November 13, 2013

Nothing Says I Love You Like an $83 Million 60 Carat Pink Diamond

The title here doesn’t reflect the content of the linked post, but I couldn’t rsist. The gem is gorgeous and worth a click. Story and pics at Business Insider.

November 13, 2012

Look! It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s a Drone!

I know you don’t have time to watch a 27 minute video, but this one is worth a look. An age of robotics rushes toward us and the airborne advance guard are drones. Not just military drones, but commercial and private ones as well. Concerned about the death of privacy brought by the Internet? Just the beginning…

From the filmmakers at Journeyman Pictures:

“This is a powerful technology. No amount of hand-wringing is going to stop it”, says drone expert, Peter Singer. Whether it’s a floating TV station streaming live to the web, the prying lens of the paparazzi, the police chasing a criminal or a government agency spying, small domestic drones are experiencing an exponential growth. At the world’s largest drone convention in Las Vegas a salesman tells the crowd, “this can be used in law enforcement, disaster relief and industrial applications. It’s also very good at dusting floors. Every home owner should have one”. And as the technology advances at a frightening speed, anyone with a few hundred dollars can buy one over the counter. These hobby drones can fly for miles and provide sharp video feedback to the pilot. “I wouldn’t cheat on your wife!”, laughs columnist Charles Krauthammer. But jokes aside, there are real fears over the “political, legal and ethical issues that play out with this”, argues Singer. In 3 years time an order from the US congress will see tens of thousands of drones legally occupy an already crowded sky, raising numerous questions about basic safety, terrorism and civil liberty. As companies rush to cash in on this new billion dollar industry, experts warn, “we’re not ready for this”.

November 13, 2012

Corruption Watch: Big Pharma

When greed is culturally sanctioned and executives are free to cheat pretty much at will with the only downside being civil fines that are “written off” as a cost of doing business, we can have the remarkable corruption we see in Big Pharma.

From the NY Times back in July:

In the largest settlement involving a pharmaceutical company, the British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $3 billion in fines for promoting its best-selling antidepressants for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about a top diabetes drug, federal prosecutors announced Monday. The agreement also includes civil penalties for improper marketing of a half-dozen other drugs…

No individuals have been charged in any of the cases. Even so, the Justice Department contends the prosecutions are well worth the effort — reaping more than $15 in recoveries for every $1 it spends, by one estimate.

But critics argue that even large fines are not enough to deter drug companies from unlawful behavior. Only when prosecutors single out individual executives for punishment, they say, will practices begin to change.

I do believe the solution is in the paragraph above.

September 25, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/25/12

Valencia: A Spanish city without medicine  (BBC)

…The sign on the wall tells the story. “Important information. The government of Valencia owe this pharmacy for all the medicine we have dispensed to you in January, February, March, April and May”.

And not just this pharmacy. The government of Valencia – which runs the health system – owes a grand total of half a billion euros to the region’s pharmacies.

Paula guides me into that back room that exists in all pharmacies, where the prescription drugs are kept. The problem is, now, there are not many drugs left.

“Look, this drawer is usually full,” she says, pointing to where the suppositories are kept. Now there are only two packets.”

She opens the fridge. “Look,” she says, “we are down to our last packs of insulin. We just have no money to buy the stock.”

I ask: “What happens if several people come in on the same day for insulin?” She makes two fingers walk along the back of her wrist. “They have to go around the neighbourhood to see if anybody else has it. It is the same with drugs for heart disease, stroke, anti-retrovirals.” …

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Why Do Americans Believe In Muslim Rage?  (The New Yorker)

In “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” an essay published in 1990, the historian Bernard Lewis describes a “surge of hatred” rising from the Islamic world that “becomes a rejection of Western civilization as such.” The thesis became influential. It posited a crisis within a global Islamic community that made conflict with the United States and Europe inevitable. Academics and policymakers expanded on these ideas after September 11th, which brought urgently to the fore questions about how Al Qaeda’s radical ideas should be understood in relation to wider, diverse Muslim thought. (Lewis wrote an essay on the subject for this magazine in the autumn of 2001.) George W. Bush adopted some of the discourse in crafting his Global War on Terrorism. “They hate our freedoms,” the President said.

