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Archive for April, 2015

In praise of Alan Jones

April 29th, 2015 Comments off

Political speech for most people can be expensive rather than free. Australia’s defamation laws make it so. And it’s not even a matter of losing a court case at the end. Even for winners the costs of lawyers along the way are crippling. The system is stacked against any person trying to expose what they consider to be impropriety.
So thank goodness for public figures like broadcaster Alan Jones. Call him a shock-jock if you will but he is one of the few media commentators well paid enough to say what he thinks despite the attempts by politicians to silence him with legal actions.
Some times Jones pays a high price for his outspokenness. Damages payments can be expensive. But that does not stop him from keeping on speaking out. As he did during the last Queensland state election when he relentlessly kept pursuing Liberal National Premier Campbell Newman and state Treasurer Jeff Seeney by suggesting they “prostituted” themselves in support of an LNP donor’s controversial coal mine.
Jones ignored the legal stop writs and kept on campaigning. After receiving the legal notices he commented that it was “nice to hear from you, Mr Newman”.

“You remain a bit of a political novice if you think that’s the way to win an election or to silence people, you need to actually think again, but thanks for writing,”

So how good to read today that calling the bluff of Messrs Newman and Seeney worked. The pair of defeated politicians today withdrew their lawsuit. I can only hope that they will have to pay a sizeable amout to cover the broadcaster’s legal costs

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Will Pope Francis make climate change an issue for Tony Abbott

April 28th, 2015 Comments off
  • Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm  – Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far. But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cause they do not believe in.

 

  • Obama Finally Gets Angry At Climate Science Deniers And It’s Hilarious b- President Barack Obama just gave pitch-perfect delivery to one of the most brilliant pieces of writing on climate change you are ever going to see. At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night in DC, Obama used devastating humor to express rare passion and anger over climate science denial.
  • U.S., Japan unveil new defense guidelines for global Japanese role
  • Waiting for the fallout: Australia and return of the patrimonial society – So, Australians have no room for complacency. In an economy dominated by capital, and in the absence of estate taxation—briefly discussed, and quickly dismissed, in the recent Treasury tax discussion paper (Treasury 2015)—there is little to stop the current drift towards a more unequal society from continuing and even accelerating. On the other hand, Australia’s relative success in using the tax and welfare systems to spread the benefits of economic growth provides grounds for optimism. Australia’s experience belies the claim that any attempt to offset the growth of inequality must cripple economic growth.
  • Gay Liberal senator Dean Smith slams Tanya Plibersek over gay marriage move – Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has “wrecked” progress within the Liberal Party towards a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, the Liberal Party’s first openly gay federal parliamentarian says.
  • How Thatcher and Murdoch made their secret deal – In 1981, Mrs Thatcher needed a boost from the press. By supporting Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the Times and Sunday Times, she made sure she got it. Harold Evans, who led an unsuccessful staff takeover bid, recalls a historic carve-up.
  • Elections are now about digital loathing, not what the newspapers say – Wade through the digital comment at the bottom of so many election pieces and you stumble into web swamps heaving with hate. … Apparently today’s version of democratic freedom means avoiding reading something you don’t agree with.
  • “Smaller and simpler” mantra rings through banking boardrooms – Deutsche Bank’s plan to jettison much of its German retail bank and withdraw from one in ten countries sees it join a growing list of banks choosing to shrink and simplify to survive. The benefits of size and reach, for years considered the holy grail of global banking, are now viewed as being outweighed by the cost and complexity of running businesses across dozens of countries. Many bank bosses have given up on trying to offer everything to everyone. But as unwinding years of expansion proves difficult, pressure for action has intensified, from politicians who show little patience with institutions they consider too big and complex and investors wanting more return on equity
  • Could a Carbon Tax Finance Corporate Rate Cuts? – How about using revenue from a carbon tax to help pay for corporate tax rate cuts? That’s the idea proposed yesterday by Rep. John Delaney (D-MD). His political calculation: Democrats would back the bill as a way to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. Republicans would support the plan to cut corporate tax rates while retaining at least some popular business tax subsidies. Delaney would use revenues from a $30-per-ton carbon tax to cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Some of the cash would also provide a tax credit to reduce the burden of the energy tax on low- and moderate-income households. Still other dollars would help coal industry workers who would likely lose jobs as a result of such a tax.

The world-wide growth in house prices

April 27th, 2015 Comments off
  • Since 1900 house prices in advanced economies have increased threefole. The overwhelming hare of this increase occurred  in the second half of the 20th century.

    Since 1900 house prices in advanced economies have increased threefole. The overwhelming hare of this increase occurred in the second half of the 20th century.

    house prices australia

    No price like home: Global house prices 1870-2012 – How have house prices evolved over the long‐run? This paper presents annual house prices for 14 advanced economies since 1870. Based on extensive data collection, we show that real house prices stayed constant from the 19th to the mid‐20th century, but rose strongly during the second half of the 20th century. Land prices, not replacement costs, are the key to understanding the trajectory of house prices. Rising land prices explain about 80 percent of the global house price boom that has taken place since World War II. Higher land values have pushed up wealth‐to‐income ratios in recent decades.

  • Nobody Said That – Imagine yourself as a regular commentator on public affairs — maybe a paid pundit, maybe an supposed expert in some area, maybe just an opinionated billionaire. You weigh in on a major policy initiative that’s about to happen, making strong predictions of disaster. … But nothing you predicted actually comes to pass. What do you do? You might admit that you were wrong, and try to figure out why. But almost nobody does that; we live in an age of unacknowledged error. … Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.
  • 8 Obama Jokes That Stood Out From The White House Correspondents Dinner

poetry

((Click to enlarge)

  • Poetry is going extinct, government data show
  • Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless
  • Can we predict happiness? – What makes us happy? Well-being researchers have identified many variables related to happiness, but we still don’t know exactly how the events of our daily lives combine to influence how we feel from moment to moment. People should get happier when good things happen, but clearly this is not the whole story. We designed a study to investigate the relationship between rewards and happiness. We brought people into the lab and asked them repeatedly about their happiness as they chose between safe and risky monetary options. Risky choices were gambles with equal probabilities (like a coin toss) of a better or worse outcome. If they chose to gamble on a given trial, they then found out whether they won or lost. Based on the data, we developed a mathematical equation to predict how self-reported happiness depends on past events. We found that happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going better or worse than expected.

    Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).

    Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).

