The Truth About Amazon, Food Stamps, and Tax Breaks

Since the early 2000s, Amazon has quietly received more than $1.5 billion in government subsidies, in exchange for bringing new jobs to cities and states across the country. At the same time, low-wage employees at Amazon's grueling warehouses have sometimes had to rely on a different kind of government benefit, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to make ends meet.

Now Senator Bernie Sanders is bringing renewed scrutiny to Amazon's reliance on taxpayer dollars to supplement wages. On Wednesday, the Vermont independent introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act, which hits companies that have more than 500 employees with a 100 percent tax on some government benefits its workers receive, like public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps. For example: If the Stop BEZOS Act were to pass, McDonald’s would be taxed $100 every time one of its cashiers collected $100 in food stamps. The bill is designed to force large corporations to increase wages, and to raise awareness about how companies benefit from public welfare, even in a healthy economy.

The legislation would likely affect many large low-paying retailers, like Walmart and Home Depot, and also Amazon, which says it employs more than 125,000 full-time workers in its US fulfillment centers. The retail giant, which stayed silent amid President Trump’s repeated criticisms of the company, has mounted a public relations offensive in response to Sanders. Amazon even recently began instructing full-time “ambassadors” to promote positive stories about working in its fulfillment centers via a fleet of nearly identical Twitter accounts.

While Sanders is right to point out that many Amazon employees likely use public assistance to make ends meet, his new legislation doesn’t address the other kind of lucrative government benefits the retail giant often receives. In negotiating to open a new warehouse or other outpost, Amazon often obtains hefty tax breaks and other economic incentives from local politicians, the details of which aren’t always disclosed to taxpayers.

The Food Stamp Mystery

In the lead-up to the introduction of the Bezos bill, Sanders repeatedly singled out Amazon, now valued close to $1 trillion, for paying “employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing to survive.” He also invited Amazon warehouse workers to share their experiences with his office, some of which he later made public.

The initiative provoked a rare response from the retail giant, which in a blog post accused the senator of making “inaccurate and misleading accusations against Amazon.” In its response, Amazon took issue with Sanders’ claim that thousands of its workers rely on food stamps, arguing there’s no way to know if they’re employees who deliberately chose to work part-time or were seasonally employed. The company declined further comment on the legislation.

Amazon has a point. It’s impossible to know exactly how many workers at companies like Amazon use public benefits like SNAP, because many states don’t keep track, according to an investigation from news site The New Food Economy conducted by reporter Claire Brown.

She found that in five states, Amazon ranked among the top 20 companies with the most employees living in households that receive food stamps, even in places where it's not a top employer. But she was unable to obtain data from 25 additional states where she sought public records, in part because they don’t exist, at least not in a uniform manner.

There’s also no way to know how much the corporations that Sanders’ legislation targets, like Walmart, benefit from SNAP recipients buying food at their stores. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture and food retailers have specifically fought to conceal data about which companies benefit the most from the estimated $70 billion doled out in SNAP benefits each year. A South Dakota newspaper has been suing the Department of Agriculture to make the information public since 2010, and the case may now go to the Supreme Court.

“Not only can we not prove the first side of the equation, which is how many employees use SNAP, but also how much companies make off of it,” says Brown, the New Food Economy reporter. “We can prove neither side of the coin.”

Amazon’s Other Public Handout

Sanders’ legislation focuses on public welfare programs, ignoring how and why local governments dole out so much corporate welfare to companies like Amazon, Tesla, Apple, and Foxconn, long before a single employee is hired. Professional sports teams and car makers also have received enormous incentives from local governments, but experts say Amazon is unique in the amount and scope of public assistance it has sought.

"Amazon is particularly adept at receiving incentives, including for their distribution centers,” says Nathan Jensen, a government professor at the University of Texas Austin and coauthor of Incentives to Pander: How Politicians Use Corporate Welfare for Political Gain. He says some states, like Maryland, have allowed Amazon to collect some taxes that workers would otherwise pay to the state.

In a rare move last year, Amazon publicly invited cities to submit proposals to be the site for a second headquarters, noting that “special incentive legislation” may be required.

Meanwhile, taxpayers, and even some local politicians, aren't informed about the details of what companies like Amazon will get in exchange for coming to town. Unlike, say, a proposed tax increase to pay for a new school, few public hearings usually take place over how much a newly arrived employer should be allowed to forgo paying in taxes.

Some municipalities submitted bids for HQ2, as the project is known, through their local chambers of commerce, shielding the proposed incentive packages from open-records laws. The final 20 cities, cut down from over 200, were also reportedly required to sign nondisclosure agreements with Amazon. In some cases, the retail giant has also argued that the discounts it receives on public utilities amount to a trade secret.

