USA is now ranked a ‘Second Tier’ country at well-being

❝ Some 17 others, including all of Scandinavia, outperform the U.S. by a wide margin when it comes to well-being.

❝ America leads the world when it comes to access to higher education. But when it comes to health, environmental protection, and fighting discrimination, it trails many other developed countries, according to the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

❝ The results of the group’s annual survey, which ranks nations based on 50 metrics, call to mind other reviews of national well-being, such as the World Happiness Report released in March, which was led by Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, or September’s Lancet study on sustainable development. In that one, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden, and the U.S. took spots 1, 2, 3, and 28 — respectively…

❝ Of course it’s easy enough to dismiss or belittle these occasional reports, each with their unique methodologies and almost identical conclusions. Another approach, however, would be to look at them all together and conclude that they represent “mounting evidence.” In that case, Houston (and Dallas, New Orleans, Tulsa, St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York), we have a problem.

❝ SPI produces the report in part to help city, state, and national policymakers diagnose and (ideally) address their most pressing challenges. The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said America “is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.”

How many politicians – either of the pallid flavors we’re allowed – offer you the opportunity to vote in support of a platform containing similar ideals?

Waypoint: Volvo cars to be electric or hybrid from 2019


Click to enlargeVolvo electric concepts which may hit the street in 2019

❝ All new cars launched by Volvo from 2019 onwards will be partially or completely battery-powered, in what the company called a “historic end” to building models that only have an internal combustion engine.

Between 2019 and 2021, the firm will introduce five 100% electric models, and ensure the rest of its conventional petrol and diesel range has a hybrid engine of some form. It is the first major manufacturer to make such a bold move.

Håkan Samuelsson, the Volvo chief executive, said: “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.”

❝ The carmaker, owned by Chinese automotive giant Geely, has yet to build a single fully electric car but already sells five plug-in hybrid models that can run a few dozen miles on battery power before switching to a conventional engine…

❝ Volvo said the first of its electric cars will be built in China, but others would be made in Europe and the US. The company said it had not yet decided on a battery supplier.

Prof David Bailey, an automotive expert at Aston University, said: “It’s indicative of the speeding up of the shift over to electrics, particularly in the wake of the VW dieselgate scandal, and it’s a sign that the industry is really starting to move and it will become mainstream.

“By the mid-2020s I expect there to be a tipping point where the electric car starts to outcompete the internal combustion engine. It’s the way it’s going.”…

And so it goes. Those who whine that the electricity running these beasties isn’t all clean enough – yet – or that the slow pace of the accelerating curve at this end isn’t quick enough understand neither mathematics nor marketing. The biggest chuckle is that the average driver anywhere in the world still hasn’t learned how quick off the line a DC motor can be.

No more Vroom, Vroom… 🙂

Dumb enough to get ripped-off for healthcare = dumb enough to vote for Trump


Click to enlargeWorld Bank

Yes, all those countries paying a lot less than Americans for their healthcare mostly have what American pundits now call “single-payer” health insurance coverage. Mostly, those countries call it a National Health Service and have no hangups over discussing socialized medicine. Since we live in the land that invented McCarthyism and took over the Big Lie after Hitler and Goebbels were shut down, you won’t hear those terms except as a pejorative from Republicans…the right-wing half of our TweedleDeeDumb political parties.

Insurance companies, healthcare providers, corporate pharma? They simply donate to both parties and now own two complete sets of plastic fantastic Congressional bobbleheads.

Where is Global Growth Happening?


Click to enlarge

❝ According to forecasts from earlier this year by the World Bank, the global economy is expected to average a Real GDP growth rate of 2.8% between 2017-2019.

But where will this growth actually happen? Is it in giant countries that are growing at a stable 2% clip, or is it occurring in the smaller emerging markets where 8% growth is not uncommon?

❝ Today’s chart looks at individual countries between 2017-2019, based on their individual growth projections from the World Bank, to see where new wealth is being created.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Obesity? We’re number one, we’re number one!

❝ Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fattest country in the world?

