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Archive for October, 2014

A hot summer coming?

October 30th, 2014 Comments off

The seasonal climate outlook released by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology suggests warmer than normal November to January days are more likely for Australia, except for far western areas of WA. Strongest odds are across northern and eastern parts of the country. Likewise, warmer than normal nights are more likely for most of the continent, except for far western parts of WA, and the northern Queensland coast.

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Climate influences include warmer than normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and near normal tropical Indian Ocean temperatures. Maximum temperature accuracy is moderate to high over most of Australia, except for a region just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Minimum temperature accuracy is generally moderate to high over most of Australia.

When it comes to rainfall the Bureau suggests a drier than normal November to January is more likely over the northern and eastern Kimberley region of WA, the NT, Queensland, northeast SA, NSW, and most of Victoria. Elsewhere, the chances of a wetter or drier season are roughly equal.

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The November monthly outlook shows a drier than normal month is more likely over most of the northern half of WA, most of the NT, Queensland, northeast and central SA, and southeast NSW.

Climate influences include warmer than normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, near normal tropical Indian Ocean temperatures, and normal to below normal sea surface temperatures off our northern coasts. Outlook accuracy for the season is moderate to high over western and northern parts of WA, parts of the Top End of the NT, and the eastern mainland States. Elsewhere, accuracy is low.

If the seasonal outlook proves accurate then there probably will be a political impact. Researchers keep finding that the weather people experience at the time has more influence on people’s attitude towards global warming than any predictions by the experts about long-term trends. A hot summer and support for action will increase only to decline again the next time the weather outside the window turns cold.

Categories: Environment Tags:

The ways of lobbyists seeking favorable deals

October 30th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General – “Attorneys general have become the object of pursuit by lobbyists who use campaign contributions, personal appeals and other means to sway investigations or negotiate favorable deals, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”
  • Singapore upholds law that criminalizes gay sex – “Singapore’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that a law that criminalizes sex between men is in line with the city-state’s constitution, rejecting two separate appeals by three men that the measure infringed their human rights. The judgment comes as gay rights have become an increasingly thorny issue in Singapore’s traditionally conservative society.”

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  • Is economic growth permanently lower? – “The assumption that the mean growth rate is one of the great economic constants in advanced economies is simply wrong. … The slowdown in long run growth in the developed economies therefore seems to have become a permanent fact of life, rather than a temporary result of the financial crash that will disappear over time. But the actual path for GDP has fallen well below even the depressed long run equilibrium path since 2009.”
  • France grapples with rising tide of homegrown jihadis
  • Afghanistan: ‘A Shocking Indictment’ – A review of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal – “His new and shocking indictment demonstrates that the failures of the intervention were worse than even the most cynical believed. … Again and again Gopal reminds us that the state, which the West was supposed to be developing, was far weaker than anyone acknowledged—and often simply didn’t exist. In truth, international statements about establishing “the rule of law, governance, and security” became simply ways of saying that Afghanistan was unjust, corrupt, and violent. “Transparent, predictable, and accountable financial practices” were not a solution to corruption; they were simply a description of what was lacking. But policymakers never realized how far from the mark they were. This is partly because most of them were unaware of even a fraction of the reality described in Gopal’s book. But it was partly also that they couldn’t absorb the truth, and didn’t want to. The jargon of state-building, “capacity-building,” “civil society,” and “sustainable livelihoods” seemed conveniently ethical, practical, and irrefutable. And because of fears about lost lives, and fears about future terrorist attacks, they had no interest in detailed descriptions of failure: something had to be done, and failure was simply “not an option.”
  • Hillary Clinton’s New Image: Cool Grandma. Can She Maintain It? – ‘When did Hillary Clinton become cool? … Whenever her ascent began, it reached a peak in March, when GQ published an interview with musician Pharrell Williams. In one of the most convoluted sentences ever recorded in the English language, he not only endorsed Clinton for president in 2016 but also predicted her win, one that would usher in purple-tinted national unity and a worldwide pro-choice matriarchy: “When we are a country and we are a species that has had a Martian Rover traveling up and down the crevices of this planet looking for water and ice, okay, and we’ve had a space station that’s been orbiting our planet for sixteen years—but we still got legislation trying to tell women what to do with their bodies? Hillary’s gonna win. Listen, I’m reaching out to her right now. She’s gonna win.” ‘
  • Do You Have To Open That Bottle Of Wine A Guest Brought To Your Home?

The Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption

October 30th, 2014 Comments off

And you thought the nanny state was bad enough in Australia. Well the city of Shangqiu in Henan province has gone a step further. In 2007 it set up the Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption to reduce alcohol consumption at government-funded lunches. No nipping out for a quiet glass at your own expense either. Officials were forbidden from consuming alcohol during the day. Staff members of the Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption wait at the doors of restaurants, randomly inspect offices, and talk with officials to see if anyone has disobeyed the rule.

Details of this and other interesting aspects of China’s massive bureaucracy are given in the latest Tea Leaf Nation report “Foot Spas, Steamed Buns, and Midday Drinking”. Those steamed buns, it seems, are a matter of vital concern.

The proliferation of steamed bun offices has been causing trouble since at least 2001, when a local paper reported that in Zhengzhou alone, there were a total of six steamed bun offices at various levels, all of which held the power to approve (or to halt) the production of buns, a staple food for Henan residents. Jurisdictional conflicts often took place between these six offices, and the Zhengzhou city government later revoked their charters. But that hasn’t stopped other provinces from operating their own steamed bun regulatory committees. An Oct. 23 article in national outlet Beijing News showed staff from the steamed bun office in the ancient capital of Xi’an conducting a spot check on the weight of buns in a local kitchen.

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I was rather taken by The Watermelon Office.

This organization in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, helps suburban farmers sell their watermelons in the city by creating a “watermelon map” to connect buyers and vendors. The watermelon office isn’t short on social media savvy; the office now boasts over 50,000 followers on its verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

2014-10-30_watermelonofficeChina’s state owned media are publicising efforts to streamline such “redundant” local committees out of existence following the June 2013 launch of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “mass-line campaign,” which seeks to fight corruption by bringing cadres in the ruling Communist Party closer to the people they ostensibly serve. The Xinhua newsagency reported this month on the efforts to reduce bureaucracy and red tape. But the redundancies are easier to claim than to achieve.

Tea Leaf Nation noted:

State media may be trumpeting Xi’s mass-line cleanup a bit prematurely. Some of the cited organizations continue to exist. After the publication of Xinhua’s critical article, the director of the Watermelon Office told one news outlet that the office would not be disbanded and would continue to serve farmers next year. There is no evidence showing the Pingshan government has gutted its ragweed removal outfit. And according to the website of the Xi’an Grain Bureau, its version of a steamed bun authority still persists.

 

Democracy is for infidels – An Islamic State recruiter on the group’s vision for the future and other news and views for Wednesday 29 October

October 29th, 2014 Comments off

We are following Allah’s word. We believe that humanity’s only duty is to honor Allah and his prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. We are implementing what is written in the Koran. If we manage to do so, then of course it will be a success. …

A Muslim is a person who follows Allah’s laws without question. Sharia is our law. No interpretation is needed, nor are laws made by men. Allah is the only lawmaker. We have determined that there are plenty of people, in Germany too, who perceive the emptiness of the modern world and who yearn for values of the kind embodied by Islam. Those who are opposed to Sharia are not Muslims. We talk to the people who come to us and evaluate on the basis of dialogue how deep their faith is. …

Democracy is for infidels. A real Muslim is not a democrat because he doesn’t care about the opinions of majorities and minorities don’t interest him. He is only interested in what Islam says. Furthermore, democracy is a hegemonic tool of the West and contrary to Islam.