Jensen says that economic incentives can come at the expense of public services like schools, and that evidence suggests firms will still bring jobs to new areas without them. "School districts are especially hit by many of the property tax abatements where they often struggle to finance schools or there have to be property tax increases to maintain the same level of services," he explains. "Most of the evidence suggests that incentives are rarely pivotal in attracting investment… Many of the things that really matter to firms, highways and workforce quality, are paid for through taxes."

Despite the potential downsides, Greg LeRoy, the executive director of Good Jobs First, says companies often succeed in securing sweetheart deals because of the intense competition among cities, towns, and states to secure new jobs and foster economic growth. It creates a race to provide the biggest tax breaks for all sorts of companies, beyond Amazon.

In the wake of the 2008 recession, “politicians are desperate to look aggressive on jobs and they have a lot fewer deals to compete for,” says LeRoy, whose group compiled the total of Amazon's subsidies. “Amazon has completely played the system that it inherited like a fiddle.”

In 2006, the Supreme Court had the chance to decide whether such tax incentives are constitutional under the Commerce Clause, but the justices ultimately avoided directly confronting the issue.

Economic incentive deals often last longer than the terms of politicians who broker them. But in the moment, the chance to stand next to a figure like Jeff Bezos at the unveiling of a new warehouse is often too valuable a political moment to pass up.

“What governor doesn’t want to stand next to Tim Cook and announce a new data center, even if it’s only going to employ 50 people?” asks LeRoy. “The political power, the political ‘juice’ of associating yourself with a famous company is enormous.”

President Trump has sought to politically benefit from the same type of incentive package that Amazon has received, when he reportedly personally helped organize the eye-popping $4.8 billion Foxconn deal arranged to lure the iPhone manufacturer to Wisconsin. As a businessman, Trump also secured similar deals for his own properties.

The Stop BEZOS Act ultimately only addresses one kind of public assistance that companies like Amazon stand to benefit from: welfare programs like food stamps. The legislation, were it to pass, would do little to stop local governments from competing in secret to attract companies, and jobs, to their cities. Implementing the legislation would also prove onerous, since information like what companies employ food stamp recipients isn’t readily available.

But Sanders may still succeed in putting pressure on local politicians to examine whether the deals they’ve made with the world’s most wealthy corporations are fair. The stakes are high: Amazon is set to soon announce the final location of its second headquarters, and Apple is currently shopping for the site of another campus as well.


More Great WIRED Stories

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/truth-about-amazon-food-stamps-tax-breaks/

China claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic aircraft

(CNN)China claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic aircraft, a big step forward in aerospace technology that could intensify pressure on the US military.

Hypersonic vehicles are not simply high-speed — they travel at least at five times the speed of sound. That’s fast enough to travel across the US in around 30 minutes.
According to a CAAA statement released Monday, the Starry Sky-2 reached a top speed of Mach 6 — six times the speed of sound, or 4,563 miles (7,344 kilometers) per hour.
    The test was a “complete success,” claimed CAAA, which posted photos of the test launch on social media platform WeChat. “The Starry Sky-2 flight test project was strongly innovative and technically difficult, confronting a number of cutting-edge international technical challenges.”
    The CAAA did not indicate what the new aircraft or technology would be used for, other than to say they hoped to continue contributing to China’s aerospace industry.
    Militaries around the world have been racing for years to develop hypersonic weapons. In 2015, the US Air Force announced their goal to develop a hypersonic weapon by 2023. Just this year, Russia claimed to have successfully tested its first hypersonic missiles, and released videos of the weapons in July.
    Hypersonic missiles fly into space after launch, but then come down and fly at high speeds on a flight path similar to an airplane. Their lower trajectory make them more difficult for defense satellites and radars to detect.
    Hypersonic technology can also be used for more benign purposes. Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, is conceptualizing a hypersonic passenger plane that could take travelers from New York to London in 120 minutes.
    The Starry Sky-2 was launched into space by a multistage rocket, before separating and beginning its independent flight.
    According to CAAA it performed several turns and other movements during its flight, and landed successfully afterward.
    “The flight tester is controllable, and the scientific data is valid. The complete recovery of the rocket marks the successful completion of the Star-2 flight test, marking the feat of ‘the first Chinese waverider’,”the statement said.
    “Waverider” is a type of hypersonic aircraft that uses its own shock waves as a lifting surface, thereby improving its lift-to-drag ratio.
    Apart from reaching superfast speeds, CAAA claimed the aircraft also successfully tested an advanced heat-balance thermal protection system.
    The test marks the first time China has officially confirmed its research of waveriders, China Daily reported.

