Category Archives: Development Sector

People in this Swedish town gather in a ‘Solar Egg’ sauna instead of having town halls

Thanks;Leanna Garfield

Published ; Jun. 21, 2017, 5:41 PM

The Solar Egg by Bigert & Bergström.Jean-Baptiste Béranger

On the western border of Kiruna, Sweden, the state-owned mining company, LKAB, has been extracting iron ore from the Kirunavaara mountains for over a decade. But the long-term mining has caused fissures that are creeping closer to the city center of Kiruna.
Now, LKAB — which also founded the Arctic town in 1900 — is funding Kiruna’s relocation nearly two miles east, so that it can continue mining in the mountains.
Moving an entire town is no easy task and requires lengthy discussions with officials, the mining company, and residents. Local architects from Bigert & Bergström have designed one place where those talks can take place: a golden, egg-shaped sauna. 
Completed in late April, the sauna is a place for locals and officials to unwind and discuss questions and concerns about Kiruna’s relocation, the firm told Business Insider.


Located in Kiruna, Sweden, the Solar Egg is a sauna that’s free for anyone to use.

Visitors can book time in the saun ~> https://instagram.com/p/BTI25TCB8px/

By Jean-Baptiste Béranger

Its exterior is made of reflective sheets of plexiglass that were painted gold.


By Jean-Baptiste Béranger

The interior walls are made of pine ….

… and the benches from aspen wood. In the center, there’s a wood-powered stove made from iron and stone. The temperature inside can range from 167 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (75 to 85 degrees Celsius).


Jean-Baptiste Béranger

The space, which fits up to eight people, is meant to serve as a local meeting place to discuss Kiruna’s relocation plan. “The egg shape seeks to symbolize rebirth and new opportunities at the start of Kiruna’s urban transformation,” the architects said.

Jean-Baptiste Béranger

To avoid being swallowed by the mine, Kiruna will need to move nearly two miles east. The Stockholm-based firm White Architects will be in charge of moving the town, where approximately 23,000 people live. Below is a rendering of what the new city center may look like:


Producing 90% of all iron in Europe, Kiruna’s mine has become the world’s largest iron ore extraction site. LKAB is also the biggest energy consumer in Sweden.
 
“It’s a dystopian choice,” Krister Lindstedt, a partner at White Architects, told The Guardian. “Either the mine must stop digging, creating mass unemployment, or the city has to move – or else face certain destruction. It’s an existential predicament.”Jean-Baptiste Béranger/Source: The Guardian

Later this summer, the Solar Egg will move to Nikkaluokta, a Swedish town about 45 miles west of Kiruna.

Paris agreement or not, solar employment looking brighter than coal

Thanks;Andrea Riquier

Published: June 2, 2017 1:20 p.m. ET

Nearly 400,000 people are employed in solar, more than double the number of coal workers

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016.

As he introduced President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden yesterday, Vice-President Mike Pence said the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord was his way of putting “forgotten men and women” first.

And if anyone had any doubt who those “forgotten” souls were, the president himself departed from his prepared remarks to riff, “I happen to love the coal miners”But observers of the energy industry say it’s not that coal miners are forgotten. Instead, a perfect storm of workforce automation, a glut of natural gas, and consumer preferences has combined to make them obsolete.

“There are huge tectonic trends that are almost all mitigating against any near-term recovery of coal,” said Mark Muro, director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “It simply is not needed given the onset of extremely cheap and clean natural gas and the onset of renewables.”
On Friday, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn was asked about the administration’s emphasis on employment in a shrinking industry. Cohn told CNBC, “At some point in the cycle, coal will be competitive again. We want to keep coal available, we want to be in the coal business.”

But observers of the energy industry say it’s not that coal miners are forgotten. Instead, a perfect storm of workforce automation, a glut of natural gas, and consumer preferences has combined to make them obsolete.

“There are huge tectonic trends that are almost all mitigating against any near-term recovery of coal,” said Mark Muro, director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “It simply is not needed given the onset of extremely cheap and clean natural gas and the onset of renewables.”
On Friday, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn was asked about the administration’s emphasis on employment in a shrinking industry. Cohn told CNBC, “At some point in the cycle, coal will be competitive again. We want to keep coal available, we want to be in the coal business.”  

But modern technology – particularly in the large-scale open-pit mining centers of the west, far from the Rust Belt – means that “even if demand for coal returned, the jobs wouldn’t. It’s pretty devastating,” Muro told MarketWatch.

It’s very challenging to break out how many people are employed in any part of the energy industry, in part because there are so many different components to each. There are jobs created in the initial energy generation process, and then there are support categories: manufacturers and installers of rooftop solar panels, for example. The Labor Department classifies many of those installation jobs within the construction industry, for example.
The Labor Department reported Friday that 51,000 people were employed in coal mining in May. But BLS doesn’t break out employment in other forms of energy production in any way for comparison.
In January, the outgoing Obama administration Energy Department released a report on energy and employment that showed that over 370,000 people were employed in the solar industry, compared to 86,000 in the coal industry. Over 101,000 people work in the wind power generation industry.
It’s worth noting that solar is so labor-intensive now in part because it’s just gaining a foothold. About 37% of solar electric generation jobs are construction and installation, the Energy Department’s report noted. So it’s likely that over time, solar won’t be as much of a job creator as it is now.
In 2011, Brookings released a substantial research report on what it termed the “clean economy,” which delved more deeply into job categorizations, among other things. The researchers noted that green energy efforts are beneficial in many ways, including by being manufacturing and export intensive. In 2009, the authors wrote, 5.3% of all U.S. goods exports were from “clean economy establishments.”
The clean economy also “offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle- skilled workers than the national economy as a whole,” the report noted.
In May, the International Renewable Energy Agency said the number of people working in the renewables sector internationally could more than double in the next 13 years, “more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”

Russia has reawakened 3 mystery satellites — and no one knows what they are for

Thanks;Daniel Brown

Published;May 20, 2017, 6:29 AM 1,583

An illustration of the SES-10 telecommunications satellite.