  • The Sectarian Apocalypse – “Despite fighting bitterly against each other in Iraq and Syria, many of the Sunni and Shi‘a militants who have been drawn to the battlefield are motivated by a common apocalyptic belief. … One might expect that the recent entry of infidel armies into Iraq and Syria would lessen the internecine tone of the prophesying and focus attention on the Mahdi’s battle with the infidels. But it has only heightened the sectarian apocalyptic fervor as each sect vies to destroy the other for the privilege of destroying the infidels. Little wonder such a heady reenactment of the End Times drama on the original stage where it was performed is drawing an unprecedented number of Sunni and Shi‘a foreign fighters to the theater. In the sectarian apocalypse, everyone has a role to play in a script written over a thousand years ago. No one wants to miss the show.”

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  • Who Will Win The Senate? – According to the New York Times: “According to our statistical election-forecasting machine, the Republicans have a moderate edge, with about a 68% chance of gaining a majority.”
  • Are Economists Ready for Income Redistribution? “It’s not the job of economists to tell society whether or not they should redistribute income, or if fiscal policy should be used to combat recessions. It’s to inform society of the potential consequences of policy actions, good or bad, and how to best reach particular goals. Too many economists allow their ideological beliefs to color the research they conduct, the advice they give, and the presumed goals of policy.”
  • Address of the Holy Father Francis at the inauguration of a bronze bust in honor of Pope Benedict XVI at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 27/10/2014 – “Are you addressing the issue highly complex evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go at all, I understand well, the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I just want to point out that God and Christ walking with us, and are also found in nature, as stated by the apostle Paul in the Areopagus speech: “In God we live and move and have our being” ( Acts 17:28). When we read in the Genesis account of Creation in danger of imagining that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand that can do all things. But it does not. He created beings and let them develop in accordance with the internal laws that He has given to each one, because they develop it because it arrived to its fullest. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time in which he assured them of his continued presence, giving being to all reality. Thus, the creation has been going on for centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, because God is not a creator or a wizard, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world is not the work of the chaos that has another of its origin, but is derived directly from a supreme principle which creates love. The Big Bang , which today stands at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine creator intervention but demands it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

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Some new old Bob Dylan while Neil Young saves the earth along with other news and views for Tuesday 28 October

October 28th, 2014 Comments off

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  • First Listen: Bob Dylan, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11’ – “Recorded during a period of seclusion after Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle accident, The Basement Tapes present the already-iconic figure as he intentionally departs from the confrontational invective and tightly wound wordplay of the triumphs in his recent past — among them the single “Like A Rolling Stone” and the album Blonde On Blonde. Driven by what sounds like a desire to simplify his art, he begins by diving deeply into traditional American gospel (“My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It”) and modern offshoots (a tremendous version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”), folk (“Po’Lazurus”) and country (Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and “Folsom Prison Blues”). The Band’s Robbie Robertson has said that during this early phase, Dylan was “educating” his collaborators on folk and other styles they’d only recently encountered; they’d been primarily an R&B band before the Dylan tour. From there, Dylan wrote at a torrid clip, generating simple ballads, allegorical blues and story songs. These follow the general outlines of the covers; they eschew fancy language in favor of blunt declarations, and are built on the crisp, regular cadences of the blues. Though they’re not exactly heavy treatises, Dylan does at times venture into heavy topics — like the nature of goodness, salvation and the meaning of existence, themes he tackled more directly on his next album, John Wesley Harding.”

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  • A new green anthem – “Who is going to stand up and save the earth … this all starts with you and me.” A blunt-force environmentalist protest song — “End fracking now,” Neil Young demands at one point. Even Alan Jones might play this one from the Storytone album due out early next month.
  • The Pope and the Precipice – “To grasp why events this month in Rome — publicly feuding cardinals, documents floated and then disavowed — were so remarkable in the context of modern Catholic history, it helps to understand certain practical aspects of the doctrine of papal infallibility. On paper, that doctrine seems to grant extraordinary power to the pope — since he cannot err, the First Vatican Council declared in 1870, when he “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” In practice, though, it places profound effective limits on his power. Those limits are set, in part, by normal human modesty: “I am only infallible if I speak infallibly, but I shall never do that,” John XXIII is reported to have said. But they’re also set by the binding power of existing teaching, which a pope cannot reverse or contradict without proving his own office, well, fallible — effectively dynamiting the very claim to authority on which his decisions rest.”
  • Companies shouldn’t cave in to the demands of climate-change activists
  • It’s my belief and I’m sticking to it – “Part of the reason American voters have become more polarized in recent decades is that both sides feel better-informed. … A common response to this increasing polarization is to call for providing more unbiased facts. But in a phenomenon that psychologists and economists call “confirmation bias,” people tend to interpret additional information as additional support for their pre-existing ideas.”

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  • How the election could go into overtime – “Runoffs, quirky candidates and tight races in a number of states may mean that control of the Senate won’t be decided on Election Day.”
  • Your Creativity Might Be Stifled by Your Expertise – “It’s great to be an expert, right? Of course it is. But is it possible that your expertise is actually undermining your ability to think creatively and be open to new ideas? Recent research has revealed that this is exactly what can happen. Innovation–by definition–includes an element of newness. The more you know about a topic, though, the less likely you are to be open to truly groundbreaking advances in the same area. Put another way, the expertise that got you ahead can actually limit your creativity and willingness to consider new ideas.”
  • Who’s Going to Get Rich Fighting the Islamic State? – “Obama’s small war means big profits — and little oversight — for defense contractors and hired guns.”
  • Comcast: Broadband battleground – “The group may become the world’s largest media company. Content companies are worried. … The recent, shortlived $71bn bid for Time Warner, owner of HBO and CNN, from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox was driven in part by a need to create a company big enough to stare down Comcast in negotiations on distribution over its cable systems.”

Antony Green shows us just how much less than 50% Labor needs to win in Victoria

October 27th, 2014 Comments off

That wonderful one-man resource Antony Green has another of his helpful seat calculators on the Victorian state election. It helps immensely in interpreting what the opinion polls might mean in terms of seats won if repeated on polling day.

Take that Labor 52% two party share shown today by Galaxy. With that uniform swing of 3.6 percentage points Labor would end up with 50 seats to the Coalition’s 38. To get a tied result of 44 seats all, Labor only needs a vote of 48.8%.

The pollsters are going to be very off the mark if Labor does not get to that level.

See details of the latest polls at The opinion polls are aligned and pointing strongly to a Victorian Labor victory.

Categories: Elections, Victorian election Tags:

The opinion polls are aligned and pointing strongly to a Victorian Labor victory

October 27th, 2014 Comments off

Two new opinion polls on the Victorian state election out today and they confirm the regular Newspoll in having Labor comfortably in the lead. Galaxy puts the two party vote at Labor 52% with the Coalition 48%; Morgan has Labor 52.5%, Coalition 47.5%; Newspoll is at Labor 55% and the Coalition 45%.

The new Galaxy result:

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This afternoon’s  “special” SMS Morgan Poll on State voting intention in Victoria conducted over the last few days (October 24-27, 2014) with a representative cross-section of 1,860 Victorian electors shows the ALP (52.5%, down 1.5% since September 2014) with an election-winning lead over the L-NP (47.5%, up 1.5%) on a two-party preferred basis.