    American anxiety

    The US has been experimenting with unmanned hypersonic aircraft for years, and successfully tested the Boeing X-51 Waverider between 2010 and 2013. It reached a top speed above Mach 5 before crashing into the ocean, as intended.
    However, China’s new claim may put additional pressure on the US, as Gen. John Hyten of US Strategic Command acknowledged earlier this year.
    “China has tested hypersonic capabilities. Russia has tested. We have as well. Hypersonic capabilities are a significant challenge,” Hyten told CNN in March. “We are going to need a different set of sensors in order to see the hypersonic threats. Our adversaries know that.”
    Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work also warned in June that the US was in danger of being surpassed by China in terms of military technology, according to USNI (US Naval Institute) News.
    Speaking at a forum, Work pointed to Beijing’s rising defense spending, which has led to significant progress in electronic warfare, big data, and hypersonic guns.
    “This race is one we have to win,” he added.

    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/07/china/china-hypersonic-aircraft-intl/index.html

    20 Tangible Effects Entertainment Has Had On Our Culture

    Cracked pays people to make smart memes. Visit the Photoplasty and Pictofacts Workshop to get in on it.

    Entertainment is always influenced by the world around us. The thing is, sometimes it goes the other way, and a movie, show, game, or whatever will have a big influence on the world. And we’re not just talking about fandoms. It turns out that major parts of our daily lives actually have their roots in pop culture.

    20

    Entry by Timon DJ Spajic

    Entry

    19

    Entry by Volstead-Rankin

    Entry

    18

    Entry by CornishPlasty

    Entry

    Read more: http://www.cracked.com/pictofacts-1038-entertainment-that-changed-world-in-unexpected-ways

    Toyota unveils second-generation hydrogen-powered semi truck

    Toyota just doubled the size of its hydrogen-powered truck fleet.

    From one to two.

    (Hey, it’s a start.)

    The automaker on Monday unveiled the second generation of its Project Portal semi-truck, which is larger, lighter and has a longer range than the original that was put to work shipping cargo between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles last year and has since covered over 10,000 miles.

     (Toyota)

    Both of the Class 8 trucks use technology from the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car and emit only water vapor as emissions. The fuel cell generates electricity to power two electric motors with a combined output of 670 hp and 1,327 lb-ft of torque.

    The new truck – based again on a Kenworth as Toyota’s Hino truck division doesn’t make a truck this big – uses 10 fuel tanks instead of 6, which increases its range from 200 to 300 miles.

    Toyota and its technology partner Ricardo are considering turning the system into an easy to install module, according to Trucks.com, but for now the new red Beta truck will join the blue Alpha in southern California for additional tests down at the docks.

    Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/auto/2018/07/31/toyota-unveils-second-generation-hydrogen-powered-semi-truck.html

    Interns at the leading edge of new innovation

    MIT Products Lab (MRL) interns covered a large range of challenges this summer, working with materials as soft as silk to as hard as iron and at temperatures from as low as that of liquid helium (-452.47 degrees Fahrenheit) to as high as that of melted copper (1,984 F).

    GAIN) program.

    Mid-infrared detectors

    Simon Egner, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, made samples of lead tin telluride to spot mid-infrared light at wavelengths from 4 to 7 microns for incorporated photonic applications. Egner determined several products properties of the samples, consisting of the concentration and mobility of electrons. “One thing we have actually come up with just recently is adding lead oxide to attempt to reduce the amount of noise we get when sensing light with our detectors,” Egner says.Lead tin telluride is an alloy of lead telluride and tin telluride, discusses Peter Su, a products science and engineering graduate trainee in the laboratory of MIT Materials Research Study Laboratory Principal Research Study Researcher Anuradha Agarwal.”If you have a lot of providers already present in your product, you get a lot of extrasound, a great deal of background signal, above which it’s actually hard to identify the new providers generated by the light striking your product, “Su states.”We’re aiming to reduce that noise level by reducing the carrier concentration and we’re aiming to do that by adding lead oxide to that alloy.”Thin films for photonics Summer Scholar Alvin Chang, from Oregon State University

    , produced chalcogenide thin

    films with non-linear homes for photonics applications. He worked with postdoc Samuel Serna in the lab of associate teacher of products science and engineering Juejun Hu. Chang varied the density of two different structures, among germanium, antimony and sulfur(GSS)and the other of germanium, antimony, and selenium(GSSE ), creating a gradient, or ratio, in between the 2 across the length of the movie.”The GSS and GSSE both have various advantages and downsides, “Chang describes.”We’re hoping that by combining the two together in a film

    we can arrange of optimize both their benefits and drawbacks so that they would be complementary with each other. “These materials, called chalcogenide glasses, can be utilized for infrared sensing and imaging. Anyone thinking about discovering more about Chang’s work can view this video. Nanocomposite assembly Both Roxbury Neighborhood College chemistry and biotechnology Teacher Kimberly Stieglitz and Roxbury Community University student Credoritch Joseph operated in the lab ofassistant teacher in products science and engineering

