Cost Of U.S. Solar Drops 75% In Six Years, Ahead Of Federal Goal

A 250-MW solar project on the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians Moapa Indian River Reservation in southern Nevada. It is the first utility-scale solar project on tribal land in the U.S. FIRST SOLAR/DOE

By Staff of E360 DIGEST – The Trump administration has announced that a federal goal to slash the cost of utility-scale solar energy to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020 has been met early. The goal, set by the Obama administration in 2011 and known as the SunShot Initiative, represents a 75 percent reduction in the cost of U.S. solar in just six years. It makes solar energy-cost competitive with electricity generated by fossil fuels. The Department of Energy attributed achieving the goal so quickly to the rapidly declining cost of solar hardware, such as photovoltaic panels and mounts. And it said it will next focus its efforts on addressing “solar energy’s critical challenges of grid reliability, resilience, and storage,” according to a press release. The DOE also announced $82 million in new funding for solar research, particularly for research into “concentrating solar” — which uses mirrors to direct sunlight to generate thermal energy — and into improved grid technology. It set a new goal to reduce the cost of solar even further: 3 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030.

After The Hurricane, Solar Sped Recovery For Some

Florida, for all its solar potential, is still in the nascent stages of what could become a solar boom. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Lyndsey Gilpin for Inside Climate News – Just after midnight on Sept. 11, Eugenio Pereira awoke to the sound of tropical-storm-force winds slamming his Gainesville, Florida, home. Hurricane Irma had arrived. At 1:45 a.m., the power flickered out, and he was in total darkness. Unlike large swaths of Florida that were facing days if not weeks without electricity, Pereira knew he would have power when the sun rose. He had installed rooftop solar panels two weeks before the storm, along with an inverter that allows him to use power from the solar panels without being connected to the grid. The next morning, he plugged an extension cord into the inverter, flipped it on, and let his 7-kilowatt rooftop solar array do the rest. He was able to use his appliances and his Wi-Fi, so he could continue his work as a home-based IT consultant while the neighborhood waited for grid power to came back on. “We didn’t have sun at all the day after the hurricane, but even with clouds, it was enough,” he said. Hurricane Irma cut the power to about 6.7 million customers across Florida, as well as hundreds of thousands in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Only about two-thirds of those in Florida had power back by Thursday, and Florida Power & Light said the outages could last weeks in some areas.

What America Would Look Like If It Guaranteed Everyone A Job

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By Dylan Matthews for Vox Magazine – Imagine if a well-paying job, with benefits and a high enough salary to pay for rent, transportation, and food, were a human right. Imagine the US federal government established a policy whereby anyone who didn’t have a job and wanted one could go into a local office for a government agency — call it the Works Progress Administration — and walk out with a regular government position paying a livable wage ($15 an hour, perhaps) and offering health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits, and child care for their kids. Different people would do different things: teaching or working for after-school programs or providing child care or building roads and mass transit or driving buses and so on. But everyone would be guaranteed a job, including during recessions. Involuntary unemployment would be a thing of the past. No one who works would be in poverty. That’s a truly radical policy idea. But it has deep roots in the Democratic Party’s past, from the New Deal’s emergency employment programs to the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, a 1970s proposal that, as originally written, would have given unemployed Americans the right to sue the government. Today, there are even some actual proposals on the table. In May, the Center for American Progress issued a report calling for a “large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” But some labor economists, even left-leaning ones, are skeptical. None of the programs, they argue, have done enough work on the details.

