Rising home prices and income inequality priced many out of the market, but for strivers who aspired to homeownership, the latest ruptures to the economy hit hard. The release of the new government’s sweeping plan for debt-funded tax cuts led to a big uptick in interest rates this week that roiled the mortgage market. Many homeowners are calculating their potential future mortgage payments with alarm, amid soaring energy and food prices and a general cost-of-living crisis.

Before they were informed they were no longer eligible, the family had been in the final stages of applying for a five-year fixed-rate mortgage on an apartment priced at £519,000, or around $576,000, in the leafy parish of Loughton, a town about 40 minutes north of London by train where the streets fill with students in the afternoon and the properties span from lower-end apartments to million-pound mansions.

according to the Financial Conduct Authority. And more than a third of all mortgages are on fixed rates that expire within the next two years, most likely exposing those borrowers to higher rates, too. By contrast, the vast majority of mortgages in the United States are locked in for 30-year fixed terms.

And the abrupt surge in interest rates could threaten to set off a housing market crisis, analysts at Oxford Economics wrote in a note on Friday, adding that if mortgage rates stayed at the levels now being offered, that would suggest that house prices were around 30 percent overvalued “based on the affordability of mortgage payment.”

“This just adds a significant further strain to finances in the order of hundreds of pounds a month,” said David Sturrock, a senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, adding that the squeeze on household budgets will affect the broader economy.

Uncertainty and even panic was clear this week, with many homeowners seeking financial advice. Mortgage brokers said they were receiving a higher volume of inquiries than normal from people stressed about refinancing their loans.

“You can feel the fear in people’s voices,” said Caroline Opie, a mortgage broker working with Ms. Anne who said she had not seen this level of worry in a long time. One couple this week even called her the morning of their wedding, she said, to set an appointment to refinance their mortgage next week.

the war in Ukraine. “Something has got to give,” he said. “Prices are too high anyway.”

To save for the deposit, Mr. Szostek, 37, picked up construction shifts and cleaning jobs when restaurants closed during Covid-19 lockdowns. A £5,000 inheritance from Ms. Anne’s grandfather went into their deposit fund. At a 3.99 percent interest rate, the mortgage repayments were set to be about £2,200 a month.

“I wanted to feel at home for real,” said Ms. Anne, adding she would have been the first in her family to own a property. Mr. Szostek called it “a lifelong dream.”

On Wednesday night, that dream still seemed in reach: The mortgage dealer Ms. Opie had found another loan, which they rushed to apply for.

The higher interest rate — 4.6 percent — will mean their new monthly mortgage payment will be £2,400, the upper limit of what the Szostek family can afford. Still, they felt lucky to secure anything at all, hoping it will mean their promises to their children — of bigger bedrooms, more space, freedom to decorate how they like — will materialize.

They would wait to celebrate, Mr. Szostek said, until they had the keys in hand.

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Live Updates: U.N. Secretary General Warns of ‘Colossal Global Dysfunction’

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

The annual diplomatic gathering at the United Nations this week places the spotlight on its top chief, António Guterres, the secretary general, who is responsible for persuading an increasingly fractured and skeptical world that the U.N. — and, by extension, his position — is still vital for international order and multilateralism.

In his opening remarks Tuesday, Mr. Guterres said that the world was in peril, and geopolitical divides were undermining international law, trust in democratic institutions and all forms of international cooperation.

“We cannot go on like this,” Mr. Guterres said. “We have a duty to act. And yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.”

In remarks that pivoted between alarm and hope, the secretary general made demands for collective action. He warned of a world burning because of climate change and said the U.N. charter and the ideals it presents are in jeopardy, alluding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the inequalities that have exploded as food and energy prices rise.

“Let’s have no illusions. We are in rough seas,” Mr. Guterres said in one of the most blunt speeches he has delivered to world leaders.

Mr. Guterres identified three areas where he said world leaders should come together: peace and security, the climate crisis and addressing inequality in developing countries.

The war in Ukraine, Mr. Guterres said, has “unleashed widespread destruction with massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The conflict unexpectedly elevated Mr. Guterres’s role as a humanitarian mediator. He has bluntly condemned Russia for violating the U.N. charter and called for investigations into potential crimes against humanity in Ukraine. And early on, he opened investigations into the rippling affects of the war on rising food and energy and economic downturn.

But Mr. Guterres also reminded the audience of other crises still posing a threat to global stability, such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Israel and Palestine.

Turning to climate, Mr. Guterres accused the fossil fuel industry of “feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits” and called on the leaders of wealthy countries to issue additional levies to help vulnerable nations facing the irreparable damages of climate change.

“Today, I am calling on all developed economies to tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” he told the heads of state and other government officials gathered at the United Nations General Assembly hall. “Those funds should be redirected in two ways: to countries suffering loss and damage caused by the climate crisis, and to people struggling with rising food and energy prices.”