    Robert J. Macfarlane. The Macfarlane Lab grafts DNA to nanoparticles, which make it possible for exact control over self-assembly of molecular structures. The lab is also creating a new class of chemical structure blocks that it calls Nanocomposite Tectons, or NCTs, which present new opportunities for self-assembly of composite materials.Joseph discovered the multi-step procedure of producing self-assembled DNA-nanoparticle aggregates, and utilized the ones he prepared to study the stability of the aggregates when exposed to various chemicals. Stieglitz created NCTs consisting of clusters of gold nanoparticles with attached polymers and analyzed their melting behavior in polymer services.”They’re really nanoparticles that are linked together through hydrogen bonding networks, “Stieglitz explains.Strengthening aerospace composites Abigail Nason, from the University of Florida, studied the potential advantages of integrating carbon nanotubes into carbon fiber enhanced plastic [CFRP] by means of a procedure called”nanostitching”in the laboratory of Brian L. Wardle, teacher

    of aeronautics and astronautics.Bundles of carbon microfibers, which are called tows, are used to make sheets of aerospace-grade carbon fiber strengthened plastic. Dealing with graduate student Reed Kopp, Nason took 3-D scans of looking for a way to promote repair work of myelin in MS clients so that neurological function can be brought back. To much better understand how remyelination works, we are developing polymer-based materialsto engineer designs of MS sores that imitate mechanical stiffness of genuine lesions in the brain,” Jagielska explains. Nieves Muñoz used stereolithography 3-D printing to create cross-linked polymers with differing degrees of mechanical tightness and carried out atomic force microscopy studies to determine the stiffness

    of his samples.” Our long-lasting goal is to utilize these designs of lesions and brain tissue to develop drugs that can stimulate myelin repair,”Nieves Muñoz states.”As a mechanical engineering major, it has been interesting to work and learn from individuals with varied backgrounds.”Other MIT Products Research Laboratory interns took on tasks including

    superconducting thin films, quantum dots for solar, spinning particles with magnetism, carbon-activated silk fibers, water-based iron circulation batteries, and polymer-based neuro fibers. A variation of this post, including additional MRL summer intern success stories,< a href= http://mrl.mit.edu/index.php/157-at-the-forefront-of-new-technology > originally appeared on the Products Research study Lab site.

    Source

    http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-summer-scholars-work-at-forefront-new-technology-0910

    19 Sentences from Today That Would Completely Baffle Someone from 30 Years Ago

    Hey, want to feel old?

    30 years ago, it was the year 1988.

    Advertisement

    Read more: http://twentytwowords.com/hilarious-sentences-that-would-have-baffled-people-30-years-ago/

    Nitin Gadkari urges farmers to produce ethanol to change fuel, diesel, states brand-new technology can run automobiles on biofuel

    Nitin Gadkari urges farmers to produce ethanol to change gas, diesel, says brand-new technology can run cars on biofuel

    Durg: Union Minister for Road, Transportation and Highways Nitin Gadkari on Monday advised the farmers to make ethanol and utilize it as a replacement for gas and diesel.Addressing a public

    gathering in Durg, the Union Minister said that” We import fuel worth Rs. 8 lakh crore, Rupee worth is falling vs Dollar. I have been stating since 15 years that farmers and tribals can make biofuel and fly airplane. Our brand-new innovation can run automobiles on ethanol.”Image of Nitin Gadkari attending to farmers at Durg

    . Twitter/@nitin_gadkari!.?.!He also said that the Petroleum Ministry is setting up 5 ethanol-making plants in

    the country for the exact same.”Ethanol will be produced from wood items and segregated municipal waste. Diesel will be readily available at Rs.50 per litre and petrol option at Rs.55 per litre,”Gadkari said.Setting a tone for the upcoming Assembly polls in the state, Gadkari highlighted the efforts taken by the Bharatiya Janata Celebration

    (BJP)Federal Government in Chhattisgarh and asked the electorates to make the party victorious again.Fuel costs have actually been experiencing a hike in numerous states throughout the country over the previous few weeks, burning a hole in the pocket of common guy. The Indian rupee is likewise facing

    a decrease in its worth versus the United States dollar.Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had actually earlier blamed international factors for the walking in fuel prices.Also See Cricket Ratings RESTRICTION vs SL-Sep 15th, 2018, 05:00 PM IST PAK vs HK-Sep 16th, 2018, 05:00 PM IST SL vs AFG-Sep 17th, 2018, 05:00 PM IST IND vs HK-Sep 18th, 2018,

    05:00 PM IST IND

      • 2018, 05:00 PM IST RESTRICTION vs AFG-Sep 20th, 2018,

      • 05:00 PM IST A1 vs B2 -Sep 21st, 2018, 05:00 PM IST

      • B1 vs A2 – Sep 21st, 2018, 05:00 PM IST

      • A1 vs A2 – Sep 23rd, 2018, 05:00 PM IST

      • B1 vs B2 – Sep 23rd, 2018, 05:00 PM IST

      • Source

        https://www.firstpost.com/india/nitin-gadkari-urges-farmers-to-produce-ethanol-to-replace-petrol-diesel-says-new-technology-can-run-vehicles-on-biofuel-5158651.html

      This Is Why Some White T-Shirts Sell For $5 And Others Cost $125

      If you’ve ever looked at a $5 H&M white T-shirt, you’ll notice it doesn’t look all that different from a plain white designer tee that sells for upwards of $300.What’s the deal with the price difference? Is the designer tee just ridiculously marked up, or is there more to it than that?

