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22
Feb
15

Roundup – Paperboy 3: The Hard Way

Best of the Best:

Dog Bites and Lost Fingers: An Ebola Doctor’s Diary [Douglas Lyon via Bloomberg News] (12/2/14)

A day later, a pregnant staff nurse arrived. She had been bitten by a neighbor’s wild dog and wanted to be vaccinated against rabies. I could see the bite had broken the skin. It didn’t look infected. I checked to see if we had vaccine and immunoglobulin, which is used to kick-start an immune response. We had a very limited supply and strict guidelines for use. We could only offer treatment after a careful investigation to determine if the animal was infected. I gently told the nurse that she would have to find and isolate the dog before we could review her case. I was both uneasy and relieved. For at least another day there would be no needles, no blood, and no need for protective suits, but I felt crummy that we had pushed any potential resolution back to the patient – which fell far short of what I really wanted to do for her.

How NBC’s The Voice Sold 20 Million Songs Without a Single Star [Claire Suddath on Bloomberg Business] (12/3/14)

It’s surprising that millions of people are downloading Voice songs, and not just because it means they’re paying amateur singers to cover existing songs that have already been recorded much more deftly by other artists. The Voice’s Matthew Schuler has a nice voice and all, but both Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley have all the “Hallelujahs” you’ll ever need. And what’s most surprising about the 20 million milestone is how successful The Voice has been at marketing its music without producing a star.

Obamacare’s Future: Cancer Patients Paying More for Medication [John Tozzi on Bloomberg Business]

People with Obamacare coverage who take medications for cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic diseases might pay more out of pocket next year. A greater share of insurance plans sold in the healthcare.gov marketplace will require consumers to pay 30 percent or more of the cost of specialty drugs, according to a new analysis from consultant Avalere Health. Cost sharing is one of the ways insurers can limit premiums. Patients pay for a greater portion of the medical care they need through deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. That last technique splits the bill for medical care, with patients paying a fixed percentage of the total cost and the insurance plan picking up the rest. Avalere looked at how much cost sharing was required for drugs insurers considered “specialty” medicines. There’s no consistent definition of specialty drugs; the term generally refers to medicine used to treat severe or rare illnesses. The doses can cost thousands of dollars a month. Asking patients to pay 30 percent of that can mean some people skip doses they can’t afford. Yet the share of silver plans—the most popular tier of Obamacare coverage—that required that level of cost sharing jumped to 41 percent, from 27 percent last year, according to Avalere. The analysis included plans on the federal healthcare.gov marketplace and state exchanges in New York and California; other state-based exchanges were not included.

At CIA Starbucks, even the baristas are covert [Emily Wax-Thibodeaux on The Washington Post] (9/27/14)

The new supervisor thought his idea was innocent enough. He wanted the baristas to write the names of customers on their cups to speed up lines and ease confusion, just like other Starbucks do around the world. But these aren’t just any customers. They are regulars at the CIA Starbucks. “They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care,” said a food services supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency, asking that his identity remain unpublished for security reasons. “But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”

41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground [Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian] (11/24/14)

The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur. Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not. However many Americans know who Zawahiri is, far fewer are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010. Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.

Bouncy Houses Are So Fun and So Dangerous [Karen Aho on Bloomberg Business] (7/16/14)

Although news of a bouncy house that blew away with kids inside went viral in June, the far more common hazards are broken bones, sprains, and hard head bumps. Almost 11,000 children, most between ages 6 and 12, were treated in emergency rooms for bouncy house injuries in 2010, up fivefold over the period from 1990 to 2005, according to the latest data available…Small bouncy house providers that aren’t adequately insured may arrive with waivers in hand, which could hold the homeowner responsible for additional damages, Baird says. Homeowner’s insurance covers guests injured in a bouncy house on the property, with basic plans providing $100,000 in liability coverage. “It does expose you, the homeowner, to a significant amount of risk,” he says. Especially if it blows away.

Israel Can’t Be an Unequal Democracy [Noah Feldman, professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, via Bloomberg Views] (11/28/14)

Insisting on equality of treatment and participation is what keeps democracy from devolving into the dictatorship of the majority. Guarantees of equality, alongside guarantees of liberty and the rule of law, are what make constitutional democracy special. Without them, democracy would mean nothing more than majority rule — and could include any regime where the government came to power by a vote. In the past, Israel’s basic laws, like its declaration of independence, have reconciled the Jewish nature of the state with fundamental equality values by referring to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state. Although the exact meaning has always been contested, Israel’s courts as well as its legal scholars — and frequently, its politicians — have generally agreed that Jewishness and democracy were being placed upon an equal footing. Palestinian citizens of Israel have therefore always been legally entitled to equality despite not being Jewish.

Can a ‘Jewish State’ Be a Democracy? [Daniel Gordis, senior vice president and Koret distinguished fellow at Shalem College in Jersualem, via Bloomberg View]

‘A Universe Beneath Our Feet': Life In Beijing’s Underground [NPR] (12/7/14)

In Beijing, even the tiniest apartment can cost a fortune — after all, with more than 21 million residents, space is limited and demand is high. But it is possible to find more affordable housing. You’ll just have to join an estimated 1 million of the city’s residents and look underground. Below the city’s bustling streets, bomb shelters and storage basements are turned into illegal — but affordable — apartments.

Law Puts Us All in Same Danger as Eric Garner [Stephen L. Carter via Bloomberg View] (12/4/14)

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you. I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. Whatever your view on the refusal of a New York City grand jury to indict the police officer whose chokehold apparently led to the death of Eric Garner, it’s useful to remember the crime that Garner is alleged to have committed: He was selling individual cigarettes, or loosies, in violation of New York law…The legal scholar Douglas Husak, in his excellent 2009 book “Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law,” points out that federal law alone includes more than 3,000 crimes, fewer than half of which found in the Federal Criminal Code. The rest are scattered through other statutes. A citizen who wants to abide by the law has no quick and easy way to find out what the law actually is — a violation of the traditional principle that the state cannot punish without fair notice. In addition to these statutes, he writes, an astonishing 300,000 or more federal regulations may be enforceable through criminal punishment in the discretion of an administrative agency. Nobody knows the number for sure.

The Pearl Harbor Myth [Alan D. Zimm on History Net]

In just 90 minutes, the Japanese had inflicted a devastating blow: five battleships were sunk, three battleships, three cruisers, and three destroyers were damaged, and nearly 200 aircraft were destroyed. The most devastating loss was the 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 wounded. Michael Slackman, a consulting historian to the U.S. Navy, described the attack as “almost textbook perfect” in his book Target: Pearl Harbor (1990). Gordon Prange, the battle’s leading historian, judged it “brilliantly conceived and meticulously planned.” Another prominent historian, Robert L. O’Connell, author of Sacred Vessels: The Cult of the Battleship and the Rise of the U.S. Navy (1995), likened it to the perfection of a “flashing samurai sword.” Even the recorded narration on a Pearl Harbor tour boat says the attack was “brilliantly conceived and executed.” Yet a detailed examination of the preparation and execution of the attack on the Pacific Fleet reveals a much different story. Even after 10 months of arduous planning, rehearsal, and intelligence gathering, the attack was plagued by inflexibility, a lack of coordination, and misallocated resources. A plan for a likely contingency was cobbled together by three midgrade officers while en route to Hawaii. The attack itself suffered significant command blunders. Though armed with enough firepower to destroy up to 14 battleships and aircraft carriers, the Japanese landed killing hits on only three battleships; luck, combined with American damage control mistakes, added two more battleships to their tally. Not only was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor far from brilliant, it also narrowly avoided disaster.

Oscars Voter Says ‘There Was No Art To Selma,’ And Other Idiotic Things [Vince Mancini on FilmDrunk] (2/18/15)

This person is actually using the studio’s Oscar campaign as a basis for their Oscar vote. This article is an artist’s suicide note.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You’d Get From Fantasy Books [Lauren Davis on io9] (2/20/15)

Actually, if you were a high-ranking individual, chances are that you had high-ranking servants. A lord might send his son to serve in another lord’s manor — perhaps that of his wife’s brother. The son would receive no income, but would still be treated as the son of a lord. A lord’s steward might actually be a lord himself. Your status in society isn’t just based on whether or not you were a servant, but also your familial status, whom you served, and what your particular job was. Something you might not expect about servants in English households in the late Middle Ages: they were overwhelmingly male. Mortimer points to the earl of Devon’s household, which had 135 members, but only three women. With the exception of a washerwoman (who didn’t live in the household), the staffers were all men, even in households headed by women.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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24
Jan
15

Roundup – Christopher Walken: Hostage Negotiator

Best of the Best:

If Your Robot Buys Illegal Drugs, Have You Committed a Crime? [Annalee Newitz on io9]

A group of Swiss artists recently set a bot free on the darknet, allowing it to purchase whatever it could with Bitcoins. Among other weird things it bought were a few ecstasy pills and a fake Hungarian passport. Now an attorney asks whether the artists could be arrested under the law as it currently stands…In the United States, at least, criminal law is predominantly statutory. We would have to look to the precise wording of the federal or local law and then apply it to the facts at hand. If, for instance, the law says a person may not knowingly purchase pirated merchandise or drugs, there is an argument that the artists did not violate the law. Whereas if the law says the person may not engage in this behavior recklessly, then the artists may well be found guilty, since they released the bot into an environment where they could be substantially certain some unlawful outcome would occur. I presume they even wanted the bot to yield illegal contraband to make the installation more exciting. Wanting a bad outcome doesn’t make it illegal (you cannot wish someone to death), but purposefully leaving the bot in the darknet until it yielded contraband seems hard to distinguish from intent.

California Prisons End Race-Based Punishments [Paige St. John on Los Angeles Times via Governing Magazine] (10/23/14)

When a group of prisoners attacked two guards at California’s High Desert State Prison in 2006, the warden declared a full lockdown that confined African-Americans in one wing of the prison to their cells, and kept them there for 14 months. No outdoor exercise. No rehabilitation programs or prison jobs. This week, California agreed to give up its unique use of race-based punishment as a tool to control violence in its crowded prisons. Corrections chief Jeffrey Beard and lawyers for inmates have settled a six-year-long civil rights lawsuit, filed in 2008, over the High Desert lockdown. The case was eventually widened to cover all prisoners and lockdown practices that had become common statewide. The agreement now goes to a federal judge for expected approval…Prison lawyers cited as many as 160 race-based lockdowns lasting six weeks or longer in a given year in California. A riot between northern and southern Mexican gangs at Pelican Bay State Prison resulted in a three-year lockdown. During that time, inmates were denied family visits, issued housing and work assignments and assigned outdoor exercise times all based on race.

Saudi War With Islamic State Echoes Kingdom’s Own Past [Glen Carey on Bloomberg] (10/23/14)

When Saudi rulers send warplanes on missions against Islamic State, they’re targeting a group whose theocratic ideology and roots in desert warfare overlap at least partly with the kingdom’s own present and past. The world’s largest oil exporter has evolved into a mostly urban society in its eight decades of statehood, yet nomadic fighters erupting from the desert in a blaze of religious zeal are still part of its foundation narrative. Today in Saudi Arabia, as in the territory controlled by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, women must wear black abayas, shops all close during prayer times, religious police enforce Islamic laws and criminals face violent punishment…Islamic State refers to “the same texts that the Saudi government and official clergy do on religious questions,” and there are “similarities in terms of enforcing public morality,” [Gregory Gause, head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University] said. The group’s biggest threat to the kingdom is “its ability to recruit sympathizers within Saudi Arabia.”

When Detroit Made Potato Chips [Alana Semuels on Tribune News Service via Governing Magazine] (10/16/14)

Detroit might be known for cars and Motown. But its third claim to fame? Potato chip consumption capital of the country. Detroiters consume an average of 7 pounds of chips a year; the rest of the country eats 4 pounds. The loyalty of the Detroit diaspora to one potato chip brand may seem surprising to outsiders, but it makes perfect sense to Sam Cipriano, whose father founded Better Made. Cipriano said people can taste Michigan in the chips: the Michigan-grown potatoes the company uses 10 months out of the year, the Detroit water, the Michigan-made salt.

Karaoke Plays On as Kurds Repel Islamic Extremist Neighbors [Donna Abu-Nasr on Bloomberg] (10/23/14)

It’s Karaoke night at DC Steakhouse in the Iraqi Kurd capital of Erbil, and diners are singing along to love songs as the imported wines and licorice spirits flow in a haze of shisha and cigarette smoke. Rebaz Serbaz and Aram Siddiq, both in the security business, took turns at renditions of a Kurdish song about a man who lost his beloved and fears he won’t see her again before he dies. Fifty miles (80 kilometers) away in Mosul, Islamic State militants punish such a lifestyle with penalties including lashings and death by beheading or stoning. “We want to set an example, to tell the people, ‘go out, relax, don’t be afraid,’” said Serbaz, 29. “If you’re going to die, don’t kneel to anyone,” he said, citing a Kurdish proverb. Almost three months after the streets of Erbil emptied as Islamic State extremists advanced, the subdued city is counting the cost to a once thriving economy. At the same time, it’s trying to show it can remain an oasis of security, prosperity and fun in an Iraq ripped apart by violence.

Arkansas Liquor Stores Join Churches to Save Dry Counties [Esmé E. Deprez and Millie Hogue on Bloomberg] (10/27/14)

Arkansas liquor stores have allied with religious leaders to fight statewide legalization of alcohol sales. The stores in wet counties don’t want to lose customers. The churches don’t want to lose souls. A ballot issue next week asks voters whether to amend their constitution to permit sales of intoxicating liquors in all 75 counties, up from about half. Passage would further erode the shrinking swath of America, mostly in the South, clinging to vestiges of Prohibition even as cultural attitudes and waning religious influence have killed it off elsewhere…Citizens for Local Rights, the opposition group funded by alcohol retailers seeking to preserve their competitive advantage, argues the measure would lead to “beer joints and honky tonks right next to our grade schools and churches,” according to its website. Larry Page, a Southern Baptist pastor and director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, which traces its roots to the Anti-Saloon League of Arkansas in 1899, said the initiative is about more than just the dangers of alcohol…It’s not the first time political issues have made for strange bedfellows, Page said, recalling when his group joined with feminists to oppose pornography and cooperated with Mississippi casinos to fight gambling in Arkansas.

Catholics Are More Progressive Than The Vatican, And Almost Everyone Else  [Carl Bialik on FiveThirtyEight] (10/17/14)

In all but one of the 14 GSS polls over the last quarter century, more Catholics than Protestants said divorce should be easier to get by law. In every survey since 1973, more Catholics than Protestants said gays should be allowed to speak publicly, teach and have books they wrote available in libraries. (If those questions don’t sound like they go very far by today’s standards, keep in mind that the Vatican isn’t going all that far, either, and that when these questions were asked in 1973, more than a third of Americans didn’t agree — half, in the case of teaching.) Also in each survey, more Catholics than Protestants said gay sex was “not wrong at all.” And all four times the GSS asked whether a couple living together unmarried was acceptable, more Catholics than Protestants said it was. A similar pattern emerges in recent international surveys.

Smart people listen to Radiohead and dumb people listen to Beyoncé, according to study [Alex Young on Consequence of Sound] (10/22/14)

For the last several years, a software application writer by the name of Virgil Griffith has charted musical tastes based on the average SAT scores of various college institutions. For example, students attending the California Institute of Technology have an average SAT score of 1520. By looking at Facebook to determine the most popular (or — “liked”) band of students at Cal Tech, Griffith was able to conclude that Radiohead really truly is music for smart people. A highly scientific study, I know. As Digital Inspiration points out, Griffith’s chart reveals Sufjan Stevens, Bob Dylan, The Shins, and — uh — Counting Crows as other favorite bands of smart people. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, The Used, and gospel music comes in at the lower end of the spectrum — or, as Griffith puts it, is music for dumb people. Among other interesting revelations from the Griffith’s chart: Smart people prefer John Mayer over Pink Floyd; rock titans like Tool, System of a Down, and Pearl Jam fall right in the middle — so, music for average people?; and people still listen to Switchfoot.

