Friday, March 22, 2013

One Good Paper: A Stock Market Puzzle - Businessweek

 Bloomberg Businessweek

Stocks & Bonds

One Good Paper: A Stock Market Puzzle

By on March 22, 2013

The Federal Open Market Committee is as close as America gets to a table of philosopher kings. Eight times a year, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the five voting chairs of the regional Federal Reserve banks sit in a closed room and make a decision—whether to change monetary policy. Since 1994, the committee has announced its decision at 2:15 on the afternoon of the day it meets. You might expect the FOMC’s announcement to move markets. It does. But since last year, we’ve known that markets move not after the 2:15 p.m. announcement but in the 24 hours before it. Since 1994, the value of the S&P 500 index has increased, on average, 49 basis points the day before the FOMC announcement, an order of magnitude more than on any other day. Again: before. After the announcement, returns average out to zero.
The timing of stock gains around the FOMC announcement is such an observation. Uhlig recommends the 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York staff report that documents it: The Pre-FOMC Announcement Drift.

The paper’s observation sits atop what is already a long-standing dispute among economists: Why do stocks earn higher returns than bonds? The academics trying to answer that question have at least by now divided themselves into camps. Robert Barro, for example, believes that every couple of decades something disastrous happens to equities, and that this low-probability, high-severity risk underlies all the smaller events that bounce stock prices around and explains why, over time, stocks command a higher return. (Economists call this higher return the “equity premium.”) Now, the New York Fed staff report has determined that what it calls a “staggering 80 percent” of the equity premium since 1994 was earned, yes, in the day before the FOMC announcement. No similar effect was observed for bonds.

.... One Good Paper: A Stock Market Puzzle - Businessweek

Saturday, March 16, 2013

BBC - Future - Technology - Qwerty keyboards: Time for a rethink?


Qwerty keyboards: Time for a rethink?

 Q-W-E-R-T-Y. Six letters that define so much of our waking lives.
If they are not there on the screen in front of you, chances are they are only a click away.
In some ways, these six letters are a triumph of design. They’re wired into our brains, replicated on keyboards, phones and tablets across the world – and have changed very little since Milwaukee port official Christopher Sholes used the layout to stop mechanical levers jamming on a 19th-Century typewriter.
In another sense, though, the over 140 years of continuity embodied in keyboards show a strange tension at work behind technology’s claims of progress and perfectibility. And it’s the same for other interfaces. The mice attached to almost every desktop system in the world still conform to the same essential design set out in the 1965 paper on “computer-aided display control” that coined the term. Even touchscreens ape established layouts and conventions.
Appropriately enough, the name for this inertia is the “qwerty phenomenon

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rule of Law » 7 Crappy Products From the Green Movement

Seven Crappy Products From the Green Movement

In the good old days, consumers got what they wanted. Supply and demand governed product design and manufacturing, not causes or ideology. That’s why we have great American icons like the 1969 Chevy Camaro, the charcoal burning Weber grill, and DDT.

But things have changed. The Green Movement’s worship of scarcity has changed the consumer landscape for the worse. Instead of big, powerful, and most importantly, effective products, in 2012 consumers must suffer with pansy products. Sure, they are designed to save energy and make you feel good. But they just don’t work as well as the old, and usually cheaper, versions.

Here are seven crappy products we must endure, courtesy of the Green Movement.

Rule of Law » 7 Crappy Products From the Green Movement

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Overweight is healthier than "normal" weight -

Op-Ed Contributor

Our Absurd Fear of Fat

 ACCORDING to the United States government, nearly 7 out of 10 American adults weigh too much. (In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorized 74 percent of men and 65 percent of women as either overweight or obese.)

 But a new meta-analysis of the relationship between weight and mortality risk, involving nearly three million subjects from more than a dozen countries, illustrates just how exaggerated and unscientific that claim is. 