      There are plenty of factors involved in determining the retail price of a T-shirt, many of which the average consumer probably doesn’t think about while shopping. Everything from the type of fabric to the manufacturing process to the branding can have an effect on how much we pay. How do we know that what we’re getting is worth it? Or, alternatively, what exactly are we paying for?

      The answers aren’t that simple, but we spoke to a few experts who gave us some insight into the world of the wardrobe staple. 

      Let’s start with the fabric. 

      “Fabric is the largest cost component of most wearing apparel,” Margaret Bishop, a professor at Parsons New School for Design and at The Fashion Institute of Technology, told HuffPost, adding that fiber “is the largest cost component of most fabric.” 

      So what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s look at cotton, one of the most common fabrics used for basic white T-shirts. Preeti Gopinath, associate professor of textiles and director of the MFA textile program at Parsons New School for Design, explained that higher grades of cotton will cost more than lower grades. 

      The grading, she said, is “usually based on the length of the staple, which is the length of each individual baby fiber in [the fabric]. The longer the fiber, the smoother the yarn will be. If the fiber is short, many short fibers twist together and you’ll have more joints in the yarn. The more joints, the more texture.” 

      Then there’s the variety and quality of cotton ― is it Sea Island cotton? Egyptian cotton? Pima cotton? That choice further affects the cost, and if elastane is added to the cotton for stretch and better recovery ability, that adds to the cost as well. 

      There are also branded fibers, which, you guessed it, cost more than unbranded ones (similar to generic versus brand-name pharmaceuticals). For instance, the brand name for pima cotton is Supima, and that name has a marketing cost associated with it, Bishop explained. 

      Processes called carding and combing also add a cost to the final product. Carding cotton is the standard process of brushing fibers before twisting them into yarn. That can be followed by combing, which gets rid of any shorts bits in the yarn and gives it a smooth finish, Gopinath explained. Combing leads to a smoother, higher-quality yarn that’s also more expensive. 

      On top of all that, Bishop and Gopinath noted, if cotton is 100 percent organic, it will come with a higher price tag. Something that is made of a blend of cotton and a synthetic fabric, like polyester, on the other hand, will likely be cheaper; polyester and other synthetic fabrics are cheaper fibers, Gopinath said. 

      It’s not necessarily true that a designer T-shirt will be made with the most expensive cotton available, but, as Bishop explained, “it’s more likely that if it’s a very low price, the quality is not going to be as good as it will be for many of the more expensive brands.” 

      Barcroft Media via Getty Images
      Workers dye cloth for T-shirts at a factory in Narayangonj, Bangladesh.

      Then there’s manufacturing. 

      Both the labor involved in making a T-shirt and the country in which it’s manufactured play a role in determining the cost of a product, though one much more than the other.

      According to Bishop, “Many people erroneously think the labor cost makes a big difference in the cost of a T-shirt, but the labor is a very small portion of the overall cost of the garment.” 

      If a brand is made overseas, Gopinath expanded, the labor may add practically nothing to the final price of a T-shirt. “It’s negligible,” she said, noting that it may add “a few cents … if it’s a mass-produced T-shirt made in Bangladesh.”

      “If we see how much an American is paid, even at the lowest minimum wage of $8 an hour, if you convert that into Indian or Bangladeshi rupees, no one is paid that kind of money [in India or Bangladesh],” Gopinath said. “That’s like a king’s ransom already for the person overseas. They’re paid, in our equivalency, maybe a dollar or 50 cents, not even per T-shirt, but maybe per hour or per a few hours of work.”

      Again, not every single cheap T-shirt is made in India or Bangladesh, where the minimum wage is significantly lower than in the U.S., but it’s extremely common. Just take a look at any of your H&M and Forever 21 tees, and you’ll notice many of them say “Made in Bangladesh.” 

      The economy of scale also plays a role in figuring out the overall cost. That means if a company produces 10,000 shirts, it would be cheaper than producing only 10 shirts, Gopinath explained. So, if the same mass-produced shirt made in Bangladesh for $5 was made in the U.S. in a small batch of, say, 20, the cost of labor and the retail price would be much higher, she added.

