Sunday, July 15, 2018

Week-end Wrap - July 14, 2018

Week-end Wrap - July 14, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Bill Mitchell � Elements in a strategy for the Left
[via Mike Norman Economics 7-10-18]
In my recent book (with Thomas Fazi) � Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017) � a central organising concept is that a progressive future is only possible if progressive citizens do two things: 
1. Learn how the monetary system operates and understand the capacity of the currency issuer and the opportunities and constraints that the government has. In other words, educate ourselves so that we have the capacity to refute the neoliberal lies that sustains the current system that has seen progressive outcomes diminish markedly. 
2. Take control of the political process and expunge neoliberal factions from progressive political parties (like the Blairites in the British Labour Party, almost all the Australian Labor Party, the Wall-Street embedded elites in the US Democrats, much of the traditional machinery of the European Socialist parties etc).Reclaiming the state is about reclaiming the legislative and regulative capacity of the nation state so that it is directed at advancing well being for the many rather than the few, to steal Jeremy Corbyn�s so excellent catch-cry....
Mitchell is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory, which argues that money can be created out of nothing, by either a bank, the banking system, or by government, and that since governments can create money just as well as banks, there is no need to worry about budget deficits, so long as the money created is used for productive purposes.  MMT explained, Sept. 8, 2015, and Wray on MMT, January 13, 2015

When North Dakota Farmers Blew Up Partisan Politics: the Nonpartisan League: By Focusing on Economic Cooperation, Early 20th-Century Small Landowners Pushed Back Against Crony Capitalism, by Michael J. Lansing, May 18, 2018 [Zocalo]
Jon Larson writes: "Last Thanksgiving, Tony produced a short post on the Nonpartisan League. Think of this as an update. I happen to think the history of the NPL is important because it shows how effective a movement can be if they have a workable agenda. Instead of running against parties and personalities, an agenda-driven party wins because they are FOR something. Even better, an agenda usually outlives even the best supporters. And the State Bank of North Dakota is arguably the best political idea Progressives ever had�the signal accomplishment that lives on to this day."

Ten Years after the Crash, Hot Money Remains the Central Problem (see end)
by John Lanchester, July 5, 2018 [London Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism]
A useful if sometime maddening review of thinking by economists and elites about the financial crash of 2007-2008.
The most important component of the intellectual landscape of 2008 was a widespread feeling among elites that things were working fine.... In a presidential address to the American Economic Association in 2003, Robert Lucas, Nobel prizewinner and one of the most prominent macroeconomists in the world, put it plainly: 
Macroeconomics was born as a distinct field in the 1940s, as a part of the intellectual response to the Great Depression. The term then referred to the body of knowledge and expertise that we hoped would prevent the recurrence of that economic disaster. My thesis in this lecture is that macroeconomics in this original sense has succeeded: its central problem of depression prevention has been solved, for all practical purposes, and has in fact been solved for many decades.
And elites still don't understand reality: look at how dismayed they are by populist rejection of the status quo, i.e., the election of Trump, the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, and recently the victories of L�pez Obrador in Mexico and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York. It is still not certain if this populist upsurge will tack left or right, so the need for voter engagement is greater now than ever. See Is Ocasio-Cortez The Start Of A Movement? in which Ian Welsh writes, "2020-24 is the change-point in America"

