Author Archive for

05
Jul
14

Roundup – Anthropology Rap

Quote o’ the Week:

f. Coffeenerdness II: Then, just 45 minutes out of Regina, we stopped in Moose Jaw at a Tim Horton’s. Busy morning at the Moose Jaw TimHo’s.

No. Stop. No one, no one calls it that. Why are you like this? Why?

- Adam, “Fun with PK (Canada Edition)” [KSK]

Best of the Best:

The photos North Korea didn’t want you to see  [Jenni Ryall on News AU]

Photographer Eric Lafforgue has ventured into North Korea six times. Using digital memory cards he smuggled out images of the communist nation he was forbidden to take. Mr Lafforgue wanted to show that North Koreans are humans, not robots, who also suffer.

Getting the Sex You Want is Good for Your Relationship [Dr. Benjamin Le on Science of Relationships]

Researchers asked more than 1000 U.S. married couples about their desired and actual sexual frequency. Spouses who weren’t getting as much sex as they desired were less satisfied and thought about ending their marriages more often, had less positive communication with their partners, and reported more conflict. Similarly, the spouses of sexually unfulfilled individuals reported these same negative outcomes (i.e., if you aren’t getting the sex you desire, your partner is less satisfied etc.). While these effects are likely reciprocal, getting the sex you want is associated with better relationship quality for both you and your partner.

Are Millennials Really the “Hook-Up Generation”? [Dr. Gary Lewandowski on Science of Relationships]

Although a common narrative, do the data support the notion that today’s young adults are “hooking up” more than previous generations? In short…no. A sociological study using the General Social Survey comparing hook-up rates among today’s students with students from a decade ago found that both groups reported similar rates of hooking up.3 Specifically, 31.9 % of students from 1988-1996 reported having more than one sexual partner in the past year, whereas 31.6% of today’s college students reported having more than one sexual partner in the past year.

Santa Barbara Massacre Defies Gun Control, Mental Health Proposals: 4 Blunt Points [Paul M. Barrett on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Forget conventional gun-control proposals. These provisions may make sense to deter many kinds of wrongdoing, but they don’t apply to the suicidal young man determined to express his pain and rage by taking innocent people with him. Elliot Rodger, the self-pitying Santa Barbara killer, passed background checks—three times—as he bought his Glock and Sig Sauer pistols. He didn’t need an “assault weapon,” or military-style semiautomatic rifle. Ordinary handguns did just fine. He didn’t need large-capacity ammunition magazines; those are already illegal in California. He planned ahead: three pistols in case one jammed, and more than 40 10-round mags, which provided ample ammo for his deadly mission. California has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the country, far more stringent than what the federal government imposes. Those laws didn’t stop, or even significantly slow, Rodger.

Which Cities Sleep in, and Which Get to Work Early [Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight]

[The 20 most nocturnal metro areas, by the median time of arrival at work] break down into three rough categories. First are those like New York, San Francisco and Boston, which are home to a lot of young, creative professionals. Next are college towns such as Ithaca, N.Y. (Cornell University); Lawrence, Kan. (the University of Kansas); and Logan, Utah (Utah State University). Finally are cities such as Atlantic City, N.J., Orlando, Fla., and Miami, whose economies are associated with recreation, tourism and gambling. A quarter of the workforce in Atlantic City doesn’t begin its workday until 11:26 a.m. or after.

Breaking the Five-Minute ‘Beer Mile’ Brews Controversy [Zusha Elinson on The Wall Street Journal]

Since its origin on college campuses in the late 1980s, the beer mile has grown into an underground phenomenon. Thousands of people, including some professional athletes, have sought to be the fastest in the world at chugging a 12-ounce beer, running one lap, then repeating the uncomfortable, belch-heavy process three more times. Adherents call it the most “glorified” of the “digestive athletics”—a realm that includes competitive eating contests—but it has remained mostly in the shadows. Mr. Nielsen’s record-setting 4:57 run catapulted the obscure sport onto a larger stage with more than one million views of a YouTube video of his feat. The first world championship is now being planned for this year. Mr. Nielsen, a 34-year-old sales executive who ran competitively in college, says he has been approached with endorsement offers from apparel and beer companies. But sudden fame has come with a price: questions about the record-setting race are being raised by beer-milers who have examined his video like assassination theorists poring over the Zapruder film. In online forums, some accuse Mr. Nielsen of gaining an unfair advantage by somehow de-fizzing the four cans of Budweiser he drank. Others question why he didn’t flip the first can upside down above his head to prove that he had completely drained its contents, as custom demands.

The Return of Local Currencies [Liz Farmer on Governing Magazine]

To work well, local currencies require a dedicated administrator who’s able to consistently promote and recruit new businesses. The Ithaca Hours program had that in its founder Paul Glover, who says he once sat down with a business owner who had too many Hours and wanted out of the system. He used his own money to exchange $100 worth of Hours and then helped devise a plan for how the owner could spend the remaining Hours locally on goods and services he needed. But since Glover handed over the Hours to a board a decade ago, the currency’s circulation has greatly diminished. The economic benefits touted by supporters — that local currencies protect mom-and-pop shops against the aggressions of big box retailers that send their profits outside the community — aren’t proven. And, says Loren Gatch, a political science professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, the financial impact is negligible because local currencies represent a tiny fraction of the U.S. dollars circulating in communities. But there can still be an upside: In just three years, the Bnote has gone from 55 participating Baltimore businesses to 220. Eight years ago, BerkShares were accepted at 100 businesses; now more than 400 retailers in the region accept them.

How to Get Rich Just by Moving [Ben Steverman on Bloomberg]

Feel like moving to Pittsburgh? Now there’s a city in a sweet spot, with cheap prices and, according to new BEA data that adjust average incomes for local inflation, relatively high incomes. Pittsburgh is 6.6 percent cheaper than the national average, and residents are the 36th best-paid in the U.S., bringing home almost $48,000 annually per person.

Monica Wehby’s Run for the Oregon Senate Results in Awkward Questions About Her Personal Life  [Mark Z. Barabak on The Los Angeles Times via Governing Magazine]

A relative moderate on issues like abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage, she fit the mold of Republicans who have won statewide office in the past. Then, just before the May 20 primary, reports surfaced regarding Wehby’s personal life _ a bitter divorce, a difficult romantic breakup, calls to the police by her ex-husband and a former boyfriend, who both accused her of harassment. Suddenly, her candidacy came under much harsher scrutiny and Oregon became the latest testing ground in the ever-fraught battle over politics and gender. Democrats, already pressed to keep their Senate majority, have quietly pushed the Wehby-as-stalker story, even as the incumbent, Jeff Merkley, distances himself to avert any backlash. Republicans have seized on the revelations, unearthed by Democratic research, to accuse the party of waging a war on women, hurling back the phrase Democrats use to attack GOP candidates on issues like contraception and equal pay.

The 1 Work Hack That Will Save You 900 Hours a Year [Dave Kerpen on Inc.]

During every call or meeting, no matter how short it is, I won’t end the discussion until everyone clearly understands their next steps, and until I’ve actually begun any next steps of my own. In other words: Begin your next steps during a meeting, and you will never have to spend a minute reviewing notes or figuring out what’s next…A good rule of thumb is to reserve 20% of every minute to review next steps. If it’s a five-minute meeting, take one minute; a 30-minute meeting, take six minutes; or an hour-long meeting, 12 minutes. During that time, make sure everyone understands what they need to do next, and if there’s time, begin the next steps in earnest.

Work Creates Less Stress Than Home, Penn State Researchers Find [Elizabeth Bernstein on The Wall Street Journal]

In a new study, published online last month in Social Science & Medicine, researchers at Penn State University found significantly and consistently lower levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, in a majority of subjects when they were at work compared with when they were at home. This was true for both men and women, and parents and people without children…The majority of subjects had on average lower levels of cortisol at work than at home. It made no difference what their occupation was, whether they were single or married or even if they liked their job or not. One intriguing finding: The only participants who didn’t have lower levels of cortisol at work—their levels remained the same as at home—were those who earned more than $75,000 a year. (The researchers, who didn’t pursue that finding for this study, said they believe the salary bar would have been higher in a city with a more expensive standard of living.) The study also found that while both parents and childless adults were less stressed at work, the difference was greater for people without children. Researchers say this may be because parents bring some home stress to work with them, or because children may help relieve stress at home. Both men and women showed less stress at work. But women were more likely to report feeling happier there. Men were more likely to feel happier at home. The researchers say this may be because women still do more housework and child care and may feel they have less free time.

Dimon’s Raise Haunts BNP as U.S. Weighs $10 Billion Penalty [Greg Farrell and Tiffany Kary on Bloomberg]

When JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s Jamie Dimon got a 74 percent raise in January, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara fumed. He had forced the bank just weeks before to pay $1.7 billion for enabling Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. And yet Dimon was being rewarded. Now, five months later, Bharara’s frustration is directed at another bank.

