10/24/2020

News

A Sour Surprise for Public Pensions: Two Sets of Books

It turns out that Calpers, which managed the little pension plan, keeps two sets of books: the officially stated numbers, and another set that reflects the “market value” of the pensions that people have earned. The second number is not publicly disclosed. And it typically paints a much more troubling picture, according to people who follow the money.

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Opinion: How Not to Deal With Climate Change

If the proposal is approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, California’s carbon dioxide emissions will either increase or decline far less than if Diablo Canyon’s two reactors, which generated about 9 percent of the state’s electricity last year, remained in operation. If this deal goes through, California will become a model of how not to deal with climate change.

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Hiring Hurdle: Finding Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test

All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test. . . But data suggest employers’ difficulties also reflect an increase in the use of drugs, especially marijuana — employers’ main gripe — and also heroin and other opioid drugs much in the news.

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A Boon for Soil, and for the Environment

Now, though, a growing number of experts, environmentalists and farmers themselves see their fields as a powerful weapon in the fight to slow climate change, their very soil a potentially vast repository for the carbon that is warming the atmosphere. Critically for an industry that must produce an ever-larger bounty to feed a growing global population, restoring lost carbon to the soil also increases its ability to support crops and withstand drought.

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Bubble Indemnity

So it came as something of a surprise when Chamath Palihapitiya — Sri Lankan war refugee, early Facebook employee, investor in Slack and Box, part owner of the Golden State Warriors — told Vanity Fair in March that if we are in fact in the early stages of a second tech collapse, venture capitalists have only their own mediocre, clubby selves to blame. They should, he said, “focus on using capital as a way to take really big bets on things that just seem totally audacious. Right now we haven’t done enough of that, and the result is that most of the things we’ve funded are mostly crap and largely worthless.”

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In Cramped and Costly BayArea, Cries to Build, Baby, Build

Today Ms. Trauss’s group is one of several pro-housing organizations (GrowSF and East Bay Forward are others) that represent a kind of “Yimby” party, built on the frustrations of young professionals who feel priced out of the Bay Area. BARF has won the backing of technology millionaires — Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder and chief executive of Yelp, is the group’s largest individual donor — and the encouragement of local politicians.

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Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired

Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital. . . The Netflix code has been emulated by countless other companies, including HubSpot, which employed a metric called VORP, or value over replacement player. This brutal idea comes from the world of baseball, where it is used to set prices on players.

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Once a Darling, Spanish Solar Company Abengoa Faces Reckoning

Announcing government support for clean-energy projects, President Obama hailed a Spanish company, saying its new solar technology would supply tens of thousands of American homes with renewable power, while spurring local employment. . . Saddled with debt from its expansion, the company is scrambling to avoid what would be the largest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history. . . In Abengoa’s case, its signature American projects still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government, and the company benefited heavily from subsidies in Spain.

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Chinese Stock Plunge Forces a Trading Halt, and Global Markets Shudder

The aftershocks carried over to Europe and the United States, where markets fell sharply once again. Coming off a sell-off on Wednesday, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 1.3 percent in midday trading, while the Nasdaq dropped 1.6 percent

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Many See I.R.S. Penalties as More Affordable Than Insurance

A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than seven million people who are eligible for exchange coverage would pay less in penalties than for the least expensive insurance available to them. More than half would not qualify for subsidies, the analysis found.

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California Wants to Store Water for Farmers, but Struggles Over How to Do It

This state, forward-looking on other environmental issues, has been stymied for decades over how to upgrade its plumbing system, an immense but aging network of reservoirs and canals that move water from the mountainous north to the drier south.

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Faraday Future, Electric Car Maker, Plans a Nevada Factory

State officials estimated the company would create 13,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate $760 million in tax revenue over 20 years, he said.

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A Texas Utility Offers a Nighttime Special: Free Electricity

The women are just three of the thousands of TXU Energy customers who are at the vanguard of a bold attempt by the utility to change how people consume energy. TXU’s free overnight plan, which is coupled with slightly higher daytime rates, is one of dozens that have been offered by more than 50 retail electricity companies in Texas over the last three years with a simple goal: for customers to turn down the dials when wholesale prices are highest and turn them back up when prices are lowest.

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China Burns Much More Coal Than Reported, Complicating Climate Talks

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.

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Thousands Who Didn’t File Tax Returns May Lose Health Care Subsidies

Tens of thousands of people with modest incomes are at risk of losing health insurance subsidies in January because they did not file income tax returns, federal officials and consumer advocates say.

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