Tuesday , January 22 2019
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Yves Smith



Articles by Yves Smith

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink Tells Corporate CEOs to Engage in Better Eyewash

1 day ago

One of the sorry spectacles of modern life is having prominent individuals who profit from and serve as prime exemplars of major social ills trying to depict themselves as part of the solution, when they haven’t gone through any sort of Damascene conversion o give their virtue-signalling even a thin veneer of legitimacy.
Today’s object lesson is Larry Fink, the Chairman and CEO of the ginormous fund manager BlackRock (not to be confused with the private equity/alternative asset manager Blackstone). BlackRock, with $6.2 trillion under management as of October, 2018, is the largest asset manager in the world,.
Fink became a big cheerleader of sustainability in early 2018, which makes him awfully late to this party; “environment, social, and governance” has been an investment fad for well

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3 Ways Trump Could Disrupt Health Care for the Better

1 day ago

Yves here. Recall that in his post on his French health care and magical snotty snails, Michael Olenick mentioned in passing that pharmacists in France can prescribe medications for routine ailments, unlike their US counterparts.
I would not be that keen about the “let patients shop better” were it not for the appalling opacity of medical service prices, particularly for operations. It isn’t just that doctors and hospitals should be required to show what their services cost, they should be required to adhere to them. No bait and switch.
But as I am sure readers will point out, these are not disruptions but changes at the margin. The fee for service model, with insurers adding costs, needs to go.
By Peter Hilsenrath, Joseph M. Long Chair in Healthcare Management & Professor of Economics,

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Links 1/19/19

3 days ago

Australia swelters in record temperatures with warmest ever night New Scientist (David L)
Rent-a-sister: Coaxing Japan’s young men out of their rooms BBC
Apophis asteroid could strike Earth in 2068, warn Russian scientists RT (chuck419)
Why Is All of New Zealand Obsessed With This Drunken, Littering, Rowdy Tourist Family? Slate (Lance N). This account makes clear they were more destructive than just littering: Rowdy tourists: Group served deportation notice, may be banned from New Zealand for 5 years
Mexico explosion: at least 20 killed after burst pipeline ignites Guardian
RTÉ to make climate-change programming ‘a priority’ Irish Times (martha r)
Climate change is affecting health now. Our leaders must take action STAT (martha r)
China?
U.S. Preparing Trump Order to Restrict Chinese

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Trump’s Space Force: Nuclear Lunacy

3 days ago

Yves here. I’m old enough to remember Reagan’s much-touted “Star Wars” program. In this Real News Network segment, Daniel Ellsberg explains why Trump’s effort to revive Reagan’s failed idea still won’t work. Not only is it another pork program, but it would actually increase the odds of nuclear war.

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
Behind me is a graphic from a soon-to-be coming to your TV set Netflix series called Space Force. It’s a parody of what Donald Trump has proposed, to have a special unit of the armed forces that will be in space and firing weapons, and sensors, and supposedly defend America from missile attacks. It would all be rather funny and deserves a parody, if it wasn’t such dangerous lunacy.
Ronald Reagan first proposed a space wars scheme in the

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The Planetary Health Diet Isn’t Much Use to People Living in Food Poverty

3 days ago

Yves here. Mass market food producers have not been good actors in promoting a healthy diet. Among other things, adding sugar to products makes them taste better and “snacks, drinks, and processed foods that are high in sugar have the highest profit margins.”
By Anya Pearson, a freelance journalist and editor, and guitarist in feminist punk band Dream Nails. Originally published at openDemocracy

Picture: Images of meals used in the Planetary Health Diet report.

The ‘planetary health diet’ was announced yesterday by an international commission established to prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change. But for the 5 million people in the UK who are estimated to be malnourished or at risk of becoming so, the high cost of this earth-friendly diet will be out of this world.