PJ O’Rourke tries to make sense of the UK election

April 26th, 2015 Comments off

o'rourke

  • “PJ O’Rourke on the UK Campaign Trail” – In this year’s British general election the traditional two party system looks set to be blown apart with up to seven parties having a say in the result. It could be most interesting campaign in decades but it could also be the weirdest. PJ O’Rourke travels across Britain trying to work out why party politics in the UK is being shaken up. From the Tory heartlands of the South that do not seem that keen on the Tories any more to Labour’s battle for Scotland, PJ meets politicians, pundits and the voters, to find out what it takes to get elected to the mother of Parliaments in 2015.
  • Republicans want a bumper sticker world – The case for Mr Obama is that in seeking to deploy economic and diplomatic power, and to leverage US influence through multinational coalitions, he has recognised the complexities of this new landscape. The case against is that he has sometimes gone too far in drawing the limits of US power. What has been missing is an overarching framework — a set of principles clear and practical enough to deter adversaries and to reassure allies. A grand strategy, in other words, that balances ambition and realism. Republicans used to have a reputation for such thinking. Now they prefer bumper stickers.
  • Humans aren’t the only ones to genetically modify crops. Nature does, too. – Now, as a new study shows, horizontal gene transfer in nature has likely modified some of the very crops we eat without any human input at all. Nearly 300 samples of human-grown sweet potatoes, as well as some wild ones, contain bits of DNA originally found in some of the very bacteria that inspired genetic modification, researchers reported this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their findings suggest we might rethink how “unnatural” GMOs really are.
  • Oklahomans Feel Way More Earthquakes Than Californians; Now They Know Why – A magnitude-3.0 earthquake is small, but most people can feel it. Historically, Oklahoma got less than two of those a year, but in 2013 it became two a week. It’s only gotten more active since then — last year, the state had three times as many earthquakes as in the entire seismically active state of California. This morning, the U.S. Geological Survey will issue its first comprehensive assessment of the hazard posed by earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling. In the preliminary report, the survey details oil and gas-related quakes in eight states. The earthquake surge is strongest in Oklahoma, where the state government has formally acknowledged the link for the first time earlier this week.
  • The Fight Over Canada’s Patriot Act – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has introduced an ambitious and unpopular intelligence reform agenda. Can anyone stop it?
  • The United States Does Not Know Who It’s Killing – A remorseful acknowledgment of the drone deaths of American civilians is not an acceptable answer for a counterterrorism policy out of control.
  • Europe’s asylum seekers and the global refugee challenge – The human tragedy of thousands of asylum seekers floundering—and dying—in the Mediterranean highlights an unprecedented global challenge for the 21st century. … We should by all means tackle this human tragedy and end the horrors being witnessed in the Mediterranean. But we should also recognize that the global problem is getting worse as the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere continue, and people are displaced, killed, and maimed every day. Closing doors and building fences work in very limited ways. Refugees can have an impact on whole societies and regions decades after the tragedies that led to their displacement. Just as we are doing with climate change and global epidemics, it’s time for a global response to the refugee crisis—before it further destabilizes an already fragile global order.
  • Eight officers stormed into my bedroom shouting Met Police’: Reporter’s three-year ordeal ‘for writing story about a fox’

Thoughts of a politician on the paleo diet

April 26th, 2015 Comments off

From the daily email news summary of The New York Times:

 

Categories: Eating Tags:

Thoughts on the UK election and links to other interesting news and views

April 25th, 2015 Comments off
  • UK election: Who will run Britain? – The polls have been static for weeks, with the Conservative and Labour parties stuck on roughly 34 per cent each. So the real drama is likely to take place after 10pm on polling day, as David Cameron, the Tory prime minister, and Ed Miliband, his Labour rival, try to claw their way to power. The bookmakers name Mr Cameron favourite to win most seats in the House of Commons, but expect him to fall short of an outright majority. They reckon Mr Miliband is most likely to be Britain’s next prime minister.
  • Politics and the Australian language – Sexism, plain talking (when it suits them) and obfuscating euphemism: politicians down under abuse language, too
  • Republicans want a bumper sticker world – The case for Mr Obama is that in seeking to deploy economic and diplomatic power, and to leverage US influence through multinational coalitions, he has recognised the complexities of this new landscape. The case against is that he has sometimes gone too far in drawing the limits of US power. What has been missing is an overarching framework — a set of principles clear and practical enough to deter adversaries and to reassure allies. A grand strategy, in other words, that balances ambition and realism. Republicans used to have a reputation for such thinking. Now they prefer bumper stickers.
  • Oklahomans Feel Way More Earthquakes Than Californians; Now They Know Why – A magnitude-3.0 earthquake is small, but most people can feel it. Historically, Oklahoma got less than two of those a year, but in 2013 it became two a week. It’s only gotten more active since then — last year, the state had three times as many earthquakes as in the entire seismically active state of California. This morning, the U.S. Geological Survey will issue its first comprehensive assessment of the hazard posed by earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling. In the preliminary report, the survey details oil and gas-related quakes in eight states. The earthquake surge is strongest in Oklahoma, where the state government has formally acknowledged the link for the first time earlier this week.
  • Clinton Rules – So there’s a lot of buzz about alleged scandals involving the Clinton Foundation. Maybe there’s something to it. But you have to wonder: is this just the return of “Clinton rules”?

Death penalty to follow departure of world leaders

April 24th, 2015 Comments off

The ending of a Jakarta conference attended by the leaders of 22 countries apparently removes the last major obstacle to the death by firing squad of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. In a front page story today The Jakarta Post reports Indonesian Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Wednesday that all preparations for the executions were in place. “We are prepared, so we can decide on a date any time,” he told the House of Representatives.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Murdoch loses his cool because The Sun not attacking Labour vigorously enough

April 22nd, 2015 Comments off

murdoch loses his cook

  • Rupert Murdoch, fearing company’s future, told Sun journalists to get ‘act together’ on Labour coverage – The News Corp chairman –  who owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – visited London at the end of February, and reportedly warned journalists on his tabloid newspaper of the threat a Labour government would have on the company. Last week, in its manifesto, Labour pledged to ensure that no “one media owner should be able to exert undue influence on public opinion and policy makers”. It said: “No media company should have so much power that those who run it believe themselves above the rule of law.” This appears to be a reference to the News UK (the UK’s biggest national newspaper publisher) and the hacking scandal. The Independent reports this morning that the News Corp boss, who has made no secret of his dislike of the Labour leader, told the editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, that he expected the paper to be much sharper in its attacks on Labour.

    the asun n milliband k.itchensA hint of his frustration was evident on Twitter when the News Corp bosswrote: “Cameron’s Tories bash vulnerable Miliband for months with no effect on polls. Need new aspirational policies to have any hope of winning.”

    Two days after Mr Murdoch’s visit the paper devoted a two-page spread to the election – with the left-hand page containing a 10-point “pledge” to voters written by David Cameron. The right-hand side of the spread was an attack on Ed Balls under the headline: “I ruined your pensions, I sold off our gold, I helped wreck [the] economy, Now I’m going to put up your taxes.”

