driver, last week.

    The drivers believe Uber and Lyft are decreasing driver pay and taking a larger chunk of rider fares for company profits. Many New Haven drivers said pay per mile has been decreasing. They liked Sen. Cassano’s idea of setting minimum pay per mile and per minute.

    “The payment by mile, it went down by 10 cents,” said Rosanna Olan, a driver from West Haven. “Before it was more than one dollar and now when you have a big truck SUV, working long distance especially is not worth it anymore.”

    Uber and Lyft both declined to provide pay rates per mile and per minute for drivers. Drivers are not paid for time spent driving to pick up a passenger, nor for time spent idling waiting for a ride, although the companies’ model depends on having drivers ready to pick up passengers at any moment.

    Lyft said nationally drivers earn an average of $18.83 an hour, but did not provide Connecticut specific earnings.

    “Our goal has always been to empower drivers to get the most out of Lyft, and we look forward to continBy Emilie Munson Updated 4:49 pm EST, Monday, February 11, 2019uing to do so in Connecticut, and across the country," said Rich Power, public policy manager at Lyft.

    Uber discouraged lawmakers from considering the drivers’ proposal of capping the transportation companies’ cut of rider fares. Uber spokesman Harry Hartfield said the idea wouldn’t work because Uber no longer uses the “commission model” — that stopped about two years ago.

    “In order to make sure we can provide customers with an up-front price, driver fares are not tied to what the rider pays,” said Hartfield. “In fact, on many trips drivers actually make more money than the rider pays.”

    What the rider is pays to Uber is an estimated price, calculated before the ride starts, Hartfield explained, while the driver receives from Uber a fare that is calculated based on actual drive time and distance. Changing the model could make it hard to give customers up-front pricing and “lead to reduced price transparency,” Hartfield said. New York’s changes raised rates for riders.

    James Bhandary-Alexander, a New Haven Legal Assistance attorney who is working with the drivers, said Uber’s current pay model is “irrelevant to how drivers want to be paid for the work.”

    “The reason that drivers care is it seems fundamentally unfair that the rider is willing to pay or has paid $100 for the ride and the driver has only gotten $30 or $40 of that,” he said.

    Pursuing any of the three driver-pay proposals would bring Uber and Lyft lobbyists back to the Capitol, where they negotiated legislation spearheaded by Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, from 2015 to 2017.

    Scanlon said the companies eventually favored the bill passed in 2017, which, after some compromise, required drivers have insurance, limited “surge pricing,” mandated background checks for drivers, imposed a 25 cent tax collected by the state and stated passengers must be picked up and delivered anywhere without discrimination.

    “One of my biggest regrets about that bill, which I think is really good for consumers in Connecticut, is that we didn’t do anything to try to help the driver,” said Scanlon, who briefly drove for Uber.
    By Emilie Munson Updated 4:49 pm EST, Monday, February 11, 2019
    emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

    #USA #Uber #Connecticut #Mindestlohn #Klassenkampf

  • Beyond the Hype of Lab-Grown Diamonds
    https://earther.gizmodo.com/beyond-the-hype-of-lab-grown-diamonds-1834890351

    Billions of years ago when the world was still young, treasure began forming deep underground. As the edges of Earth’s tectonic plates plunged down into the upper mantle, bits of carbon, some likely hailing from long-dead life forms were melted and compressed into rigid lattices. Over millions of years, those lattices grew into the most durable, dazzling gems the planet had ever cooked up. And every so often, for reasons scientists still don’t fully understand, an eruption would send a stash of these stones rocketing to the surface inside a bubbly magma known as kimberlite.

    There, the diamonds would remain, nestled in the kimberlite volcanoes that delivered them from their fiery home, until humans evolved, learned of their existence, and began to dig them up.

    The epic origin of Earth’s diamonds has helped fuel a powerful marketing mythology around them: that they are objects of otherworldly strength and beauty; fitting symbols of eternal love. But while “diamonds are forever” may be the catchiest advertising slogan ever to bear some geologic truth, the supply of these stones in the Earth’s crust, in places we can readily reach them, is far from everlasting. And the scars we’ve inflicted on the land and ourselves in order to mine diamonds has cast a shadow that still lingers over the industry.

    Some diamond seekers, however, say we don’t need to scour the Earth any longer, because science now offers an alternative: diamonds grown in labs. These gems aren’t simulants or synthetic substitutes; they are optically, chemically, and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. They’re also cheaper, and in theory, limitless. The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has rocked the jewelry world to its core and prompted fierce pushback from diamond miners. Claims abound on both sides.

    Growers often say that their diamonds are sustainable and ethical; miners and their industry allies counter that only gems plucked from the Earth can be considered “real” or “precious.” Some of these assertions are subjective, others are supported only by sparse, self-reported, or industry-backed data. But that’s not stopping everyone from making them.

    This is a fight over image, and when it comes to diamonds, image is everything.
    A variety of cut, polished Ada Diamonds created in a lab, including smaller melee stones and large center stones. 22.94 carats total. (2.60 ct. pear, 2.01 ct. asscher, 2.23 ct. cushion, 3.01 ct. radiant, 1.74 ct. princess, 2.11 ct. emerald, 3.11 ct. heart, 3.00 ct. oval, 3.13 ct. round.)
    Image: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Same, but different

    The dream of lab-grown diamond dates back over a century. In 1911, science fiction author H.G. Wells described what would essentially become one of the key methods for making diamond—recreating the conditions inside Earth’s mantle on its surface—in his short story The Diamond Maker. As the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) notes, there were a handful of dubious attempts to create diamonds in labs in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the first commercial diamond production wouldn’t emerge until the mid-1950s, when scientists with General Electric worked out a method for creating small, brown stones. Others, including De Beers, soon developed their own methods for synthesizing the gems, and use of the lab-created diamond in industrial applications, from cutting tools to high power electronics, took off.

    According to the GIA’s James Shigley, the first experimental production of gem-quality diamond occurred in 1970. Yet by the early 2000s, gem-quality stones were still small, and often tinted yellow with impurities. It was only in the last five or so years that methods for growing diamonds advanced to the point that producers began churning out large, colorless stones consistently. That’s when the jewelry sector began to take a real interest.

    Today, that sector is taking off. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a trade group formed in 2016 by a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers, now has about 50 members, according to IGDA secretary general Dick Garard. When the IGDA first formed, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent about 1 percent of a $14 billion rough diamond market. This year, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market.

    He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in jewelry.
    “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not.”