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Brexit: Blame It on the Banking Crisis

4 days ago

Yves here. This post on Brexit reminds me of Tom Ferguson’s district-by-district analysis of the special Senate election in 2010 after Ted Kennedy died, where the win by Republican Scott Brown meant the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a fact the Obama Administration used for meeting the Republicans more than half way. Ferguson demonstrated that level of vote for Brown was highly correlated with foreclosures, a crisis the Obama Administration had largely ignored.
By Nicholas Crafts, Professor of Economics and Economic History at the University of Warwick. Originally published at VoxEU
Brexit in 2019 and the banking crisis in 2007 to 2009 are usually seen as unrelated events. This column argues that they are in fact closely connected. The austerity policies

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Links 1/18/19

4 days ago

Dear patient readers,
Again, abject apologies, but as we explain in a post that is already up, we are cancelling our NYC meetup that had been set for this Friday, the 18th. However, Some readers said they will still go to the venue, Slainte, at 304 Bowery, informally, starting at 5:00 PM. Normally I would come out, but I am still feeling very crappy, so I hope you all have a splendid time! Wish I were up to being there.
Buddhist poker player donates $600,000 win to charity BBC (David L)
News photographer saves drowning woman during storm The Hill
Tropical rainforests have a soundtrack. Recording it may save them. Quartz
The Government’s Secret UFO Program Funded Research on Wormholes and Extra Dimensions Motherboard (David L)
Last call: Climate change will destroy beer as we know it,

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How Teacher Strikes Are Exposing the Corrupt Charter School Agenda

4 days ago

By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. Produced by Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

This week, Republican lawmakers held a press conference on Capitol Hill to kick off National School Choice Week, an annual event that began in 2011 under President Obama who proclaimed it as a time to “recognize the

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France’s Great Debate

4 days ago

Yves here. Wowsers, does Macron not know basic French history? The last time a ruler asked la toute France for its opinion about the problems of the day, the situation developed not necessarily to his advantage. From Wikipedia:
The Cahiers de doléances (or simply Cahiers as they were often known) were the lists of grievances drawn up by each of the three Estates in France, between March and April 1789, the year in which a revolutionary situation began. Their compilation was ordered by King Louis XVI, to give each of the Estates – the First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the nobility) and the Third Estate, which consisted of everyone else, including the urban working class, the rural peasantry, and middle class and professional people, who were the only ones in the group likely to

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Ray Dalio: Capitalism Isn’t Working

4 days ago

By Chris Becker. Originally published at MacroBusiness
It’s always interesting to hear mega-capitalists complain about the very system that provides them opportunity to turn their talents into Scrooge McDuck size piles of cash. Furthermore, it’s usually the most successful that have the most liberal of views and Ray Dalio, head of hedge fund Bridgewater, has weighed in again.
From CNBC:
“Capitalism basically is not working for the majority of people. That’s just the reality,” Dalio said at the 2018 Summit conference in Los Angelesin November. Monday, Dalio tweeted a video of his Summit talk.
“Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of the population’s net worth is equal to the bottom 90 percent combined. In other words, a big giant wealth gap. That was the same — last time that happened was

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French School Lunch

5 days ago

Continuing our theme of why the gilet jaunes are on the street….they know France had a good thing and they want it back, or at least as much as they can get it back. And they know Macron getting rid of the wealth tax is proof of his neoliberal/favor the rich intentions. And rather than wrinkle our noses at the French tendency to go to the barricades, we might instead have a look at some of the mainstays of French life.
As Michael Olenick said by e-mail:
They added a new feature to the online school grade system, the lunch menu.
This is a French public school — government-run. Compare it to Trump serving burgers and fries at the White House. It’s not cherry-picked: it’s this week’s lunch menu for the middle-school.
Granted, any food sounds a lot better in French than English but this seems

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Links 1/17/19

5 days ago

Delivery Man Spots Strange Black Pile In Middle Of Snowstorm The Dodo (David L)
Future of coffee in doubt as 60 per cent of plants now at risk of extinction Telegraph (David L)
Key West Moves To Ban Sunscreens That Could Damage Reefs Miami Herald
Watch: Massive, Moving Ice Disk Takes Center Stage, Mesmerizing Maine NPR (David L)
Swiss Scientists Have Trained Their Dog-Like Robot to Better Fend Off Its Human Oppressors Gizmodo. Kevin W: “With very disturbing gif videos.”
Nothing Can Stop Google. DuckDuckGo Is Trying Anyway.Medium (Glenn F)
Bacteria In Worms Make A Mosquito Repellent That Might Beat DEET NPR (David L)
The diet to save lives, the planet and feed us all? BBC. See also EAT-Lancet diet (PlutoniumKun)
Man self-injected own semen to ‘treat’ back pain RTE (PlutoniumKun)
China?