    It is understood that Mr Murdoch reminded executives that Labour would try to break up News UK, which owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. The party has suggested that no owner should be allowed to control more than 34 per cent of the UK media, a cap which would force News UK to sell one of the titles.

Categories: European media, Media Tags:

March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded

April 21st, 2015 Comments off

noaa temperature map for march

  • New Report: March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded – This was easily the hottest March — and hottest January-to-March — on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s latest monthly report … :

    March 2015 was not only the hottest March in their 135-year of keeping records, it beat “the previous record of 2010 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).”

    January-to-March was not only the hottest start to any year on record, it also beat “the previous record of 2002 by 0.09°F.”

    March was so warm that only two other months ever had a higher “departure from average” (i.e. temperature above the norm), February 1998 and January 2007, and they only beat March by “just 0.01°C (0.02°F).”

    Arctic sea ice hit its smallest March extent since records began in 1979.

    Last week, NASA also reported this was the hottest three-month start of any year on record. In NASA’s database, though, this was the third warmest March on record. It was the warmest in the dataset of the Japan Meteorological Agency. These three agencies use slightly different methods for tracking global temperature, so their monthly and yearly rankings differ slightly, even as they all show the same long-term trend driven by carbon pollution.

  • Up to 1m migrants waiting to enter Europe, warns Italian prosecutor
  • Conservative Election Manifesto by Robert Skidelsky – The Conservatives have continued to spin their familiar yarn of having rescued Britain from ‘Labour’s Great Recession’. This, as they must know, is the mother of all lies. The Great Recession was caused by the banks. Governments, the Labour government included, by bailing out the banks and continuing to spend, stopped the Great Recession from turning into a Great Depression. Yet practically everyone seems to believe that the Great Recession was manufactured by Gordon Brown.albrechtsen2
  • Fun times over for power-hungry ICAC – ICAC has unwittingly delivered a model case study of the perverted influence of power within a body charged with hunting down systemic corruption. After being told by Australia’s highest court that you have acted outside your jurisdiction, the normal response is to immediately acknowledge your error, accept it and learn from it. In ICAC’s case, that means returning to its legislative role of investigating serious and systemic public corruption. Instead, this star chamber seems to think it’s part of some kind of tin-pot dictatorship where it can expect government cronies to bolster its power. In its statement, ICAC demanded the NSW government retrospectively amend the ICAC Act to reflect the way ICAC has always operated. Even a first-year law student knows the most basic principle of the rule of law is that laws should be prospective, not retrospective.
  • France’s ‘Pathetic Reality Family Show – Marine Le Pen is betting that this is the far-right National Front’s moment to triumph. But will a feud among the founding family tear the party apart?

Why are politicians still referring to marijuana as a gateway drug?

April 21st, 2015 Comments off

Miriam Boeri, Bentley University

With states legalizing marijuana by popular vote, some politicians, including Boston mayor Marty Walsh and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, are still calling marijuana a gateway drug.

The gateway theory argues that because heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine users often used marijuana before graduating to harder drugs, it must be a “gateway” to harder drug use. The theory implies that there is a casual mechanism that biologically sensitizes drug users, making them more willing to try – and more desirous of – harder drugs.

Yet the gateway hypothesis doesn’t make sense to those who use marijuana or have used in the past. Research shows that the vast majority of marijuana users do not go on to use hard drugs. Most stop using after entering the adult social world of family and work.

So why is it still part of the rhetoric and controversy surrounding the drug? A closer look reveals the historical roots – and vested interests – that are keeping the myth alive.

Explaining hard drug use

When analyzing what acts as a “gateway” to hard drug use, there are a number of factors at play. None involve marijuana.

With so much research challenging the gateway theory, it’s important to examine – and dispel – the research that proponents of the myth latch onto.

But what about all that evidence?

Most of the research linking marijuana to harder drug use comes from the correlation between the two. However, as any junior scientist can tell you, correlation does not mean causation.

Correlation is a first step. A correlation can be positive or negative; it can be weak or strong. And it never means a cause unless a rational reason for causality is found.

The brain disease model, which describes changes in the brain during the progression from drug use to addiction, currently gets a lot of attention as an potential causal link of the gateway theory. For example, in a 2014 article, neuroscientist Dr Jodi Gilman reported that even a little marijuana use was associated with “exposure-dependent alterations of the neural matrix of core reward systems” in the brains of young marijuana users. The reasoning goes that this would predispose them to use other drugs.

But other researchers were quick to point out the flaws of the Gilman study, such as a lack of careful controls for alcohol and other drug use by those whose brains were studied. Nonetheless, Dr Gilman’s research continues to be cited in the news media, while its critics are ignored.

In another study supporting the gateway theory, the authors admit to limitations in their study: that they excluded younger cocaine users from the analysis, as well as older cocaine users who had never used marijuana. This means that those cases that might provide evidence of no gateway effect were left out of the analysis.

One the other hand, there’s a wealth of research showing the flaws in the gateway theory. Unfortunately, the common thread among these studies is that much of them come from outside the US or from grass-roots organizations within the US that are promoting marijuana legalization.

A myth ingrained in politics, perpetuated through policy

So why is it that most of the funded research pointing out flaws in the gateway theory comes from overseas?

Harry Anslinger, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Wikimedia Commons

As Nathan Greenslit explained in an Atlantic article last year, US drug policy began with racist fear-mongering by Federal Bureau of Narcotics director Harry Anslinger in 1937.

The Nixon administration strengthened drug control with the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, against the advice of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse.

Because marijuana is still officially classified in the US as a Schedule I drug with no medical value, carefully controlled research using marijuana must receive approval from several federal departments. On the rare occasions that researchers do get approval, local politics can thwart the study.

Meanwhile, in the United States, addiction researchers and addiction treatment professionals are heavily invested in the weakly supported claim that marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs. For decades, scientists who study addiction have received millions in government and pharmaceutical funding to perpetuate the gateway hypothesis. Many would lose their respected reputations (or continued funding) if a gateway mechanism is not a legitimate research goal.

Those who work in the vast addiction treatment profession are especially invested in keeping the gateway theory believable, since the majority of their treatment patients are marijuana users. Their jobs depend on a belief in addiction as a disease and on marijuana being an addictive drug.

Scare tactics

Today, what started as scare tactics under Anslinger has been “modernizied” (and mystified) by scientific jargon.

Sociologists Craig Reinarman and Harry G Levine described how the media and politicians manufacture drug scares to influence policy. One fear perpetuated is that marijuana use will increase if decriminalized.

But a 2004 study compared Amsterdam, where marijuana was decriminalized, to San Francisco, where cannabis was, at the time, still criminalized. The authors found that criminalization of marijuana didn’t reduce use, while decriminalization didn’t increase use.