The obesity rate for American adults (aged 15 and over) came in at a whopping 38.2%, which puts the birthplace of the hamburger and the Cronut at the top of the heftiest-nations-in-the-world rankings, according to an updated survey from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development…

❝ On average, 19.5% of adults are #obese across OECD countries.

❝ In most countries, the OECD has found that women are more obese than men, though obesity rates for the male population are growing rapidly. Education is a determinant as the organization found that less schooling makes a woman two to three times more likely to be overweight than the more educated in about half of the eight countries for which the data was available…

And the OECD has found that obese people have poorer job prospects than their slimmer counterparts, earning about 10% less, and are then less productive at work, with fewer worked hours and more sick days…

❝ The future is fatter: Perhaps even more disturbing is the glimpse that the OECD offers into the coming years…Obesity rates are expected to increase until at least 2030, led by the U.S., Mexico and England, where 47%, 39% and 35% of the population are expected to be obese by 2030.

As for solutions, the OECD suggest food labeling, and offered praise for health promotion campaigns across Facebook and Twitter, or dedicated mobile apps that have been shown to have the potential to help with weight loss and body fat. As one survey showed this week, obesity puts individuals at risk from related illnesses — diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and more. In other words, you can’t be fat and healthy at the same time.

If that isn’t depressing enough, watch for the posts I have coming up on Artifical Intelligence – and jobs – in the United States. Not all countries handle knowledge the same, eh? 🙂

China, India Reaching Climate Goals Early — Trump’s US Will Fall Short

❝ Gradual reductions in coal in China and India put the two countries on track to better their carbon emissions goals.

According to Climate Action Tracker forecasts, greenhouse gas emissions from both countries are growing more slowly than previously predicted. The difference projects roughly 2 to 3 billion tons annually by 2030.

That would be sufficient to offset the expected underperformance of the U.S. — the number two contributor to world carbon emissions, behind China and ahead of India.

❝ American President Donald Trump rolled back the country’s emission controls, putting U.S. on track to miss its Paris Pledge mark. The U.S. is now on track to emit 400 million metric tons more than previously projected by 2030…

❝ …The other two top emitters are ardently fighting climate change by cutting coal use and boosting renewables. “Five years ago, the idea of either China or India stopping — or even slowing — coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle…

The analysts rated both China and India’s climate plans as “medium,” but said that Trump’s planned policies could downgrade U.S. from “medium” to “inadequate.”

Like most of his projects, you can expect Trump to Fail or Go Bankrupt. Running the US government, he may succeed in doing both in record time.

If China is unfair to US companies, why is GM the best-selling car?

❝ Will the world’s two largest economies finally come to a fight over the price of cars?

Ahead of a high-stakes summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Donald Trump’s White House has made clear that it isn’t happy with China’s high tariffs on imported American automobiles. These contribute, it says, to the US’s total trade deficit with China, which was $347 billion last year. Former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers also brought up the issue in a recent meeting with China’s premier (paywall), Li Keqiang.

❝ While the US taxes imported cars and cars parts at a maximum of 2.5%, China charges tariffs of between 21% and 30%. This gives foreign automakers who want to sell in China a big incentive to manufacture there to avoid the import charge. But China also requires foreign subsidiaries to operate as 50-50 joint ventures with Chinese companies. These, of course, then become classrooms for Chinese engineers to gain foreign know-how…

❝ Further complicating everything: Now that China is the largest car market on the globe, US firms are reluctant to complain too loudly about the lopsided rules for fear of being cut off completely — US firms and their joint ventures have a major share of the market.

The articles points out some useful contemporaneous constraints. As history, it sucks. The processes described are typical of nations growing from 3rd World to developing and more. As true in Asia as Latin America. I worked in American industries in recent decades where complete products had low tariffs – and parts were charged 30-50% tariffs.

And, then, Japan doesn’t use tariffs at all to exclude American-built cars. They simply set manufacturing standards American companies can’t afford to meet. For decades, now.