The call for action represents his most forceful comments yet on a lightning rod issue of loss and damage, which is polite diplomatic speak for reparations for poor countries that suffer the greatest effects of climate crisis but that bear little responsibility for it.

The issue of loss and damage financing is emerging as an important fault line in the upcoming climate negotiations in Egypt. The secretary general’s remarks sets up a potential showdown with the United States and the countries of Europe, who have long resisted the idea of a separate funding mechanism for loss and damage.

In the third part of his speech, Mr. Guterres emphasized the many challenges faced by developing countries, including food insecurity, debt and poverty, that has resulted in them “getting hit from all sides.”

“These cascading crises are feeding on each other, compounding inequalities, creating devastating hardship, delaying the energy transition, and threatening global financial meltdown,” Mr. Guterres said.

He called on banks to facilitate financial assistance for developing countries by lifting borrowing conditions and increasing their appetite for risk, while telling creditors to consider debt relief, particularly for climate funds. Mr. Guterres said the International Monetary Fund and major central banks must expand their liquidity facilities and currency lines significantly.

Somini Sengupta contributed reporting.

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Why Are So Few Women In Animation?

Women in film are still struggling to find jobs in the film industry, specifically in animation.

Animated films like Domee Shi’s “Turning Red” or Nora Twomey’s Oscar-nominated “The Breadwinner” are putting women and young girls in the spotlight, but the animation industry as a whole is still struggling to hire and promote women behind the scenes.  

Nicole Hendrix is the co-founder and executive director of the BRIC Foundation. 

“These pathways into the industry are not equitable,” said Hendrix.  

“It’s like, there’s all this great talent out there that you’re not utilizing,” said Margaret Dean, the president of Women in Animation.  Of the top animated films released from 2007 to 2018, less than 3% were directed by women and industry leaders say it’s because of inequality in the talent pipelines. 

“It’s just very much exclusion by familiarity within the industry. It’s a ‘you have to know someone’ in order to get hired or to get into a really good program that you’ll get hired from. Not to mention money, right? Not everybody can afford to be an unpaid intern,” said Hendrix. 

“It was just the phrases of ‘it was an old boys club,’ and then people always hired people that they knew that they were friends with,” said Dean. 

A 2019 report from the University of Southern California found that women directors were more likely to be seen as a “risk” to studios, and less likely to be promoted to higher leadership roles.  

Women overall hold around 30% of the creative jobs in animation. And as more people in Hollywood are becoming more aware of the gender-gap in entertainment, organizations like the BRIC foundation and Women in Animation are pushing for parity. 

“There’s definitely waves that people ride and we just need to all come together to make sure that we hold people accountable,” said Alison Mann, the co-founder of the BRIC Foundation. 

“Equally important work that we realized we needed to do was to start working with the women themselves, and to really launch talent development programs,” said Dean.  

Women in animation, or “WIA,” has challenged the industry to achieve 50/50 parity by 2025. And its educational programs include mentorship opportunities for women, transgender and non-binary people. 

“They became these little networks, almost like a seed of a little network,” said Dean. 

The BRIC Foundation is working to create more opportunities for women as well through its own industry-wide summits, workshops and the development of a new apprenticeship program.  

“Out of our third-year summit, the plan for an apprenticeship program came and it was an industry advisory across animation, visual effects in gaming, 60 major companies represented. And we really mapped out what are the entry level positions that people are wanting to hire for, what knowledge, software, skills, portfolio is needed to achieve those roles?” said Hendrix. 

The program hopes to provide training opportunities for students in public high schools and community colleges and ultimately lessen the barriers to enter the animation industry.  

“We have to remember to kind of rise above and continue pushing forward and figuring out new strategic ways to create opportunities for people that might not and, and I think everybody has a seat at the table to make change,” said Mann. 

Source: newsy.com

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‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Services Can Actually Lead To More Debt

Companies that allow consumers to complete a purchase after the point of sale are often unregulated and can lead users into deeper debt.

There’s a long history of paying for things in installments: There’s the way old commercials advertise, there are rent-to-own products, or shoppers can put purchases on a payment layaway plan.

But recently, more options have popped up that give consumers the items right away and takes away the threat of repossession.

Companies like Afterpay, Klarna and Affirm have become a more frequent resource for people looking to buy things using a stretched-out payment plan. They have increasingly been showing up as payment options on websites of major retailers, including Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

It’s a huge business. A report from the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation found that 91% of consumer loans taken out in the state in 2020 were from buy now, pay later lenders.

But unlike leasing a car or taking out a new credit card, there isn’t much regulation of this space because of how new it is. Buyers get both the instant gratification of getting their purchase right away, and it doesn’t necessarily affect their credit score.