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Brexit: Chasing Their Tails

5 days ago

Despite the high drama of the last two days, much less has changed on HMS Brexit than ought to have. For instance, even though the catastrophic defeat of May’s Withdrawal Agreement should have led the Prime Minister to get serious about a Plan B, it’s not evident that she’s unveil anything next Monday other than a reheated Plan A: go back to the EU for more concessions theater.
Update 6:50 AM: Normally updates to posts go at the end, but this is such a stunner I am putting it at the top and not restructuring the post due to the hour. May has brass balls. Despite her claim that she is not trying to run out the clock, her actions speak louder than words.
I knew something was afoot when May pressed Corbyn to lodge his no-confidence motion and immediately said if she survived it, she’d comply

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GoFundMe CEO: ‘Gigantic Gaps’ In Health System Showing Up In Crowdfunding

5 days ago

By Rachel Bluth, Reporter for Kaiser Health News and Peggy Girshman Fellow. She was previously the lead political correspondent for the Annapolis Bureau of Capital News Service and has also written for the Maryland Reporter and the Prince George’s Sentinel. Originally published at Kaiser Health News
Scrolling through the GoFundMe website reveals seemingly an endless number of people who need help or community support. A common theme: the cost of health care.
It didn’t start out this way. Back in 2010, when the crowdfunding website began, it suggested fundraisers for “ideas and dreams,” “wedding donations and honeymoon registry” or “special occasions.” A spokeswoman said the bulk of collection efforts from the first year were “related to charities and foundations.” A category for medical

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Repeating the Mistakes of 1914?

5 days ago

Yves here. This fine post is a little light on the economic backdrop to 1914 and World War I. Save some short affairs like the War of 1870, Europe enjoyed nearly 100 years of peace, only to have it usher in the unprecedented conflagration of the Great War. One reason for the long period of quiescence was that the mastermind of the 1815 Treaty of Vienna, Talleyrand, had given top priority in negotiations over how various territories were to be ruled, of securing a lasting peace. Another factor was that the rise of the liberal order, powered by the Industrial Revolution that Karl Polanyi described in The Great Transformation, was producing enough in the way of improvements in apparent domestic prosperity so as to reduce the attractiveness of war. Moreover, to the extent that the British and

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Micheal Olenick: Helicidine – French Miracle Snails

6 days ago

Yves here. If anyone takes up this idea, please remember Naked Capitalism (as in at least send me some of the stuff)! Remember, the US bars reimportation, as in ordering US drugs via Canada. Importing foreign drugs doesn’t fall into that category (so personal use is fine, getting approval for commercial resale is probably not trivial unless you go the dietary supplement route and don’t make medical claims).
By Michael Olenick, a research fellow at INSEAD who writes regularly at Olen on Economics
Over the break Santa brought me an unwanted present, a cold that turned into a cough which wouldn’t go away. Fearing the worst, and annoying my co-workers back in the office, I was finally convinced to see my French doctor.
“Bronchitis,” he said.
“Don’t you need to run some tests,” I asked?

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Links 1/16/19

6 days ago

Dear patient readers,
So so sorry, but as we explain in a post that is already up, we announced that cancelling our NYC meetup that had been set for this Friday, the 18th. Some readers said they will still go to the venue, Slainte, at 304 Bowery, informally. Normally I would come out, but I haven’t left the house for days except to go to the drugstore to try to get some OTC relief from the flu.
World’s ‘loneliest’ frog gets a date BBC (David L)
‘Bin Laden’ the giraffe moved from Dusit to Khao Khiao Open Zoo The Nation (furzy)
Plantwatch: is sphagnum the most underrated plant on Earth? Guardian (David L)
Taking an elevator into space could actually happen. Here’s how New Scientist (Dr. Kevin)
This Part Of Antarctica Was Not Supposed To Be Shrinking Gizmodo (Kevin W)
Groundbreaking deal

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Brexit: Chaos

6 days ago

In November, we said that Brexit look destined to produce a state change, when so much energy had been pumped into the system that it became chaotic, like water becoming steam.
The jaw-dropping 230 vote magnitude of the defeat of May’s Withdrawal Agreement was worse than even the pessimistic score-keepers expected. This was a Napoleon-goes-to-Moscow level defeat, the worst loss a Government has ever suffered on a major vote.
Despite this epic defeat, May is expected to survive a no-confidence vote today, which she pressed the opposition to lodge. It was the one fillip she could get. The Tories aren’t about to hand power to Labour and the DUP will vote with them. But the spectacle of a complete failure as a leader still soldiering on is without precedent in the UK.
The UK is in the midst of