    “This year some [factories] will come up from 100,000 gem-quality diamonds to one to two million,” Zimnisky said. “They already have the infrastructure and equipment in place” and are in the process of upgrading it. (About 150 million carats of diamonds were mined last year, according to a global analysis of the industry conducted by Bain & Company.)

    Production ramp-up aside, 2018 saw some other major developments across the industry. In the summer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reversed decades of guidance when it expanded the definition of a diamond to include those created in labs and dropped ‘synthetic’ as a recommended descriptor for lab-grown stones. The decision came on the heels of the world’s top diamond producer, De Beers, announcing the launch of its own lab-grown diamond line, Lightbox, after having once vowed never to sell man-made stones as jewelry.

    “I would say shock,” Lightbox Chief Marketing Officer Sally Morrison told Earther when asked how the jewelry world responded to the company’s launch.

    While the majority of lab-grown diamonds on the market today are what’s known as melee (less than 0.18 carats), the tech for producing the biggest, most dazzling diamonds continues to improve. In 2016, lab-grown diamond company MiaDonna announced its partners had grown a 6.28 carat gem-quality diamond, claimed to be the largest created in the U.S. to that point. In 2017, a lab in Augsburg University, Germany that grows diamonds for industrial and scientific research applications produced what is thought to be the largest lab-grown diamond ever—a 155 carat behemoth that stretches nearly 4 inches across. Not gem quality, perhaps, but still impressive.

    “If you compare it with the Queen’s diamond, hers is four times heavier, it’s clearer” physicist Matthias Schreck, who leads the group that grew that beast of a jewel, told me. “But in area, our diamond is bigger. We were very proud of this.”

    Diamonds can be created in one of two ways: Similar to how they form inside the Earth, or similar to how scientists speculate they might form in outer space.

    The older, Earth-inspired method is known as “high temperature high pressure” (HPHT), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. A carbon source, like graphite, is placed in a giant, mechanical press where, in the presence of a catalyst, it’s subjected to temperatures of around 1,600 degrees Celsius and pressures of 5-6 Gigapascals in order to form diamond. (If you’re curious what that sort of pressure feels like, the GIA describes it as similar to the force exerted if you tried to balance a commercial jet on your fingertip.)

    The newer method, called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), is more akin to how diamonds might form in interstellar gas clouds (for which we have indirect, spectroscopic evidence, according to Shigley). A hydrocarbon gas, like methane, is pumped into a low-pressure reactor vessel alongside hydrogen. While maintaining near-vacuum conditions, the gases are heated very hot—typically 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, according to Lightbox CEO Steve Coe—causing carbon atoms to break free of their molecular bonds. Under the right conditions, those liberated bits of carbon will settle out onto a substrate—typically a flat, square plate of a synthetic diamond produced with the HPHT method—forming layer upon layer of diamond.

    “It’s like snow falling on a table on your back porch,” Jason Payne, the founder and CEO of lab-grown diamond jewelry company Ada Diamonds, told me.

    Scientists have been forging gem-quality diamonds with HPHT for longer, but today, CVD has become the method of choice for those selling larger bridal stones. That’s in part because it’s easier to control impurities and make diamonds with very high clarity, according to Coe. Still, each method has its advantages—Payne said that HPHT is faster and the diamonds typically have better color (which is to say, less of it)—and some companies, like Ada, purchase stones grown in both ways.

    However they’re made, lab-grown diamonds have the same exceptional hardness, stiffness, and thermal conductivity as their Earth-mined counterparts. Cut, they can dazzle with the same brilliance and fire—a technical term to describe how well the diamond scatters light like a prism. The GIA even grades them according to the same 4Cs—cut, clarity, color, and carat—that gemologists use to assess diamonds formed in the Earth, although it uses a slightly different terminology to report the color and clarity grades for lab-grown stones.

    They’re so similar, in fact, that lab-grown diamond entering the larger diamond supply without any disclosures has become a major concern across the jewelry industry, particularly when it comes to melee stones from Asia. It’s something major retailers are now investing thousands of dollars in sophisticated detection equipment to suss out by searching for minute differences in, say, their crystal shape or for impurities like nitrogen (much less common in lab-grown diamond, according to Shigley).

    Those differences may be a lifeline for retailers hoping to weed out lab-grown diamonds, but for companies focused on them, they can become another selling point. The lack of nitrogen in diamonds produced with the CVD method, for instance, gives them an exceptional chemical purity that allows them to be classified as type IIa; a rare and coveted breed that accounts for just 2 percent of those found in nature. Meanwhile, the ability to control everything about the growth process allows companies like Lightbox to adjust the formula and produce incredibly rare blue and pink diamonds as part of their standard product line. (In fact, these colored gemstones have made up over half of the company’s sales since launch, according to Coe.)

    And while lab-grown diamonds boast the same sparkle as their Earthly counterparts, they do so at a significant discount. Zimnisky said that today, your typical one carat, medium quality diamond grown in a lab will sell for about $3,600, compared with $6,100 for its Earth-mined counterpart—a discount of about 40 percent. Two years ago, that discount was only 18 percent. And while the price drop has “slightly tapered off” as Zimnisky put it, he expects it will fall further thanks in part to the aforementioned ramp up in Chinese production, as well as technological improvements. (The market is also shifting in response to Lightbox, which De Beers is using to position lab-grown diamonds as mass produced items for fashion jewelry, and which is selling its stones, ungraded, at the controversial low price of $800 per carat—a discount of nearly 90 percent.)

    Zimnisky said that if the price falls too fast, it could devalue lab-grown diamonds in the eyes of consumers. But for now, at least, paying less seems to be a selling point. A 2018 consumer research survey by MVI Marketing found that most of those polled would choose a larger lab-grown diamond over a smaller mined diamond of the same price.

    “The thing [consumers] seem most compelled by is the ability to trade up in size and quality at the same price,” Garard of IGDA said.

    Still, for buyers and sellers alike, price is only part of the story. Many in the lab-grown diamond world market their product as an ethical or eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds.

    But those sales pitches aren’t without controversy.
    A variety of lab-grown diamond products arrayed on a desk at Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan. The stone in the upper left gets its blue color from boron. Diamonds tinted yellow (top center) usually get their color from small amounts of nitrogen.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Dazzling promises

    As Anna-Mieke Anderson tells it, she didn’t enter the diamond world to become a corporate tycoon. She did it to try and fix a mistake.

