Tuesday , April 23 2019
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Articles by Yves Smith

Boeing’s 737 Max Debacle: The Result of a Dangerously Pro-Automation Design Philosophy?

2 days ago

The aftermath of two crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets shortly after takeoff has led to the global grounding of the airplane. Boeing has been forced to cut production, and even so, undelivered planes are piling up. Big buyers like Southwest American Airlines have been forced to cancel flights during their peak time of year as a result of taking their 737s off line. American lengthened its 737 grounding to June 5 and Southwest, to August 5.
Even though Boeing is scrambling to fix the software meant to counter the 737 Max’s increased propensity to stall as a result of the placement of larger, more fuel=efficient engines in a way that reduced the stability of the plane in flight, it’s not clear that this will be adequate in terms of flight safety or the public perception of the plane. And even

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John Helmer: The Julian Assange Case Now Puts the US on Trial in a British Court – Is There a Get-Out-of-Jail Card for Assange?

2 days ago

Yves here. Helmer’s sources argue the defense strategies for Assange in his extradition case in the UK and how they might play out. Although the deck is stacked against Assange, his cause is not hopeless. For instance, his case has been assigned to a judge noted for her independence. The case looks likely to extend till past the next general election, and if Labour were to take power, a change in the UK’s posture toward Assange could also have an impact.
By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and

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Boston Meetup Reminder for This Thursday, April 25; Announcing Location for Wednesday May 1 Milwaukee Meetup (and Need RSVPs!), Minneapolis Meetup on for Thursday May 2

2 days ago

Meetup reminders and important new information regarding our first evah Milwaukee meetup below! For you likely attendees in Milwaukee, please take a minute to RSVP since the Water Street Brewery wants a good nose count for the reservation.
If you live in or near one of these cities, I hope you can swing by for lively conversation and perhaps a drink and a nosh too.
Details:
In Boston, we are meeting at 49 Social, the same spot as in 2017. We have reserved the upstairs, which gave us lots of room and the opportunity to mingle.
Details:
Time5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (based on past experience, we’ll almost certainly go later)Thursday April 25, 2019
Location49 Social49 Temple PlaceBoston, MA 02111617-338-9600https://www.49socialboston.com/
As you can see below, 49 Social is near stops for the Red,

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Empire and Economics: The Long History of Debt Cancellation from Antiquity to Today

4 days ago

This panel discussion with Michael Hudson, Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, and New Testament expert Dr. Aliou Niang at the People’s Forum earlier this month. It’s a meaty Passover/Easer offering on the history of debt cancellation and as important, how that’s been central to important ancient records like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Rosetta Stone, yet that information has curiously never been mentioned. It’s as if the idea of debt cancellation is worse than bestiality.
So far, I’ve listened to the first 30 minutes, in which Michael Hudson describes the findings of the scholars he’s worked with on the economics of ancient societies. Even though I’ve read a great deal of Hudson’s work over the last eight years or so, there were still bits that were new to me. Im looking forward to hearing what

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Is Trump for Detente or Militarism? – A Talk with Stephen Cohen

4 days ago

Yves here. It is quite distressing to see the Mueller report take up as if it were settled fact the idea that Russia influenced the 2016 Presidential election, particularly since his investigation didn’t provide any information that supported this theory. So this Real News Network interview with professor Stephen Cohen provides a badly-needed counterpoint. Please also view the preceding segment Is Russian ‘Meddling’ an Attack on America? – RAI with Stephen Cohen.
[embedded content]
PAUL JAY: Welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
And we’re continuing our series of discussions with Stephen Cohen. And his biography is down below the video player, and you really should watch the first few segments anyway and you’ll get where we are. Thanks for joining

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McKinsey: Doing God’s Work in Puerto Rico

4 days ago

A New York Magazine story by Andrew Rice, The McKinsey Way to Save an Island, pulls back the curtain on the consulting firm’s $3.3 million a month assignment for the five member oversight board that is effectively running Puerto Rico in its bankruptcy. What it reveals isn’t pretty. It shows the firm to be greedy and out of touch, confirming the picture presented by a recent alum in a Current Affairs piece, Capital’s Willing Executioners.1 And that’s not just my opinion. I sent the piece to several ex-McKinsey colleagues. All were appalled. As one put it, “I am so glad I left there before things turned so clueless and ugly.”
McKinsey is acting like a private-sector IMF, squeezing the government’s budget hard so that more payments can be made to the holders of $74 billion in Puerto Rico’s