To continue with Lanchester:
The thing about debt and credit is that most of the time, in conventional economic thinking, they don�t present a problem.... the first bank run in the UK since the 19th century, the collapse of Northern Rock in September 2007 and its subsequent nationalisation. Northern Rock had an unusual business model in that instead of relying on customer deposits to meet its operational needs it borrowed money short-term on the financial markets. When credit became harder to come by, that source of funding suddenly wasn�t there any more. Then, just as suddenly, Northern Rock wasn�t there any more either. 
That was the first symptom of the global crisis, which reached the next level with the very similar collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008, followed by the crash that really did take the entire global financial system to the brink, the implosion of Lehman Brothers on 15 September. Because Lehmans was a clearing house and repository for many thousands of financial instruments from around the system, suddenly nobody knew who owed what to whom, who was exposed to what risk, and therefore which institutions were likely to go next. And that is when the global supply of credit dried up. I spoke to bankers at the time who said that what happened was supposed to be impossible, it was like the tide going out everywhere on Earth simultaneously. People had lived through crises before � the sudden crash of October 1987, the emerging markets crises and the Russian crisis of the 1990s, the dotcom bubble � but what happened in those cases was that capital fled from one place to another. No one had ever lived through, and no one thought possible, a situation where all the credit simultaneously disappeared from everywhere and the entire system teetered on the brink. 
The immediate economic consequence was the bailout of the banks. I�m not sure if it�s philosophically possible for an action to be both necessary and a disaster, but that in essence is what the bailouts were. They were necessary, I thought at the time and still think, because this really was a moment of existential crisis for the financial system, and we don�t know what the consequences would have been for our societies if everything had imploded. But they turned into a disaster we are still living through. The first and probably most consequential result of the bailouts was that governments across the developed world decided for political reasons that the only way to restore order to their finances was to resort to austerity measures. The financial crisis led to a contraction of credit, which in turn led to economic shrinkage, which in turn led to declining tax receipts for governments, which were suddenly looking at sharply increasing annual deficits and dramatically increasing levels of overall government debt. So now we had austerity, which meant that life got harder for a lot of people, but � this is where the negative consequences of the bailout start to be really apparent � life did not get harder for banks and for the financial system. In the popular imagination, the people who caused the crisis got away with it scot-free, and, as what scientists call a first-order approximation, that�s about right.
Lanchester obviously is unable to think outside the terms of the status quo. Money creation by government to fund a massive and complete shift to renewable energy is the obvious answer.  But here's the really important part:
I mentioned earlier that assets and liabilities always balance � that�s the way they are designed, as accounting equalities. But when we come to global wealth, this isn�t true. Studies of the global balance sheet consistently show more liabilities than assets. The only way that would make sense is if the world were in debt to some external agency, such as Venusians or the Emperor Palpatine. Since it isn�t, a simple question arises: where�s all the fucking money? Piketty�s student Gabriel Zucman wrote a powerful book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations (2015), which supplies the answer: it�s hidden by rich people in tax havens. According to calculations that Zucman himself says are conservative, the missing money amounts to $8.7 trillion, a significant fraction of all planetary wealth. It is as if, when it comes to the question of paying their taxes, the rich have seceded from the rest of humanity.
Which leads naturally to....

Nomi Prins predicts another financial bust coming soon.
[Mike Norman Economics 7-14-18]
She says how Western central banks bailed out the banks but did nothing for main street, but in China the central bank used quantitive easing to rebuild its infrastructure, like putting high speed rail all over the country. She says how the West laughed at the ghost cities that China built which stood empty, but China plans long term and the new high speed rail system is now linking the cities up and people are moving into them, depopulating the overcrowded large cities. This means less congestion and pollution and nicer cities to live in. 
The bankers and the CEO's used the money instead to buy back shares and inflate asset prices to give themselves huge bonuses rather than invest in their companies.
For those who do not have time for the video, this is from Zero Hedge. KV

The enormity of our current global debt problem is caused by central bankers. Prins explains, �It is huge... 
"The debt is between two and a half to three times global GDP, which is an historical high. Debt to GDP throughout the developed world is higher than it has ever been, and it continues to grow. Why? Because money continues to be conjured up and rendered cheap for the participants at the top of the financial system. The banks, the major corporations, the people who make money out of that, and it hasn�t washed down to the rest of the economy. This is why most people feel this anxiety about another potential financial crisis, but also about what happens every day in their own pocketbooks.
So, it is worse. These central banks today, 10 years after the financial crisis occurred, that was supposed to be an emergency situation. They have $21 trillion worth of conjured money in return for debt assets, stocks and corporate bonds around the world. 
If they pulled that plug, if they were to take down any of the $21 trillion, even a little bit . . . it would begin to create a major rupture in the financial system. This is why I say the central banks are the market. Without them, the markets would be nowhere near these highs. If they pulled their help and subsidies, the market would plummet really quickly.� 

Prins admits this has gone on for longer than most believed possible, but says it can�t go on forever.

Trump�s Supreme Court: Capitalism and Democracy Can No Longer Coexist,
Interview with Henry A. Giroux, author of American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism, July 10, 2018 [The Real News Network]
But I think that what the United States is in for in the next 20 or 30 years is a court that will be so right-wing, and represents such an enormous threat to civil rights, to civil justice, to social justice, to economic equality, that the issue will no longer be whether, you know, we can do something with the Supreme Court. The real issue would be, is to recognize that capitalism and democracy are not the same thing anymore, and that we really need to think about what it means to put a new political party and social formation into place that could really address the real needs of people in ways that matter.