The gateway fear has focused mostly on youth. For example, newly-elected Maryland governor Larry Hogan announced that he is against legalization partly out of concern that “marijuana use would increase among young people.” Meanwhile, parents are concerned by recent research showing marijuana’s effect on the brain.

These studies showed structural changes and loss of white matter in marijuana users, although the limitations of these studies and implications were questioned by other research.

But fears of decriminalization resulting in increased use among youth haven’t been supported by research from countries where drugs were decriminalized. Nor has this trend been noted in studies of US states that legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. For example, in an article published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the authors found no evidence that young people had increased marijuana use in states that had legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

The worst impact on kids, according to these authors, was the potential for criminal prosecution.

A gateway to jail

Studies consistently find that the traumatic experience of being arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession is the most harmful aspect of marijuana among young people. Arrest for possession can result in devastating – often permanent – legal and social problems, especially for minority youth and low-income families.

Getting arrested can be a traumatic experience for young people.
‘Cuffs’ via www.shutterstock.com

According to studies by the ACLU, nearly half of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession, and the majority of those arrested were African American. In some states, African Americans were more than eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.

Unfortunately, marijuana legalization has not changed arrests and incarceration disparities for minorities. While African Americans have always been over-represented for drug arrests and incarceration, new research shows African Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession after marijuana reform than all other races were before marijuana policy reform. Although in some states, decriminalization makes possession a “noncriminal” offense, it can still be illegal and can result in an arrest, court appearance and stiff fines.

Marijuana as a gateway – out of hard drugs

On the periphery of the marijuana-as-gateway-drug debates are studies showing marijuana as beneficial for the treatment of opiate addicts.

These have been largely ignored. However, now that marijuana has become legal for medical purposes in some states, new research offers substantial findings that can’t be dismissed.

Crime has not increased in states that have legalized marijuana; it’s actually gone down. Surprisingly, opiate overdose deaths have gone down as well.

As I’ve written previously for The Conversation, anyone who actually talks with problem drug users (and doesn’t simply talk about them) knows that marijuana can help drug users prevent, control – even stop – hard drug use.

If anything, marijuana can work as a gateway out of hard drug use – an exit strategy that needs to be studied and, possibly, implemented at the policy level.

It’s time to move beyond marijuana as a gateway drug and start to study its use as treatment for the deadly, addictive and socially devastating drugs.

The Conversation

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

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Assaults on Jews rose in 2014

April 20th, 2015 Comments off

cartoons

  • Tel Aviv University says violent anti-Semitic attacks spiked in 2014 – An annual report from Tel Aviv University researchers reveals that anti-Semitic incidents rose dramatically worldwide in 2014, with violent attacks on Jews ranging from armed assaults to vandalism against synagogues, schools, and cemeteries.
  • The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State – An Iraqi officer planned Islamic State’s takeover in Syria and SPIEGEL has been given exclusive access to his papers. They portray an organization that, while seemingly driven by religious fanaticism, is actually coldly calculating.
  • Greece Flashes Warning Signals About Its Debt – That Athens might still be exploring ways to restructure its debt underscores how close the country is to defaulting.
  • Greece short-term bond yields hit another high
  • KFC’s new ad sees the peddler of peppered poultry sink to new lows – Few would have thought it possible for KFC to come up with something even more monstrously unspeakable than popcorn chicken, but it’s managed it. The chain is now using orphans to flog its food.
  • The marriage calculus – Women with money and education tend to get and stay married in America. Why don’t working-class women do the same?
  • Why Kill Charlie? – [Slain editor, Stéphane Charbonnier – “Charb”] Charb’s choice of symbolism and rhetoric marked him out as a distinctly old-fashioned leftist – of the kind which has no hang-ups about hurting other people’s feelings and whose instinctive reaction to fascism is to oppose it without equivocation. It also shows that he too had a sense of being embroiled in a “grande bataille” – one that transcended the everyday mediocrity which he scorned in his weekly column entitled “Charb n’aime pas les gens” (Charb doesn’t like people). For Charb the freedom to ridicule was a higher value, beyond normal practical considerations. It was a quasi-religious cause for which he was overtly prepared to sacrifice himself – a show of defiance that is at once inspiring and unnerving. Did he overdo it? Of course he overdid it. Did they have to publish the caricatures? Of course they did not have to publish them. They chose to do so. That is the whole point. Freedom of speech only becomes an issue when others decide to shut you up.
  • Abe breaking arms taboo with Japan’s first defense trade show – Japan will host its first international defense trade show next month, underscoring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bid to loosen the shackles of its postwar pacifist Constitution amid territorial tensions with an increasingly assertive China. … The lifting of the ban on arms exports allows Japan to take part in joint development projects, as well as potentially exporting finished products to bring down unit costs for its military. While talks are underway about a sale of its Soryu submarines to Australia, doubts remain as to the level of success Japan will have in boosting overseas shipments.
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Global military spending decline, a note on Crowding In and the Paradox of Thrift and other interesting bits and pieces

April 20th, 2015 Comments off

military spending

  • Snapshots of Global Military Spending – Since the Great Recession hit, global military spending has dropped a bit (as measured in inflation-adjusted dollars).
  • Crowding In and the Paradox of Thrift – From Paul Krugman’s blog: … these days you can pretty much count on the semiannual World Economic Outlook to offer some dramatic new insight into how the world works. And the latest edition is no exception. The big intellectual news here is Chapter 4, on business investment. As the report notes, weak business investment has been a major reason for global economic weakness. But why is business investment weak? … it manages in passing both to refute a very widely held but false belief about deficits and to confirm a highly controversial Keynesian proposition. The false belief is that government deficits necessarily “crowd out” investment, so that reducing deficits should free up funds that lead to higher investment. Not so, says the IMF: when governments introduce deficit-reduction measures, investment falls instead of rising. This says that the deficits were crowding investment in, not out. And there’s another way to look at it: when governments introduce austerity measures, they are trying to reduce their net borrowing – in effect, they are raising their savings rate. What the IMF tells us is that such attempts to increase saving actually lead to lower, not higher, investment – and since saving equals investment, actual savings fall. So what we have here is an empirical confirmation of the existence of the paradox of thrift! Remarkable stuff.