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Making American Schools Less Great Again

5 days ago

Yves here. This is a personal vignette about setting up government for failure. A teacher describes how budget cuts to schools in her district produced predictable results: overcrowded classrooms, diminished attention to students, particularly ones who would have benefitted from support. And perhaps as important, exhaustion and demoralization among teachers trying to cope.
Belle Chesler, a visual arts teacher in Beaverton, Oregon. Originally published at TomDispatch
Three weeks ago, I sat in a cramped conference room in the large public high school where I teach in Beaverton, Oregon. I was listening to the principal deliver a scripted PowerPoint presentation on the $35-million-dollar budget deficit our district faces in the upcoming school year.
Teachers and staff members slumped in

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The Anti-Sanders Press Influenced the 2016 Primary. Will It Do the Same Again?

5 days ago

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

How will these people respond if they think Sanders was cheated again?
Like many I watched the 2016 Democratic primary carefully, and like many I was appalled by what looked like rampant cheating of varying types and degrees by national party leaders, state officials and local functionaries. So I’m going to publish an occasional series on what went down in 2016 as a sort of inoculation against the same occurring again.
I have another goal as well. Last time the Sanders campaign was surprised by its popularity, and I suspect it took some time for its leaders to adapt to what it was starting to accomplish. I also suspect that the cheating, the tilting of the playing field, the attacks from the wings by actors not even in the play

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Meetup Reminders! Boston, This Thursday, April 25; Announcing Location for Minneapolis Meetup, Thursday May 2; Still Seeking Location for Milwaukee Meetup Wednesday May 1

5 days ago

Hope to see you soon at a meetup in the next month, or in a city near you soon! Readers very much enjoy the lively and informative discussions and good cheer.
Details:
In Boston, we are meeting at 49 Social, the same spot as in 2017. We have reserved the upstairs, which gave us lots of room and the opportunity to mingle.
Details:
Time5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (based on past experience, we’ll almost certainly go later)Thursday April 25, 2019
Location49 Social49 Temple PlaceBoston, MA 02111617-338-9600https://www.49socialboston.com/
As you can see below, 49 Social is near stops for the Red, Orange and Green lines.

In Minneapolis, reader Chuck L went venue scouting, so give him a big thank you!
Time4:30 PM to 78:00 PM (we may go later…I’m staying hard by so we could decamp to the lobby

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Links 4/18/19

5 days ago

Notre Dame
Why Notre-Dame Was a Tinderbox New York Times
And that’s why Britain should stay in the EU! Cringiest hot takes after Notre Dame fire RT (Chuck L)
Bald eagles are littering Seattle backyards with landfill trash TreeHugger (resilc)
Deer kills man, injures woman near Wangaratta in north-east Victoria abc.com.au (YY)
Elusive molecule, first in Universe, detected in space PhysOrg
Would life be happier without Google? I spent a week finding out Guardian. Martha r: “More interesting than one might expect.”
Untold History of AI: Algorithmic Bias Was Born in the 1980s Spectrum IEEE (David L)
Bad Bots Now Make Up 20 Percent of Web Traffic ZDNet
There is no garbage patch in the Southern Indian Ocean, so where is the rubbish? abc.net.au (Kevin W)
Brain functions in pigs restored hours

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Greening Monetary Policy

6 days ago

Yves here. Obviously, the observations about the pro-carbon-emissions bias in monetary policy applies to the US too. Will someone page AOC?
By Dirk Schoenmaker, Professor of Banking and Finance at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Originally published at VoxEU
Central banks traditionally take a long-term perspective on economic and financial developments. Through monetary policy they play an important role in the economy, and their mandate to ensure financial stability means they have an important role in the financial system too.
As part of this commitment, central banks have begun to examine the impact of climate-related risks on the stability of the financial system (Carney 2015). In monetary interventions, central banks have a long-standing policy of

