It’s Time to Rethink Capitalism

Capitalism favours the wealthy and what we have seen this entire millennium is that this is more true than ever. Inequality is on the rise pretty much everywhere, and this is a problem. In this TED Talk, Paul Tudor Jones II, examines the current problematic state of capitalism and how we can rethink it.

Paul Tudor Jones II loves capitalism. It’s a system that has done him very well over the last few decades. Nonetheless, the hedge fund manager and philanthropist is concerned that a laser focus on profits is, as he puts it, “threatening the very underpinnings of society.” In this thoughtful, passionate talk, he outlines his planned counter-offensive, which centers on the concept of “justness.”

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We Need to Hold Banks Accountable (again)

The financial sector is like a hydra and we need to get it under control. The bad news is that bankers have been able to get away with some unethical practices for the last decade or so. The good news is that finally American politicians are taking notice of this and are talking about what to do.

This discourse is needed now while the banks are stable to try to ensure that the their crazy actions don’t lead to yet another financial boondoggle.

Yes, the banks are back. As the New York Times’s Neil Irwin reported, employment has returned to 2007 levels; the gap between the pay of Wall Street workers and everyone else is back near record levels, and the profits of the financial sector are soaring.

This is, as Irwin notes, a glaring contrast to what occurred after the crash that led to the Great Depression in the 1930s. Then banks were shackled, tightly regulated and greatly diminished in scope and license. The result was decades without major financial crises, during which the economy boomed and the United States grew together, with inequality decreasing. Now, however, while Dodd-Frank reforms have forced some changes, the big banks are more concentrated than ever. They continue to profit from high leverage, exotic trades and very high risk. They remain too big to fail — and apparently the bankers are too big to jail.

More and more studies, including one by the International Monetary Fund, hardly a radical bastion, suggest that a bloated financial sector is bad for an economy. It generates destructive booms and busts. Its high pay entices the most creative to use their talents on financial schemes rather than in more productive activities. Its culture of greed corrupts not just Wall Street but also our politics and economy more generally.

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Using Bacteria to Make Buildings Healthier

A new field of research, that doesn’t even have a proper name yet, is looking into ways we can incorporate biology into our built environment. It turns out the bacteria and germs found in our indoor worlds are vastly different than those found in natural environments. It makes me wonder what are we inadvertently breeding in our workplaces and homes.

Bacteria can be used to cure our “sick building syndrome” issues while improving our individual health too!

As evidence continues to mount against ultrasterilization, scientists are looking for alternatives that nurture, rather than eradicate, microbial communities.

One way is through “bio-active” surfaces, permeable nanostructures with “good” bacteria stitched inside. Built into walls, chairs, carpets, and other indoor fixtures, these living surfaces would continuously secrete beneficial microbes into the indoor environment. In laboratory tests with mice and rats, these bio-active structures have been found to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions and asthma attacks. “Instead of building new buildings per se, we could just refurbish all the existing buildings in Manhattan or downtown Chicago with bio-active walls or bio-active carpets,” Gilbert says.

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From Mafia Home to Art Gallery

Italy is home to the oldest operating museum, the Uffizi, and the country is (probably) home to the oldest operating mafia. But it may come as a bit of a surprise to find out that an old mafia home is being converted to a new museum.

In an ongoing and complicated effort to stop the influence of the mafia on Italian society a former mafia mansion seized by the police is being converted to an art gallery. This is not the first time that old property belonging to mafia crime lords has been converted to something that benefits all people.

Today, construction crews are busy turning the Coppola residence – seized by the Italian state following his arrest in 2012 – into the area’s first museum.

A temporary exhibit called The Light Wins Over the Shadow, which takes its inspiration from Caravaggio, will open on 22 June and will include works of art from the Uffizi and other galleries. The exhibit will be dedicated to the memory of Peppe Diana, a local priest who was shot in the head by Camorra members in 1994 as he prepared for mass.

“Only through the promotion of civil society can we build a community that will always be ready to protect itself from this kind of infiltration,” Natale told the Guardian, as he participated in a memorial ceremony in nearby Castel Volturno for a local businessman killed seven years ago for resisting the Camorra.

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Boycott Bottled Water for a Better World

Bottle water is a sham and you all know this. The problem is that a lot of people don’t and that our society permits these individuals to continue their unwarranted consumption.

Water is the oil of the 21st century in terms of politics and conflict. It’s best not to make the situation worse by engaging in a system which denies people access to their local water while massive corporations make huge profits from water.

What’s more is that the water from your taps (in the developed world at least) is cleaner and safer than bottled water.

The reason you should boycott bottled water is because it enables a bullshit, backwards vision for society.

Boycotting bottled water means you support the idea that public access to clean, safe water is not only a basic human right, but that it’s a goddamn technological triumph worth protecting. It means you believe that ensuring public access to this resource is the only way to guarantee it will be around in a few more years.

Clean, safe drinking water that flows freely out of our faucets is a feat of engineering that humans have been been perfecting for two millennia. It is a cornerstone of civilization. It is what our cities are built upon. And over the years the scientists and hydrologists and technicians who help get water to our houses have also become our environmental stewards, our infrastructural watchdogs, our urban visionaries. Drinking the water these people supply to our homes is the best possible way to protect future access to water worldwide.

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