    In 1999, Anderson purchased herself a diamond. Some years later, in 2005, her father asked her where it came from. Nonplussed, she told him it came from the jewelry store. But that wasn’t what he was asking: He wanted to know where it really came from.

    “I actually had no idea,” Anderson told Earther. “That led me to do a mountain of research.”

    That research eventually led Anderson to conclude that she had likely bought a diamond mined under horrific conditions. She couldn’t be sure, because the certificate of purchase included no place of origin. But around the time of her purchase, civil wars funded by diamond mining were raging across Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, fueling “widespread devastation” as Global Witness put it in 2006. At the height of the diamond wars in the late ‘90s, the watchdog group estimates that as many as 15 percent of diamonds entering the market were conflict diamonds. Even those that weren’t actively fueling a war were often being mined in dirty, hazardous conditions; sometimes by children.

    “I couldn’t believe I’d bought into this,” Anderson said.

    To try and set things right, Anderson began sponsoring a boy living in a Liberian community impacted by the blood diamond trade. The experience was so eye-opening, she says, that she eventually felt compelled to sponsor more children. Selling conflict-free jewelry seemed like a fitting way to raise money to do so, but after a great deal more research, Anderson decided she couldn’t in good faith consider any diamond pulled from the Earth to be truly conflict-free in either the humanitarian or environmental sense. While diamond miners were, by the early 2000s, getting their gems certified “conflict free” according to the UN-backed Kimberley Process, the certification scheme’s definition of a conflict diamond—one sold by rebel groups to finance armed conflicts against governments—felt far too narrow.

    “That [conflict definition] eliminates anything to do with the environment, or eliminates a child mining it, or someone who was a slave, or beaten, or raped,” Anderson said.

    And so she started looking into science, and in 2007, launching MiaDonna as one of the world’s first lab-grown diamond jewelry companies. The business has been activism-oriented from the get-go, with at least five percent of its annual earnings—and more than 20 percent for the last three years—going into The Greener Diamond, Anderson’s charity foundation which has funded a wide range of projects, from training former child soldiers in Sierra Leone to grow food to sponsoring kids orphaned by the West African Ebola outbreak.

    MiaDonna isn’t the only company that positions itself as an ethical alternative to the traditional diamond industry. Brilliant Earth, which sells what it says are carefully-sourced mined and lab-created diamonds, also donates a small portion of its profits to supporting mining communities. Other lab-grown diamond companies market themselves as “ethical,” “conflict-free,” or “world positive.” Payne of Ada Diamonds sees, in lab-grown diamonds, not just shiny baubles, but a potential to improve medicine, clean up pollution, and advance society in countless other ways—and he thinks the growing interest in lab-grown diamond jewelry will help propel us toward that future.

    Others, however, say black-and-white characterizations when it comes to social impact of mined diamonds versus lab-grown stones are unfair. “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not,” Estelle Levin-Nally, founder and CEO of Levin Sources, which advocates for better governance in the mining sector, told Earther. “I think it’s always about your politics. And ethics are subjective.”

    Saleem Ali, an environmental researcher at the University of Delaware who serves on the board of the Diamonds and Development Initiative, agrees. He says the mining industry has, on the whole, worked hard to turn itself around since the height of the diamond wars and that governance is “much better today” than it used to be. Human rights watchdog Global Witness also says that “significant progress” has been made to curb the conflict diamond trade, although as Alice Harle, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness told Earther via email, diamonds do still fuel conflict, particularly in the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe.

    Most industry observers seems to agree that the Kimberley Process is outdated and inadequate, and that more work is needed to stamp out other abuses, including child labor and forced labor, in the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining sector. Today, large-scale mining operations don’t tend to see these kinds of problems, according to Julianne Kippenberg, associate director for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, but she notes that there may be other community impacts surrounding land rights and forced resettlement.

    The flip side, Ali and Levin-Nally say, is that well-regulated mining operations can be an important source of economic development and livelihood. Ali cites Botswana and Russia as prime examples of places where large-scale mining operations have become “major contributors to the economy.” Dmitry Amelkin, head of strategic projects and analytics for Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa, echoed that sentiment in an email to Earther, noting that diamonds transformed Botswana “from one of the poorest [countries] in the world to a middle-income country” with revenues from mining representing almost a third of its GDP.

    In May, a report commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), a trade organization representing the world’s largest diamond mining companies, estimated that worldwide, its members generate nearly $4 billion in direct revenue for employees and contractors, along with another $6.8 billion in benefits via “local procurement of goods and services.” DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr said this was a story diamond miners need to do a better job telling.

    “The industry has undergone such changes since the Blood Diamond movie,” he said, referring to the blockbuster 2006 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that drew global attention to the problem of conflict diamonds. “And yet people’s’ perceptions haven’t evolved. I think the main reason is we have not had a voice, we haven’t communicated.”

    But conflict and human rights abuses aren’t the only issues that have plagued the diamond industry. There’s also the lasting environmental impact of the mining itself. In the case of large-scale commercial mines, this typically entails using heavy machinery and explosives to bore deep into those kimberlite tubes in search of precious stones.

    Some, like Maya Koplyova, a geologist at the University of British Columbia who studies diamonds and the rocks they’re found in, see this as far better than many other forms of mining. “The environmental footprint is the fThere’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.” ootprint of digging the hole in the ground and crushing [the rock],” Koplyova said, noting that there’s no need to add strong acids or heavy metals like arsenic (used in gold mining) to liberate the gems.

    Still, those holes can be enormous. The Mir Mine, a now-abandoned open pit mine in Eastern Siberia, is so large—reportedly stretching 3,900 feet across and 1,700 feet deep—that the Russian government has declared it a no-fly zone owing to the pit’s ability to create dangerous air currents. It’s visible from space.

    While companies will often rehabilitate other land to offset the impact of mines, kimberlite mining itself typically leaves “a permanent dent in the earth’s surface,” as a 2014 report by market research company Frost & Sullivan put it.

    “It’s a huge impact as far as I’m concerned,” said Kevin Krajick, senior editor for science news at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who wrote a book on the discovery of diamonds in far northern Canada. Krajick noted that in remote mines, like those of the far north, it’s not just the physical hole to consider, but all the development required to reach a previously-untouched area, including roads and airstrips, roaring jets and diesel-powered trucks.

    Diamonds grown in factories clearly have a smaller physical footprint. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, they also use less water and create less waste. It’s for these reasons that Ali thinks diamond mining “will never be able to compete” with lab-grown diamonds from an environmental perspective.

    “The mining industry should not even by trying to do that,” he said.