bouvier's monkey

  • Critically Endangered Monkey Photographed In Congo’s Newest National Park, Ntokou-Pikounda – Two primatologists working in the forests of the Republic of Congo have returned from the field with a noteworthy prize: the first-ever photograph of the Bouvier’s red colobus monkey, a rare primate not seen for more than half a century and suspected to be extinct by some, according to WCS (the Wildlife Conservation Society).
  • Deal Reached on Fast-Track Authority for Obama on Trade Accord – Key congressional leaders agreed on Thursday on legislation to give President Obama special authority to finish negotiating one of the world’s largest trade accords, opening a rare battle that aligns the president with Republicans against a broad coalition of Democrats. In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Marco Rubio: the 2016 presidential campaign’s $40 million man – “Marco Rubio will have the resources necessary to run a first-class campaign, that’s already been determined,” said billionaire Florida auto dealer Norman Braman, a former Jeb Bush supporter who is now one of Rubio’s highest-silhouette donors.
  • Gazing Into Those Puppy-Dog Eyes May Actually Be Good For You – Gazing into your dog’s eyes apparently triggers happy feelings in both parties – suggesting that dogs really may love us back. … If you’re a dog owner, this question may have crossed your mind. Does she really love me, or is she just looking at me that way to get a treat? New research out this week in the journal Science may provide some clues.
  • What in the world does China own?
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

A renewable energy nightmare

April 17th, 2015 Comments off
  • American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare – With climate change already contributing to the frequency and intensity of forest fires and associated loss of forest, the addition of a profitable, extensive, and poorly overseen biomass industry could push the forests further into disrepair.
  • Renewable energy – Not a toy – Plummeting prices are boosting renewables, even as subsidies fall
  • Abbott government’s energy white paper fails to face reality – By failing to take global warming seriously, the white paper discourages solar power, encourages doomed coal investment, hobbles the RET, and misses the chance to raise petrol taxes.
  • Bali tourist areas exempt from beer ban – The Trade Ministry’s new regulation on alcoholic beverages, scheduled to take full effect on Thursday, will not be enforced on Bali as the ministry has decided that tourism areas would be exempted from the ban.On Thursday minimarkets, small vendors and beachside beverage vendors across the country were to stop selling beer. Bali administrations, retail associations and vendors had expressed opposition against the beer ban
  • The Jakarta Post | Editorial – Stop drinking? – Simple solutions are appealing, a fact that politicians here and everywhere know well. As such, it has not only been moralists pushing for legal instruments to regulate behavior at the local and national levels. The latest evidence is a bill that seeks to ban liquor, which has received backing from almost all political parties that control the House of Representatives. It is appealing to millions of citizens concerned over violent drunks and long-term excessive consumption of liquor. Though we share the concerns, which, along with smoking, contribute to the ruin of poor families, we oppose the bill, which is driven not only by the Islamist political parties.
  • The Westminster museum of artless bullshit: a look inside the post-debate spin room – Spin doctors scurry around trying to parrot the same scripted observations to as many hacks as possible – frankly, the whole thing is crying out for infiltration by a telly satirist

choice on anz

Lies, damned lies and the British election and links to other interesting stories

April 16th, 2015 Comments off
  • Lies, damned lies and the British election – Promises mean little when the parties have only the vaguest idea of how things will turn out
  • Blackwater’s Legacy Goes Beyond Public View – “This industry is now truly global,” said Sean McFate, author of “The Modern Mercenary,” a book on the private security industry. “That’s the legacy of Blackwater — they didn’t really make the business, but they’ve symbolized it. They’ve become the hood ornaments for an industry that was for centuries pretty much illegal, and now it’s pretty much re-emerged.”

ft shame

ft editorial

  • From today’s Financial Times of London editorial – a bit different to our Financial Review?
  • U.S. Soldiers, Back in Iraq, Find Security Forces in Disrepair – American troops returning for the first time since 2011 said they were stunned by the state of the army they had once trained.
  • Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change – Catholic officials announced on Tuesday plans for a landmark climate change-themed conference to be hosted at Vatican later this month, the latest in Pope Francis’ faith-rooted campaign to raise awareness about global warming. The summit, which is scheduled for April 28 and entitled “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” will draw together a combination of scientists, global faith leaders, and influential conservation advocates
  • Meet The World’s Expert On Climate Change And ‘Game Of Thrones’ – She is not Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. She is Manjana Milkoreit, a post-doctoral Fellow with the Walton Sustainability Fellowship Program at Arizona State University. …  If you are wondering how one becomes the world’s expert on climate change and “Game of Thrones” [aka GOT], the answer is two things. First, you write a 40-page scholarly paper, “Winter is Coming”: Can Game of Thrones change Climate Change Politics? Then you get Reuters to write a story about you, “Is ‘Game of Thrones’ aiding the global debate on climate change?”
  • Driver’s License Suspensions Create Cycle of Debt
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Are big banks just licensed thieves? A ticket clippers update

April 16th, 2015 Comments off

Earlier this week it was just the National Australia Bank fessing up that its UK arm had cheated customers. Today the NAB is among the financial institutions that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission is investigating for charging clients for financial advice that was never given.

Not that the update by ASIC named those helping it with its enquiries. The corporate cop still seems strangely diffident about naming and shaming. You have to look elsewhere to discover that it is the wealth arms of the Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, ANZ Bank, Macquarie Group and AMP that is being investigated.

Still, I suppose a semi-silent investigation is better than no investigation.

The ASIC statement:

ASIC today provided an update on its Wealth Management Project which is focusing on the conduct of the largest financial advice firms.

ASIC is investigating multiple instances of licensees charging clients for financial advice, including annual advice reviews, where the advice was not provided.  Most of the fees have been charged as part of a client’s service agreement with their financial adviser.

Deputy Chairman, Peter Kell said: ‘ASIC will consider all regulatory options, including enforcement action, where we find evidence of breaches of the law relating to fees being charged where no advice service has been provided. We will look to ensure that advice licensees follow a proper process of customer remediation and reimbursement of fees where such breaches have occurred.’

The ASIC Wealth Management Project was established in October last year with the objective of lifting standards in major financial advice providers. Under this project ASIC is carrying a number of investigations and is conducting a range of proactive risk-based surveillances with particular focus on compliance in large financial institutions.

ASIC’s investigations are continuing.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Moore’s Law at 50

April 15th, 2015 Comments off
Here's a figure showing the trends of semiconductor output and price over time. Notice that both axes are measured as logarithmic scales: that is, they rise by powers of 10. The price of a transistor was more than a dollar back in the 1950s, and now it's a billionth of a penny.

Here’s a figure showing the trends of semiconductor output and price over time. Notice that both axes are measured as logarithmic scales: that is, they rise by powers of 10. The price of a transistor was more than a dollar back in the 1950s, and now it’s a billionth of a penny.