Destructive Stock Buybacks—That You Pay For

'Conventional monetary policy has failed,' writes Brown. An economy in service of the people, not industry and the banks, is what's needed now. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – The monster of economic waste—over $7 trillion of dictated stock buybacks since 2003 by the self-enriching CEOs of large corporations—started with a little noticed change in 1982 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under President Ronald Reagan. That was when SEC Chairman John Shad, a former Wall Street CEO, redefined unlawful ‘stock manipulation’ to exclude stock buybacks. Then after Clinton pushed through congress a $1 million cap on CEO pay that could be deductible, CEO compensation consultants wanted much of CEO pay to reflect the price of the company’s stock. The stock buyback mania was unleashed. Its core was not to benefit shareholders (other than perhaps hedge fund speculators) by improving the earnings per share ratio. Its real motivation was to increase CEO pay no matter how badly such burning out of shareholder dollars hurt the company, its workers and the overall pace of economic growth. In a massive conflict of interest between greedy top corporate executives and their own company, CEO-driven stock buybacks extract capital from corporations instead of contributing capital for corporate needs, as the capitalist theory would dictate. Yes, due to the malicious, toady SEC “business judgement” rule, CEOs can take trillions of dollars away from productive pursuits without even having to ask the companies’ owners—the shareholders—for approval.

The Racial Wealth Gap Is Leading To An Almost-Nonexistent Middle Class

Top photo | Deborah Goldring stands inside her Baltimore home. From growing up black in the segregated 1960s, Goldring pulled herself out of poverty and earned a middle-class life – until the Great Recession. First, her husband fell ill, and they drained savings to pay for nursing homes before he died. Then Goldring lost her executive assistant job of 17 years. Then came a letter from the bank, intending to foreclose on her home of almost three decades. For Goldring and many others in the black community, where unemployment is still rising, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. Some even see a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

By Julia Conley for Mint Press News – With people of color projected to make up the majority of Americans by 2043, a new study warns against policies that keep many black and Latino households out of the middle class. A new study finds that if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, the median wealth for black Americans will fall to $0 by 2053, with Latino Americans reaching the same median wealth two decades later. According to the report by the Institute for Policy Studies and Prosperity Now, the wealth gap between people of color and their white counterparts is showing no sign of narrowing in the coming years—even as racial demographics in the U.S. are rapidly shifting, with people of color projected to make up the majority of the population by 2043. In the next three years, black households are projected to lose 18 percent of their median net worth, while white families are expected to gain about three percent more wealth. The report, “The Road to Zero-Wealth,” defines middle-class wealth as a household net worth of $68,000 to $204,000, and notes the disconnect between income and wealth: a median income for one’s racial background does not guarantee entry into the middle-class. “White households in the middle-income quintile—those earning $37,201-61,328 annually—own nearly eight times as much wealth ($86,100) as Black middle-income earners ($11,000) and ten times that of their Latino counterparts ($8,600),” write the authors.

Racial Inequality Is Hollowing Out America’s Middle Class

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By Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins for Other Words – Since 1983, national median wealth has declined by 20 percent, falling from $73,000 to $64,000 in 2013. And U.S. homeownership has been in a steady decline since 2005. While we often hear about the struggles of the white working class, a driving force behind this trend is an accelerating decline in black and Latino household wealth. Over those three decades, the wealth of median black and Latino households decreased by 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively, while median white household wealth actually rose a little. As of 2013, median whites had $116,800 in wealth — compared to just $2,000 for Latinos and $1,700 for blacks. This wealth decline is a threat to the viability of the American middle class and the nation’s overall economic health. Families with more wealth can cover emergencies without going into debt and take advantage of economic opportunity, such as buying a home, saving for college, or starting a business. We looked at the growing racial wealth gap in a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies and Prosperity Now. We found that if these appalling trends continue, median black household wealth will hit zero by 2053, even while median white wealth continues to climb. Latino net worth will hit zero two decades later, according to our projections.

New Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Isn’t Worth The Risks, Minnesota Officials Say

Construction started this summer in Canada on Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, meant to carry tar sands crude from Alberta through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. Minnesota officials are challenging the project. Credit: Marc Chalifoux/Epic Photography for the Government of Alberta

By Phil Mckenna for Inside Climate News – The Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended this week that a major tar sands oil pipeline should not be expanded and that the old, existing line should be shut down. Its reason: the state’s refineries don’t need additional crude oil, so there’s no point in taking on extra risks. The recommendation is the latest sign of opposition to fossil fuel pipelines at the state level, just as the federal government is strongly supporting them. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s report, submitted to state regulators who will eventually decide whether or not to approve the pipeline, cites a consulting firm that determined Minnesota’s refineries are already running at peak capacity and that there’s no sign of a long-term increase in local demand for fuel. The analysis concludes that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project, from Hardisty, in Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, isn’t worth the risks. “In light of the serious risks and effects on the natural and socioeconomic environments of the existing Line 3 and the limited benefit that the existing Line 3 provides to Minnesota refineries, it is reasonable to conclude that Minnesota would be better off if Enbridge proposed to cease operations of the existing Line 3, without any new pipeline being built,” the department states. Environmental advocates said that the line might still be approved, despite the report’s conclusions.

Sometimes The Poor Make It Big. Usually They Stay Poor

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By Jill Richardson for Other Words – We all want to live in a country where all it takes is hard work and some talent for anyone to succeed. We tell ourselves that we do. We even see examples of people who “came from nothing” and ended up rich and famous. And it’s true that it sometimes happens. Sometimes a child born into poverty grows up to become the president of the United States, a multi-billionaire, or an Olympic gold medalist. Most of the time, however, they don’t. And it’s not because they’re bad, lazy, stupid, or immoral. Often it’s because of our system itself. Take our school system for a start. By funding schools with property taxes, we guarantee that the children from the richest neighborhoods go to the wealthiest schools. If we lived in neighborhoods that were economically mixed with families of all incomes, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But we don’t. Instead we have areas of very wealthy people whose children attend wonderful schools, and areas of concentrated poverty where children attend failing schools.

DOE Officially Marks SunShot’s $1 Per Watt Goal For Utility-Scale Solar

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By Julia Pyper for GTM – It’s official. The solar industry has met the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative — three years early. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released new research today that shows the average price of utility-scale solar is now under $1 per watt and below 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s higher than the record-breaking project bids we’ve seen in the U.S. and abroad in recent years. But that’s because DOE calculations for levelized cost of energy (LCOE) do not include subsidies — such as the federal Investment Tax Credit — and are based on the average climate in Kansas City, Missouri. (Note: GTM documented the sub-$1 per watt milestone earlier this year, but the department is using its own metrics.) “Our mission is to make solar affordable for all Americans, and so our goals are defined for average U.S. climates. We use Kansas City as that example,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, acting deputy director of the SunShot Initiative. “Hitting a 6 cents per kilowatt-hour target for Kansas is a more significant metric than hitting 6 cents in sunnier parts of the country.” GTM Research reported that U.S. utility-scale fixed-tilt system pricing fell below $1.00 per watt earlier this year using a different methodology.

After Generations Working In Coal, Young West Virginians Are Finding Jobs In Solar

Solar Holler founder Dan Conant, foreground, looks on at the beginning of a solar roof installation in Lewisburg, West Virginia.  Credit: Jason Margolis

By Jason Margolis for PRI – Nobody from his graduating class is working in coal, says Swiger. “[They’re] honestly working in fast food, or not working at all.” Not Swiger. He has a job installing rooftop solar panels. He says his family is delighted with it. “They’re excited that I’m actually doing something different,” says Swiger. “A lot of people ain’t doing this in West Virginia, a lot of people are against it actually. A lot of people want to go back to coal. “I ain’t against it, I love solar. It’s way better than coal, I think.” Solar panels can save people money on their electricity bills and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, which fuel climate change. With battery storage, found in some home set-ups, solar can also allow people to continue to power their homes off the grid during power outages. Swiger is working as an apprentice with Solar Holler, which was founded four years ago by 32-year-old Dan Conant. Conant doesn’t see solar energy and coal at odds with each other. “The way I think about it, as a West Virginian, is that West Virginia has always been an energy state, and this is just the next step. It’s the next iteration,” says Conant. West Virginia’s economy has long been reliant on coal. Metallurgical coal, which is found in the state, is used in the steel-making process.