But the notion that a generalized Muslim anger about Western ideas could explain violence or politics from Indonesia to Bangladesh, from Iran to Senegal, seemed deficient. It was like arguing that authoritarian strains in Christianity could explain apartheid, Argentine juntas, and the rise of Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, the meme sold, and it still sells. Last week, Newsweek’s cover splashed “Muslim Rage” in large type above a photograph of shouting men. Inside came advice on how to survive “Islamic hate.” Cable news channels—Fox and MSNBC alike—showed similar images, hour after hour. By now, many Americans must find nothing remarkable about the conflation of Muslim faith and contorted faces. …

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New Study Destroys Theory That Tax Cuts Spur Growth  (Business Insider)

…But is the theory true? Do tax cuts really spur growth?

The answer appears to be “no.”

According to a new study by the Congressional Research Service (non-partisan), there’s no evidence that tax cuts spur growth.

In fact, although correlation is not causation, when you compare economic growth in periods with declining tax rates versus periods with high tax rates, there seems to be evidence that tax cuts might hurt growth. But we’ll leave that possibility for another day.

One thing that tax cuts do unequivocally do–at least tax cuts for the highest earners–is increase economic inequality. Given that economic inequality is one of the biggest problems we face in this country right now, this conclusion is very important.

Before we go to the charts, a few observations.

First, this topic has become highly politicized, so it’s impossible to discuss it without people howling that you’re just rooting for a particular political team. Second, no one likes paying taxes. Third, everyone would like a tax cut, including me.

So I think we can all agree that everyone would prefer that tax cuts actually did spur economic growth.

Alas…

Okay, first let’s look at the top marginal tax rates for the past 60 years or so. These are not effective or average tax rates–they’re just the top marginal rates. As you can see, they’ve trended steadily down:

See post at Business Insider for the analysis and supporting data.

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Can Debt Spark a Revolution?  (David Graeber in The Nation)

Graeber thinks and works out on the margins of conventional sensibility where clues to the future are sometimes found. In looking to the future, say 10 years or so, my guess is that it’s better to overestimate than underestimate what he says here.

The idea of the “99 percent” managed to do something that no one has done in the United States since the Great Depression: revive the concept of social class as a political issue. What made this possible was a subtle change in the very nature of class power in this country, which, I have come to realize, has everything to do with debt.

As a member of the team that came up with the slogan “We Are the 99 Percent,” I can attest that we weren’t thinking of inequality or even simply class but specifically of class power. It’s now clear that the 1 percent are the creditors: those who are able to turn their wealth into political influence and their political influence back into wealth again. The overriding imperative of government policy is to do whatever it takes, using all available tools—fiscal, monetary, political, even military—to keep stock prices from falling. The most powerful empire on earth seems to exist first and foremost to guarantee the stream of wealth flowing into the hands of that tiny proportion of its population who hold financial assets. This allows an ever-increasing amount of wealth to flow back into the system of legalized bribery that American politics has effectively become. …

Most revolutions, revolts and insurrections in world history have revolved, at least to some degree, around debt, from the uprisings that created the Greek democracies to the American Revolution—or pretty much any other anticolonial revolt. We may be standing on the brink of a similar juncture. Yet history shows it’s notoriously difficult to assemble debtors into a coherent movement; indebtedness is isolating by nature, and the very feelings of anxiety and humiliation it sparks have made it a potent ideological tool. But history also reveals that when such movements do form, the results tend to be explosive.

What are the prospects for Occupy if it evolves into an explicit movement of debt resistance? If that happens, the battle will not be won by proposing policy changes. The power of Occupy was always that of delegitimation: an appeal to the profound feeling, shared by so many Americans, that our political class is so corrupted that it’s no longer capable of addressing the problems faced by ordinary citizens, let alone the world. To create a genuinely democratic system could only mean starting over entirely. …

September 23, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/23/12

“The Drugs Don’t Work”: How the Medical-Industrial Complex Systematically Suppresses Negative Studies  (Yves Smith)

We’ve written a lot about the scientism of mainstream economics, both here and in ECONNED, and how these trappings have let the discipline continue to have a special seat at the policy table despite ample evidence of its failure. As bad as this is, it pales in comparison to the overt corruption of science at work in the drug arena. Although this issue comes to light from time to time, often in the context of litigation, the lay public is largely ignorant of how systematic and pervasive the efforts are to undermine good research practice in order to foist more, expensive, and sometimes dangerous drugs onto patients.