“A significant portion of people take out multiple buy now, pay later purchases,” said Nadine Chabrier, litigation policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “There’s no consideration of the ability to repay, and there’s no specific date on which a person can count on their final pay later coming out of their account. So, people tend to take on multiple purchases and get overwhelmed.”

Chabrier is concerned that the short-term nature of these loans has helped buy now, pay later providers avoid existing rules.

“Some of the things that we’ve advocated for is to regulate buy now, pay later like a credit card,” Chabrier said. “There are really important protections there for consumers that you have under credit cards that you don’t have when you take out a financial planner.”

These types of services often have a younger, more diverse user base. A Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this year found that Gen Z, as well as Black and Hispanic Americans, were more likely to use a buy now, pay later service than the average American.

Elyse Hicks, from the consumer advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform, says that lines up with other trends in economic inequality. 

“On a basic level, BIPOC communities have less, so they’re more inclined to use products like Buy Now, Pay Later, Klarna, in order to get the things that they need or want because it puts those bite-sized pieces or bite-sized installments, something that they feel like they can handle, in front of them,” Hicks said.

The same Morning Consult poll found that one in five borrowers using buy now, pay later missed a payment in January, the month they took the survey.

It can spiral into some big fees for consumers.

In August, after President Biden announced his intent to forgive $10,000 or more for Americans with student loan debt, one Twitter user’s question about whether President Biden would forgive AfterPay debts too went viral.

For now, consumers like Grace Oppy, who is an Afterpay user currently in debt, and the millions of others who use these services are at the mercy of the companies. Affirm, for example, does pitch consumers on the fact that it has no late fees, but it does note that it would charge up to 36% APR depending on your credit, which is higher than even the highest APR on most credit cards.

But in the moment, the seemingly great deals can be really tempting.

“It started with a lot of strategy,” Oppy said. “I was like, ‘If I just do this, then I will be glam and perfect. I will definitely get my promotion.’ And now… I have $90 earrings. So really, it’s a slippery slope in my mind. My dopamine receptors are just, boom, firing away when I use it.”

The advocates Newsy talked to said that dopamine hit Oppy feels — a rush of satisfaction — is exactly what makes it so tempting to use these services when shopping.

“It just feeds on millennials and Gen Z, of how we like to get things very instantly,” Hicks said. “We all know we want something, that we can get it at a discounted price and get it to our doorsteps very quickly. It hits that dopamine, and we’re onto something else. So, it kind of it puts you in a cycle, and kind of like a debt trap, as well.”

Influencers on social media are pitching buy now, pay later as a life hack for those who want something and don’t want to worry about the cost today.

“You have people who you admire, who look like they have great lives, who then have this clothing item or this product, and it’s just aspirational,” Chabrier said. “It’s understandable for people to aspire to a particular lifestyle or feeling, and that’s what I think this type of marketing plays on.”

It’s not lost on consumers either. 

“They make it seem so frivolous… like a fun app,” Oppy said. “They’re partnering with influencers. It’s really nefarious, and it’s subtle. But, making these people that we all try to base our lives on advertise this pretty predatory lending practice that’s so unregulated: sneaky. And they got me. They got me there.”

But regulation and standards could be on the way soon. Many buy now, pay later loans aren’t reported, meaning that while there’s no guarantee your credit score takes a hit if you miss payments, you also might not be building credit that can help you get other loans or credit cards in the future.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — the three largest credit bureaus —announced plans this year to incorporate buy now, pay later loans into their files, but implementation of that is still to be determined.

Meanwhile, state and federal regulatory authorities are looking at how to account for buy now, pay later services.

A group of 21 state attorneys general wrote a letter calling for federal officials to set standards on this. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced during last year’s holiday season that they had started a review of the buy now, pay later industry, with an eye toward federal regulations protecting consumers from debt and ensuring companies tell consumers what fees they could incur.

Advocates are hoping rules will lift the burden from consumers and make the companies themselves have to give more information up front. But until then, they say to make sure to read the fine print. 

“Please look at all of your products or your apps,” Hicks said. “See how much you currently owe these buy now, pay later companies, and just be aware of your spending habits. It’s so easy to get out of control with this, but just be aware until regulation comes.”

Source: newsy.com

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Shock Waves Hit the Global Economy, Posing Grave Risk to Europe

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continuing effects of the pandemic have hobbled countries around the globe, but the relentless series of crises has hit Europe the hardest, causing the steepest jump in energy prices, some of the highest inflation rates and the biggest risk of recession.

The fallout from the war is menacing the continent with what some fear could become its most challenging economic and financial crisis in decades.

While growth is slowing worldwide, “in Europe it’s altogether more serious because it’s driven by a more fundamental deterioration,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics. Real incomes and living standards are falling, he added. “Europe and Britain are just worse off.”

eightfold increase in natural gas prices since the war began presents a historic threat to Europe’s industrial might, living standards, and social peace and cohesion. Plans for factory closings, rolling blackouts and rationing are being drawn up in case of severe shortages this winter.

