semiotic_pirate: (kitty tp unrolling - evil laugh)
My weekend has started off so well I am literally dancing about the house shouting "Huzzah!" at the top of my lungs.

First. Finally got hitched; delirious happiness ensues... Lots of silly hand holding and smooches recommence even after we both emphatically said to each other "we've been together over eight years, nothing's going to change."

Second. I was able to - last week- have the good timing to get a pre-order in for a pair of iPhone 4s.

Third. Said pre-ordered phones were delivered to AT&T store and picked up and implemented seamlessly, yesterday.

Fourth. This is where the triumphing over the evil bank comes in. I applied for a refinance of my vehicle with my credit union after making six months of payments on it with the Viking Horde National Bank of interest gouging awfulness... Just got off the phone with my loan officer from my awesome credit union... I GOT THE REFINANCE! W0000000000t! Went from an awful 14.61% APR to 8.3%, dropped the payment by $100 while reducing the term by splitting the payment into bi-weekly paycheck deductions. Which will amortize the loan so much quicker than the term I got approved for just NOW.

Fifth. Just realized I can put that extra $100 to get the honeymoon paid back for that much sooner! Huzzah!

If anyone want to know about the honeymoon, ask. I'll say what and where, but not when. We aren't going on a traditional timeline, obviously.
semiotic_pirate: (SVU flashlight-search)
Libya 'to pull Swiss bank assets'

Libya is to withdraw assets from Swiss banks, estimated at $7bn, as a diplomatic row over the arrest of the Libyan leader's youngest son escalates.

Read more... )

In other news on the BBC:

Bank turmoil fuels phishing boom - phishing attacks are up at least 180% over last year. Credit card fraud is likewise on the rise. UK reports 302 million pounds lost in the first six months of 2008, up 14% from the first six months of 2007.

According to an EU-commissioned study - the global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis. The economics of climate change are monetizing biodiversity and carbon sinks like forestland. Study leader Pavan Sukhdev, in a statement to BBC News said: "So whereas Wall Street by various calculations has to date lost, within the financial sector, $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that at today's rate we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year."

Repossession being considered a "mental threat" is not surprising. I'm glad that 90 year old woman in Ohio does not have to worry about foreclosure anymore. I never did find out why Polk, in 2004, took out a 30-year, 6.375 percent mortgage for $45,620 with a Countrywide Home Loan office in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and an $11,380 line of credit.

Also... lucky those in the UK, as well as other countries with socialized health care, for whom mental health care is relatively free.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations says that at least 60 of its 6,500 members may have lost up to 120 million pounds of deposits that were meant for long-term projects. This includes The Cat Protection League. I wonder how the financial downturn is affecting U.S. based charities…

Where is the outrage? Why isn't OUR leader (US-Centric, yes) demanding the recent falls in the price of oil be passed on to the consumer?

Fear grips global stock markets…. Still. Never seems to end, does it? Turmoil! Fear! Plunging value of money! Fear! Be Afraid!

In other, other news:

Man Kills Bear With Stick

New Invasion of V's Lizard Aliens Coming! Here's the Variety article and for good measure… The Wiki.

Did you know that the 1980's miniseries V, in which aliens invaded Earth, served as an allegory for the Holocaust and Nazi Germany? Scott Peters, one of the two executive producers of the new V, said he won’t duplicate that concept, except that the new "V" will still focus on what happens when the masses have blind faith in their leaders.

Will Jesus be returning as an Atlantic blacktip shark? In a study reported Friday in the Journal of Fish Biology, scientists said DNA testing proved that a pup carried by a female Atlantic blacktip shark in the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center contained no genetic material from a male.

The first documented case of asexual reproduction, or parthenogenesis, among sharks involved a pup born to a hammerhead at an Omaha, Neb., zoo.

Interesting, reminds me of a Charlotte Perkins Gilman novel: Herland. Electronic text of the book to be found here.

Hey! Who gave this guy permission to build my library?! OMGF! *drools heavily into cupped hand to protect the books* Follow the link for more tasty personal library pictures… Yum.

Last, but certainly not least if [ profile] crabbyolbastard has anything to say about it: New chips poised to revolutionize digital photography.
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
As an update to my disparaging of hemlines being linked to economic health:

Sociopolitical climate affects dating preferences
by Erina Lee | August 29th, 2008

Did you know that the politics and the economy can influence who you are attracted to? Grace Lau and colleagues at the University of Waterloo conducted an experiment showing just that. In their study, 36 single male Canadian students read an excerpt either describing a poor or positive view of the social, economic, and political climate in Canada.

After this, participants looked at several women’s online dating profiles and then rated their interest in getting to know these women romantically. As part of the experiment, women in the profiles were described in stereotypically feminine ways (i.e., “vulnerable, pure, and ideal for making men feel complete”) or more non-stereotypical ways (i.e., “career oriented, party seeking, active in social causes or athletic”).

Results revealed that men who read the “poor” description of the sociopolitical climate were more interested in meeting the stereotypical rather than the non-stereotypical women. Interestingly, however, overall interest for non-stereotypic women remained the same across conditions. In other words, reading an unsettling review of the current sociopolitical climate enhanced men’s preference for stereotypically feminine women, but it did not enhance nor diminish their interest in non-stereotypic women.
Read more... )
And for those who need more bad news: Tent Cities Are Reviving - all across the country, indicating a precipitous rise in poverty and homelessness.

Thanks again [ profile] interactiveleaf for brightening my day.
semiotic_pirate: (speak your mind)
Has anyone heard of The Pickens Plan? What do you think of it and do you think it is something people should get behind and support? Does it sound reasonable and doable?
semiotic_pirate: (eyeball)
Yes. Today I have posted a zillion times - well, at least a half-dozen anyways. I even wrote poetry! I decided to read some news articles...

Kenya burned eleven "witches" recently. Dear powers that be, that is excruciatingly horrible.