Ben Goldacre, a British doctor and science writer, provides a short overview of one of the worst scams practiced by Big Pharma: that of suppressing negative research, in a new piece at the Guardian (hat tip John l). This is the overview:

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion.

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Feast of Fools: How American Democracy Became the Property of a Commercial Oligarchy  (Lewis Lapham)

All power corrupts but some must govern. — John le Carré

The ritual performance of the legend of democracy in the autumn of 2012 promises the conspicuous consumption of $5.8 billion, enough money, thank God, to prove that our flag is still there. Forbidden the use of words apt to depress a Q Score or disturb a Gallup poll, the candidates stand as product placements meant to be seen instead of heard, their quality to be inferred from the cost of their manufacture. The sponsors of the event, generous to a fault but careful to remain anonymous, dress it up with the bursting in air of star-spangled photo ops, abundant assortments of multiflavored sound bites, and the candidates so well-contrived that they can be played for jokes, presented as game-show contestants, or posed as noble knights-at-arms setting forth on vision quests, enduring the trials by klieg light, until on election night they come to judgment before the throne of cameras by whom and for whom they were produced.

Best of all, at least from the point of view of the commercial oligarchy paying for both the politicians and the press coverage, the issue is never about the why of who owes what to whom, only about the how much and when, or if, the check is in the mail. No loose talk about what is meant by the word democracy or in what ways it refers to the cherished hope of liberty embodied in the history of a courageous people

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C.E.O.’s and the Pay-’Em-or-Lose-’Em Myth  (NY Times)

CORPORATIONS are forever defending big executive paydays. If we don’t pay up, the argument goes, our sharpest minds will jump to our rivals.

Now, there are good reasons for rewarding top executives. The decisions they make are so crucial to their companies that the priority should be to hire competent people rather than scrimp on pay.

But a study released last week pretty much drives a stake through that old “pay ’em or lose ’em” line — what you might call the brain-drain defense. It also debunks the idea that companies must keep up with the Joneses by constantly comparing their executives’ compensation with that of similar companies.

This peer-group benchmark — how executive pay at one company stacks up against pay at another — is a big driver of ever-rising compensation. Boards say it helps them set pay based on what the market will bear.

Well, maybe not.

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Obama That I Used To Know – Gotye Parody

Occupy tents have folded, but the concerns that generated the encampments remain. Below is a video parody of Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.”  The parody nicely captures the disappointment many young people (and some older folks) feel about the President. So far, about 1,400,000 views.

September 20, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/20/12

The New MakerBot Replicator Might Just Change Your World  (Wired)

Take the subway to an otherwise undistinguished part of Third Avenue in Brooklyn. Knock on the door. Wait for some stylishly disheveled young man to open it and let you in. You’ve arrived at the BotCave—the place where 125 factory workers are creating the future of manufacturing.

The BotCave is home to MakerBot, a company that for nearly four years has been bringing affordable 3-D printers to the masses. But nothing MakerBot has ever built looks like the new printer these workers are currently constructing. The Replicator 2 isn’t a kit; it doesn’t require a weekend of wrestling with software that makes Linux look easy. Instead, it’s driven by a simple desktop application, and it will allow you to turn CAD files into physical things as easily as printing a photo. The entry-level Replicator 2, priced at $2,199, is for generating objects up to 11 by 6 inches in an ecofriendly material; the higher-end Replicator 2X, which costs $2,799, can produce only smaller items, up to 9 by 6 inches, but it has dual heads that let it print more sophisticated objects. With these two machines, MakerBot is putting down a multimillion-dollar wager that 3-D printing has hit its mainstream moment.

