Archive for November, 2013

What gives us the right to deport people? – News and views for Saturday 30 November

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


  • What gives us a right to deport people? Joseph Carens on the ethics of immigration “In the wake of the Holocaust, most people in democratic states felt a profound shame about the fact that their countries had refused to respond to the needs of Jews fleeing the Nazis. We all recognized that failure and vowed, “Never again,” and so we set up the Geneva Convention refugee system. And now all the rich states have set up systems to prevent people from accessing that system. You have to get a visa if you are coming to a rich state from a poor one, and if they think you will ask for asylum, they won’t give you a visa. The boats and planes asylum-seekers come on are subject to tremendous sanctions if they transport people without the right documents. So, we’re excluding people. And some of the people who are denied visas are in fact eligible for asylum. They are clearly refugees. It’s an indiscriminate exclusionary system. In taking this approach, we have put the burden of taking care of refugees onto the neighboring states. Those are generally poor countries, as in the case of Jordan taking in Syrian refugees. That’s just unfair, and it’s a deep problem. I don’t see a political solution to it, because there’s not much interest in doing anything about it.”
  • JD Salinger stories leaked online
  • Why did Pope Benedict XVI resign?


Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Now that’s what I call a proper Friday night drink – Boswell entertains at home

November 29th, 2013 Comments off

On October 13, 1783 there were three men at dinner at Auchinleck, and between them they polished off three bottles of claret, two bottles of port, two bottles of Lisbon, three bottles of Mountain and one bottle of rum. Three days later six men sat down to dinner, but did not rise until they had emptied seven bottles of claret, two “Scotch pints” of claret (each of which was equivalent to three English pints, and thus to approximately two normal bottles), three bottles of port, one bottle of Lisbon, two bottles of Madeira, one bottle of Mountain and one bottle of rum.

You might think that, after such indulgence, a day or so of dry toast and herbal tea might be just the thing. But the following day seven men were at table, and if anything they exceeded the potations of the previous evening. They again drank seven bottles of claret, two Scotch pints of claret, and three bottles of port, before varying the conclusion of the entertainment with two bottles of Lisbon, one bottle of Madeira and no fewer than three bottles of rum. Boswell’s journal entry after this debauch says something for his stamina:

I drank a great deal of wine without feeling any bad effect…While I kept the highest pitch of jollity, I at the same time maintained the peculiar decorum of the family of Auchinleck.

From Boswell’s Life of Dissipation  – the latest column delving into matters alcoholic by Saintsbury in Standpoint that looks back into the cache of Boswell papers which surfaced during the last century at Malahide Castle in Ireland that includes the manuscript book in which Boswell kept a record of the guests he entertained at Auchinleck, and of what they drank on each evening.

A columnist worthy of putting on your “must follow” list.


Categories: Drinking Tags:

Politicians and their abuse of scientific language – News and views for Friday 29 November

November 29th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


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Small steps toward an agreement on climate change – News and views for Thursday 28 November

November 28th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


  • Beer-Tapping Physics: Why A Hit To A Bottle Makes A Foam Volcano
  • Darkness surrounds Japan’s secrecy debate – “The governing Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito, together with Your Party and other smaller groups, on Tuesday passed the special state secrecy bill in the lower house. … Classified information will be designated by the heads of government ministries if the bill goes into law. Confidentiality will be maintained in the national defense, diplomacy, espionage and terrorism fields as special state secrets. People that leak such information face up to 10 years in prison. What will constitute a state secret? That remains vague. People may receive information without knowing it is classified and be accused of breaking the law.”
  • This Is How You Lower Corporate Taxes

2013-11-27_new study


Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Welcoming the Daily Mail to Australia – it will fit in nicely

November 27th, 2013 Comments off

Some of my twittering friends have reacted with horror to the forthcoming arrival of an Australian Daily Mail website but for the life of me I don’t know why. It seems to me that the British version has become the most read newspaper site in the world for one very simple reason – it gives people stories that they actually want to read. And what can be wrong with that? I’m sure that the same formula will as successful here as in the UK when people start voting with their clicks.

Perhaps it’s because of the years I spent writing for Tasmanian and Melbourne Truth before graduating to the Financial Times of London and The Economist that has taught me not to be too precious about such matters. Each to his or her own. One of the biggest mistakes a journalist can make is letting a view of what people should be interested in dominate writing about the things people actually are interested in. The Mail does not make that kind of error although if you scroll past the tits and bums you will find plenty of stories and opinions to satisfy most tastes even though many of them come nowhere near the top of the most read lists.

And it is not as if the existing Australian newspaper sites have their worthy and serious pieces as their most popular. Tonight’s Guardian summary (although it appears to be weighted to the UK edition):



And The Australian’s:

2013-11-27_theozmostreadNeither of which are much different to that of the most read Australian site really:


The Mail will fit in very nicely with that lot I’m sure. But probably just do it better.


Categories: Media Tags:

On firing your advisers – a quote for the day

November 27th, 2013 Comments off

If you are in a position of power and responsibility you need advisers. The main job of your advisers is to stop you saying something stupid in public. You say it to your advisers first, in private. If it’s stupid, your advisors should tell you it’s stupid. That’s their job. If they fail to tell you it’s stupid, and you say it in public, and the public tells you it’s stupid, and you realise the public is right, you should fire your advisers. They have failed to do their job.

Update: you don’t fire your advisers because they disagree with you; you fire your advisers because they didn’t disagree with you when they should have disagreed with you.

– Nick Rowe on the blog Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Uphill Battle: New Machine Could Save German Vineyards

November 27th, 2013 Comments off

Steeply Sloped German Vineyards Hope Technology Can Save Them – SPIEGEL ONLINE


Cultivating steeply inclined vineyards requires time-intensive manual labor, often with cables akin to those used for rock climbing. All together, one hectare in one season can cost around 1,500 hours of labor. On flat land, where vintners can use tractors and automated harvesting vehicles, they can cultivate the land for about 180 hours of labor. “You can hardly compensate for this difference by charging more for top-quality wines from sun-kissed hillside vineyards,” says [Hans-Peter Schwarz, 53, head of the Institute for Technology at Geisenheim University.]

Even more pressure on owners of sloped vineyards is coming from Brussels. The European Union wants to liberalize the wine market and gradually phase out a regulations that has thus far created comfortable breathing room for grape growers. Specifically targeted is Germany’s legally mandated freeze on developing new vineyards. The law caps the land space allowed for viticulture at just over 100,000 hectares. Anyone who wants to enter the grape-growing business must either take an already cultivated vineyard or prove that a similarly sized vineyard in the same region has been shut down.

The researchers at Geisenheim University believe their vineyard-climbing vehicle Geisi could streamline the operations of sloped vineyards, encouraging their owners to continue cultivating their difficult land.

Categories: Drinking Tags:

Dangerous link between power and hubris in politics

November 27th, 2013 Comments off

Dangerous link between power and hubris in politics.

By Peter Garrard, Reader in Neurology at St George’s, University of London writing in The Conversation (UK)


Most people agree on the qualities that a leader should have: we prefer to follow people who are confident, decisive, ambitious and persuasive rather than the insecure, dithering, apathetic and weak. So it’s not surprising that the people who possess these leadership qualities are those who seek, and often achieve, positions of power and influence.

There is, however, a dark side to power, which derives from its mind-changing effects on the people who hold it: the reluctance of subordinates to criticise or question leading to contempt for the views of others; successful outcomes of bold decisions blurring the boundaries between judgement and recklessness; personal status within an organisation generalising into a belief in “special qualities”.

The greater the power, the greater the risk of these cognitive distortions taking hold and the worse the devastation when things go wrong, as they surely must when contact with reality is lost.

An increasingly popular way of describing this pattern of behaviour is by using the term “hubris”. In ancient Greece, where it was a legal term, hubris denoted the equivalent of grievous bodily harm; in modern English hubris has come to refer to recklessness and overconfidence among those who wield power in financial or political arenas – particularly when it leads to spectacular or disastrous errors of judgement.

The behaviour of Fred Goodwin while he was CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland and of the senior management at Enron, are popular examples from the world of finance. George W Bush’s embarrassingly premature announcement of “mission accomplished” aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln less than two months after the allied invasion of Iraq is perhaps the most celebrated example in the political sphere. What all have in common, however, is the contrast between the self-confidence of the leader and the devastating aftermath of their decisions.

These might seem like isolated and extreme examples, but once recognised, this pattern of behaviour is not hard to discern in other contexts, and the stereotypical nature of its development suggests a biological level explanation. The links between testosterone level and the experience of success was documented in a series of experiments conducted on Wall Street traders by the banker-turned-neuroscientist John Coates. The effect of power on the release of dopamine, activating the brain’s reward network occupies numerous behavioural neuroscience laboratories.

Combining his experience as a senior politician (British Foreign Secretary, 1977-79), medical neurologist and neuropharmacology researcher, David Owen has claimed the acquisition of power can, in a susceptible individual, induce a unique pattern of behavioural traits and expressed beliefs, which, he suggests, should be recognised as a distinct personality disorder: “Hubris Syndrome”.

Margaret Thatcher: ‘We’ are rejoicing. John Giles/PA Archive

To support this claim, Owen looked at the personal, medical and political histories of a series of 20th century UK prime ministers and US presidents and identified a common set of features that could (following traditional methodology or psychiatric disorders) be used as diagnostic criteria. The features included not only the narcissistic and antisocial tendencies already identified (exaggerated self-belief; contempt for others; an insatiable appetite for self-glorification) but also novel behaviours, such as a tendency to refer to themselves in the third person, to use the royal “we”, to identify themselves with the nation and to take decisions in an increasingly impulsive fashion.