      There’s an ethical component involved, too. As we’ve learned over the years, the garment industry, especially in places like Bangladesh, doesn’t have a great track record for providing safe work environments or fair wages for employees. Yet, we still bring those $5 T-shirts up to the cash register and revel in our thriftiness. 

      And while we tend to associate “Made in America” with higher prices, Bishop said that doesn’t always need to be the case. She said that in some of her research, she found that people were able to produce T-shirts in the United States affordably while still making a profit. 

      When it comes to the country of manufacture, it affects the overall cost largely because of import duties and shipping costs, Bishop said. 

      “Import duty on clothing is determined by the garment style, fiber content and country of manufacture. If a T-shirt is manufactured in a country that has a free trade agreement with the United States, the import duty will be zero,” Bishop said. “That same T-shirt, manufactured in another country, could have an import duty of 20 percent or more, depending on the fiber content and country of manufacture.” 

      There are also shipping costs involved with sending T-shirts from other countries to the United States. Bishop said that shipping white T-shirts from China, Vietnam, Thailand or Bangladesh to the U.S. will cost more in time and money than shipping from Haiti, Mexico or Central America.

      And, of course, there’s marketing. 

      As is the case with many products in the fashion and beauty industry, you pay for the name. So, if you go to H&M knowing it’s a fast-fashion retailer, you expect to pay $10 or less for a white T-shirt. But if you buy luxury goods from brands like The Row (which sells a T-shirt for $320) or Maison Margiela (which sells a three-pack of T-shirts for $340), you’re paying for the prestige on top of the product. 

      “Each brand or retailer has its own overhead, its own profit margin requirements and its own brand values,” Bishop said. “Some brands prioritize delivering a good quality product to its consumers at an affordable price, others prioritize creating brand buzz and status, and sometimes use high prices as a part of doing so.” 

      Does that mean a higher price tag is always worth it? 

      Not necessarily. 

      In some cases, sure, a $100 or $200 T-shirt may warrant such a price tag. For instance, Gopinath said, if a company is using eco-friendly and sustainable processes to make T-shirts in small batches in the U.S. with a small ecological footprint, those products would definitely cost more. But at the same time, “you can get what looks like the same thing made in Bangladesh or India for $5.” 

      As Bishop noted, “You could have a very expensive brand that actually makes and sells low-quality product, and you could have a more affordable brand that sells very high-quality product.”

      There are some brands out there, like Everlane and Kotn, trying to bridge the gap between quality and affordability, without allowing unfair and unethical treatment in the manufacturing process. 

      We spoke to Benjamin Sehl, co-founder of Kotn, a clothing company offering cotton basics designed in Canada and made in Egypt, who said if a consumer wants to take care of their garments and have them for a long time, “they should probably be investing in better quality pieces that are going to last and not fall apart in the wash.”

      “The more people that see the value in better-quality garments, especially ones that are ethically made,” Sehl said, the more they will vote with their dollars. Then brands will be motivated to take steps toward quality goods and ethical practices.

      He agreed it’s difficult for a consumer to determine whether an expensive T-shirt is better than a cheaper one, but he encouraged everyone to do a little research into their go-to brands.   

      According to Bishop, there are some things to look for when you want to make sure you’re getting a quality tee. 

      For instance, if you hold the fabric up to the light, the yarn is generally much more uniform and smooth in a high-quality fabric. You can also train your fingertips to feel the fabric. A nice quality T-shirt should feel smoother, she said. 

      Now that you’re armed with knowledge to assess the value of your next white T-shirt, the choices are up to you.

      Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/white-t-shirt-cost_us_5b801dc9e4b0729515127306

      12 Books Elon Musk Thinks Everyone Should Read

      Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and other larger-than-life tech companies, somehow also seems to find time to read.

      Musk has said that reading a variety of books — from epic works of fantasy like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to complex how-to books on building rockets — is crucial to his success.

      We looked through Musk’s past interviews and social media history to come up with a list of 12 books the billionaire entrepreneur thinks everyone should read.

      Take a look below.

      “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

      Musk had a nickname when he was a shrimpy, smart-mouthed kid growing up in South Africa: Muskrat.

      The New Yorker reported in 2009 that “in his loneliness, he read a lot of fantasy and science fiction.”

      Those books — notably “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien — shaped Musk’s vision of his future self.

      “The heroes of the books I read … always felt a duty to save the world,” he told The New Yorker.

      For those who’ve already read the books and seen the movies but are still hurting for more Middle Earth, Amazon recently announced a “Lord of the Rings” TV series.

      “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams

      In this comedic sci-fi book, a supercomputer finds the “answer” to a meaningful life: the number 42.