  • Moore’s Law at 50 – the driving force behind information and communications technology has been Moore’s law, which can understood as the proposition that the number of components packed on to a computer chip would double every two years, implying a sharp fall in the costs and rise in the capabilities of information technology. But the capability of making transistors ever-smaller, at least with current technology, is beginning to run into physical limits. IEEE Spectrum has published a “Special Report: 50 Years of Moore’s Law,” with a selection of a dozen short articles looking back at Moore’s original formulation of the law, how it has developed over time, and prospects for the law continuing.
  • An economic future that may never brighten – Martin Wolf on how the decline in potential growth leads to debate about the savings glut and secular stagnation

break your routine

  • Is Your Job ‘Routine’? If So, It’s Probably Disappearing – The American labor market and middle class was once built on the routine job–workers showed up at factories and offices, took their places on the assembly line or the paper-pushing chain, did the same task over and over, and then went home. New research from Henry Siu at the University of British Columbia and Nir Jaimovich from Duke University shows just how much the world of routine work has collapsed. The economists released a paper today, published by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, showing that over the course of the last two recessions and recoveries, a period beginning in 2001, the economy’s job growth has come entirely from nonroutine work.
  • The Cost of Trout Fishing – If we continue to ignore the impact of hatchery fish on aquatic ecosystems, we will soon regret what has been lost.
  • Can the Greens keep the bastards honest? – The Greens have continually defied predictions they will go the way of the Australian Democrats, but they do face some challenges to the slow gains they’ve made over the decades, writes Mike Steketee.

game of thrones

  • ‘Game of Thrones’ Ratings: HBO Show Returns With Series High – Once considered something of a niche show, “Thrones” is now delivering numbers topped on cable only by AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Nielsen estimates than an average audience of about 8 million watched the initial telecast of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday — up 1.16 million viewers (or 17%) from its year-ago debut of 6.84 million. It’s also about 800,000 more than any other episode of the show to date.
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A warm world for a Paris climate meeting?

April 14th, 2015 Comments off

The odds are increasing that the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris from 30 November until 11 December will come at the end of another record hot year for the planet. January and February provided the warmest start to a calendar year apart from 2007 and an emerging El Niño is laying the foundation for hot temperatures to continue.

el nino alert (1)

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology today upgraded its ENSO Tracker to El Niño ALERT. This means the likelihood of El Niño developing in 2015 is at least 70%. All international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate that El Niño thresholds will be reached or exceeded by June. Earth’s previous hottest years have coincided with an El Niño

el nino predictions

The BOM reports:

All eight of the surveyed international climate models indicate the central Pacific Ocean will warm further during the coming months. All surveyed models indicate that NINO3.4 will reach or exceed El Niño threshold levels by mid-year. All models suggest that SSTs will remain above threshold levels for a sustained period. The average value of NINO3.4 expected by the end of the southern winter is about +1.5 °C; however, it is too early to determine with confidence how strong this potential El Niño could be.

Model outlooks spanning February to May (the traditional ENSO transition period) have lower confidence than forecasts made at other times of year.

The political speculator’s diary: No false modesty here. Late acting on my post!

April 8th, 2015 Comments off

No false modesty here. Late acting on my post!

dollar trades

Click to enlarge

I prefer the explanation that the lads just took some time to act on my post of yesterday.

Anyway there was another modest collect with $82 jumping in which at least put me modestly in front on my interest rate predictions.

The all-time profit on all predictions now stands at $1252.49. (See The portfolio – the record so far for full details).

So far this calendar year we have had a turnover of $700 for a profit of $542).

This blog, as well as being a bit of fun, does have the serious purpose of letting people check my record as a political pundit. I note that not many of me peers are game to keep a score sheet.

via The political speculator’s diary: No false modesty here. Late acting on my post!.

Categories: Betting Tags:

A depressing view of economics and elections and links to other interesting news and views

April 7th, 2015 Comments off
  • Economics and elections – A depressing quote or two from Paul Krugman: Economics and Elections: [A] large body of political science research [on elections shows] … What mainly matters is income growth immediately before the election. And I mean immediately: We’re talking about something less than a year, maybe less than half a year. This is, if you think about it, a distressing result, because it says that there is little or no political reward for good policy. A nation’s leaders may do an excellent job of economic stewardship for four or five years yet get booted out because of weakness in the last two quarters before the election. … What, then, should those of us who study economic policy and care about real-world outcomes do? The answer, surely, is that we should do our jobs: Try to get it right, and explain our answers as clearly as we can. Realistically, the political impact will usually be marginal at best. Bad things will happen to good ideas, and vice versa. So be it. Elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth.
From The Laughing Bone where I learned Lemming suicide is fiction. Contrary to popular belief, lemmings do not periodically hurl themselves off of cliffs and into the sea. Cyclical explosions in population do occasionally induce lemmings to attempt to migrate to areas of lesser population density. When such a migration occurs, some lemmings die by falling over cliffs or drowning in lakes or rivers. These deaths are not deliberate "suicide" attempts, however, but accidental deaths resulting from the lemmings' venturing into unfamiliar territories and being crowded and pushed over dangerous ledges. In fact, when the competition for food, space, or mates becomes too intense, lemmings are much more likely to kill each other than to kill themselves.

From The Laughing Bone where I learned: “Lemming suicide is fiction. Contrary to popular belief, lemmings do not periodically hurl themselves off of cliffs and into the sea. Cyclical explosions in population do occasionally induce lemmings to attempt to migrate to areas of lesser population density. When such a migration occurs, some lemmings die by falling over cliffs or drowning in lakes or rivers. These deaths are not deliberate “suicide” attempts, however, but accidental deaths resulting from the lemmings’ venturing into unfamiliar territories and being crowded and pushed over dangerous ledges. In fact, when the competition for food, space, or mates becomes too intense, lemmings are much more likely to kill each other than to kill themselves.”

  • Are Money Managers Lemmings? – It was once widely believed that the rise of professional investors would make financial markets less prone to manias, panics and crashes. Lately, the opposite belief has begun to take hold. … a burgeoning new official literature on the problems with asset managers. … The main problem with asset managers, one learns from reading (or, in a couple of cases, skimming) these papers and reports, is that they behave too much like other asset managers. That is, they “herd” — buying into particular securities or asset classes mainly because lots of other asset managers are doing it. In the process, they make market highs go higher and market lows go lower. This acknowledgement that professional investors don’t automatically drive prices toward something close to their correct levels is a welcome shift in economic consensus.
  • A Penny for Your Sugar: Setting a Price on Sin – What do you have to drink in your refrigerator? I’ve got kids in grade school, and our fridge always holds their favorite: Juice boxes filled with 100% apple juice. I felt pretty good about that “100%” until I looked at the label. There are 18 grams of sugar in one 6.75-ounce serving. Coca Cola? Six ounces contain 19.5 grams. Oops. Look: Sugar tastes great, but in excess, it can do a real number on a waistline. I can take some solace in the fact that my kids’ juice has no added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends that we all cut back on added sugar to help curb obesity. Sugar-added beverages are pretty popular, and given the US obesity rate and its associated costs, they pose a problem. Can the problem be solved with a sin tax? Or in this case, as it’s more palatably known, a “soda tax?” (That is not an all-inclusive term, it just rolls off the tongue more easily than “sugar-added beverage tax.”)
  • Clinton campaigns for underdog status – As Hillary Clinton prepares to announce her long-awaited second bid for the White House, her advisers are touting a new strategy to dispel the air of inevitability that hangs over her candidacy.