Candidates for hubris syndrome

After eliminating those whose behaviour might have been influenced by psychiatric co-morbidity, alcohol or drugs, Owen identified three political leaders from the USA and UK who met criteria for a diagnosis of Hubris Syndrome: the former US president, George W. Bush, and prime ministers David Lloyd-George, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.

Tony Blair: ‘Hubristic? Us?’ Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

When I read Owen and Davidson’s report of their research and findings in the neurology journal Brain, I experienced the thrill of recognising an unanswered scientific question that was not just important, but simply addressed. I had been working with archived language produced by authors who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease in later life, trying to identify markers for the effects of the disease on language, and to determine how long before the emergence of symptoms these changes could be detected. I wondered whether a similar approach could be taken in hubris syndrome, realising that extensive records of language use in two of the Hubris Syndrome sufferers (Blair and Thatcher), sampled at regular intervals over the course of their tenure of office, were freely available in the form of speeches delivered to the House of Commons at the weekly prime minister’s questions and then transcribed for the official record (Hansard).

Lloyd George: knew your father. PA Archive

Members of my neuroscience research group at St George’s, University of London set to work looking for words, phrases and patterns of language use that changed in a consistent fashion as the years spent in power increased. John Major’s speeches were used as a control condition, as Owen and Davidson had found no evidence of Hubris Syndrome from his time as prime minister.

We found a number of candidate markers: true to Owen’s criteria we saw changes in the relative frequency of “we” and “I” in the speeches of Blair and Thatcher at times when they were enjoying particular success or popularity.

Peter Garrard

A text’s key words are those that appear in it with the highest likelihood compared to a relevant set of reference texts. “Keyness” is simply a measure of this likelihood. The graph shows changes in the keyness of “we” relative to “I” by year of office for the three Prime Ministers that we studied. The contributions of all other speakers in PMQs were used as the reference texts.

This marker is particularly informative in Blair’s language, and it was interesting that the initial peak corresponded to his early, successful uses of military deployment in pursuit of foreign policy (in Kosovo and Sierra Leone). The smaller peak in Margaret Thatcher’s values coincides with the year of her re-election and the aftermath of the Falkland’s War

We also saw that words indicating self-confidence (such as “sure” and “certain”) gained in frequency as time spent in office increased, as did text entropy (a measure of unpredictability borrowed from information theory). We interpreted the latter as potentially indicative of the “restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness” that Owen and Davidson had identified as one of the unique diagnostic criteria for Hubris syndrome.

Can hubris be controlled?

Our third question (can hubris syndrome be controlled, prevented or otherwise reined in?) is the most difficult of the three. A comforting truth is that democratic elections and government by cabinet with collective responsibility have immunised many modern nation states against the excesses of individuals whose authority is or becomes inalienable. But hubristic leadership in organisations where no such checks and balances exist can have devastating consequences.

In Greek mythology, Daedalus warned his son Icarus against flying too high or too low on the wings that he made to allow them both to escape captivity. Icarus, intoxicated by the experience of flight, ignored the advice and paid the ultimate penalty. The Daedalus Trust was established in 2011 to encourage recognition of the dangers of the “intoxication of power”, and to promote and fund research into its causes, manifestations and prevention. Through the medium of open meetings the message has been spreading among academics, scientists, and the business community, but it is clear that the enemy is still out there, and much hard work remains to be done.

Peter Garrard sits on the steering committee and research advisory panel of the Daedalus Trust.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Hardly a crisis headline – Jakarta Post reports on Indonesian reaction

November 27th, 2013 Comments off



So far so good it seems for Tony Abbott’s attempt to put an end to the wrangling with Indonesia over past Australian spying.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Pope Francis Calls Unfettered Capitalism ‘A New Tyranny’ – News and views for Wednesday 27 November

November 27th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted while browsing.


Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Stopping minor party nonsense – South Australia leads the way

November 26th, 2013 Comments off

An interesting story today on the In Daily – Adelaide Independent News site that predicts that in South Australia something will be done to stop the lunacy of candidates with virtually no votes in their own right winning seats in the parliamentary upper house.

The story says that new laws to bar Upper House candidates who can’t gather more than 2.5 per cent of the primary vote from collecting preferences will be rushed through parliament this week.

After intense negotiations between the main players in the last fortnight, a deal has been agreed to add a further amendment to have a 2.5 per cent minimum vote qualification.

“It means that if you can’t get 2.5 per cent of the primary vote, then you are not eligible to ‘receive’ preferences,” Shadow Attorney-General Stephen Wade told InDaily.

“As candidates are eliminated, their preferences will only go to candidates above that 2.5 line.

“It will prevent the coordinated harvesting that’s happened in a few recent elections.”

The Bill also proposes changes to prevent candidates “sending a message” with their group name or using common members in group qualification.

The  changes include:

  • A single candidate for the House of Assembly be required to obtain the support and signature of  20 electors and a candidate for the Legislative Council 100 electors (as opposed to the current requirement of two). This is unlikely to get broad support and is expected to be knocked out.
  • Only political parties and groups may lodge a voting ticket and hence obtain an  ‘above the line’  voting ticket square.
  • If candidates group together, they must have the supporting signatures of different electors.
  • Limits to the number of descriptive words that may be provided adjacent to a candidate or group name on the Legislative Council ballot paper from five or less words to two words. An amendment from “Nick Xenophon Group” candidate John Darley, to increase this to three words, is expected to be approved.
  • The ballot paper will be required to list candidates and groups in an order beginning with registered political party groups, independent groups and then lastly independents candidates.

Attorney-General John Rau said the current South Australian laws had too many loop holes that could be used to lever an almost unsupported candidate into a seat in parliament.

“The Government believes that these outcomes are undemocratic,” he said.

“This capacity to manipulate the system needs to be addressed.”

See previous post: Comfortable Liberal lead in South Australia but ALP a little closer

Categories: Elections, SA election Tags:

Pressure builds for tougher UK bank reform

November 26th, 2013 Comments off

Pressure builds for tougher UK bank reform –

George Osborne will on Tuesday face fresh demands to toughen up “inadequate” new banking regulation as public pressure mounts over the controversies plaguing Royal Bank of Scotland, the Co-operative Bank and payday lenders.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will join Lord Lawson, the former Tory chancellor, and other senior peers in seeking to amend Mr Osborne’s banking reform bill, which is intended to draw a line under the banking scandals of the last five years.The peers want a robust licensing regime for senior bankers below board level, draconian sanctions for banks that undermine the new “ringfence” separating high street lending from investment banking and other new powers for regulators.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Dr Who at the box office – News and views for Tuesday 26 November

November 26th, 2013 Comments off

Some items noted while browsing along the way.


The ABC’s Fairfax fascination and a dose of anti-Abbott bias

November 26th, 2013 Comments off

As an avid ABC listener I was subjected yesterday to repeated versions of stories like this one that appeared on the ABC website:


As an avowed disbeliever in the point of opinion polls measuring voting intention a long way from an election, I made my views about the page one efforts of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age known yesterday in my little item The great opinion polling irrelevance. It was little better than fictional nonsense and proved as such today when in The Australian Newspoll version of the state of the nation came out with the Coalition having a four point led over Labor with Essential putting the score at Coalition 53% to Labor’s 47%.

Given my prejudice against the reporting of opinion polls I can hardly express anger that the ABC largely ignored the story all day today but I was surprised at the difference in treatment. Labor in front – a big news story. Government still comfortably in the lead, give it the barest of mentions and move on to something else.

And in the story that the ABC did so briefly run, how about this for the angle of the day?

2013-11-26_abcandnewspollMuch more of this kind of bias and, heaven forbid, I might end up agreeing with Janet Albrechtsen about the need for some editorial reform at the national broadcaster. She went on about that at length in the Oz today with the highlight being this Albrechtian gem about the publication of Indonesian phone tapping documents:

2013-11-26_albrechtsenAnd that in a publication of the company that knows more about criminally obtained information than any other publisher in the world.




Categories: Media Tags:

Is this a Guardian joke? Labor strategist Bruce Hawker to address negative campaigning as Ed Miliband accuses David Cameron of mud-slinging

November 25th, 2013 Comments off

I guess it’s true because I read it in the paper, didn’t you? Bruce Hawker, fresh from his recent triumphs for Kevin Rudd and Labor in Australia, flying off to London to help the British Labour Party? Surely not. But then the website of the Guardian tells me:

Labour is to receive advice this week from an Australian Labor campaign manager on how to combat negative election campaigning by rightwing media. …

The Australian Labor campaign strategist Bruce Hawker is due to speak to the Labour party this week on the impact of the Murdoch press in defeating Labor’s Kevin Rudd. In an article in the magazine Progress, he says the Murdoch press always had major stories ready to distract the public from Labor’s positive messages.

He advises Labour: “It is important to hang a lantern on any media-led campaign against Labour well before the election is called so you do not waste precious campaigning time exposing the motivation behind their attacks, as we were forced to do. Second, enlist allies and third parties to reinforce your message about media bias. Research and publicise the concrete examples early and often. Put together a team to ‘war-game’ possible attacks by hostile media outlets and how to pre-empt them or respond effectively. Utilise social media as a strong alternative means of disseminating your message.

“It is also a very effective medium to lampoon and expose media bias. And enlist their competition to expose bias. Remember, your enemy’s enemy is your friend”.

Maybe the Owl’s British Election Indicator is wrong about the chances of British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron after all!


