We might be fascinated by cities, but we tend to see them in dichotomous ways. On one hand, they are held to be the key to economic growth and increased prosperity. There is a well-established school of city utopianism as exemplified by what Harvard economist Ed Glaeser calls “the triumph of the cities”. This notion of world cities as nodes in a network of transnational flows of capital, people and ideas is central to the neoliberal agenda.

But there is also a dystopian view of cities (typically associated with sub-Saharan Africa) as being chaotic, and a focus of poverty and violence. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital Kinshasa, with a population of 9 million, is described by Belgian anthropologist Filip De Boeck as “a city that is in and of itself elsewhere, invisible”. In development policy, cities were (and to a degree still are) seen as malevolent, sucking in productive people from rural areas and undermining agricultural production, the basis of economic development.

The reliance on western models of urban planning and containment has resulted in a catastrophic failure to manage the growth of cities in many low- and middle-income countries. Most development policy has lacked a specific urban perspective, with the result that cities have grown haphazardly in the face of irresistible migration and population growth. Urban policy, where it existed at all, has sought membership of the elite of global cities pursuing high-value real estate development and prestige projects while ignoring the needs of the poor, who are an essential component of city economies.

The Social Network (2010) - Hacking and drinking scene

Eduardo Saverin: What’s going on?
Mark Zuckerberg: They have ten minutes to get root access to a Python web server, expose its SSL encryption and then intercept all traffic over its secure port.
Saverin: They’re hacking.
Zuckerberg: Yes, all behind a Pix Firewall Emulator. But here’s the beauty.
Saverin: You know I didn’t understand anything you just said, right?
Zuckerberg: I do know that.
Saverin: So, what’s the beauty?
Zuckerberg: Every tenth line of code written, they have to drink a shot. And hacking supposed to be stealth, so every time the server detects an intrusion, the candidate responsible has to drink a shot. I also have a program running that has a pop-up window appear simultaneously on all five computers. The last candidate to hit the window has to drink a shot. Plus every three minutes they all have to drink a shot.
Saverin: What part of interns’ job will they need to do drunk?
Zuckerberg: You’re right; more relevant test might be to see if you can keep a chicken alive for a week … that was mean.
Saverin: …there,
Zuckerberg: .. What is this?
Saverin: …I opened a new acount and put $18,000 in it, Will that get you through the summer?

At the 500 Club bar in the heart of the Mission district here, patrons are banned from wearing Google Glass. Two miles up the hill at the hospital at the University of California, San Francisco, a lung surgeon wears Glass to assist him as he operates.

The contrast illustrates both the challenge and opportunity for Google as it plans to sell its Internet-connected headwear to the public later this year. Consumers have been wary of Glass. Yet it is finding more enthusiastic acceptance in the workplace: in medicine, law enforcement, manufacturing and athletics.


It will not necessarily be an easy sell. The privacy concerns about Glass could be an even bigger issue in certain work settings, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Consider meetings in which sensitive information is exchanged, for example, with a doctor or financial adviser.

Yet in many cases, he said, there are fewer privacy concerns about Glass in the workplace.

“I can think of a whole bunch of professions where Google Glass makes a lot of sense and poses almost no privacy risk at all and could be really valuable — everything from engineering to car repair to architecture to lumberjacking,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “But what’s interesting about all of those professions is that you’re not actually interacting with a customer.”

The first insight is that there is nothing novel about the recent impact of technology and technological change on labor markets. A series of industrial and technological revolutions—the rise of the factory system in the early nineteenth century, the emergence of steam power (in production and infrastructure) in the later nineteenth century, the succession of electricity and “Fordist” mass production early in the twentieth century—all shared the same motive and logic: the search for productivity gains through the transformation or displacement of wage labor. Over this long haul, technological change has tended to push job growth to the margins—displacing middle-wage production and clerical occupations, increasing the productivity and skills of high-wage workers, and leaving many low-wage service jobs untouched.

But there is little evidence that this is now happening at an accelerated or game-changing pace. While we are commonly warned, as Kevin Drum put it recently, that “smart machines are going to put lots of people out of work over the next few decades, and this is going to substantially increase income inequality,” neither recent unemployment nor inequality trends suggest that this dystopian nightmare has begun. As CEPR’s John Schmitt and Kris Warner point out, the share of displaced workers reporting unemployment as a result of “plant closing” or “position abolished” has been pretty constant since such surveys were launched in the late 1980s; those reporting jobs lost due to “insufficient work,” by contrast, nearly doubled (from 22 to 43 percent) between 2006 and 2010. Increased unemployment, in other words, is cyclical (a reflection of insufficient demand in a recessionary economy) and not structural (the result of a skills mismatch or technological displacement).