On primary voting intention the L-NP (37.5%, unchanged) still leads the ALP (34%, unchanged). The ALP’s two-party preferred lead is because the high primary vote for the Greens (18.5%, up 0.5%) is boosting the ALP two-party preferred vote into the lead. Other minor parties include the Palmer United Party (PUP), 2.5% (down 0.5%), Family First (2.5%, up 0.5%), Country Alliance (0.5%, unchanged) and Independents/Others (4.5%, down 0.5%).

Gary Morgan in commenting on the results said that “the Greens vote is currently very high and unlikely to be maintained at the Victorian Election – recent polling before several National and State Elections has shown the Greens vote high in the months before an election but dropping at the election itself. The high Greens vote is caused by ‘disenchantment’ with the policies of the two major parties. ”

Newspoll is by now a touch historical but its reading for the July-August period had Labor well in front. Like Morgan, Newspoll had the Greens with support well above their level at the last state election.

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Fairfax’s Adele Ferguson exposes a government looking after its financier friends

October 27th, 2014 Comments off
  • Call on CommBank Royal Commission disappointing and shallow – “The decision by the federal government to reject a bipartisan call for a royal commission into the Commonwealth Bank was always on the cards, but its reasoning was both disappointing and shallow. Its response to a landmark Senate inquiry into the performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, outlined in a press release on Friday, essentially says CBA’s revised compensation scheme, a so-called “open advice review”, is enough. This glib response fails to take into account the Senate’s original call for a royal commission; that it was “unable to get answers from the regulator or the bank”. “We tried and failed and decided it is important that this is cleared up,” it said. What it did was take a dissenting report by one of its own, Liberal senator David Bushy, and embrace it.”
  • National armies for global health? – From an editorial in The Lancet: “… the security of one nation’s citizens is inextricably linked to others through both global health and climate change. Therefore, the military seem set to play a greater part in global civilian health in the future. The question is what should this role look like in the 21st century?”
  • The rise of the female diplomat
  • Treasury’s War on the Islamic State – “The green-eyeshades crew is taking the lead in trying to choke off the illicit millions that fund the terrorist group. But the Islamic State’s own overreach may cost it more than sanctions.”
  • What have British troops achieved in Afghanistan? – As British troops end combat operations in Afghanistan, BBC Kabul correspondent David Loyn asks if the war was worth it.
  • The world’s biggest economic problem – “Deflation in the euro zone is all too close and extremely dangerous.”
  • The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off the Rails – “Six years after the Lehman disaster, the industrialized world is suffering from Japan Syndrome. Growth is minimal, another crash may be brewing and the gulf between rich and poor continues to widen. Can the global economy reinvent itself?”
  • Why Europe is doomed, in 3 paragraphs  – “This, from Reuters, tells you everything you need to know about Europe’s continued descent into depression:

    According to German officials, Merkel felt betrayed by Draghi’s speech at a central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in August in which he pressed Berlin for looser fiscal policy to stimulate the economy.
    Her entourage is also deeply skeptical about Draghi’s plan to buy up asset-backed securities (ABS) and covered bonds in the hope of encouraging commercial banks to lend.
    Most of all, politicians in Berlin worry that if this scheme doesn’t work, the ECB president will be tempted to launch full-blown government bond buying, or quantitative easing. This is a taboo in Germany and a step Merkel’s allies fear would play into the hands of the country’s new anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Enough to bring tears to an old sub’s eyes

October 27th, 2014 Comments off

From the media section of The Australian this morning:

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Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Following the neighbours and green envy

October 25th, 2014 Comments off

Forget about politically trendy liberals being influenced by their green credentials. The the single most important factor driving whether people instal solar is peer influence. That, at least, is what two researchers at Yale and the University of Connecticut have discovered. Their recently published paper Spatial patterns of solar photovoltaic system adoption: the influence of neighbors and the built environment says empirical estimation demonstrates a strong relationship between solar adoption and the number of nearby previously installed systems as well as built environment and policy variables.

“People have called it green envy before, where you want to be green so that you can show off your greenness effectively,” says Yale’s Kenneth Gillingham, a professor at the School of Forestry and one of the study authors. From an interview with the Washington Post:

In addition to initiatives like the Solarize program, Gillingham says the research suggests that it can be very important for houses who have just installed solar panels to let the installer put up a yard sign, especially if the installation is on the back of the house. “A common technique is to put a big sign in the front yard saying, ‘This house went solar,'” says Gillingham. That then rubs off on neighbors, proving that while there may be many good economic and policy reasons to support clean energy, in the end, humans are also social animals, and motivated by peer and group effects.

“You want to conserve, and be environmental, but you want to do it in a conspicuous way,” says Gillingham.


 

 

Categories: Environment Tags:

US Governors Agree with Bob Katter

October 25th, 2014 Comments off

There was much scoffing and guffawing earlier this month when Independent federal MP Bob Katter proposed a mandatory 21 day quarantine period for Australian health worker ‘saints’ returning from Ebola affected countries. “We must emphasise that the people who go to these countries are our saints, our Christians, they are the people as Australians we should be most proud of; but it does not help the people on planet earth with another nation becoming an Ebola affected nation,” Mr Katter said.

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The Australian Medical Association and Federal Labor, reported SBS News, criticised Mr Katter for his remarks.

Presumably they will now have harsh words to say about Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie who have determined that travelers returning to New York and New Jersey from West African nations will be put under mandatory quarantine orders if they may have had contact with Ebola patients.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Rare honesty – what money buys from an Australian politician

October 25th, 2014 Comments off

It’s not often to hear a politician talk openly and honestly about what is given in return for campaign donations. Full marks then to the former Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister David Tollner for declaring donations would open his door “if you ever need to talk to me about something”. Speaking on 105.7 ABC Darwin on Friday Mr Tollner said people who did not donate faced “a line-up at the door”, explaining “you have to start prioritising”.

The ABC website reports:

Mr Tollner said it was “extraordinarily difficult” for political parties to raise funds for campaigning.

He said it was “incredibly important” for the democratic system that parties and candidates have the funds to run what he said was a “legitimate campaign”.

“But there will always be a question in people’s minds… what is someone donating for?” Mr Tollner said.

“When I have talked to people about donating money and the like, the best you can say is ‘your donation will open my door if you ever need to talk to me about something’.

“You are supporting a democratic process and are supporting a conservative view of the world… but you can’t buy anything more than that.”

Asked if people who did not make a political donation could make an appointment to meet with a government minister, Mr Tollner said the wait could take a while.

“When you become a minister you find quickly there is a line-up at the door… you have to start prioritising,” he said.

He denied there was any issue with having the ear of a government minister because of political donations.

“Getting an audience with someone is not giving [them] a great favour,” Mr Tollner said.

Categories: Elections, Political snippets Tags:

How Physical appearance influences who wins elections and other news and views for Thursday 23 October

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off

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  • It Is a Beauty Contest – “It’s shameful, of course, that physical appearance should affect something as important as who gets elected president. But the reasons for that are pretty obvious, and they pre-date democracy by several million years. That doesn’t make them right or wise or inevitable, but it does make them hard to avoid.”
  • Capitalism’s Suffocating Music – “I kept thinking of another writer, David Foster Wallace. His novel “Infinite Jest,” published in 1996, imagines a tomorrow in which time itself is auctioned off to the highest bidder and the calendar becomes a billboard. There’s the “Year of the Whopper,” the “Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster” and even the “Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad” — a 12-month paean to posterior discomfort, 52 weeks in honor of hemorrhoids. Is that future so far off? While recording devices have liberated many of us from commercials on television, the rest of our lives are awash in ads. They’re now nestled among the trailers at movies. They flicker on the screens in taxis. They’re woven so thoroughly into sporting events, from Nascar races to basketball games, that it’s hard to imagine an era when they weren’t omnipresent.”