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Links 4/17/19

6 days ago

Notre Dame
Rebuilding Notre Dame New Republic
Notre-Dame saved within vital half hour BBC
Incendie de Notre-Dame de Paris : ce qui a été perdu et ce qui a été sauvé Le Monde
Notre-Dame n’était pas assurée : contre qui l’Etat peut-il donc se retourner ? Le Parisien
In Notre Dame fire, echoes of the 1837 blaze that destroyed Russia’s Winter Palace The Conversation
Consider the Golden Mole LRB (Richard Smith)
Why this owl raised a duckling as its own National Geographic (David L). Super cute photo!
WE KNEW IT! NASA ADMITS HIDDEN PORTALS OPENING ABOVE EARTH! (VIDEO) Daily Motivational (David L)
Phuket ‘Seasteaders’ told to pack up and go home Thaiger (furzy). Someone needs to tell them Neal Stephenson was not giving lifestyle advice.
A.I. Is Changing Insurance New York Times
Thawing

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Festering Brexit

6 days ago

Even though the Good Friday/Easter weekend is coming up and Brexit matters are thus in low gear, the UK still seems stuck in its pattern of confusing motion with progress.
A short list of updates:
Labour-Tory talks still going nowhere. I’m not sure it would be progress even if the negotiations were going somewhere, since Labour’s Brexit scheme is awfully unicorn-y (wanting a customs union that has pretty much all the goodies of the Single Market without having Single Market obligations). But independent of the substantive difference, it’s not clear that the Tories have incentives to compromise now, given the upcoming municipal council election. The party is already looking plenty battered. Why give Labour another talking point that will give loyal Conservatives another reason to stay

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‘The Greed of UnitedHealth Is Killing Americans’: Progressives Hit Back as Insurance CEO Bashes Medicare for All

6 days ago

Yves here. I very much like the use of the word “disrupt” as what needs to happen to health care in the US. Heretofore, Silicon Valley squillionaries “disrupt” has been treated as the business press as meaning “shake up an industry for the benefit of consumers” when it has often meant “show revenue growth by putting existing players out of business so we can sell our stake to a greater fool at a profit.” In other words, disruption is understood to be more to the benefit of the disruptors than the end users. Disruptors never worry about externalities either, like scooters littering urban sidewalks.
So the difference between the Medicare for All disruption and Silicon Valley disruption include:
Single payer will hurt big company CEOs and well paid managers and office workers more than other

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Americans Have No Idea What “Freedom of the Press” Means

7 days ago

Yves here. Of course, it’s no surprise that your humble blogger would take the point of view that “the press” is a lot broader than “big name news organizations.” However, it turns out that US courts also side with this view.
But acknowledging the long-standing legal tradition of what “freedom of the press” amounts to, and therefore who by extension is “the press” undercuts the argument that Assange isn’t entitled to those protections by virtue of not hewing to journalistic norms by publishing what amounted to raw information. The argument is a proper reporter would have redacted sensitive personal information, like Social Security numbers in the DNC e-mails, or sensitive government information, as the Guardian and Washington Post did with their Snowden document publications (recall they

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Why China’s Current Account Balance Approaches Zero

7 days ago

By Michael Baltensperger, a research assistant at Bruegel who previously worked for the Economic Research and Statistics Division of the World Trade Organization and as an external collaborator for the International Labour Organization. Originally published at Bruegel
China’s current account is projected to be balanced within the next few years. Observers disagree whether this is due to structural factors or Chinese policy. We review their assessments of the Chinese saving and investment situation and what this implies for the future.
A country’s current account balance can be seen from different perspectives. From a trade perspective, the current account balance is positive if the sum of net exports and net income from abroad is positive. The current account balance is positive also if a

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Links 4/16/19

7 days ago

Notre Dame
I am really sickened by this loss. I can’t bring myself to watch the videos. The still images are bad enough.
Notre-Dame fire Agence France-Presse. Photos.

Notre Dame’s medieval roof structure, known as “the forest,” has been lost to the massive fire, according to the rector of the cathedral.
The frame featured trees cut down between 1160 and 1170, forming one of the oldest parts of the structure.https://t.co/sGKyk2xNGy pic.twitter.com/gL8G3bc4SY
— CNN (@CNN) April 16, 2019

Translation: “Journalist Christophe Ayad, located beside #NotreDame, offers some clarifications on the cathedral’s windows. Some did explode with the heat, but the large “Rose du midi” overlooking the Seine, true masterpiece of the 13th century, appears to have been preserved.” https://t.co/eVy2c5ovcE