The meta-analysis, published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed data from nearly a hundred large epidemiological studies to determine the correlation between body mass and mortality risk. The results ought to stun anyone who assumes the definition of “normal” or “healthy” weight used by our public health authorities is actually supported by the medical literature.

.... Our Imaginary Weight Problem -

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Juvenile Court Reform in Tennessee -


Juvenile Court Reform in Tennessee

The juvenile justice system in the United States is supposed to focus on rehabilitation for young offenders. But for generations, it has largely been a purgatory, failing to protect them or give them the help and counseling they need to become law-abiding adults. Children who end up in juvenile courts often do not get due process protections like written complaints presenting the charges against them, adequate notice about legal proceedings or meaningful assistance of counsel. 

The situation has been particularly atrocious in the juvenile system that serves Memphis and the surrounding area in Shelby County, Tenn. A chilling report by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division issued after a three-year investigation found that the juvenile court — which handles more than 11,000 matters a year across a range of charges — failed to provide proper conditions of confinement, systematically violated due process, like failing to advise young offenders of their rights before they were questioned, and violated the right to equal protection of black children, who were much more likely than whites to be locked up in detention and to have their cases transferred to adult criminal court.

These conclusions are the basis for a settlement agreement announced in December between the Justice Department and the court. The agreement is intended to ensure that every child with a court matter is provided counsel (“independent, ethical and zealous advocacy”).

Juvenile Court Reform in Tennessee -

Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown Tragedy May Soften Hearts in Washington -

Memo From Washington

Newtown Shooting May Cool Washington’s Partisan Passions 

WASHINGTON — To the extent that Americans have diverted their attention since Friday from the horror in Connecticut toward their capital, it has been to wonder whether the school shooting would provoke the first serious gun control debate in years. But the tragedy could have an impact on another crucial legislative issue: the current contest over taxes and spending. 

While seemingly unrelated — the emotionally wrenching holiday-season massacre of 20 first graders and six of their guardians, and Washington’s mind-numbing fiscal fight to reduce deficits — the first cannot fail to have a salutary effect on the latter, say veterans of Washington’s partisan wars from both parties.

“Members of Congress, when you get down to it, are just people,” said Mickey Edwards, a former House Republican leader. “There are those things that, at least momentarily, trump ideology.”
...  Newtown Tragedy May Soften Hearts in Washington -

Friday, December 14, 2012

Paper Links Nerve Agents in ’91 Gulf War and Ailments -

Paper Links Nerve Agents in ’91 Gulf War and Ailments

Reviving a 20-year debate over illnesses of veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, a new scientific paper presents evidence that nerve agents released by the bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons depots just before the ground war began could have carried downwind and fallen on American troops staged in Saudi Arabia.

The paper, published in the journal Neuroepidemiology, tries to rebut the longstanding Pentagon position, supported by many scientists, that neurotoxins, particularly sarin gas, could not have carried far enough to sicken American forces. 

The authors are James J. Tuite and Dr. Robert Haley, who has written several papers asserting links between chemical exposures and gulf war illnesses. They assembled data from meteorological and intelligence reports to support their thesis that American bombs were powerful enough to propel sarin from depots in Muthanna and Falluja high into the atmosphere, where winds whisked it hundreds of miles south to the Saudi border.

 .... Paper Links Nerve Agents in ’91 Gulf War and Ailments -

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Heart Grows Smarter -

Op-Ed Columnist

The Heart Grows Smarter

If you go back and read a bunch of biographies of people born 100 to 150 years ago, you notice a few things that were more common then than now.

First, many more families suffered the loss of a child, which had a devastating and historically underappreciated impact on their overall worldviews. 

Second, and maybe related, many more children grew up in cold and emotionally distant homes, where fathers, in particular, barely knew their children and found it impossible to express their love for them.