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New Study Finds “Severe Toxic Effects” of Pervasively Used Monsanto Herbicide Roundup and Roundup Ready GM Corn  (Naked Caspitalism)

Although I generally refrain from posting on Big Ag and relegate the topic to Links, I have a special interest in Monsanto. Last year, I had wanted to devise a list or ranking of top predatory companies, but could not find a way to make the tally sufficiently objective to be as useful in calling them out as it ought to be. Nevertheless, no matter how many ways I looked at the issue, it was clear that any ranking would put Monsanto as number 1. Monsanto has (among other things) genetically engineered seeds so that they can’t reproduce, denying farmers the ability to save seeds and have a measure of financial independence. In 2009, Vandana Shiva estimated that 200,000 farmers in India had committed suicide since 1997, and Monsanto was a major culprit:

In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds, which need fertilizers and pesticides and cannot be saved.Corporations prevent seed savings through patents and by engineering seeds with non-renewable traits. As a result, poor peasants have to buy new seeds for every planting season and what was traditionally a free resource, available by putting aside a small portion of the crop, becomes a commodity. This new expense increases poverty and leads to indebtness.

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The Definition of a Quagmire  (The New Yorker)

We can’t win the war in Afghanistan, so what do we do? We’ll train the Afghans to do it for us, then claim victory and head for the exits.

But what happens if we can’t train the Afghans?

We’re about to find out. It’s difficult to overstate just how calamitous the decision, announced Tuesday, to suspend most joint combat patrols between Afghan soldiers and their American and NATO mentors is. Preparing the Afghan Army and police to fight without us is the foundation of the Obama Administration’s strategy to withdraw most American forces—and have them stop fighting entirely—by the end of 2014. It’s our ticket home. As I outlined in a piece earlier this year, President Obama’s strategy amounts to an enormous gamble, and one that hasn’t, so far, shown a lot of promise. That makes this latest move all the more disastrous. We’re running out of time.

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September 19, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/19/12

Michael Hudson on How Finance Capital Leads to Debt Servitude  (Naked Capitalism)

The original hope of banking and finance capitalism in the 19th century was that banks would make productive loans to finance industry. The aim was for banks to do something new, that no economy had done in the past: make loans not merely to ship and market goods once they were produced, but to finance new capital investment by manufacturers and producers, as well as by the public sector to build infrastructure. The idea was for these investments to create profits out of which to pay the interest and the principal back to the lenders.

This was defined as productive lending. Nothing like it occurred in antiquity or in the post-feudal period. Investment always had been self-financed out of savings. Banks only entered the picture when it came to shipping and trading what had been produced.

As matters have turned out, banking has allied itself with real estate, mineral extraction, oil, gas and monopolies instead of with industry. So instead of getting a share of the profits, it has focused on lending against economic rent. This technical term is defined as unearned income. It is obtained by charging prices in excess of cost value.

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Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds  (Ny Times)

While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.

The disappearance of midwage, midskill jobs is part of a longer-term trend that some refer to as a hollowing out of the work force, though it has probably been accelerated by government layoffs.

“The overarching message here is we don’t just have a jobs deficit; we have a ‘good jobs’ deficit,” said Annette Bernhardt, the report’s author and a policy co-director at the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group.

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You’re Only a Hero Until You Tell the Truth  (Gawker)

When news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by a team of Navy SEALS, the first thought of everyone in the media business, and of many curious Americans was: when can we get one of these heroes to tell his story? Well, now we have. And a lot of people want the government to crush him for it.

Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette published his firsthand account of the killing under a pseudonym in his book No Easy Day, but his identity was quickly outed. The Pentagon was fairly pissed, due to various nondisclosure requirements it said Bissonnette violated. Now, the idea of making an example out of Bissonnette has become a cause among militaristic right wing types: “Secrets are secrets, and leaking them should get you hammered,” says Jim Hanson in a USA Today op-ed today.