Report: The Road To Zero Wealth

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By Staff of Institute for Policy Studies and Prosperity Now – While households of color are projected to reach majority status by 2043, if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, median Black household wealth is on a path to hit zero by 2053 and median Latino household wealth is projected to hit zero twenty years later. In sharp contrast, median White household wealth would climb to $137,000 by 2053. If current trends continue, by 2020 median Black and Latino households stand to lose nearly 18% and 12% of the wealth they held in 2013, respectively, while median White household wealth increases 3%. At that point–just three years from now–White households are projected to own 85 times more wealth than Black households and 68 times more wealth than Latino households. The declining wealth of households of color is already taking a significant toll on the broader economy. The nation’s overall median wealth decreased nearly 20% from 1983 to 2013 ($78,000 to $64,000—a period when Black and Latino median wealth went down and White wealth slowly went up. Even earning a middle-class income does not guarantee a family middle-class economic security, according to the report.

Radical White Workers During The Last Revolution

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By Richard Moser for Counter Punch – During the 1960s and 1970s, radical activists set out to organize the white working class. They linked the pursuit of working class interest and economic democracy with anti-racist organizing. They discovered, and helped others realize, that white supremacy and racism are not a friend to white people but one of the main obstacles to fulfilling our own destiny as a free people. The context was the last revolution. The civil rights, black power, feminist, student movements and community organizing set the stage for working class whites to make important contributions to the democracy movements of the time. While these efforts were initiated by various groups, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), radicalized working class youth, and the Black Panthers, they all eventually depended on the leadership of working class communities. The organizers had been deeply radicalized by the social upheavals of the time. Yet, their own working class backgrounds often placed them on the margins of the New Left. But the activists knew the white working class had enormous untapped potential. The movement to stop the War in Vietnam, fight the bosses, and win the battle against racism needed the hard work and political vision that everyday working people could help provide.

2.5 Million Fewer Poor In 2016; Biggest 2-Year Decline In Poverty Since 1969

From Popular Resistance

By David Elliot for CHN – The poverty rate declined to 12.7 percent in 2016, down from 13.5 percent in 2015 and from 14.8 percent in 2014. That 2.1 percentage point drop is the largest two-year decline since 1969. Since 2014, the number of people in poverty has dropped by more than 6 million. Children remain disproportionately poor, with 18 percent (13.3 million) living in poverty, but the proportion of children in poverty also declined steeply over the past two years (down from 21.1 percent in 2014, nearly a 2.3 million decline). In part, the improvement in poverty was related to the increase in people with earnings (up 1.2 million since 2015), and the increase in the number of people working full-time/year-round (up 2.2 million since 2015). The lowest 20 percent of households saw their incomes increase by about 9 percent over two years. Also very important in reducing poverty were government programs. As shown by the Census Bureau’s Supplementary Poverty Measure, without Social Security, the total number poor would have been more than 26 million higher (with nearly 1.5 million more children poor). Low-income tax credits such as the EITC and Child Tax Credit prevented nearly 8.2 million from being poor (nearly 4.4 million children). SNAP/food stamps lifted nearly 3.6 million out of poverty (1.5 million children). Housing subsidies and Supplemental Security Income each lifted more than 3 million people out of poverty.