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Mourning Notre Dame

7 days ago

No doubt there will be many articles and personal testimonies about the massive fire that has gutted Notre Dame. Even if the bones of the building survive, essential elements, some and perhaps many of its stained glass windows are almost certainly gone or terribly damaged. The reports are uncertain, with an awful heavy use of words like “may”. For instance, the Telegraph says the organ survived but is damaged. Other accounts say that at least one of the great rose windows is intact.
Even if Notre Dame can be restored, the project is likely to take more than a generation, meaning even in best-case scenario, many people will never be able to see it properly again in their lives.
Others who know Notre Dame more intimately, particularly Parisians, architects and historians, will be better

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How to Win: Lessons from the Zad

7 days ago

Yves here. We posted a piece last year by Zad Forever about the latest effort to evict the occupants of the zad, in what was then the largest police operation in France since 1968. The background of the protest:
The zad was initially set up as a protest against the building of a new airport for the city of Nantes, following a letter by residents distributed during a climate camp in 2009, which invited people to squat the land and buildings: ‘because’ as they wrote ‘only an inhabited territory can be defended’. Over the years this territory earmarked for a mega infrastructure project, evolved into Europe’s largest laboratory of commoning. Before the French state started to bulldoze our homes, there were 70 different living spaces and 300 inhabitants nestled into this checkerboard landscape

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Sanders Takes the Campaign Against CAP to Eleven

8 days ago

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

One of my biggest concerns about the 2016 Sanders campaign was that, at least at the beginning, it was too easily forced to apologize for attacks on supposed “allies of progressives” in the Democratic ecosystem — because “unity.”
The prime example of that occurred when Sanders accused the Planned Parenthood Action Fund — not Planned Parenthood the health care organization, Planned Parenthood AF, the highly Clintonist political action committee, which had early-endorsed Clinton despite Sanders’ excellent record on women’s issues — of being “part of the establishment.”
He was immediately accused by the rest of the establishment, falsely, of attacking Planned Parenthood clinics. And he backed down, unwisely in my view. (For more

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Hubert Horan: Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Nineteen: Uber’s IPO Prospectus Overstates Its 2018 Profit Improvement by $5 Billion

8 days ago

By Hubert Horan, who has 40 years of experience in the management and regulation of transportation companies (primarily airlines). Horan has no financial links with any urban car service industry competitors, investors or regulators, or any firms that work on behalf of industry participants
Uber released its S-1, its  IPO filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, on April 11th.[1] Press reports indicate Uber is seeking to raise $10 billion and achieve a valuation close to $100 billion. To succeed, investors will need to believe that despite losing roughly $14 billion in the last four years, Uber not only warrants a current valuation that would make it the second most valuable startup IPO in US history (after Facebook) and the second most valuable publicly traded transportation

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Energy Equity: Bringing Solar Power to Low-Income Communities

9 days ago

By Maria Gallucci, the 2017-2018 Energy Journalism Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. Originally published at Yale e360 as part of its Climate Desk collaboration with Grist

Isbel “Izzy” Palans lives in a small cabin nestled among mountain peaks and towering trees in the Colorado Rockies. Her home is often shaded and, during the long winters, buried under heaps of snow. Her monthly utility bills show credits for solar electricity production, but no solar panels are affixed to her roof. Instead, the power comes from a solar array some 60 miles away in a nearby valley.
Last year, the panels nearly slashed her energy bill in half. “I’ve been thrilled,” said Palans, a 76-year-old retired waitress who relies partly on Social Security benefits to make ends meet.
Palans is a subscriber

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Need Help With Venue for May 1 Milwaukee Meetup

9 days ago

We’re set for a meetup for Milwaukee but so far with no place to go!
Reader JCourtright suggested the Water Street Brewery. I called and they aren’t sure they can take us (the notes in the book seem ambiguous) so they have to get back to me.
If that doesn’t pan out, I need other suggestions regarding a spot, or alternatively, someone could make a booking since we aren’t confirmed at Water Street Brewery yet. We are looking at 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (we often go later…)
We need a place where the noise level isn’t too high, where were can reserve or commandeer an area or room that would hold ~20 people. Convenient to public transportation and/or cheap parking also preferred. Irish pubs have worked well in the past.
Thanks for your help and looking forward to seeing you!

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CalPERS Wastes Fund Assets on a Sham Investigation to Intimidate Board Members

9 days ago

CalPERS has a thing about leaks. We’ll use the word “leaks” in the very loose way that CalPERS does. Experience has shown that the organization applies that label to the public disclosure of any negative information about it, even if the information was in no way confidential and the releasing party, such as a board member, was legally entitled to do so.
Readers may remember the coverage we gave a couple of years ago to the trumped-up charges of “leaking” made against then-board member JJ Jelincic, where the allegations ultimately collapsed in the face of evidence that nothing that Jelincic had disclosed was a secret.
Nevertheless, that embarrassing experience has failed to cure the organization of its fevered efforts to find someone, anyone, to pin the blame on for its staggering

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Leaving NYC

9 days ago

Dear patient readers,
I wanted to give you a heads up that your humble blogger is leaving NYC at the end of June, probably permanently. I could sublet my apartment for up to two years (my landlord is surprisingly cooperative with this sort of thing) but it may make more sense to get out of Dodge for good.
The immediate driver is that my 91 year old mother is having home health care aides in daily for a few hours. That’s overkill relative to what she needs now, but better to err on the side of caution. But it’s not great to have this happening when she has no family anywhere nearby…and my brother who lives nearest (in Charlottesville, meaning not near at all) is looking to move to the Northeast next year. Plus when she dies, I have to deal with the estate, which would be a nightmare long

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Warren’s Antitrust Proposal: Should We Break Up Big Tech, or Just Regulate It Better?

12 days ago

By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute
Senator Elizabeth Warren made national headlines with her recently released plans to break up tech giants Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple, making it one of her signature proposals as she campaigns for the presidency. The notion should resonate and echo in our political memory—Teddy Roosevelt made his name as the trust-buster, for going after the great monopolies of the early 20th century in the name of the public interest. Twenty-first-century populist economics in America continues to be adorned the century-old piece of political syntax, “break ’em up.”
Warren’s essential rationale is that these tech companies act as monopolies and need to be cut down in

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A Veblen Moment: Thorstein Veblen’s Lessons from the First Gilded Age Even More Relevant Today

12 days ago

Yves here. Karl Marx and Friedrich Englels, who documented the abuses of the early Industrial Revolution, are well remembered today, not just as activists but also as journalists. Oddly, Thorstein Veblen, who identified many of the pathologies of the rich of the Gilded Age, is vastly less well known. Was it because the robber barons of his age had amassed so much wealth and power that they were better able to create a veneer of legitimacy than Victorian era factory owners?
This post picks up some Veblen themes that are particularly germane today, such as the notion that businessmen often operate as rentiers and predators.
By Ann Jones, who is at work on a book about social democracy in Scandinavia (and its absence in the United States) and is the author of several books, including most

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Italy: How to Ruin a Country in Three Decades

12 days ago

By Servaas Storm, a Dutch economist and author who works on macroeconomics, technological progress, income distribution & economic growth, finance, development and structural change, and climate change. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
While Brexit and Trump have been making the headlines, the Italian economy has been sliding into a technical recession (again). Both the OECD and the European Central Bank (ECB) have lowered the growth forecasts for Italy to negative numbers, and in what analysts see as a precautionary move, the ECB is reviving its sovereign bond buying programme, which it had started to unwind just five months earlier.
“Don’t underestimate the impact of the Italian recession,” is what French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told

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Brexit: Torygeddon?

12 days ago

We’ll be brief because the news of the EU Council to give the UK a Brexit stay of execution until October 31 broke relatively late, and so there isn’t a lot of informed commentary so far. However, this has the appearances of being an arbitrary end date, arrived at as “someplace in the middle” date between Macron pushing for a short extension (reportedly backing Theresa May’s June 30 request) and Merkel’s desire for a longer extension.
Key conditions:
The UK must organize itself to participate in the EU Parliamentary elections, otherwise the extension terminates as of June 1
The Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated. If the UK does manage to pass it, Brexit day is the day after it is voted through
The UK must play nicely: it will “refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the

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Are You Biased Against Nuclear Power? Yup, Say Scientists

13 days ago

By Nathanael Johnson (@savortooth on Twitter), Grist’s senior writer and the author of two books. Originally published at Grist
In the 1970s, you couldn’t escape the Pepsi Challenge on TV. Blindfolded men and women took sips of Pepsi and its better-known archrival without knowing which was which and — surprise, surprise — more people preferred Pepsi Cola. The message was clear: Judge the soda on its merits not its reputation.
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California, San Diego recently did something like this but not with soda. In this blind taste test, they gave a bunch of random people accurate information about the benefits and risks that go along with different power sources. When they hid the labels (solar, coal, etc), people showed a greater preference for

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