The endless reign of Rupert Murdoch, 
by Richard Cooke, July 2018 [, via Naked Capitalism]
�I have never met Mr Murdoch,� the former Tony Blair communications deputy Lance Price wrote for The Guardian, �but at times when I worked at Downing Street he seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet. His voice was rarely heard � but his presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside No 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men � Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch.
Eric Beecher, a former Murdoch executive, once said that the empire was ruled �by phone and by clone�. The intimacy of these relationships with his editors � Murdoch, jet-lagged or up late, freshly landed or in the office in person, asking after the front page, the editorial line, the gossip � provoke an old question: how much direct editorial influence does the proprietor wield? �He has said he never interferes with his editors� editorial decisions,� the correspondent Phillip Knightley said. �Absolutely true, because he is careful to choose editors whose views agree with his.� 
A former News employee put it this way: �To be honest, I think Murdoch�s presence was a less important feature of the environment at News than the character of the fairly idiosyncratic editors he appointed to represent him...." 
Did The Australian�s bizarre jihad against wind farms stem from Murdoch�s frequently voiced disdain for them? Hard to prove, and there is no special conspiracy required: the paper�s readers cling to the same topic, perhaps the only time they express concern for native birdlife....

Christopher Hitchens wrote that when politicians said they were afraid of Rupert Murdoch what they were really saying was that they were afraid of his readers. But this misses the intensely personal presence of Murdoch in the political world, where he is not a proxy for his readers but for his businesses. For a free-marketeer, he has been adroit at fostering regulatory capture. He is not shy about lying, or confessing to this lying.
�You tell these bloody politicians whatever they want to hear,� he told his biographer Thomas Kiernan, �and once the deal is done you don�t worry about it. They�re not going to chase after you later if they suddenly decide what you said?wasn�t?what they wanted to hear. Otherwise they�re made to look bad, and they can�t abide that. So they just stick their heads up their asses and wait for the blow to pass.�

....Before he railed against Commies, Murdoch was one. One of the key props of his life is a bust of Lenin kept in his rooms at Oxford, to which he would drink toasts and recite Russian poetry. This relic of �Red Rupe� is supposed to show the extremity of his evolution: from undergraduate Marxist in the Labour Club to a union-breaker and Thatcherite-in-chief. It was, he said, his tussle with the printing union chapels of Fleet Street � �the most searing experience of my life� � that repelled him from labour politics forever. He repaid the chapels by disbanding them for good, with the assistance of Margaret Thatcher and her police.
Murdoch was a communist? What is it about communism? Many leading conservatives were communist. From soul-less communist to soul-less conservative. Apparently, not a long journey. So it's not just Trump, but the entire American right-wing, that are Russia's puppets?

The Trump administration has a new argument for dismantling the social safety net: It worked. [Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18]

Science under siege: behind the scenes at Trump�s troubled environment agency 
[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18]

Detaining immigrant kids is now a billion-dollar industry 
[AP, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18]

Philadelphia Main Line�s �godfather of payday lending� sentenced to 14 years, stripped of $64M, for preying on financially vulnerable [Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism]

The Bezzle: �Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker Caught In A Billion Dollar Fraud Scandal�
[Safe Haven, via Naked Capitalism].
�Every so often, embarrassing and alarming expos�s unravel the extent of dodgy financial dealings and moral vacuum that exist in the banking sector. Big investment banks in particular seem to enjoy living down their reputations as greedy and avaricious institutions that will readily conjure up all manner of schemes to enrich themselves�. a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker could face criminal charges for attempting to steal from the Malaysian government. Tim Leissner, a one-time Goldman partner and Southeast Asia chairman, is alleged to have hatched a scheme to defraud billions of dollars from Malaysia�s 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Berhad) a Malaysian state investment fund that�s wholly owned by the country�s Ministry of Finance. Leissner has not been charged yet�. Ultimately, it might turn out that Leissner was merely a pawn in a much bigger scheme. And it looks like none other than Goldman Sachs itself is in the thick of a giant scandal that has been billed as one of the world�s biggest cases of white collar crime�one revolving around disgraced former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and at least 10 other countries.�

New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off
[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism]
Another look at the OECD study included in last week's roundup; the OECD concluded that USA laws and policies impose costly barriers to organized labor, and resolving labor grievances. Also riffing off the OECD report, David Ruccio includes some excellent charts, and this comic by editorial cartoonist Toles:
SCOTUS and water contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina [Mediumvia Naked Capitalism]
�This is a story about the warp and weft of industry and government corruption that is literally killing people every single day. One of the biggest things no one has time to talk about amidst the continuing wildfire burning through lives of vulnerable human beings at the hands of our government is the epic DOD contamination which Trump and Pruitt attempted to suppress�. But as with all nightmarish policies harming people today, clearly this did not start with the current cabal in power�. In an environmental contamination case heard by the Supreme Court on April 23, 2014, Waldburger v. CTS Corporation, President Obama filed an amicus brief specifically designed to prevent Marines and their families from recovering damages for the disease and death caused by decades of exposure to toxic chemicals in their drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina?�?the most massive groundwater contamination in U.S.history. The Supreme Court sided with Obama�s � Worth a read, especially if you live near a military base

Deindustrialized America: Walmart is the largest employer in 22 states 
[Visual Capitalist, via The Big Picture 7-10-18].
State university systems are the largest employers in 11 states, including North Carolina. Only one state has an actual company that makes something as largest employer: Washington, with Boeing. Always remember that the inner rot of the Democratic Party began when the Party's leaders accepted deindustrialization and embraced "the Information Age" in the 1980s. Thomas Frank's Listen Liberal is by far the best book on this shift by the Democratic Party. 

�It�s Open War Against Unions on All Fronts Now� [Splinter News, via Naked Capitalism]. 
�While the Janus ruling will allow public union members to decide not to pay their fair share of fees for the services that the union provides to them, there is now an effort to push the ruling even further: Some (hand-selected) teachers are suing to be refunded for fees they already paid to their union in the past. This would have the effect of making the financial damage of Janus to public unions even more critical. It is an indication of the right wing�s ultimate desire to fully cripple public unions once and for all.�

A Lost Generation? Long-Lasting Wealth Impacts of the Great Recession on Young Families
Demographics of Wealth, 2018 Series, Essay No. 2, by the Center for Household Financial Stability, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
The 1980s cohort is at greatest risk of becoming a �lost generation� for wealth accumulation. Wealth in 2016 of the median family headed by someone born in the 1980s remained 34 percent below the level we predicted based on the experience of earlier generations at the same age. The corresponding shortfalls of the 1960s cohort (�11 percent as of 2016) and the 1970s cohort (�18 percent) are worrying but are much smaller than their respective 2010 and 2013 shortfalls. Alone among the six decadal cohorts we studied, the typical 1980s family lost ground between 2010 and 2016, falling even further behind the typical wealth life cycle.
No shit, Sherlock.

[below, via Naked Capitalism]

Inside China�s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras 
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism] 
Expanding trade with China was supposed to make the country more open to "liberal democracy." Oh, and the leader of China is now "for life." So much for the political benfits of free trade.

TSA screeners win immunity from abuse claims: appeals court 
Reuters [via Naked Capitalism 7-12-18]

Bernie Sanders on John Fetterman, Pittsburgh politics and the rising tide of Democratic Socialism
[Pittsburgh Gazette, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18]
There is an increasing stream of stories about the growing strength of Democratic Socialism within the Democratic Party. (John Fetterman is the Democratic Socialism who won the Pennsylvania primary to be the Democratic Party candidate for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.) Many of these stories include details of how the Republicans and conservatives are beginning to respond by attempting to paint Democratic Socialism as dangerous and unrealistic, and claiming the entire Democratic Party embraces it. Obviously, framing a good response is increasingly important. One idea, from moi: "Making sure no American dies from lack of health care will make America greater than ever."
Republicans, on the other hand, have sought to link Democratic candidates to the Democratic Socialist message, saying that the platform is unrealistic, unaffordable and disconnected from real working class Americans. The Pennsylvania Republican Party released a statement Sunday calling on the governor to say whether he believes in the �extreme positions" of his running mate, including single-payer health care and free higher education.
"Campaigning with Bernie Sanders is the latest indication that the Wolf-Fetterman ticket is so far to the left that they have lost sight of the moderate Pennsylvanians who are looking for a hand up, not a hand out," state party spokesman Jason Gottesman said.
There is definitely a struggle within the Party, and it is reaching all the way to the top. For example, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware Loudly Proclaims Democrats Need To Abandon �Wild-Eyed� Race to Left [US News & World Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18].