    Of course, this is capitalism, so try to compete is exactly what the DPA is now doing. That same recent report that touted the mining industry’s economic benefits also asserts that mined diamonds have a carbon footprint three times lower than that of lab-grown diamonds, on average. The numbers behind that conclusion, however, don’t tell the full story.

    Growing diamonds does take considerable energy. The exact amount can vary greatly, however, depending on the specific nature of the growth process. These are details manufacturers are typically loathe to disclose, but Payne of Ada Diamonds says he estimates the most efficient players in the game today use about 250 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity per cut, polished carat of diamond; roughly what a U.S. household consumes in 9 days. Other estimates run higher. Citing unnamed sources, industry publication JCK Online reported that a modern HPHT run can use up to 700 kWh per carat, while CVD production can clock in north of 1,000 kWh per carat.

    Pulling these and several other public-record estimates, along with information on where in the world today’s lab diamonds are being grown and the energy mix powering the producer nations’ electric grids, the DPA-commissioned study estimated that your typical lab-grown diamond results in some 511 kg of carbon emissions per cut, polished carat. Using information provided by mining companies on fuel and electricity consumption, along with other greenhouse gas sources on the mine site, it found that the average mined carat was responsible for just 160 kg of carbon emissions.

    One limitation here is that the carbon footprint estimate for mining focused only on diamond production, not the years of work entailed in developing a mine. As Ali noted, developing a mine can take a lot of energy, particularly for those sited in remote locales where equipment needs to be hauled long distances by trucks or aircraft.

    There’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.”

    #dimants #Afrique #technologie #capitalisme

  • LE RECOURS AUX FORÊTS, UN APPEL

    On l’apprend par un article de Reporterre qu’il est important de faire circuler le plus largement possible : le gouvernement est en train d’organiser le démantèlement de l’Office national des forêts afin de confier leur gestion à des prédateurs privés. Après les télécommunications, les transports, l’eau, et j’en passe, l’un de nos biens communs les plus précieux est en voie d’être privatisé.

    C’est d’abord un drame humain : de 15 000 emplois à l’ONF en 1985, on est passé à 9000, dont un nombre croissant de contractuels. On sait aussi que le nouveau management mis en place dans cet établissement public est la cause de nombreux suicides, lire cet article de la CGT-Forêt qui nous alerte à ce sujet. Mais la gestion privée des forêts accentuera également la logique productiviste en cours : « L’Office national des forêts cherche à maximiser les profits. Il coupe de plus en plus de bois et délaisse la petite économie locale. Il se comporte comme une entreprise privée qui doit dégager des bénéfices ». Au bout du compte, la privatisation de l’ONF conduira à une déforestation importante du pays.

    Face à cette offensive libérale massive, que pouvons-nous faire ? À mon humble niveau, j’ai décidé de soutenir celles et ceux qui se battent actuellement à l’ONF pour sauver un service public des forêts. C’est aujourd’hui la beauté du monde qu’on veut saccager, et mon rapport avec les forêts (notamment du Morvan) est trop ancien pour que je puisse personnellement l’accepter.

    Le recours aux forêts est le nom d’un ouvrage que la Revue des ressources avait réalisé en 2004, j’y avais participé avec Rodolphe Christin, Serge Meitinger et Robin Hunzinger qui avait ensuite lancé un site internet du même nom.

    Il semble que le gouvernement souhaite profiter des vacances estivales pour régler ce dossier. Tout au long de l’été, nous continuerons donc à assurer une veille, ici même, concernant les initiatives locales et nationales qui seront prises pour empêcher le démantèlement de l’ONF. Mais étant donné le lien affectif et personnel de beaucoup d’entre nous avec l’univers de la forêt, je me suis dit qu’une forme de lutte pourrait consister à composer une bibliothèque forestière ouverte à toutes et tous.

    Chacun.e pourrait mettre en ligne des textes d’écrivains, de philosophes, de promeneurs, mais aussi des photos/vidéos évoquant la forêt, il suffirait ensuite de me communiquer le lien soit via le compte Twitter d’Œuvres ouvertes, soit par mail, pour que j’intègre la contribution au sommaire général de cette bibliothèque forestière. Chacun.e pourrait ainsi alerter sur son blog quant aux projets gouvernementaux tout en donnant à lire/voir une expérience de la forêt.

    Je commence donc avec un extrait de ce texte que j’ai publié dans Le Recours aux forêts, et où il est question d’une forme de résistance à l’oppresseur inventée jadis dans les forêts de Gaule.

    –-> à lire ici http://oeuvresouvertes.net/spip.php?article4113

  • LE RECOURS AUX FORÊTS !

    Pendant qu’on entretient la passion du foot, le pouvoir organise la privatisation des forêts. Lancer quelles actions de soutien au service public des forêts pour empêcher cela ?

    Lire l’article de Reporterre https://reporterre.net/Forets-publiques-l-Etat-reflechit-au-demantelement-de-l-ONF

    On se propose de lancer une veille sur les projets du gouvernement concernant l’ONF, de mettre en ligne de textes littéraires sur la forêt pendant l’été + infos sur des actions locales —> http://www.oeuvresouvertes.net dès les prochains jours

    Voir aussi

    https://www.larevuedesressources.org/-le-recours-aux-forets,038-.html

    espace de création et de réflexion créé avec l’ami Robin Hunzinger au début des années 2000.

  • De la nécessité d’abolir le système pénal : entretien avec Gwenola Ricordeau-Partie 1 et Partie 2
    « Abolir le système pénal ? La question parait absurde tant nous sommes conditionné.es à penser qu’une société sans prisons et sans police serait synonyme de chaos et d’arbitraire. Le système pénal produit pourtant quantité de souffrances, posant la question de sa nécessaire abolition. Gwenola Ricordeau, professeure en justice criminelle, aborde dans cette seconde partie les liens entre féminisme et abolitionnisme, le développement de formes de justice transformative et l’avenir des pratiques abolitionnistes en France. »
    http://www.etatdexception.net/abolir-le-systeme-penal-entretien-avec-gwenola-ricordeau-2eme-partie
    http://www.etatdexception.net/de-la-necessite-dabolir-le-systeme-penal-entretien-avec-gwenola-rico
    #justice #justice_pénale #justice_transformative #féminisme #abolition

  • Robert Reich : Hey Uber, the gig is up – Alternet.org
    https://www.alternet.org/2019/06/robert-reich-hey-uber-the-gig-is-up

    par Robert Reich, ancien ministre du travail sous Clinton

    Uber just filed its first quarterly report as a publicly traded company. Although it lost $1bn, investors may still do well because the losses appear to be declining.