More to the point, patterns of occupational change do not line up in any credible, chronological manner with concurrent patterns of wage inequality. As the graph below (drawing on Mishel, Shierholz, and Schmitt) summarizes, occupational shares across the last generation shifted fairly steadily—especially from middle-wage to high-wage occupations. But the corresponding trends in wage inequality are starkly discontinuous. There is a spike in the gap between low-wage and median-wage workers in the 1980s (especially stark for women, and starting a bit earlier for men), but this levels off after 1990. By the same token, trends in the wage gap at the top (between median and high-wage workers) also bear little relation to changing occupation shares—sometimes growing as the shift in occupational shares slowed, sometimes narrowing as the shift in shares picked up. Slow and steady shifts in the demand for low-, middle-, and high-wage workers, in short, seem to have little to do with the wage gaps between them.


In contrast to the urbanisation of the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century, migration to the big cities today is not a choice made out of the need to find work, but out of desperation. Industrial centres used to be hungry for a general labour force: now there is no call for it, there are no offers of work or, if there are, they mainly for highly skilled workers. Those who arrive without any financial resources and marketable skills have to adapt to a disadvantaged state of poverty. The cities now take on the function of shelters offering basic necessities to those who no longer have anything to lose; real lifelines in the desert created by globalisation, by the economic crisis, by profound changes that disrupt the social order and exacerbate differences, opening chasms of inequality which are unprecedented in human history.

The alarm comes mainly from Africa and Asia: Kaberuka still points out that populated centres like Mumbai, Nairobi and Kinshasa are actually small towns surrounded by vast slums – “pockets of wealth in a sea of ​​despair” – where a growing number of people amass in search of hope. This trend is not limited only to the cities that Kaberuka stated, but is more closely concerned with the world metropolises, without sparing New York, Tokyo, London, Paris or Rome, and no longer making any distinction between internal and external migration.

There is no integration because there is no work. The outcasts of industrialised society were tolerated because they represented a labour reserve ready to use when the need arose. Now, in the post-industrial society, there is no longer the need for an extra labour force; if anything, the problem is how to get rid of an excess of workers and replace them with numerical control machines which are becoming more and more sophisticated. Globalisation is a process of desertification that burns the ground on which it passes, and wipes out any anthropological traces. For now, and as long as there are potential differences between different nations – not yet globalised – the multinationals will continue to relocate and move elsewhere in search of tax benefits, moderate regulations and lower costs.

The plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, has been shifting its attention away, leaving the complex cleanup to an often badly managed, poorly trained, demoralized and sometimes unskilled work force that has made some dangerous missteps. At the same time, the company is pouring its resources into another plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, that it hopes to restart this year as part of the government’s push to return to nuclear energy three years after the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster. It is a move that some members of the country’s nuclear regulatory board have criticized.

That shift in attention has translated into jobs at Fukushima that pay less and are more sporadic, chasing away qualified workers. Left behind, laborers and others say, is a work force often assembled by fly-by-night labor brokers with little technical or safety expertise and even less concern about hiring desperate people. Police and labor activists say some of the most aggressive of the brokers have mob ties.

Regulators, contractors and more than 20 current and former workers interviewed in recent months say the deteriorating labor conditions are a prime cause of a string of large leaks of contaminated water and other embarrassing errors that have already damaged the environment and, in some cases, put workers in danger. In the worst-case scenario, experts fear, struggling workers could trigger a bigger spill or another radiation release.

“There is a crisis of manpower at the plant,” said Yukiteru Naka, founder of Tohoku Enterprise, a contractor and former plant engineer for General Electric. “We are forced to do more with less, like firemen being told to use less water even though the fire’s still burning.”

Man asserts death wish in ‘Basuke’ threats - The Japan Times

A man accused of making hostile threats in connection with a popular manga series admitted full guilt in court Thursday, vowing to embrace any penalties without appealing and pushing for severe punishment, suggesting he wants to kill himself.

Hirofumi Watanabe was arrested last December for masterminding hateful campaigns against the popular comic book “Kuroko no Basuke” (“Kuroko’s Basketball”), authored by Tadatoshi Fujimaki. Threats were repeatedly sent to organizers nationwide that were planning events based on the manga.

The 36-year-old temp worker also placed a container filled with hydrogen sulfide on the premises of Sophia University in Tokyo in October 2012 along with a letter revealing his grudge against Fujimaki, who graduated from the Catholic university.


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Income inequality is rising all over the country. But it’s rising faster in some places than others — almost nowhere faster than Orange County.

That’s according to a report this week from real estate website Trulia, which crunched income figures over the last 22 years and found that a household in the 90th percentile of income in Orange County in 2012 earned 11.7 times as much as a household in the 10th percentile. That’s up from 7.5 times as much in 1990.

Only three metro areas in the country — San Francisco, hedge-fund capital Fairfield County, Conn., and San Jose — saw the disparity grow faster in that time.

For years, many Americans followed a simple career path: Land an entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Gain skills. Leave eventually for a better-paying job.

The workers benefited, and so did lower-wage retailers such as Wal-Mart: When its staffers left for better-paying jobs, they could spend more at its stores. And the U.S. economy gained, too, because more consumer spending fueled growth.

Not so much anymore. Since the Great Recession began in late 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.


Yet for now, the lower-wage jobs once seen as stepping stones are increasingly being held for longer periods by older, better-educated, more experienced workers.

The trend extends well beyond Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, and is reverberating across the U.S. economy. It’s partly why average inflation-adjusted income has declined 9 percent for the bottom 40 percent of households since 2007, even as incomes for the top 5 percent now slightly exceed where they were when the recession began late that year, according to the Census Bureau.

As for the residue of the Pequod’s company, be it said, that at the present day not one in two of the many thousand men before the mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans born, though pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with the American whale fishery as with the American army and military and merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the construction of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I say, because in all these cases the native American liberally provides the brains, the rest of the world as generously supplying the muscles.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851), Chapter xxvii - KNIGHTS AND SQUIRES

The rapid consumer-ification of tech, led by Facebook and Google, has created a deep rift between old and new, hardware and software, enterprise companies that sell to other businesses and consumer companies that sell directly to the masses. On their face, these cleavages seem to be part of the natural order. As Biswas pointed out, “There has always been a constant churn of new companies coming in, old companies dying out.”

But the churn feels more problematic now, in part because it deprives the new guard as well as the old — and by extension, it deprives us all. In pursuing the latest and the coolest, young engineers ignore opportunities in less-sexy areas of tech like semiconductors, data storage and networking, the products that form the foundation on which all of Web 2.0 rests. Without a good router to provide reliable Wi-Fi, your Dropbox file-sharing application is not going to sync; without Nvidia’s graphics processing unit, your BuzzFeed GIF is not going to make anyone laugh. The talent — and there’s a ton of it — flowing into Silicon Valley cares little about improving these infrastructural elements. What they care about is coming up with more web apps.


What’s cool? Who can be trusted? Why does one start-up go public, while another, which seems to do the same thing, fizzles? What logic, if any, pertains to where the money flows? These are the anxious questions that pervade Silicon Valley now, I think, more than ever — the vague sense of a frenzied bubble of app-making and an even vaguer dread that what we are making might not be that meaningful.

Over the past decade, the U.S. military has outsourced its overseas base-support responsibilities to private contractors, which have filled the lowest-paying jobs on military bases with third-country nationals, migrant workers who are neither U.S. citizens nor locals. As of January 2014, there were 37,182 third-country nationals working on bases in the U.S. Central Command region, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq — outnumbering both American and local contract workers.

These laborers do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, construction and other support tasks necessary to operate military facilities. In Afghanistan they primarily come from India and Nepal and are employed by subcontractors for one of two large American companies, Fluor Corp. and Dyncorp International, which manage U.S. bases in Afghanistan under the Department of Defense’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. Dozens of subcontracting companies, mostly headquartered in the Persian Gulf, work on Fluor and Dyncorp contracts.

South Asian workers are at the bottom of the social hierarchy on U.S. bases. They earn far less than American or European contractors, work 12-hour days with little or no time off and, on some bases, aren’t allowed to use cellphones or speak to military personnel. On the base we visited, Camp Marmal, most were surprised and nervous when we approached them, concerned that talking to journalists could get them in trouble. One young man’s face contorted in terror when asked whether he had paid a recruiting fee. He shook his head no, fearful of any reprisals. “To come here, you have to use an agent,” another worker told us. “There is no other way. So we pay money to come.”


“We can call this bonded labor or human trafficking, because it all starts with false promises about what the job is, and they have to pay an amount to get the job,” Kavinamannil explains. “Debt will make you work anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s a war zone.” When we reached out to Fluor, which manages Camp Marmal, the company said it “provides hotlines to allow individuals to report anonymously any suspected instances of human trafficking” and holds its subcontractors to a “zero tolerance policy regarding trafficking in persons.”

A new investigation by Al Jazeera America looks at the human trafficking system that brings tens of thousands of foreign laborers to work on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan. “America’s War Workers” examines how these laborers regularly end up deceived and indebted, victims of local recruiters who charge thousands of dollars and offer false promises of high-paying jobs. They are easy prey for labor traffickers who profit from military contracts. We are joined by Al Jazeera America correspondent Anjali Kamat and producer Sam Black, whose investigation spanned five months and several countries.


..there’s—the Pentagon, but not just the Pentagon, the prime contractors, Fluor and DynCorp, are insulated from this behavior. And it’s set up purposely to insulate them from this behavior. The U.S. Department of Defense depends on, and over the last 10 years has depended on, thousands, hundreds of thousands of these low-paid workers, and—but with the system they’ve set up, they’re insulated. And, you know, what’s important here is that the money is going the opposite way that you expect: It’s going up the supply chain. The people are paying to work, and the people who are recruiting are paying to recruit. It’s just kind of bizarre. And the people that are making the most profit are essentially rent seeking on the fact that they have the opportunity to offer the job. And it’s because they’re essentially hooked up to the hose of government money that they can do that.