capitalism

  • How Criminals Built Capitalism – Whenever buyers and sellers get together, opportunities to fleece the other guy arise. The history of markets is, in part, the history of lying, cheating and stealing — and of the effort down the years to fight commercial crime. In fact, the evolution of the modern economy owes more than you might think to these outlaws. That’s the theme of “Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds, and the Rise of Modern Finance” by Ian Klaus. It’s a history of financial crimes in the 19th and early 20th centuries that traces a recurring sequence: new markets, new ways to cheat, new ways to transact and secure trust. As Klaus says, criminals helped build modern capitalism.
  • At this election, British politicians can afford to speak out against Rupert Murdoch – In the past all parties have played it safe but after the phone-hacking scandal, with its exposure of the abuse of power, they have nothing to lose but their fear

An interest rate cut by Reserve Bank narrowly favoured

April 6th, 2015 Comments off

The Owl’s election indicator narrowly supports the view that the Reserve Bank board will decide to lower official interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

april 2015 interest rates

The curse of the petrified pollster

April 6th, 2015 Comments off
  • Election punditry is tricky when the polls are this greasy – “Miliband flops”, crows the Telegraph. “Miliband riding high”, replies the Mirror. But that brings us to the heart of the problem: the curse of the petrified pollster.
  • In poverty-stricken Philippine militant breeding ground, farmers plow in fear – Two months ago, the farmer’s marshland village of Tukanalipao was the site of a daylong battle between Muslim militants and police that left more than 60 people dead as security forces hunted down alleged top terrorists. The latest carnage has seriously jeopardized efforts to end a four-decade Muslim separatist rebellion that has claimed 120,000 lives, dimming hopes again that people such as Pangaoilan will be able to prosper in peace.
  • The hidden penalties of being a mother in the workforce – … it’s called the Motherhood Penalty. … According to Diversity Council Australia, mothers experience a 17 per cent loss in wages over a lifetime. They take an average 4 per cent pay cut after the birth of their first child and a 9 per cent cut for each subsequent child.
  • Malaysia opposition faces challenging times – Nurul Izzah, daughter of Malaysia’s jailed opposition leader, thinks Malaysia is becoming Islamicised, under the guise of a Malay agenda.
  • Johnston Press shows there is life in local newspapers yet – “The digital tipping point” has been reached, declares Ashley Highfield. He’s the man who swapped developing new technology at the BBC such as the iPlayer for an ink-stained desk at Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.
  • Science vs Conspiracy: Collective Narratives in the Age of Misinformation – In spite of the enthusiastic rhetoric about the so called collective intelligence unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories—e.g., chemtrails, reptilians or the Illuminati—are pervasive in online social networks (OSN).
  • The mute button – The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance. But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception.

Joe Hockey and tax and things – The Owl gets a larger audience

April 5th, 2015 Comments off
  • The bankers behind Hockey’s tax Re:think – “When Joe Hockey delivered Re:think – Better tax, better Australia, he employed the Coalition’s preferred method of delivering policy: eschew details in favour of three-word slogans. Hence the official summation of this week’s taxation conversation starter: Lower, simpler, fairer.” Looking at the detail of the prelude to the government’s make-or-break 2015 budget, Richard Farmer finds telltale thumbprints of Hockey’s internal office. In choosing advisors, Hockey has forgone the choice of previous treasurers: experienced political operatives sceptical to the pleading of business. Instead, Hockey has filled his office with those very people: ex-banking executives and corporate bosses.
  • This Woman’s Job Is to Recast Hillary Clinton’s Image – To get a brief reprieve from the pressures of working in the White House, Kristina Schake, a former aide to the first lady, Michelle Obama, took a class about her favorite painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. … Having helped shape Mrs. Obama’s public image into that of an accessible everywoman, Ms. Schake is about to face what may be her toughest challenge yet: working to get another first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, elected president.

heretic

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Heretic’ – Following the events of the Arab Spring, Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes in her latest book, “Heretic,” she came to the conclusion that “ordinary Muslims are ready for change.” Hirsi Ali has strong thoughts on what form that change should take for Muslims: a major overhaul of their religion. “Without fundamental alterations to some of Islam’s core concepts,” she says, “we shall not solve the burning and increasingly global problem of political violence carried out in the name of religion.”
  • Inside the List – At least since the frenzied days after 9/11, some pundits have called on moderate Muslims to criticize the more extreme elements of their faith from within. Ayaan Hirsi Ali would seem to fit the bill: Born in Somalia to a Muslim family, she fled to the Netherlands rather than submit to a forced marriage, and has since been vocal in chastising radical Islam for its embrace of violence as well as its treatment of women, gay people and nonbelievers; in short, she’d like to see Islam evolve to become more secular and ecumenical. … A professed liberal, she applied for work with left-leaning think tanks when she moved to America in 2007, but found no takers. “They didn’t say it to my face, but I got the feeling that they were uncomfortable with what I had been saying about Islam,” she told the author Sam Harris last year. Instead she found a home with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which seems at peace with her message that Islam is a religion of war.

havoc

  • All hail the messy Pope? – The dramatic gestures and demotic pronouncements of this extraordinary pontificate usually require some decoding, as well as an informed understanding of the culture in which their initiator was shaped. This is a task for which Ivereigh, a journalist and commentator with a published doctorate on religion and politics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Argentina, is well qualified.
  • Gender difference in moral judgments rooted in emotion, not reasoning, study finds – If a time machine was available, would it be right to kill Adolf Hitler when he was still a young Austrian artist to prevent World War II and save millions of lives? Should a police officer torture an alleged bomber to find hidden explosives that could kill many people at a local cafe? When faced with such dilemmas, men are typically more willing to accept harmful actions for the sake of the greater good than women. For example, women would be less likely to support the killing of a young Hitler or torturing a bombing suspect, even if doing so would ultimately save more lives.
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Blades and bones: Pigstock festival of pork – FT.com

April 4th, 2015 Comments off

The pig is carefully chosen and dispatched in its pen in the woods. The process is remarkably quick and strangely peaceful. We join in hefting the carcass into the bucket of a tractor and then follow it quietly back to the central clearing of the encampment. The big Austrian hangs it, head down, from the digger bucket and calmly talks us through the evisceration. The cooks carry the choicest offal to their fires, while a woman takes the spleen from which she scrapes the pulpy meat to be cooked and smeared on toast. This is carried back to the watching circle along with the brain, scrambled with eggs.