    Uber drivers, on the other hand, aren’t doing well. According to a recent study, about half of New York’s Uber drivers are supporting families with children, yet 40% depend on Medicaid and another 18% on food stamps.

    It’s similar elsewhere in the new American economy. Last week, the New York Times reported that fewer than half of Google workers are full-time employees. Most are temps and contractors receiving a fraction of the wages and benefits of full-time Googlers, with no job security.

    Across America, the fastest-growing category of new jobs is gig work – contract, part-time, temp, self-employed and freelance. And a growing number of people work for staffing firms that find them gig jobs.

    The standard economic measures – unemployment and income – look better than Americans feel

    Estimates vary but it’s safe to say almost a quarter of American workers are now gig workers. Which helps explain why the standard economic measures – unemployment and income – look better than Americans feel.

    Gig workers are about 30% cheaper because companies pay them only when they need them, and don’t have to spend on the above-mentioned labor protections.

    Increasingly, businesses need only a small pool of “talent” anchored in the enterprise – innovators and strategists responsible for the firm’s competitive strength.

    Other workers are becoming fungible, sought only for reliability and low cost. So, in effect, economic risks are shifting to them.

    Gig work is making capitalism harsher. Unless government defines legitimate gig work more narrowly and provides stronger safety nets for gig workers, gig capitalism cannot endure.

    #Travail #Ubérisation #Uber #Gig_economy

  • L’idylle insolite de Donald Trump, artisan du « Muslim Ban » avec la dynastie wahhabite : 2/2
    https://www.madaniya.info/2019/06/06/lidylle-insolite-de-donald-trump-artisan-du-muslim-ban-avec-la-dynastie-w

    Un conseiller du prince héritier d’Abou Dhabi incuclpé aux Etats Unis pour détention de matériel pornographique.

    Coup dur pour la stratégie d’endiguement de l’Iran, un des missi dominici américain en direction de l’Arabie saoudite et des Emirats Arabes Unis, Georges Nader, homme d’affaires américain d’origine libanaise, a été inculpé pour détention de matériel pornographique.

    Son arrestation est intervenue le 4 juin 2019 une semaine après l’échec du triple sommet de la Mecque (islamique, arabe et Golfe), fin mai, et la décision de Benyamin Netanyahu d’organiser de nouvelles élections législatives israéliennes en septmebre, faute de pouvoir former un gouvernement. Deux echecs qui ont renvoyé aux calendes grecques le lancement de la transaction du siècle, conconctée sous l’égide de Jared Kusgner, le gendre présidentiel américain.

    Agé de 60 ans, Georges Nader a été conseiller du prince héritier d’Abou Dhabi, Mohamamd Ben Zayed et son chargé de mission auprès de l’équipe de campagne présidentielle de Donald Trump, en vue d’établir un partenariat privilégié entre les Emirats arabes Unis et les Etats Unis.

    L’intermédiaire libano américain avait entrepris des démarches similaires auprès d’Israël, la Russie et l’Arabie saoudite.

    Georges Nader avait été entendu par Robert Mueller chargé de l’enquête sur les interérecnes russes de la campagne présidentielle américaine.

    Objet d’une première interpellation en 1987, il a été arrêté le 4 juin 2019 à son arrivée à l’aéroport John F. Kennedy de New York, en vertu d’un mandat d’arrêt délivré en 2018, en raison du fait que « sur son portable, il conservait des photos de mineurs en position obscène ».

    • Un homme d’affaires américano-libanais arrêté à New York pour possession d’images pédopornographiques
      https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1173549/un-homme-daffaires-americano-libanais-arrete-a-new-york-pour-possessi

      M. Nader avait aidé à mettre en œuvre une rencontre, aux Seychelles en janvier 2017, entre Erik Prince, un partisan de M. Trump qui avait fondé la société de sécurité privée Blackwater, et un responsable russe proche de Vladimir Poutine, rappelle le Washington Post. « L’objet de cette rencontre a suscité un intérêt particulier de la part des enquêteur du procureur Mueller, et certaines questions restent sans réponse, même après la publication du rapport Mueller », ajoute le quotidien américain.

    • Mars 2018 : Les Emirats accusés d’influencer Trump : un homme d’affaires américano-libanais dans le collimateur
      https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1102941/les-emirats-accuses-dinfluencer-la-politique-etrangere-de-trump-un-ho

      Selon le quotidien, les enquêteurs de M. Mueller, qui mène l’enquête sur une possible collusion entre l’équipe du président Donald Trump et la Russie pendant la campagne présidentielle de 2016, ont interrogé M. Nader qui aurait tenté d’influencer la politique étrangère des Etats-Unis en faveur des Emirats, notamment en « donnant de l’argent en soutien à Trump durant la dernière campagne présidentielle ».

      L’Arabie saoudite et les Emirats arabes unis, de même que Bahreïn et l’Egypte, ont rompu en juin dernier leurs relations diplomatiques avec le Qatar, qu’ils accusent de promouvoir le terrorisme, ciblant aussi dans cette initiative l’Iran, ennemi juré de Riyad.

      Le New York Times cite le cas d’une relation de M. Nader, Eliott Broidy, un mécène de la campagne de Trump, très proche du Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu, qui a des centaines de millions de dollars de contrats avec la famille régnante émirati. M. Broidy a oeuvré ces derniers mois pour pousser l’administration Trump à se rapprocher des Emirats.

    • George Nader (businessman) - Wikipedia
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Nader_(businessman)

      Nader has been charged with multiple crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors, and convicted of several of them. A 1985 charge of receiving from the Netherlands films and magazines depicting pre and post-pubescent boys engaged in sexual acts, was dismissed due to an invalid search warrant.[18] A federal court in Virginia in 1991 gave him a six-month sentence on a felony charge of transporting from Germany, pornographic videotapes of boys about 13 or 14 years old.[18] Prosecutors agreed to put the case under seal “due to the extremely sensitive nature of Mr. Nader’s work in the Middle East.”[18]

      In 2003, he was convicted in Prague, Czech Republic for sexually abusing 10 boys, for which he served one year in prison.[1][18] A spokesperson of the court told press that the crimes occurred between 1999 and 2002. In one case, at his room in Hilton Prague Hotel, he requested oral sex from a 14-year-old boy and after he refused, Nader masturbated in front of him, paying him 2,000 koruna.[1]