But there are signs that some members of the Democratic Party establishment see some handwriting on the wall: Jake Sullivan, a senior policy advisor on the Clinton campaign and national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, writes in The New Old Democrats [Democracy, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18]:
....what if not just [the Democratic] party, but the American electorate as a whole is moving to embrace a more energized form of government�one that tackles the excesses of the free market and takes on big, serious challenges through big, serious legislation instead of the more restrained measures to which we�ve grown accustomed? ....This essay proceeds from the premise that we have reached another turning point. Just as the Great Depression discredited the ideas of the pre-New Deal conservatives who fought for total laissez-faire outcomes in both the political branches and the courts, so the Great Recession once again laid bare the failure of our government to protect its citizens from unchecked market excess. There has been a delayed reaction this time around, but people have begun to see more clearly not only the flaws of our public and private institutions that contributed to the financial crisis, but also the decades of rising inequality and income stagnation that came before�and the uneven recovery that followed. Our politics are in the process of adjusting to this new reality. The tide is running in the other direction, and, with history serving as our guide, it could easily be a decades-long tide.
Sullivan notes that this shift in public thinking was also reflected in Trump's campaign and election:
Indeed, the role of government is up for debate in the Republican Party, too, notwithstanding their party leadership�s stubborn commitment to an agenda that would make Reagan himself blush. In the closing months of the 2016 campaign, when Donald Trump had the best measure of his own party�s base, he championed a slew of issues that went directly against Republican orthodoxy. Raising taxes on the rich. Investing in infrastructure on a massive scale. Protecting Social Security and Medicare from any cuts. His campaign even floated breaking up the biggest banks. Of course, once in office, Trump has not governed that way....  
What has changed, though�thanks to widening inequality, massive underinvestment in public services, and the lingering effects of the Great Recession�is that the siren song of supply-side economics is losing out to arguments rooted in economic fairness, even among elements of the Republican base. That�s why the failed Republican health-care bill was historically unpopular among independent and even Republican voters (registering support from only 42 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of independents in a June Quinnipiac poll last year)�because it sought to slash Medicaid at a time when more people than ever are dependent on it. It�s why Republican leaders haven�t been able to sell the public on the Trump tax cuts (which clocked in at 27 percent approval in an April NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll)�because people reject its disproportionate benefits for the wealthy. And it�s why we�ve seen such incredible teacher activism in traditional Republican bastions like West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky�because despite persistent differences on some education reform issues, people across the political spectrum are fed up with starving our public school system.
Unfortunately, Sullivan remains enthralled by "successful business people." One of his prescriptions reads: "Four: Forge a new partnership with the business community built for twenty-first century realities." He obviously overlooks the reality that the USA has ceased being an economy of industrial capitalism, having become an economy dominated by financial speculation and the extraction of rent (even though he claims he had a huge sign in the Clinton campaign HQ "RENT" to prompt people to think of ways of making economic rent extraction a saleable political point). More specifically, Sullivan fails to grasp the reality that in an economy dominated by financial speculation and rent, the most successful business people are going to be -- financial speculators and rentiers" As John Jay of the Real News argues, "the billionaire class is not fit to rule."

Sullivan also fails to question many of the axiomatic tenets of economic neoliberalism. For example, he writes, "Washington should work with the American private sector to develop an international economic strategy that tackles the competitive abuses of the twenty-first century, like state-owned enterprises," apparently not realizing that far from being a "competitive abuse" state-owned enterprises have historically been a quite successful means for achieving specific policy goals. Examples include the first and second Banks of the United States, the Erie Canal, a bunch of other canals, a relatively small number of railroads, many national airlines, the oil companies of a number of countries (such as Pemex in Mexico, Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Petrobras in Brazil, and Statoil in Norway), Hydro-Qu�bec (whose sole owner is the province of Quebec), and an unknown number of CIA front companies.