      To Musk, who read this as a young teenager in South Africa, the book was instrumental to his thinking. He was so enamored with it, in fact, that when he launched his Tesla Roadster into space in February, he put the words “Don’t Panic!” — which graced the cover of some early editions of the book — on the car’s center screen.

      When asked in a 2015 interview about his favorite spaceship from science fiction, he said, “I’d have to say that would be the one in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ that’s powered by the improbability drive.”

      “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson

      Musk has repeatedly described Benjamin Franklin, one of the US’ Founding Fathers and an accomplished inventor, as one of his heroes.

      Franklin was one of the first to prove that lightning is electricity in his famous kite experiment, which led to the invention of the lightning rod. He’s also credited with inventing bifocals: glasses with two distinct optical lenses.

      In this biography of Franklin, “you can see how he was an entrepreneur,” Musk said in an interview with Foundation, a platform for nonprofits working on climate-change issues. “He was an entrepreneur. He started from nothing. He was just a runaway kid.”

      Musk added: “Franklin’s pretty awesome.”

      “Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down” by J.E. Gordon

      When Musk started SpaceX, he was coming from a coding background. But he took it upon himself to learn the fundamentals of rocket science.

      One of the books that helped him was “Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down,” a popular take on structural engineering by J.E. Gordon, a British material scientist.

      “It is really, really good if you want a primer on structural design,” Musk said in an interview with KCRW, a southern California radio station.

      Because of his interest in rocket mechanics, Musk got intimately involved with the planning and design of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. He has served as the chief designer at SpaceX as well as CEO.

      “The reason I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer was not because I wanted to — it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone; nobody good would join,” Musk said during a talk last year about how he plans to colonize Mars.

      “Ignition: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” by John D. Clark

      In Musk’s quest to learn and master complicated subjects, “Ignition” was crucial in helping him get a handle on rockets, he said.

      John D. Clark was an American chemist who was active in the development of rocket fuels in the 1960s and 70s. The book is an account of the growth of the field and an explanation of how the science works.

      Musk took the book’s lesson to heart when he was working on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket system. SpaceX used cryogenically cooled RP-1, a type of kerosene used in jets, and liquid oxygen to combust the fuel used to launch the rocket.

      “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom

      Musk has repeatedly warned against the dangers of unchecked artificial intelligence.

      “We need to be super careful with AI,” he tweeted in 2014, adding that it’s “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

      In a documentary about artificial intelligence called “Do You Trust This Computer?” Musk said AI could be used to create an “immortal dictator from which we could never escape.”

      He added: “We are rapidly heading towards digital superintelligence that far exceeds any human. I think it’s very obvious.”

      To find out why these risks are so scary, Musk says it’s worth reading Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence,” which makes the daring inquiry into what would happen if computational intelligence surpassed human intelligence.

      “Our Final Invention” by James Barrat

      “Our Final Invention” gives still more warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Musk called the book “worthy read” in a 2014 tweet.

      Barrat takes a close look at the potential future of AI, weighing the advantages and disadvantages.

      Barrat says on his website that the book is at least partly “about AI’s catastrophic downside, one you’ll never hear about from Google, Apple, IBM, and DARPA.”

      Musk agrees.

      “AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity — if AI has a goal and humanity just happens in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings,” he said in a documentary about artificial intelligence.

      The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov

      In addition to the “Lord of the Rings” books, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series made up part of Musk’s early interest in science fiction and fantasy.

      The books center on the fall of the fictional Galactic Empire, which consists of millions of planets settled by humans across the Milky Way galaxy.

      The stories may have had a huge influence on Musk’s career trajectory. Here’s what he said about the series in a 2013 interview with The Guardian:

      “The lessons of history would suggest that civilizations move in cycles. You can track that back quite far — the Babylonians, the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians, the Romans, China.

      “We’re obviously in a very upward cycle right now, and hopefully that remains the case. But it may not. There could be some series of events that cause that technology level to decline.

      “Given that this is the first time in 4.5 billion years where it’s been possible for humanity to extend life beyond Earth, it seems like we’d be wise to act while the window was open and not count on the fact it will be open a long time.”

      “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein

      This award-winning science-fiction novel, published in 1966, paints a picture of a dystopia not too far in the future. It’s exactly the kind of vivid fantasy world that would satisfy an active imagination like Musk’s.

      In the book, several people have been exiled from Earth to the moon, where they have created a libertarian society.

      In the year 2076, a group of rebels — including a supercomputer named Mike and a one-armed computer technician — leads the lunar colony’s revolution against its Earth-bound rulers.

      In an interview at an MIT symposium in 2014, Musk said the book was Heinlein’s best work.

      “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Max Tegmark

      If you’re sensing a theme among the books on this list, it’s that Musk is really into exploring the future of artificial intelligence.

      In “Life 3.0,” the MIT professor Max Tegmark writes about how to keep artificial intelligence beneficial for human life and ensure that technological progress remains aligned with humanity’s goals for the future.