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What Truck Drivers Say about “Driver Shortage” & Pay Increases

6 days ago

Yves here. Of course, one then wonders how many of the other worker shortage stories are exaggerated. And remember that profits have been at record levels as a percentage of GDP, so the idea that most companies can’t pay more is spurious.
By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street
For the majority, pay has remained flat or has fallen over the past year.
The trucking industry is reverberating with claims that there is a massive driver shortage, that they have trouble recruiting and retaining drivers, and that they have to pay more to recruit and retain them. So here’s what truck drivers are saying.
How much has your salary increased in the past year?
This

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The Shutdown Will Harm the Health and Safety of Americans, Even After It’s Long Ove

6 days ago

By Morten Wendelbo, Research Fellow, American University School of Public Affairs. Originally published at The Conversation

With the U.S. federal government shutdown now the longest in history, it’s important to understand what a shutdown means for the health and safety of Americans.
The good news is that in the short run, the consequences are relatively few. But, as a researcher who studies natural disaster planning, I believe that Americans should be worried about the federal government’s long-term ability to ensure good public health and protect the public from disasters.
As the shutdown draws on, it increasingly weakens the government’s ability to protect Americans down the road, long after federal workers are allowed to go back to work. Many of these effects are largely invisible and

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Links 1/15/19

7 days ago

Dear patient readers,
So so sorry, but as we explain in a post that is already up, we are cancelling our NYC meetup that had been set for this Friday, the 18th. I hate to belabor the issue, but I want to make sure that no one who saw the earlier notices winds up turning up. Apologies to those of you who were looking forward to this event, but it didn’t come together.
Stowaway bird causes chaos in business class during 14 hour flight to London Telegraph
Solar Farms Shine a Ray of Hope on Bees and Butterflies Scientific American (Chuck L)
Alaska officials probing BP oil, gas wells at Prudhoe Bay after spill Reuters
The Super-Secure Quantum Cable Hiding In the Holland Tunnel Bloomberg
The single action you can take to reduce plastic waste in a major way without overhauling your life Well and

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Why the Green New Deal Is the Stuff of Fantasyland

7 days ago

Yves here. I’ve been disappointed by the cheerleading over the Green New Deal. Its claim is that if we mobilize enough resources, we can convert to a renewable-energy-based economy and arrest the rise in greenhouse gases soon enough to prevent the worst global warming outcomes.
That might have worked if we had started 20 years ago. But as they say in Maine, “You can’t get there from here.”
The fastest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is radical conservation. There is no doubt a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of behavior change, particularly by businesses. But even if corporations embraced the notion that they need to Do Something, the easy stuff is not likely to make enough difference.
The false promise of the Green New Deal is that we can keep our high-consumptoin lifestyles. A

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Bill Black: Trump CFPB Plans Obscene Change to Payday Lender Rule

7 days ago

Yves here. Black gives an excellent discussion of why the Trump Administration plans to gut payday lender restrictions are so destructive, as well as on the general importance of requiring that lenders be able to document that they had good reason to think the borrower would be able to repay the loan.
However, I have one quibble with his piece, which is his discussion of pre-crisis adjustable rate mortgages with rate resets. We discussed those at nauseating length before and during the crisis, studying huge analyses by CoreLogic (and objecting to their rosy conclusions) and the works of the sainted Tanta, among many other important sources back in the day.
The purpose of rate resetting ARMs was not to get borrowers in over their heads, at least not for a while. The entire premise of the

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Longtime Reporter Leaves NBC, Accuses Media of “Lionizing Destructive Organizations” Like the FBI

7 days ago

By Thomas Neuberger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

The Praetorian Guard declares a cowering Claudius emperor after murdering Caligula (from a painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema)
I’d argue that under Trump, the national security establishment not only hasn’t missed a beat but indeed has gained dangerous strength. Now it is ever more autonomous and practically impervious to criticism.—William Arkin, former NBC war reporter
File this under “Praetorian Guard Watch.”
William Arkin is a longtime NBC reporter, primarily covering war and national security news. He recently quit NBC, offering his reasons in an online “departure letter.” There he castigated the media’s coverage of the president, calling them at one point “prisoners of Donald Trump.”
“Of course he is an ignorant and

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Cancelling NYC Meetup This Friday, January 18; Need Input On Planned Fort Lauderdale Meetup on Thursday, February 7