China, a powerful engine of global growth and a major market for European exports like cars, machinery and food, is facing its own set of problems. Beijing’s policy of continuing to freeze all activity during Covid-19 outbreaks has repeatedly paralyzed large swaths of the economy and added to worldwide supply chain disruptions. In the last few weeks alone, dozens of cities and more than 300 million people have been under full or partial lockdowns. Extreme heat and drought have hamstrung hydropower generation, forcing additional factory closings and rolling blackouts.

refusing to pay their mortgages because they have lost confidence that developers will ever deliver their unfinished housing units. Trade with the rest of the world took a hit in August, and overall economic growth, although likely to outrun rates in the United States and Europe, looks as if it will slip to its slowest pace in a decade this year. The prospect has prompted China’s central bank to cut interest rates in hopes of stimulating the economy.

“The global economy is undoubtedly slowing,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist at the global consulting firm EY- Parthenon, but it’s “happening at different speeds.”

In other parts of the world, countries that are able to supply vital materials and goods — particularly energy producers in the Middle East and North Africa — are seeing windfall gains.

And India and Indonesia are growing at unexpectedly fast paces as domestic demand increases and multinational companies look to vary their supply chains. Vietnam, too, is benefiting as manufacturers switch operations to its shores.

head-spinning energy bills this winter ratcheted up this week after Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, declared it would not resume the flow of natural gas through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline until Europe lifted Ukraine-related sanctions.

Daily average electricity prices in Western Europe have reached record levels, according to Rystad Energy, surging past 600 euros ($599) per megawatt-hour in Germany and €700 in France, with peak-hour rates as high as €1,500.

In the Czech Republic, roughly 70,000 angry protesters, many with links to far-right groups, gathered in Wenceslas Square in Prague this past weekend to demonstrate against soaring energy bills.

The German, French and Finnish governments have already stepped in to save domestic power companies from bankruptcy. Even so, Uniper, which is based in Germany and one of Europe’s largest natural gas buyers and suppliers, said last week that it was losing more than €100 million a day because of the rise in prices.

International Monetary Fund this week to issue a proposal to reform the European Union’s framework for government public spending and deficits.

caps blunt the incentive to reduce energy consumption — the chief goal in a world of shortages.

Central banks in the West are expected to keep raising interest rates to make borrowing more expensive and force down inflation. On Thursday, the European Central Bank raised interest rates by three-quarters of a point, matching its biggest increase ever. The U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to do the same when it meets this month. The Bank of England has taken a similar position.

The worry is that the vigorous push to bring down prices will plunge economies into recessions. Higher interest rates alone won’t bring down the price of oil and gas — except by crashing economies so much that demand is severely reduced. Many analysts are already predicting a recession in Germany, Italy and the rest of the eurozone before the end of the year. For poor and emerging countries, higher interest rates mean more debt and less money to spend on the most vulnerable.

“I think we’re living through the biggest development disaster in history, with more people being pushed more quickly into dire poverty than has every happened before,” said Mr. Goldin, the Oxford professor. “It’s a particularly perilous time for the world economy.”

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Washington, D.C., ‘Baby Bonds’ Program Aims To Close Wealth Gap

The program is currently underway in D.C. and will likely be watched closely by other states considering the same idea.

Economic inequality has consequences. For poor people, it can hit everything from life expectancy to education. 

But a new program in the nation’s capital is trying to defeat those outcomes.  

It’s called Baby Bonds, though it works more like a trust fund.  

Children of the city’s poorest residents will get up to $25,000 by the time they reach adulthood.  

The idea was first proposed by two economists in 2010 and was brought to the mainstream by a 2016 presidential candidate.  

Sen. Cory Booker was an early supporter of the program in D.C. and emphasized that while this helps low-income families across race, there’s one in particular that struggles more. 

“We need to put forward a bold, aspirational vision for racial and economic justice in this country. I think Baby Bonds is a foundational piece of that,” he said. “Right now, we live in an America where the members of the Forbes 400 wealthiest American households hold more wealth than all Black families in the United States combined.”

The racial wealth gap is undeniable. Data from Brookings shows “the median white American in their early thirties had $29,000 more wealth than the median Black American of the same age.” The gap is even bigger among older adults.  

“Wealth is functional. Wealth allows you to generate other forms of resources and provides economic security,” said Darrick Hamilton, one of the two economists who proposed Baby Bonds.

He testified before a Washington, D.C., council committee, arguing the idea isn’t unprecedented in American life. 

“This idea of Baby Bonds — although I get a lot of credit for architecting it in its modern-day form — is as old as the nation’s founding. Thomas Payne talked about a scenario of Baby Bonds where he said that every American should be endowed with some plot of land so that when they become an adult they’ll be able to attend to that land and have the benefits of economic security of the benefits of that land.”