Categories: Elections Tags:

Scotland’s referendum date set and what are the chances?

November 25th, 2013 Comments off

The Owl is a believer in the markets being the best indicator of likely political outcomes. Hence the series of Political Indicators you will regularly find on this site giving a probability of various results occurring.

Now that the Scottish government has set March 24, 2016 as the date Scotland will become independent of the United Kingdom if a majority of Scots vote to end their 306-year-old union next year it is time for our first Scottish Independence Indicator.


Updated 18 January 2014

Categories: Political indicators Tags:

US banks warn Fed interest cut could force them to charge depositors

November 25th, 2013 Comments off

US banks warn Fed interest cut could force them to charge depositors –

Leading US banks have warned that they could start charging companies and consumers for deposits if the US Federal Reserve cuts the interest it pays on bank reserves.

Depositors already have to cope with near-zero interest rates, but paying just to leave money in the bank would be highly unusual and unwelcome for companies and households.



Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

The great opinion polling irrelevance

November 25th, 2013 Comments off

The great media obsession with opinion polls continues. The Fairfax tabloids this morning both report that Labor is now leading the Liberal-Nationals. Not only reports it but pretends it is somehow significant by putting it all over page one.


Capping the pay of top executives – News and views for Monday 25 November

November 24th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


  • The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear – “On the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned. This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead.”
  • Modest Progress at U.N. Climate Talks, Additional Climate Action Needed
  • Battle for new sanctions could harm Israel more than Iran, now that deal is done – “Israel finds itself isolated in the world arena, with only Saudi sheikhs and U.S. lawmakers at its side; perhaps it’s time to consider other diplomatic options besides perpetual petulance.” (Registration required)
  • Japan’s Cutthroat School System: A Cautionary Tale for the U.S. – “A new book shows how fixating on testing and achievement can backfire.”
  • A Conversation With: British Climate Economist Lord Nicholas Stern
  • CEO Pay: A Swiss Rebellion – “Next Sunday, on November 24, Swiss voters will go to the polls to cast their votes on a referendum trying to cap top-level executive pay. The ‘1:12 Initiative’ – designed to limit compensation at twelve times the salary of the lowest paid worker in the company – has had tempers in Swiss public life boiling for several weeks. This vote follows on the heels of another earlier this year, when … a solid majority of Swiss voters supported a constitutional amendment to … require a shareholder vote on executive compensation, ban sign-on bonuses, golden parachutes and certain forms of profit sharing – and enforce all of the above with criminal sanctions.”
  • For Chess, a Would-Be White Knight “A colorful entrepreneur named Andrew Paulson wants to turn chess into the world’s next mass-market spectator sport, complete with commentators who dissect the action and show potential moves.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Mark Textor’s perfect partner?

November 24th, 2013 Comments off


It is turning into a very news making week for the Crosby Textor partners. In Australia Mark Textor has had his Twittering controversy. And now in Britain Lynton Crosby is starring in what the Labour leader calls the Crosbyisation of a Conservative Party that is turning to fear and smear.

From the front page of this morning’s Sunday Independent:



With this from the Ed Miliband column inside:



Australia-Indonesia relations gone from the Jakarta front page

November 24th, 2013 Comments off

The diplomatic tiff between Australia and Indonesia has disappeared from the front page of the Jakarta Post this morning. The subject does make the editorial page at some length but even there the message is mellowing.


Categories: International politics Tags:

Nations accept CO2 targets – News and views for Sunday 24 November

November 24th, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


  • Ad nauseam – “The more we hate it, the more it agrees with us. How advertising turned anti-consumerism into a secret weapon.”
  • Warsaw—Day 12: All Nations Accept CO2 Targets – “For the first time, all countries of the world have agreed to make contributions in cutting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the planet’s temperature rising above the 2°C danger limit previously agreed by politicians. Thirty hours after the climate conference in Warsaw should have ended, a series of compromises rescued the talks from collapse, although the deal fell far short of developing countries’ original expectations.”
  • How books about sport got serious – “The increasing importance – and quality – of sporting literature.”
  • Whom or What Are Literary Prizes For? – Daniel Mendelsohn: “The anxiety over awards is an anxiety about the mysteries of taste: who has it, how it operates”; Jennifer Szalai: “The true currency of prizes is recognition — in scarce supply as books struggle to cut through the glut of our crowded culture.”
  • Do people notice food labels?
  • Political Correctness Could Affect Holiday Weight Gain
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Australia-Indonesia: hard to be bosom buddies but civility possible

November 23rd, 2013 Comments off

It is difficult to imagine that Australia and Indonesia will ever be bosom buddies. The cultures of the two countries are too different for that. But so what? Geography dictates for both counties that civility is preferable to confrontation whatever the differences.

Since Australia was one of the early supporters of Indonesian independence from Dutch colonial rule more than 60 years ago, examples of the differences have caused tensions. Australian support for the geographic absurdity of former British and Portuguese possessions in Borneo and Timor being granted independence separate from their adjoining Indonesian islands undid the friendship. Continued acceptance by Australia of Indonesian possession of West Papua helped redress the balance in diplomatic relations.

The ups-and-downs certainly have continued. Such things as the Bali bombings and animal cruelty on one side and criticism of not stopping boat people and bugging phone calls on the other have seen to that.

But when you examine the current statements by Australian and Indonesian leaders, the differences that some of the media in both countries are describing as “a crisis” do not amount to much. When compared with those accompanying those previous differences they are mild.


Categories: International politics Tags:

Now, they were proper wine magnums

November 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Ancient Wine Bar? Giant Jugs Of Vino Unearthed In 3,700-Year-Old Cellar : The Salt : NPR.


It looks like our ancestors from the Bronze Age were way bigger lushes than we had ever realized.

Archaeologists have discovered a personal wine cellar in a palace that dates back to 1700 B.C. It’s the oldest cellar known, and the personal stash was massive. …

Each wine jug found at the palace in Kabri, Israel, could hold more than 13 gallons, or 75 bottles, of wine.

More than 500 gallons of wine were once stored in a room connected to the palace, located in modern-day northern Israel, scientists said Friday at a conference in Baltimore. That’s enough vino to fill 3,000 wine bottles …

These Bronze Age winemakers weren’t just making plain-old wine. They got creative.

They were infusing their drink with oils and resins from herbs, nuts and wood, says archaeologist Eric Cline of George Washington University. “It was a resinated wine, like the Greek wine retsina.”

Categories: Drinking Tags:

A reason for Indonesian anger Tony Abbott will understand – winning an election

November 23rd, 2013 Comments off

An Australian politician who has just won an election by talking tough about Indonesia will have no trouble grasping the significance of this morning’s story:2013-11-23_spyrowboon


And the story inside on page three does not read as seriously as the headline might suggest:





Categories: International politics Tags:

What the labels don’t tell you about 6 top fake sugars

November 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Will Fake Sugars Kill You? | Mother Jones.

Sugar kills. The delicious white crack has been linked to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. So what’s a person with a sweet tooth to do? Artificial sweeteners are a tempting choice, since they don’t have calories or rot your teeth, and they’re recommended for people with diabetes. But some of the fake stuff comes with its own potential health risks: Links to cancer in animal studies, reported side effects ofdizziness and headaches, and exacerbated stomach problems, to name a few. And in one case, an artificial sweetener that the FDA had proposed banning was kept on the shelves after an aggressive advertising campaign from the pro-sweetener lobbying industry. Peggy Ballman, a spokesperson for Splenda, tells Mother Jones that, “We always encourage people to make informed choices by reviewing the credible research available.”

Categories: Eating Tags:

Drowning Kiribati – News and views for Saturday 23 November

November 23rd, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


  • Drowning Kiribati
  • Buzzkill – Washington State discovers that it’s not so easy to create a legal marijuana economy.
  • Stuxnet’s Secret Twin – “The real program to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities was far more sophisticated than anyone realized.”
  • Machiavelli Was Right – “The shocking lesson of The Prince isn’t that politics demands dirty hands, but that politicians shouldn’t care.”
  • India: Modi muscles in – “Even the politician’s admirers in the business community admit he could be a risky choice.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Dr Who as a reflection of the real world – News and views for Friday 22 November

November 22nd, 2013 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.


Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Communist top tipple heads down market

November 22nd, 2013 Comments off

The Chinese Communist party’s favourite drink, ultra-luxury baijiu, is heading downmarket to supermarket shelves and restaurants as a result of Beijing’s ban on top-end white spirits. The ban is part of the government’s anti-corruption campaign, which is hitting sales of luxury goods from watches to mooncakes.

via Communist top tipple heads down market –

Categories: Drinking, International politics Tags:

Boasting by the spooks the reason for Australia-Indonesia crisis

November 22nd, 2013 Comments off

It is as if the lads and lasses at the Defence Signals Division wanted to show their peers worldwide just how clever they were. There seems no other reason for them creating the slide show that was eventually released by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The “secret” information released by Snowden and published by The Guardian and the ABC contained nothing really secret at all beyond the revelation that DSD had once tapped into the 3G mobile phone used by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono. No state secrets. Not titillating exchanges beyond the President and his wife. Just this diagrammatic presentation of who was heard saying what to whom:


(Click to enlarge)

Now. Look at that! Aren’t we just so clever?


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

This morning’s Jakarta Post headlines featuring Australia

November 22nd, 2013 Comments off

A wide range of stories this morning beginning with this one as the page one splash:

2013-11-22_fridayjakartapostAnd it’s former Labor Foreign Minister Gareth Evans who is given the star billing:

2013-11-22_evans on apology


Inside the tone was really quite conciliatory including running an editorial from The Australian as its second leader.



