Archive for June, 2013


Roundup – All the Jumps

Line O’ the Day:

“In the middle of so much death and horror, the episode offers us two kinds of hope for the Stark family, one rooted in magic and the other in conventional martial skills. And both of them only possible because the Starks showed kindness to a Wildling woman who attacked them in the woods, when they were still at the height of their power. This show, and the books it’s based on, manages to surprise us with hope as much as it does with atrocities — and maybe that, after all, is why we’re so addicted to it.”

– Charlie Jane Anders, “Why do we sit through the brutality of Game of Thrones every week?” [io9]

Best of the Best:

Justice Department’s pursuit of AP’s phone records is both extreme and dangerous [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

Can you imagine what it’s like to be an Obama official and – in the wake of these revelations – sit back and watch one of the nation’s most celebrated journalists instantly suggest that the perhaps the US government should be monitoring his phone calls with his sources? Or watch progressives who spent the Bush years shrieking and convulsing at every story of secret Bush surveillance actions instantly attempt to justify what you’ve done before you’ve even done so yourself? And can you imagine the personality attributes that cause someone to read a story about a massive intrusion into journalists’ communications with their sources and have your first instinct be to attack the targeted journalists and defend the US government? That is why this is permitted to happen. During the Bush years, there were several similar reports of DOJ acquisition of journalists’ phone records: I’ll wager anything that not a single progressive site or prominent Democrat ever defended any of that or offered neutral “explainers” to provide justifying rationale. And it’s hard to express how lame the justifying rationale is. The Obama administration does not mind leaks of classified national security information; to the contrary, they love such leaks and are the most prolific exploiters of them. What they dislike are leaks that they don’t approve and/or which don’t glorify the president. Their unprecedented attacks on whistleblowers ensures that only the White House but nobody else can disclose classified information to the public, which is another way of saying that they seek to seize the ultimate propaganda model whereby the president and he alone controls the flow of information to the public. That’s what their very selective and self-serving war on leaks achieves.

The Geography of Student Debt [Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Wilbert van der Klaauw, and Joelle Scally on The Federal Reserve Bank of New York]

Student loan borrowers as a share of the population. The population with active student loan debts, or “SL borrowers,” as a share of the population with a credit record varies substantially over space. For example, in Hawaii, less than 12 percent of people with a credit report have student debt, while in the District of Columbia over 25 percent do. Student loan balances per SL borrower. Student indebtedness is significant for SL borrowers in virtually all states. Educational indebtedness per SL borrower ranges from a low of just under $21,000 in Wyoming to a high of over $28,000 in Maryland. Again, Washington, D.C., stands out: the average SL borrower there owes over $40,000. In general, we find SL-borrower debt levels are highest in California and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Percent of balance ninety-plus days delinquent. Delinquency rates show a distinct regional pattern, with states in the south and southwest having generally higher rates than those in the north. The lowest delinquency rate is South Dakota, at just over 6.5 percent, while the highest is in West Virginia, at nearly 18 percent.

Cheers! All 50 States Embrace the Home Brew Boom [Melissa Maynard on Stateline]

State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw said he pushed for the Alabama bill because many of his constituents are NASA scientists who were risking felony convictions—and their top-secret security clearances—by brewing at home.

The Biggest Retirement Myth Ever Told [Morgan Housel on Motley Fool]

The truth is, the 20th century was brutal for most elderly. As Frederick Lewis Allen writes in his 1950 book The Big Change: “One out of every four families dependent on elderly people and two out of every three single elderly men and women had to get along in 1948 on less than $20 per week [$193 in today’s dollars].” There are a couple of reasons for this. First, those retiring in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, were in their prime earning years during the Great Depression. Not exactly fertile ground for saving. More importantly, Social Security used to pay out much smaller benefits, even adjusted for inflation. When Ida Mae Fuller cashed the first Social Security check in 1940, it was for $22.54, or $374 in current dollars. Today, the average monthly benefit in real (inflation-adjusted) terms is more than three times larger. Since payouts are set with a calculation based on wage growth, not just price inflation, real Social Security benefits have risen consistently over the last half-century. But hold on, I hear you say. Didn’t workers have private pensions to rely on in previous decades? Some did, yes. But only a minority. There has never been a time in American history when the majority of retirees took in income from either a private or public pension (outside of Social Security). Nothing close to it, in fact…Here’s what’s really interesting. In 1975, 15% of all income reported by those 65 and older came from pensions, according to Adams. By 2010, that figure actually increased, to 20%. The bottom line, Adams writes, is that “even when defined benefit pensions were more prevalent than they are today, most Americans still had to worry about retirement income shortfalls.”…Let me clearly state what these statistics do not show. They do not show that Americans are prepared for retirement, or that there is no retirement crisis. There is a retirement crisis. But there always has been one.

New Haven Shows How You Fix Public Schools [Devin Leonard on Bloomberg Businessweek]

The end of the school year is usually a happy time, but not for David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers. He’s getting ready to have difficult conversations with some of his members, teachers who have flunked the Connecticut school district’s yearlong evaluation process. Cicarella will tell them the union won’t defend them, even if they have tenure. It’s time for them to look for another job. Some of the teachers will yell at him. Others will tell him they have children to support and mortgages to pay. After one teacher received a termination notice, her husband tore into the union boss. “He said, ‘Our union would never let this s-‍-‍- happen,’ ” Cicarella recalls. “I said, ‘Your wife drinks on the job. What do you want us to do here?’ ”

Convicted Girls Gone Wild Mogul Joe Francis Breaks Silence: ‘Retarded’ Jury ‘Should Be Shot Dead’ [Stephen Galloway on The Hollywood Reporter]

[I]n 2007, Francis got into a fight with Wynn over a $2 million gambling debt. As their battle escalated, the casino magnate successfully sued for defamation after Francis accused Wynn of threatening to kill him. (The verdict is being appealed.) “He’s an asshole,” says Francis. “Steve Wynn is a monster, piece-of-shit asshole. He really is a piece of shit. By the way, I’m going to have his ass. He is a scoundrel.” He leans back, momentarily drained. He hasn’t eaten anything in the several hours we have spent together and already has gone through a photo shoot as well as talks with a lawyer, who has been shuffling in and out of his office. “I’m drunk,” he admits, before looking at one of two glasses in front of me. “Fill up his glass!” he says. “But he already has a full glass,” insists Wilson. “He wants that one! That’s the one he wants! Fill it up!”

What’s The Deal With The Fast & Furious Movies: An Explainer [Danger Guerrero on FilmDrunk]

What is my favorite part of 2 Fast 2 Furious? Is it Tyrese’s character’s refusal to wear sleeves, to the point that a solid 20% of his wardrobe appears to be cut-off denim dress shirts? Is it the fact that there is a scene where Ludacris officiates a jet-ski race with a bullhorn?

Confessions of a Corporate Spy [George Chidi on]

What the author will seek to do or learn on your behalf, the likelihood he will get what he’s after, and the time it will take.

  • Cell-phone number of your competitor’s main contact with Walmart: 80 percent chance; five minutes.

  • The names and contact information of the people suing your biggest rival: 80 percent chance; 30 minutes.

  • Stake out your competitor’s booth at a trade show to see what people are saying about your product: 95 percent chance; four hours.

  • The market segmentation your competitor is using in its advertising: 95 percent chance; one to three days.

  • Stake out your competitor’s manufacturing facility to see how much stuff it’s making: 95 percent chance; three days to three weeks.

  • The names of your competitor’s top five salespeople and their salaries: 80 percent chance; margin of error +/- 10 percent; three days.

  • Identify which of your competitor’s former executives are most likely to come to work for you: 80 percent chance; one week.

  • Profit margin of your privately held competitor: 50-50 chance; margin of error +/- 10 percent; five to 10 days.

Chinese Tourists Behaving Badly [Bruce Einhorn on Bloomberg Businessweek]

China last year passed Germany and the U.S. to become the world’s biggest source of tourists, the United Nations World Tourism Organization reported last month. Chinese travelers made 83.2 million overseas trips in 2012, Ma Yiliang, a researcher at the China Tourism Academy, told Bloomberg News. In 2000, Chinese made just 10 million trips. And Chinese are big spenders, with tourists from the mainland spending $102 billion on overseas trips last year, a 40 percent jump over 2011 spending.

Where You Live Matters—To Your Pets [Maggie Clark on Stateline]

It’s good to be a dog in the West. The states with the longest lifespan for dogs are Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and South Dakota. Canines in all five states outpaced the average lifespan of 11 years. Montana had the longest at 12.4 years.

Where We Stand: The Class of 2013 Senior Survey [Julie M. Zauzmer on The Harvard Crimson]

The survey also questioned students about their sex lives, finding that 72 percent enroll at Harvard as virgins and 27 percent graduate without having sex. Of those who do have sex at Harvard, most have just one partner during their four years, but 7 percent of students have 10 or more sexual partners in college. The daring do it in the library—13 percent of the class, it turns out. Sex in Widener is the least commonly achieved of the “big three” tasks known to Harvard students: 23 percent have urinated on John Harvard’s shiny foot, and 32 percent have run Primal Scream. Just a few hardy folks—4 percent of the class—accomplished all three.

A Very Pedestrian Superhero Grapples With Mexico City Traffic [Nicholas Casey on The Wall Street Journal]

On the corner of Nuevo León and Michoacán Street in the city’s leafy Condesa neighborhood, a traffic light turned green, but pedestrians at the curb hesitated at the intersection. Several motorists made left-hand turns zooming over the crosswalk. Enter the wrestler. His cape flowing and hands raised, he stared down an oncoming S.U.V. and made like he was about to grapple it. And then something remarkable happened: The motorist stopped. The driver started to laugh. Peatónito later celebrated by climbing up a traffic light and waving the pedestrians ahead.

ACLU Reports Marijuana Enforcement Targets Blacks, States Pay Price [Jim Malewitz on Stateline]

African Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite a similar rate of use. Meanwhile, cash-strapped states are spending billions of dollars enforcing marijuana laws, and the tab is rising. That’s according to a decade’s worth of federal data analyzed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The group released a report Monday considered the most comprehensive examination of marijuana arrests. “The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color,” said Ezekiel Edwards, one of the report’s primary authors. “State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost.”

The Suicide Epidemic [Tony Dokoupil on The Daily Beast]

We know, thanks to a growing body of research on suicide and the conditions that accompany it, that more and more of us are living through a time of seamless black: a period of mounting clinical depression, blossoming thoughts of oblivion and an abiding wish to get there by the nonscenic route. Every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before, making suicide the nation’s greatest untamed cause of death. In much of the world, it’s among the only major threats to get significantly worse in this century than in the last…That’s scary in a world of constant (and welcome) improvement, but there’s an even bigger reason to fear the burden of suicide in the new millennium: it’s a charge being led by people in middle age. In America in the last decade, the suicide rate has declined among teens and people in their early 20s, and it’s also down or stable for the elderly. Almost the entire rise—as both the new CDC and GBD numbers show—is driven by changes in a single band of people, a demographic once living a happy life atop the human ziggurat: men and women 45 to 64, essentially baby boomers and their international peers in the developed world. The suicide rate for Americans 45 to 64 has jumped more than 30 percent in the last decade, according to the new CDC report, and it’s possible to slice the data even more finely than they did. Among white, middle-aged men, the rate has jumped by more than 50 percent, according to a Newsweek analysis of the public data. If these guys were to create a breakaway territory, it would have the highest suicide rate in the world. In wealthy countries, suicide is the leading cause of death for men in their 40s, a top-five killer of men in their 50s, and the burden of suicide has increased by double digits in both groups since 1990. The situation is even more dramatic for white, middle-aged women, who experienced a 60 percent rise in suicide in that same period, a shift accompanied by a comparable increase in emergency-room visits for drug-related (usually prescription-drug-related) attempts to die. In a sad twist, they often make a bid for death using the same medicine that was supposed to turn them back toward life. And the picture is equally grim for women in high-income countries, where self-harm trails only breast cancer as a killer of women in their early 40s—and has become the leading killer of women in their 30s.

More Doctors Broach Delicate Topic of Women’s Age and Fertility Rate [Sumathi Reddy on The Wall Street Journal]

Sometimes doctors are concerned about alienating patients by bringing up the topic of fertility. “I think I’ve rubbed people the wrong way. Often it happens with patients that are a little bit older,” says Tamika Auguste, an OB-GYN at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “I’ve had, like, a 42-year-old say, ‘Why aren’t I getting pregnant?,’ ” Dr. Auguste says. “I say, ‘I’m sorry, it’s the science. At 42 you have fewer eggs and older eggs than a 28-year-old. At this point you really need to speak with an infertility specialist.’ ” Dr. Auguste says some patients get hostile and don’t believe her; she usually doesn’t see those patients again.

Yet Another Explanation for the Killing of Ibragim Todashev [Conor Friedersdorf on The Atlantic]

A few thoughts in conclusion. It’s important to bear in mind how little we know for sure at this point. It could be that the FBI agent and detective involved in the shooting acted honorably and responsibly. It’s also possible that this man was needlessly and wrongfully killed. The need to resolve that uncertainty, insofar as it is possible, is why as independent an investigation as possible is needed.

Curiously Strong Remains:




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