      On June 3, 2019, Nader was arrested by federal agents for possession of child pornography as well as bestiality[19] and, for a second time, transportation of child pornography. These charges stemmed from his January 2018 questioning by FBI agents working on behalf of special counsel Robert Mueller, at which time child pornography was incidentally found on one of his three cell phones as agents inspected it pursuant to a warrant.[20][21] He was ordered to be held pending his extradition to Virginia.[22]

  • Reporters sans frontières : le crime paie Théophraste R. - 3 Juin 2019 - LGS
    https://www.legrandsoir.info/reporters-sans-frontieres-le-crime-paie.html

    Le 21 octobre 2000, le journaliste Jacques-Marie Bourget (1) se trouvait sur une place publique à Ramallah (Palestine). Tout était calme, les cafés étaient ouverts quand un tireur d’élite israélien «  non identifié  » lui a perforé le poumon d’une balle https://www.legrandsoir.info/macron-soutiendra-t-il-les-correspondants-de-guerre.html de son fusil d’assaut américain « M16 ». Alors même que le pronostic vital était engagé, il a fallu l’intervention personnelle de Jacques Chirac pour qu’Israël autorise l’évacuation du journaliste. La victime miraculée nous dira prochainement sur ce site tout ce qu’elle ne doit pas à Reporters sans Frontières.

    C’était hier, c’est encore aujourd’hui. Le 28 février 2019, une commission d’enquête https://news.un.org/fr/story/2019/02/1037422 indépendante de l’ONU a révélé que des tireurs d’élite israéliens tirent intentionnellement sur des journalistes (2).
    En novembre 2007, Maxime Vivas publiait un livre-enquête sur l’organisation Reporters sans Frontières et sur son secrétaire général Robert Ménard, alors intouchable et coqueluche des médias, toutes tendances confondues (Ménard fut invité à la fête de l’Huma). Mettant de côté son amour pour la liberté d’expression, le secrétaire général de RSF menaça à 4 reprises de traduire l’impertinent auteur devant un tribunal.

    Le 19 mai 2019, Christophe Deloire, actuel secrétaire général de Reporters sans frontières a reçu le prix de la « défense de la démocratie » https://www.legrandsoir.info/reporters-sans-frontieres-recoit-le-prix-du-regime-assassin-de-journal (sic) lors d’une cérémonie à Tel Aviv en présence du président israélien Reuven Rivlin.

    Théophraste R. Auteur du proverbe : «  RSF est à la liberté d’expression ce que Monsanto est à l’écologie, Ségolène Royal au socialisme et BHL à la philosophie  ».

    (1) Grand reporter et écrivain, Jacques-Marie Bourget a publié 95 articles sur le site d’information alternative Le Grand Soir. Il a commencé sa carrière chez Gallimard à la NRF puis il a enchaîné à l’ORTF, l’Aurore, le Canard Enchainé, l’Express, VSD, le Sunday Times, Paris-Match et Bakchich. En 1986 a obtenu le Prix Scoop pour avoir révélé l’affaire Greenpeace.

    (2) Gaza 2018 : «  La Commission a constaté que les forces de sécurité israéliennes avaient tué 183 […] manifestants avec des balles réelles, dont 35 enfants, trois ambulanciers paramédicaux et deux des journalistes, clairement identifiés.  »

    #crimes_de_guerre #israel #israël #gaza #occupation #colonisation #rsf #reporters_sans_frontières #robert_ménard #christophe_deloire

  • Le marché du steak caché
    https://www.latribune.fr/opinions/tribunes/le-marche-du-steak-cache-818971.html


    Reuters

    Quand La Tribune se met à faire des jeux de mots à la Libé

    Le marché de la viande pourrait être bouleversé par l’arrivée des substituts aux produits carnés avec la culture de cellules animales réalisée en labo- ratoire. Pour cause, ce nouveau procédé intéresse désormais le secteur agroalimentaire et les experts qui estiment qu’il pourrait se tailler, dans les dix prochaines années, une part de 10 % du marché mondial de la viande pour un montant de 140 milliards de dollars. Par Robert Jules, directeur adjoint de la rédaction.

    L’une des avancées les plus spectaculaires à laquelle on pourrait assister dans les prochaines décennies porte sur l’alimentation. Ainsi, la viande consommée à travers le monde pourrait ne plus provenir seulement d’animaux mais aussi de culture de cellules animales réalisée en laboratoire. Considérée comme une lubie pour vegan jusqu’à peu, ce nouveau procédé intéresse désormais le secteur agroalimentaire ainsi que les investisseurs. Signe de cet intérêt, la banque britannique Barclays analyse dans une étude de 100 pages les perspectives de ce marché de la « #viande_alternative ». Ses experts estiment qu’il pourrait se tailler dans les dix prochaines années une part de 10 % du marché mondial de la viande, pour un montant de 140 milliards de dollars. Aujourd’hui, il est possible de goûter des steaks hachés, des saucisses ou encore des hamburgers de viande de culture sans que le consommateur n’y voie de différence.

    • Ça complète bien le très bon bouquin de Paul Ariès, « lettre ouverte aux mangeurs de viandes qui souhaitent le rester sans culpabiliser ». Agressif à l’encontre des végans certes, mais quand on voit quels « cocos » se cachent parfois derrière cette étiquette, un petit livre « coup de pied au cul » me semble bien mérité !

  • Les États-Unis risquent de perdre leur statut de pays ayant éliminé la rougeole Afp à Washintown - 30 Mai 2019 - Le Devoir
    https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/sante/555680/les-etats-unis-risquent-de-perdre-leur-statut-de-pays-ayant-elimine-la-rou

    Le nombre de cas de rougeole aux États-Unis a atteint son plus haut niveau en 25 ans, et le pays pourrait « perdre son statut d’élimination de la rougeole » si l’épidémie se poursuivait au-delà de l’été, ont prévenu jeudi les autorités sanitaires américaines.

    Le nombre de malades depuis le début 2019 a atteint 971 jeudi, selon les Centres de contrôle et de prévention des maladies (CDC), un record depuis les 963 cas enregistrés sur toute l’année 1994.

    En 2000, la rougeole a été déclarée « éliminée » aux États-Unis, un but qui avait été fixé en 1963 avec le début de la vaccination. Ce terme correspond à l’absence de transmission continue pendant 12 mois dans une zone géographique particulière (le terme d’« éradication » correspond à une élimination sur toute la planète).