Categories: International politics Tags:

Sharing the cost of climate change – some charts showing why Warsaw talks are stalled

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

Little progress, it seems, between nations meeting in Warsaw about who is responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for global warming and even less about which countries should be paying and doing what to stop things getting worse.

A just released series of charts prepared by the Global Carbon Project help explain why.

That relying on the developed world to take action is no longer enough is shown by the latest figures on who the biggest emitters now are.


 (click to enlarge this and other charts)

Even when looked at in per capita terms the growing role of countries like China and India is clear.


Emissions from countries that signed up to the Kyoto protocols (Annex B countries in the following chart) have actually slightly declined.


Developing countries at the conferences organised by the United Nations have always argued that the developed world was responsible for most of the current CO2 levels but that argument is getting less convincing to developed nations as the years go by.






Categories: Environment Tags:

Doorknobs banned due to safety and accessibility concerns

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

This is a serious story.

The Canadian city of Vancouver has banned doorknobs.

If you think I’m joking then have a look at today’s National Post.

2013-11-21_doorknobsFrom March next year all new single family houses and town homes built in the city must have handle levers instead of the traditional round door openers.


The doorknob prohibition comes as part of an amendment package to the city’s Building By-law, legislation which the city claims is already “unique in the Province and also unusual in the rest of Canada.” If not the entire world.

The National Post reports:

Like a lot of initiatives put to council, the latest cluster of Building By-law amendments “went through very quietly” says Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, the mayor’s close ally. There is no hidden agenda, he insists. The by-law amendments aren’t reflective of some “lunatic interventionist” strategy or “red tape run amok,” he says.

“This is all about [enhancing] accessibility, and it’s something we’re going to keep doing. I’m not going to apologize for that,” says Mr. Meggs.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Four fallacies of the second great depression – News and views for Thursday 21 November

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way.


  • Why Is Antarctica’s Sea Ice Growing As Temperatures Rise? – “Why are the Arctic and Antarctic such polar opposites? Climate change deniers have pounced upon the unexpected divergence to argue that the planet’s temperature isn’t actually rising. But new research suggests that a different mechanism—unrelated to climate change—is responsible for the ice growth. The real answer, says University of Washington oceanographer Jinlun Zhang, can be found blowing in the wind.
  • Why the future looks sluggish – “The glut of savings in leading economies has become a constraint on demand.”
  • What Does the Book Business Look Like on the Inside? – “Insanity.”
  • Four Fallacies of the Second Great Depression – “The national debt is a burden on future generations. This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious. The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations. Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred. They will be worse off. But you will be better off. This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.”
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At the last supper, which grape variety produced the wine of blood red colour?

November 20th, 2013 Comments off

In Israel Dr. Shivi Drori is searching through the ancient grape pips found by archeologists going back hundreds and thousands of years in an attempt to compare them with all the local grape varieties that he can find, whether they be wild or cultivated vines. In this search for wine makings Holy Grail, Dr Dori has so far has trawled up no fewer than 150 samples. Some are from cultivated vineyards, others from lone wild vines found growing up trees, or even from someone’s pergola on a private balcony. Suffice it to say, writes Adam Montefiore in the Jerusalem Post, that no vine in Israel is safe from his research.


So far, he and his colleagues – and he is assisted by a team of many of the leading local experts – believe that six varieties have the potential to make wine.

They are Marawi (a.k.a. Hamdani), Jandali (sometimes written Djandali) and Dabouki, which are white varieties, and Balouti, Zeitani and Karkashani, which are red. Historically, Dabouki was the most planted. I remember it was also used for the distillation of brandy in years gone by.

The whites are table grapes with large berries, but they have the aromatics for wine potential. Of the reds, Balouti and Zeitani are small-berried grapes. In Hebrew, balut means “acorn,” and zayit means “olive,” which are presumably names given because of the size of the grapes. They may even prove to have more potential for wine than for food.

When the first domestic and small wineries opened in the mid-19th century in the Old City of Jerusalem, these were some of the very same varieties they used to make their wines.

In Israel, notes Montefiore, everything is connected, and a story about a mere grape can go back to the dawn of history. It was from the Valley of Eshkol, from the same Hebron area where the Shor Winery was founded in 1848, that more than 3,000 years earlier the spies brought the bunch of grapes to Moses. It was so big that it had to be carried on a pole between two men. Referring to the Promised Land, they said, “It is a land of milk and honey, and this is the fruit!”

Have you ever wondered which grape variety it was? It was probably a table grape because of the size of the bunch and the berries. Maybe Muscat of Alexandria, one of the oldest varieties?

It is questions like that Dr Drori is trying to answer

Categories: Drinking Tags:

Maybe the world has got warmer this century – gaps in the Arctic temperature measurement

November 20th, 2013 Comments off

An article soon to appear in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society suggests that fewer measurements in remote areas of the poles are behind the global “pause” in the rising trajectory of global temperatures. In Coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature series and its impact on recent temperature trends the authors Kevin Cowtan and Robert G. Way point to incomplete global coverage as a potential source of bias in global temperature reconstructions if the unsampled regions are not uniformly distributed over the planet’s surface. They note that the widely used HadCRUT4 dataset covers on average about 84% of the globe over recent decades, with the unsampled regions being concentrated at the poles and over Africa. Three existing reconstructions with near-global coverage were examined, each suggesting that HadCRUT4 was subject to bias due to its treatment of unobserved regions.

The abstract of the article continue:

Two alternative approaches for reconstructing global temperatures are explored, one based on an optimal interpolation algorithm and the other a hybrid method incorporating additional information from the satellite temperature record. The methods are validated on the basis of their skill at reconstructing omitted sets of observations. Both methods provide superior results than excluding the unsampled regions, with the hybrid method showing particular skill around the regions where no observations are available.

Temperature trends are compared for the hybrid global temperature reconstruction and the raw HadCRUT4 data. The widely quoted trend since 1997 in the hybrid global reconstruction is two and a half times greater than the corresponding trend in the coverage-biased HadCRUT4 data. Coverage bias causes a cool bias in recent temperatures relative to the late 1990s which increases from around 1998 to the present. Trends starting in 1997 or 1998 are particularly biased with respect to the global trend. The issue is exacerbated by the strong El Niño event of 1997-1998, which also tends to suppress trends starting during those years.

An article on the Scientific American website gives an explanation of how Messrs Cowtan and Way went about their temperature reconstruction.

Categories: Environment Tags:

The permanent slump – just a little economic thing to think about. News and views for 20 November

November 20th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way.


  • A permanent slump? – Paul Krugman on Larry Summers on the Danger of “Secular Stagnation”
  • Politicians’ compulsive dishonesty on the public service – “Some sad truths were confirmed today. The people behind the Coalition’s public service policy – which featured prominently in its election campaign – are either incompetent, dishonest or both. As for Labor? Well, it’s just dishonest.”
  • China and Japan are heading for a collision – “It is hard to believe either side wants war – but posturing could spark accidental conflict.”
  • The Safety of Bioengineered Crops
  • The Dow is hitting a record high. No, for real this time – ” The Dow is approaching its actual inflation-adjusted closing record. … Adjusting the figures using the consumer price index for all urban consumers (or the CPI-U) from September, the all-time closing high for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was set Jan.14, 2000, at 16,261.40. On Tuesday morning, the Dow crossed 16,000 yet again, meaning we’re getting close.”
  • 2013-11-20_dowjones
  • Risk Calculator for Cholesterol Appears Flawed
  • Managing bureaucrats – “Around the world, civil service reform is viewed as necessary to deliver public services effectively and to foster development. However, evidence is thin on how the management of bureaucrats affects the provision of public services. This column presents new evidence from Nigeria linking completion rates of government projects to bureaucractic management practices. Greater autonomy is associated with higher completion rates, whereas performance monitoring and incentive schemes seem to backfire. The most effective private-sector management practices may not be suited to public sector bureaucracies.”
  • America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Jakarta Post reports Indonesia to stop co-operating on combating people smuggling

November 20th, 2013 Comments off

This morning’s edition of the Jakarta Post:


The page one story reads:

As the diplomatic spat intensifies, Indonesia warned Australia on Tuesday that it would relax preventive measures against boat people using the archipelago as a stepping stone for their onward journeys to Australia.

Following a request from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a review of areas of bilateral cooperation on Tuesday, the National Police and the Law and Human Rights Ministry, which oversees the Immigration Agency, have prepared to halt collaboration on combating people smuggling.

National Police chief Gen. Sutarman said he would soon report a list detailing areas of police cooperation with Australia for the President to review.

“We will wait for the President’s response on how the police should handle any cessation of cooperation,” Sutarman said, adding that topping the list would be preventive measures against asylum seekers heading toward Australia.

The boat people issue is politically sensitive in Australia, and newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised voters he would reduce the number of boat people reaching Australian territory by forging closer relations with Indonesia.

Those relations quickly soured on Monday following reports that the Defence Signals Directorate (now the Australian Signals Directorate) allegedly wiretapped the phones of Yudhoyono, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and several ministers in 2009.

Yudhoyono said that the US and Australian wiretapping had “certainly damaged strategic partnerships with Indonesia”.

“I also regret the statement by the Australian prime minister that without remorse belittled this matter of wiretapping Indonesia,” said Yudhoyono in his Twitter account.

Politicians have also urged Yudhoyono to retaliate for the eavesdropping by no longer attempting to prevent boat people, most of whom come from the Middle East, from making the crossing to Australia.