DCCC interns demand pay, argue "White and Wealthy" interns don't understand working people
[Roll Callvia Naked Capitalism 7-13-18]. 
�A group of current interns at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a letter Thursday to Chairman Ben Ray Luj�n requesting pay�. �Most of our fellow interns, while undoubtedly bright, are white and wealthy and have no real understanding of the perspectives of everyday working Americans, nor do we have fellow interns with diverse backgrounds to discuss issues, ideas, or experiences with,� the letter stated. �This disconnect is then reflected [in] policy positions, now and in the future.'�

Former Obama Officials Are Riding Out The Trump Years By Cashing In
[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 7-12-18]

[Weather Underground, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-18]

Calif. county is the US capital for installed wind, data show
[The Washington Post (tiered subscription model), via American Wind Energy Association, May 11, 2018]
Kern County, Calif., has some 4,581 utility-scale turbines with a combined capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts, making it the leading county nationwide in terms of installed wind capacity, according to a Washington Post analysis of the new wind-tracking database out from the American Wind Energy Association and other partners. California's Riverside and Alameda counties rank second and third.

Calif. meets GHG reduction goal 4 years ahead of schedule
[Fortune, via American Wind Energy Association] (7/12)

California cut its greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels in 2016, reaching its 2020 GHG reduction goal four years early, according to the California Air Resources Board. The state is now working to reduce its emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Hydrogen trains for German city 
[Railway Age, 4-25-18]
Frankfurt tender calls for for a contract to supply a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell multiple units for regional services on non-electrified lines in the Taunus area of Hessen. The 25-year availability-based contract includes maintenance and refueling infrastructure. Full Article
First Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) for Caen unveiled by Alstom
[Railway Age, July 11, 2018]
I think this is an interesting and embarrassing contrast to the inability of North Carolina government to provide rail mass transit to the state capital area. There are 459k people in Raleigh; 263k in Durham, and 59k in Chapel Hill, with a total Triangle population of 2.037 million souls. Caen, France has a population of 108k, with a metro area population of 420k. 
Alstom has unveiled the first of 23 Citadis X05 LRVs which will run on the three lines in Caen, France. The LRVs were ordered in November 2016 with the first deliveries due in October 2018 and entry into commercial service scheduled for September 2019.

The Citadis X05 LRV for Caen is 33m long and equipped with six double doors on each side, enabling it to transport more than 210 passengers. It features 100% LED lighting, USB charging points, six extra-large passenger information screens and large windows covering 45% of the vehicle. Alstom says the LRV is energy-efficient and will also be able to climb slopes with gradients of more than 8%.

The LRVs will replace a fleet of rubber-tyred guided vehicles which were withdrawn from service at the end of 2017 to allow the network to be converted into a conventional light rail system. 
A design committee made up of elected representatives of Caen worked with Alstom to create three different trams, with residents voting in 2016 for their favourite design via a dedicated website. 
�We wanted the urban community�s inhabitants to adopt this new tram, vital in an urban environment,� says Mr Jo�l Bruneau, president of Caen. �So, with a view to co-creating the city of tomorrow, the design of the new trams was submitted to the opinion of all the inhabitants of the urban community.� Full Article
Another contrast to North Carolina is Edmonton, Alberta, which has reached the half-way point in construction of its new eight-mile Valley Line LRT, begun in April 2016. Edmonton is further north than Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, and has a population of 932k, with a metro population of just over 1.3 million. Edmonton opened its first light rail transit line in 1978, and now has a LRT system of two lines with 12.7 route miles.

As noted in a Wrap a few weeks ago, the real obstacle to mass transit services in USA is conservative/libertarian ideology.

DB, Siemens to develop automated German line
[Railway Age, 7-13-18]
German Rail (DB), Siemens and the city of Hamburg have signed an agreement to develop a fully automated S-Bahn line in Hamburg by 2021, in time for the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in October 2021. Full Article

Inventing a Self-Driving Network
[Machine Design 7-13-18]
Dozens of car manufacturers and tech companies are racing to bring their proprietary self-driving systems to market. However, to truly reap the massive benefits that come with the autonomous vehicle revolution, these vehicles will need to work together as a system. Full article
The absence of an active government role in setting standards and coordinating activity is going to result in massive waste of resources, showing once again that "free market capitalism" is NOT the most efficient way to allocate resources. 

The Electrification of Air ... And Space
by Graham Warwick and Guy Norris, July 12, 2018 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]
The hot subject at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Propulsion & Energy conference in Cincinnatti, Ohio, on July 9-13 was electrification�of aircraft, spacecraft and even the surface of the Moon. Hybrid propulsion, electric thrusters, nuclear powerplants, even hypersonic engines... Aviation Week editors Guy Norris and Graham Warwick... discuss some of technologies that are changing thinking on power in aerospace (in a video interview).

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