    Dans le cas présent, c’est l’épidémie persistante de la région new-yorkaise qui alarme les autorités. Elle a commencé officiellement à New York le 30 septembre 2018, et dans le comté voisin de Rockland le 1er octobre. Si elle continuait pendant encore quatre mois, selon cette convention, les États-Unis ne pourront plus dire qu’ils ont « éliminé » la maladie.

    Malgré la vaccination obligatoire décrétée par le maire de New York début avril dans les quartiers de la communauté juive les plus touchés, la ville a eu 173 cas en avril et 60 en mai.

    En pratique, les États-Unis ne sont jamais descendus à zéro cas. Depuis 2000, le nombre de cas oscillait entre quelques dizaines et quelques centaines par an, le maximum étant de 667 malades en 2014, une épidémie qui était alors concentrée pour plus de la moitié dans des communautés amish de l’Ohio (nord).

    La résurgence de foyers est principalement due à des voyageurs non-vaccinés ou sous-vaccinés contaminés à l’étranger et revenant aux États-Unis. C’est le cas depuis l’an dernier dans diverses régions des États-Unis, avec des souches importées notamment des Philippines, d’Israël et d’Ukraine.

    « Le seul moyen de mettre fin à l’épidémie est que tous les enfants et adultes qui peuvent être vaccinés le soient », a déclaré Robert Redfield, le directeur des CDC. « Je veux rassurer à nouveau les parents et leur dire que les vaccins sont sûrs, ils ne causent pas l’autisme. Le danger plus grave est la maladie que la vaccination prévient ».

    #santé #rougeole #vaccination #vaccins #vaccin #maladie #religion #ultra-orthodoxes #ultra-orthodoxe #israel #religieux #Philippines #Ukraine

  • La capitale du bruit
    https://www.nova-cinema.org/prog/2019/172-folk-on-film/varia/article/la-capitale-du-bruit

    Rock Brenner, Arnaud Delecrin & Stéphane Bernard, 2017, FR, video, VO FR ,95’

    Depuis 2012, un certain Robert photographie et filme les fêtards Strasbourgeois à leur insu et publie leur image sur sa page internet « Je suis Robert » dans le but de dénoncer les nuisances sonores nocturnes du centre-ville. Deux réalisateurs amateurs vont à sa rencontre pour essayer de comprendre sa démarche… Inspiré à la fois par des films comme « Waiting for Guffman » ou « C’est arrivé près de chez vous », mais surtout par la découverte d’une association strasbourgeoise montrant sur YouTube des personnes éméchées dans les rues du centre de Strasbourg, en train de vomir ou de s’embrouiller, « La capitale du bruit » est au départ un projet de court métrage, autoproduit avec de petits moyens, (...)

  • Bad loans were killing the taxi industry long before Uber and Lyft: report
    https://nypost.com/2019/05/19/bad-loans-were-killing-the-taxi-industry-long-before-uber-and-lyft-report

    The financial woes of the city taxi market may not be entirely the fault of ride-hailing companies — the industry was a house of cards waiting to collapse, a report says.

    An investigation by the New York Times Sunday put the blame on industry leaders who artificially inflated taxi medallions costs fivefold over 12 years and created a massively profitable loan market built on questionable lending practices similar to those at the center of the housing crash.

    In 2013, a taxi medallion fetched $1.3 million, but by last year, the market had plunged and medallions were selling for less than $250,000.

    While much of the decline in value can be attributed to the flood of Uber and Lyft drivers, the report says exploitative loans, hundreds of which were interest-only, strapped drivers, often immigrants and unclear on the terms, with hefty monthly costs.

    The report says some loan costs became so steep, there weren’t enough hours in a week to drive to make a profit and eventually, all of their monthly fares went to pay the loans.

    When the market bottomed out in 2014, the head of the Progressive Credit Union, Robert Familan, made nearly $35 million from his medallion loan non-profit company.

    Employees were encouraged to give out shaky loans with bonuses and trips, the report says.

    The lenders denied any wrongdoing and the former chairwoman of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said it wasn’t the commission’s job to regulate the lending, the report says.

    But Meera Joshi did tell the paper “lots of people just watched it happen.”

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html


    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Video
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • « Enquête russe » : le procureur Robert Mueller contredit Donald Trump
    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/05/29/enquete-russe-pour-le-procureur-mueller-inculper-trump-n-etait-pas-une-optio

    Les attentes les plus grandes portaient sur les soupçons d’obstruction dont aurait pu se rendre coupable le président des Etats-Unis. Dans sa note publiée le 24 mars, et qui avait contribué à dessein à donner l’image d’un rapport exonérant complètement Donald Trump, William Barr avait été obligé de préciser que le procureur spécial n’avait pas conclu sur ce point. Robert Mueller s’est montré plus explicite mercredi en expliquant, comme le disait déjà le rapport, que ce sont les directives du ministère de la justice, et non l’absence de preuves, qui l’ont empêché de tirer la moindre conclusion de ses travaux.

  • Procrastination nocturne 2. Quand tu t’endors crevé super tôt sans même l’avoir voulu, toute lumière allumée et que tu te réveilles à 1h35 la lampe dans la gueule…
    Après : https://seenthis.net/messages/753114

    Je me lève pour tout éteindre et me changer, j’envoie un message à mon amoureuse pour dire que je n’avais pas vu son mot vu que je m’étais endormi et…

    Du coup, devant l’ordi, je tombe sur l’onglet ouvert pour plus tard avec la préface par Robert Kurz au Debord d’Anselm Jappe
    https://seenthis.net/messages/782666
    http://www.palim-psao.fr/2019/05/la-societe-du-spectacle-trente-ans-plus-tard.par-robert-kurz-preface-a-l-

    Ce n’est pas très long, donc je me mets à la lire. Puis je suis un lien vers un article de Jappe de l’année dernière que j’avais déjà lu et épinglé :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/690117
    http://www.palim-psao.fr/2018/04/guy-debord.plus-que-jamais-en-situation-par-anselm-jappe-paru-dans-le-nou

    À partir de là, c’est foutu.