Guest Post: Afghanistan – Obama’s War [Steve Hanke, Professor of Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University via Zero Hedge]

Graciana del Castillo, one of the world’s leading experts on failed states, has just written a most edifying book on the Afghan war (Guilty Party: The International Community in Afghanistan. Xlibris, 2014). Del Castillo’s book allows us to finally understand just what a fiasco the Afghan war has been. Why is Afghanistan, as Bob Woodward correctly termed it, Obama’s war? Del Castillo’s sharp pencil work shows that during the period 2002-2013, $650 billion have been appropriated for the Afghan war effort, and a whopping $487.5 billion of that (or 75 percent) took place after President Obama took office. If one pulls apart that $650 billion price tag, a variety of interesting sleights-of-hand emerge. For example, about $70 billion was disbursed to what is euphemistically termed “reconstruction.” But, in reality, 60 percent of this $70 billion (or $42 billion) was actually spent on beefing up the Afghan National Security Forces. And not surprisingly, 75 percent of the $42 billion spent on national security forces was spent under President Obama’s watchful eye. To put these outsized numbers into perspective, just consider that the total cost of the Afghan war from 2002-2013 amounts to $7089 per American taxpayer (based on the number of income tax returns). More revealing is the fact that the annual expenditure rate under the Bush administration was already $222 per taxpayer. Then, it exploded to an annual expenditure rate of $1329 per taxpayer under President Obama. In addition to laying out the phenomenal spending magnitudes on President Obama’s watch, del Castillo demonstrates just how unsustainable all this Afghan spending is. For example, in 2013, the United States financed over $5 billion of the $6.5 billion needed to field the Afghan National Security Forces. This $5 billion of U.S. financing was roughly 10 times more than the Afghan government actually spent from its own revenue sources. In fact, the U.S. funding of Afghan forces was almost three times the total revenue collected by the Afghan government.

What Corrupt States Spend Their Money On [Liz Farmer and Kevin Tidmarsh on Governing Magazine]

The study found that high levels of corruption in a state can shape its budget allocation. More corrupt states tended to spend money on construction, highways, and police protection programs, which provide more opportunity for corrupt officials to use public money for their own gain. These states spend less on health, education, and welfare, which provide less opportunity for officials to collect bribes, according to Indiana University’s John Mikesell, who co-authored the report with Cheol Liu of the University of Hong Kong.

5 facts about today’s college graduates [Drew Desilver on Pew Research Center]

Only about 56% of students earn degrees within six years. The National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit verification and research organization, tracked 2.4 million first-time college students who enrolled in fall 2007 with the intent of pursuing a degree or certificate. The completion rate was highest (72.9%) among students who started at four-year, private, nonprofit schools, and lowest (39.9%) among those who started at two-year public institutions.

In Nevada, nobody wins (sort-of) [Steven Shepard on Politico]

Nevada Democratic leaders acknowledged earlier this year that they had failed to recruit a credible candidate to face GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in the fall. And on Tuesday, Silver State Democratic primary voters agreed, casting more votes for the state’s quirky “none of these candidates” option than any one of the eight actual humans on the ballot. “None of these candidates” earned 30 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race, outpacing the leading actual candidate, Robert Goodman, a retired state Economic Development commissioner from Las Vegas who’s run statewide twice before and shares a last name with the Vegas mayoral dynasty, at 25 percent. But according to state law, Goodman will win the nomination.

World Cup Opinions in 19 Countries: Likes, Dislikes, Predictions [Gregor Aisch, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy on New York Times Upshot]

A strong plurality of fans in only three countries — Argentina, Brazil and Spain – predict their own country to win the tournament. (A plurality in the United States also picked the home team to win, against all odds, but that plurality consisted of only 14 percent of Americans; the rest picked another team or said they didn’t know who would win.) Everywhere else, the most common prediction was Brazil. In many countries, the home team was the second- or third-most commonly predicted winner. One notable exception: England. The English just don’t believe in their team anymore.

How Comments Shape Perceptions of Sites’ Quality—and Affect Traffic [Adam Felder on The Atlantic]

A couple of weeks ago, National Journal changed its comments policy, opting to eliminate comments on most stories as a way to stem the flood of abuse that appeared on the site. Naturally the comment-section reaction to that announcement helped reinforce the reason editors said comments had to go in the first place. For all the boycott threats and comparisons to Hitler, though… the site seems to be doing better now. If anything, user engagement has increased since the comment policy changed. Pages views per visit increased by more than 10 percent. Page views per unique visitor increased 14 percent. Return visits climbed by more than 20 percent. Visits of only a single page decreased, while visits of two pages or more increased by almost 20 percent…Respondents who saw comments evaluated the article as being of lower quality—an 8 percent difference. In other words, authors are judged not just by what they write, but by how people respond. The presence of comments did not make a statistically significant difference in a person’s likelihood to read more content by the same author, nor did it make an appreciable difference in respondent self-reported mood. The comments used in the sample group are perhaps worse than many Internet comments. They aso represent only a small sample of the whopping 7,725 comments—many of them negative or downright offensive—on the actual article. It’s easy to see how a reader might reassess her opinion of an article after catching a glimpse of thousands of negative opinions about it. There are good options for encouraging reader feedback: nice moderated comment sections, forums that build community, quick exchanges on Twitter, or lengthy feedback over email. But unmoderated comments appear to have a small, but real deleterious effect on readers’ perception of the sites on which they appear. And that appears to have implications for the bottom-line metric on the web: traffic.

Berkshire’s Radical Strategy: Trust [Andrew Ross Sorkin on New York Times Dealbook]

As Pollyannaish as Mr. Munger may sound, his view has a profound counterintuitive truth to it: Behavioral scientists and psychologists have long contended that “trust” is, to some degree, one of the most powerful forces within organizations. Mr. Munger and Mr. Buffett argue that with the right basic controls, finding trustworthy managers and giving them an enormous amount of leeway creates more value than if they are forced to constantly look over their shoulders at human resources departments and lawyers monitoring their every move.

Here’s Why the Student Loan Market Is Completely Insane [Eric Chemi on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Any other market with such varying default rates would feature borrowing rates that are varied to match more appropriately: Students from Stanford and Yale would pay far less than students at the University of Phoenix. That doesn’t happen in the student loan market—and that creates all kinds of skewed incentives. Subsidies go to the wrong people: taxpayers (and high-performing students) subsidize loans to below-average schools, because students at these poor-performing schools are loading up on much more debt than they should take on, at interest rates too low for their high risk of default.

When Michael Jordan Wore 45 [Zachary Crockett on Priceonomics]

The Bulls had struggled without Jordan during the 1994-95 season; by mid-March, they were 31-31. Then, with a two-word press release — “I’m Back” — Jordan made his glorious return. But when Jordan trotted out on the court on March 19, 1995, it was without his trademark 23 jersey. Upon his return, he’d made it clear that he wouldn’t be wearing number 23 again, since it was the last number his father had seen him play in; the number was immediately retired to Uniter Center’s rafters during a ceremony. This disallowed anyone else in the franchise to wear 23 — including MJ himself. For 22 games, Jordan played as number 45, but things just weren’t the same. Though he performed well (he scored 19 points in his first game back), many claimed he’d lost some of his mojo; the new jersey number became a scapegoat. While the Bulls rallied and managed to make it to the 1995 Eastern Conference Semi-finals, Jordan’s number debacle reached a tipping point. With 10 seconds on the clock in game 1, Orlando’s Nick Anderson stole the ball from Jordan — a play that led to the Magic’s game-winning basket. “Number 45 is not number 23,” Anderson told the press after the game. “I couldn’t have done that to number 23.”

Rekindled Iraq Conflict Stirs U.S. Veterans [Ben Kesling on The Wall Street Journal]

“When I left in April 2009, I said, ‘In five years there’ll be a civil war,’ ” said Keith Widaman, a former Marine staff sergeant who helped train Iraqi law enforcement during his deployment. “The Sunnis were stockpiling weapons and they weren’t using them against us. They were just holding on to them.”

How do we die? What killed Americans in 1900 vs. 2010 [Kyle Kim on The Los Angeles Times]

The most visually striking difference is the enormous decline of infectious diseases (pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, etc). Advances in medicine and society have largely eradicated many of these diseases that were an overwhelming cause of death in 1900. Nephropathy (kidney disease) and cerebrovascular disease (stroke) have also seen sharp declines in the last century, while cancer, diabetes and heart disease have all now become major causes of death. Senility stopped being recorded as a cause of death in mid-1910. Alzheimer’s started being recorded in the late 1990s. If you’re a silver-linings kind of person, the news is still generally on the upswing: people are dying from what were once the leading causes of death at half the rate as they were in 1900.

The Complicated History Of ‘Tetris,’ Which Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary Today [Karyne Levy on Business Insider]

In 1988, Nintendo was working on its Game Boy handheld gaming system. When Rogers flew to Moscow to get the rights to “Tetris,” he struck a deal that would change history forever: exclusive pack-in rights for the game to be bundled with the Game Boy, rather than the company’s own game, “Super Mario Bros.” “I convinced the CEO of Nintendo of America, Minoru Arakawa, to include ‘Tetris’ rather than ‘Mario’ by saying to him, ‘If you want little boys to buy your machine include ‘Mario,’ but if you want everyone to buy your machine, include ‘Tetris,’” Rogers tells Business Insider. “I guess it worked. People say ‘Tetris’ made Game Boy and Game Boy made ‘Tetris.’ Both statements are true.”