Critics say it’s expensive and unproven. 

But Hamilton points to post-depression social programs launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and others. 

“I think we can look into our New Deal past and see that a White asset-based middle class was formed as a result of government entitlement,” Hamilton said. “Programs like the GI bill, the Fair Housing Act that literally seeded Americans with some capital resources.”

The first four years of the Baby Bond program is estimated to cost $32 million. 

Still, the program is currently underway in D.C. and will likely be watched closely by other states considering the same idea.

Source: newsy.com

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Pace of Climate Change Sends Economists Back to Drawing Board

Economists have been examining the impact of climate change for almost as long as it’s been known to science.

In the 1970s, the Yale economist William Nordhaus began constructing a model meant to gauge the effect of warming on economic growth. The work, first published in 1992, gave rise to a field of scholarship assessing the cost to society of each ton of emitted carbon offset by the benefits of cheap power — and thus how much it was worth paying to avert it.

Dr. Nordhaus became a leading voice for a nationwide carbon tax that would discourage the use of fossil fuels and propel a transition toward more sustainable forms of energy. It remained the preferred choice of economists and business interests for decades. And in 2018, Dr. Nordhaus was honored with the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Inflation Reduction Act with its $392 billion in climate-related subsidies, one thing became very clear: The nation’s biggest initiative to address climate change is built on a different foundation from the one Dr. Nordhaus proposed.

offers tax credits, loans and grants — technology-specific carrots that have historically been seen as less efficient than the stick of penalizing carbon emissions more broadly.

The outcome reflects a larger trend in public policy, one that is prompting economists to ponder why the profession was so focused on a solution that ultimately went nowhere in Congress — and how economists could be more useful as the damage from extreme weather mounts.

A central shift in thinking, many say, is that climate change has moved faster than foreseen, and in less predictable ways, raising the urgency of government intervention. In addition, technologies like solar panels and batteries are cheap and abundant enough to enable a fuller shift away from fossil fuels, rather than slightly decreasing their use.

Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, worked on developing carbon pricing methods at the Department of Energy. He thinks the relentless focus on prices, with little attention paid to direct investments, lasted too long.

California. But a federal measure in the United States, setting a cap on carbon emissions and letting companies trade their allotments, failed in 2010.

At the same time, Dr. Nordhaus’s model was drawing criticism for underestimating the havoc that climate change would wreak. Like other models, it has been revised several times, but it still relies on broad assumptions and places less value on harm to future generations than it places on harm to those today. It also doesn’t fully incorporate the risk of less likely but substantially worse trajectories of warming.

Dr. Nordhaus dismissed the criticisms. “They are all subjective and based on selective interpretation of science and economics,” he wrote in an email. “Some people hold these views, as would be expected in any controversial subject, but many others do not.”

Heather Boushey, a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers who handles climate issues, says the field is learning that simply tinkering with prices won’t be enough as the climate nears catastrophic tipping points, like the evaporation of rivers, choking off whole regions and setting off a cascade of economic effects.

“So much of economics is about marginal changes,” Dr. Boushey said. “With climate, that no longer makes sense, because you have these systemic risks.” She sees her current assignment as similar to her previous work, running a think tank focused on inequality: “It profoundly alters the way people think about economics.”

To many economists, the approach pioneered by Dr. Nordhaus was increasingly out of step with the urgency that climate scientists were trying to communicate to policymakers. But a carbon tax remained at the center of a bipartisan effort on climate change, supported by a panoply of large corporations and more than 3,600 economists, that also called for removing “cumbersome regulations.”

speech in 2018, Dr. Nordhaus pegged the “optimal” carbon price — that is, the shared economic burden caused by each ton of emissions — at $43 in 2020. Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia Business School, called it a “woeful underestimate of the true cost” — noting that the prize committee’s home country already taxed carbon at $120 per ton.

another tack. Carbon prices, they reasoned, tend to hit lower-income people hardest. Even if the proceeds funded rebates to taxpayers, as many proponents recommended, similar promises by supporters of trade liberalization — that people whose jobs went offshore would get help finding new ones in a faster-growing economy — proved illusory. Besides, without government investment in low-carbon infrastructure, many people would have no alternative to continued carbon use.

“You’re saying, ‘Things are going to cost more, but we aren’t going to give you help to live with that transition,’” said Rhiana Gunn-Wright, director of climate policy at the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute and an architect of the Green New Deal. “Gas prices can go up, but the fact is, most people are locked into how much they have to travel each day.”

At the same time, the cost of technologies like solar panels and batteries for electric vehicles — in part because of huge investments by the Chinese government — was dropping within the range that would allow them to be deployed at scale.

