As the world continues to struggle with an unprecedented recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, governments across the globe are scrambling to find ways to minimize the social and financial damage amid the tsunami of evictions, job losses and hunger.
Amid the deepening crisis, Germany is set to begin a new trial for universal basic income (UBI), which will entail 120 citizens receiving €1,200, or about $1,430, every month for three years – an amount just above the poverty line in Europe’s largest economy.
The volunteers’ experience living on the amount will be compared with that of 1,380 other German citizens who won’t receive the stipends. The experiment, which is being conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research, is being funded through private donations from about 140,000 individuals, reports Business Insider.
Political parties and figures both on the traditional left and the right have raised the demand for basic income, and some of its strongest proponents include tech oligarchs and venture capitalists like Peter Thiel, Marc Andreesen, and Jack Dorsey.
Supporters of the plan argue that inequality would be reduced by basic income and it would provide an added layer of financial security for certain people. Supporters of the plan, such as former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, also suggest that with jobs in myriad industries slated to be rendered obsolete by automation and computerization, a universal basic income is required to prevent a deeper humanitarian and financial crisis.
Critics on the left have suggested that basic income is a neoliberal Trojan horse that would be a vehicle for dismantling what little remains of the welfare state, offering the “paying people for being alive” stipend in exchange for austerity and the destruction of social safety nets that protect the most vulnerable members of society and offer a small barrier to extreme inequality.
On the right, however, opponents have claimed that the idea is far too expensive and would disincentivize people from seeking work and would be tantamount to subsidizing “junkies, alcoholics, and scam artists.”
However, with many countries experiencing a freefall in jobs numbers – as well as sharply declining consumer demand and household spending – the idea of UBI has gained popularity unseen since the idea saw a surge of interest following the 2008 financial crash.
In Spain, upwards of a million jobs have been lost due to the pandemic, causing officials to mull offering UBI to the country’s extreme poor. However, the plan has seen wide gaps that have left out some of the most at-risk members of society, ranging from workers in the informal economy to undocumented migrant workers.
Italy’s experiment with basic income plans was also widely panned as a revamped form of unemployment insurance, with many people being left out of plans – proving that the program is anything but universal.
However, on a micro scale the plan has been successful. In one small Kenyan village, a Silicon Valley-funded nonprofit called GiveDirectly reportedly had a good degree of success giving villagers the equivalent of USD $22. Economic journalist Annie Lowrey told The New Yorker that the village, which previously lacked paved roads, home electricity, and decent plumbing to one that now “a bubbling pot of enterprise, as residents whose days used to be about survival save, budget, and plan.”
Politicians from across the political spectrum in Columbia have also urged the government to introduce an Emergency Basic Income to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The municipal government of Bogota under Green Party Mayor Claudia Lopez was the first city in the South American nation to offer basic income to vulnerable households struggling to feed themselves amid the lockdown. The plan also included integrating 581,000 poor households into the banking system, according to a press release from the City of Bogota
The researchers backing the German study hope that their experiment can help sharpen and improve the debate about basic income by offering new scientific evidence.
“The debate about the basic income has so far been like a philosophical salon in good moments and a war of faith in bad times,” Jürgen Schupp, who is leading the study, told Der Spiegel.
“It is — on both sides — shaped by clichés: Opponents claim that with a basic income people would stop working in order to dull on the couch with fast food and streaming services,” he continued. “Proponents argue that people will continue to do fulfilling work, become more creative and charitable, and save democracy.”
“Incidentally, these stereotypes also flow into economic simulations as assumptions about the supposed costs and benefits of a basic income,” he added.
“We can improve this if we replace these stereotypes with empirically proven knowledge and can therefore lead a more appropriate debate.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.