      It’s one of the few books Musk recommends that deal with the possibility of AI as a force for good rather than evil.

      “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

      “Merchants of Doubt” — now also a documentary — was written by two historians of science.

      They make the case that scientists with political and industry connections have obscured the facts surrounding a series of public-health issues, including tobacco, pesticide use, and holes in the ozone layer.

      Musk recommended the book at a conference in 2013 and later pointed to the book’s key takeaway in a tweet, saying that the same forces that denied that smoking caused cancer were denying the danger of climate change.

      ‘Einstein: His Life and Universe’ by Walter Isaacson

      Musk is a big fan of Walter Isaacson’s biographies.

      In a 2012 interview, Musk recommended Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein, a man who left a profound mark on science and human history.

      The book is based on Einstein’s personal letters and explores how he went from a young, frustrated patent officer to a Nobel Prize winner.

      It’s a story that likely inspired Musk.

      Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2018.

      Read next on Business Insider: This seasoned NASA astronaut wore SpaceX and Boeing’s new spacesuits — here’s what she thinks of them

      Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/12-books-elon-musk-think-everyone-should-read/

      We can do a deal if Canada respects America’s growth industries

      (CNN)The newly announced preliminary trade deal with Mexico is a welcome breakthrough in the Trump administration’s trade strategy. It should benefit workers and consumers in both countries and should provide needed stability to the Mexican economy.

      It’s a somewhat shocking turn of events that the Trump administration is closer to finalizing a trade deal with Mexico than with Canada. The newly elected Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has leftist leanings, but he wanted this deal confirmed. Ostensibly, he understands that Mexico needs access to the American consumer market for the economy to grow and for wages to rise as promised.
      North of the border, trade negotiations with Canada have stalled over issues like tariffs on dairy products, steel and automobiles. The Canadians have also delayed progress by bringing up issues of climate change, labor safeguards, gender equity issues and so on. These issues are political nonstarters with the Trump administration and shouldn’t be part of trade deals that are meant to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across the border.
        We hope these get resolved quickly and in ways that lead to less encumbered North American trade. But one issue that US trade negotiators shouldn’t sweep under the rug is Ottawa’s disregard for American intellectual property — our computer software, drugs, movies and other patented or copyrighted products.
        This is a big deal because the technological breakthroughs, the creativity and invention that create intellectual property support 45.5 million American jobs — one-third of the workforce — and contribute $6.6 trillion to our GDP.
        Most Americans know that China is engaged in egregious ‎thievery of American IP. For the 14th consecutive year, the United States Trade Representative’s report on IP identifies far-reaching abuses in China, including forced technology transfers, trade secret theft, online piracy and counterfeiting, offline counterfeit manufacturing and export, and localization requirements that force companies to locate research and development facilities in China. The cost to American companies is in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. But China is not a country that has a long history of respecting the rule of law.
        Canada is the surprise new addition to this year’s Priority Watch List for IP abuses. The United States Trade Representative’s report has placed Canada on the list because of concerns including, “poor border and law enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirated goods, weak patent and pricing environment for innovative pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding geographical indications.”
        Canada is not letting our customs officials stop pirated and counterfeit goods that flow through Canada into the United States — serving as an enabler to Chinese companies and other high-volume counterfeiters, according to a 2018 report released by the USTR. And there were no criminal prosecutions for counterfeiting by Canada in 2017, indicating it isn’t doing its own enforcing either.
        USTR also criticizes Canada for an ill-defined educational exception for copyrighted material, for denying remuneration to US creators and performers and for proposed changes that would further ratchet down the country’s prescription drug price controls.
        It’s a sad state of affairs when our relatively poor neighbor, Mexico, respects American property rights and patents more than our relatively rich one: Canada.

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        All this is happening while Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland accuse the United States of unfair trade practices and tariffs. As hypocritical as it sounds, the Canadians do have legitimate complaints about the new aluminum and steel tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, and in a new North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada, those tariffs should be eliminated.
        We desperately want to see a North American free trade zone with little or no tariffs across our borders, but that can’t happen if Canada continues to blatantly violate our IP protections. ‎Canada must be held to American standards on intellectual property, which in the medium and long run would advance investment, innovation and global technological prowess in both nations over the decades to come.
        ‎USTR Robert Lighthizer understands how critical IP protections are, noting that this year’s report on intellectual property rights “sends a clear signal to our trading partners that the protection of Americans’ intellectual property rights is a priority of the Trump administration.”
        It should be. On trade, no one wants Canada left out in the cold — but we can’t have a 21st century NAFTA trade deal if Canada keeps skimming off the top from our highest value-added industries.

        Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/29/opinions/us-mexico-trade-canada-in-cold-opinion-moore-kerpen/index.html