Life Insurers Treat E-Cigs Just Like Other Cigarettes [John Tozzi on Bloomberg Businessweek]

A survey of 151 life insurance underwriters at a conference last week showed that nine in 10 considered e-cig users to be smokers. The survey, conducted by Munich American Reassurance Company, captured responses from about 20 percent of conference attendees. The majority said their companies didn’t yet have specific policies for e-cigarettes. The dilemma for life insurers is that even if electronic cigarettes turn out to be safer than their tobacco counterparts, the insurers have no way to tell the difference between a smoker and vaper. Underwriters ask people applying for life insurance about their tobacco use and then verify those responses with a blood or urine test for cotinine, a product of metabolizing nicotine found in both products.

Most Income Inequality: U.S. Cities [Bloomberg Visual Data: Bloomberg Best (and Worst)]

Income inequality is greatest in Atlanta, New Orleans and Miami

Curiously Strong Remains:

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26
May
14

Roundup – Fireproof

Best of the Best:

Remembering Brandon Lee’s Death 20 Years After ‘The Crow’ [Joel Stice on Warming Glow]

The scene that took Lee’s life was rather simple compared to the previous action sequences, calling for a .44 Magnum revolver to be cocked and pointed at the camera. To achieve the close-range of the camera shot, the bullets loaded had real brass caps, but no powder. The mistake happened when the freelance arms-master, James Moyer, was told by Carolco Studios he would no longer be needed and that the prop-master could finish the remaining scenes. After the closeup shot, the props-master dry-fired the gun, which knocked the slug off an empty cartridge and into the gun’s barrel. The gun was then loaded with powerful blanks that when fired by actor Michael Massee, propelled the slug out of the barrel and into Lee.

Newly Engaged Couple Receives Incredible Outpouring Of Insincerity From Family, Friends [The Onion]

“Oh my god! I’m so happy for you two!!!!” wrote Lyons’ old high school friend Jennifer Mescudi, whose hollow Facebook post was but one of dozens of congratulations from people who privately doubted the solidity of the relationship, only liked either the bride or the groom, or privately informed other friends that they gave the marriage 12 months tops.

Epic Fails of the Startup World [James Surowiecki on The New Yorker]

The eighteenth-century Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon, who coined the term “entrepreneur,” defined it as a “bearer of risk.” And in 1921 the economist Frank Knight argued that the function of entrepreneurs was to “specialize in risk-taking.” Yet studies of entrepreneurs find that, in general, they’re as risk-averse as everyone else. Only when it comes to starting a business are they daring. And that’s because the fundamental characteristic of entrepreneurs isn’t risk-seeking; it’s self-confidence. A 1997 study in the Journal of Business Venturing found that entrepreneurs are overconfident about their ability to prevent bad outcomes. They’re also overconfident about the prospects of their business. A 1988 study in the same journal of some three thousand entrepreneurs found that eighty-one per cent thought their businesses had at least a seventy-per-cent chance of success, and a third thought there was no chance they would fail—numbers that bear no relation to reality. A recent paper called “Living Forever” notes that entrepreneurs are more likely than other people to overestimate their life spans.

Crows Understand Water Displacement Better Than Your KidRead more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/crows-understand-water-displacement-better-your-kid-180950318/#rJHCrTEwTRuu39gy.99
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Crows Understand Water Displacement Better Than Your Kid [Rose Eveleth on Smithsonian]

Crows are clearly the evil geniuses of the bird world. Years of exploring crow intelligence have revealed that these birds are terrifyingly smart. And now new research confirms that crows understand a concept that most children don’t: water displacement…In the study, researchers put pieces of meat floating in long narrow glasses. The crows not only figured out that they could add objects to the glass to bring the treat to them, but they also went for the food in glasses with the highest water levels first.

This Chart Shows Just How Popular ‘Game Of Thrones’ Has Become [Josh Kurp on Warming Glow]

Despite the lack of Ser Pounce, last Sunday’s Game of Thrones was watched by 7.2 million people, a number that doesn’t include the millions more who “borrowed” their parents HBO GO password. That’s the highest rating not only this season, but of the entire show — it was bigger than Blackwater, bigger than the Red Wedding, bigger than every season finale. You cannot stop the Game of Thrones; you can only hope to contain it, but much like Jaime in a cage, it’ll probably still find a way to escape.

‘Mom’s Night Out’ Is A PG-Rated, Faith-Based Mom-Com: Viewer Discretion Advised [Heather Dockray on FilmDrunk]

Watching Mom’s Night Out, you might think it’s all good clean mom-edy. But humor is rooted in anxiety, and Mom’s Night Out is deeply nervous about the modern era. Men like Allyson’s husband flail at babysitting because they’re men – meant to work and throw big rocks and bone from the top. Women like Allyson and her friends can’t go out because they’re moms – meant to care and clean and fake full-body orgasms.

Harvard Student Group Cancels ‘Satanic Black Mass’ After Outcry [John Lauerman on Bloomberg]

Harvard University extension school students planning a “satanic black mass” canceled the event after an outcry by administration, students, faculty and religious leaders. The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club had decided to move the event off campus last night after widespread objections, and no other location was willing to host it, according to an e-mailed statement from the group.

America’s Thirst for IPA Beers Trickles Down to the Hop Farmers [Vanessa Wong on Bloomberg Businessweek]

As craft continues to rise, U.S. farmers are turning out more aroma hops. The country’s primary hop growing state, Washington, historically had about 70 percent of its acreage in alpha varieties and 30 percent in aroma. During the past few years the ratio has shifted to about 50-50, and the outlook for 2014 is 40 percent alpha to 60 percent aroma. The shift to pricier varieties is helping hop farmers turn profits on a crop that has lost money for years; the industry suffered an oversupply during the recession. George says prices are likely to remain high in the near term to pay for infrastructure improvements to meet craft brewers’ more demanding requirements. An average-sized grower in the Pacific Northwest will be investing upwards of $5 million, she estimates. The change has also led to an increased number of hop farms, many of which are small and supply only local brewers located outside the main growing region in the Northwest. According to the recently released U.S. Agriculture Census (PDF), there were 166 hop farms in 2012 compared to 68 in 2007. Craft beer, it seems, isn’t just luring new brewers and drinkers.

Income Inequality Is Higher In Democratic Districts Than Republican Ones [Joshua Green and Eric Chemi on Bloomberg]

32 of the 35 districts in which inequality is greatest are represented by Democrats (Republicans represent two; the other is vacant)…These data highlight an interesting dilemma for Democrats. Clearly, extreme inequality correlates strongly with Democratic political representation. As the income inequality grows, that will pose a threat to Republicans—and it’s why President Obama and the Democrats are talking so much about it. But as my Bloomberg News colleague Michael C. Bender notes today, this is unlikely to yield near-term gains for Democrats. Of the 100 districts with the highest levels of inequality, not one held by a Republican is considered to be in play this November.

The Secret Brazil Happy Meal McDonald’s Keeps Under Wraps [Denyse Godoy on Bloomberg]

After employees who rejected its regular menu of hamburgers and french fries on work breaks filed a complaint to prosecutors, the local operator of McDonald’s restaurants was required to provide dishes more in keeping with the local cuisine. While the meals don’t appear on behind-the-counter menu displays at the 816 McDonald’s across the South American country, they’re available to customers too. Just ask to see the “pratos executivos,” or “businessman’s specials.” With 35,429 restaurants in 119 countries, McDonald’s has long offered food tailored to local tastes, from the McKafta in Egypt to the Filet O Shrimp in Japan and the McVeggie burger in India. While the Brazilian options are kept under wraps, they’re available for purchase to avoid criticism the restaurant is serving employees special meals customers can’t buy.

When Can you Expect To Get Divorced? [Alex Mayyasi on Priceonomics]

The fact that over 10% of American marriages end within 5 years — and that only about half last “until death” — does not speak well of an institution meant to be permanent. But the data does not support the popular image of marriage lasting only a few years. Divorce rates are higher in the first 5 or so years, but at a rate you might expect. It’s hardly an epidemic. The spike in divorces after 5-7 years of marriage is also trumped by many other factors. One study using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that among couples who did not complete high school, half of all marriages ended in divorce. In contrast, the divorce rate among college graduate couples was 30%. This widely found result is not destiny. Rather it reflects that college graduates tend to marry later and have higher incomes, whereas poverty and getting married young both have been found to increase the risk of divorce…But even by the crude instrument of divorce rates, pessimism about matrimony appears overblown. The latest US census data shows that among marriages that began in the late nineties, the percentage that lasted at least 5 years is the highest it has been since Lyndon Johnson served as president. Reports of the demise of marriage have been greatly exaggerated.

The Most And Least Expensive Places In The World For A Cheap Date [Deutsche Bank via Zero Hedge]

And as we did last year, we focus on one specific subindex [3]: that looking at the price of “cheap dates” around the world. The index consists of i) a standard bouquet of roses, ii) cab rides, iii) pizza, iv) a soft drink, v) two movies tickets and vi) a couple of beers. While once again there is no data on the “hit rate” of said basket in culminating with a desired date “end goal”, what is clear is that the disparity between the most (London ) and least expensive (Mumbai) place for a cheap date is vast, at nearly five times, yet the difference continue to surge (the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, but all want to procreate) and is nearly double the 250% difference observed just one year ago.