It only took a little over a year for a Navy SEAL who helped kill America’s greatest enemy to go from glorified, untouchable hero to scumbag who should be jailed, in the eyes of those who, politically, like to think of themselves as a soldier’s greatest ally. What did Matt Bissonnette really do that was so bad it revoked what one would assume would be a lifetime pass to heroism? He told a different version of his story than the US government did.

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The Salton Sea: Death and Politics in the Great American Water Wars  (Wired)

This week, Los Angeles got a whiff of the future.

A heinous rotten-egg smell settled into the metropolis, a stench more familiar to residents lining the Salton Sea, some 150 miles to the east. It was this 376-square-mile body of water, created by accident in the middle of the desert over a century ago, that belched up the fetid cloud. And such episodes will continue to plague Southern California as the collapse of the Salton Sea ecosystem accelerates over the coming years.

Considered to be among the world’s most vital avian habitats and — until recently — one of its most productive fisheries, the Salton Sea is in a state of wild flux, the scene of fish and bird die-offs of unfathomable proportions. It was the resulting sea-bottom biomass that a storm churned earlier this week, releasing gases that drifted into Los Angeles.

This is just the latest episode in the Salton Sea’s long, painful history of sickness and health and booms and busts — a stinky side effect of a great American experiment to civilize the western deserts. By economic measurements, this experiment has been an astounding success. By environmental measurements, it’s shaping up to be pure disaster.

September 18, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/18/12

Why wood pulp is world’s new wonder material

THE hottest new material in town is light, strong and conducts electricity. What’s more, it’s been around a long, long time.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armour and ballistic glass.

So why all the fuss? Well, not only is NCC transparent but it is made from a tightly packed array of needle-like crystals which have a strength-to-weight ratio that is eight times better than stainless steel. Even better, it’s incredibly cheap.

NCC will replace metal and plastic car parts and could make nonorganic plastics obsolete in the not-too-distant future, says Phil Jones, director of new ventures and disruptive technologies at the French mineral processing company IMERYS. “Anyone who makes a car or a plastic bag will want to get in on this,” he says.

In addition, the human body can deal with cellulose safely, says Jones, so NCC is less dangerous to process than inorganic composites. “The worst thing that could happen is a paper cut,” he says.

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Greed and Debt the True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital  (Rolling Stone)

The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn’t stand for anything. He’s a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who’ll say anything to get elected.

The critics couldn’t be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He’s closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren’t the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they’re the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he’s trying for something big: We’ve just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we’ve been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.

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In Prosecutors, Debt Collectors Find a Partner  (NY Times)

The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.

They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.

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Environment: The end of the line  (Financial Times)

There is a photo from the 1930s, published in National Geographic magazine, that shows a scene almost unimaginable today.

A man stands in the sea, water up to his knees, surrounded by a frenzied shoal of huge, thrashing totoaba fish on a spawning run off the coast of Mexico.
“They were so thick in the water that you could wade in and pull them out with bare hands or a pitchfork,” says the prominent marine conservation biologist, Callum Roberts.

Not any more. Commercial fishers started netting the creatures, which could grow as long as 2m and weigh more than 330lbs. Dams such as the Hoover were built along the Colorado River, curbing vital freshwater flows to breeding grounds.

Today, the totoaba is one of 414 species rated critically endangered on the “Red List”, the compendium of threatened plants and animals kept by the venerable International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Another 486 fish are endangered; 1,141 are vulnerable and 60 are extinct, mostly thanks to the same species that killed off the totoaba: us.

The human impact on fish has been worrying scientists and environmental campaigners for decades.

But it has also become an increasingly disturbing economic issue for authorities overseeing the fate of the 90m tonnes of marine and freshwater fish the world’s 4.36m fishing boats catch each year, with their estimated value of $100bn.

September 17, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/17/12

Studies Show Wind Power’s Massive Potential (Inside Science via 3 Quarks Daily

There is enough energy for people to reap from the wind to meet all of the world’s power demands without radically altering the planet’s climate, according to two independent teams of scientists.

Wind power is often touted as environmentally friendly, generating no pollutants. It is an increasingly popular source of renewable energy, with the United States aiming to produce 20 percent of its electricity by wind power by 2030. Still, there have been questions as to how much energy wind power can supply the world, and how green it actually is, given how it pulls energy from the atmosphere.