Pigstock is most emphatically not like Woodstock. It’s an annual private event run by Tom Adams, one of the founders of the successful Pitt Cue restaurant in London. It’s a little bigger than a party and a little smaller than a local festival and held on the farm of a family friend in Cornwall. The vibe is relaxed, welcoming and gently lubricated with alcohol but it has nothing to do with music. Each year, the participants get together to celebrate cooking and eating pork.

via Blades and bones: Pigstock festival of pork – FT.com.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Corporate traders aren’t exactly saints, either – FT.com

April 4th, 2015 Comments off

Every few months now, it seems, another price manipulation scandal emerges. First, it was bank traders fixing Libor, the interbank lending rate, in exchange for steak dinners and bottles of Bollinger. Then, many of the same banks were accused of doing much the same thing to foreign exchange rates. From there, the investigations have spread to traders of precious metals. Critics say the burgeoning probes are proof positive that banks have a cultural problem.

Now comes a complaint from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission that accuses Kraft Foods Group and Mondelez, the sister companies created by the 2012 break-up of Kraft Foods, of manipulating the price of wheat. According to the CFTC, while still combined as Kraft Foods, the group bought a “huge” wheat futures contract in order to push down the prices of actual wheat for sale in Ohio, near the mill that made flour for the group’s cookies and crackers.

While Kraft routinely bought wheat futures contracts as a price hedge, it almost always closed them out in favour of buying wheat on the local market, the complaint said. That is because futures wheat is lower quality and costs much more to transport to the mill. But, in late 2011, Kraft bought $90m in contracts, 87 per cent of the market for that particular date, and then took delivery of some of the wheat. Prices in the local wheat market fell as farmers reacted with fear to Kraft’s new source of grain. The company then sold most of its futures, netting more than $5.4m on all the price moves.

via Corporate traders aren’t exactly saints, either – FT.com.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Backing Labour’s Millliband to become UK Prime Minister

April 4th, 2015 Comments off

The opinion polls have the UK election at level pegging. The market has the Conservatives at $1.51 to win the most seats. On Betfair David Cameron is $1.75 to continue as Prime Minister after the election with Labour’ David Milliband at $2.34. To me those odds just don’t make sense.

Here is how The Guardian assesses what the current polls would produce:

(Click to enlarge)

Sure the Conservatives by that calculation should be a narrow favourite on the most seats market. But Cameron favourite to continue as PM?
Here is how The Independent assessed things this morning:

Because Labour-held constituencies are smaller than Conservative ones, it is easier for Labour to win most seats. Even though Labour continues to be at risk of heavy losses in Scotland, our latest seat projection puts the party on 293 seats, eighteen ahead of the Conservatives on 275.
With Nick Clegg projected to secure just 16 seats, the Prime Minister would be left with too few allies to be able to sustain a government. The 48 MPs that might be won by the SNP together with their Welsh and Green allies would be able to carry out their threat to block Mr Cameron’s path back to power.

Yet this how the Betfair markets have moved.
Winner of most seats
PM after next election

I already have had a couple of investments on Labour to win the most seats (see Details HERE). But to me the most likely result is a hung parliament and that the Scottish National Party will end up giving the initial nod to David Milliband. Hence my 100 unit investment on him at the $2.34.

Categories: Betting, UK election Tags:

Green Energy Investments Worldwide Surge

April 3rd, 2015 Comments off

religions

Click to enlarge

  • World’s Muslim Population Will Surpass Christians This Century, Pew Says – Islam is growing more rapidly than any other religion in the world, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center that says the religion will nearly equal Christianity by 2050 before eclipsing it around 2070, if current trends continue. … The finding is part of the center’s report on the future of the world’s religions. You can see the full report at the Pew site, which has also published an interactive tool to help readers drill down by geography and religion.
  • Iceland has a radical plan to redefine money – Iceland’s prime minister commissioned a report from Frosti Sigurjónsson, a parliamentarian, that argues banks shouldn’t have the power to create money.
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Making individual tax returns public information by putting them on the web

April 2nd, 2015 Comments off
  • Should Individual Tax Returns Be Public Information? – Norway is the world leader in disclosure of income tax information. … In the fall of 2001, a national newspaper offered online access to tax information for the whole population through the web version of the newspaper, and soon all of the major national newspapers followed. Now, one could simply sit at home by the computer and obtain information about relatives, friends, neighbors, or celebrities. … The web pages offering search engines for tax information have been among the most popular websites in Norway, especially shortly after the release of new annual information.
  • German government approves controversial fracking bill – German cabinet has decided to allow shale gas fracking in Germany, but only under strict regulation and for testing purposes. Even so, lawmakers criticized the proposed bill for not being strict enough. According to the government proposal, fracking should be prohibited in so-called sensitive regions such as nature parks or water bore areas, and in depths above 3,000 meters. However, the bill allows for exceptions such as scientific tests, and it does not eliminate the possibility of commercial drilling past 2018. The public remains hostile to the plan, with environmentalists, unions and even churches criticizing the proposal. There is even strong resistance within the ruling coalition itself, which holds 504 out of 631 seats in the German parliament.
  • .N. site on flight in conflict zones to start up Thursday – The website, a test program proposed after a Malaysian airliner was downed in Ukraine last year, will be accessible to the public at the url www.icao.int/czip starting on Thursday.
  • Where the right to speak is howled down – It is hard to avoid the depressing conclusion that at Sydney University today mob rule works. – Peter Baldwin, minister for higher education (1990-93) in the Hawke-Keating government, writing in The Australian

russian growth

  • Russia Economic Report 33: The Dawn of a New Economic Era? – The World Bank projects a negative growth outlook for Russia in 2015-2016, with the economy expected to contract by 3.8 percent in 2015 and modestly decline by 0.3 percent in 2016.
  • In 20 years, the world may run out of minable gold – According to Goldman Sachs, the world has about 20 years’ worth each of known minable reserves of gold diamonds and zinc. Platinum, copper and nickel reserves only have about 40 years or less left.
  • Obama Removes Weapons Freeze Against Egypt – Seeking to repair relations with a longtime ally at a time of spreading war in the Middle East, President Obama on Tuesday lifted an arms freeze against Egypt that he had first imposed after the military overthrow of the country’s democratically elected government nearly two years ago. Mr. Obama cleared the way for the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 Abrams tanks, weapons prized by Egyptian leaders, who have smoldered at the suspension. In a telephone call, Mr. Obama assured President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt that he would support the full $1.3 billion in annual military assistance the Cairo government traditionally receives, even as others seek to cut it, the White House said.
  • The U.N.’s War on Israel – The United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It was intended to be a temple of peace, but this once great global body has been overrun by the repressive regimes that violate human rights and undermine international security.
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