Three Russian satellites that were sent into low orbit in 2013 are on the move again, and no one knows what they are for, The Daily Beast reports.

Having been idle for more than a year, one of the satellites went hundreds of meters off its orbit last month to within 1,200 meters of a piece of a Chinese weather satellite that China smashed in a 2007 anti-satellite rocket test.

The maneuver, which is pretty impressive for such a small spacecraft, is also rather close by orbital standards.

No one quite knows what the satellites are for, but some experts say they could be “technology-demonstrators” or even “precursors to orbital weapons,” according to The Daily Beast.

Code named Kosmos-2491, Kosmos-2499 and Kosmos-2504, the three satellites maneuvered several times in the last three years to within a few dozen feet of their old booster shells.

This means that they could be inspection satellites that can scan and match the orbit of other spacecraft, possibly even interact with it physically for repairs, modifications or to dismantle it.

It’s also possible that these satellites could be used for warfare. “You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them,” Anatoly Zak, an independent expert on Russian spacecraft, told The Beast in 2015. “If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm.”

In 2012, US intelligence completed a report analyzing “the growing vulnerability of US satellites that provide secure military communications, warn about enemy missile launches, and provide precise targeting coordinates,” anonymous sources told Reuters.

The report raised many concerns about China’s ability to disrupt satellites in higher orbits, possibly putting sensitive U.S. spacecraft at risk, the sources told Reuters.

But Russian space agency chief Oleg Ostapenko claimed in 2014 that the satellites were for peaceful purposes.

China sparks human rights outcry by ramping up DNA testing in Muslim-dominated region

Thanks;Matthew Brown 

Published ; Wednesday 17 May 2017 07:34 
Police in Xinjiang purchase $8.7m of equipment to analyse genetic material from citizens, prompting fears of state security crackdown

Ethnic Uighurs sit near a statue of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong in Kashgar, Xinjiang Thomas Peter/Reuters 

China appears to be laying the groundwork for the mass collection of DNA samples from residents of a restive, largely Muslim region that’s been under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent experts said Tuesday.

Police in western China’s Xinjiang region confirmed to The Associated Press that they are in the process of purchasing at least $8.7 million in equipment to analyse DNA samples.
Observers from Human Rights Watch said they’ve seen evidence of almost $3 million in additional purchases related to DNA testing. They warned such a collection programme could be used as a way for authorities to beef up their political control.
The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required Xinjiang residents to submit DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad.

Xinjiang borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It’s experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uighur Islamic minority.

In one of the most recent attacks, eight people, including three assailants, were killed in a February knife attack in southern Xinjiang’s Pishan County, which borders Pakistan.

Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uighurs have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils and men growing beards.

The purchases of DNA testing equipment in Xinjiang were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau. The official, who gave only her surname, Huang, said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang’s Sheche County, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3-D portrait systems, according to a security official surnamed Yin, who declined to give further details.
If used at full capacity, the new equipment could be used to profile up to 10,000 DNA samples a day and several million a year, said Yves Moreau, a computational biologist specialising in genome analysis and DNA privacy at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
The scale of the purchases raises “a legitimate concern that Chinese authorities could be planning to DNA profile a large fraction, or even all” of the Uighur people in Xinjiang, Moreau said.

How to make money while you sleep

Thanks;Nancy Mann Jackson

Published: May 10, 2017 4:58 a.m. ET

Create passive income streams

Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, top off your emergency fund or invest more, a little extra monthly income can get you there faster.

But there are only so many hours in a day — and maybe adding another side hustle to your busy schedule just isn’t possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow earn more without working additional hours or hitting up your boss for another raise? That’s what happens when you create passive income streams.

Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, top off your emergency fund or invest more, a little extra monthly income can get you there faster.

But there are only so many hours in a day — and maybe adding another side hustle to your busy schedule just isn’t possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow earn more without working additional hours or hitting up your boss for another raise? That’s what happens when you create passive income streams.
“Passive income’s great because it increases your cash flow and allows you to save [more],” says financial adviser Craig J. Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services, LLC in N.Y. “The initial effort in some cases is minimal, and you have the ability to collect money on those efforts over a period of time.”

Of course, investing in the stock market can provide earnings over time through market returns and the magic of compounding. But there are also ways to create steady streams of passive income that pay out at regular intervals.

These efforts don’t come without risk. But with careful planning and consideration, you can lower the risks — and initial costs — and increase the potential benefits.

Here are six paths to passive income that may be worth pursuing.

1. High-dividend stocks

When you purchase stock in a company that pays dividends to its shareholders, you’ll start earning a percentage of the company’s profits automatically. For example, if a company pays an annualized dividend of 50 cents per share and you own 500 shares, you’ll get an extra $250 in your pocket — for doing nothing more than being a shareholder. (Most companies pay dividends on a quarterly basis, so you’d earn about 13 cents per share each quarter.)

Certain industries, like public utilities, financial services and oil, tend to pay higher dividends than others, so do your homework with resources like Yahoo! YHOO, +1.31% Finance’s stocks screener or by talking to an adviser.