Baltimore’s Push To Solve Its Affordable Housing Crisis With Community Land Trusts

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters      4.8k     1.0k      Alana Semuels Aug 9, 2015   Half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, the number of Americans living in slums is rising at an extraordinary pace.  The number of people living in high-poverty areas—defined as census tracts where 40 percent or more of families have income levels below the federal poverty threshold—nearly doubled between 2000 and 2013, to 13.8 million from 7.2 million, according to a new analysis of census data by Paul Jargowsky, a public-policy professor at Rutgers University-Camden and a fellow at The Century Foundation. That’s the highest number of Americans living in high-poverty neighborhoods ever recorded.  The development is worrying, especially since the number of people living in high-poverty areas fell 25 percent, to 7.2 million from 9.6 million, between 1990 and 2000. Back then, concentrated poverty was declining in part because the economy was booming. The Earned Income Tax Credit boosted the take-home pay for many poor families. (Studies have shown the EITC also creates a feeling of social inclusion and citizenship among low-income earners.) The unemployment rate fell as low as 3.8 percent, and the first minimum wage increases in a decade made it easier for families to get by. Programs to disassemble housing projects in big cities such as Chicago and Detroit eradicated some of the most concentrated poverty in the country, Jargowsky told me.  As newly middle-class minorities moved to inner suburbs, though, the mostly white residents of those suburbs moved further away, buying up the McMansions that were being built at a rapid pace. This acceleration of white flight was especially problematic in Rust Belt towns that didn’t experience the economic boom of the mid-2000s. They were watching manufacturing and jobs move overseas. Population Living in High-Poverty Neighborhoods (in millions) Source: 1990 and 2000 Census, 2005-2009 and 2009-2013 ACS/The Century Foundation  Cities such as Detroit saw continued white flight as wealthier residents moved to Oakland County and beyond, further and further away from the city’s core. They brought their tax dollars with them, leaving the city with little tax base, a struggling economy, and no resources to spend on services. More From The Next Economy      The Racial Gaps in America's Recovery     $500 Million Is a Small Price to Pay for Women's Health     A Long Road Home  Low-income residents who wanted to follow the wealthy to the suburbs would have had a difficult time. Many wealthy suburbs passed zoning ordinances that prohibited the construction of affordable-housing units or the construction of apartment buildings in general. Some mandated that houses all be detached, or are a minimum size, which essentially makes them too expensive for low-income families.  “It’s no longer legal to say, ‘We don’t want African-Americans to live here,’ but you can say, ‘I’m going to make sure no one who makes less than two times the median income lives here,’” Jargowsky told me.  (Though some affordable-housing developers try to build in the suburbs, many more, especially those in the “poverty-housing industry,” advocate for building more developments in high-poverty areas to stimulate economic growth. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which has a goal of investing in distressed neighborhoods, for example, has spent $14.7 billion building affordable housing units since 1980.)  Some of the cities where poverty is the most concentrated are in the Midwest and Northeast, where tens of thousands of people have headed to suburbs, and the region itself is shrinking in population. In Syracuse, New York, for example, 65 percent of the black population lived in high-poverty areas in 2013, up from 43 percent of the black population in 2000, Jargowsky found. In Detroit, 58 percent of the black population lived in areas of concentrated poverty in 2013, up from 17 percent in 2000. And in Milwaukee, 43 percent of the Latino population lived in areas of concentrated poverty in 2013, up from 5 percent in 2000.  The number of high-poverty census tracts is also growing in many of these cities. In Detroit, the number of such tracts tripled to 184, from 51 between 2000 and 2013, as concentrated poverty spread to inner suburbs. In Syracuse, the number of high-poverty census tracts grew to 30 from 12.  Federal dollars have sometimes been used in ways that increase the concentration of poverty. Most affordable housing is built with low-income housing tax credits, which are distributed by the states. States assign the tax credits through a process in which they weigh a number of different factors including the location of proposed developments. Many states have favored projects in low-income areas, a practice that was the recent subject of a Supreme Court case known as Inclusive Communities. The Inclusive Communities Project argued, in the case, that the way Texas allocated tax credits was discriminatory, since 93 percent of tax credit units in Dallas are located in census tracts that are more than 50 percent minority, and are predominantly poor. The Supreme Court agreed in June, allowing groups to bring lawsuits about such segregation.  