If Most Voters Are Uninformed, Who Should Make Decisions About the Public’s Welfare?

Caleb Crain: “Roughly a third of American voters think that the Marxist slogan “From each according to his ability to each according to his need” appears in the Constitution. About as many are incapable of naming even one of the three branches of the United States government. Fewer than a quarter know who their senators are, and only half are aware that their state has two of them.”

“…democracy is far from perfect—’the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,’ as Churchill famously said. So, if we value its power to make good decisions, why not try a system that’s a little less fair but makes good decisions even more often?”

Jay Faison’s Expensive, Maddening Quest to Save the Planet (And the GOP)

Bloomberg Politics: “The year before, Faison had arrived in Washington as a political nobody, flush with cash from the sale of his Charlotte-based electronics company. He hoped that, by dedicating his time and $175 million to the cause, he could show Republicans they had a role to play in saving the planet. Others have attempted this mission, but few have been as determined as Faison — and no one has invested as much money. Yet he’s encountered such indifference and hostility that he’s been forced to scale back his ambitions and shift sharply to the right. It’s been a lesson in what happens in politics when the irresistible force of cash meets the immovable object of dogma.”

Mobile Website Views Surpassed Desktop Views for the First Time Ever in October 2016

Quartz: “October was the first month ever when more web pages were viewed on mobile and tablet devices than on desktop and laptop computers, according to the web analytics firm StatCounter.”

“While this doesn’t necessarily mean more people are using mobile devices than computers, or that people are using their mobile devices more than their computers, it does for certain mean people are viewing more individual webpages on mobile browsers than they are on desktop versions.

The White House’s Top Economist on the Future of Obamacare

Sarah Kliff: “Jason Furman has become accustomed to proclamations of Obamacare’s collapse.”

“‘Having been involved in the [Affordable Care Act] since 2009, I have heard it pronounced dead hundreds of times,’ says Furman, who chairs the White House Council of Economic Advisers. ‘Half of those times were before it was even signed [into law], and half were since then.'”

“I spoke with Furman and his colleague Matt Fiedler, chief economist at the CEA, Friday afternoon about Obamacare’s marketplaces, what the premium increases mean, and why they believe a death spiral would be impossible given the health law’s structure.”

How One University Used Big Data To Boost Graduation Rates

NPR: “…a happy story cited in the report comes from Georgia State University, a large public university in Atlanta with more than 24,000 undergrads. Of those students, 60 percent are nonwhite, and many are from working-class and first-generation families.”

“Working with the help of an outside consulting firm, EAB, GSU analyzed 2.5 million grades earned by students in courses over 10 years to create a list of factors that hurt chances for graduation. EAB then built an early-warning system, which GSU calls GPS, for Graduation and Progression Success. The system is updated daily and includes more than 700 red flags aimed at helping advisers keep students on track to graduation.”

“The results have been dramatic.”

Scientists Taught a Robot to Smoke to Fight Lung Disease

Wyss Institute: “While it is well known that cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung disease, and a key exacerbating factor for patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it has not been possible to effectively model its deleterious effects on human lungs under normal breathing conditions.”

“Leveraging their previously developed human lung small airway-on-a-chip model for inflammatory disorders including COPD and asthma, the Wyss Institute’s team led by Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., designed a smoking instrument that integrates with the airway chips and faithfully recapitulates smoking behavior with cells derived from healthy people and patients with COPD.”

Americans Are Dying Faster

Bloomberg: “The latest, best guesses for U.S. lifespans come from a study (PDF) released this month by the Society of Actuaries: The average 65-year-old American man should die a few months short of his 86th birthday, while the average 65-year-old woman gets an additional two years, barely missing age 88.”

“This new data turns out to be a disappointment. Over the past several years, the health of Americans has deteriorated—particularly that of middle-aged non-Hispanic whites. Among the culprits are drug overdoses, suicide, alcohol poisoning, and liver disease, according to a Princeton University study issued in December.”

Stocks Slide After the FBI Says It’s Investigating Clinton’s Emails Again

Washington Post: “Investors rushed to sell their assets in equity and currency markets Friday afternoon after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails again. The revelation seemed to cause fluctuations in prices for a range of securities and commodities in the United States and overseas.”

“Shares in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index declined about 1 percent immediately after 1 p.m., when a letter from FBI Director James B. Comey to lawmakers detailing the continuing investigation became public. Comey had previously said that the FBI had completed its investigation.”

“Prices in the Nasdaq Composite index gave up 0.9 percent, while the Dow Jones industrial average declined 0.8 percent.”

How Uber Thinks Its Aircraft Service Will Work

Inverse: “In less than ten years, you won’t have to worry about your Uber getting stuck in traffic — because it will probably be transporting you through the air. Uber announced its plan Wednesday to launch ‘Elevate,’ a system of fully electric aircrafts that could get you from San Francisco to Silicon Valley for the price of an UberX. Uber first announced its plans to launch a flying vehicle within ten years in September, but this is the first time they’ve released any sort of detailed plan for the venture.”

Why Do Science Issues Seem to Divide Us Along Party Lines?

The Conversation: “In 2015, researchers asked 2,000 registered voters how deferential they felt politicians should be to science when creating public policy on a variety of issues. On a 10-point scale, participants ranked whether politicians should follow the advice of scientists (10), consider scientific findings in conjunction with other factors (5) or ignore scientific findings completely (1). Issues included climate change, legalizing drug usage, fetal viability, regulating nuclear power and teaching evolution, among other topics.”

“Breaking down responses based on political leanings did reveal some partisan differences. When it comes to deferring to scientific experts on policy issues, conservatives and independents look a lot alike. Averaged across issues, independents said policymakers should weigh science and other factors more or less evenly (5.84), only slightly more than conservatives did (5.58). Liberals, on the other hand, expressed much higher rates of deference to science – across issues, they averaged 7.46.”

“One area in which political beliefs do have an impact is the kinds of scientists that liberals and conservatives are likely to trust. A 2013 study of 798 participants found that conservatives put more faith in scientists involved in economic production – food scientists, industrial chemists and petroleum geologists, for instance – than in scientists involved in areas associated with regulation, such as public health and environmental science. The opposite was true for liberals. Again, this suggests that it’s not simply a matter of conservatives being skeptical of science in general; there’s a much more nuanced relationship between political leanings and trust in scientific expertise.”

Super-Cheap Driverless Cabs to Kick Mass Transit to the Curb

Bloomberg Tech: “The self-driving vehicles being pioneered by Tesla Motors Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and others are poised to dramatically lower the cost of taxis, potentially making them cheaper than buses or subways, according to a joint report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Co. Having no driver to pay could reduce taxi prices to 67 cents a mile by 2025, less than a quarter of the cost in Manhattan today, the report found.”

How Digital Readiness Affects Job Retraining for Labor Market Growth 

Stuart Brotman: “The importance of workforce retraining is underscored in a recent report from the Pew Research Center. Its analysis of government jobs data found that for the past several decades, employment has been rising faster in jobs requiring higher levels of preparation – that is, more education, training and experience.”

“Only 17 percent of adults in the Pew Center survey were characterized as ‘digitally ready’ active learners who are confident in their ability to use digital tools to pursue e-learning. They also utilize digital outlets, such as online courses or extensive online research, to a significantly greater extent than the population at large.”

“Policymakers should look at these separate Pew Center analyses in tandem—two critical variables in any equation for sustainable job growth. Unless many more adults move into the ‘digitally ready’ category for e-learning, necessary job retraining may not benefit workers in labor sectors that are being left behind.”