“If you’re going after dividend income, the sweet spot is not the company that’s currently paying the highest yield, but the companies that are likely to generate growth in dividends in the coming months and years,” says Rob Brown, a Certified Financial Analyst and chief investment officer at United Capital. “Pay attention to what companies and industries are thriving now; they are most likely to raise the dividends they’re paying now in the future.”

You may also choose to reinvest your dividends, which allows you to buy more shares even without spending more money, so you can benefit more when the price rises.

One caveat: Remember that there are risks involved with investing in individual stocks—even ones with high-dividend yield—as the price of the stock can go up or down. You can lower your risk by investing in an index or other low-cost funds, which contains shares of many companies. One option is to look for dividend-paying ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, which are funds that trade like stocks. (Investing apps like Acorns and Betterment use such ETFs and reinvest dividends automatically.)  

2. Bonds

Purchasing bonds can be another good way to earn consistent passive income, though the amount you’ll receive depends on the fluctuating bond market. “Bondholders [usually] receive a check every six months for the interest earned in loaning the entity money, and, in turn, get their principal back at maturity,” Ferrantino explains.

There’s a wide variety of bonds to choose from, including U.S. Treasury bonds, municipal bonds and corporate bonds. Each has its own maturity date, minimum investment, interest rate and payout. For instance, Treasury notes mature in two to 10 years and pay interest semiannually at a fixed rate (currently about 1% to 2%, depending on term lengths, and it is exempt from state and local taxes), while corporate bonds pay taxable interest and can have maturities ranging from a few weeks to 100 years.

Before purchasing bonds, make sure you know what you’re getting into — and what you will get out of it.

Read: How to buy bonds

3. Rental properties

Acquiring and maintaining rental property can require a lot more investment and sweat equity than other types of passive income, both upfront and over the years (if the roof leaks or the boiler breaks down in a rental property, you’re on the hook for it). But rental properties can also provide lucrative, ongoing income for many years to come.

“Rental properties in a market you understand can be a fantastic passive investment,” says Jeffrey Zucker, a seasoned angel investor and property management entrepreneur in Chicago. “I look for large or fast-growing housing markets, where people are clamoring for affordable, nice places.”

Before purchasing a property, Zucker recommends comprehensive due diligence to ensure that you can cover your costs — which likely include insurance, taxes and maintenance — and turn a profit on top of that. You want to invest in a property that will draw continued interest from renters and increase in value.

He also recommends using an experienced property manager. “There are some great property management companies out there that can assist to make leasing out rental properties truly passive mailbox money,” Zucker says. “Having managed our own properties for a few years prior to partnering with a company, we learned the long hours and effort that go into maintaining properties and dealing with tenants — and how much better those who focus solely on this role are at the job.”

4. Rewards credit cards

This might seem like an odd addition — and this is not a strategy to pursue unless you are able to pay off your bill in full each month. However, if you can use credit responsibly and avoid racking up debt, rewards credit cards can provide easy income, thanks to perks like cash-back bonuses. For instance, use a cash-back card for all your household expenses — and pay it off at the end of the month — and you’ll earn money simply by making necessary purchases. (Ferrantino recommends a card like the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa, which gives you 5% cash back on gas purchases and another 3% for groceries and has a low annual fee. NerdWallet also has a ranking of the best cash-back cards, including several with no annual fee.)

“My rewards have paid for a variety of travel experiences, and I have friends that use their points to pay exclusively for a certain [budget] category, like gas or household bills. It’s nice for them to cross an expense off simply by doing all of their planned spending on the right card,” Zucker says. “Be careful though, as many of the best rewards cards have high interest rates for any carry-over debt.”

5. Peer-to-peer lending

Also known as “marketplace lending,” peer-to-peer lending is the practice of individuals lending money to others in place of a bank or other financial institution. In recent years, platforms like Prosper and Lending Club have made these crowdfunded loans more widely available to borrowers and opened the possibilities for investors.

“New, technology-driven intermediaries have been coming in and replacing banks to make small loans to businesses or individuals, and they offer many comparative advantages,” Brown says.

Remember, though, that while investing through a peer-to-peer marketplace can pay off—Prosper investors, for example, can earn about 5% to 9% annually—there are still risks involved and borrowers may default on their debts. One way to protect yourself, Brown says, is by requiring that borrowers’ credit quality is above a certain level, depending on your appetite for risk. You can also reduce risk by diversifying your investment across many different loans.

6. Renting unused space
The sharing economy is in full force, and if you have extra space in your home or spend a lot of time out of town, you can join in and earn some extra cash. Thousands of people are renting out their homes through Airbnb, and sites like Liquid Space and Breather offer opportunities to place your office or home up for rent during daytime hours. (Airbnb hosts renting a single room in a two-bedroom home cover, on average, a whopping 81% of their rent, according to one report.)

“Any unused space is an asset worth renting out if there is demand in your market,” Zucker says. “[Online marketplaces] offer consumers easy ways to make some extra money on rooms that would otherwise be doing nothing for them.”

Brexit is killing the pound but it’s having a really productive side-effect on Britain’s economy

Thanks;Lianna 


Brexit is having a seriously positive impact on employment.

LONDON – The pound has cratered against the US dollar ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23 last year.

But while that has a negative effect on Brits’ purchasing power, it is actually having a seriously positive impact on another sector in Britain’s economy – employment.

That is according to Sam Bowman, the executive director of one of the world’s prominent think tanks, the Adam Smith Institute, who spoke at a local Conservative party conference in East Croydon, which Business Insider attended on Saturday.
He was talking about how Brexit is expected to affect the UK economy over the short and long term and looked at both positive and negative impacts from Britain planning to leave the European Union.
“Probably many people in this room are like me – frustrated by the tone of the Brexit debate, even eight or nine months after the referendum,” said Bowman.

“It feels like the referendum debate has never ended. On one side we have around 10% some extremely die-hard leavers, who refuse to accept there could be any difficulty on leaving the European Union. And then there is 10% extremely die-hard remainers who refuse to admit there would be any benefits from leaving the European Union.
“In the middle, I think, is the rest of us – 80% who accept the result and want to make Brexit work but also want to acknowledge that it is not necessarily going to be an easy ride.”
He also talked about how Brexit has already had an impact on the UK economy. But it is not all bad. Bowman said he is a “short term pessimist but a long term optimist about Brexit.”
Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“I think employment is likely to be quite strong. It is unlikely that [Brexit] will cause any large scale unemployment. even in a very, very pessimistic outcome – the reason for that being the pound has absorbed most of the costs, meaning that we effectively have real term wage cuts and our purchasing power falls but people become more employable as a result. So there are good and bad [aspects] to the fall in the pound.”
The pound against the US dollar tanked in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum vote. While it has recently gained a little bit of ground to reach $1.28, it is still a far cry from the $1.50 last seen in June last year:

Markets Insider

UK flag glasses

Brexit is having a seriously positive impact on employment.Reuters

LONDON – The pound has cratered against the US dollar ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23 last year.

But while that has a negative effect on Brits’ purchasing power, it is actually having a seriously positive impact on another sector in Britain’s economy – employment.
That is according to Sam Bowman, the executive director of one of the world’s prominent think tanks, the Adam Smith Institute, who spoke at a local Conservative party conference in East Croydon, which Business Insider attended on Saturday.
He was talking about how Brexit is expected to affect the UK economy over the short and long term and looked at both positive and negative impacts from Britain planning to leave the European Union.
“Probably many people in this room are like me – frustrated by the tone of the Brexit debate, even eight or nine months after the referendum,” said Bowman.
“It feels like the referendum debate has never ended. On one side we have around 10% some extremely die-hard leavers, who refuse to accept there could be any difficulty on leaving the European Union. And then there is 10% extremely die-hard remainers who refuse to admit there would be any benefits from leaving the European Union.
“In the middle, I think, is the rest of us – 80% who accept the result and want to make Brexit work but also want to acknowledge that it is not necessarily going to be an easy ride.”

He also talked about how Brexit has already had an impact on the UK economy. But it is not all bad. Bowman said he is a “short term pessimist but a long term optimist about Brexit.”

Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“I think employment is likely to be quite strong. It is unlikely that [Brexit] will cause any large scale unemployment. even in a very, very pessimistic outcome – the reason for that being the pound has absorbed most of the costs, meaning that we effectively have real term wage cuts and our purchasing power falls but people become more employable as a result. So there are good and bad [aspects] to the fall in the pound.”

The pound against the US dollar tanked in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum vote. While it has recently gained a little bit of ground to reach $1.28, it is still a far cry from the $1.50 last seen in June last year:

sterlingUSD1

Markets Insider

Since the Brexit vote, various economists and financial institutions predicted that the UK’s unemployment rate will shoot up as a result of the vote to leave. Credit Suisse, for example, predicts an increase to 6.5% for the base rate, equivalent to roughly 500,000 jobs being lost. However, the last few months have seen the rate remain near its record low and Wednesday’s figures show the trend appears to be holding up.

Unemployment in the UK fell once again in March, according to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

Headline unemployment fell was 4.7% in the month while employment remained unchanged at 74.6% in the month, equalling a record high set in both January and February, but not seen before that since records began in 1971.

However, wage growth is still poor.

CHILD REFUGEES ‘FORCED TO SELL THEIR BODIES’ TO ENTER EUROPE, RESEARCHERS WARN

THANKS:BY  

Published; 4/19/17 AT 7:29 AM

Smugglers are forcing unaccompanied child refugees to sell their bodies in exchange for money to aid their traveling through Europe, a new report from Harvard University has claimed.

There is a “growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse of migrant children in Greece,” say the report’s co-authors, Dr Vasileia Digidiki and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, at Harvard University’s center for health and human rights.

Informants in Greek migrant camps told Digidiki and Bhabha that men prey on unsuspecting child refugees, sexually abusing those without proper adult supervision. The actual number of children who have been abused is unknown as many do not report it, fearing reprisal.

A psychologist in one of the camps told the researchers: “[Many children] do not want to report [the incident], because they are afraid that the offender will take revenge on them. They also do not believe that the police can help them.”

Unable to afford exorbitant fees charged by smugglers to help them reach European nations where they can seek asylum, children who have fled conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are selling sex to fund their journeys.

child-refugees-lesbos (2)

Child refugees at the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 20, 2016.REUTERS/GIORGOS MOUTAFIS

The report includes an interview with a child refugee who told a journalist: “I never thought I’d have to do something like this. When the money ran out I had to learn to do this. He said “it was the first time I did this, I had no experience.”

The average price of a sexual transaction between a child and a smuggler is 15 euros, the researchers say, adding that the majority of those forced into prostitution are Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan boys.

Offenders, primarily men aged 35 or older, target the children who are found in Athens’ Victoria Square and Pedion tou Areos, a park next to departure areas for buses traveling towards Greece’s northern border.

“There is a reason why these two places have been chosen. They have been key centers for the drug and sex trade for years now. The only difference is the age of people involved. Before you wouldn’t see children. Now you do,” one informant said.