For Ryan Kellogg, an energy economist who worked as an analyst for the oil giant BP before getting his Ph.D., that was a key realization. Leaving an economics department for the public policy school at the University of Chicago, and working with an interdisciplinary consortium including climate scientists, impressed on him two things: that fossil fuels needed to be phased out much faster than previously thought, and that it could be done at lower cost.

Just in the utility sector, for example, Dr. Kellogg recently found that carbon taxes aren’t meaningfully more efficient than subsidies or clean electricity standards in driving a full transition to wind and solar power. And as more essential devices can be powered by batteries, affordable electricity becomes paramount.

more useful for policymakers than broad, top-down economic models.

begun to look at the relationship between extreme weather and federal revenue. But because it’s still not clear how best to do that, other institutions are trying as well.

Carter Price, a mathematician at the nonprofit RAND Corporation, is working on a budget model that will incorporate the latest social science research, as well as climate science, to inform long-term policy decisions.

“This is a space where having more models early on would be better,” Dr. Price said. “Rather than someone has an assumption, that assumption goes into a model, nobody questions it and, 10 years later, we realize that assumption is pretty powerful and maybe not right.”

The larger lesson is that modern climate policy is a complex endeavor that calls for large, interdisciplinary teams — which is not historically how the economics field has operated.

“You can only do so much by writing things down on a single sheet of paper from your office at Yale,” said Dr. Kopp, of Rutgers. “That’s not how science gets done. That’s how a lot of economics gets done. But you run into limits.”

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Where Do You Go When You Gotta Go? America’s Public Bathroom Shortage

Discrimination, underinvestment and sanitation concerns have led to a lack of public bathrooms, which has multiple consequences.

If a person has to go to the bathroom while out in public, it may be difficult to find a toilet without some sort of catch. Often, it’s in a coffee shop, a convenience store, a pharmacy or in another private building — so it’s not a truly public toilet.

The U.S. has eight public toilets per 100,000 people. That number is comparable with the rate in Botswana and far behind Iceland’s world-leading 56 public toilets per 100,000.

So why is it so hard to find a public toilet in the U.S.?

It’s a question with a complicated answer and that has a long history. Surprisingly, it relates to a ton of different issues, including public health, social services and just about every form of discrimination imaginable.

Public toilets were a fact of life in the U.S. and elsewhere for centuries — at least as far back as the Roman Empire. But they were pretty public, without any walls or barriers between them. The expectation for privacy while going to the bathroom in a public space emerged in the 19th century, with the industrial revolution and houses with modern plumbing.

Later on in the 19th century and into the early decades of the 20th century, sanitation became a greater priority. As leaders began to understand sanitation’s role in containing outbreaks of water-borne diseases, cities built and celebrated their public toilets.

Temple University history professor Bryant Simon, who has studied and is writing an upcoming book on the history of toilets, shared more about how toilets used to be a big deal. 

“City officials get on their soapboxes and brag about how much they spend on public bathrooms,” Simon said. “They brag about the touch points in these bathrooms. They brag about the brass fittings. They brag about the marble countertops. They brag about the floors. They’re proud of their accomplishment.”

Bathrooms quickly became points where people were segregated. Bathrooms were split up by gender, as they still frequently are. But the splits can be broader than that and led to discrimination against many different groups.

For example, public toilets started closing as early as the 1930s, with the LGBTQ community as a target.

“Beginning in the 1930s, 1940s, that early public officials begin to complain about perversions,” Simon said. “They begin to complain about same sex sex in bathrooms. As there’s fears about gay sex in bathrooms, there’s fear about people drinking in bathrooms. It’s not a very popular city sort of thing to build anymore.”

In the first half of the 20th century, bathrooms often were segregated by race, with Black Americans, or Latinos in the Southwest, having their own separate facilities. 

“The bathroom sort of operates as a kind of hardware of inequality because, essentially, you needed a public bathroom or a bathroom of some sort in order to be out and in public,” Simon said.

Racial segregation in toilets may sound like a distant thing or a footnote, but that legacy extends into the present.

In 2018, two Black men were blocked from using the restroom at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia’s Center City. The incident prompted Starbucks to take on a role as America’s de facto public toilets, as it changed its policy to allow people to use the restrooms at its more than 15,000 U.S. locations without buying anything.

While money can be a barrier to private toilets in stores, historically it’s limited access to public standalone toilets, too. By the 1960s and 70s, public toilets requiring small payments sprung up, but those ended up closing after concerns about gender discrimination.

The other big push to remove public toilets came in the 1980s, as part of a broader push to drive unhoused people to the edges of cities by taking away their access to public spaces and aggressively enforcing public urination laws.

Now if you don’t have a home of your own, it can put access to a restroom pretty far away. 