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  • Death Of Northern White Rhino Leaves Only Six Left In Existence
  • Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships – “Jean Tirole is an influential, respected, and by all accounts gracious man who won this year’s Nobel Prize in economics. Bertha is a 7,000-ton tunnel boring machine that’s been stuck under Seattle for nine months—but is still tweeting—as state officials and a private contractor battle over who should pay to get her out. What do Prof. Tirole and Bertha have in common? They show the strengths and weaknesses of public private partnerships.”
  • Sins Of Commission – How thirty years and nine official inquiries obscured the truth of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence – On Wednesday 31 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her guards, both Sikh. In the ensuing violence, which lasted roughly three days, 2,733 Sikhs were killed in Delhi. Sikhs were also attacked in several other Indian cities, including Kanpur, Bokaro, Jabalpur and Rourkela. It remains one of the bloodiest and most brutal episodes of communal violence in independent India. Over the next two decades, nine commissions of inquiry were instituted. Seven of these investigated specific aspects of the tragedy, such as the death count, which was officially established by the Ahuja Committee in 1987. Two of the panels—the Ranganath Misra Commission, constituted in 1985, and the Justice GT Nanavati Commission, whose final report was published in 2005—were required to look at the violence in its entirety.”

Castrating hogs on an Iowa farm – my favourite political ad for this season

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off

“I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”

It is certainly an ad you are likely to remember.

NPR features some other memorable moments from this year’s Congressional campaigns.

Categories: Elections, US Election Tags:

An update on a record hot year

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off

The relative plateauing of world temperatures since the late 1990s has become the major argument of those who argue that global warming is nonsense. But I wonder what they will say if 2014 turn out to be a new record high point? Personally I’m looking forward to Andrew Bolt’s explanation.

And an explanation is looking more and more likely. I reported earlier this month how, according to NASA, September just gone was the warmest September globally since records began being kept in 1880. Now the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reached a similar conclusion and has speculated as well with a couple of graphics on what the whole year will end up like.

The graphics compare the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2014 (black line) to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature, the February value is the average of both January and February, and so on.

The first graphic shows the basic year-to-date comparison.

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The second graphic zooms even further to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record, and shows several end-of-year results based on the following scenarios:

The years 2013 and 2014 are the only years on this list not to begin during a mature El Niño event. The years 1998 and 2010, each of which became the warmest year on record at the time, ended the year in a strong La Niña event, as evidenced by the relative fading of global average temperature later in the year.

The anomalies themselves represent departures from the 20th century average temperature. The graph zooms into the warmest part of the entire history.

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(Click on graph to enlarge)

As for the prospects of an El Niño event to kick temperatures along even further, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday that El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators, as well as Australian rainfall patterns, continue to show some El Niño-like signatures, but remain in the neutral range.

The tropical Pacific Ocean has remained warmer than average for more than six months, while the Southern Oscillation Index has remained negative since early June. However neither has reached typical El Niño levels for any sustained period, and only weak atmosphere-ocean coupling appears to have taken place so far.

International models surveyed by the Bureau suggest that warmer-than-average tropical Pacific waters are likely to persist. While there has been some easing in model outlooks over the past month, three of eight models reach El Niño thresholds by January and another two remain just shy of the thresholds for an event.

Australia has generally been dry and warm over recent months. A warmer central tropical Pacific late in the year typically heralds warmer and drier conditions for parts of eastern Australia, as well as a reduction in the number of tropical cyclones in the Australian region and increased bushfire risk in the south.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is likely to remain neutral. The IOD typically has little influence on the Australian climate from December to April.

 

Categories: Environment Tags:

Learning from the Australian ant eating spider and other news and views for Wednesday 22 October

October 22nd, 2014 Comments off
  • Cover Your Face, Then Pay a Fine and Miss the Show – “… both France and Australia, which have minority Muslim populations, have walked a fine line between nationalism and security and xenophobia.”
  • Snake in the grass – Animals and viruses practise deception, fast and slow, in ways that help us understand human predators and scammers – “There are spiders in Australia that smell and behave like ants: some are so convincing that the ants will allow a spider to live permanently as one of them. This spider will then feast upon its new friends, but it won’t eat all the ants, or even a significant number; instead, it extracts resources slowly, sustainably, and over time. … No one likes being a cynic. No one wants our trust in others to erode. But we must never forget that there are those who would misuse our trust for selfish gain, and prey on our sympathies for exploitation; deception is a Darwinian trait, by evolution pre‑ordained. Any one of us could be the next big victim. Soon after you finish reading this story, someone will try to deceive you with a false ad, misleading sales pitch, or worse. Be careful about whom you trust, be willing to admit when you were wrong about someone, and resist the urge to say: ‘But I know him so well!’ Recall that some Australian ants ‘think’ the same thing about spiders. It wouldn’t hurt us humans to take a tip or two from the rest of the animal world.”
  • A Physicist Ponders the Pause – “After surviving a storm-tossed voyage, King James I concluded that witches must have conjured tempests to do him ill because nothing ever happens by chance. In promoting the notion that climate trends are shaped by an industrialised world’s CO2 emissions, warmists are in the same boat.”
  • Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K. – “In economics jargon, Amazon is not, at least so far, acting like a monopolist, a dominant seller with the power to raise prices. Instead, it is acting as a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down.”
  • Fifty Years After The Bullet Train, Japan Approves Plan To Build Super-Speed Maglev Train Line
  • In the Syria We Don’t Know – “As Bashar’s prospects improve with each American sortie against his enemies in the east of the country, Damascus and the populous towns to the north have been enjoying a respite of sorts from war. The Syrian Ministry of Education reported that, of the 22,000 schools in the country, more than 17,000 of them reopened on time in the middle of September.”
  • The IKEA effect: When labor leads to love – “In four studies in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, we demonstrate and investigate boundary conditions for the IKEA effect—the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions. We show that labor leads to love only when labor results in successful completion of tasks; when participants built and then destroyed their creations, or failed to complete them, the IKEA effect dissipated. Finally, we show that labor increases valuation for both “do-it-yourselfers” and novices.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Are women better decision makers? Forget the glass ceiling – think about the glass cliff.