Finally, Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8, are meant to give poor families better options about where they live, but are instead confining the poor to the few neighborhoods where landlords will accept the voucher.  All of these developments have increased the racial concentration of poverty, especially in mid-sized American cities.  “These policies build a durable architecture of segregation that ensures that racial segregation and the concentration of poverty is entrenched for years to come,” Jargowsky writes. Highest Black Concentration of Poverty Sources: 2000 Census, 2005-2009 and 2009-2013 ACS/The Century Foundation  Some recent developments, including the Supreme Court decision and a new HUD rule that requires regions to think more carefully about segregation, are positive signs. But Jargowsky says deeper policy prescriptions are needed to reduce these depressing trends in concentrated poverty. First, he says, federal and state governments must ensure that new suburban developments aren’t built more quickly than the metropolitan region is growing, so that such developments don’t create a population vacuum in cities and inner suburbs. Second, every city and town must ensure that new housing construction reflects the income distribution of the metropolitan area, he said, so that more housing is available to people of all incomes in different parts of town.  “If we are serious about breaking down spatial inequality,” Jargowsky writes, “We have to overcome our political gridlock and chart a new course toward a more geographically inclusive society.”  That’s important for the future of our cities, but also for our nation, Jargowsky said. His research shows that poor children are more likely to live in high-poverty areas than are poor adults—28 percent of poor black children live in high-poverty areas, for example, compared to 24 percent of poor black adults. Overall, 16.5 percent of poor children live in high-poverty areas, compared to 13.8 percent of poor adults.  A child who grows up in a high-poverty area is likely to be poor when he grows up. Research out this year from Harvard shows that children who moved from poor areas to more affluent areas had higher incomes and better educational achievements than those who stayed in poor areas. Without dramatic changes, today’s children who live in high-poverty areas are going to grow up to be poor, too.      Jump to Comments   About the Author      Alana Semuels is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was previously a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.         Twitter   by Taboola Sponsored Links AROUND THE WEB 8 Signs You May Have AfibWebMD 19 Common Habits That Will Destroy TeethWedMD 8 Bags Every Man Should Own Macy's Top 20 Worst Snacks to Avoid at All CostsWorld Lifestyle Most Popular      The Coddling of the American Mind         Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt      Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.     Continue Reading     When Success Leads to Failure         Jessica Lahey      I’ve known the mother sitting in front of me at this parent-teacher conference for years, and we have been through a lot together. I have taught three of her children, and I like to think we’ve even become friends during our time together. She’s a conscientious mother who obviously loves her children with all of her heart. I’ve always been honest with her about their strengths and weaknesses, and I think she trusts me to tell her the truth. But when she hits me with the concern that’s been bothering her for a while, all I can do is nod, and stall for time.      “Marianna’s grades are fine; I’m not worried about that, but she just doesn’t seem to love learning anymore.”     Continue Reading     A Matter of Black Lives         Jeffrey Goldberg      In late april of 1994, a 9-year-old African American boy from the broken-down Central City neighborhood of New Orleans wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton, asking him to bring about an end to the violence that was devastating his city.      “Dear Mr. Clinton,” James Darby began. “I want you to stop the killing in the city. People is dead and I think that somebody might kill me. So would you please stop the people from deading. I’m asking you nicely to stop it. I know you can do it. Do it. I now you could.” He signed the letter, “Your friend, James.”      Ten days later, on May 8, Mother’s Day, Darby was visiting A. L. Davis Park with several members of his family. The park, named after Abraham Lincoln Davis, the first African American to sit on the New Orleans city council, is a compact rectangle of basketball courts and grass patches situated directly across the street from a public-housing complex.     Continue Reading     With Donald Trump's Rise, Fox News Reaps What It Sows         Conor Friedersdorf      Fox News’ coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign has resembled the treatment that the real estate tycoon and reality TV star receives in “the mainstream media.” It is unlike the network’s coverage of unqualified populist favorites from past election cycles, like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain. And populists are taking notice.      Last week’s debate is a fine illustration.      Immediately after the candidates left the stage in Cleveland, Ohio, Fox News moderator and anchor Megyn Kelly threw the network’s coverage over to pollster Frank Luntz, who stood in a room with a small group of voters gathered to offer their impressions. “Megyn, we’re about to make some news tonight,” he said as he turned to the panel. His meaning quickly became apparent: Under questioning, most of the assembled voters revealed that they felt unfavorably about Trump’s performance.     Continue Reading     That’s Not Funny!         Caitlin Flanagan      Three comics sat around a café table in the chilly atrium of the Minneapolis Convention Center, talking about how to create the cleanest possible set. “Don’t do what’s in your gut,” Zoltan Kaszas said. “Better safe than sorry,” Chinedu Unaka offered. Feraz Ozel mused about the first time he’d ever done stand-up: three minutes on giving his girlfriend herpes and banging his grandma. That was out.      This was not a case of professionals approaching a technical problem as an intellectual exercise. Money was riding on the answer. They had come to Minneapolis in the middle of a brutal winter for the annual convention of the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), to sell themselves and their comedy on the college circuit. Representatives of more than 350 colleges had come as well, to book comics, musicians, sword swallowers, unicyclists, magicians, hypnotists, slam poets, and every kind of boat act, inspirational speaker, and one-trick pony you could imagine for the next academic year.     Continue Reading     Why Iran’s Anti-Semitism Matters         Jeffrey Goldberg      A few days ago, I spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the politics of the Iran deal (you can find the full interview here), and at one point in our conversation I put to Kerry what I thought was—to be honest—something of a gimme question: “Do you believe that Iranian leaders sincerely seek the elimination of the Jewish state?”      Kerry responded provocatively—provocatively, that is, if you understand Iranian leaders, and in particular the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the way I understand them: as people theologically committed to the destruction of Israel. Quotes such as this one from Khamenei help lead me to this conclusion: “This barbaric, wolflike, and infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.” The supreme leader does not specialize in nuance. (Here is a long list of statements made by Iranian leaders concerning their desire to bring about an end to Jewish sovereignty in any part of the ancestral Jewish homeland.)     Continue Reading     Life's Stories         Julie Beck      In Paul Murray's novel Skippy Dies, there’s a point where the main character, Howard, has an existential crisis.“‘It’s just not how I expected my life would be,'" he says.      “‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.      “Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.’”      But it's not stupid at all. Though perhaps the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, wouldn't much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way people choose to tell the stories of their lives, to others and—crucially—to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you're on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.     Continue Reading     What the Iran-Deal Debate Is Like in Iran         Abbas Milani and Michael McFaul      The nuclear deal with Iran has sparked a vigorous debate not only in the United States, but in Iran as well. The discussion of the agreement among Iranians at times echoes the American discussion, but is also much deeper and wider. Reports in Iranian media, as well as our own correspondence and conversations with dozens of Iranians, both in the country and in exile, reveal a public dialogue that stretches beyond the details of the agreement to include the very future of Iran. And it seems that everyone from the supreme leader to the Iranian American executive in Silicon Valley, from the taxi driver in Isfahan to the dissident from Evin Prison, is engaged. The coalitions for and against the deal tend to correlate closely with those for and against internal political reform and normalized relations with the West.     Continue Reading     Could the Internet Age See Another David Foster Wallace?         