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.”
Jeff Bezos Thanks Amazon Workers And Customers For Paying For His Flight To Space
The billionaire space race chalked up one more ignoble milestone on July 20 when the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, boarded a reusable rocket his company Blue Origin built and funded, flew to the edge of space for a moment of weightlessness, and came back down to earth.
You can watch the flight and learn more about the journey here.
The Amazon founder has faced withering criticism for accumulating his massive fortune on the backs of an exploited workforce that is subject to harsh working conditions and low pay in warehouses or Fulfillment Centers where staffers must urinate in water bottles in order to meet their quotas.
In his press conference following the launch, Bezos thanked that same workforce for helping him to shoot himself into space in a move that many critics have described as a simple “joyride.”
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for this,” he told the crowd, which responded with laughter. “Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every employee thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
Critics on Twitter responded with derision, noting that Bezos was able to enjoy the trip at the expense of his hard-working employees.
“Thing is, employers are supposed to pay their employees, not the other way around, but that’s basically how Amazon works,” one user tweeted.
While another tweeter asked: “Maybe they’re searching space for signs of a livable wage or a way to pay their fair share of taxes?”
On Tuesday, Bezos blasted off in the sub-orbital New Shepard rocket from Texas. The date for the launch was chosen to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Members of the crew, which included his brother mark and 82-year-old female astronaut Wally Funk, brought a number of historic items on the flight, including a piece of canvas from the conceptual plane originally flown by the Wright brothers, the goggles Amelia Earhart used to fly across the Atlantic, and a brass medal made from the first hot air balloon which flew in 1783.
Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces
Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.
And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.
The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.
The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.
At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.
When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.
Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.
The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.
The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.
“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.
“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.
“His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.
Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”