October 20th, 2014 Comments off
  • Are Women Better Decision Makers? – “Credit Suisse examined almost 2,400 global corporations from 2005 to 2011 — including the years directly preceding and following the financial crisis — and found that large-cap companies with at least one woman on their boards outperformed comparable companies with all-male boards by 26 percent. … From 2005 to 2007, Credit Suisse also found, the stock performance of companies with women on their boards essentially matched performance of companies with all-male boards. Nothing lost, but much gained. If we want our organizations to make the best decisions, we need to notice who is deciding and how tightly they’re gritting their teeth.Unfortunately, what often happens is that women are asked to lead only during periods of intense stress. It’s called the glass cliff …”
  • No Consensus at Vatican as Synod Ends – “A closely watched Vatican assembly on the family ended on Saturday without consensus among the bishops in attendance on what to say about gays, and whether to give communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. … Pope Francis addressed the bishops in the final session, issuing a double-barreled warning against “hostile rigidity” by “so-called traditionalists,” but also cautioning “progressives” who would “bandage a wound before treating it.” The bishops responded with a four-minute standing ovation in the closed-door meeting, Vatican spokesmen said afterward.”
  • The Ebola Conspiracy Theories – “The spread of Ebola from western Africa to suburban Texas has brought with it another strain of contagion: conspiracy theories.”
  • Why Germany is so much better at training its workers

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  • Clive James: ‘I’d be lost without poetry’ – “Writer and broadcaster Clive James, who suffers from leukaemia and emphysema, has just had a new volume of essays published, called Poetry Notebook. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he explains why the book means so much to him and how it is hard to have a serious literary reputation if you are on television regularly.”
  • This Age of Derp – “derp … is a determined belief in some economic doctrine that is completely unmovable by evidence.”
  • Inflation Derp Abides
  • “Inflation derps” are people from the concrete steppes
  • Regret and economic decision-making – “Regret can shape preferences and thus is an important part of the decision-making process. This column presents new findings on the theoretical and behavioural implications of regret. Anticipated regret can act like a surrogate for risk aversion and could deter investment. However, once people have invested, they become attached to their investment. This commitment is higher with better past performance.”
Figure 1 plots a simple transformation of the value of the unemployment rate, measured on the left axis, and the real value of the S&P, measured on the right axis, in log units. This graph shows a clear correlation between these series and a more careful investigation reveals that this correlation is causal in the sense in which Clive Granger defined that term: there is information in the stock market that helps to predict the future unemployment rate.

Figure 1 plots a simple transformation of the value of the unemployment rate, measured on the left axis, and the real value of the S&P, measured on the right axis, in log units. This graph shows a clear correlation between these series and a more careful investigation reveals that this correlation is causal in the sense in which Clive Granger defined that term: there is information in the stock market that helps to predict the future unemployment rate.

  • Don’t Panic — Yet! – “Volatility has returned to the stock market and most of the gains of 2014 were wiped out in the last week. Is it time to panic? Not yet! … For a market panic to have real effects on Main Street it must be sustained for at least three months. And there is no sign that that is happening: Yet.”

Compost brings some climate change good news

October 19th, 2014 Comments off

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning on how  a compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.

The concept grew out of a unique Bay Area alignment of a biotech fortune, a worldclass research institution and progressive-minded Marin ranchers. It has captured the attention of the White House, the Brown administration, the city of San Francisco, officials in Brazil and China, and even House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.

Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.

The experiments were instigated by John Wick and his wife, Peggy, heiress to the Amgen biotech fortune, on a 540-acre ranch they bought in Nicasio. What began as a search for an artist’s studio turned into a seven-year, $8 million journey through rangeland ecology that has produced results John Wick calls “the most exciting thing I can think of on the planet right now.”

Categories: Environment Tags:

Cruelty to pigs and other news and views for Sunday 19 October

October 19th, 2014 Comments off
The primatologist Jane Goodall writes that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined ... they are individuals in their own right.” But when abnormally enclosed, their muscles and bones waste away, and they go insane from boredom. Just as you would if you couldn’t move.

The primatologist Jane Goodall writes that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined … they are individuals in their own right.” But when abnormally enclosed, their muscles and bones waste away, and they go insane from boredom. Just as you would if you couldn’t move.

  • Free Pigs From the Abusive Crates – “Would you cram a dog into a crate for her entire life, never letting her out, until you took her to the pound to kill her? Of course you wouldn’t, and yet that’s effectively what happens to most mother pigs in this country. They spend their lives in what are called gestation crates, tiny stalls that house pregnant sows. They cannot even turn around, and are immobilized in these crates until they are taken to the slaughterhouse.”
  • The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons – “From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”
  • Uncle Sucker to the Rescue – Washington is making all its favorite mistakes in (another) Iraq war.
  • A Blunder Down Under – Waleed Aly in Foreign Policy argues: “Australia is trying to combat homegrown terrorism. Sending 800 police officers and a helicopter after suburban wannabes isn’t how to do it.”

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  • Dogs – ‘A Wolf Called Romeo,’ by Nick Jans, and More – Bronwen Dickey, who is writing a social history of pit bulls and their people, reviews three new titles.
  • What Markets Will – Paul Krugman explains how the financial turmoil of the past few days, especially in Europe, have policy crusaders again sure that they know what the markets are asking for. “It’s also instructive to look at interest rates on “inflation-protected” or “index” bonds, which are telling us two things. First, markets are practically begging governments to borrow and spend, say on infrastructure; interest rates on index bonds are barely above zero, so that financing for roads, bridges, and sewers would be almost free. Second, the difference between interest rates on index and ordinary bonds tells us how much inflation the market expects, and it turns out that expected inflation has fallen sharply over the past few months, so that it’s now far below the Fed’s target. In effect, the market is saying that the Fed isn’t printing nearly enough money.”
  • The bad news about the news – “People living through a time of revolutionary change usually fail to grasp what is going on around them. The American news business would get a C minus or worse from any fair-minded professor evaluating its performance in the first phase of the Digital Age. Big, slow-moving organizations steeped in their traditional ways of doing business could not accurately foresee the next stages of a technological whirlwind. Obviously, new technologies are radically altering the ways in which we learn, teach, communicate, and are entertained. It is impossible to know today where these upheavals may lead, but where they take us matters profoundly. How the digital revolution plays out over time will be particularly important for journalism, and therefore to the United States, because journalism is the craft that provides the lifeblood of a free, democratic society.”

So you think we are doing it tough. Well the figures say Australians continue to be the world’s wealthiest people

October 16th, 2014 Comments off

The annual survey by Credit Suisse continues to show that Australia has the world’s highest median wealth per capita adult. The Global Wealth Report 2014  shows Australia at the top of the list for the fifth consecutive year with wealth of $US 225,000, far above Belgium in second place. On the measure of average wealth Australia comes in second behind Switzerland.

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Credit Suisse says about Australia:

Household wealth in Australia grew at a fast pace between 2000 and 2014 in US dollar terms, except for a short interruption in 2008. The average annual growth rate has been 11%, with about a third of the rise due to exchange rate appreciation. Using constant exchange rates, wealth has grown on average by 4.4% per annum since 2007, compared with a 9.2% rate over 2000–2007. Despite this recent slowdown, Australia’s wealth per adult in 2014 is USD 430,800, the second highest in the world after Switzerland. Its median wealth of USD 225,400 is the highest in the world.

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Interestingly, the composition of household wealth in Australia is heavily skewed towards real assets, which averaged USD 319,700 and form 60% of gross household assets. This
average level of real assets is the second highest in the world after Norway. In part, it reflects a large endowment of land and natural resources relative to population, but it is also a result of high urban real estate prices.

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Only 6% of Australians have net worth below USD 10,000, which can be compared to 29% in the USA and 70% for the world as a whole. Average debt amounts to 20% of gross assets. The proportion of those with wealth above USD100,000 is the highest of any country – eight times the world average. With 1,783,000 people in the top 1% of global wealth holders, Australia accounts for 3.8% of this wealthy group, despite having just 0.4% of the world’s adult population.

 

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Chicken McNuggets? Have a little dimethylpolysiloxane with that

October 16th, 2014 Comments off

Don’t worry. The experts say it does no harm. Just an anti-foaming agent used to control the oil when they fry the McNuggets. But one of the frightening sounding substances that the McDonald’s spin-doctors have to deal with in their new ask-me-anything campaign.

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Time magazine revived the dimethylpolysiloxane matter this time in an article What McDonald’s New ‘Transparency’ Campaign Is Hiding.