What Women Want [Pornhub Insights]

Well, apparently they want to watch a bunch of gay sex. Pornhub’s Lesbian category is the leading favorite among the ladies, with Gay (male) following close at second place. The Gay category only falls into 7th place for men in terms of top viewed categories so it’s noteworthy here that overall, this category ranks higher with the sex opposite to that which this type of content is intended for…Here again, ‘lesbian’ emerges as the most searched term by women, in comparison to ‘teen’ for men. The ladies are also much more into multi-partner scenarios with terms ‘threesome’ coming in hot at number 2 and ‘gangbang’ in at 4th place. Chocolate cravings are also strong on the female side with terms ‘ebony,’ ‘big black cock,’ ‘black’ and ‘ebony lesbians’ all ranking in the top 25 most searched. When we look at the terms that women are more likely to search for than men, the results are simply Sapphic. For instance, ‘eating pussy’ is over 900% more likely to be searched by a woman than a man, as are terms like ‘pussy licking,’ ‘tribbing,’ ‘lesbian scissoring’ and ‘ebony lesbians’ which on average are over 600% more searched for by the ladies. We’ve covered what both genders like to look at on Pornhub, so let’s shift it over to who. Reality television appears to be a theme over on the women’s side, with small-screen stars Kim Kardashian (nsfw), Mimi Faust (nsfw) and Farrah Abraham (nsfw) all showing up within the top 5.

Area Man Only One With Problems [The Onion]

According to people familiar with Belson’s personal trials, in just the past week the problems he—and he alone—has faced include having to drag himself out of bed for work even though he hadn’t slept all that well, feeling trapped in a tedious and unchallenging job, and enduring a sense of loneliness while watching television by himself in his apartment—all awful experiences that Belson’s acquaintances said they struggled to even fathom.

The Truth About the Wars [Lt. General Daniel Bolger U.S. Army (Retired) via The New York Times]

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that.

Woman Running for President Shows Tunisia’s Arab Spring Progress [Jihen Laghmari and Caroline Alexander on Bloomberg News] (11/12/14)

In a life spanning colonial rule, war, autocracy and revolution, Tunis resident Halima never saw a reason to vote. A chance meeting in a souk earlier this month gave her one. She was introduced to Kalthoum Kannou, who has three children, a long marriage to a doctor, a 25-year career as a judge and an ambition to be the first female president of Tunisia.

Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize [Sheila Dewan on New York Times] (11/9/14)

Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety. In the sessions, officials share tips on maximizing profits, defeating the objections of so-called “innocent owners” who were not present when the suspected offense occurred, and keeping the proceeds in the hands of law enforcement and out of general fund budgets. The Times reviewed three sessions, one in Santa Fe, N.M., that took place in September, one in New Jersey that was undated, and one in Georgia in September that was not videotaped…Sean D. McMurtry, the chief of the forfeiture unit in the Mercer County, N.J., prosecutor’s office, said forfeiture contributes to only a small percentage of local budgets but it is a good deterrent and works especially well against repeat offenders, such as domestic violence perpetrators who repeatedly violate a restraining order. “We’re very proud of our forfeiture operation,” he said in an interview. But in the video, Mr. McMurtry made it clear that forfeitures were highly contingent on the needs of law enforcement. In New Jersey, the police and prosecutors are allowed to use cars, cash and other seized goods; the rest must be sold at auction. Cellphones and jewelry, Mr. McMurtry said, are not worth the bother. Flat screen televisions, however, “are very popular with the police departments,” he said.

Businesses cash in as women chase bigger butts [Joseph Pisani on The Associated Press] (11/11/14)

As a result of the pop culture moment the butt is having, sales for Booty Pop, which hawks $22 foam padded panties on its website, are up 47 percent in the last six months from the same period a year earlier. The company, which declined to give sales figures, has sold out of certain styles and colors this year, including its Pink Cotton Candy Boy Shorts…To be sure, the desire for big butts isn’t new. Large booties long have been preferable in Latino and black communities, says Dr. Dionne Stephens, an associate psychology professor at Florida International University who has researched sexuality in popular culture. And this is not the first time big butts have been in songs. (Think: “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot in the 1990s.) But recently, the desire for a bigger bottom became more mainstream, in large part due to pop culture influences. Mainstream celebrities like Lopez and Minaj accepting their ample assets on camera have given the butt cachet.

Few Signs of Construction at Yujiapu, China’s Manhattan Replica [Ian Williams on NBC News] (11/10/14)

China’s $50-billion knock-off of the Big Apple sits on a river bend — much like its namesake — near the port city of Tianjin, some 120 miles from Beijing. Complete with its own Rockefeller Center and Twin Towers, it’s been billed as the world’s largest financial center in the making. But this Manhattan still has a long way to go. A recent visit shows that construction that began in 2008 on the back of a massive credit boom unleashed in China after the global financial crisis appears to have ground to a halt. While the stunted version of “Rockefeller Center” and its Twin Towers appeared to be complete — both were empty and fenced off…Yujiapu was scheduled for completion in 2019, offering 164 million square feet of office space over an area larger than Manhattan’s financial district in a bid to stimulate development of vast residential districts nearby. Mock-ups of the bright and bustling metropolis envisioned by developers that dot roadside billboards stand in stark contrast to the lifeless cranes beyond, which tell the tale of a building frenzy quickly turning into a bust.

Deadly, Dionysian Beirut: The Islamists ‘Would Kill Us for Sure,’ Says Edible-Panties Purveyor [Rodney Jefferson and Donna Abu-Nasr on Bloomberg News] (11/11/14)

Beirut has been no stranger to potent cocktails over the years, and Ayman Zayour is on a mission to put his city on the map for the right reasons. The 22-year-old bartender is perfecting his “Smooth Criminal,” a shaken-up mix of white rum with butter, egg white and various other alcoholic ingredients. The creation made the national final, and Zayour hopes he can progress to the Bacardi Legacy global competition in Sydney next year. The contrast between Zayour’s world and what’s happening on his doorstep couldn’t be greater as Islamist militants trying to impose extremist laws fight the Lebanese army to the north.

Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be [Walt Hickey on FiveThirtyEight] (7/7/14)

The 10-year period from 1973 to 1982 accounts for a whopping 57 percent of all song plays in the set. Besides a small trickle of music from 1995 onward — a trickle to which the Green Day song that inspired this article belongs — the last year to make an actual dent in the listings is 1991. That’s largely due to releases by Nirvana, Metallica and U2, the groups that make up the last wave of what is currently considered classic rock. But clearly it’s not just when a song was released that makes it classic rock. Popularity matters, as does as a band’s longevity, its sound and a bunch of other factors.

High School Soccer Stars Dreaming of Europe Show Long Road Ahead for U.S. [Mason Levinson on Bloomberg News] (11/5/14)

The difference in popularity between U.S. soccer and European football is nowhere more evident than at YSC Academy near Philadelphia, the only high school dedicated to developing American players…YSC opened in 2013 and was founded by Rich Graham, a managing principal at private equity firm Striker Partners and a minority owner of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. The Wayne, Pennsylvania, school, which is affiliated with the team, has 64 students in grades eight through 12. Most play for the Union’s development teams; each one lives and breathes soccer, training twice daily and tailoring his education to help advance in the game.

Genes Explain Why Your Cat Doesn’t Care if You Live or Die [Megan Scudellari on Bloomberg News] (11/11/14)

The first close look at the genetic code of a domestic cat suggests that food rewards from people brought man and feline together, based on genome variations associated with memory and reward behaviors. The study also identified how cats evolved to lead solitary, meat-eating lives, and finds that, perhaps unsurprisingly, cats aren’t quite as domesticated as dogs. The domestic cat genome shows a relatively small number of changed genetic regions compared to domesticated dogs, said Wesley Warren of the Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, who led the study…Cat domestication began about 9,000 years ago, an estimate based on the remains of a cat laid carefully next to those of a human at an ancient Cyprus burial site, though most of the 30 to 40 cat breeds today originated just 150 years ago, previous research has found…In addition, by comparing cat and dog genomes, the researchers found a unique evolutionary trade-off between the two groups: While dogs evolved an unsurpassed sense of smell, cats traded in those smell receptor genes for genes that enhanced their ability to sense pheromones, odorless substances that enable animals of the same species to communicate, such as to find a mate. That tradeoff makes sense, says Warren, as wild dogs ran in packs and so had less need to sense mates and more need to sniff out food. Solitary cats, on the other hand, needed the enhanced pheromone-sensing ability to find mates and detect competing cats.

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change. [Jordan Michael Smith on The Boston Globe] (10/19/14)

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons. Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried…Glennon cites the example of Obama and his team being shocked and angry to discover upon taking office that the military gave them only two options for the war in Afghanistan: The United States could add more troops, or the United States could add a lot more troops. Hemmed in, Obama added 30,000 more troops…Members of Congress are generalists and need to defer to experts within the national security realm, as elsewhere. They are particularly concerned about being caught out on a limb having made a wrong judgment about national security and tend, therefore, to defer to experts, who tend to exaggerate threats. The courts similarly tend to defer to the expertise of the network that defines national security policy. The presidency itself is not a top-down institution, as many people in the public believe, headed by a president who gives orders and causes the bureaucracy to click its heels and salute. National security policy actually bubbles up from within the bureaucracy. Many of the more controversial policies, from the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors to the NSA surveillance program, originated within the bureaucracy. John Kerry was not exaggerating when he said that some of those programs are “on autopilot.”

Churches Wrecked, Men Hide in Trees in Nigeria Caliphate [Michael Olukayode and Mustapha Muhammad on Bloomberg News] (11/17/14)

In areas of Nigeria where the Islamist group Boko Haram is trying to establish its self-styled caliphate, some Christian men hide in woodlands and ditches to avoid militant patrols, witnesses said…After five years of fighting to establish Shariah, or Islamic law, in Africa’s biggest oil producer, Boko Haram has started setting up an administration in parts of the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. With at least 20 local government areas under its control, the militants tell residents that they, not the government, can protect them…Joshua Wariya, a 60-year-old resident who fled to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, from the militant-held town of Gwoza, said hundreds of people are still trapped in surrounding hills with no food. Women who used to venture out to search for food no longer dare because they’re now being killed if they can’t recite parts of the Koran, he said on Nov. 7 at a displaced people’s camp in Maiduguri…When Jaafaru Kabiru tried to sneak into the northeastern Nigerian town of Mubi to evacuate his parents, two militants caught him at the edge of town and asked where he was going. When he said he was going to the stay with his parents in Mubi, “they replied it is no longer Mubi but Madinatul-Islam, ‘the City of Islam,’” Kabiru, a 19-year-old trader based in Yola, said in an interview. They let him proceed on his motorized tricycle after he was able to recite Muslim prayers at gunpoint.

How Much State Prison Populations Are Projected to Grow [Michael Maciag on Governing Magazine] (11/18/14)

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project published new state prison population projections Tuesday, providing projections of how numbers of inmates could change over the next four years. A dozen of the 34 states reporting data expect their prison populations to grow more than 5 percent. The number of inmates housed in Iowa state correctional facilities is slated to climb 16 percent by 2018 — the largest increase of any state. Wyoming (14 percent) and Alaska (11 percent) also reported larger projected growth. Overall, the total prison population in states reporting data is expected to swell 3 percent over the next four years. If projections hold true, that means the state imprisonment rate should remain about unchanged when adjusted for population growth. At least six states expect their prison populations to shrink — albeit not by much — in the coming years.

Kurds Find Unity in Fighting Islamic State. And in Beer [Donna Abu-Nasr on Bloomberg News] (11/20/14)

Herdi Kader and Cesur Nujen have roots in rival parts of Kurdistan, yet their futures are united. Sons of Kurdish immigrants to Sweden, the two came together in a bid to persuade the world to associate their people with their beer, Ava Zer, Kurdish for “gold water,” rather than the violent conflict with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “I want people to drink our beer and say, ‘Wow, Kurds, they know how to make beer,’” Kader said by telephone from Stockholm. “It’s good for the Kurdish people because what’s happening now is not very good for them.” It may be just a business venture thousands of miles away, but Kader, 31, and Nujen, 33, are a rare collaboration among Kurds not on the battlefield. As the fractious people scattered across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran puts power struggles aside to fight extremist militants, uniting the world’s largest stateless group remains elusive.

Crooks Blow Up ATMs in Crimes Leaving Chileans Stuck in Line [Eduardo Thomson on Bloomberg] (11/18/14)

Chilean thieves have a new way of stealing cash from ATMs: they blow them up. The method is simple. Use a hose to inject propane into the machine while being careful to seal all cracks and vents with duct tape, then light the fuel with a spark. The top of the machine explodes, leaving the cash tray almost intact…The pyrotechnics have contributed to a 62 percent jump in automated teller machine robberies through September, according to an e-mailed statement from Chilean police. A 13 percent drop in the number of ATMs in the first nine months of the year following 375 attacks has caused long lines to form at the 7,877 remaining dispensers, making withdrawals a test of endurance. The number of machines peaked at 9,313 in March 2013.  Chile, the wealthiest nation in Latin America, is the only major economy in the region where the number of cash machines is falling, according to London-based Retail Banking Research. Chile now has fewer of them per customer than South American neighbors such as Brazil and Argentina. To make being cash-needy even more miserable, the time that the machines are empty reached a record 17 percent in September, the highest among the 34 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. On Nov. 3, thieves blew up an ATM in downtown Santiago and escaped with the cash after throwing “miguelitos” — twisted nails — on the street behind their getaway car.

Mali Nurse Endures Neighbors’ Stoning to Battle Ebola [Francois Rihouay on Bloomberg] (11/19/14)

“Rita has Ebola!” her neighbors chanted as they gathered at her front door after they learned that two patients at the clinic where she worked in the Malian capital, Bamako, died of the disease. “The neighbors and some kids came after me and threw stones and handfuls of sand,” Rita, who asked that her last name not be used, said in an interview. While Rita, 38, never was in contact with either patient stricken down by the virus at Bamako’s Pasteur Clinic, she hid in her house for two days before an ambulance came to her rescue, she said.

Murder She Wrote is murder capital of TV detective world [The Telegraph] (8/21/12)

The makers of “Murder, She Wrote” told the New York Times that Cabot Cove has a population of 3,500. The idyllic village in the state of Maine is the home of Jessica Fletcher, played by Angela Lansbury. And the number of suspicious deaths on her patch gives Cabot Cove a staggering murder rate of 1,490 per million. That makes it 50 times more deady than Honduras – the real-life murder capital of the world.

The Bizarre Case of the Woman Who Saw Dragons Everywhere [The Lancet via io9]

Recently, a group of neuroscientists examined a woman who complained of an unusual ailment. The people around her kept turning into dragons. The fifty-something woman said the problem had been plaguing her for most of her life, and eventually prevented her from holding a job. When people turned into dragons, she reported, their faces turned “black, grew long, pointy ears and a protruding snout, and displayed a reptiloid skin and huge eyes in bright yellow, green, blue, or red.”

Curiously Strong Remains:

ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

16
Dec
14

Roundup – Inconceivable!

Best of the Best:

Practice Does Not Make Perfect [David Z. Hambrick, Fernanda Ferreira, and John M. Henderson on Slate] (9/28/14)

The experts-are-made view has dominated the discussion in recent decades. In a pivotal 1993 article published in Psychological Review—psychology’s most prestigious journal—the Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues proposed that performance differences across people in domains such as music and chess largely reflect differences in the amount of time people have spent engaging in “deliberate practice,” or training exercises specifically designed to improve performance. To test this idea, Ericsson and colleagues recruited violinists from an elite Berlin music academy and asked them to estimate the amount of time per week they had devoted to deliberate practice for each year of their musical careers. The major finding of the study was that the most accomplished musicians had accumulated the most hours of deliberate practice. For example, the average for elite violinists was about 10,000 hours, compared with only about 5,000 hours for the least accomplished group. In a second study, the difference for pianists was even greater—an average of more than 10,000 hours for experts compared with only about 2,000 hours for amateurs. Based on these findings, Ericsson and colleagues argued that prolonged effort, not innate talent, explained differences between experts and novices. These findings filtered their way into pop culture. They were the inspiration for what Malcolm Gladwell termed the “10,000 Hour Rule” in his book Outliers, which in turn was the inspiration for the song “Ten Thousand Hours” by the hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the opening track on their Grammy-award winning album The Heist. However, recent research has demonstrated that deliberate practice, while undeniably important, is only one piece of the expertise puzzle—and not necessarily the biggest piece. In the first study to convincingly make this point, the cognitive psychologists Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli found that chess players differed greatly in the amount of deliberate practice they needed to reach a given skill level in chess. For example, the number of hours of deliberate practice to first reach “master” status (a very high level of skill) ranged from 728 hours to 16,120 hours. This means that one player needed 22 times more deliberate practice than another player to become a master. A recent meta-analysis by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Brooke Macnamara and her colleagues (including the first author of this article for Slate) came to the same conclusion. We searched through more than 9,000 potentially relevant publications and ultimately identified 88 studies that collected measures of activities interpretable as deliberate practice and reported their relationships to corresponding measures of skill. (Analyzing a set of studies can reveal an average correlation between two variables that is statistically more precise than the result of any individual study.) With very few exceptions, deliberate practice correlated positively with skill. In other words, people who reported practicing a lot tended to perform better than those who reported practicing less. But the correlations were far from perfect: Deliberate practice left more of the variation in skill unexplained than it explained.

Methods: Falsification tests [The Incidental Economist] (10/1/14)

[A]nalyses in large data sets are not necessarily correct simply because they are larger. Control groups might not eliminate potential confounders, or many varying definitions of exposure to the agent may be tested (alternative thresholds for dose or duration of a drug)—a form of multiple- hypothesis testing. Just as small, true signals can be identified by these analyses, so too can small, erroneous associations…[F]alsification analysis is not a perfect tool for validating the associations in observational studies, nor is it intended to be. The absence of implausible falsification hypotheses does not imply that the primary association of interest is causal, nor does their presence guarantee that real relations do not exist. However, when many false relationships are present, caution is warranted in the interpretation of study findings.

Forget Ebola. This is the viral epidemic that should really terrify Americans [Gweyn Guilford on Quartz] (10/1/14)

Yes, measles—the same virus that was eliminated from the US in 2000. Spread through the air, measles—which causes respiratory system infections, rash, and in some cases, encephalitis—is many, many times more contagious than Ebola. The US was able to eliminate native strains of the measles virus thanks to several nationwide childhood vaccination campaigns. But the disease still strikes Americans because, like the unfortunate Dallas patient, people bring viral strains into the US all the time. And those foreign strains can infect people who are unvaccinated. Typically, that’s meant those who are too young for the vaccination or those with an allergy or another illness that has compromised their immune system. But in the three biggest outbreaks in 2014, the virus was transmitted when someone introduced a measles strain from outside the US into communities where pockets of people had refused vaccination because of philosophical, religious, or personal beliefs, according to the CDC. Of the 195 US residents who contracted measles and were unvaccinated as of May 23, 85% had declined immunization on those grounds, versus 68% from 2004 to 2008.

Neuroscientist Carl Hart: Everything you think you know about drugs and addiction is wrong [April M. Short on Alternet via Raw Story] (9/24/14)

Hart said growing up as he did, he came to believe the prevailing assertion that crack cocaine and other drugs were the villains behind crime and poverty. If he could only solve the addiction problem, he thought, he’d be tackling the root of the problem. As Hart came to learn, that is not the reality. Poverty and crime were around long before crack and other drugs appeared on the scene, and the forces at play that keep poor communities poor are insidious and systemic…One of the biggest factors is the war on drugs and its racist law enforcment policies, which target impoverished, black populations despite the fact that whites and blacks use drugs at similar rates…Hart said he first began questioning his thinking when he discovered that drugs like crack and meth are not nearly as addictive as he had been told. He points out in his talk that 80 to 90 percent of people who use illegal drugs are not addicted…Hart’s work has revealed some striking truths about drug use and addiction. His research on both crack and meth users have shown that even drug users with serious addictions tend to make surprisingly rational decisions. When given the choice between drugs and money—even a small amount of money such as $5—they will choose the money over the drugs at least half the time. When the sum offered is higher, like $20 to $50, they will almost always choose the money. As Hart told AlterNet last June, his studies have shown that the pharmacological effects of drugs rarely lead to crime, “but the public conflates these issues regardless.”

Schoolgirl jihadis: the female Islamists leaving home to join Isis fighters [ Harriet Sherwood, Sandra Laville, Kim Willsher in Paris, Ben Knight in Berlin, Maddy French in Vienna and Lauren Gambino in New York on The Guardian] (9/29/14)

Girls as young as 14 or 15 are travelling mainly to Syria to marry jihadis, bear their children and join communities of fighters, with a small number taking up arms. Many are recruited via social media. Women and girls appear to make up about 10% of those leaving Europe, North America and Australia to link up with jihadi groups, including Islamic State (Isis). France has the highest number of female jihadi recruits, with 63 in the region – about 25% of the total – and at least another 60 believed to be considering the move.

Subway Stabbing Victim Can’t Sue NYPD For Failing To Save Him [Rebecca Fishbein on The Gothamist] (7/26/14)

Gelman stabbed Joseph Lozito in the face, neck, hands and head on an uptown 3 train in February 2011, after fatally stabbing four people and injuring three others in a 28-hour period. Lozito, a father of two and an avid martial arts fan, was able to tackle Gelman and hold him down, and Gelman was eventually arrested by the transit officers. Lozito sued the city, arguing that the police officers had locked themselves in the conductor’s car and failed to come to his aid in time. The city, meanwhile, claimed that the NYPD had no “special duty” to intervene at the time, and that they were in the motorman’s car because they believed Gelman had a gun. And Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan has sided with the city, noting that there was no evidence the cops were aware Lozito was in danger at the time.

Rating attractiveness: study finds consensus among men, not women [Dustin Wood on Wake Forest University] (6/25/09)

More than 4,000 participants in the study rated photographs of men and women (ages 18-25) for attractiveness on a 10-point scale ranging from “not at all” to “very.”   In exchange for their participation, raters were told what characteristics they found attractive compared with the average person.   The raters ranged in age from 18 to more than 70. Before the participants judged the photographs for attractiveness, the members of the research team rated the images for how seductive, confident, thin, sensitive, stylish, curvaceous (women), muscular (men), traditional, masculine/feminine, classy, well-groomed, or upbeat the people looked. Breaking out these factors helped the researchers figure out what common characteristics appealed most to women and men Men’s judgments of women’s attractiveness were based primarily around physical features and they rated highly those who looked thin and seductive.  Most of the men in the study also rated photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive. As a group, the women rating men showed some preference for thin, muscular subjects, but disagreed on how attractive many men in the study were.   Some women gave high attractiveness ratings to the men other women said were not attractive at all…women may encounter less competition from other women for the men they find attractive, he says.  Men may need to invest more time and energy in attracting and then guarding their mates from other potential suitors, given that the mates they judge attractive are likely to be found attractive by many other men. Wood says the study results have implications for eating disorders and how expectations regarding attractiveness affect behavior. “The study helps explain why women experience stronger norms than men to obtain or maintain certain physical characteristics,” he says…

MIMAL [Wikipedia]

MIMAL is a geographical acronym referring to five states in the United States: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The term is used as reference to the fictional person of Mimal the Elf or Chef, the area composed of the five states found on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

14 Things Women Think When They’re Trying to Orgasm [Lane Moore on Cosmopolitan] (9/23/14)

5. “I kinda want him to leave.” Not forever but even if he went to the bathroom or something, I could just get myself off and I wouldn’t have to keep sitting through this. Or he could leave and I could go watch New Girl. I think new episodes started this week. Oh and pie. I could also eat pie.

A Record for Ireland’s Steady Robbie Keane [Gabrielle Marcotti on The Wall Street Journal] (10/12/14)

On Saturday, Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane scored a hat-trick against Gibraltar. In so doing, he became the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of European Championship qualifying…Soccer isn’t exactly known for meticulous record-keeping, but by most generally accepted accounts his 65 international goals put him in 14th place on the all-time list. Some of the names ranked ahead of him—Pele (77 goals), Ferenc Puskás (84), Gerd Müller (68)—are soccer immortals. Others—Thailand’s Kiatisuk Senamuang (70), Trinidad’s Stern John (70), and Kuwait’s Bashar Abdullah (75)—somewhat less so. And still others, such as Iran’s Ali Daei, the all-time leader with a seemingly unassailable 109, were great players for regional powers that regularly steamrolled much weaker opposition. Sift through Daei’s numbers game by game and the prevalence of blowouts is evident: five goals against Sri Lanka, four each against Laos, Nepal and Guam (in a 19-0 win), three against the Maldives. The massive disparity in the standard of opposition across the globe is what makes these records a touch dubious. It’s a bit like the NCAA Division I basketball all-time scoring list. In the top 20, you’ll find Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson and Pete Maravich sharing space with Keydren Clark, Alfredrick Hughes and Harry Kelly —prolific scorers who feasted on opposition lower down the food chain. The curious thing about Keane is that, unlike most of the others on the list, he didn’t play for a dominant national side. The Republic of Ireland have only qualified for two of eight major tournaments during his international career.

A Young Striker’s Death Haunts American Soccer [David Marino-Nachison and Leos Rousek on The Wall Street Journal] (10/9/14)

After Miro’s death, America ended its four-decade absence from the World Cup and became a nation of soccer-loving youth. But it has yet to produce a world-class soccer player, and there are those who believe that Miro might have accelerated America’s rise in soccer. One of the youngest Americans ever to play in a World Cup qualifier, he scored in his debut.

Triads See Underworld Business Hurt by Hong Kong Protests [David Tweed and Dominic Lau on Bloomberg] (10/9/14)

As thousands of pro-democracy protesters thronged Hong Kong’s major retail and business districts, blocking roads and forcing shops to close, it wasn’t just legal establishments feeling the pain. Business for Hong Kong’s gangsters fell “about 40 percent” in the days after the occupation started on Sept. 28, according to a man who gave his name only as Ah Lik and said he was a district head of the 14K, one of Hong Kong’s three largest organized crime outfits, known as triads. He referred to the takings of various triad-related rackets across the city and declined to give further details.

Red or Blue, Politics Doesn’t Predict Where Women Win [Louis Jacobson on Governing Magazine] (10/9/14)

Using raw data from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, we analyzed which states have had women as governors and found some interesting patterns: Exactly half of the 50 states have had a woman governor at some point in history.  About 60 percent of the women who have served as governors have been Democrats, and 40 percent have been Republicans. It’s not as if all the blue states have had women governors and all the red states haven’t. Among blue states — that is, the most reliably Democratic states in recent presidential elections — nine have had a woman governor and six haven’t. Among red states, 13 have had a woman governor and 10 haven’t. Those are pretty similar ratios. (We’ve excluded the competitive “purple” states from our calculations.)  Of the 25 states that have had a woman governor, slightly over half are red states…Today’s blue states are about as likely to elect a Republican woman as a Democratic woman…The mix of states that have never had a woman governor is equally diverse. While many of these states are red, a bunch of solidly blue states have never had a woman governor, including California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island. How to interpret this data? Many of the experts we checked with said it’s hard to draw any conclusions. It’s almost impossible to discern a pattern for which states have a history of electing women governors and which states don’t.

Taken [Sarah Stillman on The New Yorker] (8/12/13)

In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence. One result is the rise of improbable case names such as United States v. One Pearl Necklace and United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins. (Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson’s forfeiture was slugged State of Texas v. $6,037.) “The protections our Constitution usually affords are out the window,” Louis Rulli, a clinical law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading forfeiture expert, observes. A piece of property does not share the rights of a person. There’s no right to an attorney and, in most states, no presumption of innocence. Owners who wish to contest often find that the cost of hiring a lawyer far exceeds the value of their seized goods. Washington, D.C., charges up to twenty-five hundred dollars simply for the right to challenge a police seizure in court, which can take months or even years to resolve.

Bogus Congressman Said to Get Backstage at Obama Event [Jonathan Allen on Bloomberg] (10/2/14)

An unidentified man posing as a member of Congress made it into a secure area backstage at President Barack Obama’s appearance at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington Sept. 27, according to a White House official.

South Beats North in All-Korea Soccer Final as Kim Unseen [Sam Kim on Bloomberg] (10/2/14)

South Korea’s soccer team added to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “discomfort,” beating their rivals 1-0 in the Asian Games final late yesterday. The game — won by the South Koreans with a goal in the second period of extra time — was the first time the countries had met in the final of the competition since 1978. That game ended in a 0-0 draw and both teams shared the gold medal. Some North and South Korean players kneeled with their heads buried in the field after the referee blew the final whistle to end the 120-minute-long match. North Korean coach Yun Jung Su protested the goal while some of his players wept alongside South Koreans jumping up and down in a circle, live footage from South Korean broadcaster KBS showed.

Where Is North Korea’s 31-Year-Old Leader? [Dexter Roberts on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/7/14)

The Bulletproof Classroom: Armored Whiteboards Defend Against School Shootings [John Cloud on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/2/14)

Tunis came up with the idea of lining the handheld, portable whiteboards commonly used in schools with panels made from Dyneema, a polyethylene fiber strong enough to stop a shotgun blast from a foot away and light enough to wear all day. Emily Heinauer, director of special projects for Hardwire, says the company has sold its 20-by-18-inch whiteboards in all 50 states—some to school districts and some to individual teachers who find them online. In addition to the bulletproof whiteboards, Tunis makes a 10-by-13-inch clipboard weighing 1.3 pounds intended for kids to use if a gunman comes into the room. Hardwire recently sold 61 clipboards, which retail for $129, at half price to Worcester County, Md., where the company is based. Many of the first orders came from nearby clients—the University of Maryland Eastern Shore spent $60,000 on whiteboards last year. And after the Today show featured them on the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, orders began pouring in from all over the country.

Moon’s magnetic heart still a mystery [Stuart Gary on ABC Science] (12/5/14)

Billions of years ago the Moon had a magnetic field much stronger than the Earth does now, according to a new review of scientific data. Today, the Moon has no global magnetic field. The review, published in the journal Science, answers some long standing questions about the Moon’s origins and its internal structure, but it also raises new questions about how planetary magnetism works.

Monkeys aren’t fooled by luxury prices [Bianca Nogrady on ABC Science] (12/3/14)

The capuchin monkeys in the study had been previously trained in a ‘token market’, so they knew how to use tokens to purchase flavoured ice blocks from the experimenter. They also knew that some flavours were more expensive than others, in that a single token would buy them less of one particular flavour than of another flavour. After this training, the researchers placed the monkeys in the situation where the flavoured ice blocks were freely available, without any need for tokens, and the monkeys were allowed to choose whichever flavours they liked. “Learning which kind of ice was more expensive in the price learning phase did not seem to affect monkeys’ preferences in the preference assessment phase,” the authors wrote. “This result suggests that learning that a food is expensive doesn’t seem to make monkeys like it more.” Santos says this is in direct contrast to human behaviour…”It means that we’re more irrational than monkeys, and it also raises this question of where these price effects come from.” One theory is that we use our understanding of supply and demand to use price as a proxy indicator of quality. “We know if a wine was really awful, no one would buy it if it cost a ton of money, and so we get a sense that maybe there is this connection between price and value,” Santos says. Another possibility is that we are simply following the herd, using price as an indicator of popularity.

Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town [Elaine Kurtenbach on The Associated Press] (12/8/14)

This village deep in the rugged mountains of southern Japan once was home to hundreds of families. Now, only 35 people remain, outnumbered three-to-one by scarecrows that Tsukimi Ayano crafted to help fill the days and replace neighbors who died or moved away. At 65, Ayano is one of the younger residents of Nagoro. She moved back from Osaka to look after her 85-year-old father after decades away. “They bring back memories,” Ayano said of the life-sized dolls crowded into corners of her farmhouse home, perched on fences and trees, huddled side-by-side at a produce stall, the bus stop, anywhere a living person might stop to take a rest. “That old lady used to come and chat and drink tea. That old man used to love to drink sake and tell stories. It reminds me of the old times, when they were still alive and well,” she said…When she returned to her hometown 13 years ago, Ayano tried farming. Thinking her radish seeds may have been eaten by crows, she decided to make some scarecrows. By now there are more 100 scattered around Nagoro and other towns in Shikoku.

Why the CIA Won’t Be Punished for Torture [Noah Feldman, professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, via Bloomberg Views] (12/9/14)

In short, then, the memos worked: The Department of Justice gave the CIA a free pass to torture without being punished. The legal analysis may have been wrong or morally monstrous, and the CIA appears to have lied to the Department of Justice. But even discounting the political factors that make it unlikely a president would prosecute the CIA, the legal ground for proceeding would be very rocky. Serious crimes were committed. They’re going to go unpunished.

Curiously Strong Remains:

ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

26
Nov
14

Roundup – Bounty Tracker

Best of the Best:

A Vaccine Mystery Hits Older Americans [Virginia Postrel via Bloomberg Views]

More than three-quarters of Americans believe vaccines for such diseases as measles, mumps, and whooping cough should be mandatory for children, a new Harris poll finds. The margin increases with age, with 88 percent of respondents over 69 years old and 83 percent of those 50 to 68 voicing support. People who remember the scourge of polio and who themselves may have suffered through such “childhood diseases” as mumps are, not surprisingly, more likely to want vaccines required for kids. But when it comes to their own health, they aren’t as enthusiastic about a shot of prevention. It’s been eight years since the Food and Drug Administration approved Merck’s Zostavax shingles vaccine for people over 60. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices officially recommended it for the same group. Yet only about 20 percent of Americans over 60 have had the vaccine. (In 2011 the FDA also approved it for people over 50, but without a CDC recommendation insurers rarely cover it.)

States Making Long-Term Contraception More Accessible [Chris Kardish on Governing Magazine]

A five-year study launched in 2007 by St. Louis’ Washington University has bolstered public health arguments in favor of LARC. More than 9,000 women ages 14 through 45 were educated on different contraception options and given a choice of method; 75 percent selected a form of LARC. Across all age categories, women who chose LARC had significantly lower pregnancy rates — 20 times less than those using a pill, ring or patch. Those findings and a growing awareness of the costs of unintended pregnancies first spurred a few states in recent years to evaluate Medicaid payment policies, which typically don’t pay doctors to insert LARC immediately after a woman gives birth. Studies show women who don’t get LARC  immediately after delivering a baby are less likely to come back for it later and far more likely to get pregnant in the next year. So more states — including Illinois, New York and Texas most recently — are trying to make Medicaid changes and help doctors deal with LARC’s high upfront costs of $400 to $1,000.  That price is based both on the long-term nature of the contraception, its high rates of effectiveness and the determination of manufacturers that Americans can afford to pay for it. The price also reflects the high public costs of unintended pregnancy, which totaled $12.5 billion in 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy group focused on reproductive health. About 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. The rate is even higher among teenagers, minorities and women with lower levels of education and income. Medicaid or other public health programs cover nearly two out of three unplanned pregnancies (about 1.1 million births). From a health standpoint, unplanned pregnancies are associated with delayed prenatal care, premature birth and other complications.

In D.C., Most Gunshots Happen Near Schools [J.B. Wogan on Governing Magazine]

The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, looked at gunfire within 1,000 feet of public schools and public charter schools in Washington, D.C., during school hours in the 2011-2012 school year. The report suggests that government officials should pay attention to guns fired near a school, even if no police report is filed — and tracking homicides or other common metrics from police reports may not be enough. To measure the number of gun shots near schools, researchers used data from ShotSpotter, a technology that detects the sound of gunfire and triangulates the location of each gun shot. Of the 175 schools open during that school year, 116 fell within the technology’s coverage area. The data show 336 gunshots fired during the school year. About 54 percent occurred within 1,000 feet of a school. The report noted that exposure to gunfire was concentrated near a few schools: about 9 percent of the schools experienced 48 percent of all gunfire.

U.S. Economic Confidence Index Stable in August at -16 [Rebecca Riffkin on Gallup]

Despite strong stock market gains, as well as more robust consumer spending and increased job creation, Americans’ economic confidence continues to be flat. While Democrats and upper-income Americans are the most positive about the economy, other Americans lag behind. In recent months, Americans have been a bit more negative about the direction of the economy than they have been about current economic conditions. However, economic confidence as a whole has remained consistent.

Two Is Stronger Than One: Shared Experiences are More Intense [Dr. Gary Lewandowski on The Science of Relationships]

Participants at Yale University tasted chocolate in a room either (a) along with another person tasting their own chocolate, or (b) with another person who looked at a book of paintings. Participants who ate chocolate with a fellow taster thought the chocolate tasted better than those who tasted chocolate alone. To determine others’ influence on unpleasant experiences, a follow-up study used a similar procedure, but had participants taste a highly bitter chocolate. As before, having a fellow taster present intensified the experience, in this case making the chocolate taste worse.

The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real [Dr. Dylan Selterman on The Science of Relationships]

In OKCupid’s study, they found that people were about as interested in partners they thought were highly compatible even if objectively they were not. The odds of a single message turning into a longer conversation were nearly identical for the dissimilar (17% chance) and similar (20% chance) users. In general, I would suggest not taking the matching programs too seriously on any dating website, because these algorithms are not supported by scientific evidence.5 A practical take-home message is that the match percentage you see with potential partners probably doesn’t mean all that much—simply the perception that people are similar is enough to make you feel attracted, regardless of actual similarity. So whether you’re on OKCupid, Match.com, eHarmony, JDate, or other sites, don’t assume that a lower match % means you should avoid interacting with a potential partner, especially considering some of the incredibly random (yet perhaps highly entertaining) questions they have people complete (here’s a full list for OKCupid), which are not related to future relationship outcomes. If you like someone’s profile but they have a low match percentage, there’s no reason to hesitate sending them a (respectful) message—go for it!

Bellamy Salute [Wikipedia]

The Bellamy salute is the salute described by Francis Bellamy, Christian socialist minister and author, to accompany the American Pledge of Allegiance, which he had authored. During the period when it was used with the Pledge of Allegiance, it was sometimes known as the “flag salute”. Later, during the 1920s and 1930s, Italian fascists and Nazis adopted a salute which had the same form, and which was derived from the Roman salute. This resulted in controversy over the use of the Bellamy salute in the United States. It was officially replaced by the hand-over-heart salute when Congress amended the Flag Code on December 22, 1942…In his Pulitzer prize winning biography Lindbergh, author A. Scott Berg explains that interventionist propagandists would photograph [Charles] Lindbergh and other isolationists using this salute from an angle that left out the American flag, so it would be indistinguishable from the Hitler salute to observers.

The Legend of Elvis Old Bull [Patrick Sauer on Vice Sports]

The [Elvis] Old Bull vs. [Jonathan] Takes Enemy debate will never be decided. The former had the all-encompassing Johnson game with the odd knuckleball set shot, the latter the ability to score anywhere/anytime with both hands and a sweet stroke a la Bird. The latter went on to have a successful post-high school career at Rocky Mountain College, the former has those Lodge Grass titles. Both men, legends. And even if you were never lucky enough to see them play—and you won’t until someone uploads some dusty VHS footage to YouTube—could you at least agree there has never been two better names in the history of basketball?

The Third Wave [Wikipedia]

The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during the first week of April 1967. [History teacher Ron] Jones, finding himself unable to explain to his students how the German population could have claimed ignorance of the extermination of the Jewish people, decided to demonstrate it to them instead. Jones started a movement called “The Third Wave” and told his students that the movement aimed to eliminate democracy.

Amid Kale and Quinoa, Pop-Tarts Keep Hanging On [Sarah Nassauer on The Wall Street Journal]

Sales of soda, cereal and frozen food are down. Sales of Pop-Tarts have gone up each year for the past 32.

Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution [Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale and a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, via The New York Times]

President Obama’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris. Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written. This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed. But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.

Number of Unvaccinated Children on the Rise [Paloma Esquivel and Sandra Poindexter on The Los Angeles Times via Governing Magazine]

California parents are deciding against vaccinating their kindergarten-age children at twice the rate they did seven years ago, a fact public health experts said is contributing to the reemergence of measles across the state and may lead to outbreaks of other serious diseases. The percentage of kindergartens in which at least 8 percent of students are not fully vaccinated because of personal beliefs has more than doubled, according to data on file with the state. That threshold is significant because communities must be immunized at a high rate to avoid widespread disease outbreaks…Holly Blumhardt, a mother of three unvaccinated children (two of them attend Orange County public school), said her family believes in staying healthy “from the inside out.” In her view, that means taking vitamin and mineral supplements, steering clear of genetically modified foods, getting regular chiropractic care and maintaining an “active lifestyle.”

The Typo that Destroyed a NASA Rocket [Zachary Crockett on Priceonomics]

On July 22, 1962, at 9:20 PM, the Mariner I sat idly on its platform, ready to make history. After investing years of construction, calculation, and funding, NASA had high hopes that its rocket would successfully conduct a flyby survey of Venus, thus shifting the Space Race’s momentum back to the home front. In every way, it was poised to set a space travel precedent. But when the rocket embarked, it was clear there’d be no cause for celebration: less than 5 minutes into flight, Mariner I exploded, setting back the U.S. government $80 million ($630 million in 2014 dollars). The root cause for this disaster? A lone omitted hyphen, somewhere deep in hand-transcribed mathematical code.

100% of power for Vermont city now renewable [Wilson Ring on Associated Press via The Boston Globe]

Vermont’s largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water, and biomass.

Where More People Are Living in High-Poverty Areas [Mike Maciag on Governing Magazine]

From 2000 to 2010, the number of people living in poverty areas increased by 56 percent to 77 million; the total population rose just 10 percent. Although fewer Americans (45 million) actually live in poverty, the fact that much more reside in areas of concentrated poverty is significant. Consider education, for example, with high poverty areas typically served by lower-performing schools. Access to health care and healthy foods, too, is often inadequate in these communities.

Extent of Antarctic sea ice reaches record levels, scientists say [Jane Ryan and Sam Ikin on ABC News]

Scientists say the extent of Antarctic sea ice cover is at its highest level since records began…As the area covered in sea ice expands scientists have said the ice on the continent of Antarctica which is not over the ocean continues to deplete. CEO of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, Tony Worby, said the warming atmosphere is leading to greater sea ice coverage by changing wind patterns.

White America’s Drug Problem Is Getting Worse [John Tozzi on Bloomberg Businessweek]

White people have a painkiller problem. According to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, painkiller overdoses accounted for almost 17,000 deaths in 2011. The majority of deaths were among whites, at a rate that’s growing faster than for any other racial group.

Fewer Millennial Moms Show U.S. Birth Rate Drop Lasting [Victoria Stillwell on Bloomberg]

For each year motherhood is delayed, career earnings increase by 9 percent, work experience by 6 percent and average wage rates by 3 percent, according to a 2011 paper by Amalia Miller, an associate professor of economics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Women who have college degrees and jobs in professional and managerial fields see the greatest gains, she found. The children of those women also benefit, Sawhill found. Preventing unexpected births lifts a child’s lifetime income by $52,000, according to Brookings’ study released yesterday. College and high school graduation rates both increase, while the chances of the child becoming a teen parent or being convicted of a crime decline.

Reports of Radio’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated [Priceonomics]

Despite all the disruption and change in the music industry, the size of radio’s audience has remained stable. Since 2004, annual market research has found that radio’s weekly reach is roughly 90% of Americans every year. The 92% of Americans that radio reaches every week listen to an average of two and a half hours of radio per day. And radio’s biggest users are not luddites. Among Millennials, the top listeners are 46% more likely to own a smartphone or tablet than their peers.

U.S. Army Choppers Forced to Land in Polish Fields [Piotr Skolimowski and Dorota Bartyzel on Bloomberg]

Six U.S. army helicopters landed in a rapeseed field in northern Poland, eyewitnesses said, after coming back from military exercises, alarming locals on guard over tensions across the border. Five Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and one tandem-rotor Boeing Co. Chinook chopper touched down near the village of Gruta, 220 kilometers (140 miles) north of Warsaw at about noon yesterday, according to local eyewitnesses. Some residents were at first spooked at the sight of the aircraft, Halina Kowalkowska, the village’s head, said by phone…“Those Americans were really heaven sent,” Kowalkowska said. “Now, when I think about it we could have served them some food, but we were in shock and the boys had to go.”

Don’t Take Your Vitamins [Emily Oster on FiveThirtyEight]

The bottom line is that there is simply very little evidence that these supplements matter. The best-case scenario is if you are an elderly woman who is deficient in vitamin D — then a supplement might help a little. Still, in the 2009-2010 NHANES, about 30 percent of the non-elderly-female population took supplements. And it’s not just vitamins D and E. The Physicians’ Health Study also looked into vitamin C and a one-a-day multivitamin and found the same results: no impacts on the risk of cancer mortality or the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Of course there are exceptions — folic acid is generally a good idea for pregnant women — but the data increasingly suggests that most people simply do not benefit from supplements. To be clear: Serious vitamin deficiencies can cause serious problems (scurvy in the case of vitamin C, rickets in the case of vitamin D, beriberi for vitamin B).1 But if you live in the developed world and eat a normal diet — even a pretty unhealthy one — you will be nowhere near this kind of deficiency.

Growing Number of People Living Solo Can Pose Challenges [Tim Henderson on Stateline]

The proportion of Americans who live alone has grown steadily since the 1920s, increasing from roughly 5 percent then to 27 percent in 2013, according to the latest Current Population Survey. The phenomenon, which is most prevalent in cities, raises a host of health and safety issues for local governments. The growth in the number of men living alone is especially dramatic, rising from less than 6 percent in 1970 to more than 12 percent in 2012, according to a Census Bureau report released last year. Fifteen percent of households are women living alone, but men are more vulnerable to the dangerous side effects of the single life, like social isolation that can lead to health risks and a higher mortality rate.

Liam Neeson Phones It In: Four Action Movies, 42 Minutes of Calls [Mark Glassman on Bloomberg Businessweek]

For about 8 1/2 minutes of Tombstones—or 7 percent of the movie—Neeson’s character is on the phone. He barks orders, cuts deals, and demands proof that a little girl is still alive. At one point he even calls directory assistance. He is on 10 separate calls. Even more remarkable is that Tombstone is a period piece, set mainly in the pre-smartphone year of 1999. Neeson’s character, perhaps annoyed by all the calls, expresses disdain for cellphones; his protégé in the film remarks that he uses a lot of pay phones…Since Taken, the 2008 action movie in which Neeson delivers his beloved “particular-set-of-skills” speech into a phone, it has become commonplace to find the actor holding a handset or a receiver. In Taken and its sequel, Neeson’s character takes part in 17 different phone calls. The longest call in each film occurs during the eponymous taking—kidnappers make off with a loved one while Neeson’s character or his daughter listens in. Neeson’s hero spends 10 percent of both films on a phone.

Hasidic Townhouse Foes Seek to Dissolve Catskills Village [Freeman Klopott on Bloomberg]

A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village is pitting residents and local officials against a developer who says he’s a victim of an anti-Semitic plot. Opposition to the project is so strong that Bloomingburg, the village in the Catskills, is considering dissolving its local government, which could allow the larger surrounding town to block the development. Voters will decide Sept. 30 whether to fold their municipal government into the Town of Mamakating, whose population is 30 times larger. Shalom Lamm, the developer seeking to build townhouses and amenities meant to draw Hasidim, accused officials in a federal lawsuit of misusing building codes to keep Jews from moving to the area and violating the rights of the plaintiffs under the U.S. Constitution. Town officials say the issue is about preserving Bloomingburg’s rural character, not about religion. Bloomingburg, home to about 420 residents 78 miles (126 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan, sits in the farthest reaches of a culture war raging in New York City’s exurbs as the largest Hasidic community outside of Israel leaves gentrifying Brooklyn in search of lower-cost housing. The fight has increasingly entangled state agencies and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat facing re-election in November. In June, at Cuomo’s urging, the education department appointed a fiscal monitor for East Ramapo, a school district about 40 miles northwest of Manhattan where critics say the Hasidic-controlled education board has cut programs for public school students while Jewish children study privately. The Environmental Conservation Department is caught in a fight over the Hasidic town of Kiryas Joel’s bid to annex 507 acres from its neighbor.

The For-Profit College That’s Too Big to Fail [Karen Weise on Bloomberg Businessweek]

An Education Department inquiry revealed that Corinthian’s finances were in disastrous disarray. The company, which like other for-profits has seen a decline in enrollment since the end of the recession, had become almost entirely dependent on regular cash infusions from the government’s financial aid programs—$1.4 billion last year, or more than 80 percent of the company’s revenue—to keep the doors open at its 107 campuses. In July the government gave Corinthian until the end of the year to get out of the education business. Usually, when a school closes, the Education Department tries to find other programs to accept the students and the credits they’ve earned. But the size of Corinthian’s student body means it’s hard if not impossible to find enough places at other for-profit or community colleges. That creates a problem for the government, which must forgive loans for students who don’t transfer to other institutions. In the case of a school as large as Corinthian, that provision could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Now the Education Department is actively trying to shore up Corinthian’s schools even as it shuts the company down. “They thought they were going to be sending a really strong message” by cracking down on Corinthian, says Trace Urdan, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities (WFC). “They didn’t really understand that it may collapse.”

ATF’s Milwaukee sting operation marred by mistakes, failures [John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge on The Milwaukee Sentinel]

They were undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives running a storefront sting aimed at busting criminal operations in the city by purchasing drugs and guns from felons. But the effort to date has not snared any major dealers or taken down a gang. Instead, it resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found. When the 10-month operation was shut down after the burglary, agents and Milwaukee police officers who participated in the sting cleared out the store but left behind a sensitive document that listed names, vehicles and phone numbers of undercover agents. And the agency remains locked in a battle with the building’s owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet. The sting resulted in charges being filed against about 30 people, most for low-level drug sales and gun possession counts. But agents had the wrong person in at least three cases. In one, they charged a man who was in prison – as a result of an earlier ATF case – at the time agents said he was selling drugs to them.

NFL Players Are More Law Abiding Than Average Men [Lisa Wade on The Pacific Standard]

USA Today maintains a database of charges, citations, and arrests of National Football League players since 2000 (ones they found out about, in any case). According to their records, 2.53 percent of players are arrested in any given year. This is lower than the national average for men of the same age. And, despite the publicity, this year looks like it will be the least criminal on record.

The War Nerd: Bombs away in the Middle East! But why is Israel so quiet? [Gary Brecher on Pando Daily]

Israel sent a message about how it views the US campaign against [Islamic State] IS without using words at all. On the same day that American forces were attacking IS bases in Syria, Israel shot down a MiG-21 from Assad’s Alawite forces over the Golan Heights. Quite a moment in Middle Eastern military history: While the US was intervening to attack the Sunni jihadis, the IDF underlined its view of the real enemy by knocking down one of Assad’s antique fighters out of the sky. That ancient MiG wasn’t downed because it was a threat to Israel, or because it was over the line. It was downed as a gesture. Bibi and his Likud allies are sulking, because the way they see it, we’re bombing the wrong Syrians. The Israeli elite has always wanted the US to intervene in the Syrian Civil War—but not against the Sunni jihadists, as we’re doing now. They want American planes and drones to obliterate the other side–the Alawites’ Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its Hezbollah allies. Nobody ever seems to mention it, but the supposedly fearsome IS now owns the ground right under Israel’s Golan Heights fortifications, after moving in in June 2014 when the weary SAA, tired of being shelled by the IDF, moved out. So IS has been in place right there on Israel’s border for months now—and there’s been no attack from Israel. Yes, folks, you might actually get the impression that the Israelis—who know a thing or two about threat assessment—just don’t take IS very seriously. In fact, IS is a convenient little irritant, as seen from Jerusalem, a useful way to annoy the real enemy—the Shia/Alawite/Iran bloc.

Record Share of Americans Have Never Married [Wendy Wang and Kim Parker on Pew Social Trends]

After decades of declining marriage rates and changes in family structure, the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high. In 2012, one-in-five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. In 1960, only about one-in-ten adults (9%) in that age range had never been married.1 Men are more likely than women to have never been married (23% vs. 17% in 2012). And this gender gap has widened since 1960, when 10% of men ages 25 and older and 8% of women of the same age had never married.

God’s Lonely Programmer [Jesse Hicks on Motherboard on Vice]

TempleOS is more than an exercise in retro computing, or a hobbyist’s space for programming close to the bare metal. It’s the brainchild—perhaps the life’s work—of 44-year-old Terry Davis, the founder and sole employee of Trivial Solutions. For more than a decade Davis has worked on it; today, TempleOS is 121,176 lines of code, which puts it on par with Photoshop 1.0. (By comparison, Windows 7, a full-fledged modern operating system designed to be everything to everyone, filled with decades of cruft, is ​about 40 million lines.) He’s done this work because God told him to. ​According to the TempleOS charter, it is “God’s official temple. Just like Solomon’s temple, this is a community focal point where offerings are made and God’s oracle is consulted.” God also told Davis that 640×480, 16-color graphics “is a covenant like circumcision,” making it easier for children to make drawings for God.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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05
Oct
14

Roundup – Zombie Killing Can-Can Style

Best of the Best:

Counting Americans of Middle Eastern, North African Descent [Teresa Wiltz on Stateline]

Race is an ever shifting, ever evolving concept in America. From the 1890s through the 1930s, an African-American family with a mixed-race heritage, for example, could be classified as everything from “quadroon” to “mulatto” to “black” to “Negro,” depending on the year and who was doing the classifying. Meanwhile, the “East Asian” category morphed into separate categories for Koreans, Filipinos, Japanese and “Hindus,” or South Asians.  The stakes were high: With the exception of freed slaves who were granted citizenship in 1864, for a long time, non-whites were not eligible for citizenship. In 1909, George Shishim, a policeman living and working in Venice, California, had to fight for the right to claim U.S. citizenship. Because he was born in Lebanon, under the dictates of the time, he was deemed by the U.S. to be of “Chinese-Mongolian” ancestry and therefore ineligible for citizenship. The Syrian-Lebanese community rallied behind him and hired a lawyer. Ethnographic studies were done to prove the “white” bona fides of the Arab population. Finally, a Superior Court judge agreed, and Shishim was sworn in as a citizen. Today, “white” as defined by the federal government, is “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as ‘White’ or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.” But while it made sense for the MENA community to fight for a “white” designation a century ago, it is less advantageous now.

Politics of American churches & religions in one graph [Pew Religious Landscape Survey and Corner of Church and State via Tobin Grant on Religion News Service]

Churches that are similar religiously are also similar ideologically. Evangelicals are classic conservatives (small role in economy, protect morality). Pentecostals want a larger role for government on economic issues. Presbyterian Church in America, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and smaller Methodist churches have historical ties to both evangelicalism and mainline denominations. On the question of government and morality, they are between other evangelical churches and mainline denominations. Mainline churches hold similar economic views as evangelicals but want less government involvement protecting traditional morality. Christians in traditionally black denominations and evangelicals are similar in their views toward morality policy, but there is a large divide on economics. Catholics are large and represent the center on both dimensions. Jews are centrist on the economy. There is a major divide between both Conservative and Orthodox Jews and other streams of Judaism. This divide falls along the morality dimension. The “nones” are united on their ideology toward morality (keep government out!) but there are interesting divides on government services. Atheists want more government services; agnostics favor less governmental involvement in the economy. If you consider Unitarians part of this group, then they’re the most supportive of government services.

Sexual Satisfaction: Do You and Your Partner Have to be the SAME Shade of Grey? [Jennifer Shukusky on The Science of Relationships]

[I]mportantly, similarity did not predict sexual satisfaction for these couples. Instead, the only consistent predictor of sexual satisfaction was complementarity. That’s right: The most sexually satisfied people like to provide things for their partner that their partner enjoys receiving (e.g., stimulation with sex toys). It may be intuitive that when two people enjoy the same thing (similarity), they can enjoy it together. However, similarity itself did not predict satisfaction. On the other hand, when one person likes receiving what the other likes giving (complementarity), then everyone is be more satisfied. What may be less obvious, however, is the impact that the overestimating these things can have on sexual satisfaction. Overall, people overestimated how similar and complementary they were to their partner, and how accurate their partner was about their own likes and dislikes. Believing that one’s partner is more similar, complementary, and accurate were all also associated with higher levels of sexual satisfaction. It has been theorized that overestimating our partners’ positive qualities helps us maintain our relationships.

The Marriage Proposal Ritual [Lisa Hoplock on The Science of Relationships]

People are often aware of gender roles when it comes to proposals. Even though men are usually the first to say “I love you,” women in mixed-sex couples are often the ones who are ready to get married first. According to some research, women indicate this to the man, then wait for the man to be ready to marry them because the ritual dictates that men are the ones to propose. Men are usually ready to propose within about 6 months of receiving hints or discussing it with their partner. Women often play a role in planning the proposal by helping to choose the ring, for example, but the time when it actually occurs is usually kept a surprise. If the woman proposes, then it is often viewed as illegitimate (or a joke) by the partner and others, because it goes against tradition…At the start of the previous century, it was so unconventional for women to propose that a tradition was developed where it was okay for a woman to propose on leap year and Sadie Hawkins Day. This tradition isn’t followed as much anymore, but was quite popular back in the early 1900s. Social reinforcement helps perpetuate the script, so it may not be too surprising that many young men and women in this day and age still often hold traditional views of proposals.

Scientists take a look at the feel-good benefits of belly dance [Science Daily] – LW

The researchers found that belly dancers see their own bodies in a better light than the college students do, and are less likely to be dissatisfied with how they look. They also have fewer self-objectifying thoughts, and therefore take what others might think about their bodies less to heart.

“Pillow Talk” Speaks A Lot About Your Relationship [Jana Lembke on The Science of Relationships]

Women who reached orgasm made significantly more positive disclosures than those who did not. In fact, women who did not orgasm actively engaged in more negative pillow talk toward their partner. Interestingly, this same pattern held no matter the method used to achieve orgasm; that is, the effect of orgasm on disclosures was the same whether the woman orgasmed during intercourse or from other stimulation.

Behind Every Good Whisky Is A Trusty Distillery Cat [Ari Shapiro on NPR]

On the central path between buildings at Glenturret, the scent of leaves and grass mixes with the smells of wood, smoke and caramel from the whisky-making process. Looming over it all is a proud bronze statue. It’s not the company founder, or a bottle of whisky. It’s a cat. The greatest distillery cat of them all. Towser the Mouser is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for catching mice. Estimated lifetime kills: 28,899.

MTV Public Policy: How 16 and Pregnant Reduced Teen Motherhood [John Tozzi on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Melissa Kearney, an economics professor at the University of Maryland who’s studied teen birth rates (PDF), attributes most of the declines from 1990 to 2008 to better access to effective contraceptives. But teen birth rates dropped more sharply in the years after 2008, and Kearney’s research credits MTV’s reality show 16 and Pregnant and its slew of Teen Mom spinoffs. The first episode of 16 and Pregnant aired in 2009. The narratives of hard lives of young mothers, conveyed to a mass TV audience, prompted Google searches and tweets about birth control or abortion, according to Kearney’s research (PDF) with Phillip Levine of Wellesley College. Their analysis suggests the show accounted for as much as one-third of the overall drop in teen births in the year and a half after its debut. High unemployment also contributed to the decline. Here’s the shocking thing: If Kearney’s research is correct, a hit TV show dwarfs the influence of pretty much all the public policy that could affect teen birth rates. Changes to welfare, Medicaid coverage for contraception, sex ed or abstinence curriculums, access to abortion—she says none of it really moves the needle. Those charged policy questions take up most of the oxygen in our public debate around family planning, and they’re certainly important to the individuals affected. But they play “a very, very small role in affecting aggregate rates” of unmarried births, Kearney says.

Declassified Documents Reveal US Plan for Alaska in a Russian Invasion [Mark Strauss on io9]

Still, despite such heroic candidates as the aforementioned one-armed, Kodiak bear tracker, U.S. intelligence didn’t think highly of Alaskans, since “most of them who settled there are interested primarily in making money.” That meant they would have to be carefully screened, and promised generous financial compensation. One group, however, was regarded as completely off-limits for recruitment—the indigenous Alaskan peoples: “The selection of agents from the Eskimo, Indian, and Aleut groups in the Territory should be avoided in view of their propensities to drink to excess and their fundamental indifference to constituted governments and political philosophies. It is pointed out that their prime concern is with survival and their allegiance would easily shift to any power in control.”

Disney’s Defunct Toontown Remade by Unsanctioned Teen [Christopher Palmeri on Bloomberg]

Toontown Online, loosely based on the 1988 Walt Disney Co. (DIS) film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was a multiplayer Internet game for kids and families that drew more than 1 million users after it was introduced in 2003. Disney shut it down last year amid a shift away from subscription-based games. Now, it’s getting a second life thanks to fans who have created a knockoff version without the company’s permission.

Fake Antibiotics Feed Growing Worldwide Superbugs Threat [Makiko Kitamura on Bloomberg]

Antibiotics now rank among the most counterfeited medicines in the world, feeding a global epidemic of drug-resistant superbugs. A new surveillance and reporting program in 80 countries led by the World Health Organization shows that counterfeit antibiotics are a growing problem in all regions of the world, rivaling fake versions of erectile dysfunction pills like Viagra. Infections become superbugs by gaining resistance when the treatments used against them aren’t strong enough to kill them. It’s a growing problem as substandard counterfeit drugs become more prevalent. The threat is already spurring a strong response from drugmakers such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the U.S. maker of the Zithromax antibiotic, which has been focusing its anti-counterfeiting efforts on online pharmacies, collaborating with Microsoft Corp.

GAO: Pentagon violated law with Bergdahl swap [Donna Cassata on The Associated Press]

The Pentagon broke the law when it swapped Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, for five Taliban leaders, congressional investigators said Thursday. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the Defense Department failed to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange — a clear violation of the law — and used $988,400 of a wartime account to make the transfer. The GAO also said the Pentagon’s use of funds that hadn’t been expressly appropriated violated the Antideficiency Act.

Israel, Gaza, War & Data [Gilad Lotan on Medium]

The graph below represents Twitter accounts responding to a different incident at the UNWRA school in Beit Hanoun between July 25th and 30th. It is still unclear who is to blame for firing at the school, although someone clearly learned their Google SEO tricks…Network graphs are mathematical tools used to model relations between objects, and are incredibly helpful when working with social data. Analyzing their structure helps us gain insight into our culture and society. In this case, we see a clear separation between the two sides. On the right, a clearly “pro-Palestinian” group of activists (in green) as well as a variety of media outlets and journalists (in gray). The gray cluster of bloggers, journalists and international media entities is closely connected with the group of pro-Palestinian activists, which means that information is much more likely to spread amongst the two. This structural characteristic of the graph reinforces general Israeli sentiment regarding international media bias…Alternatively, on the other side we encounter the “pro-Israeli” groups, including media outlets, Israeli public personas, and various American zionists (light blue), as well as American conservatives and Tea Party members (dark blue). There’s a clear difference in frame when we compare one side of the graph to the other. None of the information shared is false per se, yet users make deliberate choices about what they choose to amplify. This is a representation of their values, and the values of their connections. Messages passed along in one side of the graph will never reach the other. Certain nodes are more strategic when trying to bridge between the two sides. In this case, Haaretz accommodates the most connections on both the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sides of the graph, having the highest betweenness centrality. Compared to all other nodes in the graph, Haaretz is most likely to spread throughout the wider network. It has the most potential for bridging across biases and political barriers…Facebook’s trending pages aggregate content that are heavily shared (“trending”) across the platform. If you’re already logged into Facebook, you’ll see a personalized view of the trend, highlighting your friends and their views on the trend…Now open a separate browser window in incognito mode (Chrome: File->New Incognito Window) and navigate to the same page. Since the browser has no idea who you are on Facebook, you’ll get the raw, unpersonalized feed. How are the two different? If you’re rooting for Israel, you might have seen videos of rocket launches by Hamas adjacent to Shifa Hospital. Alternatively, if you’re pro-Palestinian, you might have seen the following report on an alleged IDF sniper who admitted (on Instagram) to murdering 13 Gazan children. Israelis and their proponents are likely to see IDF videos such as this one detailing arms and tunnels found within mosques passed around in their social media feeds, while Palestinian groups are likely to pass around images displaying the sheer destruction caused by IDF forces to Gazan mosques. One side sees videos of rockets intercepted in the Tel-Aviv skies, and other sees the lethal aftermath of a missile attack on a Gazan neighborhood. The better we get at modeling user preferences, the more accurately we construct recommendation engines that fully capture user attention. In a way, we are building personalized propaganda engines that feed users content which makes them feel good and throws away the uncomfortable bits.

Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens [Susanne Ault on Variety]

U.S. teenagers are more enamored with YouTube stars than they are the biggest celebrities in film, TV and music. That’s the surprising result of a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. The highest-ranking figures were Smosh, the online comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26. Despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media, another comedy duo, known as the Fine Bros., Benny and Rafi, finished a close second, followed by the Swedish videogamer who has the most subscribers on all of YouTube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg — otherwise known as PewDiePie. Interestingly, the highest-ranking non-YouTuber is Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car accident late in 2013.

The Happiest Regions In America [Alex Mayyasi on Priceonomics]

But while the map can offer some guidance on which areas tend to be happier, the paper reveals few guiding principles. New York City is unhappier than average, but on the whole, urban areas in America are not less happy than rural or suburban ones. Among cities, the small city of Charlottesville, Virginia, tops the rankings, and Washington D.C. and Atlanta both rank as happier than average. The impact of weather is also small (and for the record, Seattle ranks right in the middle of the life satisfaction rankings). As for the tech world, San Francisco, which feels increasingly annexed by Silicon Valley, ranks slightly below the national average for urban areas, but San Jose is right in the middle. One trend, however, is very clear. Declining cities like Detroit, Michigan, and urban areas in the Midwest are particularly unhappy. And the TV show The Office had it right: Scranton, Pennsylvania, ranks as one of the unhappiest areas in the country, as the 367th happiest metropolitan area out of around 380.

Americans are taking fewer vacations than they used to [Evan Soltas on Vox]

Nine million Americans took a week off in July 1976, the peak month each year for summer travel. Yet in July 2014, just seven million did. Keeping in mind that 60 million more Americans have jobs today than in 1976, that adds up to a huge decline in the share of workers taking vacations. Some rough calculations show, in fact, that about 80 percent of workers once took an annual weeklong vacation — and now, just 56 percent do.

Lions Hunted to Save Rhinos in South African Circle of Life [Kevin Crowley and Tshepiso Mokhema on Bloomberg]

When U.S. television host Melissa Bachman posted a photo on Facebook Inc. (FB) of herself smiling and holding a rifle above the head of a lion she had shot, the response was instant. Users of the social network vilified Bachman, 30, who also killed a Nyala antelope last year on a trip to South Africa, as “evil,” a “low-life” and a “disgusting excuse for a human being.” The hunting trip was part of South Africa’s game-ranching industry, which is worth 12 billion rand ($1.1 billion) a year and growing at 10 percent annually, according to Barclays Africa Group Ltd. (BGA) The industry is also responsible for boosting the country’s large mammal population, a measure that excludes animals such as rodents, to 24 million, the most since the 19th century, and up from 575,000 in the early 1960s, Wouter van Hoven, an emeritus professor at the University of Pretoria, said in an interview last month. By contrast animal numbers in Kenya, which focuses on eco-tourism, have plunged 80 percent since it banned hunting in 1977.

People Think Experiences Bring Happiness, Still Opt for Things [Erika Beras on Scientific American]

Researchers surveyed people before and after they made purchases. Beforehand, they rated life experiences as making them happier and as a better use of money than buying objects. But subjects still tended to choose to buy objects over experiences. Then, despite picking items, most said they still believed the experiences would have been a better choice. The researchers ascribe this conflict to the tangible and quantifiable nature of a thing. You can point to a car and say how much its worth. But taking that car on a cross-country trip is an experience, and experiences can’t easily be assigned a value.

In One America, Guns and Diet. In the Other, Cameras and ‘Zoolander.’: Inequality and Web Search Trends [The Upshot on The New York Times]

The results, based on a decade of search data, offer a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. They’re a glimpse into the id of our national inequality. In the hardest places to live – which include large areas of Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico and Oregon – health problems, weight-loss diets, guns, video games and religion are all common search topics. The dark side of religion is of special interest: Antichrist has the second-highest correlation with the hardest places, and searches containing “hell” and “rapture” also make the top 10. To be clear, these aren’t the most common searches in our list of hardest places. They’re the searches with the highest correlation to our index. Searches on some topics, like Oprah Winfrey or the Super Bowl, are popular almost everywhere. The terms on these lists are relatively common subjects for web searches in one kind of place — and rarely a subject in the other. In the easiest places to live, the Canon Elph and other digital cameras dominate the top of the correlation list. Apparently, people in places where life seems good, including Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and much of the large metropolitan areas of the Northeast and West Coast, want to record their lives in images. One explanation is that cameras have remained a top-selling piece of technology throughout the last decade…Beyond cameras, subjects popular in the easiest places include Baby Joggers, Baby Bjorns and baby massage; Skype and Apple devices like the iPod Nano; a piece of workout equipment known as a foam roller; and various foreign destinations (Machu Picchu, New Zealand, Switzerland and Pyeongchang, the South Korean host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics). The phrase “pull-out” is also relatively popular in the easiest places. It presumably refers to either a kind of sofa or a kind of birth control.

The Role of Deception in Scientific Research [Shirley S. Wang on The Wall Street Journal]

Kypros Kypri, a professor in the school of medicine and public health at the University of Newcastle in Australia, and his colleagues in the U.K. have independently studied the drinking habits of tens of thousands college students in New Zealand, the U.K. and Sweden. They found that just asking heavy drinkers about their alcohol use sometimes changes their behavior. The researchers surveyed students about their drinking behavior and, based on the responses, identified thousands of heavy drinkers. They sent the students one or more follow-up surveys to see if they changed their behavior or sought help for their drinking. While in most cases the students understood they were filling out surveys as part of a research study, at no point did the researchers tell them they were participating in an intervention—not even at the end of the process, which is usually when subjects learn the true purpose of a study. (In one case, the British team didn’t even tell the students they were in a research study.) Disclosing the goal at the beginning of the study would have changed the very behavior the researchers were studying—whether students would decide to cut down on their drinking after answering questions that might prompt them to think about whether they had a problem, Dr. Kypri says. Disclosing the true purpose at the end of the study would have done more harm than good because participants might have felt misled about the study, he says. The researchers decided that not disclosing was ethical, because the intervention was subtle and unlikely to cause negative consequences. In addition, they reasoned, the subjects were healthy college students, not individuals who might have been vulnerable because they didn’t understand what was happening or couldn’t take care of themselves. However, when Dr. Kypri and his colleagues published an article about the ethics of their work in the American Journal of Bioethics in 2013, some scientists disagreed with them on issues including the researchers’ belief that participants would have been upset about being misled about the purpose of the study. Likelihood of public benefit is a “necessary condition” for deception, Dr. Kypri says, and another is that there wasn’t any other way to answer the question.

Beirut’s Champs-Elysees Sees Despair of Syria’s Refugees [Donna Abu-Nasr on Bloomberg]

A few steps from Brisk Cafe on Beirut’s Hamra Street, a teenage Syrian squats with her three children and cups her hand appealing for loose change. Along the road, a Syrian shoeshine boy urinates against a poster. “This is not the Hamra Street we used to know,” said Mustapha Broush, the cafe’s supervisor. “We feel for the Syrian refugees, sympathize with them, but they have changed the character of this street.” Imagine if everyone in Mexico spilled over the U.S. border and many ended up scratching for a living on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. That’s the scale of the human wave from war-torn Syria washing up on what was once known as the Middle East’s Champs Elysees, a magnet for wealthy Gulf Arab shoppers in the 1970s. While immigration has transformed the social makeup of cities from Seattle to Seville in recent years, few places have seen anything like the influx in the Lebanese capital. Syrians now number more than 1.1 million in a country of 4.5 million people, making it the largest per-capita recipient of refugees in the world, according to the United Nations. Greater Beirut’s population is about 1.2 million, the World Bank estimates. “It’s a scale of disruption that is hard to get your head around,” World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim told journalists in Beirut in June. “It’s the equivalent of having the entire population of Mexico entering the United States within a two- or three-year period and then integrating that population into your own school systems and health-care systems.”

Curiously Strong Remains:

ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

 

 

06
Sep
14

Roundup – This is How Michael Caine Talks

Best of the Best:

The Pentagon Overpays for Almost Everything—Even Prescription Drugs [Charles Kenny on Bloomberg Businessweek]

If the Pentagon is so bad at providing good weapons to soldiers at a reasonable price, you might not expect it to be any better at buying anything else—and the evidence suggests it isn’t. Take the comparatively straightforward purchasing of off-the-shelf drugs, which the Pentagon does for active-duty and retired personnel and their dependents. Another recent GAOffice report compared net prices across a sample of 78 common and expensive brand-name and generic drugs. Compared to Medicaid, the DOD paid on average 60 percent more. One of the most reviled government agencies gets the best deal; the most loved, the worst. And yet Congress keeps expanding Pentagon’s portfolio. The department has spent more than $3.6 billion on breast cancer research. It funds science on alcohol and substance abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, and lung, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Overseas, we’ve asked it to play a lead role in the reconstruction of Haiti (spending half a billion dollars in the six months after the earthquake), to support anti-Malaria programs in Ethiopia, to vaccinate goats in Uganda, to rehabilitate dams in Afghanistan, and to build mobile phone networks in Iraq. Whether it is any more successful in these efforts than it is buying military equipment is suspect. The implementation record of these programs is patchy at best. During its tenure, the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction pursued U.S. military, civilians, and contractors involved in corruption, fraud, or other abuse in the country. By the time the office closed in 2013, its search had resulted in 90 convictions, 75 of which involved U.S. military staff, DOD employees, or contractors.

Suspect City Florida [Alice Brennan & Dan Lieberman on Fusion]

Earl Sampson has worked for nearly three years at the 207th Street Quickstop, a convenience store that has become the epicenter for police stops. Earl, 28, says he’s been stopped more than 200 times by the Miami Gardens Police Department. According to records obtained by Fusion, MGPD stopped him and filed a field contact report 181 times. In addition, Earl was arrested 111 times. Seventy-one of those arrests were for trespassing at his place of work…Since the Miami Herald first reported Earl Sampson’s story last year, Quickstop owner Alex Saleh has launched a civil rights lawsuit against the police department and the City of Miami Gardens…Alex says he was so appalled that he installed video surveillance cameras in his store — not to record crime but to record police misconduct. In January 2012, Alex says he gave his employee, Earl Sampson, a place to live inside the store to protect him from the police. But even that was no deterrent. In this security video, police are seen storming into Earl’s bedroom in the back of the store. Then Alex Saleh is seen stepping in, demanding police leave Earl alone. Moments later, the police can be seen turning around and leaving the store.

When Yahoo Reigned Supreme [Rohin Dhar on Priceonomics]

Yahoo was attractive to advertisers because it was big and one of the few games in town. It sent untargeted traffic, however, without any particular intent. Buying a banner ad on Yahoo reached people who were checking their email or reading the news. They weren’t looking to buy something or use your service. Yahoo ads were a blunt instrument. As the Internet exploded in size, browsing a list of recommended sites through Yahoo’s directory became intractable. Users needed a better way to search for the proverbially needle in the haystack. Google, with its superior relevance algorithm, blazing fast results, and uncluttered design became the best jumping off point for finding something on the web. Google’s search traffic grew because the product was great.  But Google also figured out how to make search traffic more valuable for advertisers than the display ads sold on portals like Yahoo. When users searched for a keyword, Google would let advertisers bid on placing a sponsored result that matched exactly what the user was looking for.

The Birds: Why the Passenger Pigeon Became Extinct [Jonathan Rosen on The New Yorker]

Human beings live in their historical and cultural contexts as much as passenger pigeons lived in fields, trees, and sky; it is important to remember, for example, that rural people hunted for food in the days before factory farming and supermarkets. The chicken industry in this country alone kills more than seven billion birds a year—far more than the total number of passenger pigeons at their peak. Nobody in the nineteenth century had figured out how to make the slaughter of the birds sustainable, but it is worth wondering what we would think of the passenger pigeon, and ourselves, if they had.

Rise of Viral Farms [Rohin Dhar on Priceonomics]

The first thing that these websites provide is context that primes the visitor to consider the content interesting. All of these viral videos are sitting on Youtube, often gathering dust. It seems to requires an interesting headline and short write up to make something go viral. Consider the case of Upworthy, which finds older videos that their audience might find interesting, optimizes the headlines by testing 25 different versions, and then unleashes the most popular one with great effect. The site only posted 246 times in the month of October, but each one got an average of 18,000+ social shares. That’s almost 8 times more shares than the nearest viral competitor, Mashable.

Hollande Popularity Rises After Actress Affair Disclosed: Poll [Mark Deen on Bloomberg]

French President Francois Hollande’s popularity rose from a record low, according to a poll conducted after a magazine reported that he’s having an affair with actress Julie Gayet. The Socialist president’s approval rating jumped 2 points to 26 percent, according to an LH2 poll for Le Nouvel Observateur magazine. LH2 interviewed 1,018 adults on Jan. 10 and 11. No margin of error was given.

Inquiry by C.I.A. Affirms It Spied on Senate Panel [Mark Mazzeti and Carl Hulse on The New York Times]

An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program. The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information, according to a summary of findings made public on Thursday. One official with knowledge of the report’s conclusions said the investigation also discovered that the officers created a false online identity to gain access on more than one occasion to computers used by the committee staff.

The Business of Fake Hollywood Money [Zachary Crockett on Priceonomics]

For ISS (the company who produced the money), the premise of Rush Hour 2 had become a reality — and they were penned as the bad guy. Sadly, their story is indicative of a constant dilemma faced by prop suppliers in Hollywood: the necessity to skirt the line between strict counterfeiting laws and producers’ demands for incredibly realistic money.

Fourth-Grade Teacher Polishing Up Speech On This Not Being Third Grade Anymore [The Onion]

Sources confirmed that Potter, worried about overwhelming her students too much on the first day, later revised her speech to put more emphasis on the spring field trip to Gettysburg.

£127,000 gold shirt: Indian businessman’s 4kg garment is worth its weight in gold [on The Independent]

An Indian businessman has treated himself for his 45th birthday in a way like no other: by having a shirt made out of gold. Pankaj Parakh, a local politician and the owner of a multi-million pound textile business near Mumbai, has had the shirt created out of pure love for the precious metal. The shirt in question weighs four kilos and is estimated to have cost £127,000. It has seven gold buttons has been created to move flexibly, just like any other shirt. The gold itself is 18-22 carat purity, and there have been no other metals used. It is lined with a thin cloth for added comfort, though the body of the garment is smooth. A team of 20 people are thought to have spent 3,200 hours crafting the shirt.

Is the Australian model in trouble? [Matthew C. Klein on FT Alphaville]

Officially, Australia has avoided recession for more than two decades — an impressive achievement for a small open economy that has become increasingly dependent on exports of iron ore, copper, and coal as a source of growth. Many have attributed this track record to Australia’s fortunate position as one of China’s biggest commodity suppliers, while others have argued that the Reserve Bank of Australia deserves the credit. Australians should hope that their success is due to the skill of their policymakers, rather than luck, because the newest data suggest that Oz’s luck is beginning to change.

The County Map That Explains Ferguson’s Tragic Discord [Peter Coy on Bloomberg Businessweek]

The problem, rather, is that St. Louis is locked into a pattern of inequitable development, as shown in a remarkable series of maps that Iowa’s Gordon has posted on the Web. ‘The Gateway City is,’ he writes, ‘by any measure, one of the most depopulated, deindustrialized, and deeply segregated examples of American urban decay.’ Fragmentation ‘is not the principal cause, but it certainly fed into what’s happening in Ferguson,’ says Robert Cohn, author of The History and Growth of St. Louis County, Missouri. Metro St. Louis has about the same population that it did 30 or 40 years ago, only now it’s thinly spread across 15 counties in Missouri and southern Illinois, up from just four. In an interview, Gordon says that because of Missouri’s tax laws and political fragmentation, ‘there is a huge incentive to build the next great mall in the cornfield because you all of a sudden capture the tax revenue from it. It’s something that everyone recognizes as an insane beggar-your-neighbor policy.’ He adds: ‘In places like Ferguson, you not only have disinvestment and collapsing value in residential, but also in commercial. It contributes to this dramatic spatial mismatch between where they work and where they live. St. Louis is one of the worst cities for length of commute.’

The Great Chinese Exodus [Andrew Browne on The Wall Street Journal]

Beijing makes a crucial distinction between ethnic Chinese who have acquired foreign nationality and those who remain Chinese citizens. The latter category is officially called huaqiao—sojourners. Together, they are viewed as an immensely valuable asset: the students as ambassadors for China, the scientists, engineers, researchers and others as conduits for technology and industrial know-how from the West to propel China’s economic modernization. In 1989, when the Tiananmen Square massacre triggered an outflow of traumatized students and shattered the Party’s image among overseas Chinese communities, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office kicked into high gear with a propaganda campaign to repair the damage. It proved highly successful…Foreigners sometimes have a hard time understanding why Beijing expends so much effort countering threats, real or imagined, from Chinese opponents overseas, including the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. But China’s leaders are haunted by history. To an extraordinary degree, the destiny of modern China has been shaped by the Chinese who left. The overseas Chinese of Southeast Asia provided critical support for Sun Yat-sen’s 1911 revolution, which toppled the Qing. The dynamic works the other way too. When Deng needed money and expertise to unlock the entrepreneurial energies of China in the early 1980s, he first tapped the mega-rich Chinese tycoons in Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, whose factories populated his Special Economic Zones.

Guess Which Party Says Rand Paul ‘Blames America’ (Seriously, Guess) [Robby Soave on Reason] – RW

Which political party’s press secretary put out a press release today that criticizes Sen. Rand Paul because he “blames America…on foreign soil” and subscribes to a radical isolationist policy that would “make American less safe and secure”?…And the answer is…the Democrats. The above statement comes from DNC National Press Secretary Michael Czin. You would be forgiven for thinking otherwise; this is the exact criticism that Republicans have hurled at both Democrats and members of the Paul family for years. But with Rand Paul as the likely Republican presidential contender and interventionist Hillary Clinton as his likely opponent, the absurdities of party politics demand a switching of the unhinged attacks.

The Body on Somerton Beach [Mike Dash on The Smithsonian Magazine]

They certainly were baffled, though, in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, in December 1948. And the only thing that seems to have changed since then is that a story that began simply—with the discovery of a body on the beach on the first day of that southern summer—has become ever more mysterious. In fact, this case (which remains, theoretically at least, an active investigation) is so opaque that we still do not know the victim’s identity, have no real idea what killed him, and cannot even be certain whether his death was murder or suicide.

Lesbian women are ‘significantly more likely’ to orgasm than straight or bisexual females [Heather Saul on The Independent]

Lesbian women are much more likely to orgasm during sexual activity than either straight or bisexual females, a new study has revealed. Women also have less predictable and more varied orgasms than men, research looking at orgasm variation by a team at the Kinsley [sic] Institute has found. Their study discovered that for women – but not men – how likely they are to orgasm varied depending on their sexual orientation, with bi-sexual women being the least likely to experience orgasms.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

28
Jul
14

Roundup – HOSPITAL!

Best of the Best:

The World’s Ball [The New York Times]

The 1970 World Cup was broadcast by satellite in both Europe and the Americas, and the Telstar Durlast was designed to be television friendly. The enduring black-and-white pattern was said to improve visibility on black-and-white sets.

Have Brazilians Lost Their Love of Soccer? [Brendan Greeley on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Wesley is a family friend, taking care of me while I’m in São Paulo for a two-day layover before heading north to Fortaleza to watch some soccer. In Paulinia, where he lives, I ask where the Brazilian flags are. He points down his street and says that in any other World Cup year, you’d see flags on every house. You see them this year, but isolated: two or three per apartment tower. This doesn’t mean that Brazilians don’t care about the cup. It does mean that the way they care about the cup is complicated…In the car, he tells me that Paulinia has an American football team—pigskin and helmets and pads, that kind of football—and says that pigskin football is Brazil’s fastest-growing sport. I ask why, and he explains that the soccer leagues in Brazil are frustratingly corrupt. He’s fed up with corruption in general.

West African Ebola epidemic “out of control”: aid group [Reuters]

An Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is out of control and requires massive resources from governments and aid agencies to prevent it from spreading further, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said on Monday. The death toll has hit 337 since February, the U.N. World Health Organisation said last week, making it the deadliest outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976.

L. Rock Hubbard [Nathan Rabin on Slate]

But even people morbidly obsessed with Hubbard might not realize that before John Travolta donned platform boots to cackle maniacally at the foolishness of puny man-animals in the film version of Battlefield Earth, the book had been adapted into an album written by Hubbard called Space Jazz. Space Jazz wasn’t the only album masterminded by Hubbard in the final years of his life, as the eccentric guru boogied his way toward death. Collectively, these albums offer a fascinating glimpse into both Hubbard’s psyche and rampant egomania.

Paper or Power: Nothing Cut and Dried About Hand Washing in Restrooms [Timothy W. Martin on The Wall Street Journal]

People prefer paper towels by a 4-to-1 margin over hand dryers, according to a 2009 study by industry trade publication Facility Cleaning Decisions. Paper towels, a $2.5 billion industry, still exist by themselves in 85% of the nation’s 30 million, nonresidential bathrooms…Research findings on the most effective way to dry hands is so far a bit wishy-washy. A Mayo Clinic publication, with a study done by a trio of researchers including a former Kimberly-Clark consultant, weighed in on the debate in 2012, declaring that “paper towels are superior” from a hygiene standpoint, because dryers weren’t as effective at wiping bacteria off the hands. But this year, University at Buffalo researchers, using blow torches and cotton swabs to collect bacteria samples, declared high-speed hand dryers more hygienic. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention take no position.

Ohio’s Measles Outbreak Prompts Amish to Get Vaccinated [Sarah Jane Tribble on Kaiser Health News via Governing Magazine]

The largest outbreak of measles in recent U.S. history is underway. Ohio has the majority of these cases – 341 confirmed and eight hospitalizations. The virus has spread quickly among the largely unvaccinated Amish communities in the center of the state.

The demographics and politics of gun-owning households [Rich Morin on FactTank on Pew Research Center]

The new research also suggests a paradox: While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to be gun homicide victims, blacks are only about half as likely as whites to have a firearm in their home (41% vs. 19%). Hispanics are less likely than blacks to be gun homicide victims and half as likely as whites to have a gun at home (20%).

Demographics: Prime and Near-Prime Population and Labor Force [Bill McBride on Calculated Risk]

The prime working age labor force grew even quicker than the population in the ’70s and ’80s due the increase in participation of women. In fact, the prime working age labor force was increasing 3%+ per year in the ’80s! So when compare economic growth to the ’70s, ’80, or 90’s we have to remember this difference in demographics (the ’60s saw solid economic growth as near-prime age groups increased)…As Bruegel notes, the working age population in the US is expected to grow over the next few decades – so the US has much better demographics than Europe, China or Japan (not included). The key points are: 1) A slowdown in the US was expected this decade just based on demographics (the housing bust, financial crisis were piled on top of weak demographics). 2) The prime working age population in the US will start growing again soon.

Four myths about the Great War of 1914-1918 [Mark Harrison, Professor of Economics, University of Warwick via VOX.EU]

It is true that Germany imported 20‐25% of calories for human consumption before the war. Wartime imports were limited by an Allied blockade at sea and (via pressure on neutrals) on land. At the same time, German civilians suffered greatly: hunger-related mortality is estimated at around 750,000 (Davis and Engerman 2006: 204). But decisions made in Berlin, not London, did the main damage to German food supplies. The decision to attack Germany’s main food suppliers struck the first blow. In 1913, the German economy was more interlinked with future adversaries than allies. Britain, France, Italy, and Russia accounted for 36% of pre-war German trade. Britain alone provided more German trade than the 12% share of Austria‐Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire combined (Gartzke and Lupu 2012, Kramer 2013). Gerd Hardach (1987) conjectured that the effects of the loss of trade were outweighed by Germany’s war mobilisation. Mobilisation policies damaged food production in several ways (described by Feldman 1966). On the side of resources, mobilisation diverted young men, horses, and chemical fertilisers from agricultural use to the front line. Farmers’ incentives to sell food were weakened when German industry was converted to war production and ceased to supply the countryside with manufactures. Government initiatives to hold down food prices for the consumer did further damage. Because trade supplied at most one quarter of German calories, and German farmers the other three quarters, it is implausible to see the loss of trade as the primary factor. Germany’s own war effort probably did more to undermine food supplies.

How ‘Crazy Negroes’ With Guns Helped Kill Jim Crow [Thaddeus Russell on Reason Magazine] – RW

Although the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were formally committed to nonviolence, when their volunteers showed up in Canton they happily received protection from Chinn and the militia of armed black men he managed. “Every white man in that town knew you didn’t fuck with C.O. Chinn,” remembered a CORE activist. “He’d kick your natural ass.” Consequently, Chinn’s Club Desire offered a safe haven for black performers such as B.B. King, James Brown, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, and the Platters; illegal liquor flowed freely in the county; and, unlike their comrades in much of Mississippi, CORE and SNCC activists in Canton were able to register thousands of black voters with virtual impunity from segregationist violence. According to Charles E. Cobb’s revelatory new history of armed self-defense and the civil rights movement, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed, Canton and the rest of the South could not have been desegregated without people like C.O. Chinn, who were willing to take the lives of white people and were thus known as “crazy Negroes” or, less delicately, “bad niggers.”

The Price of Prevention: Vaccine Costs Are Soaring [Elisabeth Rosenthal on The New York Times]

The earliest vaccines were not patented, in part because the law at the time held that natural products could not be so protected. And vaccines like polio were developed through a large infusion of government and foundation funds, not by a company. Even when commercialized by the 1960s, vaccines were made by small specialty manufacturers, instead of big pharmaceutical firms, since producing them involved particular challenges: using live organisms, some of them dangerous. Indeed, huge liability payouts and aggressive mergers had, by the 1990s, meant that more than half of the country’s vaccine makers had closed down. With low retail prices, no one regarded vaccine making as a lucrative business. When he started his pediatric practice in 1982 in San Antonio, Dr. Michael Ozer remembers, he charged $22 for a 2-month well-child checkup, with $8 added on for the polio vaccine and another $8 for the vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. “And I’m sure we were making money on it,” he said. But one by one, various barriers eroded: Drug manufacturers discovered new ways to protect their products, like patenting the manufacturing process. The number of vaccine patent applications rose tenfold in the 1990s to more than 10,000. In 1988, the federal government set up the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, effectively shielding manufacturers and doctors.

Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds [Tamar Levin on The New York Times]

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

Soccer Concussions Are More Frequent Than You Think [Eric Chemi on Bloomberg Businessweek]

According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy, more high school soccer players had concussions in 2010 than basketball, baseball, wrestling, and softball players combined. In the CIRP’s report (PDF) for the 2011-12 school year, concussions represented 34 percent of all injuries in boys’ soccer competitions and 30 percent in girls’ soccer. American football, of course, tops the list as the high school sport with the most concussions—but girls’ soccer ranks second. Soccer has seen a 58 percent increase in the number of children suffering concussions over the past decade. Some experts believe that banning headers in youth soccer is one way to limit injuries, because the combination of less-mature brains, weaker neck muscles, and poor heading technique contributes to the damage. While contact between head and ball isn’t directly responsible for most concussions, the long-term accumulation of those small impacts over time could cause problems with the brain, affecting thinking, concentration, and memory. The biggest danger of concussions comes from the act of going up in the air—head first—which leads to such risky situations as hitting another player’s knee.

The Misguided Freakout About Basement-Dwelling Millennials [Derek Thompson on The Atlantic]

[T]he share of 18-to-24-year-olds living at home who aren’t in college has declined since 1986. But the share of college students living “at home” (i.e.: in dorms, often) has increased. So the Millennials-living-in-our-parents meme is almost entirely a result of higher college attendance.  That’s crucial to know, because the share of 25- to 29-year-olds with a bachelor degree has grown by almost 50 percent since the early 1980s. More than 84 percent of today’s 27-year-olds spend at least some time in college and now 40 percent have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. More young people going to school means more young people living in dorms, which means more young people “living with their parents,” according to the weird Census.  Almost half of young people “living with their parents” are in college, where all campus housing counts as “living with their parents.”

Legal experts dissect the US government’s secret drone memo: a round-up [Alice K. Ross on The Bureau of Investigative Journalism]

On Monday, a US court ordered the publication of a secret memo outlining the government’s legal justification for killing an American citizen, Anwar al Awlaki…A CIA drone strike killed Anwar al Awlaki, along with three others, on September 30 2011. His 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, died in a separate drone strike two weeks later. The US government has said Abdulrahman was not the target of the strike that killed him – so no such document exists for him.

How Gowex CEO Went From Defiant to Disgraced in Five Days [Rodrigo Orihuela and Manuel Baigorri on Bloomberg]

It was 10:37 a.m. on July 1. Jenaro Garcia was preparing for a meeting with Madrid’s mayor aimed at fostering Spain’s entrepreneurial spirit when a message popped up on his phone. A short seller in New York had just released a report saying that Let’s Gowex SA (GOW), the company Garcia founded 15 years ago to offer Internet access via Wi-Fi hotspots, had overstated its revenue almost 10-fold in recent years. Garcia denied the accusations and threatened legal action against the report’s author, Gotham City Research LLC. Gowex employees and its auditor made Batman jokes about Gotham, named after the Caped Crusader’s fictitious burg. And Garcia continued his usual routine, posting on Twitter, “Gooooood morning Madrid!!!! Perfect day for a jog.” Then he said the report was on target. On July 6, Gowex announced that Garcia had been stripped of his powers. The previous day, the board said, Garcia told directors that he took responsibility for falsified financial accounts for at least four years. Gowex would file for creditor protection, putting an end to what had been seen as a rare success story of Spanish entrepreneurship.

Born in 1988? Sorry. [Peter R. Orszag via Bloomberg View]

Many studies have documented the income effect. A typical estimate, from a 2010 study, is that every percentage point increase in the unemployment rate during the year a person enters the workforce reduces his or her wages by 6 percent to 7 percent on average. And the reduction persists, though it diminishes somewhat over time. Even 15 years on, a person’s wages are 2.5 percent lower for every percentage point increase in the unemployment rate that happened when he or she graduated from college. This can make for big differences among members of the same generation who are born just a few years apart. Compare a person born in 1988, who graduated in 2010, when the unemployment rate averaged 9.6 percent with someone born in 1984 who graduated from college in 2006, when the unemployment rate averaged 4.6 percent. The person unlucky enough to be born in 1988 had a 30 percent to 35 percent lower wage at graduation. And at their respective 15 year reunions, the 2010 graduate is expected to be earning 12.5 percent less than the 2006 graduate.

These Doctors Are Bowing to a Boy for Doing Something That Could Save Millions of Lives [Matt Connolly on NewsMic] – RW

The boy on the gurney in that powerful photo is 11-year-old Liang Yaoyi, and according to a QQ news story translated by chinaSMACK, he decided to donate his kidneys and liver after suffering from an eventually fatal brain tumor. The operation was performed in June, and doctors bowed to Yaoyi and his mother three times in recognition of his sacrifice.

What Does Your “Relfie” Say About Your Relationship? [Dr.Benjamin Le on The Science of Relationships]

The take home message is that others will assume you are in a good relationship if you post relfies, change your status to “in a relationship with…”, and talk about your relationship on Facebook. In addition, people viewing your profile are pretty accurate in their ratings of your relationship. If you are in a strong relationship, viewers can pick that up from your Facebook profile. However, there is some danger in getting too schmoopie about your relationship on Facebook; although your friends will think your relationship is going well, they will like you less.

Tales From the Friend Zone: REALLY Just Friends? [Dr. Gary Lewandowski on The Science of Relationships]

This demonstrates an important point: being attracted to someone does not mean that the two people will ever hook-up or develop a relationship. Surely, the guys in the study who admit to being attracted to their female friends may simultaneously be more attracted to their current relationship partners as well (“my friend is hot, but my girlfriend is hotter”). Similarly, guys may never pursue a romantic relationship with a female friend either because they know they have no realistic chance, because their female friend already has a relationship, or because she just simply does not see romantic potential with him (i.e., you are staying “just friends”).

Opting Out of Parenthood: How Couples Navigate the Decision to Not Have Children [Dr. Gary Lewandowski on The Science of Relationships]

A couple’s decision to remain childless is clearly one that spouses do not take lightly. Rather, the decision is a deliberative process that unfolds over time. Though many couples quickly reach the decision through mutual agreement to not have children, for other couples the decision is much more complicated and necessitates reconciliation by one partner. Perhaps most importantly, outsiders should view couples who remain voluntarily childless as a partnership that has a strong conviction about remaining childless, largely due to how the partners deeply value their relationship.

Why An African-American Sports Pioneer Remains Obscure [Alan Greenblatt on code switch on NPR] – RW

Alice Coachman Davis never entered the pantheon of breakthrough African-American sports heroes, like Jesse Owens or Wilma Rudolph. But she was a pioneer nonetheless. In 1948, competing as Alice Coachman, she became the first African-American woman to win Olympic gold, breaking the U.S. and Olympic records in the high jump.

I Don’t Want to Be Right [Maria Konnikova on The New Yorker]

Not all false information goes on to become a false belief—that is, a more lasting state of incorrect knowledge—and not all false beliefs are difficult to correct. Take astronomy. If someone asked you to explain the relationship between the Earth and the sun, you might say something wrong: perhaps that the sun rotates around the Earth, rising in the east and setting in the west. A friend who understands astronomy may correct you. It’s no big deal; you simply change your belief. But imagine living in the time of Galileo, when understandings of the Earth-sun relationship were completely different, and when that view was tied closely to ideas of the nature of the world, the self, and religion. What would happen if Galileo tried to correct your belief? The process isn’t nearly as simple. The crucial difference between then and now, of course, is the importance of the misperception. When there’s no immediate threat to our understanding of the world, we change our beliefs. It’s when that change contradicts something we’ve long held as important that problems occur.

This Isn’t a Brain Freeze—Manitoba Wins ‘Slurpee Capital’ Once Again [Julie Steinberg on The Wall Street Journal]

The Manitoba market comprises 52 7-Elevens in all, 43 of them in Winnipeg proper. Manitoba’s locations averaged 8,300 Slurpee sales a month in 2009, according to the most recent figures provided by 7-Eleven, which is a privately held unit of a public company, Tokyo-based Seven & i Holdings Co. The company hasn’t released specific Slurpee sales figures since then. It says other big Slurpee markets include Detroit, Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City…To some Manitobans, nothing beats a nippy winter night like a Slurpee with a nip of alcohol. Mr. Cassidy said some of his buddies “boost” their Slurpees, adding vodka to a Sprite Slurpee or rum to a Coke one. Manitoba’s reign as world Slurpee champion hasn’t gone unchallenged over the years. In 2008, Don Mariotto, the franchisee of a 7-Eleven in Kennewick, Wash., advertised on TV and on radio stations that his store was No. 1 for Slurpee sales in the world between July 2007 and June 2008. He said his slogan was: ‘Move Over, Manitoba, Kennewick is King.; The proclamation received a frosty reception in Winnipeg, where television and radio personalities reported the claim. Manitobans rallied and ultimately prevailed, winning the title that year and each year since. Mr. Mariotto alleges the rules were changed to count the number of cups of Slurpees sold and not the volume, putting his store at a disadvantage. A spokesperson for 7-Eleven said the company stands by the Manitoba victory. Years later, Winnipeg Slurpee aficionados still burst with civic pride over that win. Photographer Kineret Rifkind, who loaded up on Slurpees in 2008 to help defend the crown, now drinks hers out of a one-liter thermos emblazoned with the words “Manitoba Slurpee Capital of the World.”

Despite Exposure of Madoff Fraud, New Ponzi Schemes Emerge [Elizabeth Olson on New York Times Dealbook]

Over the last five years, Mr. Maglich said, he has followed about 500 Ponzi schemes on his site, which includes links to legal documents, including those filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which posts some of them on its website; the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; and state financial authorities. Such swindles are largely viewed as distasteful cousins in the high-rolling world of securities, but they still rake in amounts that could be envied on Wall Street. In May alone, at least nine newly discovered Ponzi schemes were claimed to involve more than $96 million, said Kathy Bazoian Phelps, a Los Angeles lawyer who keeps a running tally on her blog.

Chinese Hackers Show Humans Are Weakest Security Link [Jordan Robertson on Bloomberg]

Spearphishing, a more targeted version of mass-e-mail phishing attacks, has long been known as a glaring vulnerability. In 2011, RSA Security, a unit of EMC, was hacked that way, exposing a hiring campaign. A Coca-Cola Co. executive opened a spearphishing message in 2012, leading hackers to gain access to internal documents. At Alcoa, about 19 employees received an e-mail purporting to be from a board member, Carlos Ghosn, who is also chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. An attachment to the message, once opened, unleashed a virus that penetrated Alcoa’s network. While Ghosn wasn’t directly identified in yesterday’s indictment, the document refers to a director with the initials “C.G.” Ghosn was the only board member at the time matching that criteria. Chris Keeffe, a spokesman for Nissan, and Monica Orbe, a spokeswoman for Alcoa, declined to comment. Some of the main targets are personal assistants, who play a central role inside companies and are targeted because they often have access to executives’ calendars, contact lists and e-mail accounts, according to Kevin Haley, director of Symantec Corp.’s Security Response team. The other type of workers targeted most often are public-relations professionals, whose names and e-mail addresses are easy to harvest from public Web pages. They’re also accustomed to hearing from people they don’t already know, Haley said.

Wealthy Somalis Flout Kenyan Law Banning Female Circumcision [Abjata Khalif on Bloomberg]

Halima Abdi charges foreign visitors at least $1,000 for a tour of remote northeastern Kenyan villages that most people wouldn’t dream of making. Her clients are young girls sent by their parents to undergo traditional circumcision. Most of her customers are ethnic Somalis who arrive from countries such as the U.K., Sweden and the Netherlands, Abdi explained in an interview at her cramped one-room office in the suburb of Eastleigh in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Abdi says she’s offered ‘consultancy services’ to hundreds of migrant families from abroad since she began operating in 2000. ‘I have undergone the female cut and I have administered the same to my daughters and their granddaughters too will go through it,’ said Abdi, a 48-year-old mother of five children. ‘These beliefs and values are still present and valued by Somalis in Africa and the developed world.’ While female genital mutilation has been illegal in Kenya since 2011, practitioners like Abdi continue to earn a handsome living from the procedure. The Wagalla Centre for Peace and Human Rights, a Wajir, Kenya-based advocacy group, says the practice has made some circumcisers rich enough to buy four-wheel-drive vehicles, build luxury homes in remote villages and acquire livestock.

Cynk Short Squeeze Blamed by Trader for Costing Him Job [Zeke Faux and Jing Cao on Bloomberg]

A Wall Street trader said Cynk Technology Corp.’s (CYNK) 36,000 percent stock surge cost him his job, and he blames a short squeeze and regulators who didn’t halt the shares before the company’s value shot past $6 billion. Tom Laresca, a market-maker at Buckman Buckman & Reid Inc., said he was among traders who thought they spotted a scam as the shares jumped to $2.25 last month from pennies. He sold it short last week around $6 — which means selling stock you don’t own with a plan to buy it cheaper soon, pocketing the difference. Laresca figured the Securities and Exchange Commission would suspend trading, sending the price toward zero. Cynk has said it’s a social-network service with no revenue and one employee…Instead of falling, the price more than doubled the next day, July 9, starting the squeeze. Market-makers who had sold the shares short got nervous and scrambled to buy them to close their positions, driving the price even higher, Laresca said. The SEC stopped trading two days later, citing concerns about the accuracy of information in the marketplace and “potentially manipulative transactions.” That was too late, Laresca said.

Craft Beer Industry Taps Profits of “Big Beer” [Elaine S. Povich on Stateline]

According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade industry publication, the craft beer industry produces 16 million barrels annually, approximately 7.8 percent of the total beer volume in the U.S. Back in 2008, the crafters produced only 8.9 million barrels for a 4.2 percent share. The craft beer industry is growing 13 percent to 14 percent each year, with a commensurate drop in production by the “big guys” like Anheuser-Busch and Coors, from 177.6 million barrels in 2008 down to 162.7 million in 2013, said Beer Marketer’s vice president Eric Shepard.

The Economics of Fake Degrees [Scott McLemee on Slate]

Last year a dog received his MBA from the American University of London, a non-accredited distance-learning institution. It feels as if I should add ‘not to be confused with the American University in London,’ but getting people to confuse them seems like a pretty basic feature of the whole AUOL marketing strategy. The dog, identified as ‘Peter Smith’ on his diploma, goes by Pete. He was granted his degree on the basis of ‘previous experiential learning,’ along with payment of 4,500 pounds ($7,723). The funds were provided by a BBC news program, which also helped Pete fill out the paperwork. The American University of London required that Pete submit evidence of his qualifications as well as a photograph. The applicant submitted neither, as the BBC website explains, ‘since the qualifications did not exist and the applicant was a dog.’

How Gamblers Get Hot [Jay Caspian Kang on The New Yorker]

Juemin Xu and Nigel Harvey, the study’s authors, took a sampling of 569,915 bets taken on an online sports-gambling site and tracked how previous wins and losses affected the probability of wins in the future. Over all, the winning percentage of the bets was somewhere around forty eight per cent. Xu and Harvey isolated the winners and tracked how they fared in their subsequent bets. In bet two, winners won at a rate of forty-nine per cent. From there, the numbers go haywire. A player who had won two bets in a row won his third bet at a rate of fifty-seven per cent. His fourth bet won sixty-seven percent of the time, his fifth bet seventy-two. The best gamblers in Las Vegas expect to win fifty-five per cent of their bets every year. Seventy-two per cent verges on omniscience. The hot hand, it appears, is real. Losers, unsurprisingly, continued to lose. Of the 190,359 bettors who lost their initial bet, fifty-three per cent lost their next, and those who had enough money left for a third round lost sixty per cent of the time. When unfortunate bettors got to five straight losses, their chance of winning dropped to twenty-three per cent. The losing streaks should be familiar to problem gamblers and can be explained by another well-worn theory called the gambler’s fallacy. If you’ve ever called heads on a coin flip, seen the coin land tails up, and then called heads again because ‘heads is due,’ you’ve been caught up in the gambler’s fallacy. Winning and losing streaks had no correlation with the skill or risk aversion of the gambler. Xu and Harvey examined the over-all payoffs of gamblers across three currencies and found no significant difference between hot-streakers and cold-streakers. What the research did find was that gamblers on streaks—good or bad—acted under the influence of the gambler’s fallacy. Winning bettors began placing more prudent bets because they assumed their luck would soon run out. Losers began placing bets with longer odds because they wanted to win big when their luck finally, inevitably changed.

Here’s What Obama’s ‘Part-Time America’ Really Looks Like [Derek Thompson on The Atlantic]

Three thoughts for the road: 1) Most people working part-time want to work part-time because they’re in school, or they’re raising kids, or they consider themselves mostly retired. Don’t pay attention to anybody who’s using the number of stay-at-home dads and moms to argue that Obamacare is destroying full-time work. 2) Last fall, the Fed produced a useful document explaining that “current levels of part-time work are largely within historical norms, despite increases for selected demographic groups, such as prime-age workers with a high-school degree or less.” 3) If you insist on being a pessimist, here’s a very smart way to express fear about the future of part-time work, also from the Fed. There are some industries, such as hotels, food service, and retail, that have historically had shorter workweeks and more part-time workers. If those sectors continue to grow faster than the overall economy (because other sectors, like government and manufacturing, are shrinking), then we should expect part-time work to remain elevated. Indeed, the relative strength of those industries today is one reason why part-time work hasn’t declined even faster than it has.

Master’s degrees are as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the ’60s [Libby Nelson on Vox]

The story of the past four decades isn’t just about how master’s degrees became as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the 1960s. It’s about how the US has redefined which fields need or reward postgraduate study. In 1970, the 15 most popular master’s degrees — which made up 94 percent of all master’s degrees given that year — split up their market share [with] education…dominant, and many of the other master’s degrees were in traditional academic fields. Over the next four decades, they’d lose ground to professional degrees. And slowly but surely, MBAs would take over the world. By the time the class of 1981 donned their master’s hoods, the degrees that would dominate for the next 30 years had established themselves at the top of the heap. Two categories of professionally oriented degrees, health professions (public health, nursing, and similar fields) and public administration and social services (public policy and social work) were gaining. And computer science has made its first appearance. The top 15 degrees don’t change much in the 1980s and 1990s, even as the number of master’s degrees continued to grow. By the class of 2002…[c]omputer science has jumped up, while theology and history are losing ground. Education, once far more popular than business, is now on more or less the same level. The 2000s see the real rise of professional master’s degrees. In 1971, about 64 percent of master’s recipients were getting either a degree in business or a degree that lined up with a specific job (engineer, nurse, librarian, policy wonk). By 2012, about 80 percent were — and business reigned supreme, passing education in 2010.

How a Copyright Dispute Helped Give America Rock ‘n’ Roll [Alex Mayyasi on Priceonomics]

Lobbying by ASCAP helped secure the passage of the 1909 copyright law — the organization also survived an antitrust case in 1937 — but it did not become really lucrative until radio performances became a significant source of revenue. After ASCAP’s share of radio revenue increased from $750,000 to $4.3 million from 1932 to 1939, it doubled the fees it charged to play its copyrighted works in 1940. Radio stations balked; after all, they had hosted bands to play on the air at no charge just years earlier, since it was seen as good publicity and marketing for the performers. In response, a number of radio broadcasters boycotted ASCAP and formed BMI as an alternative. BMI focused on local music — lots of blues, country, and folk — that ASCAP ignored in its focus on LA, New York City, and music it considered highbrow. (To the extent ASCAP represented black musicians, they played genres like jazz that white audiences had already adopted, according to Garofalo.) Suddenly rhythm and blues music had a national audience that included white listeners, while other local musicians also received a national airing.

The Hippie Hobby Lobby: Eden Foods Says No to Birth Control [Susan Berfield on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Eden Foods calls itself the oldest natural and organic food company in North America. Chances are that if you buy organic food, you’ve bought Eden’s soy milk, beans, or pasta. The company, which started as a food co-op, is owned and run by Michael Potter, a practicing Catholic who similarly doesn’t want to provide birth control to his employees. In fact, Potter’s objections go farther than those that took the Hobby Lobby case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Greens refused to cover four kinds of birth control they consider tantamount to abortion, while Potter objects to paying for any form of birth control. Eden Foods filed a lawsuit last year, seeking exemption on religious grounds, and lost. Following the Supreme Court’s decision on June 30, Eden’s case is being reconsidered.

Librarians Lack LeBron’s Pull as Miami Arena Deal Precedes Cuts [Toluse Olorunnipa on Bloomberg]

Last month, Miami politicians approved a $19 million subsidy for the professional basketball arena. Six weeks later, they turned to a grimmer task: deciding how many police and librarians to fire.

Here’s What Happens When Your Joke Goes Massively Viral On Twitter [Caroline Moss on Business Insider]

The tweet was still being retweeted, hitting close to 16,000 around July Fourth. And when Scott thought it couldn’t get anymore bizarre — being accused of plagiarizing his own joke was surely the strangest thing that could happen — someone pointed out that YouTube celebrity Tyler Oakley was a fan of the joke. But Oakley had posted the screengrab of the tweet to his Facebook and blacked out Scott’s handle. In fact, the only credit Oakley gives is to himself and his Tumblr page. With 1.6 million fans on Facebook, Oakley cheats Scott out of the small fame and glory he would have had from having his name attached to his joke in this particular situation.

Netflix’s 50 Million Subscribers Face a Flood of New Shows [Ashlee Vance on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Netflix has spent more and risked more to become a real competitor to HBO (TWX) and Showtime (CBS) in programming while maintaining a technology edge over everyone. When Netflix first set out on this strategy, it was easy to predict a bleak future in which the company would spend itself to death buying shows that no one watched. Netflix took a huge risk, although hindsight and the rising subscriber numbers are making it harder to remember just how gutsy the move was.

Why The Last Five Years Of Your Life Have Disappeared [Ron Friedman on Fast Company]

Studies show that people who feel “time-rich” tend to be happier and more fulfilled than those of us who constantly feel rushed. They experience fewer headaches and upset stomachs, and regularly get better quality sleep. And it’s not just people who are time-rich and financially successful. Studies show that time affluence is independent of income. Feeling less pressured promotes a happier existence, regardless of how much you earn.

Millennials’ Political Views Don’t Make Any Sense [Derek Thompson on The Atlantic]

Forty-two percent of Millennials think socialism is preferable to capitalism, but only 16 percent of Millennials could accurately define socialism in the survey.

How Advanced Socialbots Have Infiltrated Twitter [MIT Technology Review]

The team also teased apart the data to find out what factors contributed to the success of the bots. Unsurprisingly, activity level is important and the more active bots achieved greater popularity in their social networks. That’s expected since more active bots are more likely to be seen by others (although they are also more likely to be detected by Twitter’s defense mechanisms). More surprisingly, the socialbots that generated synthetic tweets (rather than just reposting) performed better too. That suggests that Twitter users are unable to distinguish between posts generated by humans and by bots. “This is possibly because a large fraction of tweets in Twitter are written in an informal, grammatically incoherent style, so that even simple statistical models can produce tweets with quality similar to those posted by humans in Twitter,” suggest Freitas and co. The groups that the socialbots were set up to follow also had a major effect. The group of socially connected software developers produced the fewest followers while the group of randomly chosen software developers generated the highest number of them.

It’s Very Difficult for Patients to Compare Hospital Prices [Kaiser Health News on Governing Magazine]

Seattle-area hospitals, while insisting that charges are largely meaningless because they’re not what insurers or most patients end up paying, were nevertheless quick to provide explanations when their own charges were high or low. Swedish, pointing to its destination Heart & Vascular Institute, says its average charges, often the highest in the area, reflect the high numbers of complicated cases it handles. Virginia Mason, on the other hand, says its low charges reflect a commitment to eliminating unnecessary tests and procedures, inefficient use of staff and sloppy supply ordering.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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