 .... The Heart Grows Smarter -

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Prisoners Make Us Look Good -

How Prisoners are Skewing the Stats

News Analysis
A FEW years ago, the sociologists Becky Pettit and Bryan Sykes tried to quantify a worrisome phenomenon: the growing proportion of black men imprisoned by age 20. Focusing on those born between 1975 and 1979 who later dropped out of high school, they noticed an anomaly. “Our initial efforts,” Dr. Pettit recalls, “implied that more young, black, low-skill men had been to prison than were alive.” 

It took her no time to resolve the inconsistency: corrections officials count actual prisoners, a captive audience; sociologists and census-takers typically undercount prisoners and former inmates living on the edge of society.

The real problem, as Dr. Pettit sees it, is that imprisoned black men aren’t figured into statistics about the standing of African-Americans. The consequence, she says, is an overstatement of black progress in education, employment, wages and voting participation.

.... How Prisoners Make Us Look Good -

Monday, October 22, 2012

Top Finishers of Tour de France Tainted by Doping - Graphic -

How dirty is the Tour de France

Did you notice that the International Cycling Union has vacated Lance Armstrong's titles, without awarding a win to the second place cyclist. Why? Look at this NYTimes graphic:
Top Finishers of Tour de France Tainted by Doping - Graphic -

Friday, August 31, 2012

In Interview, the Rev. Benedict Groeschel Says Abuse Victims Can Be Seducers -

Priest Puts Blame on Some Victims of Sexual Abuse

 A prominent Roman Catholic spiritual leader who has spent decades counseling wayward priests for the archdiocese provoked shock and outrage on Thursday as word spread of a recent interview he did with a Catholic newspaper during which he said that “youngsters” were often to blame when priests sexually abused them and that priests should not be jailed for such abuse on their first offense.

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, who made the remarks, is a beloved figure among many Catholics and a founder of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a conservative priestly order based in New York. He hosts a weekly show on the Eternal Word Television Network and has written 45 books.  

The comments were published on Monday by The National Catholic Register, which is owned by EWTN, a religious broadcaster based in Alabama.

.... In Interview, the Rev. Benedict Groeschel Says Abuse Victims Can Be Seducers -

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Destroying Precious Land to Drill for Gas -

Op-Ed Contributor

Destroying Precious Land for Gas

 ON the northern tip of Delaware County, N.Y., where the Catskill Mountains curl up into little kitten hills, and Ouleout Creek slithers north into the Susquehanna River, there is a farm my parents bought before I was born. My earliest memories there are of skipping stones with my father and drinking unpasteurized milk. There are bald eagles and majestic pines, honeybees and raspberries. My mother even planted a ring of white birch trees around the property for protection.

 A few months ago I was asked by a neighbor near our farm to attend a town meeting at the local high school. Some gas companies at the meeting were trying very hard to sell us on a plan to tear through our wilderness and make room for a new pipeline: infrastructure for hydraulic fracturing. Most of the residents at the meeting, many of them organic farmers, were openly defiant. The gas companies didn’t seem to care. They gave us the feeling that whether we liked it or not, they were going to fracture our little town.

.... Destroying Precious Land to Drill for Gas -

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Congressional rules on trading had their start in 1789 - The Washington Post

Washington Post

Congress has been doing it since 1789

It was 1789, and state-backed revolutionary war bonds had become virtually worthless. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton moved in to shore up the investments.
Before word spread, members of Congress secretly scooped up thousands of the bonds from unsuspecting farmers and war veterans, paying pennies on the dollar.
In response to the scandal, lawmakers prohibited Hamilton and future Treasury secretaries from buying or selling government bonds while in office.
But members of Congress did not extend the ban to themselves, a pattern that persists to this day.

.... Congressional rules on trading had their start in 1789 - The Washington Post

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say - The Washington Post

The Washington Post

>U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say

By , and Tuesday, June 19, 12:07 PM

The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected critical intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage attacks aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.

The massive piece of malware was designed to secretly map Iran’s computer networks and monitor the computers of Iranian officials, sending back a steady stream of intelligence used to enable an ongoing cyberwarfare campaign, according to the officials.

.... U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say - The Washington Post