And... *shudder* there is a new wait-til-the-abuses-start-happening drug that is currently being researched:

Trust drug may cure social phobia

A nasal spray which increases our trust for strangers is showing promise as a treatment for social phobia, say scientists from Zurich University.

They found that people who inhaled the "love hormone" oxytocin continued to trust strangers with their money - even after they were betrayed.

Brain scans showed the hormone lowered activity in the amygdala - a region which is overactive in social phobics.

Drug trials are underway and early signs are promising say the scientists.

Nicknamed the "cuddle chemical", oxytocin is a naturally produced hormone, which has been shown to play a role in social relations, maternal bonding, and also in sex.

Lead researcher Dr Thomas Baumgartner said: "We now know for the first time what exactly is going on in the brain when oxytocin increases trust.

"We found that oxytocin has a very specific effect in social situations. It seems to diminish our fears.

"Based on our results, we can now conclude that a lack of oxytocin is at least one of the causes for the fear experienced by social phobics.

"We hope and indeed we expect that we can improve their sociability by administering oxytocin."

Powerful effect

Previous studies have shown that participants in "trust games" took greater risks with their money after inhaling the hormone via a nasal spray.

In this latest experiment, published in the journal Neuron, the researchers asked volunteer subjects to take part in a similar trust game.

They were asked to contribute money to a human trustee, with the understanding that the trustee would invest the money and decide whether to return the profits or betray the subjects trust by keeping the profit.

The subjects also received doses of oxytocin or a placebo via a nasal spray.

After investing, the participants were given feedback on the trustees. When their trust was abused, the placebo group became less willing to invest. But the players who had been given oxytocin continued to trust their money with a broker.

"We can see that oxytocin has a very powerful effect," said Dr Baumgartner.

"The subjects who received oxytocin demonstrated no change in their trust behaviour, even though they were informed that their trust was not honoured in roughly 50% of cases."

In a second game, where the human trustees were replaced by a computer which gave random returns, the hormone made no difference to the players' investment behaviour.

"It appears that oxytocin affects social responses specifically related to trust," Dr Baumgartner said.

Defence barriers

During the games, the players' brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The researchers found that oxytocin reduced activity in two regions which act as natural "defence barriers".

They are the amygdala, which processes fear and danger, and an area of the striatum, which helps to guide future behaviour, based on reward feedback.

The amygdala has been found to be extremely active in the brains of sufferers of social phobia.

Dr Baumgartner's colleague, Professor Markus Heinrichs, has begun a study where social phobia sufferers are given either oxytocin or a placebo, in combination with cognitive and behavioural therapy.

The trials are ongoing, but Dr Baumgartner said that early signs appear "promising".

The hormone could also be a candidate for treating patients with autism, he says.

"Autistic people also have a fear of social situations and have problems interacting, so it is very likely that oxytocin could help," he said.

"This hormone seems to play a very specific role in social situations so might be able to improve autism. But so far I am not aware of any studies."

Mauricio Delgado, a psychologist at Rutgers University, said: "This study has significant implications for understanding mental disorders where deficits in social behaviour are observed.

"While a degree of wariness may protect one from harm, being able to ''forgive and forget'' is an imperative step in maintaining long-term relationships.

"The reported oxytocin finding could provide a bridge for potential clinical applications."

Story from BBC NEWS:

First "twisted" application I can think of is the military uses... Way to defeat the enemy, get the enemy to talk, and so forth. Trust your government to protect you, you don't need rights because we are trustworthy and will take care of you.

And then there are the rising rates of possible starvation out there, revealed in this NY Times article: World's Poor Pay Price As Crop Research Is Cut (needs subscription). A series of excerpts follows:

"The brown plant hopper, an insect no bigger than a gnat, is multiplying by the billions and chewing through rice paddies in East Asia, threatening the diets of many poor people.

With demand beginning to outstrip supply, prices have soared, and food riots have erupted that have undermined the stability of foreign governments.

Crop by crop and country by country, agricultural research and development are lagging.

The demand for food keeps growing. Insects and plant diseases adapt, overcoming efforts to thwart them.

Many poor countries, instead of developing their own agriculture, turned to the world market to buy cheap rice and wheat. In 1986, Agriculture Secretary John Block called the idea of developing countries feeding themselves “an anachronism from a bygone era,” saying they should just buy American.

Around 2004, the world economy began growing more quickly, about 5 percent a year. So as the food supply was lagging, millions of people were gaining the money to improve their diets.

The world began to use more grain than it was producing, cutting into reserves, and prices started rising. Early this year, as stocks fell to perilous levels, international grain prices doubled or even tripled, threatening as many as 100 million people with malnutrition.

A plant hopper outbreak can destroy 20 percent of a harvest."
semiotic_pirate: (speak your mind)
The following is a series of semi-connected bits and pieces found while rooting through my links list. Some are articles or posts in their entirety, others are just links to follow to an article/post. Enjoy... and please reply with any comments, questions, jokes, etc. I like hearing people's opinions, even when I argue them to death when I disagree with their viewpoints. *wink*

Found this posted a while back on Stay Free - and it makes me more optimistic about the coming yes/no employment decision:

Introducing the new American worker

Newsflash: kids today are self-absorbed, lazy little pricks. That's what we learned on this recent 60 Minutes episode. There have been a number of news articles on this topic: how twentysomething "millennials" raised on a diet of warm fuzzies and relentless self-esteem building are a disaster in the workplace, needing constant praise and attention. 60 Minutes focuses on how U.S-based corporations are coping by reframing old-school Successories-style motivation with new gimmicks like "wacky" in-office parades, award certificates, and free handjobs.
Read more... )

Finally, an interesting term describing top-heavy home loans:

jingle mail n. The practice of abandoning one's house and mailing the keys back to the creditor because the mortgage is worth more than the house itself.
—jingle mailer n.

Example Citation:
Making it harder for people to discharge their credit-card debts has other drawbacks as well. Homeowners would once do almost anything to keep up payments on their homes, even if it meant falling behind on other debts. In the past year, though, economists have reported an increase in the number of people who are just walking away from their homes, because it's now often easier to abandon a mortgage than a credit-card bill. (The practice has even been given a name — "jingle mail," because people simply send their keys back in an envelope.)
—James Surowiecki, "Going for Broke," The New Yorker, April 7, 2008
semiotic_pirate: (ron growling)

1st, 2nd, and 3rd world country labels are relics from the Cold War.

The first world were democratic capitalist countries that were industrialized. NATO was the biggest collection of these countries

The second world were Communist, industrialized countries. The Warsaw pact is the biggest collection of these countries

The Third world were non-aligned countries that were not industrialized. Basically the third world was the battleground for the Soviet Union and the US fighting for converts to their ideology. The Cold War was fought for control of these countries either by military conquest, or political influence.


Having a difference of opinion in a previous post as to the disposition of China. In referring to it in Cold-War Era terms, it is a 2nd World nation. Because it was (oh, still is!) an industrialized nation. Industrialized nations can build things such as factories and power plants without too much trouble, when compared directly to non-industrialized nations.

China just experienced a massive earthquake. One of the ways we get updates about this is all the people in China that are blogging, Twittering, and Flickering about what's going on in their neck of the woods.

And, isn't China like one of the biggest industrial espionage nations out there? Can't use that stolen technology information if you don't have the industrial capacity to make home-grown versions.

Am I losing my mind? Should I accept China being called 3rd world just because they aren't democratic or as up to date on having a clean, environmentally responsible to the planet political stance? It's not like I am comparing them to Switzerland or something... I just think that they could build a cellulose-to-ethanol plant if they really wanted to.

Opinions wanted on this topic. What do you think?
semiotic_pirate: (Pirate Grrl - RIOT)
Truly. Not. Surprised.

As people continue to speculate in the oil market, doing to it what the speculators did to the real estate market, we the consumer pays the ever-rising price.

Question: Why doesn't China, with all the humongous hectares of available land, grow a shit-load of switchgrass and convert to cellulose ethanol?

Question: Is Saudi Arabia correct in their comment about the speculators or are they glad to see the prices skyrocket for the infidel Americans and those of other nations? After all, who is profiting from their OPEC-ian squeeze play?

Question: Why do they continue to say "oil reaches record prices" when we KNOW that every increase in price is setting a new record? FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!

Oil above $127 for the first time

Oil prices have hit a record high above $127 a barrel on speculation that China will need to import more fuel, stretching global supplies.

With more energy needed to rebuild areas devastated by the earthquake earlier this week, US light sweet crude jumped to $127.43 a barrel.

Prices were also supported by Goldman Sachs forecasting that oil would reach $141 a barrel later this year.

London Brent crude also climbed, touching $125.82 a barrel.

"Tight supply conditions continue to be the primary catalyst for higher crude prices," Goldman Sachs analysts said.

Pressure on Opec

Prices have risen by about 25% since the beginning of the year, lifted by geopolitical worries and the weakening US dollar, which makes oil cheaper for foreign buyers.

At the same time demand from fast-growing Asian economies, notably China, has exacerbated price pressures.

The latest price rises come as US President George W Bush flies into Saudi Arabia to urge the kingdom to pump more crude and help bring prices down.

The US has already agreed to help protect Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure from terrorists and help it develop environmentally cleaner energy options.

But so far, oil cartel Opec, of which Saudi Arabia is a key member, has refused to increase production, insisting that the price rises have been driven by speculators and not real demand problems.

Story from BBC NEWS:


They sure as hell won't be re-airing Oilstorm anytime soon... Man, that was too close to being prophetic. Seriously. Click on "Synopsis" to get the scoop of what it was about. You tell me? Does that gas-prices sign look at all familiar? I'm tempted to buy this on DVD (if available) and hold a viewing here at Pirate CoB Casa.
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
Emphasis added by me to certain, key sections of the article. Why do the oil companies think we are "punishing" them by taking away their subsidies? They're making more than enough profit to offset the loss of the tax breaks, I'm sure. Shit. When were these subsidies created, by whom, and for what reason? We want clean energy, we want cheap energy... We know that the combination of those two demands are possible. But infrastructure isn't there yet, and the "Oil Mafia" and others are out to squeeze as much profit out of what they have going now before they allow (by lobbying, yeah?) anything more beneficial to both society and the environment to be used.

What are your gas prices right now? Because, already, this articles quoted prices are out of date. I saw 87 octane at $3.95 - $4.05 on Wednesday, here in CT.

Oil Lobby Reaches Out to Citizens Peeved at the Pump
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008; D01

Faced with a national outcry over the high price of gasoline and soaring profits for energy companies, the oil and gas industry is waging an unusually pricey campaign to burnish its image.

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's main lobby, has embarked on a multi-year, multimedia, multi-million-dollar campaign, which includes advertising in the nation's largest newspapers, news conferences in many state capitals and trips for bloggers out to drilling platforms at sea.

The intended audience is elected officials and the public, with an emphasis on the latter. The industry is trying to convince voters -- who, in turn, will make the case to their members of Congress -- that rising energy prices are not the producers' fault and that government efforts to punish the industry, especially with higher taxes, would only make pricing problems worse.

"We decided that if we didn't do something to help people understand the basics of our industry, we'd be on the losing end as far as the eye could see," said Red Cavaney, the institute's president.

Despite the efforts, Democratic congressional leaders this week again proposed an energy plan that would strip oil companies of billions of dollars of tax breaks and impose a tax on windfall profits. Also, the Democratic presidential candidates routinely pronounce "big oil" as if it were a one-word epithet, said former Oklahoma senator Don Nickles, an energy lobbyist.

Still, the oil lobby thinks it has made significant progress with consumers and will make even more as it continues to spend heavily on public relations. Allied industry groups such as coal and natural gas are also increasing their efforts to curry favor with the public, hoping to improve citizens' sometimes poor opinion of them.

The campaign has stirred outrage among consumer groups. They complain that the industry is using its outlandish profits to make even more money, and that its advertisements use statistics selectively. "It's basically deceptive advertising that dulls the natural and proper reaction of the public," said Mark N. Cooper, research director of the Consumer Federation of America.

Oil company profits have soared lately, bolstered by record crude oil prices. This month, Exxon Mobil reported a first-quarter profit of $10.89 billion, up 17 percent from a year ago, which provoked new congressional complaints. Shell and BP also posted sharp quarterly profit increases. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have risen to a national record of nearly $3.65 a gallon, and crude oil has hit a new peak of nearly $124 a barrel.

Cavaney will not disclose how much his institute is spending on its campaign, except to say that it is less than $100 million a year, which was roughly the size of the "Got Milk?" ad blitz that featured famous people with milk mustaches.

The price tag for issue-oriented campaigns that lobbies routinely sponsor is huge, said Bill Replogle, an advertising executive at Qorvis Communications.

"A typical issues ad-spend in D.C. might be $2 million to $3 million for a significant campaign," he said. "This dwarfs that, and many national ad buys."

The oil and gas industry has long been considered a powerhouse in Washington, thanks to its big spending inside the Beltway and quietly extensive ties to influential lawmakers from the oil patch. The industry is the third-largest campaign contributor among major industry groups and the fourth-largest buyer of lobbying services, according to the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine.

The industry has lobbied Congress intensively in the past few years, institute officials said. But such insider connections were insufficient to hold back an anti-industry tide that rolled into the capital after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Energy prices spiked then, prompting a spate of congressional hearings that focused on oil company profits and led to attempts to pass a windfall profits tax.

"That was a wake-up call," Cavaney said. His organization began to research public opinion about, and knowledge of, the industry and found it extremely low. In response, it began a national advertising and public relations drive that has become among the largest of its kind.

This has been especially visible to residents of big cities this year, with prominent ads appearing in major newspapers and commercials during public affairs television.

This week, for example, the institute bought full-page ads explaining what goes into the cost of gasoline (predominantly crude oil and taxes) in USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and seven other large newspapers.

But a lot of the oil lobby's outreach has been directed at smaller markets, where its press events have gotten prominent and positive coverage. State capitals have been a favorite venue for what the institute calls its "tech tour," an interactive exhibit, including video games, that highlights technological advances that allow companies to extract oil and gas cheaper -- and to burn it cleaner -- than in the recent past.

In March 2007, the tech tour exhibit spent time in Lansing, Mich., the state capital. A year later, it visited West Virginia's capital, Charleston. Local television stations aired prominently placed, upbeat 30-second news segments after each visit.

The lobby has started courting online journalists as well. In November, the institute said it invited bloggers to Shell's facilities in New Orleans and then took them to visit the offshore platform Brutus. The same month, the institute also brought bloggers to Chevron's offices in Houston and its Blind Faith platform under construction in Corpus Christi, Tex. There are more tours in the works.

Coal companies, and the users and transporters of the commodity, are also trying to improve coal's image with a $45 million-a-year campaign, and Oklahoma billionaire Aubrey K. McClendon is spending millions through a foundation to promote natural gas.

R. Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, said energy companies are reacting not just to higher prices and profits but to the three-year, $300 million "We" campaign launched in March by former vice president Al Gore urging a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. "The need to get information out there to explain how energy relates to the environment is key," Horvath said.

But Cavaney of API is not promising instant results. He said that his group's efforts have produced "a very different conversation" about energy, but that the job is not nearly finished.

"There's no expectation that the public will end up loving the oil and gas industry," he said.

And the shit-storm is flying on the Washington Post comment board. Over ten pages of them so far. People are RILED.
semiotic_pirate: (masked wine taster)
Okay. I don't know if any of the people on my f-list have a Showcase Cinema nearby... Maybe this isn't restricted to just Showcase. Let's find out.

Here's the scam. Build a "Director's Hall" where the seats are more comfy and covered in leather, where the armrest between you and your sweety can be put up for added comfort/snuggles. Make it assigned seating so, when you order/buy your tickets for a hot new release you don't have to stand in line to get in and try to get a good seat... (Of course, you don't have to wait in line for anything but opening night normally so this benefit loses its value rather quickly - heh, marginal benefit talk!) Also, you can bypass the concession stand and order food right from your seats for a certain amount of time (basically until the first green screen of the previews appear).

Cost to movie-goers for all this? A $3 surcharge on every ticket.

The catch? You also pay a surcharge on any food you purchase from your seats. CoB's brother noticed this a few weeks ago when he had looked at how much it costs to buy a hot dog & soda at concessions and then what it cost for the same thing inside the theater. Yep, it is across the board, the prices are higher inside the theater.

Now. Truth be told... I actually do patronize this theater when I go to see a movie. I don't like waiting in lines and I don't like worrying about whether I'll get a good seat either. I will always arrive early for a movie otherwise, just in case, and end up sitting there for a good half-hour or so (sometimes in an empty theater because I didn't judge the time/movie/rush/popularity correctly). I am caught in the Movie Trap.

This still doesn't cull the people who bring noisy kids or the rude people who talk and/or use their cell phones during the movie... You'd think the staff would have people in there, assuring everyone that if this type of behavior occurs, the offenders will be booted. After all, we paid EXTRA to get in. (Yeah. I went to see Iron Man again the other day by myself and there were these two people chatting through almost the WHOLE MOVIE sitting directly behind me. I was PISSED.) Maybe there should be "movie etiquette" signs.

What say you? Worth it? Not worth it?


Apr. 23rd, 2008 08:22 pm
semiotic_pirate: (Pirate Grrl - RIOT)
Look what speculation did to the real estate market. Squeezing people out of the market of buying homes because people were "flipping" them as investments and driving up the prices. People who made more money (collectively, two-income trap) as a couple were squeezing out single (average) income buyers. Maybe speculation isn't such an ethical thing to be involved in... Kind of like unregulated usury, eh? Credit card rates that are uncontrolled and sub-prime mortgages for everyone - the consumer doesn't know the difference or how to protect themselves from exploitation. Read the following article released today on the European version of the Business Week website. "Capitalism is literally consuming itself."

Speculators Worsening World Food Crisis?
Biofuels and droughts can't fully explain the recent shortages—hedge funds and small investors bear some responsibility for global hunger

by Beat Balzli and Frank Hornig

Not long ago, Dwight Anderson welcomed reporters with open arms. He liked to entertain them with stories from the world of big money. Anderson is a New York hedge fund manager, and as recently as last October he would talk with enthusiasm about his visits to Malaysian palm-oil plantations and Brazilian grain farms. "You could clearly see how supply was getting tight," he said.

In mid-2006 Anderson was touting the "extraordinary profitability" of field crops from corn to soybeans. He was convinced that rising worldwide hunger would be synonymous with highly profitable—and dead-certain—investment bargains.

In search of new investments, Anderson sends dozens of his employees to visit agricultural regions around the world. Back in New York, at his company's headquarters on the 27th floor of an office building high above Park Avenue, they bet on agricultural markets from Peru to Vietnam.

But in the towers above Manhattan's urban canyons, it's easy to lose touch with the ground. Hedge fund manager John Paulson was recently celebrated for achieving a record annual profit of $3.7 billion (€2.3 billion). Those who work in this environment have only one rule: Don't disappoint profit-hungry investors.

"I'm constantly wired," Anderson used to say, back when he talked to journalists. His nickname in the industry is the "Commodities King," and his Ospraie hedge fund is the world's largest. These days, though, Anderson avoids the media. He's even kept his face out of the media by buying up rights to all photos of himself on the market. His spokesman is now paid, mainly, to say nothing.
Read more... )-----------------------------------------------------------------

I disagree with Rogers, mainly because there are a limited amount of fertile fields out there and eventually they'd be used up, neh? At least with crops as they are now (type and genetics) and the potentially skyrocketing input prices for those things Rogers mentions - fuel and fertilizer (assumed to be petroleum based).
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
The key is the density of the network - to make it convenient enough to the consumer to make it worth their while. Reminds me of why people rarely will put a shopping cart in a corral if the corrals are few and far between or badly placed. This advertising agency is taking things seriously, and making a profit from it at the same time. You provide a public service, useful and high-demand service, and you get special advertising locations and rights. Well done.


Paris Bike Rental Scheme Goes Global
A French advertising company hit upon the simplest self-service scheme. It won over thousands of Parisians and is now being exported across the world.

by Manfred Dworschak

Chicago is interested, and so is Moscow. Geneva and Sydney are in negotiations, and the mayor of London has called by twice. All eyes are on Paris. But what is the big attraction? It's a brand new model of bicycle, one that can be seen teeming through the streets by the thousands, all the same chic silver-gray, with a dolphin-like design. And they are all rented.

Paris has suddenly become the world capital of bike rentals. Nowhere else in the world has quite so many rental bikes standing at the ready: there will soon be over 20,000. And the fleet is really being put to use: commuters pedal from the Metro to the office, managers pop out in their lunch breaks to pick up groceries, tourists zigzag in every direction. More than six million rides have been clocked up in just three months -- there is hardly a faster way to get through the legendary tangle of the French capital.

What the French call "la Vélorution" was launched on July 15 this year and it was an advertising company that came up with the idea.
Read more... )
semiotic_pirate: (LeChatNoir)
Slightly stale article, had meant to post it when I first saw it - got distracted by life.

Why Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness
Economists and psychologists—and the rest of us—have long wondered if more money would make us happier. Here's the answer.
By Sharon Begley | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Oct 15, 2007 | Updated: 8:41 p.m. ET Oct 14, 2007

All in all, it was probably a mistake to look for the answer to the eternal question—"Does money buy happiness?"—from people who practice what's called the dismal science. For when economists tackled the question, they started from the observation that when people put something up for sale they try to get as much for it as they can, and when people buy something they try to pay as little for it as they can. Both sides in the transaction, the economists noticed, are therefore behaving as if they would be more satisfied (happier, dare we say) if they wound up receiving more money (the seller) or holding on to more money (the buyer). Hence, more money must be better than less, and the only way more of something can be better than less of it is if it brings you greater contentment. The economists' conclusion: the more money you have, the happier you must be.
Read more... )
If more money doesn't buy more happiness, then the behavior of most Americans looks downright insane, as we work harder and longer, decade after decade, to fatten our W-2s. But what is insane for an individual is crucial for a national economy—that is, ever more growth and consumption. Gilbert again: "Economies can blossom and grow only if people are deluded into believing that the production of wealth will make them happy … Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will strive only for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being." In other words, if you want to do your part for your country's economy, forget all of the above about money not buying happiness.


And for those of you who believe that helping others can make you happy, there is this awesome new site that combines testing/learning vocabulary and providing needy, starving people with food. Welcome to Free Rice. It is addictive, both in the sense of a game and in the sense of being able to provide food for people who need it.
semiotic_pirate: (Book Offering)
This story reminds me of what I learned in an Economic History class last fall. Wish I had been more up to attending class and everything. *sigh*

Pig DNA reveals farming history
By Liz Seward
BBC News, Science reporter

The first domesticated pigs in Europe were introduced from the Middle East by Stone Age farmers, a new study shows.

The international research project examined DNA in the jawbones or teeth of modern and 7,000-year-old pigs.

The genetic investigation provides fresh insight into the immigration of ancient peoples and ideas.

The scientists tell the journal PNAS that the incoming farmers brought more than just ideas - they brought examples of domesticated livestock.

Agriculture is thought to have begun about 12,000 years ago, in the central and western parts of the Middle East, known as the Near East to archaeologists.

'Farming package'

Between 6,800-4,000 BC, farming methods spread across Europe, but the question of how these methods spread has not been fully established.

The two competing theories are that farming spread through cultural exchange, possibly during trading or that people migrated to Europe bringing their expertise with them.

A previous study, in 2005, analysed modern pig DNA and showed that all modern pigs are descended from European wild boar. This led researchers to conclude that early Europeans domesticated pigs independently of other farming methods.

This new study, however, has discovered that the first domesticated pigs in Europe did have Near Eastern ancestry, indicating that farmers migrated to Europe, bringing their "package" of livestock and farming methods with them.

Domestic pigs of European wild boar ancestry appear soon afterwards.

Bright idea

Dr Keith Dobney, from Durham University, told BBC News: "By use of genetics, we've shown that the earliest domesticated pigs that moved into Europe were originally from the Near East.

"That means that people moved these animals from the Near East into Europe.

"And what happened after that, which is even more interesting, is it appears that once they were introduced, these domesticated pigs spurred or lit the blue touch-paper for people to domesticate the local indigenous wild boar.

"So, we have a secondary domestication which is happening in Europe soon afterwards."

The DNA records show that European domestic pigs became widespread throughout Europe, and that the Near Eastern pigs disappeared.

Export back

Dr Greger Larson, from Uppsala University, Sweden, performed the genetic analysis.

"The domestic pigs that were derived from the European wild boar must have been considered vastly superior to those originally from the Middle East, though at this point we have no idea why," he said.

"In fact, the European domestic pigs were so successful that over the next several thousand years, they spread across the continent and even back into the Middle East where they overtook the indigenous domestic pigs.

"For whatever reason, European pigs were the must-have farm animal."

Studies of cattle also show that modern European cows are partly descended from ancient wild Italian aurochs, disputing a previous claim that all present-day European breeds are descended from cattle domesticated in the Near East.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/09/04 14:53:30 GMT
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
Staggering amounts of debt and abysmal credit scores are what awaits most upon graduation...

Majoring in Credit-Card Debt
Aggressive on-campus marketing by credit-card companies is coming under fire. What should be done to educate students about the dangers of plastic?
September 4, 2007, 12:01AM EST
by Jessica Silver-Greenberg

Seth Woodworth stood paralyzed by fear in his parents' driveway in Moses Lake, Wash. It was two years ago, during his sophomore year at Central Washington University, and on this visit, he was bringing home far more than laundry. He was carrying more than $3,000 in credit-card debt. "I was pretty terrified of listening to my voice mail because of all the messages about the money I owed," says Woodworth. He did get some help from his parents but still had to drop out of school to pay down his debts.

Over the next month, as 17 million college students flood the nation's campuses, they will be greeted by swarms of credit-card marketers. Frisbees, T-shirts, and even iPods will be used as enticements to sign up, and marketing on the Web will reinforce the message. Many kids will go for it. Some 75% of college students have credit cards now, up from 67% in 1998. Just a generation earlier, a credit card on campus was a great rarity.

For many of the students now, the cards they get will simply be an easier way to pay for groceries or books, with no long-term negative consequences. But for Seth Woodworth and a growing number like him, easy access to credit will lead to spending beyond their means and debts that will compromise their futures. The freshman 15, a fleshy souvenir of beer and late-night pizza, is now taking on a new meaning, with some freshman racking up more than $15,000 in credit-card debt before they can legally drink. "It's astonishing to me to see college students coming out of school with staggering amounts of debt and credit scores so abominable that they couldn't rent a car," says Representative Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
Congressional Oversight Weighed
Read more... )

It would be interesting if credit card companies (on campus or otherwise) had to put each prospective borrower through the same type of introductory class that students have to attend before being allowed to take on federally subsidized student loans.
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
The New Money Pit
It started with subprime mortgages. Now owners of McMansions are defaulting, and the effects of the housing bust are beginning to ripple through the economy.
By Daniel Gross

Sept. 10, 2007 issue - Walking through the gated community of Black Mountain Vista on a hill in Henderson, Nev., Thomas Blanchard offers a guided tour of real-estate woe. A row of stucco duplexes that recently sold for as much as $500,000 sit empty. "That's a repo," the real-estate agent says as he stands in front of 678 Solitude Point Avenue. Then he points to the adjacent houses, where yellow patches blot the spartan lawns and phone books lie on front porches, their covers bleached from weeks under the desert sun. "No. 680, repo; 684, repo. Those two at the end, repo."

Three years ago, this Las Vegas suburb was teeming with modern-day prospectors armed with low-interest mortgages, all hoping to strike it rich in real estate. Now, what started with the subprime-mortgage mess and subsequent credit crunch are turning communities like Black Mountain Vista into luxury ghost towns. Buyers who got in over their heads are being forced to abandon their homes, leaving behind empty McMansions on the California coast and see-through condominium towers on Miami Beach. Real estate is turning into a money pit, sapping the fortunes of home buyers, hedge-fund managers and house painters alike. The really bad news? This is only the beginning.
Read more... )
semiotic_pirate: (Pirate Grrl - RIOT)
This is not new. Meaning, when the western world first kicked off the industrial age, this self-same thing happened. And it kept happening until the people experiencing the horrors stood up for themselves and laws were enacting that disallowed the pollution, the extortion, the inhumanity and earth-killing practices that the newly industrialized nations were experiencing. History is repeating itself. And it isn't just China that is shitting on its own people and the rest of the world. And let us not forget the multinationals exploiting the third world. Eh? Why is history repeating itself? Discuss!

August 26, 2007
As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes

BEIJING, Aug. 25 — No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo.

But just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

China is choking on its own success. The economy is on a historic run, posting a succession of double-digit growth rates. But the growth derives, now more than at any time in the recent past, from a staggering expansion of heavy industry and urbanization that requires colossal inputs of energy, almost all from coal, the most readily available, and dirtiest, source.
Read more... )
semiotic_pirate: (gunbarrelgrimace)
Hrm... Who'd a thunk it? You've got a national trend - people seeing buying a house as a wealth generator instead of people buying homes that they will live in on a long-term basis - and you don't expect it to affect the national housing prices when the trend becomes teh suck? Wow. And none of the economists listed in the article had any clue about the possibility of this happening? Not that I'm going to complain too loudly as I have yet to buy a home. By the time I am ready to buy a home (hopefully in a few years if luck is on my side) the prices will still be reduced to pre-bubble status. The prices might be a little lower than pre-bubble if people don't sit tight on what they have - at least those who aren't getting foreclosed on left and right.

And none of this takes into account that Two Income Trap I've mentioned before. To recap, working couples - in using their full income as a basis of how much house they can buy - are bidding, and paying, too much for their houses relative to their joint income. Those working couples, in order to get the "prime" real estate (e.g. near the best ameneties, like top school districts... which are ridiculously limited in some cases. By limited I mean the surrounding area to the school that makes up its district. This ends up leaving our schools income-segregated like a lot of the elite private schools. Yeah, mini rant inside of a rant!) are strapping themselves out on a limb without taking into account one of the risks of being employed; losing one or both of their sources of income. Regardless of the reason for this loss, which blindsides people regardless of their relational status. This of course, drives up the prices for everyone else, making single income people/families (and those who play by intelligent risk strategies) and limits their purchasing power.

August 26, 2007
Drop Foreseen in Median Price of U.S. Homes

The median price of American homes is expected to fall this year for the first time since federal housing agencies began keeping statistics in 1950.

Economists say the decline, which could be foreshadowed in a widely followed government price index to be released this week, will probably be modest — from 1 percent to 2 percent — but could continue in 2008 and 2009. Rather than being limited to the once-booming Northeast and California, price declines are also occurring in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston, where the increases of the last decade were modest by comparison.

The reversal is particularly striking because many government officials and housing-industry executives had said that a nationwide decline would never happen, even though prices had fallen in some coastal areas as recently as the early 1990s.

While the housing slump has already rattled financial markets, it has so far had only a modest effect on consumer spending and economic growth. But forecasters now believe that its impact will lead to a slowdown over the next year or two.

“For most people, this is not a disaster,” said Nigel Gault, an economist with Global Insight, a research firm in Waltham, Mass. “But it’s enough to cause them to pull back.”

In recent years, many families used their homes as a kind of piggy bank, borrowing against their equity and increasing their spending more rapidly than their income was rising. A recent research paper co-written by the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve said that the rise in home prices was the primary reason that consumer borrowing has soared since 2001.

Now, however, that financial cushion is disappearing for many families. “We are having to start from scratch and rebuild for a down payment,” said Kenneth Schauf, who expects to lose money on a condominium in Chicago he and his wife bought in 2004 and have been trying to sell since last summer. “We figured that a home is the place to build your wealth, and now it’s going on three years and we are back to square one.”
Read more... )------------------------------------------------------------------

Look at the two messages that are hinted at in the last few paragraphs. The only economist who is made to seem like he may have foreseen this debacle works for a LIBERAL (we are the ones who know what we're doing and we can lead the country back from the big bad hole the conservatives put us in) organization. Why would someone trust an economist getting paid by the National Association of Realtors?? Aren't they the ones who profited amazingly ever since the investment mentality overcame the housing market? Follow the MONEY people. Come on. Hey CoB... am I over the edge here? *wink*

semiotic_pirate: (eyeball)
June 10, 2007
The Class-Consciousness Raiser

By the time Ruby Payne sat down for lunch, she had been at it for three hours straight, standing alone behind a lectern on a wide stage in a cavernous convention hall, parked between two American flags, instructing an audience of 1,400 Georgians in the hidden rules of class. No notes, no warm-up act, just Ruby, with her Midwestern-by-way-of-East-Texas drawl and her crisp white shirt, her pinstriped business suit and bright red lipstick and blow-dried blond hair, a wireless microphone hooked around her right ear. She had already explained why rich people don’t eat casseroles, why poor people hang their pictures high up on the wall, why middle-class people pretend to like people they can’t stand. She had gone through the difference between generational poverty and situational poverty and the difference between new money and old money, and she had done a riff on how middle-class people are so self-satisfied that they think everyone wants to be middle class.

For the Glynn County Board of Education, Payne’s visit was a big deal. It was back in 2005 that Marjorie Varnadoe, the board’s director of professional development, called to request a presentation from Payne, and this particular Thursday, two years later, was the earliest available date. Principals had ordered Payne’s books and DVDs by the boxload, mostly her ur-text, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” and they made the books required reading for their staffs. All over the county, which is on the coast, down near the Florida border, schools held small workshops on class and education, using Payne’s “Framework” as a guide, and teachers sat down together for informal discussions and lunchroom chats about poverty and wealth. When the big day came, the entire school system was given the day off, and by 8 a.m. almost every single teacher and administrator in the county was packed into the Jekyll Island Conference Center, along with the school board, the Chamber of Commerce and various local dignitaries.
Read more... )
As the afternoon drew to a close, Payne cut out the jokes and grew serious. “I think the hardest part about teaching is the stories that kids tell you that just pull your heart out,” she said, gripping the sides of the lectern and scanning the audience. “There isn’t a person in here who doesn’t have a student whose stories still haunt you.” Her voice was quiet, and her accent had softened. Every pair of eyes, it seemed, was on her. “What I’ve learned to say to kids is this: ‘You know, I respect you so much that you can handle this situation. I don’t know that I could. But if you don’t want to live that way the rest of your life, then I can give you the tools that will help you do things differently. It’s your choice. I can’t change your situation right now, but I can certainly give you the tools to help you change.’ And I think that’s the gift we bring. It’s a huge gift.”

I've got to read this book - the first one she wrote - to see what all the hype is about. I guess you could say that, according to Payne, I would be classified as having grown up in a "situational poverty" environment. It was a bitch. Looking back on how long it took for me to figure a whole bunch of stuff out on my own, I would've loved it if someone had come up to me and said to me those last few sentences and then pointed the way. It is something I've contemplated trying to do myself, for others. I've gotten this idea that maybe starting out at Teach for America could be a pretty good thing because I'd been there, and got out. Having access and "training" from my extended family 99% middle-class must've helped in some way but my immediate environs were very powerful as well. Not knowing when I would eat next, or if any of the other basic necessities would be met, it is somewhere I never want to go to again. I never felt comfortable at any of the schools that had a majority of middle-class students, I didn't know the "rules" of engagement, I didn't know how to interact. To this day I still feel an echo of that fear and confusion.

It also freaks me out that I am at a turning point in my life. Maybe that's why I've been dragging my heels on getting this paper done and presented. I'm afraid of the next step because it will involve immersing myself in an entirely unknown environment. And there are times when my learned instincts still try to kick in and override my common sense.

I'd appreciate feedback here. Talk to me people.
semiotic_pirate: (speak your mind)
All previous reports are bullshit. In the words of The Fair & Balanced News commenting on Sat, 2007-05-26 23:42:

"The EEVS System is addressed beginning on page 196 or so of the PDF. NO WHERE in the wording does it state that ALL employers of ALL employees will be required to obtain pre-approval from the System. Of course, any Govt agency can do whatever the hell they want at any time the want."

Before I had gotten to this guy's statement, the only person out of all the commenters here who actually appears to have read the immigration bill, I decided to go looking for myself. Someone had given false directions to where to look earlier in the comments and instead of just walking away from it I actually started to read the damned thing to find what everyone was going on about.

I found it. I say again: All previous reports of "the sky is falling" are bullshit. If you open the pdf file, here are your directions to finding the refutation of all the headless chicken action going on the last day or so - page 217 Unlawful Employment of Aliens, page 221 Document Verification Requirements, and the kicker... page 228, lines 18-22 No authorization of National Identification Cards... and much more as I continues to read the document.

Baisically, the hoops we already have to jump through - using our license or passport - to prove our identity to our prospective employer during the initial hiring process is THE SAME. Nothing has changed for U.S. Citizens. There are no requirements to participate for employers in the U.S. at this time.

Page 228, line 18-22: "(6) NO AUTHORIZATION OF NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION CARDS.--Nothing in this section may be construed to authorize, directly or indirectly, the issuance, use, or establishment of a national identitification card."

The Electronic Employment Verification System seems like just an extension of what the IRS in conjunction with the Social Security Dept already has in place. Recordkeeping seems to be the same for employers as before... Info about the EEVS starts on page 228 line 23 - employers and employees of said employers are already required to register themselves and be tracked in databases via the IRS, using state & federal employer ID numbers and state & federal ID cards (social security card and state license or other id). Reminds me of how Homeland Security swallowed the US Coast Guard.

Something that seems new for the prospective employee appears on page 233 under INFORMATION REQUIRED: that employee must provide to the prospective employer: "(III) the employment identification number of the individual's employer during any one of the 5 most recently completed calendar years" which, in an additional section on page 234 said previous employer is required to provide to an individual upon request in order to comply with their new employment situation.

For flubs in the system, where a person cannot be confirmed (as a citizen or employable alien) which is actually referred at this point as "tentative nonconfirmation" people DO have an opportuntiy to CONTEST (within 10 days of written notification by prospective employer) and that (page 236 line 23) "An individual's failure to contest a tentative nonconfirmation shall not be considered an admission of guilt with respect to any violation of this Act or any other provision of law." and if contested, it will be cleared up within 30 days.

Page 243 line 18 begins another section on Contest and Self-Verification. This new power by "The Secretary" is in consulation with the Commissioner of Social Security. There is a provision for an idividual to "seek to verify the individual's own employment eligibility prior to obtaining or changing employment, to contact the appropriate agency and, in a timely manner, correct or update the information used by the System. Which reminds me of the working permit you have to get when you are a teenager in school... interesting parallel there. And I am sure that the employers will look favorably on prospective employees who allow the burden of confirmation to fall on their individual shoulders.

Page 240 line 15 provides protection to individuals who are in a process of contesting: "(viii) PROHIBITION ON TERMINATION.--An employer may not terminate the employment of an individual based on a tentative nonconfirmation notice until such notice becomes final... or a final nonconfirmation notice is issued for the individual by the system." however they allow a loophole immediately following "nothing in this clause shall prohibit the termination of employment for any reason other than such tentative nonconfirmation."

Another caveat in favor of the prospective employee is found on page 246 line 18-24: "(i) IN GENERAL.--If the Secretary makes a determination under subparagraph (C) that the final nonconfirmation notice issued for an individual was not caused by an act or omission of the individual, the Secretary shall compensate the individual for lost wages... beginning on the first scheduled work day after employment was terminated and ending 180 days after completion of the administrative review process described in this paragraph or the day after the individual is reinstated or obtains employment elsewhere, whichever occurs first." Of course, the source of funds for this compensation is a bit vague. You can contest, appeal, and even go on to obtain judicial review by a civil action commenced "not later than 60 days after the date of such decision..." wherein the above compensation kicks in.

There is a limit on the amount of information collected and penalties for collecting more than the "minimum requirement" for the purposes of identification of confirmed employability. There is allowance (compliance) with the rights for individuals and entities to file complaints (and one may assume, civil suits) giving investigative authority to our friend The Secretary of Labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and so forth.

Overall, this is a confirmation process of U.S. Citizenship and registered aliens that are allowed to be employed in the U.S. specifically geared toward disallowing employment of illegal aliens. Of course, it does not take into account the possibility that there will likely be an increase in "under the table" employment. Protectionists should be ecstatic that some percent of jobs will be "safely preserved for people who need them and are entitled to" however, this extra hoop to hop through is disturbing. Mainly because the policy and procedure already in place should be enough to get this self-same job done. This just seems like another power grab by Homeland Security, and they are assuming that none of the people who want to commit terrorist acts in the U.S. can be U.S. citizens. Timothy McVeigh anyone?

Of course, before any of this can be implemented, the program needs to appropriate $400,000,000.00 first... and that appropriation needs to be annual btw. Gah. Four hundred million dollars and it would probably be a lot less if it were just added to the policies and procedures already in place for verification purposes.


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