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This Is How Facebook Is Tracking Your Internet Activity (Business Insider)

Facebook really is watching your every move online.

In testing out a new diagnostic tool called Abine DNT+, we noticed that Facebook has more than 200 “trackers” watching our internet activity.

Abine defines trackers as “a request that a webpage tries to make your browser perform that will share information intended to record, profile, or share your online activity.” The trackers come in the shape of cookies, Javascript, 1-pixel beacons, and Iframes.

For example, cookies are tiny bits of software that web pages drop onto your device that identify you anonymously but nonetheless signal useful behavior about your background interests to advertisers who might want to target you. Facebook uses these types of cookies to activate the “like” buttons on other websites.

Critics call this spying. Advertisers call it targeting.

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‘Social voting’ really does rock the vote (KurzweilAI)

Brace yourself for a tidal wave of Facebook campaigning before November’s U.S. presidential election. A study of 61 million Facebook users finds that using online social networks to urge people to vote has a much stronger effect on their voting behavior than spamming them with information via television ads or phone calls, Science Now reports.

The study follows a Science paper that tracked how people influence each other’s online behavior through Facebook.

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Lit Motors will shake up the electric vehicle market with its two-wheeled, untippable C-1 (KurzweilAI)

Imagine a vehicle that’s smaller than a Smart Car, nearly a third of the price of a Nissan Leaf ($32,500), safer than a motorcycle with a range capacity that just lets you drive and won’t ever tip over.

What you get is Lit Motors‘ C-1, the world’s first gyroscopically stabilized, two-wheeled all-electric vehicle, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco today, writes Peter Ha on TechCrunch. Oh, and it will talk to your smartphone and the cloud.

September 12, 2012

Zeit Guy Links – 9/12/12

Southern whites troubled by Romney’s wealth, religion (Reuters)

Sheryl Harris, a voluble 52-year-old with a Virginia drawl, voted twice for George W. Bush. Raised Baptist, she is convinced — despite all evidence to the contrary — that President Barack Obama, a practicing Christian, is Muslim.

So in this year’s presidential election, will she support Mitt Romney? Not a chance.

“Romney’s going to help the upper class,” said Harris, who earns $28,000 a year as activities director of a Lynchburg senior center. “He doesn’t know everyday people, except maybe the person who cleans his house.”

She’ll vote for Obama, she said: “At least he wasn’t brought up filthy rich.”

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11 Heartbreaking Facts About Poverty In America (Business Insider)

Nearly one-in-six Americans remain below the poverty line as the country grapples with low growth and moderate jobs growth, new data from the Census Bureau shows.

To qualify for poverty a family of four must earn less than $22,811.

In its report released today, the Census Bureau painted a detailed picture of the difficulty many Americans are facing, including declining household earnings.

See article for the list of “heartbreaking facts.”

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Neocon Gambits (David Remnick inThe New Yorker)

It is hard to overestimate the risks that Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the future of his own country. As Prime Minister, he has done more than any other political figure to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel, to eliminate the dwindling possibility of a just settlement with the Palestinians, and to isolate his country on the world diplomatic stage. Now Netanyahu seems determined, more than ever, to alienate the President of the United States and, as an ally of Mitt Romney’s campaign, to make himself a factor in the 2012 election—one no less pivotal than the most super Super PAC. “Who are you trying to replace?” the opposition leader, Shaul Mofaz, asked of Netanyahu in the Knesset on Wednesday. “The Administration in Washington or that in Tehran?”

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Really? Using a Computer Before Bed Can Disrupt Sleep (NY Times)

In today’s gadget-obsessed world, sleep experts often say that for a better night’s rest, Americans should click the “off” buttons on their smartphones and tablets before tucking in for the night. Electronic devices stimulate brain activity, they say, disrupting your ability to drift off to sleep. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed.

Increasingly, researchers are finding that artificial light from some devices at night may tinker with brain chemicals that promote sleep. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that exposure to light from computer tablets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle.