July 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


Africa's Revolutionary New Free Trade Area Could Lift Millions out of Poverty (Alexander Hammond  , 7/08/18, FEE)

Being able to trade freely with one's neighbors is vital for economic growth. In 2016, just 18 percent of Africa's total exports were traded within the African continent. In Europe and Asia, intra-regional trade accounted for 69 percent and 59 percent of total exports respectively.

If adopted, the AfCFTA has the potential to revolutionize African trade and add billions to the continent's GDP.

Under the AfCFTA, the UN Economic Commission on Africa estimates, intra-African trade could increase 52.3 percent by 2022. It could double again, after the final 10 percent of tariffs are removed. If adopted, the AfCFTA has the potential to revolutionize African trade and add billions to the continent's GDP.

Quality of government could also improve through competition to create welcoming and stable business environments.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM


Open-plan offices have a surprising effect on workplace communication (Lila MacLellan, July 5, 2018, Quartz)

Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of organizational behavior, built the research around a real-life renovation at the headquarters of an unnamed Fortune 500 company engaged in a "so-called war on walls."  He had employees wear people analytics badges that track (but do not record) conversations through anonymized sensors, which gave the professor and his co-author data they could compare against changes in online communication. (To minimize the effects of outside factors, their research took snapshots of two three-week periods that fell at that same point in different business quarters, one before walls were banished, and one after.)

In two studies, the researchers found that conversations by email and instant messaging (IM) increased significantly after the office redesign, while productivity declined, and, for most people, face-to-face interaction decreased. Participants in the first study spent 72% less time interacting in person in the open space. Before the renovation, employees had met face to face for nearly 5.8 hours per person over three weeks. In the after picture, the same people held face-to-face conversations for only about 1.7 hours per person.

These employees were emailing and IM-ing much more often, however, sending 56% more email messages to other participants in the study. This is how employees sought the privacy that their cubicle walls once provided, the authors reason. IM messages soared, both in terms of messages sent and total word count, by 67%  and 75%, respectively.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Miami grandma targeted as U.S. takes aim at naturalized immigrants with prior offenses (ADIEL KAPLAN, July 09, 2018, Miami Herald)

The United States government has long reserved its power to revoke citizenship for the rarest of cases, going after the likes of war criminals, child rapists and terrorist funders.

Norma Borgono is none of those. The 63-year-old secretary who immigrated from Peru in 1989 volunteers weekly at church, raised two children on a $500-a-week salary and suffers from a rare kidney disorder. But a week after her baby granddaughter came home from the hospital, Borgono received a letter from the U.S. government: The Department of Justice was suing to "denaturalize" her as part of an unprecedented push by the Trump administration to revoke citizenship from people who committed criminal offenses before they became citizens.

"I don't know what's going to happen if she goes to Peru," said her daughter, Urpi RĂ­os. "We have nothing there."

Borgono, a Miami resident for 28 years, is being targeted based on her minor role in a $24 million fraud scheme in the previous decade. As the secretary of an export company called Texon Inc., she prepared paperwork for her boss, who pocketed money from doctored loan applications filed with the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

When the feds caught wind of the scheme, Borgono cooperated. The secretary never made any money beyond her regular salary and helped the FBI make a case that put her former boss behind bars for four years. On May 17, 2012, Borgono took a plea deal and was sentenced to one year of house arrest, four years of probation and $5,000 of restitution.

Working two jobs, she paid off her restitution and was relieved of her sentence early. Two years after she put it all behind her, Borgono received the letter notifying her that the U.S. government wanted to take away her citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained (Will Sommer, 07.06.18, Daily Beast)

Plotters in the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One and foil President Trump's North Korea summit. A cabal of global elites, including top figures in Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the intelligence agencies, are responsible for nearly all the evil in the world. And now Trump is going to fix it all with thousands of sealed indictments, sending the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama straight to Guantanamo Bay.

Or at least that's how the world is going for the believers of QAnon, the complex pro-Trump conspiracy theory that's starting to having unpredictable effects in real life. The real  news can be bad for Trump, but in QAnon-world, the president and his supporters really are getting sick of winning. [...]

Since Q could be anyone with internet access and a working knowledge of conspiracy theories, there's no reason to think that Q is a member of the Trump administration rather than, say, a troll or YouTube huckster. But incredibly, lots of people believe it.

In April, hundreds of QAnon believers staged a march in downtown Washington, D.C. with a vague demand for "transparency" from the Justice Department. "Q" shirts have become frequent sites at Trump rallies, with one QAnon believer scoring VIP access. In June, an armed man in an homemade armored truck shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam and held up signs referencing QAnon. And celebrities like comedian Roseanne Barr and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling have signed on.

QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, "conspiracy theories are for losers," Uscinski said,

"Normally you don't expect the winning party to use them, except when they're in trouble," Uscinski said.

Not so much.  People believe in conspiracy theories because they hate reality, so it's entirely understandable.
Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Deporting the American Dream (Anita Isaacs and Anne Preston, July 9, 2018, NY Times)

Over the last few weeks we were in Mexico, beginning an oral history project documenting the migrant experience. Over the course of three weeks our team surveyed and interviewed more than 200 returning Mexican migrants, the vast majority of them deportees. Some were caught in roadblocks. Others were pulled over for running a stop light or for speeding. They were detained in American county jails and immigration detention centers before being sent to Mexico. Many had lived in the United States almost their entire lives.

And yet, despite that experience, when we asked them what they missed about the United States, their responses were automatic: "everything." "I feel American," they told us over and over again. And why wouldn't they? They grew up as the kids next door. They went to our children's schools and birthday parties. They attended our churches, played on our sports teams. As high schoolers they flipped hamburgers at McDonald's.

But they also always had it a little rougher. Occasionally they faced discrimination. Their parents worked multiple jobs, often seven days a week. They left home before their children woke up and returned long after they were asleep. Children as young as 8 shouldered the burdens of caring for younger siblings. They began working as soon as they reached high school. But their unauthorized status limited their job opportunities; they couldn't get a driver's license and college was a remote possibility. Some got into the same kind of trouble native-born children do, but most worked hard to keep their families afloat.

Still, the American dream meant everything to them. In optimistic terms rarely heard from native-born Americans, they described the United States as a place where success was possible. Whether they lived in a big city or small town, in a red state or a blue state, they overwhelmingly recall an American society that was genuine, open, diverse and accepting.

One man teared up remembering his childhood friend, Matthew, with whom he played baseball, swam in the neighborhood pool and shared tacos and mac and cheese. Another missed ice fishing on frozen Minnesota lakes, using snowmobiles fashioned with special drills that he helped assemble through his work at a fiberglass factory. He shared another memory: After introducing his friends to guacamole, they insisted on eating at his place. "We had an arrangement: They'd bring the avocados," he'd make the dip.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Med Schools Adding Nutrition to Training (Rachel Cernansky, 7/08/18, The Washington Post)

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, are partly related to or affected by nutrition, according to Martin Kohlmeier, a research professor in nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For those experiencing risk factors early on, a change in diet is important.

"People are gaining a pound or two a year, and nobody says anything. But then by age 50 or 55, they've often gained 30 or 40 pounds, which has huge impacts on their health," said Walter Willett, an epidemiology and nutrition professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "In the younger years, middle age, people are acquiring the risk factors that often don't show up as major diseases until later in life."

"You can practice only what you know," Kohlmeier said.

According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, malnutrition is prevalent but underrecognized in the United States. That does not surprise Kohlmeier, who said, "This is what happens when you don't teach nutrition."

He oversees UNC's Nutrition in Medicine project, which offers educational modules for medical students. But Kohlmeier said these are far from enough. "You cannot learn in two hours what it takes 20 hours to learn," he said. In a 2015 survey of 121 four-year medical schools, Kohlmeier and colleagues found that 71 percent did not require at least 25 hours of nutrition education and that fewer than 20 percent required a nutrition course -- fewer even than 15 years before.

"The biggest thing that drives a lot of medical schools to put particular things in their curriculum is what gets tested on the boards. And unfortunately, as of right now, doctors are not tested on what foods a patient should eat," said Tracy Rydel, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Stanford and UNC are among medical schools working to turn that tide by integrating nutrition into their curriculums.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


REVIEW: of Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal
 By Ken Bensinger (Jay Price, July 9, 2018, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Now, as then, the Justice Department's investigation turns on the work of a government number-cruncher: in this case, IRS agent Steve Berryman. Working out of a nondescript office in California, Berryman happens onto the case of Chuck Blazer, a high-ranking official of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, and CONCACAF, its North and Central American subsidiary.

Wildly bearded and obese, Blazer occupies not one but two $18,000-a-month apartments (one for him, and the adjacent unit for his cats) on the 49th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan, keeps a condo in Miami, and dines alongside the New York elite at Elaine's -- all on pro soccer's dime.

Oh, and one other thing: Much to Berryman's excited surprise, he discovers Blazer hasn't paid a nickel in taxes -- or bothered to file a return -- in 15 years of skimming millions from all manner of soccer transactions.

Armed with that knowledge, and the RICO statutes designed to combat organized crime, it's only a matter of time before Justice Department attorneys and Berryman's FBI counterparts get Blazer to plead guilty to tax evasion and turn cooperating witness -- even wearing a wire to implicate unsuspecting former co-conspirators.

After that, in the words of the Watergate mole known as Deep Throat, they "follow the money," flipping one dirty mogul to get to the next.