Online, McDonald’s answers some questions about its products. So far, I didn’t see any questions (or answers) about antibiotic use or whether its eggs are cage-free, even in its section on “sourcing and sustainability.” Here’s what they do answer. On beef hormones: “Most of the cattle we get our beef from are treated with added hormones, a common practice in the U.S. that ranchers use to promote growth.” On feeding animals GMO feed: “Generally speaking, farmers feed their livestock a balanced diet that includes grains, like corn and soybeans. Over 90% of the U.S. corn and soybean crops are GMO, so cattle, chickens and pigs in our supply chain do eat some GMO crops.”

And while it says it no longer uses so-called “pink slime” in its burgers, it does use an anti-foaming agent, dimethylpolysiloxane, in the oil it uses to cook Chicken McNuggets. It also usesazodicarbonamide, AKA “the yoga mat ingredient,” in its buns and sandwiches, saying it has many uses: “Think of salt: the salt you use in your food at home is a variation of the salt you may use to de-ice your sidewalk.” As for why its U.S. menu contains items that are banned in Europe? “Every country has different food safety and regulatory standards and, because of this, ingredients will vary in our restaurants around the world. But no matter where you’re dining with us—in the U.S. or abroad—you can be assured of the quality and safety of our food.”

And the reason for the attempt to remake the McDonald’s image? Mother Jones explains it this way:

For McDonald’s, 2014 has been like a Happy Meal that’s missing a trinket: a major bummer. Its China operations (along with those other US fast-food firms) got caught up in an expired-meat scandal that pushed down Asian sales. Its US sales are down too, and its share price has fallen about 8 percent over the past three months. Strife among workers over low wages has lingered, and took a nasty turn for the company when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that it’s responsible for employment practices at its thousands of franchises, which it had been using as a shield to protect it from allegations of labor abuse. Insult to injury, a Consumer Reports survey named Mickey D’s signature burgers the “worst-tasting of all the major US burger chains.”

Categories: Eating Tags:

New genetically engineered corn and soybeans approved and other news and views for Thursday 16 October

October 16th, 2014 Comments off

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  • New GMOs Get A Regulatory Green Light, With A Hint Of Yellow – “Government regulators have approved a new generation of genetically engineered corn and soybeans. They’re the latest weapon in an arms race between farmers and weeds, and the government’s green light is provoking angry opposition from environmentalists. The actual decision, at first glance, seems narrow and technical. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it had “registered” a new weedkiller formula that contains two older herbicides: glyphosate (better known as Roundup) and 2, 4-D. Versions of these weedkillers have been around for decades. But farmers in six Midwestern states will be allowed to use the new formula, called Enlist Duo, on their corn and soybeans. And that counts as big news. Farmers will now be able to plant new types of corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered by the biotech company Dow Agrosciences to tolerate doses of those two weedkillers. (The beauty of herbicide-resistant crops is that they make the herbicides exquisitely selective: They kill the weeds but not the crop.) So farmers can spray either glyphosate or 2, 4-D (or both) to wipe out weeds without harming their corn or soybeans.”
  • Tony Abbott’s own side may put paid to parental leave
  • Is the Pope a Communist? – “At the height of the economic crisis, the appearance of the modestly dressed and humble Pope Francis seemed a statement in itself. His relatively non-judgmental approach to homosexuality surprised conservatives and perplexed liberals. His criticisms of capitalism soon after had the Christian world talking again, with many commentators on the left grudgingly welcoming his comments while some figures on the right, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, were less than impressed.”
  • Freedom vs. Stability: Are Dictators Worse than Anarchy? – “Although there is always reason to celebrate the toppling of an autocrat, the outcome of the Iraq war and the rise of Islamic State have demonstrated in horrific terms that the alternative can be even worse.”
  • Thailand’s Leader Hints At Putting Off Return To Democracy

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  • Forget Facebook, Abandon Instagram, Move To A Village – “People who live in a traditional village — that means a community of about 150 people — are far better off than the rest of us. The author of a new book explains ‘the village effect’.”
  • To G-20 Leaders: Urgent Need to Boost Demand in the Eurozone – “No doubt, under their powerful communication weapons, the G-20 Leaders will give the impression that a vast armada is being marshalled to attack the global growth problem. It will look impressive. … But besides the communication strategy success, the truth remains that, in the absence of a major reconsideration of macroeconomic policies, the G-20 meeting in Australia in November will be another non-event.”
  • Do Plastic Bag Bans Work?

2014-10-16_toiletrolls

A whale of a yarn about noise

October 15th, 2014 Comments off

The stress that noise can cause is known to most of us but what about the impact on whales? Not a subject of general discussion but made fascinating by Peter Brannen writing in that wonderful journal Aeon.

An example:

The march of commercial shipping had come to a halt as the world recoiled from the dreadful spectacle of crumbling skyscrapers and plane-shaped earthen scars. But underwater, the acoustic fog that had settled on the oceans for decades had lifted. The researchers found themselves in the middle of an unprecedented, if tragic, experiment. The melancholy days after 9/11 on the Bay of Fundy were a brief return to life in the pre-industrial oceans. As Parks’s team was recording the marine soundscape, Rosalind Rolland of the New England Aquarium was collecting faecal samples – floating whale poop – and measuring them for stress hormones. While Parks’s recordings testified to an ocean silenced by tragedy, Rolland found that the whales’ stress hormones had plummeted as well. The whales, it seemed, had finally relaxed.

Maybe it is the years I spent gazing at migrating whales in the sea below my home in Eden but these whale stories fascinate me. One other thing I learned from this beautifully offbeat article concerns the number of years a whale can live. Writing how hydrophones anchored to the continental slope off California have recorded a doubling of background noise in the ocean every two decades since the 1960s, Brannen notes:

For whales, whose lives can be measured in centuries, the dramatic change to the environment is one that could be covered in the biography of a single whale. As a testament to that longevity, in 2007, during a traditional whale hunt, indigenous Alaskans pulled a bowhead whale out of the water with a harpoon embedded in its blubber that had been made in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the 1800s – a type of weapon that might have been familiar to Herman Melville.

‘It’s very likely that the individuals that were being recorded in 1956 were the same ones being recorded in 2000,’ Parks said. ‘Some of these whales were born before there were motorised vessels in the water at all.’

 

Categories: Environment Tags:

World in 2014 still heading towards a record hot year

October 14th, 2014 Comments off

New global temperature records are normally accompanies by an El Niño event but 2014 is well on the way without one. NASA reported at the weekend that last month was the warmest September globally since records began being kept in 1880. The first nine months of this year are already close to a record high level as well – 0.65 degrees Centigrade higher than the long term average compared with the 0.67 degree record nine months in 2010.

14-10-2014 averageanomalyAccording to Columbia University’s Earth Institute there is a better than 50% chance that a mild El Niño will arrive by year’s end to push temperatures to a new record high level.

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Categories: Environment Tags:

France and Europe’s currency crisis and other news and views for Tuesday 14 October

October 14th, 2014 Comments off

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Bank of England Governor advocates jail terms for guilty bankers

October 13th, 2014 Comments off

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Brisbane’s G20 meeting of world leaders is shaping up to be remembered as the time when the belief that the world’s largest banks were Too Big To Fail finally ended. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney foreshadowed the impending change at the weekend. Mr Carney said the bosses of the big banks behind the 2008 crash should have paid more for their errors, such as handing back severance packages and spending time in jail. The failure to inflict real punishment in both Britain and America had left the global economy exposed to the same risks as it was six years ago, he said.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported:

“They got away with their compensation packages, they got away without sanction,” Mr Carney told the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting in Washington.

“Maybe they were not at the best tables in society after that, but they’re still at the best golf courses. That has to change.”

The Bank has proposed that senior bankers face prison if their organisation fails in the same way that Lloyds and RBS did in the financial crisis.

Curtailing pay alone was not enough to prevent risky behaviour, he said. Top executives should be forced to take full responsibility for the recklessness of their staff.

In his formal address to the 29th Annual G30 International Banking Seminar, Mr Carney said the job of fixing the fault lines cannot be complete without ending Too Big to Fail. He continued:

Operating in a heads-I-win-tails-you lose bubble, the world’s largest banks threatened the stability of the global financial system. Their bail-out using public funds undermines market discipline and goes to the heart of fairness in our societies.

This cannot be allowed to continue.
It is essential that all systemically important financial institutions can be resolved when they fail:
– Without the need for taxpayer support.
– And without disruption to the wider financial system or real economy.
Tackling the rampant moral hazard at the heart of the financial system hasn’t been easy. And our success can never be absolute. Specifically, we can’t expect to insulate fully all institutions from all external shocks, however large.
But we can change the system so that systemically important institutions bear the cost of their own actions and the risks they take.
After much hard work, and extensive cross-border co-operation, the FSB is on track to agree proposals that, once implemented, will be decisive in achieving that.
The use of statutory resolution powers to resolve global systemic banks will finally be possible.
The proposals will be presented to the Brisbane G20 Leaders summit in November.
That Summit will be the watershed in ending Too Big to Fail.
The first is an internationally agreed standard on the total loss absorbing capacity (or TLAC) that globally systemic banks must hold.
It will be based on clear principles. But it will be much more than a list of aspirations. It will include a detailed indicative term sheet that will cover the amount; the type, and the location of that loss absorbing capacity.
It will establish a level playing field between global systemic banks, while taking into account differences in national resolution regimes.

It will ensure globally systemic banks finally have the quantum of total loss absorbing capacity that extensive analysis show balances the benefit of greater resilience against the higher funding costs for the banks that results from the removal of public subsidies.
It will set clear roles for home and host regulators in a resolution.
It will give host nations the confidence that they won’t again be side-swiped by the failure of a large foreign bank.
And, by removing the implicit subsidy that systemic banks have long enjoyed, it will re-establish market discipline.
Once implemented, it will make our financial systems more resilient and our economies stronger.

Categories: Economic matters, Ticket clippers Tags:

After the event Albo

October 12th, 2014 Comments off

Big, brave Anthony Albanese. Toe the party line and keep silent during the parliamentary debate. Wait until the legislation is passed and then pretend you are against it. What a weakie. What a pathetic attempt on Sky Television this morning to suggest Labor has gone too far in supporting the Abbott government’s national security agenda, particularly the new “draconian” restrictions on press freedom which would see journalists jailed for between five and 10 years.

I am judging him for what he is. A politician terrified that the Greens, a party with true left-wing sentiments, will win his seat at the next election.

 

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Antarctic sea ice grows while land ice declines at staggering rate

October 12th, 2014 Comments off
  • NOAA: Record Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Linked To Its Staggering Loss Of Land Ice – “NOAA said in a news release Tuesday that “as counterintuitive as expanding winter Antarctic sea ice may appear on a warming planet, it may actually be a manifestation of recent warming.” The most important thing to know about Antarctica and ice is that a large part of the South Pole’s great sheet of land ice is close to or at a point of no return for irreversible collapse. The rate of loss of that ice has reached record levels, tripling in the last five years alone. Only immediate action to sharply reverse carbon pollution could stop or significantly slow that. And that really matters since 90 percent of Earth’s ice is in the Antarctic ice sheet, and even its partial collapse could raise sea levels by tens of feet (over a period of centuries) and force coastal cities to be abandoned.”
  • Inequality and the Fourth Estate -From the blog of Roger Farmer (no relation but a man with some similar views) – “The power of money to influence elections suggests an answer to what is otherwise a perplexing question. Why are taxes on large estates currently set at such low rates? After all, we live in a democratic society in which the rules of the game are set by elected representatives in which every U.S. citizen gets one vote. Further, as Piketty reminds us, 1% of the U.S. population controls 30% of the wealth. Why don’t the 99%, as a matter of course, choose to confiscate wealth from the richest 1% of the population?”
  • The much-delayed war on procrastination
  • UKIP: How far could they go?
  • Free markets need socialism
  • German model is ruinous for Germany, and deadly for Europe – “France may look like the sick of man of Europe, but Germany’s woes run deeper, rooted in mercantilist dogma, the glorification of saving for its own sake, and the corrosive psychology of ageing.”
  • Hardly anyone uses heroin. So why do we keep freaking out about it?
  • The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy – “The Phoebus cartel engineered a shorter-lived lightbulb and gave birth to planned obsolescence.”

Healthy food costs more and the gap to unhealthy food is growing

October 10th, 2014 Comments off

A new British study tracking the price of 94 key food and beverage items from 2002 to 2012 has found that the price of more healthy foods was consistently greater than that of less healthy foods over the period and that the absolute price gap between healthy and less healthy foods has grown over this period. The authors of “The Growing Price Gap between More and Less Healthy Foods” write that their results tally with the general trend of increasing food prices observed in similar high income nations, as reported in a review, where studies have found that in recent years healthy foods had increased more in price than foods which were less healthy, and that healthier versions of particular foods were more expensive. Another recent review has again found that within given food groups, the healthier option was typically more expensive for meats/protein, snacks/sweets, grains, and fats/oils, whilst healthier dairy foods were found to be less expensive.

 

The authors conclude:

We have demonstrated a novel linkage of existing economic and nutrition surveillance data to assess trends in the prices of foods in relation to their nutritional value. The growing gap in the price of more healthy and less healthy foods revealed by our analysis leads us to suggest that ongoing monitoring of food prices for public health is warranted. The data linkage we describe could underpin such food price monitoring and provide evidence to inform policy responses to the problem of rising food prices.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Eating and drinking the museum exhibits

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

The cultural heritage of New Orleans is clearly on the mend. The city now has a permanent museum for exhibits dedicated to eating and drinking below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum, SoFAB, also encompasses the Museum of the American Cocktail, or MOTAC.

National Public Radio reports at A New Museum To Celebrate Southern Food (And You Can Eat The Exhibits):

“There are art museums all over the place,” says SoFAB founder and director Liz Williams, “and you know what an art museum is — art on the walls, basically. But when you set out to make a food museum, you don’t know what goes in it, exactly.”
Williams has been figuring that out for about 10 years, when she first conceived the idea of a New Orleans food museum. So she created the SoFAB nonprofit, then launched a stand-alone exhibit called “Toast of New Orleans,” a homage to imbibing.
As she has searched for a permanent home for SoFAB over the years, donations have poured in. Menus, advertisements, kitchen tools and appliances, agricultural implements, aprons, flatware, dish sets, spices, soda bottles, chef toques, aprons, pots and pans, cookbooks, recipe cards. The list goes on.
“In a museum [of] design or decorative arts, they’d want everything that’s pretty. But we want everything,” Williams says. “We want the garbage: the can, the label, and how do you open the can? We want the pamphlet with the instructions for that.”

