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The Cost of a Hot Economy in California: A Severe Housing Crisis

Now here in Sacramento, lawmakers are considering extraordinary legislation to, in effect, crack down on communities that have, in their view, systematically delayed or derailed housing construction proposals, often at the behest of local neighborhood groups. The bill was passed by the Senate last month and could be acted on as soon as this week.Continue reading the main story“The explosive costs of housing have spread like wildfire around the state,” said Scott Wiener, a Democratic senator from San Francisco who sponsored the bill. “This is no longer a coastal, elite housing problem […]

The Trump Cabinet: Strangest Show On Earth

As we start the Trump presidency, events just keep getting more bizarre. At his first and last press conference as president-elect, Donald Trump boasted about his divestment plan in which he was “sort of, kind of,” turning over the management of his business enterprises to his two adult sons. He displayed a table full of documents which were supposed to indicate the extent of his divestment, but the documents were not made available for the press to examine. Furthermore, in spite of claiming that he was stepping away from his business enterprises, Trump was still boasting about being offered a $2 billion deal from a Dubai business man. While Trump assured us that he turned the deal down, the obvious question is why he was discussing it in the first place. Insofar as Trump is actually stepping away from his business, this is very far from the sort of blind trust arrangements made by presidents of both parties for the last half century. The public can never be sure that his actions as president are not motivated by a desire to fatten the profits of Trump enterprises. […]

Gunman Kills Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey

By TRT1 | Dec. 19, 2016 | 0:32Andrey G. Karlov was shot by a man who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria” at the Contemporary Arts Center in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.Related: article: Russian Ambassador to Turkey Is Assassinated in Ankara […]

Evacuation of Calais Migrant Camp

By CAMILLA SCHICK | Oct. 24, 2016 | 2:36The sprawling camp in France, known as the Jungle, has been home to thousands of people fleeing war, persecution and poverty and seeking of a better life in Europe, and particularly in Britain.Related: article: France Clears ‘Jungle’ Camp at Calais, Dispersing Thousands of Migrants […]

The Olympic Accounting Muddle

Depending on which article you read and which day you read it, Rio’s costs of hosting the 2016 Olympics is anywhere between $4.6 billion and $20 billion. Given that Rio’s Olympic revenues will be approximately $3.3 billion, there will be a substantial loss at either cost figure. But in one case it will be $1.6 billion and in the other $16.7 billion. With Rio’s and Brazil’s fiscal finances in deep deficit, and with public servants not being paid and social services in near dysfunction, it makes a significant difference whether the loss is $1.6 billion or 10 times greater at $16.7 billion. So, how do we understand what the real cost is? First, there are essentially three buckets of money that are used to host the Olympics: operations costs, including security; venue construction or renovation costs; and infrastructure costs. Many press articles refer only to the operations costs, which account for spending during the 17 days of the Games and the temporary venues. Others refer to operations plus venues, and still others refer to all three. When infrastructure costs are included, they are based on officially released estimates. The accuracy of these estimates should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. […]

Olympians prepare for a “petri dish of pathogens”

there’s something in the water

Olympians prepare for a “petri dish of pathogens”

By on Jul 28, 2016Share

The world’s greatest athletes head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Those competing in Rio’s waters, though, will have more than just medals on the mind.

That’s because the waterways of Rio, as any resident of the embattled city probably could have told you, are dumping grounds for toxic chemicals, untreated sewage, garbage, and dead bodies. The contamination of Rio’s waters — including Guanabara Bay, where the sailing teams are practicing — is undeniable. And, as the New York Times reported yesterday, recent tests showed a “petri dish of pathogens,” including rotaviruses and drug-resistant super bacteria.

But this is the Olympics and the show must go on, despite public health concerns, a presidential impeachment scandal, and a host city that’s under a declared state of financial emergency. When it comes to water, the International Olympic Committee insists areas where athletes are to compete will meet World Health Organization standards. Still, to be on the safe side, as a 24-year-old Dutch sailing team member explained to the Times, “We just have to keep our mouths closed when the water sprays up.”

The water has been making Rio’s poor sick for decades. Hepatitis A, a waterborne disease, is widespread among residents of the city’s sprawling favelas. Lack of sanitation has also exacerbated the spread of the Zika virus. The Times reports that Brazil pledged to spend $4 billion to stem the flow of untreated sewage into its waters back in 2009, when it was angling for its Olympic bid. In fact, only about $170 million has been spent, a discrepancy that state officials blame on a budget crisis.

Meanwhile, at least 77,000 people faced forced, violent evictions from their homes leading up to the Olympic Games, despite having legal titles to their homes.

The Olympics are often, and controversially, hailed as an opportunity for development and improved infrastructure in the host country. But development, as David Zirin writes in an excellent article for the Nation, is most likely to benefit Brazilian elites, who view the Olympics as “a neoliberal Trojan horse allowing powerful construction and real-estate industries to build wasteful projects and displace the poor from coveted land.”

As for improved infrastructure, the fact that some of the world’s top athletes will have to compete in a “petri dish of pathogens” is pretty disheartening. If Rio’s waters weren’t cleaned up for some of the most highly valued bodies in the world, how much hope is there that they’ll be brought down to safe levels for the city’s actual residents, once the international media has packed up and gone home?

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