Digidiki told The Guardian that the international community cannot ignore the situation of child refugees in Europe: “We can no longer sit idle while migrant children are abused and forced to sell their bodies in broad daylight and plain sight in the heart of Athens simply to survive.”

“It is our responsibility as human beings to face this emergency head on and take immediate action at every level to put an end to this most heinous violation of dignity and human rights,” she said.

 

 

President Trump looms large over stocks despite deluge of earnings

THANKS;Sue Chang

Published: Feb 4, 2017 8:09 a.m. ET

mw-ff152_trumpw_20170203230441_mg

President Donald Trump is keeping investors on their toes.

It may be peak earnings season but the stock market’s main obsession seems to be President Donald Trump. And as investors continue to second guess his next move and decipher what his policies may mean for the economy, equities are likely to continue taking their cue from politics.

In a sign of how large the president looms over the market, an analysis of FactSet data by MarketWatch shows that one out of four companies referenced Trump during their most recent earnings conference calls. Much of the discussion appears to be driven by questions over the impact his policies will have on each company within the context of growth and trade, underscoring the apprehensive mood in the market.

That sense of uncertainty, in part, hobbled the market for much of the week as major indexes languished. The S&P 500 moved less than 0.1% in either direction for three straight days this week, the first such streak since November 2014, according to Dow Jones data.

Analysts blamed the market’s lackluster action on the absence of specific details from Trump’s administration even as the president moved quickly to fire off a string of executive orders on everything from a temporary immigration ban to withdrawing from landmark trade pacts.

The lack of clarity is likely to be an ongoing feature, forcing the market to fly blind, at least until April when the budget is released, said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist for Mizuho Securities USA.

In the meantime, Ricchiuto urged investors to think outside of the box when it comes to Trump, adding that he’s smart enough to pull off many of his campaign pledges.

“Making the assumption that he is stupid is wrong,” said Ricchiuto, who believes Trump’s actions, no matter how irrational they appear to some, are governed by his background as a real estate developer.

“He will always start from a position of power and then moderate to a different position,” he said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.94%  advanced 186.55 points Friday, or 0.9%, to close at 20,071.46 but slipped 0.1% for the week while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.73%  rose 16.57 points, or 0.7%, to 2,297.42 for a weekly gain of 0.1%, shrugging off its torpor after Trump took steps to overhaul Dodd-Frank law governing the financial industry.

Market sentiment remains bullish even as “Trump fatigue” sets in with Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Bull & Bear Indicator rising to its highest in 2.5 years, according to the investment bank.

MW-FF149_BAML02_20170203172302_NS.png

Next week, 84 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report quarterly results. The FactSet scorecard on fourth-quarter earnings shows 65% of S&P 500 companies beat mean earnings-per-share estimates and 52% have turned in better-than-expected sales.

Apart from earnings, financial stocks are likely to take center stage as expectations of a watered-down Dodd-Frank will be a boon for the industry, which had been chafing under the restrictions placed in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Under former President Barack Obama, regulators have applied financial rules under the most severe interpretations. Under Trump, they are likely to look for the most lenient, said Ricchiuto.

BETSY DEVOS IS COMING FOR YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Thanks;ALEXANDER NAZARYAN Published; 1/10/17 AT 12:00 PM

Betsy DeVos has worked to undermine Michigan’s public schools, according to her critics. Is she ready to lead the nation’s education department?

Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican from Michigan, has been nominated to head the federal Education Department. MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

 

There was a brief moment in mid-November when education reformers were thrilled about President-elect Donald Trump’s swamp-draining imperative and what it might mean for the nation’s eternally beleaguered public schools. On November 16, Trump met at his Manhattan tower with Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy charter network has achieved impressive results with children of color across New York City. The following weekend, he entertained Michelle Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, at his golf club in New Jersey. Despite her uneven results, Rhee remains popular with those who think incompetent teachers and the unions that protect them are holding back America’s kids.

Instead, Trump chose Betsy DeVos to head the Education Department, a federal agency with oversight over all of the nation’s educational institutions, from prekindergarten programs to graduate schools of business. The choice mystified all those who’d figured Trump was looking for a capable, forward-looking technocrat focused on student testing and teacher accountability. The choice horrified teachers unions, as DeVos is a billionaire Republican who has worked assiduously to weaken the public schools in Michigan.
Comedian Rob Delaney tweeted, “Trump’s pick of DeVos as Sec. of Education is more hateful than pouring a vat of shit out of a helicopter onto a group of 1st graders.” Crude as that sentiment may be, it reflects the prevalent perception—unfair, perhaps—that DeVos is unsuited to her post, having never worked in a school or a school district. Her nomination is in keeping with Trump’s apparent conviction that nothing fuels government work better than antipathy to the government.

DeVos would not be the first ideologue to head the Education Department: William Bennett, appointed by Ronald Reagan, was a conservative culture warrior of the first order. George H.W. Bush’s appointments, Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, were also no liberals. But ever since the first education secretary—Shirley Hufstedler, appointed by Jimmy Carter to the new post in 1979—nearly every person to hold that office has had direct experience in teaching or educational administration (two were governors who’d enacted large reform measures).

DeVos, by contrast, is a professional lobbyist. She may be qualified, but when it comes to the battlefields of public education, she is plainly inexperienced.

‘Christ’s Agent of Renewal’

Grand Rapids, Michigan, has largely defined the life of the woman born in 1958 as Elisabeth Prince. She grew up in nearby Holland, on the shores of Lake Michigan, where her father, Edgar Prince, ran an auto parts empire that he would eventually sell for $1.35 billion. The family belonged to the Reformed Church in America, which has its roots in a kind of Protestantism known as Calvinism, the predominant faith of the Dutch who settled western Michigan.