“Most of us are used to having our own bathroom,” said Raven Drake, Street Roots ambassador program manager. “Where I lived when I was unhoused, the nearest bathroom was a one mile walk away. Imagine walking a mile to the bathroom, and most of us can’t fathom walking 50 feet to our left a mile.”

Drake works with unhoused people in Portland as part of the local newspaper Street Roots. She’s an advocate for bathroom access as a central part of addressing homelessness, and she was unhoused herself in late 2019 and early 2020, during some of the strictest shutdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We ran a survey around bathrooms, around the importance of bathrooms and access to clean water with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, and a resounding amount of people answered that they had no access to public restrooms,” Drake said. “So we took forth on this initiative of placing out throughout the city 172 porta-potties.”

Underinvestment has been a major concern, too. If public toilets aren’t funded or attended, they can fall into disrepair. They can potentially become unsafe or unhygienic.

Starbucks announced in July that it would close 16 stores due to safety concerns. CEO Howard Schultz said in June that the coffee giant may restrict its currently public restrooms to customers only, as part of its broader push for store safety.

So, if Starbucks makes this decision to no longer serve as America’s public restroom, where will people be able to go? Even if a person isn’t homeless, bathroom access advocates like American Restroom Association president Steven Soifer point out this is an issue.

“For everyone, for people with shy bladder, for people with incontinence, for people with bladder issues of different sorts,” Soifer said. “People who had health issues and families with children who often struggle to find a place.”

Soifer is calling on government officials to step up here, but it may have to be local officials taking the lead. 

“There are going to be fewer and fewer options for people to be able to relieve themselves, and that becomes a public health issue as well,” Soifer said.

If there are no bathrooms available, the consequences can be deadly for communities. In 2017, at least 16 people died and hundreds more got sick in San Diego in an outbreak of hepatitis A. The disease spread in large part due to contact with fecal matter and public defecation. 

The city acknowledged that a lack of public restrooms, especially for unhoused people, was part of the issue and helped contain the outbreak by installing public toilets and handwashing stations.

But even then, a lack of funding or upkeep can quickly lead to toilets disappearing. A report earlier this year from researchers at San Diego State University found many of the toilets closed after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and that nearly half the county’s census tracts, home to 40% of the population, had no public restrooms.

Other cities are moving ahead with plans to install new public toilet facilities, including Portland, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But, there’s still a shortage of public toilets in the U.S. and it’s pretty dire.

In 2011, a United Nations independent expert, Catarina de Albuquerque, studied water and sanitation rights on a mission to the U.S. Her report found an instance in Sacramento, California where public restroom closures and enforcement of public urination and defecation laws led to a homeless person traveling miles to dump a whole community’s human waste.

In the report, she indicated that the laws had a discriminatory effect and led to “a violation of human rights that may amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Source: newsy.com

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Sen. Becca Balint Wins Vermont’s Democratic Primary For U.S. House

By Associated Press
August 10, 2022

Balint defeated Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, a more centrist candidate who was supported by the state’s Democratic establishment.

The leader of Vermont’s state Senate, Becca Balint, won the Democratic Party primary on Tuesday for Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning she could become the first woman and the first openly gay person to represent the state in Congress.

In deep-blue Vermont, it’s likely the Democratic candidate will also clinch the general election in November. A win by Balint, who is white, would help erase what some consider to be the blot on the liberal state’s reputation of only being represented by white men.

Balint garnered support from the progressive wing of the state party, including the independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, and national progressive leaders such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Balint had campaigned with Sanders late last month.

Balint defeated Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, a more centrist candidate who was supported by the state’s Democratic establishment, including retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and former governors Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin.

In a statement, Balint thanked her opponents in the primary and said she was “humbled and honored by this victory.”

“Tonight is a big step forward for our state. Vermont has chosen a bold, progressive vision for the future, and I will be proud to represent us in Congress,” Balint said. “We can preserve democracy, tackle climate change, bridge inequality, and make the health care system work for all of us. I know that we will.”

In a concession speech, Gray said she’d called Balint to congratulate her on the win.

“While my disappointment is profound, so too is my gratitude for his opportunity,” Gray said. “This was a tough race with deeply qualified candidates making their case to Vermonters.”

Vermont voters also chose Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch to replace Leahy, who has held the seat since 1975 and was the last of Congress’s so-called Watergate babies. Welch’s decision to run for the Senate seat opened up his seat in the House, the first time since 2006 that there have been any openings in Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation.

Welch easily defeated two little-known candidates to move on to the general election in November. During his years in Congress, Welch has been one of Vermont’s top vote-getters and would be an odds-on favorite to win the general election.

Welch will face retired U.S. Army officer Gerald Malloy, who defeated former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan in Tuesday’s Republican primary for the Senate seat. Malloy says he believes he can win in November, although no Republican has represented the state in Washington since 2001 when the late Sen. Jim Jeffords left the GOP to become an independent, switching control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott also cruised to his party’s primary victory, defeating two candidates as he seeks a fourth term. The lone candidate for the Democratic nomination is activist Brenda Siegel, of Newfane. Last fall she spent 27 nights sleeping on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse to highlight the state’s homelessness challenge.