    Je me mets à relire sa fiche WP, pour lire des choses sur son suicide :
    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Debord
    https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/from-being-to-nothingness-1524917.html

    Je retombe sur cet article sur le livre à charge d’Apostolidès :
    https://next.liberation.fr/livres/2015/12/23/guy-debord-satiete-du-spectacle_1422654
    que @supergeante avait épinglé à l’époque :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/442991

    Du coup ça m’amène à lire sur Alice Becker-Ho et « l’affaire Riesel »
    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Becker-Ho
    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Riesel

    Là je cherche des photos d’eux tous, et je retombe sur… le journal pro-situ américain Not Bored qui contient de nombreuses correspondances de Debord traduites en anglais et disponibles sur le web. Comme je n’ai pas les livres, pour résumer, je me plonge dedans et je passe plus de 3h à lire des lettres de Debord en pleine nuit.
    http://notbored.org/debord.html

    Je ne me rappelle plus trop dans quel ordre ça s’est passé : est-ce que j’ai d’abord cherché les mots de Debord sur Jappe, puis je suis retombé sur le conflit avec René Riesel, ou bien était-ce l’inverse ?…

    Le dernier mot de Debord sur Jappe est dans une lettre pour Makoto Kinoshita :
    http://notbored.org/debord-5April1994.html

    Dis moi si un de tes amis sait lire italien. Dans ce cas, je t’enverrais un livre d’Anselm Jappe (Debord, Edizioni Tracce, Pescara). C’est sans aucun doute le livre le mieux informé sur moi, écrit par un Allemand qui assume explicitement un point de vue Hegeliano-Marxiste.

    Mais on trouve donc aussi des choses sur « l’affaire Riesel ». À commencer par sa lettre de rupture définitive à Riesel, où en goujat sans pincettes, il traite sa femme de misérable conne et de vache :
    http://notbored.org/debord-7September1971.html

    À l’inverse dans une autre lettre il s’explique très en détail sur une autre relation libertine de son couple avec Eve et Jean-Marc :
    http://notbored.org/debord-2October1971.html
    Le point commun étant qu’il haïssait absolument le mensonge (Apostolidès dit qu’il mentait et manipulait lui-même mais je n’ai pas lu de témoignage ailleurs, qu’il était excluant, violent, etc oui, mais pas menteur et Sanguinetti dit le contraire alors qu’Apostolidès est censé s’être basé sur ses sources justement). Et que donc toute relation amoureuse et/ou sexuelle doit toujours se faire sans jamais mentir à personne (y compris pendant l’acte, ce qui est le point qui a énervé Alice avec la femme de Riesel).

    Toujours autour des mêmes gens, je tombe aussi sur un article de Bourseiller, qui au milieu de notes sur Debord et le libertinage, détaille la vie de l’écrivain et pornographe Alexander Trocchi plus que sa fiche Wikipédia. À n’en pas douter c’était un aventurier… et une grosse merde qui a prostitué sa femme enceinte (et pas qu’un peu) pour se payer de l’héroine, et moult autre.
    http://christophebourseiller.fr/blog/2017/03/transgresser-ou-disparaitre-les-situationnistes-a-lepreuve-de-

    Bon, ça a dérivé (haha) et j’avoue sans mal qu’il doit y avoir du voyeurisme à être parti dans tout ça. Je préfère généralement rester sur le contenu lui-même, comme le fait très bien le livre de Jappe justement. Mais je garde toujours en tête que les idées doivent être pratiquées au quotidien, donc il y a quand même un intérêt à savoir la vie réelle des gens (et c’était très exactement le crédo principal de Debord et tous les situs, et justement lui pensait être assez en accord avec ce qu’il disait).

    Et là, il était 5h45. Et le réveil à 7h.

    #procrastination #sérendipité #Debord #Guy_Debord #Alice_Becker-Ho #René_Riesel #situationniste #internationale_situationniste #nuit #sommeil #Robert_Kurz #Anselm_Jappe #théorie_critique #libertinage #Alexander_Trocchi #Christophe_Bourseiller #Jean-Marie_Apostolidès et #dérive !!

  • La société du Spectacle trente ans plus tard..., par Robert Kurz (préface à l’édition brésilienne du Guy Debord d’Anselm Jappe)
    http://www.palim-psao.fr/2019/05/la-societe-du-spectacle-trente-ans-plus-tard.par-robert-kurz-preface-a-l-

    Le mérite du livre de Jappe est de souligner l’importance décisive de la critique radicale de l’économie moderne dans la pensée de Debord. Cette critique est encore en déshérence, malgré tous les appels lancés aux situationnistes par l’esprit du temps actuel. Quel adepte des « discours » désarmés de la critique économique contemporaine voudrait rappeler que l’intervention situationniste de 1968 a abouti à la revendication de l’extinction de l’argent et de l’Etat ? C’est cette critique radicale de la valeur de l’échange, qui vient du Marx ésotérique, qui va devenir la critique de la « société du Spectacle ». La réduction de la réalité à la fin en soi de la valorisation capitaliste de la valeur - l’inversion interne entre l’abstrait et le concret, entre le moyen et la fin - transforme les potentialités sociales en une puissance étrangère et hostile qui s’oppose aux individus. Les relations entre les êtres humains semblent des relations entre des choses mortes. Debord veut ainsi montrer comment la relation fétichiste mise en place par le capital a atteint un degré d’abstraction encore plus grand dans l’après-guerre, dans la mesure où les choses produites sous forme de marchandises étaient couvertes par des images produites aussi sous forme de marchandises. Ces images médient, depuis, les relations sociales comme réalité compensatoire apparente ; elles sont devant les individus en tant que forme d’isolement des forces sociales qu’elles ont intégrées. Il ne s’agit pas d’une « théorie des médias », mais d’une critique irrécupérable par le capitalisme de l’ère des médias - le spectacle n’est autre que « l’économie folle ».

    #Debord #Guy_Debord #Anselm_Jappe #Robert_Kurz #critique #théorie_critique #Marx #situationniste #société_du_spectacle

  • Folk in French #2
    https://www.nova-cinema.org/prog/2019/172-folk-on-film/folk-on-film/article/folk-in-french-2-21441

    •+ Conférence musicale de Guillaume Veillet Il y a 10 ans paraissait le coffret de 10 CD « France, une anthologie des musiques traditionnelles » (Frémeaux & Associés). Guillaume Veillet, ancien rédac chef à Trad Magazine, venait de frapper un grand coup, il ravissait les amateurs avec cette première du genre dans l’espace francophone. C’était le patrimoine de France continentale mais aussi corse, wallon, québécois, acadien, martiniquais, guadeloupéen qui était mis en valeur à travers plus de 300 collectages, réalisés entre 1900 et 2009, dont certains par Veillet lui-même. Son ami Robert Crumb, également collectionneur de vieux disques 78-tours, en particulier de musette, s’est attelé à la pochette avec ce superbe dessin de vielleux, dans la lignée de ses portraits de bluesmen/women. Depuis (...)