“It’s not just a building,” says Williams, “it’s related to our mission.”
That mission has grown with the new space. SoFAB’s former home, starting in 2008, was a touristy shopping mall along New Orleans’ riverfront. And that’s where the need to include the actual consumption of food and drink along with the exhibits became clear.
A display on absinthe, for example, a significant piece of New Orleans’ drinking history, was exhaustive in its documentation, with posters, artifacts from artists, writers and poets inspired by their drinking of it, delicate glassware and beautiful absinthe fountains. But, Williams says, museum staff kept getting the same question. “What does it taste like?”
And so, in the new SoFAB, guests are not just allowed but encouraged to “get a Sazerac and walk around,” Williams says. A skilled bartender will line your glass with absinthe or Herbsaint as the first step, and no navy-blazered gallery guard will ask you to leave your cocktail at the door.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Not much joy however you look at the unemployment figures

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

However you look at the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for employment and unemployment there is little to be cheerful about. Forget the concerns about seasonal adjustment. The original numbers are clear enough. This year is worse, month by month, than the previous three.

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When it comes to the aggregate number of hours being worked there is no sign of much growth either.

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How much of Africa punishes sodomy and other news and views for Thursday 9 October

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

2014-10-09_sodomy

  • The Closeted Continent – “38 out of 55 African nations have laws punishing sodomy. And things may get worse before they get better.”
  • It’s time to vote for a party that promises to step back and do nothing at all – “In the lead up to next year’s NSW state election, where both sides will offer slight variations on the same theme, it’s time to question the role of state government. … Paul Keating once famously said never stand between a state premier and a bucket of money, but that’s precisely what we need to do. We like to think that Australians have an anti-authoritarian character, yet baulk at putting brakes on power. While it is counterintuitive to the culture of promises, it’s worth considering: would you vote for a party that promises less?”
  • Three Election Trends That Could End in 2014 – “I’m not certain how long a trend has to exist before it earns the status of an immutable political “law,” but three longtime truths are threatened this election cycle. Will all of them fall in November?”
  • The free-will fix – “New brain implants can restore autonomy to damaged minds, but can they settle the question of whether free will exists?”
  • Lawsuit Testing Personhood Of Chimps Gets Its Day At An Appeals Court

Forget about having that cold beer outside – Proposed new Vietnamese law

October 9th, 2014 Comments off
Vietnam plans rule to keep temperature in beer parlours below 30C | World news | The Guardian:

“A Vietnamese government official is proposing that the temperature in restaurants selling beer should not exceed 30C (86F), a rule that will be hard to enforce considering outdoor beer parlours are hugely popular in the country’s big cities.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Nguyen Phu Cuong, an official at the ministry of industry and trade which was drafting the regulation, as saying the rule aimed to “protect consumers”.

Many drinkers, however, say the proposal shows how out of touch officials are because of the popularity of the outdoor bars.”

Categories: Drinking Tags:

Changing fast-food menus to reduce obesity

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

Maybe the fast-food chains are capable of listening to the health experts. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US finds that large chain restaurants, whose core menu offerings are generally high in calories, fat and sodium, have introduced newer food and beverage options that, on average, contain 60 fewer calories than their traditional menu selections in 2012 and 2013. In the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine the researchers note that the appearance of menu items containing 12 percent fewer calories could have a significant impact on the nation’s obesity epidemic.

A press release based on the journal article (which is behind a paywall) says:

On a typical day, studies have shown, 33 percent of young children, 41 percent of adolescents and 36 percent of adults, eat at fast-food restaurants, with an average intake of 191 calories, 404 calories, and 315 calories, respectively.

“If the average number of calories consumed at each visit was reduced by approximately 60 calories — the average decline we observed in newly introduced menus in our study — the impact on obesity could be significant,” says Sara N. Bleich, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School, and lead author of the study.

Using data from MenuStat, researchers looked at menu options in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains for 2012 and 2013. The newer, lower-calorie items fell into the categories of main course, beverages and children’s menus, they found.

Not that it is all good news.

The research shows, these restaurants, for the most part, aren’t offering lower-calorie versions of signature dishes like their high-calorie burgers or pizzas. Instead, the new items that are lower in calories are mostly in different categories such as salads. Some restaurants introduced new burgers, for example, but their calorie counts tended to be more in line with the original items.

“You can’t prohibit people from eating fast food, but offering consumers lower calorie options at chain restaurants may help reduce caloric intake without asking the individual to change their behavior – a very difficult thing to do,” Bleich says. “Given that the federal menu-labeling provisions outlined in the 2010 Affordable Care Act are not yet in effect, this voluntary action by large chain restaurants to offer lower calorie menu options may indicate a trend toward increased transparency of nutritional information, which could have a significant impact on obesity and the public’s health.”

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How Canberra rates with the world and other news and views for Tuesday 8 October

October 8th, 2014 Comments off

2014-10-08_oecdact

currencytogdp

  • Trying to glimpse the ‘grey economy’ – “Despite the growth of online and card payments, the ratio of currency to GDP in the UK has been rising. This column argues that rapid growth in the grey economy has been a key cause. The authors estimate that the grey economy in the UK could have expanded by around 3% of UK GDP since the beginning of the Global Crisis.”
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Act like a loser to get the political donations rolling in and other news and views for 7 October

October 7th, 2014 Comments off
  • ‘Losing Messages’ Boost Online Fundraising – “A recent study by researchers at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of California, Berkeley found that donors and would-be donors are more likely to click on a fundraising email and contribute if the candidate highlights a recent poll that shows him or her trailing by a narrow margin.”
  • Why public investment really is a free lunch – “What is crucial everywhere is the recognition that in a time of economic shortfall and inadequate public investment, there is for once a free lunch – a way for governments to strengthen both the economy and their own financial positions. The IMF, a bastion of ‘tough love’ austerity, has come to this important realisation. Countries with the wisdom to follow its lead will benefit.”

2014-10-07_ralphlauren2

  • The criticism that Ralph Lauren doesn’t want you to see! – “Last month, Xeni blogged about the photoshop disaster that is this Ralph Lauren advertisement, in which a model’s proportions appear to have been altered to give her an impossibly skinny body (“Dude, her head’s bigger than her pelvis”). Naturally, Xeni reproduced the ad in question. This is classic fair use: a reproduction “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting,” etc. However, Ralph Lauren’s marketing arm and its law firm don’t see it that way. According to them, this is an “infringing image,” and they thoughtfully took the time to send a DMCA takedown notice to our awesome ISP, Canada’s Priority Colo. One of the things that makes Priority Colo so awesome is that they don’t automatically act on DMCA takedowns. Instead, they pass them on to us and we talk about whether they pass the giggle-test. This one doesn’t. So, instead of responding to their legal threat by suppressing our criticism of their marketing images, we’re gonna mock them. Hence this post.”
  • NBA lines up $24bn TV deal as demand for live sports escalates – “… more than three times the value of its previous contract.”
  • Alcohol abuse linked to number of licensed premises – “Scottish neighbourhoods with the most licensed premises have the highest rates of alcohol-related illness and deaths, according to a new study.”
  • Drug cheats in sport could benefit ‘for decades’, scientists find
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The big bank scandals just keep on coming

October 7th, 2014 Comments off

The Justice Department is preparing a fresh round of attacks on the world’s biggest banks, again questioning Wall Street’s role in a broad array of financial markets.

With evidence mounting that a number of foreign and American banks colluded to alter the price of foreign currencies, the largest and least regulated financial market, prosecutors are aiming to file charges against at least one bank by the end of the year, according to interviews with lawyers briefed on the matter. Ultimately, several banks are expected to plead guilty.

via Big Banks Face Another Round of U.S. Charges – NYTimes.com.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags: