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The difference between the extremely wealthy and the rest of humanity lies often in their power to remain invisible. Their political strategies are hidden from public scrutiny, their business practices disguised by never-ending layers of corporate design. The intense commitment of the global plutocrats in dismantling national states and their democratic support systems are expertly concealed under a thin decorative covering of market-speak, and deceitful praise for entrepreneurship. More often than not, acquiring and sustaining absurd levels of wealth requires a knowing network of corrupt alliances: from Moscow to Connecticut, between Cyprus and Panama, around the City of London and deep in the heart of Shanghai. Corruption and authoritarianism walk hand in hand throughout the whole of human history, seducing each other while prescribing austerity and preaching good morals. Behind the scenes, behind the screens, the pillage continues.

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The Twin Insurgency

on Aug 24, 2020 09:23 pm

Annotation 2020-08-25 090412

The postmodern state is under siege from plutocrats and criminals who unknowingly compound each other’s insidiousness. States within the global political economy today face a twin insurgency, one from below, another from above.

From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies in which the global disenfranchised resist, coopt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the loopholes, exceptions, and failures of governance institutions to build global commercial empires. These empires then deploy their resources to corrupt, coopt, or challenge incumbent political actors.

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich

on Aug 24, 2020 09:08 am

Thirty-two-year-old French economist Gabriel Zucman scours spreadsheets to find secret offshore accounts. At that moment, Zucman was also pondering whether to pursue a doctorate. He was already skeptical of mainstream economics.

His doctoral thesis, advised by Piketty, exposed trillions of dollars’ worth of tax evasion by the global rich. For his most influential work, he teamed up with his Berkeley colleague Emmanuel Saez, a fellow Frenchman and Piketty collaborator. Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality.

Inside the Boogaloo: America’s Extremely Online Extremists

on Aug 23, 2020 10:39 pm

It started as an internet meme. The Boogaloo is not just an event; it’s a movement of people, too. They call themselves “Boogalooers” or “Boogaloo bois.” Most seem to have extreme libertarian politics, with a heavy emphasis on Second Amendment rights. The Boogaloo is leaderless, and its goals differ depending on which Facebook or Telegram group you’re hanging out in.

Some of these men claim to be antiracist, while others hold white-supremacist beliefs and warn of an impending white genocide. While some Boogaloo pages on Facebook feature periodic talk of racial justice and urgent needs to address climate change, many others are filled with memes featuring neo-Nazi black suns. If there is one thing that binds the Boogaloo together besides guns and Hawaiian shirts, it is a firm anti-authority, anti-law-enforcement stance — and a willingness, if not an outright desire, to bring about the collapse of American society.

Exclusive: Cyprus sold passports to criminals and fugitives

on Aug 23, 2020 03:39 pm

Convicted fraudsters, money launderers and political figures accused of corruption are among dozens of people from more than 70 countries who have bought so-called “golden passports” from Cyprus, according to a large cache of official documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

The Cyprus Papers is a leak of more than 1,400 passport applications approved by the government of the island nation between 2017 and 2019, and it raises serious questions about the Cyprus Investment Programme.

Who are the super rich who buy a new nationality?

on Aug 23, 2020 03:39 pm

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has obtained a leak of documents revealing that more than 2,500 people paid to become Cypriot citizens between 2017 and 2019. With applicants from more than 70 different nations, each required to make an investment of 2.15 million euros.

With applicants from more than 70 different nations, each required to make an investment of 2.15 million euros ($2.5m) to qualify, Cyprus’s citizenship-by-investment programme reveals how the passports of a small EU nation have become a commodity for the global super-rich.

Explainer: What are The Cyprus Papers?

Among the names in the Cyprus Papers, the Investigative Unit has identified convicted criminals, wanted men and political figures regarded as a high-risk for dirty money.

In July 2020, Cyprus introduced laws to strip citizenship from those who made false representations to get it or who committed crimes since. But should they apply to the more than 60 high-risk people identified by the Investigative Unit?

The Sordid, Sudsy Rise of Soap in China

on Aug 23, 2020 11:39 am

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust soap back in the limelight: Of all the hypothesized solutions to viral transmission — from big data-powered contact tracing to disinfectant injections — few are as scientifically supported or as effective as simply washing your hands.

With countries around the world vowing to hedge future disruptions by reshoring health and medicine manufacturing capacity, I am reminded of the early history of China’s own modern soap industry, an unexpectedly muddy tale of economic nationalism, corporate espionage, and global commerce.

Algorithmic Colonization of Africa

on Aug 23, 2020 11:39 am

We live in a world where technological corporations hold unprecedented power and influence. Technological solutions to social, political, and economic challenges are rampant. In the Global South, technology that is developed with Western perspectives, values, and interests is imported with little regulation or critical scrutiny. This work examines how Western tech monopolies, with their desire to dominate, control and influence social, political, and cultural discourse, share common characteristics with traditional colonialism.

However, while traditional colonialism is driven by political and government forces, algorithmic colonialism is driven by corporate agendas. While the former used brute force domination, colonialism in the age of AI takes the form of ‘state-of-the-art algorithms’ and ‘AI driven solutions’ to social problems. Not only is Western-developed AI unfit for African problems, the West’s algorithmic invasion simultaneously impoverishes development of local products while also leaving the continent dependent on Western software and infrastructure. By drawing examples from various parts of the continent, this paper illustrates how the AI invasion of Africa echoes colonial era exploitation. This paper then concludes by outlining a vision of AI rooted in local community needs and interests.

The future of micromobility: Ridership and revenue after a crisis

on Aug 23, 2020 10:39 am

The COVID-19 crisis is causing serious disruptions to the multibillion-dollar micromobility industry. Our analysis indicates that a full recovery is possible, as long as companies prepare for the next normal.

The blow to micromobility came just as the industry was accelerating. In 2019, a banner year, our models predicted that the micromobility industry would be a $300 billion to $500 billion market by 2030. Our benchmark assessment of micromobility’s potential impact on the city of Munich also suggested good things ahead. Then, the pandemic hit. With the number of passenger-kilometers traveled declining 50 to 60 percent worldwide since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, use of micromobility solutions has declined dramatically. To determine the full impact of the pandemic on this sector, as well as on future developments, we examined micromobility over three time horizons

Turkey’s Erdogan announces discovery of large natural gas reserve off its Black Sea coast

on Aug 22, 2020 08:39 pm


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the discovery of a large natural gas reserves off the Black Sea coast, days after he promised “good news” that would usher in a “new era” for the energy dependent country.

Hour One raises $5M Seed to generate AI-driven synthetic characters from real humans

on Aug 18, 2020 02:39 am

All of the people pictured above are real, but what you are seeing are synthetically-generated versions of their real selves. And they can be programmed to say anything.


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This is a weekly publication about Pop Culture, Software Studies, Business Strategy, Media Platforms, Algorithmic Management, Game Design, and everything in between.
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