Some flee home for college; Betsy Prince traveled just 30 miles to Grand Rapids, where in 1975 she enrolled in Calvin College, from which her mother, Elsa, had graduated. Any attempt to forecast what DeVos might do as the nation’s education secretary must begin here, at this college of 4,000 that bids its students to act as “Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.” The college is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church and takes its religious mission seriously: Faculty members, for example, are required to send their own children to a Christian secondary school.

The college is named after John Calvin, the 16th-century French thinker from whom Calvinism gets its name. A branch of Protestantism that took root in Northern Europe, Calvinism hews to its founder’s doctrine of predestination, which holds that God has predestined all sinners to Hell, and while he chooses to save some as an act of grace, that salvation cannot be earned. No amount of effort is sufficient to rescue the damned from damnation. It is also among the more intellectual of the various Protestant movements. “Calvinists are usually smart,” says Julie Ingersoll, a scholar at the University of North Florida who has studied conservative Christianity. “The core of worship will be a sermon that is sophisticated and philosophically inclined.”

Kenneth Pomykala attended Calvin College at the same time as Prince and remembers her “vaguely.” Today the head of Calvin’s religion department, Pomykala estimates that back then, perhaps 90 percent of the students belonged to the Christian Reformed tradition. “One of the things Calvinism is known for is that one’s religious values should affect the way you live all of life,” Pomykala says. “It doesn’t make the separation between private religion and public life.”

At Calvin College, Prince studied business economics and served on the student senate; she volunteered on Gerald Ford’s losing presidential bid in 1976 and worked for other Republican campaigns. In 1980, she married Dick DeVos, a native of Grand Rapids and a student at nearby Northwood University who stood to become the heir to the Amway fortune, the massive marketing company co-founded by his father that some have called a pyramid scheme. His family, like hers, was conservative, pious and very rich.

The DeVoses have four children, whom they raised in Ada, a wealthy suburb of Grand Rapids, where the annual median household income today is almost $122,000, more than double Michigan’s average of about $49,000. The town, the seventh wealthiest in Michigan, has unsurprisingly good public schools, but the DeVos children apparently did not attend them. Two daughters were at least partly home-schooled, a fact that has been happily noted by home-schooling advocates, many of whom are religious conservatives elated to finally have a booster in Washington, D.C. Both sons attended the Grand Rapids Christian High School, which has a DeVos Center for Arts and Worship.

Though she has been reticent with the press since her nomination to the Trump Cabinet, DeVos was not shy about expressing her convictions previously. In 2013, she told Philanthropy magazine that her desire to improve education began with a visit to the Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids, a private religious academy. “At the time, we had children who were school-age themselves. Well, that touched home. Dick and I became increasingly committed to helping other parents—parents from low-income families in particular. If we could choose the right school for our kids, it only seemed fair that they could do the same for theirs.”

The DeVoses began their prolonged assault on Michigan’s public education system in earnest in 1990, when Dick DeVos won election to the state’s school board. Three years later, the couple led a successful push for legislation that would welcome charter schools to Michigan (the first charter school in the nation had opened in 1992 in St. Paul, Minnesota). But while charter schools bloomed there, they didn’t thrive. As early as 1997, the state auditor found the state has shown “limited effectiveness and efficiency in monitoring” charters. Two years later, the Michigan Department of Education worried there was “no defined system of quality control in regard to charter schools,” despite there being 138 institutions that enrolled 30,000 students across the state.

The DeVoses persisted in advocating for more choice, disregarding calls for oversight. In 2000, they pushed for Michigan to adapt a voucher system, which proposed to give students about $3,300 to attend a private school of their choice, including a religious one. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “By focusing on the worst-of-the-worst schools, the campaign also has helped recast the image of vouchers from a middle-class pipe dream to a lifeline for inner-city kids. And in the long, heated, name-calling, lawsuit-filing history of school vouchers, that combination eventually may prove tough to beat.”

The voucher measure failed to pass, but DeVos, who’d headed the Michigan Republican Party for the latter half of the 1990s, redoubled her efforts. She began to establish groups like the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), founded in 2001. The group’s goal is “supporting quality choices in public education for all Michigan students,” in part by shaming public education. For example, one ad campaign, called Got Literacy?, featured misspelled school signs: Welcome Back, Hope You Hade a Good Break; 15 best things about our pubic schools. The campaign didn’t mention that the first sign was from Arizona, and a student joke besides, while the second was made for an Indiana school by an ad agency.

Supporters of DeVos argue that Michigan’s schools were dismal and that her only mission has been to provide a life raft to those stuck on a sinking ship. Matt Frendewey, communications director at the American Federation for Children (AFC), another group DeVos founded, calls her a “relentless advocate for students,” particularly poor children of color. School choice, he argues, is the first and necessary step to better educational outcomes.

In 2011, GLEP and its conservative allies won a major victory when the Michigan Legislature erased the charter school cap, creating what is effectively an unrestrained market for charter school operators. DeVos scored another victory last summer, when she and her husband spent $1.45 million to stymie a legislative effort to provide more oversight to Michigan’s charter schools.

“If I wanted to start a school next year, all I’d need to do is get the money, draw up a plan and meet a few perfunctory requirements,” wrote a dismayed Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press. “I’d then be allowed to operate that school, at a profit if I liked, without, practically speaking, any accountability for results. As long as I met the minimal state code and inspection requirements, I could run an awful school, no better than the public alternatives, almost indefinitely.”