“We are in a better position than Australia. This issue [boat people] could be utilized as a bargaining chip in demanding an apology from Prime Minister Abbott,” said a member of the House of Representatives’ Commission I on defense, foreign affairs and information, Susaningtyas Handayani Kertopati.

The spokesman for the Law and Human Rights Ministry, Marolan J. Barimbing, said that while Yudhoyono had not yet issued an instruction to terminate or scale down the ministry’s efforts to stem the flow of boat people, it was taking preparatory measures.

“We are anticipating such an instruction by reviewing our areas of cooperation, particularly those related to immigration. Our priority is our national interests. We’re working based on regulations set up to protect the country from undocumented migrants, not to serve another country’s interests,” he said.

Over the last five years, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has seen the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia seeking UNHCR assistance increase 18-fold.

Authorities conduct activities related to preventing migrants from crossing into Australian territory on a near daily basis.

The police arrested three Indonesian Navy personnel on Sunday for allegedly aiding 106 migrants from Myanmar who were attempting to pass through Indonesian territory en route to Australia.

The arrests were made after police stopped a tourist bus and a minibus on the road. The 106 migrants were on their way to a boat that would take them straight to Australia from the southern coast of Garut regency, West Java.

Despite Indonesia’s myriad domestic problems, it has been increasingly burdened with keeping Australia’s backyard clear of unwanted migrants from impoverished or restive countries.

During Abbott’s visit to Indonesia from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, he and Yudhoyono committed to further strengthen Australian and Indonesian leadership in regional efforts to combat people smuggling and human trafficking.

Australia is among Indonesia’s largest sources of foreign aid as it provided A$646.8 million (US$608.7 million) in financial assistance between 2012 and 2013, up by 20 percent compared to the previous year.

Military (TNI) spokesman Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said that the TNI was awaiting instruction from the Defense Ministry regarding the future of TNI cooperation with Australia, including on the joint sea patrol on the territorial border.

“The joint patrol is aimed at catching migrants and handling other territorial issues,” he said.

The Defense Ministry’s director for international cooperation, Brig. Gen. Jan Pieter, said the ministry was still waiting for the President’s instruction on any plan to freeze defense partnerships.

“Until now, security with Australia remain in good shape,” he said.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Australia – the OECD’s economic forecast of moderate growth for 2014

November 19th, 2013 Comments off

The OECD in an economic forecast released tonight predicts that growth in Australia should remain moderate at 2½ per cent in 2014, before gradually accelerating toward its potential rate of 3% in 2015. The slower pace of mining investment,the organisation argues, should be offset by the gradual strengthening of non-mining sectors, which will benefit from recent improvements in confidence, the currently lower exchange rate and expansionary monetary policy.

In the absence of inflationary pressures, a continued policy of monetary accommodation will be needed to sustain demand once the mining investment cycle comes to an end. It will also be important to avoid any additional tightening of fiscal policy in the short term above that already factored in. The authorities’ medium-term objective of restoring some room for manoeuvre on fiscal policy is welcome. This should be accompanied by a tax reform that will make real estate taxation more efficient and reduce the corporate tax burden to encourage the restructuring now underway in the economy.


The OECD’s economic forecast for the global economy is for continued expansion at a moderate pace over the coming two years, “but policymakers must ensure that instability in financial markets and underlying fragility in some major economies are not allowed to derail growth.”

“The recovery is real, but at a slow speed, and there may be turbulence on the horizon,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said during the Outlook launch in Paris. “There is a risk of another bout of brinkmanship in the US, and there is also a risk that tapering of asset purchases by the US Federal Reserve could bring a renewed bout of instability. The exit from non-conventional monetary policy will be challenging, but so will action to prevent another flare-up in the euro area and to ensure that Japan’s growth prospects and fiscal targets are achieved,” Mr Gurría said.

GDP growth across the 34-member OECD is projected to accelerate from this year’s 1.2% rate to a 2.3% rate in 2014 and a 2.7% rate in 2015, according to the Outlook. The world economy, by contrast, will grow at a 2.7% rate this year, before accelerating to a 3.6% rate in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015. The pace of the global recovery is weaker than forecast last May, largely as a result of the worsened outlook for some emerging economies.

Growth in the United States is projected at a 2.9% rate in 2014 and a 3.4% rate in 2015. In Japan, GDP is expected to drop to a 1.5% growth rate in 2014 and a 1% rate in 2015. The euro area is expected to witness a gradual recovery, with growth of 1% in 2014 and 1.6% in 2015.

Growth has begun picking up in China but will remain weaker than previously projected in most other major emerging market economies. A group of emerging OECD member countries – Chile, Turkey, Mexico, Korea and Israel – will continue out-pacing growth in other advanced economies.

The Outlook draws attention to a range of downside risks in this recovery, which is still weak by past standards. It points to a worrisome slowdown in world trade growth, in foreign direct investment flows and in fixed investment, as well as continuation of stubbornly high unemployment, particularly in Europe, where it is only expected to fall below 12% by the end of 2015.

The OECD says US monetary policy should remain accommodative, while proposing a gradual winding down of asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, to limit impacts on vulnerable emerging-market economies. It calls for an end to fiscal deadlock in the United States, through the abolition of the nominal debt ceiling and implementation of a co-ordinated medium-term fiscal plan.


Categories: Economic matters Tags:

A happy Michael Smith and some words from Hedley Thomas about Julia Gillard

November 19th, 2013 Comments off

I confess to letting the intricacies of the allegations about impropriety by Julia Gillard and her dealings with former ASU Secretary Bruce Wilson way back in the 90s largely pass me by. I noted in passing the references to enquiries being made by the Victorian police and wondered whether anything would ever come of them. As the walrus suggested, the time would come:

“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

I was not filled with the investigative zeal of a Michael Smith, a Glenn Milne, Hedley Thomas or Richard Baker who beavered away relentlessly at the story over so many months. For me it was the easy way of waiting for the time to come. And today a suggestion that the waiting is nearly over. Posted at 5.05pm on the Michael Smith website:

I can report there’s progress in bringing a just conclusion to The AWU Scandal

Please allow me to tell you only that there is work happening with  a milestone today.

I am very happy with the progress of the Victoria Police investigation of my complaint about Ms Gillard.   I have reason to be confident that justice is seriously on its way.

Who knows what that means. Certainly not me but with the reference referred to me I clicked through the site and did listen to this:


And that in turn sent me back to last Saturday’s Weekend Australian and this quite remarkable story (behind the paywall) by the multi-award-winning journalist:


(Click to enlarge)

I use the word remarkable not because of the claims that Hedley Thomas makes about how Julia Gillard tried to muzzle the media. As I noted above, this is a story that as a glorified political snippets writer for Crikey I did not follow closely and am not qualified to really judge the merits of. But I could not fail to note what the thesis contained in it says about the way that even the Murdoch media empire, so often described as all powerful when it comes to dealing with politicians, was at least temporarily intimidated by a Prime Minister. This extract gives the flavour:




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Drug prices and the Trans Pacific Partnership concern Americans too

November 19th, 2013 Comments off

It is not just in Australia that there is growing concern that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are largely secret. In the United States there are fears that a TPP trade agreement that the United States and 11 other Pacific-rim countries are negotiating could raise the cost of prescription drugs and increase health-care spending by governments and private payers.

A post this week on the blog of the non-profit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that despite the secrecy, some negotiating texts have become public — and the newly leaked intellectual property chapter reveals sharp disagreements over access to generic medicines.

The United States has advanced provisions to protect manufacturers of brand-name drugs. They reflect the highly profitable pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to boost profits by extending market exclusivity on their brand-name drugs beyond the normal protections offered by the patent system.  In contrast, New Zealand and other countries would encourage the introduction of generics.

A U.S.-proposed draft of part of the transparency chapter would restrict governments’ ability to limit the prices they pay for drugs and medical devices.  This provision appears aimed at other countries, but it may hit existing or proposed U.S. policies as well.

AARP, AFSCME, and a dozen other health-policy organizations wrote to the Obama Administration last week expressing “deep concern” that the TPP may limit “the ability of states and the federal government to moderate escalating prescription drug, biologic drug and medical device costs in public programs.”  They listed many provisions that the TPP might jeopardize, including drug discounts that help close the “donut hole” in the Medicare Part D drug benefit, the Administration’s proposal to require minimum drug rebates for low-income beneficiaries under Part D, reduced drug prices for safety-net providers under section 340B of the Public Health Service Act, the Administration’s proposal to reduce the market exclusivity period for brand-name biologic drugs, and potentially, rebates under Medicaid.

The CBPP posting concluded that these concerns about the TPP merited a thorough review. U.S. trade negotiators should not uncritically accept industry arguments for higher drug prices.  The pursuit of expanded trade, it argued, “must not undercut efforts to slow the growth of health care costs.”


Categories: International politics Tags:

Why No Bankers Go to Jail

November 19th, 2013 Comments off

Paula Dwyer writing for Bloomberg’s The Ticker has a couple of interesting posts on the failure of US federal prosecutors failing to charge top financial executives with criminal wrongdoing.

In Judge Rakoff Wants Someone to Pay, Ms Dwyer quotes a recent speech to a gathering of securities lawyers by U.S. District Court judge Jed Rakoff, “who’s been at the heart of some of the most significant trials stemming from the financial crisis”,  asking why there haven’t been more criminal prosecutions.


The lack of prosecutions of senior financial executives “must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years,” he said. And with a five-year statute of limitations running out, it appears “very likely” that none ever will be charged, Rakoff said.