7 days ago

Dear readers,
We made two announcements of upcoming meetups in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Usually we get some readers saying they will attend, both in comments on the post and by e-mail.
We had one reader ask about if/when we would have a meetup in LA (short answer, we don’t know, we’d like to this year but it is too early to say). Even when Lambert posted what was then the lone comment on the second announcement post asking if anyone was coming, he got only one response.
I managed to miss that the date of the NYC meetup, this Friday, is at the start of the MLK three day weekend. I mistakenly didn’t even consider NC readers as the types that would leave town and it appears a lot will be doing that or alternatively, may have family and friends coming in then for a visit and thus

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CalPERS Fiasco 2: Confidential Member Data at Risk by Letting Company With No Contract Have Access; CalPERS Apparently Still Has No Deal With Any Vendors for Upcoming Elections

8 days ago

CalPERS has managed to outdo itself in terms of screwing itself up, and in this case, its beneficiaries too, by flouting contractual arrangements in its board member elections.
CalPERS chose to outsource a core government activity, the administration of its elections. It then got caught when one of its vendors pulled out at the worst time, while the 2018 election was underway. That left CalPERS over a barrel.
While this situation would be difficult even for a well-run government agency, CalPERS has been cavalierly incompetent in dealing with it. Not only has CalPERS painted itself in a corner, but it has put sensitive identifying information of hundreds of thousands of its members at risk.
CalPERS had no legal agreement with the party that handled the close of CalPERS 2018 board

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CalPERS Fiasco: Impermissible Non-Public Board Election Count; Failure of Widely Criticized Internet Voting to Deliver on Any Goals; Botched Tabulation

8 days ago

Today, we have two articles on CalPERS’ election mess. The first describes what might be deemed a predictable CalPERS screw-up, illustrating yet again how much the institution has fallen in terms of integrity, particularly its bad habit of covering up rather than cleaning up problems.
Not only did changes in CalPERS board election procedures approved in 2016 fail to deliver any of the promised benefits, but the 2018 ballot count suffered a major operational failure, and the scramble to remedy it showed how insecure and untrustworthy the process is.
The second article describes a far more troubling aspect in depth. CalPERS’ staff jeopardized the confidentiality of beneficiary data and lied to the board and public about its relationship with the company that got the information.
We

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‘A Reckless Advocate of Military Force’: Demands for John Bolton’s Dismissal After Reports He Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran

8 days ago

Yves here. I am surprised that Bolton has lasted this long. Bolton has two defining personal qualities that are not conducive to long-term survival with Trump: having a huge ego and being way too obvious about not caring about Trump’s agenda (even with the difficulties of having it change all the time). Bolton is out for himself in far too obvious a manner.
By Jessica Corbett, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Reminding the world that he is, as one critic put it, “a reckless advocate of military force,” the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton “asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State

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Links 1/12/19

10 days ago

New orca calf spotted among Puget Sound’s critically endangered killer whales Seattle Times (furzy)
Former Senator wants Congress to listen to UFO reports Futurism (David L)
Researchers may have witnessed the birth of a black hole Endgadget (Kevin W)
There’s a Tiny Plastic Enemy Threatening the Planet’s Oceans Bloomberg (David L)
The Era Of Easy Recycling May Be Coming To An End FiveThirtyEight (resilc)
The “Right to Repair” Movement Fights Planned Obsolescence (furzy). Wake me up when they stop 5G.
Does Your Box of “Ugly” Produce Really Help the Planet? Or Hurt it? New Republic
Leading cancer expert, 67, described by the Duke of Cambridge as an ‘inspiration’ dies suddenly after a routine yellow fever jab Daily Mail (furzy). Confirms my instincts never to go anywhere where you need

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Off-Roading, Chopped Joshua Trees, Overflowing Toilets: Our National Parks During a Shutdown

10 days ago

Yves here. I’m running this piece because the destruction of national parks during the shutdown is strong evidence of the decay in social capital. While history shows again and again that old farts bemoan the decline in morays of the young, it’s still disturbing to see large groups of people take advantage of a lack of supervision at national parks to trash them. If they can’t show some consideration in a context like this, how can we expect citizens to pull together when the Jackpot comes?
I remember watching the 2011 Steven Soderberg movie Contagion and finding it to be far too optimistic about how the public would react to a pandemic. Contagion has the US being put under quarantine for six months to prevent the spread of a deadly, high communicable disease. There’s no consideration

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