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Ticket clippers, disappearing butterflies and other news and views Wednesday 5 February

February 5th, 2014

A ticket clipping update. The head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Martin Wheatley, has told MPs that 10 banks were now helping with its investigation of foreign exchange rate-fixing. “The allegations are every bit as bad as they have been with Libor,” Mr Wheatley told the Treasury Select Committee referring to the interest rate scandal that led to banks paying $6bn in fines. And the investigations of the ways banks and their employees make a billion or so from the unsuspecting public is now going even wider. Mr Wheatley revealed the FCA’s probe had now widened, and “a number of other benchmarks that operate in London” were being investigated “because of concerns that are being raised with us”.

In the United States meanwhile, Morgan Stanley said it would pay $1.25 billion to the U.S. regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to settle a lawsuit related to the sale of mortgage-backed securities.

Not to forget about Australia where a court ruled that the late payment fees the bank charged customers by the ANZ Bank were extravagant, exorbitant and unconscionable.

The disappearing butterfly. The number of monarch butteflies migrating from the north of America to the Oyannel fir forest in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains has dropped this year to a new record low.

World Wildlife Fund Mexico announced onWednesday that just 33.5 million individuals are wintering in Mexico this year – back in 1997, there were over 1 billion.

5-02-2014 monarch


An article in Climate Progress notes that although the number of butterflies varies from year to year — the long term average over the past 20 years of record keeping is 350 million — this year’s number is the 9th consecutive yearly measurement below the long term average.

Researchers have identified three major factors that are driving the decline: deforestation in Mexico, agriculture displacing key milkweed habitat in the U.S., and episodes of extreme weather along the migration route.

Our small time boat people problemReports the BBC:

More than 2,000 migrants landed on Italian shores in January, the government says, compared to just 217 in the same month last year. Deputy Interior Minister Filippo Bubbico said Italy was subject to an “incessant and massive influx of migrants” in 2013. He said that a total of 42,925 migrants reached Italy by sea last year, an increase of 325% on 2012. The figures do not include migrants who died making the perilous sea crossing.

Other items noticed along the way

  • OECD ‘debunks myth’ that poor will fail at school – “There is nothing inevitable about the weaker academic performance of poorer pupils, says an analysis of Pisa tests by the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. Mr Schleicher, who runs the tests, says the high results of deprived pupils in some Asian countries shows what poor pupils in the UK could achieve. The most disadvantaged pupils in Shanghai match the maths test results of wealthy pupils in the UK.Mr Schleicher says it ‘debunks the myth that poverty is destiny’.”
  • New research reveals that unemployment is especially hellish in the U.S. — because unemployed Americans blame themselves for their plight.
  • Miles Kimball on the Extraordinary Inequities of Restrictions on International Migration – “Miles Kimball starts a train of thought that leads to the conclusion that our descendants 500 years in the future–if we have a good future, that is–may well likely to regard our tolerance of our present-day restrictions on global migration from country to country with roughly the same kind of horror that we today regard James Madison’s, Thomas Jefferson’s, and Aristotle’s tolerance of slavery.”
  • Why the Rich Feel Besieged: A Checklist
  • Lessons from the economics of crime – “In many settings, criminal behaviour can be analysed just like any other economic decision-making process, namely – as the outcome of individual choices influenced by perceived consequences. This column explains the advantages of adopting an economic approach to understanding crime. Furthermore, criminal law and crime-prevention programmes can be evaluated using the same normative techniques applied to health, education, and environmental regulation.”

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