Brushing Teeth With Sewer Water Next Step as Texas Faces Drought [Darrell Preston on Bloomberg]

The Texas city of more than 104,000, suffering the worst drought on record, is about to become the first place in the U.S. to treat sewage and pump it directly back to residents. People who live in Wichita Falls, northwest of Dallas on the Oklahoma border, say they’ll buy more bottled water and try not to think about what’s flowing through their pipes when they bathe, brush their teeth and make soup…Sewage has long been reused. Astronauts in the International Space Station turn urine back into drinking water. In Israel, more than half the water used in agriculture comes from treated sewage, according to the Israel Water Association. Only a few places around the globe, including Windhoek, Namibia, recycle it directly.

New World’s Oldest Skeleton Is a Key Genetic Link [Robert Lee Hotz on The Wall Street Journal]

As a specimen, the skeleton, belonging to a girl 15 or 16 years old, was formally designated HN5/48, but those who handled her bones have nicknamed her Naia, after the water nymphs of Greek mythology. Her remains embody the past and the present. She doesn’t look very much like a contemporary Native American. Her face instead resembles a modern African, indigenous Australian or Pacific Islander, the scientists said. Such differences have fueled theories that these first paleo-Americans and modern Native Americans have no kinship. Yet by the evidence of her maternal DNA—cross-checked by three independent laboratories—she is the ancestor of many Native Americans alive today, the researchers said. They share a unique genetic signature, called haplogroup D1, today found only in the indigenous people of the Americas, the researchers said.

Nice Is Tough Sell in Nebraska as State Ads Battle for Tourists [Mark Niquette and Jennifer Oldham on Bloomberg]

Washington pulled the plug on “SayWa” after only six months in 2006 when critics found it baffling. After more than two decades of “Georgia On My Mind,” the Peach State tried “Put Your Dreams in Motion.” That one died amid comparisons to Coca-Cola Co.’s catastrophic change to its signature soft drink’s formula in 1985. Alaska used “B4UDIE” for a month in 2005. The ads looked like vanity license plates, but conjured a frigid demise straight out of Jack London…Nationwide, tourism generated $887.9 billion in direct spending last year and $133.9 billion in revenue for governments, the U.S. Travel Association said. In Nebraska, it’s the third-largest income generator, bringing in $3.1 billion in 2012, according to a state-commissioned study last year. “Visit Nice” has a dual meaning, said Angela White, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Tourism Commission. It combines how people feel about the state with individual experiences at events such as the College World Series and Sandhill crane migration. Still, lacking snow-capped peaks or sugar-white beaches, Nebraska has to try harder, White said.

Pervasive Child Marriages Add to Women’s Struggles, Report Shows [Sandrine Rastello on Bloomberg]

More than 142 million girls from India to Niger will be married before they turn 18 over the next decade, increasing their chances of being illiterate, victims of domestic violence or infected with HIV, a World Bank report showed…The bank said child marriage remains “pervasive” in developing economies, with one in three girls wedded before 18 and one in nine before 15. A third of the world’s child brides live in India, according to the report, and girls from poor households in rural areas are most at risk.

Health Insurance and Death Rates [Christine Vestal on Stateline]

The authors caution that their conclusions, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, may not apply to all states, and other studies have shown little correlation between having insurance and living longer. Nevertheless, the Harvard study adds to a growing body of evidence that having health insurance increases a person’s life expectancy…In 2002, the Institute of Medicine estimated that the death rate of the uninsured is 25 percent higher than for otherwise similar people who have health insurance. According to the study, 18,000 excess deaths occurred each year because 40 million Americans lacked insurance. But a 2009 rebuttal study by Richard Kronick of the Health Research and Education Trust found that when adjusted for health status and other factors, the risk of subsequent mortality is no different for people who lack insurance than for those who are covered by employer-sponsored plans…The Harvard researchers compared Massachusetts death rates from 2001 to 2005 to the four-year period after the new health care law was enacted, and found that the mortality rate decreased by 3 percent between 2006 and 2010. Using county-level mortality rates from the CDC, they compared 4 million Massachusetts residents (the entire population from age 20 to 64) to a control group with similar demographics in counties in other New England states. Greater access to health care may have prevented as many as 320 deaths per year, the authors estimated. Changes were most pronounced in Massachusetts counties with lower household incomes and higher uninsured rates. According to the authors, providing health coverage to 830 uninsured adults prevented one death per year.

How the Real Atlantis was Drowned [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

Ever heard of the city of Helike? For a long time it was as lost (and considered as mythical) as the city of Atlantis. Then one day someone found a coin from Helike, and the search was on. Take a look at how people found the ancient city of Atlantis — on land…Helike was built on a liquefaction zone. When an earthquake hits such a zone, the soil suddenly behaves as though it were water. Suddenly, all the buildings sink like they were dropped on the sea. Meanwhile, the sea — and any surrounding groundwater, is rushing upwards to meet them. In 373 BC, an earthquake turned the ground beneath Helike into liquid, and the entire city sank into a newly-made lagoon. Meanwhile, parts of the coast in the area broke off and slid into the sea, causing a massive tidal wave that rushed across the sea, rebounded off the far coast, came back, and buried the sunken city under water. A day and night of misfortune, and Helike was gone. Over time, silt and dirt washed into the lagoon and it dried up, burying the city in dirt. The lost Atlantis isn’t lurking under the sea. It’s buried in the ground.

Real-Life Scientists Who Meddled With Life and Death [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

Sergei Bryukhonenko attached his newly-invented heart and lung machine to a dog’s head and kept it alive for quite some time, lying on a plate and eating and drinking. Though these experiments were distasteful, at least they had a clear medical purpose and their results wound up saving many human lives. Vladimir Demikhov, meanwhile, just went nuts and decided to make two-headed dogs for a while. He managed to successfully put one dog’s head on another dog’s body twenty times over, but none of the two-headed dogs lived longer than a month.

Deep Thoughts With the Homeless Billionaire [Devin Leonard on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Twelve years ago, Nicolas Berggruen sold his apartment, which was filled with French antiques, on the 31st floor of the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. He said he no longer wanted to be weighed down by physical possessions. He did the same with his Art Deco house on a private island near Miami. From that point on he would be homeless. Now he keeps what little he owns in storage and travels light, carrying just his iPhone, a few pairs of jeans, a fancy suit or two, and some white monogrammed shirts he wears until they are threadbare. At 51, the diminutive Berggruen is weathered, but still youthful, with unkempt brown hair and stubble. There’s something else he hung on to: his Gulfstream IV. It takes him to cities where he stays in five-star hotels. In London, he checks into Claridge’s. In New York, he’s at the Carlyle Hotel. In Los Angeles, he takes a suite at the Peninsula Beverly Hills.

The Biggest Science Fiction Movie Hoaxes (and Scams) of All Time [Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders on io9]

An enterprising group of people set up a “production” company to film a horror movie called Wood Evil in Inchnacardoch Forest, near Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands. They set about “casting” extras and charging £60 to be in the film. This might have been just a small time scam, but the production company over reached and contacted the tour company VisitScotland in what could only have been an attempt to get busloads of eager tourists to be “cast” in their movie. VisitScotland appears to be the source who tipped the authorities off about the scam. And needless to say, the local constabulary was not amused. Similar scams were set up around the Twilight sequels, as every desperate Twihard was attempting to get close to their chosen hairless idol.

Bill & Hillary Forever [John Heilemann on New York Magazine]

[O]n September 11, [2008] Barack Obama made the pilgrimage to Harlem to have lunch with Bill Clinton. The meal was the first tête-à-tête between the soon-to-be president and the former one since the unpleasantness of the ­Democratic nomination contest, and feelings on both sides were still raw and fraught with suspicion. Clinton’s staff had wanted to include a Harlem stroll and ­photo op as part of the visit, but Obama’s people demurred—a standoff that led each camp to ascribe race-related motives to the other. Eager to avoid awkwardness, Obama kept the conversation focused on governance, not politics. But at the end, Clinton offered to hit the campaign trail for, or with, the nominee. Obama, fighting a stomach bug, said okay and then beat a hasty exit to avoid upchucking on Clinton’s shoes. In truth, neither side was delighted at the prospect of Clinton stumping for Obama. The latter’s team believed that he wouldn’t move many votes, and were only interested in having the two men appear onstage together to stop the press from harping on the fact that they had not. Clinton, meanwhile, was still simmering over his treatment during the primaries—in particular over Obama’s assertion, before the Nevada caucuses, that “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that … Bill Clinton did not.” On countless conference calls with his wife’s campaign, Clinton had returned obsessively to the slight, which he saw not as a gambit to get inside his head (which it was) but as Obama’s genuine opinion. “He would have been less angry if he thought it was tactical,” a former Clinton aide remembers. “But he thought Obama actually believed he was a shitty president.”

Boss Rail [Evan Osnos on The New Yorker]

The Wenzhou crash killed forty people and injured a hundred and ninety-two. For reasons both practical and symbolic, the government was desperate to get trains running again, and within twenty-four hours it declared the line back in business. The Department of Propaganda ordered editors to give the crash as little attention as possible. “Do not question, do not elaborate,” it warned, on an internal notice. When newspapers came out the next morning, China’s first high-speed train wreck was not on the front page. But, instead of moving on, the public wanted to know what had happened, and why. This was not a bus plunging off a road in a provincial outpost; it was dozens of men and women dying on one of the nation’s proudest achievements—in a newly wired age, when passengers had cell phones and witnesses and critics finally had the tools to humiliate the propagandists.

America’s Less Religious: Study Puts Some Blame On The Internet [Elise Hu on NPR]

His statistical analysis asked which variables were factors in our religious disaffiliation, and to what degree. The model found a causal relationship among three factors — a drop in religious upbringing, an increase in college-level education and the increase in Internet use — that together explain about 50 percent of the drop in religious affiliation. Of those, increased Internet use alone can account for about 20 percent of the decline.

More Young People Are Moving Away From Religion, But Why? [NPR]

Melissa Adelman, 30, raised Catholic “Starting in middle school we got the lessons about why premarital sex was not OK, why active homosexuality was not OK, and growing up in American culture, kids automatically pushed back on those things, and so we had some of those conversations in school with our theology teachers. The thing for me — a large part of the reason I moved away from Catholicism was because without accepting a lot of these core beliefs, I just didn’t think that I could still be part of that community. I remember a theology test in eighth grade where there was a question about homosexuality, and the right answer was that if you are homosexual, then that is not a sin because that’s how God made you, but acting upon it would be a sin. That’s what I put down as the answer, but I vividly remember thinking to myself that that was not the right answer.”

Thousands of Toddlers Are Medicated for A.D.H.D., Report Finds, Raising Worries [Alan Schwarz on The New York Times]

Dr. Visser’s analysis of Georgia Medicaid claims found about one in 225 toddlers being medicated for A.D.H.D., or 760 cases in that state alone. Dr. Visser said that nationwide Medicaid data were not yet available, but Georgia’s rates of the disorder are very typical of the United States as a whole. “If we applied Georgia’s rate to the number of toddlers on Medicaid nationwide, we would expect at least 10,000 of those to be on A.D.H.D. medication,” Dr. Visser said in an interview. She added that MarketScan data suggested that an additional 4,000 toddlers covered by private insurance were being medicated for the disorder. Dr. Visser said that effective nonpharmacological treatments, such as teaching parents and day care workers to provide more structured environments for such children, were often ignored.

Why the Mona Lisa Stands Out [Ian Leslie on Intelligent Life]

Cutting, a professor at Cornell University, wondered if a psychological mechanism known as the “mere-exposure effect” played a role in deciding which paintings rise to the top of the cultural league. In a seminal 1968 experiment, people were shown a series of abstract shapes in rapid succession. Some shapes were repeated, but because they came and went so fast, the subjects didn’t notice. When asked which of these random shapes they found most pleasing, they chose ones that, unbeknown to them, had come around more than once. Even unconscious familiarity bred affection. Back at Cornell, Cutting designed an experiment to test his hunch. Over a lecture course he regularly showed undergraduates works of impressionism for two seconds at a time. Some of the paintings were canonical, included in art-history books. Others were lesser known but of comparable quality. These were exposed four times as often. Afterwards, the students preferred them to the canonical works, while a control group of students liked the canonical ones best. Cutting’s students had grown to like those paintings more simply because they had seen them more…A study in the British Journal of Aesthetics suggests that the exposure effect doesn’t work the same way on everything, and points to a different conclusion about how canons are formed. Building on Cutting’s experiment, the researchers repeatedly exposed two groups of students to works by two painters, the British pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais and the American populist Thomas Kinkade. Kinkade’s garish country scenes are the epitome of kitsch—the gold standard for bad art. The researchers found that their subjects grew to like Millais more, as you might expect, given the mere-exposure effect. But they liked Kinkade less. Over time, exposure favours the greater artist. The social scientists are right to say that we should be a little sceptical of greatness, and that we should always look in the next room. Great art and mediocrity can get confused, even by experts. But that’s why we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more we’re exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.

Match Me if You Can: Lack of Matching Between Partners Predicts Divorce [Dr. Brent Mattingly and Amanda Mosley on Science of Relationships]

Level match refers to the degree to which your partner matches the precise “amounts” you would like of him or her on certain characteristics. To illustrate this idea, try this quick exercise. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, rate the degree to which your ideal partner should have a good sense of humor. If you want your ideal partner to score an 8 in sense of humor, and you perceive your partner as actually being an 8, then you have a level match. Pattern match, on the other hand, refers to how a partner matches on the relative importance of certain characteristics in relation to other characteristics, regardless of the precise amounts of those qualities. For example, suppose you prefer your ideal partner to have an 8 on sense of humor and a 9 on honesty. Although your actual partner may only be a 6 on sense of humor and a 7 on honesty, he or she still has the pattern of being more honest than funny, which matches what you prefer. In this case, you have a pattern match. Researchers recruited 169 newlywed couples and had them complete a questionnaire about their ideal partner preferences and perceptions of their actual partner’s attributes. Couples were then contacted about their marital status every 6 months for 3.5 years. Interestingly, pattern match (but not level match) significantly predicted divorce over time.

“We Can Still Be Friends”: Six Ways You Can Stay Friends After a Breakup [Dr. Brent Mattingly on The Science of Relationships]

Ex-couples are more likely to stay friends if the breakup was mutual. Also, post-dissolution friendships are more likely if the breakup was initiated by the man.4 In mutual breakups, the breakup is less negative since both partners were unhappy. However, men find it more difficult to breakup in the first place.4 Thus, when women initiate the breakup, men have a more difficult time dealing with the rejection and, by extension, are more resistant to transitioning into friendship…Exes are more likely to stay friends if the romantic relationship was satisfying.7 This shouldn’t be too surprising – happier relationships set the foundation for a potentially happy post-dissolution friendship. Then again, this begs the question as to why the couple broke up in the first place…We are more likely to stay friends with our exes if our friends and family support us. Having approval from important others helps ease the transition to post-dissolution friendship because we’re not having to answer the “Why are you still hanging around with him/her?” questions as much.

French rail company orders 2,000 trains too wide for platforms [Reporting by Gerard Bon and Elizabeth Pineau, writing by Nicholas Vinocur on Reuters]

France’s national rail company SNCF said on Tuesday it had ordered 2,000 trains for an expanded regional network that are too wide for many station platforms, entailing costly repairs. A spokesman for the RFF national rail operator confirmed the error, first reported by satirical weekly Canard Enchaine in its Wednesday edition.

Air Force Wants to Ground A-10 Vets Love [Bloomberg]

In an effort to save $4.2 billion over five years, the Pentagon wants to retire the 1970s-era A-10 attack jet. Combat veterans question the claim that newer, faster aircraft — such as the F-16, the F-15E, bombers and, eventually, the new F-35 fighter — can match the A-10 in providing “close air support,” striking targets on the ground to help soldiers in close combat.

Most Doctors Prescribe Antibiotics That Don’t Work [John Tozzi on Bloomberg Businessweek]

The Centers for Disease Control joined with medical societies in 2001 to recommend against prescribing antibiotics for acute bronchitis, a respiratory infection that comes with a nasty cough. The evidence against the practice is so clear that health-care providers are measured on how well they avoid it in quality ratings used by insurance companies and the government to evaluate effective care. The JAMA review excluded patients with other conditions that might warrant antibiotics. It also excluded the elderly and children to get as clear a picture as possible of cases of acute bronchitis in otherwise healthy people, Linder says. The study has some limitations; excluding so many patients left a relatively small sample size. Still, the researchers were looking at a situation where the prescribing rate “should be zero,” Linder notes, and found that it was 71 percent. Linder says the guidelines for bronchitis are widely understood by doctors. Patient demand—or, in some cases, doctors’ assumptions that people want antibiotics—leads them to write prescriptions anyway.

ESPN’s New $175M Studio: ‘Unlike Anything On Sports TV’ [Dan Haar on The Hartford Courant]

In a cut-rate bargain for Connecticut taxpayers, ESPN is expected to collect $10 million in tax credits. That’s instead of the $20-plus million package of grants, tax abatements and a large loan, much of it forgivable, that was announced on this spot nearly three years ago when Malloy made ESPN one of the state’s “First Five” companies with major development incentive money. The employee level, more than 4,000, up from 3,872 three years ago, has risen less than some anticipated — in part due to a layoff of about 125 people locally last year. But that’s not why the terms changed. Lawyers on both sides simply came up with a different package from the one Malloy announced in 2011, several sources said.

Recent Black College Grads Face Severe Underemployment [Josh Mitchell on Real Time Economics on The Wall Street Journal]

Among those with a job in 2013, more than half of black recent college graduates—56%–were in an occupation that typically doesn’t require a college degree, according to a report Tuesday by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning Washington think tank. Among all recent college grads with a job, the rate still was a very high 45%. (The report defines a recent college grad as someone between the ages of 22 and 27 with a four-year degree.)

The Shawshank Residuals: How one of Hollywood’s great second acts keeps making money [Russell Adams on The Wall Street Journal]

On cable, “Shawshank” is at an age when the licensing value of many films diminishes, but its strength hasn’t wavered. “Shawshank” and other films are now being licensed for shorter periods to a bigger and hungrier universe of distributors. “Shawshank” has aired on 15 basic cable networks since 1997, including six in the most recent season, according to Warner Bros. Last year, it filled 151 hours of airtime on basic cable, tied with “Scarface” and behind only “Mrs. Doubtfire,” according to research firm IHS. “Shawshank,” despite its virtually all-male cast, was the most-watched movie on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network in the latest season and in the top 15% of movies among adults 18-49 on Spike, Up, Sundance and Lifetime…[Stephen] King never cashed the $5,000 check [writer/director Frank] Darabont sent him for the right to turn his story into a movie. Years after “Shawshank” came out, the author got the check framed and mailed it back to the director with a note inscribed: “In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve.”

Curiously Strong Remains:

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13
May
14

Roundup – You! Use the Force!

Best of the Best:

For Many Indian Voters, Corruption Issue Takes a Back Seat at the Polls  [Jesse Pesta on The Wall Street Journal]

About 10% of candidates in the first five phases of India’s nine-phase election face “serious” criminal charges such as corruption, murder or kidnapping, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a clean-government advocacy group. There have been a series of high-profile scandals in recent years, including “Coalgate,” which involved allegations that coal-mining rights were given to politically connected companies at low prices in exchange for bribes to politicians and officials. In Mumbai, homes intended for war widows allegedly ended up in the hands of politicians. Among others, there have also been scandals over granite mining, rural health care and an immense controversy over the allocation of cellphone bandwidth to telecom giants. The spate of cases gave birth to a nationwide anticorruption movement and, last year, a new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party, which has gained a significant following in urban India.

The Police Raided My Friend’s House Over a Parody Twitter Account [Justin Glawe via Vice]

Yes, the cops raided Daniel’s home because they wanted to find out who was behind @peoriamayor, an account that had been shut down weeks ago by Twitter. When it was active, Daniel used it to portray Jim Ardis, the mayor of Peoria, as a weed-smoking, stripper-loving, Midwestern answer to Rob Ford. The account never had more than 50 followers, and Twitter had killed it because it wasn’t clearly marked as a parody. It was a joke, a lark—but it brought the police to Daniel’s door. The cops even took Daniel and one of his housemates in for in-depth questioning—they showed up at their jobs, cuffed them, and confiscated their phones—because of a bunch of Twitter jokes.

Marc Summers Realizes Police Will Immediately Look For Body In Giant Pile Of Mashed Potatoes [The Onion]

“Oh God, as soon as the cops check the hot fudge sundae slide, of course they’re going to start digging through the giant mound of mashed potatoes,” the frenzied former Double Dare host reportedly muttered to himself following an attempt to stuff the remains of a local woman into a kiddie pool heaped with hundreds of pounds of instant mashed potatoes and 20 gallons of gravy, after the woman suffered a fatal head injury while attempting to run in the oversized hamster wheel mounted in his living room.

Review: ‘Heaven Is For Real’ Is Not Shameless Pandering, It’s Much Worse [Vince Mancini on FilmDrunk]

You want to sell hope and love and living without fear? Fine. Make all the money you want. Even if you’re terribly cynical about it it’s still probably a net good. Heck, give it an even more openly disdainful title. “God’s Not Dead.” “Heaven Is For Real.” “Jesus Was Definitely A Guy.” But it’s not love that Heaven Is For Real is peddling. It’s not the kind of religious story that feeds you hot chocolate and warmly invites you into its community (the way a college Bible study group did for me when I passed out on their porch once in college). It’s a divisive paean to a bogus cultural divide created by a coalition of opportunists who don’t mind making money selling that same poisonous lie, the arms dealers of a pointless culture war. F*ck these people.

How Western Is Germany? Russia Crisis Spurs Identity Conflict [Christiane Hoffman on Der Spiegel translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey]

It’s thus no wonder that the debate about Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis is more polarizing than any other issue in current German politics. For Germany, the Ukraine crisis is not some distant problem like Syria or Iraq — it goes right to the core of the question of German identity. Where do we stand when it comes to Russia? And, relatedly: Who are we as Germans? With the threat of a new East-West conflict, this question has regained prominence in Germany and may ultimately force us to reposition ourselves or, at the very least, reaffirm our position in the West.

What Are Cats Thinking? [David Grimm via Slate]

But when Miklósi took the study a step further, he spotted an intriguing difference between cats and dogs. This time, he and his colleagues created two puzzles: one solvable, the other impossible. In the solvable puzzle, the researchers placed food in a bowl and stuck it under a stool. Dogs and cats had to find the bowl and pull it out to eat. Both aced the test. Then the scientist rigged the exam. They again placed the bowl under a stool, but this time they tied it to the stool legs so that it could not be pulled out. The dogs pawed at the bowl for a few seconds and then gave up, gazing up at their owners as if asking for help. The cats, on the other hand, rarely looked at their owners; they just kept trying to get the food. Now before you conclude that cats are dumber than dogs because they’re not smart enough to realize when a task is impossible, consider this: Dogs have lived with us for as many as 30,000 years—20,000 years longer than cats. More than any other animal on the planet, dogs are tuned in to the “human radio frequency”—the broadcast of our feelings and desires. Indeed, we may be the only station dogs listen to. Cats, on the other hand, can tune us in if they want to (that’s why they pass the pointing test as well as dogs), but they don’t hang on our every word like dogs do. They’re surfing other channels on the dial. And that’s ultimately what makes them so hard to study. Cats, as any owner knows, are highly intelligent beings. But to science, their minds may forever be a black box.

Riza Dreams of Poetry After Mom Risks Safety in Bangladesh [Mehul Srivastava on Bloomberg]

To give her daughter the opportunity neither she nor her mother had, Nazma Akhter made the only choices possible for a poor, illiterate woman in Bangladesh. She escaped her tiny village, bolting the door behind her so her mother couldn’t chase her down. She lived in a shed the size of a parking space in Dhaka, the capital. She worked as much as 12 hours a day making jeans, T-shirts and dresses, earning no more than $98 a month. The income was just about enough to bring her family to Dhaka and put her daughter, Riza, in school. And then came the fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd., the multistoried factory where Akhter was sewing jeans on the fourth floor on Nov. 24, 2012.

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest [David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy on The New York Times]

Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

Clapper Goes on Tour to Persuade University Students Snowden Is No Whistleblower, Not a Hero [Kevin Gosztola on The Dissenter on firedoglake]

‘There’s an inspector general for NSA and another one for the entire intelligence community. My office has a civil liberties and privacy protection officer. Snowden could also have gone to the Justice Department or the Congress. And as we’ve seen Snowden is superb at finding information so I think he could have tracked those people down had he given it a little thought,’ Clapper stated. Actually, if he had gone to the NSA’s inspector general, George Ellard, according to Ellard himself, he would have said something like, ‘Hey, listen, fifteen federal judges have certified this program is okay.’ He also would have tried to address Snowden’s ‘misperceptions’ and his ‘lack of understanding what we do.’ Ellard said at Georgetown Law Center in February that Snowden was ‘manic in this thievery.’ He compared him to an actual spy, former FBI agent Robert Hanssen. He said, ‘Hanssen’s theft was in a sense finite whereas Snowden is open-ended, as his agents decide daily which documents to disclose.’ This is who Snowden should have risked his livelihood and turned to when blowing the whistle?

The Decline of Tornado Devastation [Roger A. Pielke Jr. via The Wall Street Journal]

What we can say with some certainty is that the number of years with very large tornado losses has actually decreased. Consider that from 1950 to 1970 the U.S. saw 15 years with tornado damage in excess of $5 billion a year. From 1993 to 2013 there were only four such years, with three since 2008. We can also tell that even though the U.S. is crisscrossed by hundreds of tornadoes annually, they are not nearly so damaging as the much less frequent occurrences of hurricanes and earthquakes. Cumulatively since 1950, 153 landfalling hurricanes in the U.S. have caused about twice as much total damage (in normalized dollars) as the almost 58,000 documented tornadoes. We also estimate that a recurrence of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake today could cause more damage than all of the tornadoes since 1950 combined. Our study also provided a state-by-state portrait of the country’s vulnerability to tornadoes—but there’s more than one answer to the common question about which state has the most tornado damage. It depends on how the measuring is done. In total damage suffered since 1950, Texas has the melancholy distinction of leading the way, followed by Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma. If we look at damage per square mile, the leaders are Massachusetts, Connecticut and Indiana, and Texas drops to 29th. There are relatively fewer tornadoes in New England, but high populations and development mean a risk of more damage. The only state with no tornado losses during this period: Alaska.

Hungry Spouses Lash Out as Low Blood Sugar Spurs Anger [Nicole Ostrow on Bloomberg]

Researchers in the study included 107 married couples who for 21 days had to test their blood-sugar levels before breakfast in the morning and before bed in evening. They were also given voodoo dolls representing their spouses and told to insert as many as 51 pins daily depending on how angry they were with their partner. The researchers were testing aggressive impulses. Those with the lowest nighttime blood-sugar levels inserted the most pins, while those with the highest glucose levels inserted the least, the study found. Women tended to stick more pins into their husband voodoo doll, but the finding wasn’t significant. The authors only found the association for nighttime blood glucose levels as the amount of sugar in the body drops throughout the day, Bushman said. After 21 days, the couples went into a laboratory where they were told they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button the fastest to test aggressive behavior. The winners could blast their spouse with a loud noise through headphones. The spouses in reality were playing against a computer, not each other. The researchers found that those with the lowest average nighttime blood-sugar levels sent louder and longer noises to their spouse no matter how good their relationship was or whether they were male or female.

Flight Delayed? Your Pilot Really Can Make Up the Time in the Air [Benjamin Montet on FiveThirtyEight]

That means if your plane takes off 35 to 50 minutes after its scheduled departure, you can expect to make up about 20 minutes of that time in the air. But if the delay is any longer than 50 minutes, you shouldn’t get your hopes up. I suspect the pilots are more willing to press the accelerator, and consequently accept the higher fuel costs, if they believe there’s a good chance they can still get to their destination on time. (I ran the numbers across airlines, to see whether JetBlue pilots were behaving any differently than American pilots, for example, and didn’t find any statistically significant differences.) Interestingly, the BTS defines a delay as arriving late at the destination, not leaving after the scheduled departure, as I’ve defined it — so the airline has an incentive to get to the destination on time. Once the window for a plausible on-time arrival passes, however, so does your chance of a shorter flight.

The Doctor Who Coaches Athletes on Sleep [Danielle Elliot on The Atlantic]

In a 2006 interview with Harvard Business Review, Czeisler advised that companies should not expect workers to log more than 16 hours in a row, or to drive or work after an overnight flight. “We now know that 24 hours without sleep, or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1 percent,” he said. “We would never say, ‘This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!’ yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep for work.”

The Power of the Earliest Memories [Sue Shellenbarger on The Wall Street Journal]

Children who have the ability to recall and make sense of memories from daily life—the first day of preschool, the time the cat died—can use them to better develop a sense of identity, form relationships and make sound choices in adolescence and adulthood, new research shows. While the lives of many youngsters today are heavily documented in photos and video on social media and stored in families’ digital archives, studies suggest photos and videos have little impact. Parents play a bigger role in helping determine not just how many early memories children can recall, but how children interpret and learn from the events of their earliest experiences.

Stalin-Era Cable Cars Make for Thrilling Daily Commute, but Some Want Upgrade [Joe Parkinson on The Wall Street Journal]

In Chiatura, a mining town in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, residents each day pack into tiny, rusting cable cars suspended hundreds of feet over steep slopes and gorges. Known here as the “metal coffins,” the corroding cabins creak along a metal pulley system that dates back to the 1950s. Most of the cars have now rusted away, but 21 remain in service, forming the perilous “Kanatnaya Doroga,” or “rope road” network. The gondolas were built by Stalin to showcase how Soviet technology could conquer the town’s extreme geography to help extract the area’s huge metal deposits…The rope roads operate 24 hours a day with no tickets, no fines and no timetable…Travelers riding the cable cars must wait until several people are lining up at a station before operators start the pulley system. Smoking is permitted and passengers sometimes bring bottles of the local firewater Cha-Cha to drink on the trip…The rusting, wood-bottomed cabins—coated in decades-old graffiti and grime—groan and squeal as they shake and vibrate their way up the mountainside. Some of the steel wires suspending the cabins have frayed, splaying metal cords at ominous angles. Strong winds cause the carriages to bob and swing wildly. Regular power cuts mean the tram operators have to wind the cars down manually. In 2008, one of the cables snapped, leaving passengers dangling for 12 hours above rocks or rapids waiting to be rescued. One of the rusty gondolas has an emergency telephone, but operators say it stopped working in 1994.

Glass Works: How Corning Created the Ultrathin, Ultrastrong Material of the Future [Bryan Gardiner on Wired]

Don Stookey knew he had botched the experiment. One day in 1952, the Corning Glass Works chemist placed a sample of photosensitive glass inside a furnace and set the temperature to 600 degrees Celsius. At some point during the run, a faulty controller let the temperature climb to 900 degrees C. Expecting a melted blob of glass and a ruined furnace, Stookey opened the door to discover that, weirdly, his lithium silicate had transformed into a milky white plate. When he tried to remove it, the sample slipped from the tongs and crashed to the floor. Instead of shattering, it bounced.

“The Best TV Show That’s Ever Been” [Brian Raferty on Gentlemen's Quarterly]

Amy Poehler (comedian): I could watch the series finale every day. When Danson turns the bar’s lights out, it’s that rare moment in TV where it feels incredibly real and earned and sweet. And that episode’s still packed with jokes, you know? I remember watching that [finale], and being so crushed that I wasn’t going to see that family again.

Almost 2,400 Millionaires Pocketed Unemployment Benefits [Frank Bass on Bloomberg]

Almost 2,400 people who received unemployment insurance in 2009 lived in households with annual incomes of $1 million or more, according to the Congressional Research Service…The 2,362 people in millionaire homes represent 0.02 percent of the 11.3 million U.S. tax filers who reported unemployment insurance income in 2009, according to the August report. Another 954,000 households earning more than $100,000 during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression also reported receiving unemployment benefits.  The reported benefits may include those received by spouses or dependents of people who made high incomes, or benefits received earlier in the year before a household member got a high-paying job. Eliminating the federal share of unemployment benefits for millionaires would save $20 million in the next decade, the congressional researchers said in their report.

The Woman Who Took the Fall for JPMorgan Chase [Susan Dominus on The New York Times]

In February of 2011, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, approached the podium of one of the ballrooms at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Key Biscayne, Fla., where 300 senior executives from around the world were attending the bank’s annual off-site conference. By that time, the cold fear of the financial crisis was cordoned off in the near-distant past, replaced by a dawning recognition that the ensuing changes in business — the comparatively trifling risk limits, the dwindling bonuses, the elevated stress levels — might actually be permanent. That day, Dimon took the opportunity, according to a bank employee in attendance, to try to inspire his team, to rouse them from the industrywide sense of malaise. Yes, there were challenges, Dimon said, but it was the job of leadership to be strong. They should be prudent, but step up — be bold. He looked out into the audience, where Ina Drew, the 54-year-old chief investment officer, was sitting at one of the tables. “Ina,” he said, singling her out, “is bold.”

“There will be growth in the spring”: How well do economists predict turning points? [Hites Ahir, Senior research officer, IMF, and Prakash Loungani, Senior resource manager and advisor in the IMF's Research Department, via VOX.EU]

In short, the ability of forecasters to predict turning points appears limited. This finding holds up to a number of robustness checks (Loungani, Stekler, and Tamirisa 2013). First, lowering the bar on how far in advance the recession is predicted does not appreciably improve the ability to forecast turning points. Second, using a more precise definition of recessions based on quarterly data does not change the results. Third, the failure to predict turning points is not particular to the Great Recession but holds for earlier periods as well.

States Battle Asthma as Numbers Grow [Michael Ollove on Stateline]

In a valley wedged between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, St. Louis often finds itself beset by a stationary air mass that only a severe storm of some kind can dislodge. St. Louis is also an industrial city with high humidity, so it’s no wonder it usually makes the list of worst places for asthmatics to live. But the state has also pioneered advances in addressing asthma treatment and costs…Despite the state’s policies addressing asthma, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America still does not consider Missouri one of the states doing the best job in schools. It didn’t include Missouri in the honor roll of states with the most comprehensive and preferred statewide public policies supporting people with asthma, food allergies, anaphylaxis risk and related allergic diseases in schools. The organization grades states on whether they have adopted 18 specific policies related to medication, reporting, tobacco use and indoor quality. By those standards, only seven states made the foundation’s honor roll: Washington, Indiana, Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. (The District of Columbia also made the list). While Collins, of the national office, said Missouri was deficient in school-related air quality and tobacco policies, its innovations in accessibility to medications in schools had gotten the attention of advocates across the country.

Revenge and Rebound Sex: Bouncing Back, Into Bed [Dr. Benjamin Le on The Science of Relationships]

If people are having rebound and revenge sex, you might think it must be an effective way to cope with breakups. Not exactly. People who had sex with new partners did not show less distress, less anger, or higher self-esteem afterward. The bottom line is that, although some people do use sex as a way to cope with a breakup, rebound and revenge sex don’t actually make you feel any better, although it doesn’t necessarily make you feel any worse either.

The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop [Matt Daniels] – RW

Wu-Tang Clan at #6 is fucking impressive given that 10 members, with vastly different styles, are equally contributing lyrics. Add the fact that GZA, Ghostface, Raekwon, and Method Man’s solo works are also in the top 20 – notably, GZA at #2. Perhaps their countless hours of studio time together (and RZA’s mentorship) exposed each rapper’s vocabulary to one another.

California Report Criticizes $100 Million Hollywood Aid [Michael B. Marois on Bloomberg]

California’s $100 million annual tax subsidy for the film and TV industry doesn’t pay for itself, and expanding it may not stem job losses to other regions, the state’s non-partisan fiscal analyst said. For every $1 of subsidy, the state gets back about 65 cents in sales, income and use taxes, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said yesterday in a report citing the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. Local and federal agencies separately collect 46 cents, according to the report. Legislators may still wish to consider expanding California’s subsidies, the analyst said. Hollywood is a flagship industry, with high-paying jobs for the most populous U.S. state, according to the report. It also warned that other states could respond with increases of their own…California and 36 other states offer tax credits to the film industry, with payments totaling $1.4 billion a year. California lost 16,137 entertainment industry jobs between 2004 and 2012, a decline of 11 percent. New York, the Golden State’s main competitor, added 10,675 positions, up almost 25 percent, according to a February report by the Milken Institute. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to double the tax-credit program and expand it to include advertising, shows on premium-cable networks such as HBO, and films with budgets of more than $75 million. Los Angeles accounts for about half of the 221,000 jobs in the U.S. film industry, the analyst said.

Liechtenstein Gets Even Smaller [John Letzing on The Wall Street Journal]

The tiny size means easy access to people in power and a strong sense of political entitlement, locals say. That is true even in a system that gives the prince veto power over new laws. In a 2012 referendum, 76% of Liechtensteiners voted against stripping that ability. Every year, His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II, the head of state, and his son, His Serene Highness Hereditary Prince Alois, invite their subjects up to the castle for a beer. A significant portion of the population shows up.

More than 100 sickened after food safety summit [Juliet Linderman on The Associated Press]

Health officials are investigating what may have sickened over 100 people who attended a conference where more than 1,300 food safety experts had gathered.

Half in Illinois and Connecticut Want to Move Elsewhere [Lydia Saad on Gallup]

Thirty-three percent of residents want to move to another state, according to the average of the 50 state responses. Seventeen states come close to that 50-state average. Another 16 are above the average range, including three showing an especially high desire to move. In fact, in these three — Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland — roughly as many residents want to leave as want to stay. At the other end of the spectrum, 17 states are home to a below-average percentage of residents wanting to leave. This includes the previously mentioned six states — Montana, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Texas — where fewer than one in four want to move, the lowest level recorded.

How Accounting, Stop Groaning, Will Save the World [Manuela Hoelterhoff on Bloomberg]

What did Louis XIV’s accounting books look like? Colbert had them designed to fit into his coat pockets? They were small, like commonplace books. Gold and blue. Beautiful. He had the best calligraphers in the world. They aren’t in my book because the French National Library is so dysfunctional that they couldn’t even respond over two months to getting the images. France is in such bad shape. He would look at them on Fridays at 9 a.m., for the Council of Ministers. When Colbert dies, he doesn’t just get rid of the books, he cracks the financial system that allows you to do good accounting in the state, by breaking up these ministries so they can’t communicate. That’s the moment when England is making its financial reforms and France should have taken over the world, but it’s in chaos.

‘Born-Frees’ Shun South African Vote as Apartheid Memories Fade [Amogelang Mbatha, Mike Cohen and Neo Khanyile on Bloomberg]

When South Africans line up on May 7 to vote in their fifth election since the end of apartheid, 20-year-old Tshepo Mangwele and most of his contemporaries probably won’t be joining them. “Standing in a line and placing my vote on a ballot will just be a waste of time,” Mangwele, a first-year chemical engineering student at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said in an interview at the campus. “Most people who registered to vote are old. They feel like they owe certain parties something because of what they did in the past.”…Mangwele, the engineering student, said it made little difference who runs the country because the politicians looked after their own interests. “Ninety percent of the youth in my neighborhood probably won’t vote because nothing is being done for them,” he said in an April 24 interview. “We vote and the person we vote for will be eating our tax money anyway. So why vote?”

Elite Colleges Don’t Buy Happiness for Graduates [Douglas Belkin on The Wall Street Journal]

A new Gallup survey of 30,000 college graduates of all ages in all 50 states has found that highly selective schools don’t produce better workers or happier people, but inspiring professors—no matter where they teach—just might. The poll, undertaken this spring, is part of a growing effort to measure how well colleges do their jobs. This survey adds an interesting twist, because it looked not only at graduates after college; it tried to determine what happens during college that leads to well-being and workplace engagement later in life. The poll didn’t measure graduates’ earnings. Rather, it was rooted in 30 years of Gallup research that shows that people who feel happy and engaged in their jobs are the most productive…The poll found that just 39% of college graduates feel engaged at work—meaning, for instance, that they enjoyed what they did on a daily basis and are emotionally and intellectually connected to their jobs. And only 11% reported they were “thriving” in five different aspects of their lives, among which are financial stability, a strong social network and a sense of purpose. That relatively small handful of graduates—who tend to be more productive—went to a variety of colleges, though they were slightly more likely to go to larger schools and less likely to have attended for-profits. The strongest correlation for well-being emerged from a series of questions delving into whether graduates felt “emotionally supported” at school by a professor or mentor. Those who did were three times as likely to report they thrived as adults. Graduates who reported having “experiential and deep learning” were twice as likely to be engaged at work as those who didn’t.

Shut Up and Deal [James Surowiecki on The New Yorker]

State regulations are littered with provisions designed to protect incumbent businesses. In most states, retailers and restaurants have to buy alcohol from wholesalers rather than directly from producers. And there’s an ever-growing thicket of occupational licensing regulations. For some professions, a licensing requirement makes sense. But, according to a 2008 study, almost thirty per cent of jobs now require a license in some state or other, including many—auctioneer, shampooer, home-entertainment installer—where licensing seems totally unnecessary. State governments have been looking out for local businesses since way back—in the nineteenth century, they forced travelling salesmen to pay extortionate fees—and they haven’t minded too much when this protectionism comes at the expense of consumers.

America and Russia arm the world, in four charts [Zack Beauchamp on Vox]

In terms of who is importing the most, India and China lead the way. In a certain sense, that’s no surprise, as they’re the world’s two largest emerging powers. Also unsurprisingly, they both buy overwhelmingly from Russia. 75 percent of Indian purchases come from Moscow, as do 64 percent of Chinese. But what’s really interesting is that India and China switched first and second place around 2008 — India rapidly outpaced China as the world’s largest importer, according to SIPRI. That’s not because India is suddenly overtaking China in terms of military power. Rather, the Chinese government has pretty effectively built up a domestic arms manufacturing and research sector. China is getting more self-sufficient, in other words. That’s good in defense terms but it’s also much better for China’s economy to spend all that money domestically. India’s arms sector is so sclerotic, by contrast, that it doesn’t even make boots and uniforms all that well.

Hasidim in NYC Exurbs Trigger Backlash That Entangles Cuomo [Freeman Klopott on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Community groups fighting the growing influence of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in New York City’s northwestern exurbs are joining forces to counter the Hasidic bloc vote in this year’s gubernatorial election. An organization called United Monroe opposes the expansion of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic village that brought high-density housing to the rural town as it grew by 63 percent since 2000. Two others, Concerned Citizens’ Group of Pine Bush and the Rural Community Coalition, are battling plans by a Hasidic developer to build 396 townhouses in Bloomingburg, a village in the foothills of the Catskills. The activists want to prevent what they call “the next East Ramapo,” a school district about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan, where critics say the state is standing idle as a Hasidic-controlled board of education cuts programs for public-school students. A group called Preserve Rockland and a coalition of religious leaders, including rabbis, are pressing Governor Andrew Cuomo for oversight.

Texas Tries to Build a Bullet Train, Yet Again [Aman Bethja on The Texas Tribune via Governing Magazine]

In 1989, former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes joined a group of investors hoping to develop a bullet train system in Texas. The company, Texas TGV, planned to build a 200 mph line between Dallas and Houston and then expand to Austin and San Antonio. After four years and more than $70 million in investments, the project collapsed…Many rail advocates have put the blame for the demise of the earlier “Supertrain” project on Southwest Airlines, which conducted an aggressive lobbying campaign. Yet the story of the project’s failure is more complicated…Texas TGV’s optimism was based in large part on its backers’ confidence that a high-speed rail line would draw thousands of Texans who regularly flew between the state’s major cities for work. The plan was a threat to Southwest Airlines, which had built a large portion of its business on the state’s “super-commuters.” Southwest officials said the Texas project was unlike any other high-speed rail project in the world, in that it was focusing more on taking customers from air travel rather than cars. Herb Kelleher, Southwest’s CEO at the time, predicted that the bullet train would force the airline to raise fares on some Texas routes and end service on others. He also warned that the company might move its corporate headquarters to another state. Southwest Airlines declined to comment for this article.

Most People in the World Have No Idea How to Manage Their Money [Moisés Naím on The Atlantic]

In Russia, 96 percent of those surveyed could not answer the three questions correctly. While that might be expected of a post-communist nation, the mecca of capitalism didn’t exactly yield glowing results—only 30 percent of Americans aced the quiz. The best-performing respondents were the Germans (53 percent got a perfect score) and the Swiss (50 percent), but this still leaves almost half of each country’s population without a basic understanding of financial matters. In countries with relatively strong economies, the numbers are sobering: 79 percent of Swedes, 75 percent of Italians, 73 percent of Japanese, and 69 percent of French could not respond correctly to all three questions…On the basis of these results, one might presume that demand for financial education is very strong. It is not. And that’s mostly because people are prone to overestimate how much they know about money. Asked to rank their financial knowledge on a scale of 1 (very low) to 7 (very high), 70 percent of the Americans surveyed by Lusardi and Mitchell ranked themselves at level 4 or higher. Yet only 30 percent of them got all three questions in the finance quiz right. The same pattern was apparent in Germany and the Netherlands. The research also found that women, the poor, and the elderly are the groups with the lowest levels of financial literacy. Ironically for the elderly, confidence in one’s money-managing prowess seems to grow with age, widening the gap between perceived and actual knowledge. Men seem to better grasp the subject than women, independent of age and education, but women—to their credit—are more aware of their shortcomings. While men outperformed women on the finance quiz, greater numbers of women responded that they “don’t know,” a result that held true all over the world. The upshot is that women, more conscious of their limitations, are more likely to be interested in financial-education programs.

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