Liam Madden, a Marine Corps veteran who describes himself as a non-traditional candidate, won the GOP primary, defeating Ericka Redic of Burlington and Anya Tynio of Charletson.

Madden says he’s an independent, and has said he considered declining the nomination if he won — until he learned that would allow the party to choose a replacement for the November ballot.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Ex-Rebel Takes Oath As Colombia President In Historic Shift

Sen. Gustavo Petro won the presidential election in June by beating conservative parties who failed to connect with frustrated voters.

Colombia’s first leftist president was sworn into office Sunday, promising to fight inequality and bring peace to a country haunted by feuds between the government, drug traffickers and rebel groups.

Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, won the presidential election in June by beating conservative parties that offered moderate changes to the market-friendly economy, but failed to connect with voters frustrated by rising poverty and violence against human rights leaders and environmental groups in rural areas.

On Sunday, he said Colombia was getting a “second chance” to tackle violence and poverty and promised that his government would implement economic policies that seek to end longstanding inequalities and ensure “solidarity” with the nation’s most vulnerable.

The incoming president said he was willing to start peace talks with armed groups across the country and also called on the United States and other developed nations to change drug policies that have focused on the prohibition of substances like cocaine, and fed violent conflicts across Colombia and other Latin American nations.

“It’s time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drug has failed,” he said. “Of course peace is possible. But it depends on current drug policies being substituted with strong measures that prevent consumption in developed societies.”

Petro is part of a growing group of leftist politicians and political outsiders who have been winning elections in Latin America since the pandemic broke out and hurt incumbents who struggled with its economic aftershocks.

The ex-rebel’s victory was also exceptional for Colombia, where voters had been historically reluctant to back leftist politicians who were often accused of being soft on crime or allied with guerrillas.

A 2016 peace deal between Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia turned much of the focus of voters away from the violent conflicts playing out in rural areas and gave prominence to problems like poverty and corruption, fueling the popularity of leftist parties in national elections. However smaller rebel groups like the National Liberation Army and the Gulf Clan continue to fight over drug trafficking routes, illegal gold mines and other resources abandoned by the FARC.

Petro, 62, has described U.S.-led antinarcotics policies as a failure but has also said he would like to work with Washington “as equals,” building schemes to combat climate change or bring infrastructure to rural areas where many farmers say coca leaves are the only viable crop.

Petro also formed alliances with environmentalists during his presidential campaign and has promised to turn Colombia into a “global powerhouse for life” by slowing deforestation and taking steps to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The incoming president has said Colombia will stop granting new licenses for oil exploration and will ban fracking projects, even though the oil industry makes up almost 50% of the nation’s legal exports. He plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a year tax reform that would boost taxes on the rich and do away with corporate tax breaks.

“He’s got a very ambitious agenda,” said Yan Basset, a political scientist at Bogota’s Rosario University. “But he will have to prioritize. The risk Petro faces is that he goes after too many reforms at once and gets nothing” through Colombia’s congress.

In Cúcuta, a city just a few miles from the border with Venezuela, trade school student Daniela Cárdenas hopes Petro will carry out an educational reform that includes financial aid for college students.

“He has promised so many things,” Cardenas, 19, said after traveling 90 minutes from her rural community to the city. “At least we work to be able to pay our student fees, which are quite expensive and, well, that makes many things difficult for us.”

Eight heads of state attended Petro’s inauguration, which was held at a large colonial-era square in front of Colombia’s Congress. Stages with live music and big screens were also placed in parks across Bogota’s city center so that tens of thousands of citizens without invitations to the main event could join in the festivities. That marked a big change for Colombia where previous presidential inaugurations were more somber events limited to a few hundred VIP guests.

“It’s the first time that people from the base can come here to be part of a presidential inauguration,” said Luis Alberto Tombe, a member of the Guambiano tribe wearing a traditional blue poncho. “We feel honored to be here.”

Hours before Petro took office, at the most important border crossing bridge with Venezuela, a group of people carried a Colombian flag as they walked toward Venezuela chanting “Viva Colombia, Viva Venezuela.” People crossing in both directions joined their chants.

“We wish peace for both Venezuela and Colombia,” organizer Salvador Albarracin said. “Today, we are in Colombia sowing the possibilities of peace through a person who is President Gustavo Petro.”

Dozens of people erupted in cheers the moment Petro took office.

“Seeing Gustavo Petro as president is something very impressive and being aware that for the first time in our lives we are in a government,” Javier Uscategui, a human rights defender who works with victims of the armed conflict, said while wearing a baseball cap with the faces of the late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and other leftist leaders.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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