It’s unclear how closely DeVos looked at the achievements of the charter schools that sprouted in Michigan because of her efforts. Did she know that many of them were failing? And if she knew, why did she do nothing?

Detroit Flunks

The best argument against Betsy DeVos can be made with a single word: Detroit. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Michigan’s biggest city has the worst math and reading scores of any large city in America. Its fourth-graders score a 36 on math, while their counterparts in Charlotte, North Carolina, score an 87. Its eighth-graders got a 44 on reading, lagging behind Miami by 33 points.

DeVos claimed that her emphasis on school choice was going to help poor, minority children escape from underperforming public schools. So how did that escape route become a quagmire?

Kids may suffer from a lack of choice, but they can also suffer from an excess of competition. Reporting on the state of charter schools in Detroit last summer, education reporter Kate Zernike of The New York Times described a system that was as at least as chaotic and unproductive as what it supplanted. “While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students,” Zernike wrote, “enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.”

Douglas Harris, a professor of economics at Tulane University, considers himself a proponent of sensible reform, yet the kind of reform enacted by DeVos in Michigan, he has concluded, is a disaster. In a widely circulated op-ed for The New York Times, Harris wrote that DeVos “devised Detroit’s system to run like the Wild West. It’s hardly a surprise that the system, which has almost no oversight, has failed. Schools there can do poorly and still continue to enroll students.”

Harris contrasted Detroit with New Orleans, where the school system is saturated with charters. Those charters are successful because they’re expected to meet the same high standards that educators demand from students. Lax oversight of a school district is unlikely to produce much better results than lax oversight of a classroom.

“The DeVos nomination,” Harris wrote, “is a triumph of ideology over evidence.”

Much of the fault for the panoply of bad choices in Detroit can be placed on for-profit charters, according to Samuel Abrams, a scholar of privatization in education at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York and the author of Education and the Commercial Mindset. Whereas about 10 percent of charters nationwide are for-profit, about 80 percent of charters in Michigan mix profit-making with teaching. “The fundamental problem with for-profit school management is that we don’t have sufficient transparency for proper contract enforcement because the immediate consumer is a child,” Abrams tells me. “He or she is not sufficiently informed to know if a class is being properly taught.

“There is room for cutting corners in the name of profits,” Abrams says. “You don’t have that in public school.”

‘Advancing God’s Kingdom’

A lot of the worries about DeVos come from association—and insinuation. Some are concerned about her stance on gay rights. She and her husband “have spent heavily in opposition to same-sex-marriage laws in several states,” according to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Elsa Prince, Betsy’s mother, has frequently given to right-wing groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that, as the head of the Michigan GOP, she forcefully defended a gay Republican politician who’d been harassed for his stance on a gay marriage amendment. In 2014, she lambasted Dave Agema, a Republican, for making denigrating comments about gays and Muslims. “I couldn’t stand by and hold my tongue,” she said. And despite her appointment by Trump, she was among those Republicans who bore no love for the candidate, calling him an “interloper” from whom she predicted Republicans would defect. (The DeVoses supported former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and, after he dropped out, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.)

“If you look at Betsy’s full record, you won’t be able to fit her in a box that some of those who oppose her nomination are trying to put her into,” says the AFC’s Frendewey. The Windquest Group, an investment group run by the DeVoses, supports clean energy, technological innovation and a well-regarded aviation high school, as well as an arts prize. They were also funders of an arts management institute at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (The institute has since moved to the University of Maryland.)

Despite all that, detractors have plenty of evidence for their fears. They point, for example, to a recording, obtained by Politico, in which DeVos talks about “advancing God’s kingdom” through public education. That only stokes fears that DeVos is a Christian soldier disguised as a public servant.

Ingersoll, the University of North Florida scholar, says that “it’s a long-standing goal of the religious right to dismantle public education” and that religious conservatives like DeVos “don’t see public schools as religiously neutral.” If an education is not Christian, then it is anti-Christian. This is a view, she suggests, DeVos shares with Mike Pence, the religiously conservative vice president-elect, who is expected by some to have Dick Cheney-level influence in the Trump administration.

When I conveyed these concerns to Frendewey, he laughed. “In no way is this some sort of religion-based agenda,” he says. Betsy DeVos, he assured me, wants successful students, not “disciples.”Poor Choice for the Poor

  • Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence with DeVos before their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 19, 2016.

MIKE SEGAR/REUTER

Nobody accused Trump’s presidential campaign of a wonkish occupation with policy details. Nevertheless, he has been clear about his primary mission in education, which is to inject $20 billion into school choice programs. “As your president, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice,” he said during the campaign.

As with many other aspects of the Trump platform, there are few details to debate. Abrams, the Teachers College scholar, called the education plan “mystifying,” echoing the confusion I encountered whenever I asked, while reporting this story, how Trump and DeVos planned to make school choice a bigger priority.

Tulane University’s Harris says that a Capitol Hill controlled by Republicans could pass a tax credit program that incentivizes private education, including religious and virtual schools. But this would probably benefit middle- and upper-middle class families already disposed (and able) to pay for a private education.

The same goes for vouchers. While $20 billion for school choice programs sounds like a large number, there are 15 million children living in poverty in the United States, and the average private school tuition is $9,500. Giving them all a meaningful voucher would require about $142.5 billion, or seven times the amount proposed by Trump for his school choice plan.

Consider, also, that some states that have vouchers, like Ohio and North Carolina, allocate less than $5,000 per student, meaning that families would still have to pay several thousand dollars to send a child to private school if this were in fact part of the Trump reform package. That shortfall notwithstanding, even a $5,000 voucher for every child living in poverty nationwide would cost $75 billion. Much like the border wall with Mexico, the golden-ticket voucher might be an empty campaign promise.

Yet almost certainly, Trump will use federal dollars to reward states for enacting his preferred reforms. That was what President Barack Obama did with Race to the Top, which incentivized data collection, student assessment and better teaching.

Harris says school choice is first on DeVos’s agenda. “It’s really her only issue.”

An Existential Threat

Teachers unions and their liberal allies are alarmed by the DeVos pick. Most charters and parochials aren’t unionized, meaning that school choice enervates public sector unions, another favorite Republican goal. “She is an existential threat to public education,” says Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers.

When I relayed that quote to Frendewey, he dismissed the worry by noting the many times Weingarten had used tough language about centrist Obama appointees. “They weren’t happy with Duncan, they weren’t happy with King,” Frendewey says, alluding to Arne Duncan and John King, both Democratic education secretaries who met with resistance from teachers unions on matters of student and teacher evaluation. Frendewey and other DeVos associates acknowledge that Detroit schools are a disaster, but it’s a fair question whether the failure of that experiment should disqualify her from a federal position.

Yet for conservatives, DeVos’s antipathy to traditional public schools is in keeping with a broader desire to lessen what they deem bureaucratic bloat. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whose father George was the governor of Michigan, branded DeVos an iconoclast of the sort demanded by our moribund schools. “The decades of applying the same old bromides must come to an end,” he wrote. “The education establishment and its defenders will understandably squeal, but the interests of our children must finally prevail.” Romney’s voice on this issue matters because he was a frequent critic of Trump throughout the presidential campaign. Moreover, as he notes, the state he once governed, Massachusetts, has the nation’s best schools.

The vast gap between the vaunted Massachusetts “education miracle” and the state of Detroit’s schools suggests, at least to skeptics, that Romney’s confidence in DeVos may be grievously misplaced. And while it is true that Weingarten—my onetime union leader in New York City—has frequently been tough on Democrats deemed insufficiently loyal to teachers unions, her mood when we spoke in early December seemed to me closer to visceral fear than intellectual disagreement. Calling DeVos an “ideological zealot for private education,” Weingarten says local unions will fight her by asserting their power, though how they will do that is unclear. A senior aide to a top congressional Democrat told me that DeVos should be ready for a tough confirmation hearing, but he didn’t say anything to suggest there’d be a concerted attempt to oppose her.

Weingarten told me about a letter she got from a teacher in New York’s Suffolk County, on Long Island. That teacher had apparently voted for Trump and was now suffering from buyer’s remorse. “I made a terrible mistake,” the letter said, according to Weingarten. “Please, please fight against this.”

The battle is doubtlessly coming to the American classroom, where the nation’s culture wars are frequently fought. Of course, DeVos will be ready for the counterattack. She has spent decades fighting for children, for Michigan and for God.

 

These are the 10 best and 10 worst U.S. stocks of 2017

Freeport-McMoRan’s stock has extended last year’s 95% increase.

Thanks;Philip van Doorn

Published: Jan 9, 2017 4:10 a.m. ET

The benchmark S&P 500 Index has produced a 1.7% return in this year’s first week of trading

Fully updated with market close information.

After the S&P 500 returned 12%, with dividends reinvested, in 2016, the benchmark index is up 1.7% this year.

All 11 sectors of the S&P 500 SPX, -0.09% are up so far in 2017, with health care the best performer, rising 2.9%. The weakest sector is utilities, which has eked out a gain of 0.5%.
And despite the pain for several large retailers suffering holiday-sales declines, the consumer-discretionary sector is up 2.3% on reports of the best overall holiday sales in years.
Here are the 10 S&P 500 stocks that have gained the most so far this year:
Company Ticker Industry Price increase – 2017 Total return – 2016

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. ALXN, -0.27% Biotechnology 17% -36%

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. FCX, -0.40% Precious Metals 13% 95%

Arconic Inc. ARNC, -0.82% Aluminum 11% N/A

Frontier Communications Corp. FTR, -1.87% Telecommunications 11% -20%

Mattel Inc. MAT, -0.07% Recreational Products 11% 6%

Illumina Inc. ILMN, -0.24% Biotechnology 11% -33%

TripAdvisor Inc. TRIP, -0.20% Consumer Services 9% -46%

NRG Energy Inc. NRG, -0.07% Electric Utilities 9% 6%

AmerisourceBergen Corp. ABC, +1.19% Medical Distributors 8% -23%

Total System Services Inc. TSS, +1.77% Data Processing Services 8% -1%

Source: FactSet

Here are the 10 S&P 500 stocks with the largest declines so far this year:

Company Ticker Industry Price decline – 2017 Total return – 2016
Xerox Corp. XRX, -0.14% Commercial Services -20% -15%

Kohl’s Corp. KSS, -0.72% Department Stores -16% 8%

Macy’s Inc. M, -0.26% Department Stores -14% 7%

L Brands Inc. LB, +0.67% Apparel/ Footwear Retal -7% -27%

Signet Jewelers Ltd. SIG, -1.44% Specialty Stores -6% -23%

Southwestern Energy Co. SWN, -3.02% Oil and Gas Production -5% 52%

Nordstrom Inc. JWN, +0.18% Apparel/ Footwear Retail -5% -1%

Tesoro Corp. TSO, -2.05% Oil Refining/ Marketing -4% -15%

Kroger Co. KR, -0.79% Food Retail -4% -16%

Urban Outfitters Inc. URBN, -1.86% Apparel/ Footwear Retail -4% 25%

Source: FactSet