Megan Garber      Here is an extremely incomplete list of things I would like to know David Foster Wallace’s thoughts on:      selfie sticks     man buns     farmers’ markets     the Starbucks S’mores Frappuccino®     The League     professional football     college football     trigger warnings     Ferguson     media coverage of Ferguson     Netflix     Breaking Bad     Uber     Mars One     Donald Trump     Facebook     the “personal brand”     Ashley Madison     Instagram     Snapchat     the film The End of the Tour      I would especially love to know his thoughts on that last one, since the movie, being pretty much a filmic love letter to the late author, could well fall into the category of Praise That Made David Foster Wallace Itchy and Squirmy. The conventional wisdom about Wallace—an idea put forth during the nascent days of his fame, and reiterated in a good portion of the approximately 512,246 essays and novels and Tumblr posts that came as that fame crystallized into something closer to canonization—is that Wallace, the person, was extremely ambivalent about Wallace, the persona. He wanted, on the one hand, to join the ranks of DeLillo and Pynchon and Updike (though the latter he famously denigrated as “just a penis with a thesaurus”). But the fame that accompanied literary achievement during the time he was doing all his achieving made him, he insisted, “want to become a recluse.” There’s being celebrated, and then there’s celebrity. Celebrity, in all its tentacular forms, was one of the things Wallace’s work most consistently mocked.     Continue Reading     How White Users Made Heroin a Public-Health Problem         Andrew Cohen      This piece was reported through The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal-justice system.      Heroin use and abuse in America has dramatically increased over the past decade.  Between 2006 and 2013, federal records reveal that the number of first-time heroin users doubled from 90,000 to 169,000. Some of those users, no doubt, already are gone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced last month that the rate of deadly heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.      These troubling figures, and a spate of more recent stories and daunting statistics, have prompted officials across the country to implement bold new policies and practices designed to reduce the harm of heroin use. Although there has been some push to enhance criminal sanctions to combat the surge, much of the institutional reaction to the renewed popularity of the drug has sounded in the realm of medicine, not law.     Continue Reading     The Wanderlust of #Vanlife         Sam Price-Waldman      How an Instagram hashtag inspired a movement     Watch Video     The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today         Chris Heller      A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.     Watch Video     The Creator of The Wire Explains the War on Drugs' Effect on Police         Nadine Ajaka      David Simon on America's failed policies and the decline of law enforcement     Watch Video  Subscribe  Get 10 issues a year and save 65% off the cover price. 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By Kevon Paynter for Yes! Magazine – Men and women huddle inside the St. John’s United Methodist Church in central Baltimore. The air conditioning in the church is inefficient on a day when the outside temperature is over 100 degrees. Cold water bottles get distributed, along with paper towels to wipe off sweat. Many of these people are homeless or formerly homeless. Others are longtime residents struggling to afford their rent, and they are here to advocate for an affordable housing solution that could bring relief as well as fix Baltimore’s blight. They want Mayor Catherine Pugh to dedicate $40 million in the upcoming budget to fund community land trusts. Across the U.S., cities struggle with expanding income inequality and tight housing markets that drive up rent. These factors result in an extreme shortage of affordable housing. For every 100 low-income renters, there are 31 affordable units, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. Over the years, solutions have emerged. In Burlington, Vermont, and Boston, for example, community ownership of land through nonprofit community land trusts has had decades of success turning vacant lots into affordable housing.

Venezuela's Maduro Says Will Shun U.S. Dollar In Favor Of Yuan

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a national broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, February 16, 2014.(Reuters / Miraflores Palace)

By Staff of Reuters – CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday his cash-strapped country would seek to “free” itself from the U.S. dollar next week, using the weakest of two official foreign exchange regimes and a basket of currencies. Maduro was refering to Venezuela’s “DICOM” official exchange rate in which the dollar buys 3,345 bolivars, according to the central bank. At the strongest official rate, one dollar buys just 10 bolivars, but on the black market the dollar fetches 20,193 bolivars, a spread versus the official rate that economists say has fostered corruption. A thousand dollars of local currency bought when Maduro came to power in 2013 would now be worth $1.20. “Venezuela is going to implement a new system of international payments and will create a basket of currencies to free us from the dollar,” Maduro said in an hours-long address to a new legislative superbody, without providing details of the new mechanism. “If they pursue us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro said. The oil-rich nation is undergoing a major economic and social crisis, with millions suffering food and medicine shortages and what is believed to be the world’s highest inflation.