The “China” shock

David Autor, professor of economics at MIT, did not take an economics class until he was 28. But in the years since he has produced groundbreaking work on the effects on American workers of China’s extraordinary rise. Economists had generally assumed that the negative effects for rich-country workers of trade with poorer countries would not be of much consequence. A series of papers that Mr Autor wrote with collaborators painted a very different picture

Where Will Your Plastic Trash Go Now That China Doesn’t Want It?

Numerous Chinese millionaires were minted as recycling businesses started and blossomed. Sure, they paid for the world’s plastic and paper trash, but they made far more money from processing it and selling the resulting raw materials.

But last year the Chinese government dropped a bombshell on the world recycling business: It cut back almost all imports of trash. And now a lot of that plastic gets shipped to other countries that don’t have the capacity to recycle it or dispose of it safely.

A billionaire is born

In 1995, Zhang Yin started a paper recycling company in China called Nine Dragons. She would become China’s first female billionaire. China wanted scrap paper and plastic to recycle into more products, and Yin seized the market.

Martin Bourque runs one of the oldest recycling operations in the U.S. as part of theEcology Center in Berkeley, Calif. “There were brokers going around the globe buying up every scrap of plastic they could find and paying top dollar for it,” he says.

And there was this brilliant tactic to increase profits: West Coast ports in the U.S. were full of empty Chinese shipping containers that had come to deliver goods to American consumers. “So it made a lot of sense to send [waste] out though the port in an empty ship that was going back anyway,” Bourque says.

For American recyclers, it was too good a deal to pass up. Many types of plastic — bags, cups, plastic wrap, thin film — gum up sorting machines at materials recovery centers in the U.S. and is of almost no value to recyclers.

Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. But its benefits mask enormous dangers to the planet, to human health – and to culture itself

Taking in all stages of production, concrete is said to be responsible for 4-8% of the world’s CO2. Among materials, only coal, oil and gas are a greater source of greenhouse gases. Half of concrete’s CO2 emissions are created during the manufacture of clinker, the most-energy intensive part of the cement-making process.

But other environmental impacts are far less well understood. Concrete is a thirsty behemoth, sucking up almost a 10th of the world’s industrial water use. This often strains supplies for drinking and irrigation, because 75% of this consumption is in drought and water-stressed regions. In cities, concrete also adds to the heat-island effect by absorbing the warmth of the sun and trapping gases from car exhausts and air-conditioner units – though it is, at least, better than darker asphalt.

It also worsens the problem of silicosis and other respiratory diseases. The dust from wind-blown stocks and mixers contributes as much as 10% of the coarse particulate matter that chokes Delhi, where researchers found in 2015that the air pollution index at all of the 19 biggest construction sites exceeded safe levels by at least three times. Limestone quarries and cement factories are also often pollution sources, along with the trucks that ferry materials between them and building sites. At this scale, even the acquisition of sand can be catastrophic – destroying so many of the world’s beaches and river courses that this form of mining is now increasingly run by organised crime gangs and associated with murderous violence.

Inside the Investigation That Led to Prostitution Charges Against Robert Kraft

How a tip on suitcases led authorities to a months-long investigation that uncovered a network of spas that were allegedly fronts for prostitution

Over the next eight months, a sprawling investigation spilled into neighboring cities and counties, outlining a network of spas that authorities describe as brothels where women worked in poor conditions. One of those locations was Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., where prosecutors charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with two counts of soliciting prostitution, acts they say were caught on video surveillance. Mr. Kraft was one of 25 men charged in Jupiter, a slice of a broader operation in which more than 100 across the area were charged.

.. The story of how authorities wound up in a position to accuse Mr. Kraft and others begins with an unusual decision Mr. Snyder made when he first received word about the suitcases. The traditional approach would be to send in an undercover officer to determine if prostitution is taking place, arrest the people involved and “bang, it’s over,” Mr. Snyder says.

Instead, authorities mounted a more ambitious investigation that found Chinese immigrant women were working in slave-like conditions as sex workers at several South Florida spas.

Other clues about the wrongdoing included the women working at the spas only speaking dialects of Chinese. Masseuses are licensed in Florida after an exam that is only administered English and Spanish. Many of the licenses, authorities determined, were fraudulent.

Subpoenas gave police access to bank accounts and other financial records of the spa operators. Mr. Snyder says the records showed upward of $20 million was flowing back and forth to parties in China.

As the investigation broadened, police also obtained warrants allowing them to install covert surveillance equipment, including video cameras, inside the spas. And authorities grew concerned that the women working at the spas were victims: The women, police found, never left the establishments. When they did leave, they were shuttled to other locations, broadening the investigation beyond Bridge Day Spa. They cooked on hot plates and had no access to showers. There was no evidence they were receiving health care of any kind.

This latter part was especially concerning as they witnessed what was happening inside the spas. The women were engaged in sexual acts with an average of 15 men per day, without condoms.

Prosecutors allege they saw Mr. Kraft, 77 years old, on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 enter Orchids of Asia Day Spa, where he paid in cash and received sex acts. The latter date was the day Mr. Kraft’s Patriots played the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game in Kansas City. Flight records show Mr. Kraft’s plane left Palm Beach International early in the afternoon on Jan. 20 and arrived in Kansas City about 2½ hours later.

Mr. Kraft faces two counts of soliciting a prostitute, a misdemeanor, which could result in a year of jail time, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community services and a class on prostitution and human trafficking. Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, said jail time is unlikely for defendants without a criminal record.