In the follow up Why No Bankers Go to Jail she summarises the judge’s attempt to explain the hesitance to bring to justice those who contributed to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Theory 1: U.S. attorneys and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have other priorities, whether it’s antiterror cases after the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting frauds after Enron’s bankruptcy, or Ponzi rip-offs after Bernard Madoff’s huge scam. Financial frauds are particularly tough to crack, and many of the prosecutors with the requisite knowledge have been moved to other areas.

Theory 2: Law enforcement agencies have had to compete for a shrinking pot of money from Congress, and the best way to do that is by beefing up their statistics with smaller, easier cases and avoiding the years-long financial fraud probes that may turn up nothing. The Manhattan U.S. attorney, moreover, has been preoccupied with the sprawling insider-trading case against hedge-fund owner Raj Rajaratnam. Tapes of his conversations have been a gold mine — resulting in slam-dunk cases that have led to numerous convictions — for Manhattan prosecutors who previously would have focused on bank fraud.

Theory 3: The federal government’s involvement in the mid-2000s bubble — encouraging more people to buy homes, deregulating the financial industry, keeping interest rates low and giving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac way too much leeway — may also have given prosecutors pause.

Theory 4: The U.S. has shifted over the last 30 years from prosecuting high-level individuals to using delayed-prosecution agreements to settle cases against entire companies. That shift “has led to some lax and dubious behavior on the part of prosecutors,” Rakoff said, including allowing managers to sweep crimes under the rug.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Record Vote for Minor Parties at 2013 Federal Election

November 19th, 2013 Comments off
Categories: Elections, Federal elections Tags:

Selfie: an Australian started it on the ABC

November 19th, 2013 Comments off

2013-11-19_wordoftheyearAnd, says the Oxford, it was an Australian who first brought the selfie into the mainstream.

While it is safe to say that selfie’s star has risen over the last 12 months, it is actually much older than that. Evidence on the Oxford English Corpus shows the word selfie in use by 2003, but further research shows the earliest usage (so far anyway) as far back as 2002. Its use was, fittingly enough, in an online source – an Australian internet forum.

2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept.
“Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

Since then the usage has just grown and grown:



Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Indonesia’s fake surprise at phone bugging

November 19th, 2013 Comments off

If proof was needed that the Indonesian government was not at all surprised that Australian intelligence agencies tried to tap the phones of important people then Bambang Wiyono has provided it. Mr Wiyono, the deputy for communications and information at his country’s National Intelligence agency, said yesterday it would be impossible for any party to listen in to the telephone conversations of the President and the first lady.

The Jakarta Post this morning reports him saying:


Why, then, the show of indignation by the Indonesian government? Hopefully nothing more than the normal reaction of politicians anywhere when their voting public learns of something that they had kept hidden.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Getting censored in China – News and views for Tuesday 19 November

November 18th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way while browsing.


    • How to Get Censored on China’s Twitter – “The word ‘tank.’ Photos and names of Chinese dissidents. Images of rubber ducks. Any mention of Tibetan protests or Bo Xilai, the disgraced senior member of China’s Communist Party. Political cartoons. Every day, more than 100 million items are posted to Sina Weibo, the microblogging service sometimes called ‘China’s Twitter.’ And every day, teams of censors comb through the posts in search of anything that challenges what the government likes to call a ‘harmonious society’.”

  • Pleas but no progress at climate talks – “The climate conference in Warsaw began under the shadow of last week’s disaster in the Philippines. But despite passionate appeals, the conference moves into its second week without any significant progress.”
  • Economics explains our world – but economics degrees don’t – “We impose a curriculum that is increasingly remote from what economists now know, and more distant still from the pressing problems that drew our students to economics in the first place.”
  • Football Violence: Neo-Nazis and Hooligans Find Common Ground
  • Too terrified to testify – “Kenyans who are called as witnesses in the Ruto, Sang and Kenyatta trials at the International Criminal Court fear for their lives. That’s one good reason they don’t show up in The Hague.”
  • We risk more Haiyans if we ignore climate change – “As the Philippines recovers, fossil-fuel lobbies focus on the short term, writes Jeffrey Sachs.”
  • The Adventures of Doris Lessing “It is as if some gauze or screen has been dissolved away from life, that was dulling it, and like Miranda you want to say, What a brave new world! You don’t remember feeling like this, because, younger, habit or the press of necessity prevented. You are taken, shaken, by moments when the improbability of our lives comes over you like a fever. Everything is remarkable, people, living, events present themselves to you with the immediacy of players in some barbarous and splendid drama that it seems we are part of. You have been given new eyes “—Doris Lessing, Time Bites
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Legs fall off China’s hairy crab industry

November 18th, 2013 Comments off

Legs fall off China’s hairy crab industry –

Free “hairy crabs” used to be one of the perks of government service in eastern China at this time of year – peak season for these hairy-limbed delicacies, one of China’s many currencies of corruption.

But, according to crab sellers around Yangcheng lake near Shanghai, home to some of China’s most famous crustacean restaurants, no government departments are staging hairy crab banquets this year.


Categories: Eating Tags: ,

Can machines care for the elderly?- News and views for Monday 18 November

November 18th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way while browsing.


  • ‘A robot is my friend’: Can machines care for elderly? – “A special robot with 24 fingers has been developed for hair washing and head massage, useful if a person has limited arm movement. It is something Panasonic has also tried out in Japanese hair salons. The idea of using robotics to care for the elderly is being trialled everywhere from Singapore to Salford.”
  • Japan Backs Off From Emissions Targets, Citing Fukushima Disaster
  • China to ease decades-old one-child policy nationwide
  • Chile’s election: A tale of two daughters – “Chile holds a presidential election on Sunday [overnight our time] and both frontrunners are women – the socialist Michelle Bachelet and her right-wing rival Evelyn Matthei. In a region where politics is still very much a man’s game, that, in itself, is remarkable enough, but when one considers the relationship between the two women, it becomes more extraordinary still. Ms Bachelet and Ms Matthei went to the same primary school and played together as kids.Their fathers were close friends and served together in the Chilean air force until the military coup of 1973 tore them apart, with tragic consequences.”
  • Thoughts about the Future of Print
  • Former PM Silvio Berlusconi resurrects Forza Italia – “Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has relaunched his old party Forza Italia following a split in the centre-right movement. It comes a day after dissidents broke away to form a new faction led by his former right-hand man Angelino Alfano. … Tensions in the PLD party have been high as Berlusconi faces expulsion from parliament over a court conviction.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Europe’s Remarkable Achievement – Paul Krugman

November 17th, 2013 Comments off

Europe’s Remarkable Achievement –

Compare industrial production with data from the 1930s, which can be found here. When I compare the Eurozone now with Europe then, I get this chart:

My joke slogan for Obama has been, “It’s not as bad as the Great Depression!” But Europe can’t even claim that. At this point it’s just as bad as the Great Depression — and where European economies were recovering strongly by this point in the 30s, they’re stalling now.


Doing worse than the 30s; that’s a remarkable achievement.

Categories: Economic matters, Uncategorized Tags:

Europe’s far right: This monster called Europe

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

Europe’s far right: This monster called Europe | The Economist.

Mr Wilders and Ms Le Pen did not have much to say about how their faction meant to roll back the tide. But it is hard to ignore the fact that these two far-right parties are leading the polls in their respective countries. Given popular anger over Europe’s stagnant economies and a sense of alienation from Brussels, the new alliance between the Party for Freedom and the FN could yet set the tone for next spring’s European Parliament elections.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Forests in flux – 2.3 million square kilometers lost in 12 years

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

A new study published this week in the journal Science shows in detail how the earth’s forests have changed and disappeared since 2000 . The research team, led by the University of Maryland, examined global Landsat data at a 30-meter spatial resolution to characterize forest extent, loss, and gain from 2000 to 2012.

Globally, 2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost during the 12-year study period and 0.8 million square kilometers of new forest were gained. The tropics exhibited both the greatest losses and the greatest gains (through regrowth and plantation), with losses outstripping gains.

Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms.


(Click to enlarge)

While the Science article is behind a paywall, a series of images from the study are available HERE


(click image to enlarge)


Categories: Environment Tags:

The ethics of banking – hire a Chinese leader’s daughter

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

Disclosures about the wonderful ways of bankers just keep on coming. This time the investigation is into a little matter of bribery and corruption.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, N.Y., are looking into $1.8 million that JPMorgan Chase paid to a two-person firm in China where one of the twosome was the daughter of China’s then Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Not that the relationship with a relative was obvious. The consulting contract used the pseudonym Lily Chang rather than the daughter’s actual name of  Wen Ruchun.

The New York Times reports that United States authorities are scrutinizing JPMorgan’s ties to Ms. Wen, whose alias was government approved, as part of a wider bribery investigation into whether the bank swapped contracts and jobs for business deals with state-owned Chinese companies, according to the documents and interviews. The bank, which is cooperating with the inquiries and conducting its own internal review, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The story makes for fascinating reading and follows on nicely from Times reports last year that Wen Jibao’s family had amassed $2.7 billion in assets.


PM ‘poised to veto GrainCorp takeover’ – Where does that leave the Treasurer’s independent judgment?

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

I don’t know whether Andrew Probyn and Shane Wright have got it correct with their story in The West Australian this morning but if they have it’s a nice old slap in the face for Treasurer Joe Hockey. The pair write:

Senior Liberals believe Tony Abbott is poised to veto a multi-billion takeover of Australian wheat company GrainCorp.

In the first big test of the Prime Minister’s claim that Australia is “open for business”, coalition figures say Mr Abbott is inclined to say no to the purchase or make conditions so onerous as to make it unviable.

Archer Daniels Midland is making a $3.4 billion takeover bid for the East Coast bulk grain handler.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has until December 17 to make a decision under foreign investment laws whether to allow the sale which is being opposed by wheat growers through Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

Some rural Liberals and members of the Nationals, including Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, have effectively urged Mr Hockey to reject the sale.

One Cabinet minister supportive of the sale believes Mr Truss was speaking with the PM’s “imprimatur” when he spoke stridently against the move 12 days ago on the ABC’s Insiders program.

The Senate yesterday agreed to a short inquiry into the sale. It will be co-chaired by Bill Heffernan, a NSW rural Liberal, farmer and ally of Mr Abbott.

Supposedly foreign investment decisions are made by the Treasurer alone and joe Hockey has been adamant that he will be making the decision himself based on the national interest.

“My job is to ensure that foreign investment is not contrary to the national interest. It is a powerful test, it weighs heavily. I will do what is right for my country,” he recently told the ABC.

Perhaps we are about to see that what is right for the country is doing what the Prime Minister needs to keep his coalition partner, the Nationals, happy.

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Beheaded – a variation on killed by friendly fire

November 15th, 2013 Comments off


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The tweet of the day

November 15th, 2013 Comments off


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Comfortable Liberal lead in South Australia but ALP a little closer

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

The favourite Labor tactic of sacking a leader when the opinion polls turn against the party has yet to pay dividends in South Australia. The Galaxy Advertiser poll published this morning shows the Liberals with an election winning lead. The Labor two party vote is at the same level as when Jay Weatherill replaced Mike Rann as Premier but significantly higher than the previous poll back in March.


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Boat people – a view from the Jakarta Post

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

An interesting Indonesian perspective in this morning’s Jakarta Post on the impact of the dispute over handling boat people and the relations between Indonesia and Australia. The paper’s columnist Endy Bayuni writes:





Categories: International politics Tags:

Rising racism in France? – news and views for Friday 15 November

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way while browsing.


  • ‘Monkey taunt shows rise in racism in France’ – “France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira spoke out on Wednesday saying a magazine front cover that compared her to a monkey suggested she “didn’t belong to the human race”. Meanwhile a black community leader said the cover was a sign of growing racism in France.”
  • The Real Heroes of the Global Economy – “The real heroes of the world economy – the role models that others should emulate – are countries that have done relatively well while running only small external imbalances. Countries like Austria, Canada, the Philippines, Lesotho, and Uruguay cannot match the world’s growth champions, because they do not over-borrow or sustain a mercantilist economic model. Theirs are unremarkable economies that do not garner many headlines. But without them, the global economy would be even less manageable than it already is.”
  • Bosnia united by a ball – “Since the Balkan War ended in 1995, the international community has tried in vain to build a truly multi-ethnic, Bosnian state. Yet FIFA has managed to create a genuinely national football federation. In addition, Bosnia has qualified for the 2014 World Cup.”
  • Who rates the rating agencies? – “As usual with government-sanctioned market activity, the questions are who regulates, in whose name, and who holds the regulator itself to account. The big CRAs, whose grades the mainstream news greet as if awed at the latest papal encyclical, are themselves raptor-capitalist businesses. As the crash showed, the fact that the firms work in an oligopolistic market is not conducive to feeding through accurate information about risk. Dodgier still is the fact that issuers, who pay the CRAs’ wages, want investors to take their bonds, so the agencies have an incentive to sign off junk as a sure thing.”
  • Twitter drives a change in libel law – and how companies engage
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I’ll Fry Anything Once

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

Tempura restaurants will unpretentiously dip anything in oil – Matthew Amster-Burton writing in The Magazine, “a fortnightly periodical full of features for curious people. ”


Photo by Danny Choo

Overmixing is the enemy of good tempura, because it makes the coating tough and chewy, and a confident tempura chef finishes mixing the batter by dragging your shrimp or eggplant through it. By the time the food is cooked, you’d never guess that its crisp and even exterior came from a batter that looks like boarding-school cafeteria oatmeal.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Advanced Mathematics With Legos In A Washing Machine – news and views for Thursday 14 November

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way while browsing.


  • Advanced Mathematics With Legos In A Washing Machine – “Every generation, a scientific paper comes along that rocks the very foundations of research, upturns our sense of the world, leaves us collapsed, in awe at everything that we, for all of our work, still fail to comprehend about the universe. “Random Structures from Lego Bricks and Analog Monte Carlo Procedures” is not that paper. It is about throwing Legos in a washing machine. And it is wonderful.”
  • The fiscal effects of immigration to the UK – “The immigration debate has focused on immigrants’ net fiscal impact – whether they receive more in welfare payments and other benefits than they pay back in taxes. This column summarises recent research showing that – contrary to popular belief – immigrants who arrived in the UK since 2000 have contributed far more in taxes than they have received in benefits. Compared with natives of the same age, gender, and education level, recent immigrants are 21% less likely to receive benefits.”
  • Alastair Campbell: press barons losing power like 80s union leaders – “”The negativity, overblown hype and lack of balance have helped turn people away from the press as a prime source of news. The rise in social networks is in part based on the concept of ‘friends’ – we do not believe politicians as we used to; we do not believe the media; we believe each other. The papers”, Campbell claims, “think their decline is about technology. I think it is as much about their values and their journalism.”
  • Euroskeptic Union: Right-Wing Populists Forge EU Alliance – “Right-wing populists are trying to create a powerful faction in the European Parliament. Leading the efforts are Geert Wilders from the Netherlands and Marine le Pen of France — and their initiative has big implications for Europe.”
  • China’s paltry response to Typhoon Haiyan illustrates the limits of its soft power
  • Business is creating new forms of English – “Native speakers are, as I have heard many times before, a problem in the new world of business English. In the Saudi company Ms Alharbi studied, the chief executive’s personal assistant, a Palestinian, asked to be excused from taking minutes because she could not understand what the native English speakers were saying – they talked too quickly and in ‘strong accents’.”
  • Foreign exchange: The big fix – “Banks fear a repeat of the costly Libor scandal after traders were suspended over currency concerns.”
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The Demi-Glace Ceiling: Why Do We Ignore Lady Chefs?

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

The Demi-Glace Ceiling: Why Do We Ignore Lady Chefs? | Mother Jones.

The much-hyped San Pellegrino/ Acqua Panna list of the world’s 50 best restaurants—the industry gold standard—honors only two kitchens led by female chefs (both of them in tandem with men). And just a handful of the world’s 100-plus restaurants with three Michelin stars have a woman at the helm. Ruth Reichl, the former New York Times restaurant critic and Gourmet editor, recalls how, back when the she was part of the California cooking revolution in the 1980s, “we were all convinced that the time of the woman chef was coming.” So why, 30 years later, does all the high prestige in the food world—like in Fortune 500 corner offices and Ivy League science departments—go to people with penises? Reichl says that sexism and even misogyny remain “very much a part of the culture” in top-end restaurants. Another factor is the kitchen system that, she estimates, more than 90 percent of US restaurants use: the assembly-line French brigade model codified by the chef Auguste Escoffier in the late 19th century.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Afghanistan’s opium production reaches a record high

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, had an interesting choice of word to describe opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rising 36 per cent in 2013 to a record high. “Sobering” he called it which it certainly won’t be when the end product reaches markets around the world. What cannot be quibbled with is Mr Fedotov’s description of the situation as posing a threat to health, stability and development in Afghanistan and beyond.


The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2013 released today in Kabul showed the area under cultivation rose to 209,000 ha from the previous year’s total of 154,000 ha, higher than the peak of 193,000 hectares reached in 2007.


Although lower than in 2012, opium prices continued to lure farmers at around $145 per kg, much higher than the prices fetched during the high yield years of 2006-2008.  Farmers may have driven up cultivation by trying to shore up their assets as insurance against an uncertain future resulting from the withdrawal of international troops next year. Worth around US$ 950 million, or 4 per cent of national GDP in 2013, the farm-gate value of opium production increased by almost a third. Together with profits made by drug traffickers, the total value of the opium economy within Afghanistan was significantly higher, implying that the illicit economy will continue to grow whereas a slowdown of the legal economy is predicted in 2014.

“As we approach 2014 and the withdrawal of international forces from the country, the results of the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2013 should be taken for what they are – a warning, and an urgent call to action,” said the UNODC chief.

The link between insecurity and opium cultivation observed in the country since 2007 was still evident in 2013; almost 90 per cent of opium poppy cultivation in 2013 remained confined to nine provinces in the southern and western regions, which include the most insurgency-ridden provinces in the country. Hilmand, Afghanistan’s principal poppy-producer since 2004 and responsible for nearly half of all cultivation, expanded the area under cultivation by 34 per cent, followed by Kandahar, which saw a 16 per cent rise.


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Chef Chat: We Pick The Brains Of Ottolenghi And Tamimi

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

Chef Chat: We Pick The Brains Of Ottolenghi And Tamimi : The Salt : NPR.

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi own four wildly popular London restaurants and have authored runaway best-selling cookbooks for omnivores and vegetarians alike.The two hail from the West and East sides of Jerusalem, respectively, and first crossed paths in London in the 1990s. In 2002 they opened Ottolenghi, a small deli that Tamimi says resembles a flower shop, bursting with the color of freshly made salads and desserts, rooted in and inspired by their native Middle East. And unlike many other international chefs who have found fame in America — where their book Jerusalem was a surprise best-seller — Ottolenghi and Tamimi made it here without having appeared on a TV cooking show or otherwise succumbing to the personality-driven culture of today’s celebrity chefs.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Egyptian rules – four fingers and you’re out

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

The 28 year old star forward Ahmed Abdel-Zaher scored for his Egyptian team Al-Ahly in the African Champions League final second leg in Cairo on Sunday, gave a celebratory signal and got himself suspended without pay,

2013-11-13_givingthefingersThe reason was showing the four fingers – the so-called Rabaa salute associated with ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Al-Ahly said the striker would be left out of next month’s FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco. He’ll also be investigated by the Egyptian Football Association.



Categories: International politics Tags:

Marriage between blacks and whites and other news and views for Wednesday 13 November

November 13th, 2013 Comments off


  • No, gagging over interracial marriage is not the ‘conventional view’ – “In his column Tuesday, Richard Cohen … writes … ‘about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.’ Given the context of the column, I think that Cohen is using ‘conventional views’ to mean ‘culturally conservative views.’ But insofar as ‘conventional’ means ‘based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed,’ acceptance of interracial marriage is overwhelmingly conventional. A July poll from Gallup finds that 87 percent of Americans approve — up from 4 percent in 1959.
  • Can Newscorp survive without Fox?
  • Shift In Cholesterol Advice Could Double Statin Use – “… new guidelines published Tuesday afternoon throw out the notion that a specific blood cholesterol level should automatically trigger treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs. Also out the window is any notion of treating patients with drugs until their so-called bad cholesterol hits a specific target – one that for most people is all but impossible to achieve by diet alone. Instead, the new guidelines groups adults into four categories most likely to benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs. They include people with heart disease and diabetes, as well as people with high levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad kind. The guidelines also explicitly tell doctors not to bother with drugs other than statins, saying they’re the only ones proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • 2013-11-13_haiyanClimate Research: Lessons from Typhoon ‘Haiyan’ – “Many at the climate conference in Warsaw and around the world see a link between global warming and the devastating typhoon in the Philippines. But several studies point to other causes — and even more worrisome trends.”
  • Hawaii’s Senate Gives Final Approval To Same-Sex Marriage
  • How Bronnie and Clive dominated day one in Parliament
  • The Uncertain Future of Central Bank Supremacy – “Advanced countries’ central banks were among the first to warn that their ability to compensate for other policymakers’ inaction is neither endless nor risk-free. The trouble is that few outsiders seem to be listening, much less preparing to confront the limits of monetary policy’s effectiveness.”

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Tensions rise as Abbott and senior Indonesian official to meet

November 13th, 2013 Comments off



Prime Minister Tony Abbott is scheduled to meet with a senior Indonesian official in Canberra today as the dispute over accepting boat people rescued at sea steps up a notch.

The Jakarta Post  reported this morning:

2013-11-13_meetingThe paper’s report said that neither Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Sujanto nor Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison claimed to be aware of the “people swap” deal.

The Melbourne Age in a front page report quotes Ms Anwar as  not backing down on her claim despite denials by Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Abbott. Ms Anwar said the proposal had come from the Australian embassy in Jakarta via a fax written in Bahasa.

2013-11-13_swapIt all makes for an interesting meeting.


Regulators’ £500m fines fail to change corporate behaviour –

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

Dealing with the ticket clippers is a difficult task. Fines don’t seem to make any difference to behaviour as this Financial Times of London story makes clear.

Regulators’ £500m fines fail to change corporate behaviour –

Perhaps it will take criminal jail sentences of senior executives to really make a diffrence,

China expected to cut growth target to 7% –

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

China will cut its growth target to 7 per cent next year in a sign of the government’s determination to push through structural reforms and steer the economy on to a more sustainable path, one of the country’s top investment banks has predicted.

via China expected to cut growth target to 7% –

TV boot on the other foot for Murdochs –

November 12th, 2013 Comments off
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News Corp points to Australian newspaper headwinds –

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

The challenges facing the newspaper industry were laid bare in News Corp’s first results since its separation from 21st Century Fox when Rupert Murdoch’s publishing company reported earnings at the bottom end of expectations, hit by lower advertising revenues.

News Corp highlighted “weakness” in its Australian newspaper division, which was responsible for most of the revenue decline. There were “moderating declines” in its UK and US newspaper businesses, it said.

via News Corp points to Australian newspaper headwinds –

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An Overdue Ban on Trans Fats –

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

An Overdue Ban on Trans Fats –

The Food and Drug Administration is moving to ban virtually all artificial trans fats from the American food supply. This long-awaited move should save thousands of lives and potentially billions of dollars in medical and economic costs a year.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Lobbyists literally writing the laws – news and views for Tuesday 12 November

November 12th, 2013 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way while browsing.

When Lobbyists Literally Write The Bill – “It’s taken for granted that lobbyists influence legislation. But perhaps less obvious is that they often write the actual bills — even word for word. In an example a week and a half ago, the House passed a measure that would roll back a portion of the 2010 financial reforms known as Dodd-Frank. And reports from The New York Times and Mother Jones revealed that language in the final legislation was nearly identical to language suggested by lobbyists.”

Chinese Industrialization and its Discontents – “What China can learn from nineteenth-century Britain’

Stop This Madness,’ Tearful Filipino Pleads At Climate Talks

For Obama, and Democrats, it’s crunch time – “President Obama likes to say he will never again be running for office, but every Democrat knows he will be on the ballot figuratively in 2014, and 2016, as well. Right now they are rightly nervous about that prospect.”

US biologist Randy Schekman on being a Nobel Prize winner – “The US biologist talks about winning the ultimate accolade and his campaign to ensure the free dissemination of scientific information.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Losing the best and brightest young public servants

November 11th, 2013 Comments off

There’s fear and loathing in Canberra – fear of losing your job while the value of your home plummets and a loathing of the politicians responsible for trying to reduce the size of the public service without payments to those made redundant. And the discontent is not confined to those now finding themselves on what the Australian Public Service Commission calls the “redeployment register.” Many of the younger public servants of my acquaintance are now realising that the method chosen by the Coalition government to cull 12,000 from the public service will stymie for years their own prospects of promotion.

That there will soon be an exodus of the best and the brightest young minds to jobs in the private sector outside of the national capital in one sense will not concern the government. In the short term it will simply contribute to the natural attrition it is seeking. When the aim is to honour this part of the pre-election rhetoric of quickly reducing the budget deficit the long term consequences are not considered.

When combined with a near freeze on new recruitment from outside those consequences will be both considerable and bad.

Categories: Public service Tags:

A politician telling it like it really is

November 10th, 2013 Comments off

A rare frank admission of what motivates a politician – Ghana’s president has fired a deputy minister reportedly caught on tape saying she’ll stay in politics until she makes $1 million.

Ghana Web reports:

There’s a leaked tape on which a voice purported to be that of Victoria Hammah is heard telling a female interlocutor that she will not quit politics until she makes at least US$1m.
The two ladies, who appeared to be traveling while having the gossipy conversation, are also heard on the leaked secret audio tape harshly condemning the Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Rachel Appoh, for instigating bad press against her boss, Nana Oye Lithur.

Categories: International politics Tags:

It’s the umami stupid – news and views for Monday 11 November

November 10th, 2013 Comments off

It’s the Umami, Stupid. Why the Truth About MSG is So Easy to Swallow – What few people understand is that the hated MSG and the adored umami are chemically related: umami is tasted by the very receptors that MSG targets. At a MAD Symposium in Denmark, a TED-like conference for the food industry, Chang spoke about MSG and umami: “For me, the way that I’m looking at umami, it’s the same way I look at MSG. It’s one in the same.”

Right Wing’s Surge in Europe Has the Establishment Rattled – “As right-wing populists surge across Europe, rattling established political parties with their hostility toward immigration, austerity and the European Union, Mikkel Dencker of the Danish People’s Party has found yet another cause to stir public anger: pork meatballs missing from kindergartens.”

Survey Finds Anti-Semitism ‘On The Rise’ In Europe – “Nearly half of those surveyed in Hungary and France said they had considered emigrating over safety concerns.”

Philadelphians Elect First Whig Since 19th Century

Super funds to bankroll new online news site – Some of Australia’s biggest industry superannuation outfits are using member funds to quietly bankroll a new online news venture guided by Crikey backer Eric Beecher, with plans to promote the venture to their millions of members.

Google and Facebook may be our best defenders against Big Brother

Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps – “Gradual exodus of young people towards WhatsApp, WeChat and KakaoTalk is just as their mums and dads get the hang of social networking.”

At Obamacare hearings, governing by anecdote – It did not sound good for Sen. Pat Toomey. “I’m a two-time breast cancer survivor and I’m facing the loss of insurance,” the Pennsylvania Republican declared Wednesday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the health-care law. “Three years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis,” he added. “If my coverage is not in place before January 1st, I will have to go without my medications. This may cause permanent disability, blindness, inability to walk, speech problems.” Happily for Toomey, he was not describing his own maladies. He was reading e-mails sent by his constituents. But the senator has contracted a dangerous condition that can cause people to have impaired judgment. It’s called governing by anecdote — and it’s spreading.

Pope Francis embraces man with tumorous disease

Good corporate governance is bad for bank capitalisation – Bank capitalisation determines the probability of a bank failure. This column discusses how bank’s corporate governance affects its capitalisation. Corporate governance, in which the bank acts in the interest of its shareholders, is defined as a good one. Such governance, however, can lead to lower bank capitalisation. It also has possibly negative implications for financial stability.

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