❝ Witness the latest annual report from General Motors, which sells more cars in China (3.9 million) than in the US (3 million) and saw its China business grow 13% last year; one in 10 cars sold in China was a GM. “Maintaining good relations with our joint venture partners, which are affiliated with the Chinese government, is an important part of our China growth strategy,” the report said…

And, of course, Trump approaches the whole question in terms most Americans agree with. We’re the biggest and most important export market in the world and everyone should obey. We’re worth it.

As ignorant as Trump – since China’s biggest customer is the European Union and We’re #2.

Probably should mention the largest export market for 33 American states — is China. Gonna be some hollering if Trump starts a trade war.

Who’s happy, who’s not!

❝ If you want to go to your happy place, you need more than cash. A winter coat helps — and a sense of community.

A new report shows Norway is the happiest country on Earth, Americans are getting sadder, and it takes more than just money to be happy.

❝ Norway vaulted to the top slot in the World Happiness Report despite the plummeting price of oil, a key part of its economy. Income in the United States has gone up over the past decade, but happiness is declining.

The United States was 14th in the latest ranking, down from No. 13 last year, and over the years Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy.

“It’s the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationship between people, is it worth it?” asked John Helliwell, the lead author of the report and an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada — ranked No. 7…

❝ Norway moved from No. 4 to the top spot in the report’s rankings, which combine economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years from 2014 to 2016. Norway edged past previous champ Denmark, which fell to second. Iceland, Switzerland and Finland round out the top 5…

❝ Study co-author and economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University said in a phone interview from Oslo that the sense of community, so strong in Norway, is deteriorating in the United States.

We’re becoming more and more mean spirited. And our government is becoming more and more corrupt. And inequality is rising,” Sachs said, citing research and analysis he conducted on America’s declining happiness for the report. “It’s a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse.”

Somehow, I don’t think folks betting on “Make America Great” know crap about what brings happiness to ordinary American families, working-class individuals.

A woman died from a superbug that beat all 26 antibiotics available in the United States


A culture of Klebsiella pneumoniaeLarry Mulvehill/Getty

❝ If you had any doubts about the “nightmare” and “catastrophic threat” of antimicrobial resistance, take a look at this new field report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nevada public health officials tell the story of a Washoe County resident who appeared at a Reno hospital in August 2016 with sepsis. Doctors found out that she was infected with a type of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, superbug called Klebsiella pneumoniae and quickly put her in isolation. Tests showed that the bacterium, which spread throughout her body, was resistant to 26 different antibiotics — or every antibiotic available in the US.

In early September, the woman, who was in her 70s, developed septic shock and died.

❝ What makes this case particularly alarming is that the infection probably didn’t originate in the US. The woman had spent significant amounts of time in India, and while there, was hospitalized on several occasions over two years for a femur fracture and later, bone infections.

India has a major superbug issue, particularly in its hospitals. The authors of the report suggest the patient may have picked up her infection while in hospital there…

❝ This is a frightening story of a deadly bacterium doctors couldn’t control — and the real limits of our antibiotic arsenal. But it’s also a reminder of how tricky the superbug problem will be to solve without a lot of international collaboration.

RTFA, especially if you think the GOUSA can solve all its own problems alone. Mobility, communications, ease of travel compared to what was available a half-century ago, all mean little to someone who thinks the world begins and ends at their county line.

The rest of us have to be concerned with staying alive.

Six maps that show America’s vast infrastructure — much of which is past its sell-by date


Click to enlargeRAILROADS

Probably 99% of these rails and roadbeds aren’t suitable for any traffic more demanding than 1950. Most industrial or wannabe-modern nations work at keeping the capability of their national rail system up-to-date. Or better.

We don’t.

Lots more in the article. Trump and the TeaPublican Party assign themselves the mantle of modern with their proposal for advancing, rebuilding infrastructure. It’s about 10% of the commitment the Chinese government has assigned for that nation.

Don’t worry, we’ll show ’em. Guaranteed we can spend more for less than anyone in the world.