Friday, May 30, 2014
'The burger chain's famous golden arches have become part of the iconography of anti-coup protests and it is warning activists to "cease and refrain" from using its trademarks.
One of the McDonald's stores in Bangkok has become a gathering place for protests following the May 22 military takeover because of its central location. Some protesters have used the McDonald's logo in their anti-coup signs, replacing the "m'' in democracy with the yellow arches.
McThai, which operates McDonald's restaurants in Thailand, says it is maintaining a "neutral stance" amid political turbulence in the Southeast Asian kingdom famous for its ornate temples, vibrant nightlife and white sand beaches.
The company said it could take "appropriate measures" if protesters continue to appropriate its logo.'
'Quantitative easing, or QE (the Federal Reserve's program of monthly purchases of long-term assets), began as a noble endeavor – well timed and well articulated as the Fed's desperate antidote to a wrenching crisis. Counterfactuals are always tricky, but it is hard to argue that the liquidity injections of late 2008 and early 2009 did not play an important role in saving the world from something far worse than the Great Recession.
The combination of product-specific funding facilities and the first round of quantitative easing sent the Fed's balance sheet soaring to $2.3 trillion by March 2009, from its pre-crisis level of $900 billion in the summer of 2008. And the deep freeze in crisis-ravaged markets thawed.
The Fed's mistake was to extrapolate – that is, to believe that shock therapy could not only save the patient but also foster sustained recovery. Two further rounds of QE expanded the Fed's balance sheet by another $2.1 trillion between late 2009 and today, but yielded little in terms of jump-starting the real economy.
This becomes clear when the Fed's liquidity injections are compared with increases in nominal GDP. From late 2008 to May 2014, the Fed's balance sheet increased by a total of $3.4 trillion, well in excess of the $2.6 trillion increase in nominal GDP over the same period. This is hardly "Mission accomplished," as QE supporters claim. Every dollar of QE generated only 76 cents of nominal GDP.
'After the financial crash, the authorities in Beijing unleashed one of the biggest stimulus packages anywhere, around four trillion yuan. The effect of this has been massive growth in the debt of its local governments. According to China's National Audit Office, that debt has surged by 20 per cent every year for the past three years, to 10.6 trillion yuan by last summer.
Then there are China's banks. According to a report on Bloomberg yesterday: "China's biggest banks are poised to report the highest proportion of bad debts since 2009 after late payments on loans surged to a five-year high." But that's not half the trouble: China's shadow banking system is estimated to account for 70 to 100 per cent of the country's GDP. It is an impenetrable fog of dodgy deals and toxic debt, the complexity of which nobody can fully grasp.
On top of this, Morgan Stanley argues that China's corporate debt is equal to the whole country's national income, and China's consumers are in more debt than ever. In fact, when you add it up, since 2008 China's public and private debt has ballooned from 135 per cent of GDP to more than 200 per cent today. That growth in credit is faster than in Japan before 1990 — and the US in 2008.'
'Washington expressed concern over the appearance of fighters from Russia's war-ravaged region of Chechnya among the insurgents.
The rebels for their part dismissed speculation of a rift in their ranks after a dozen local militants were evicted from their seat of power in Donetsk by a military brigade comprised largely of Chechens and other Russians from the volatile North Caucasus…
Ukraine's acting defence chief said his soldiers intended to push ahead with their so-called "anti-terrorist operation" despite demands by Moscow for all military activities to come to an immediate halt.
"We will continue working until this region starts working and leading a normal life," said Koval.
Ukraine's acting president Petro Poroshenko also vowed to punish those who used a sophisticated surface-to-air missile to shoot the MI-8 helicopter out of the Lugansk sky.
"We have to do everything we can to ensure no more Ukrainians die at the hands of terrorists and bandits. These criminal acts by the enemies of the Ukrainian people will not go unpunished," Mr Poroshenko told Ukrainian news agencies.'
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
'Escalating their assault on Internet access, the judicial authorities in Iran have sentenced eight Facebook users to prison terms as long as 20 years and have ordered Mark Zuckerberg, the multibillionaire American founder of Facebook, to testify in a lawsuit that contends the company's social media applications violate privacy, Iranian news sites reported on Tuesday.'
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
fix. First, our culture has decided that science is "objective", that
the probability of different theories being true is somehow utterly
independent of the views of the men and women who decide which
theories to investigate, or the manner by which those investigations
proceed. I reject (ironically!) this idea that science isobjectively
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Sunday, May 18, 2014
'Singer Clay Aiken's chief rival for the Democratic nomination for Congress died unexpectedly on Monday.
Keith Crisco, 71, a former North Carolina secretary of Commerce, died from a fall at his home, reported The Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C. A woman who answered the telephone at Asheboro Elastics Corp., which Crisco founded, confirmed the news to USA TODAY and said the company's workers were in shock.
Aiken, a former American Idol runner-up, was leading Crisco by 369 votes for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District but the race was too close to call. The Democratic nominee will go on to face GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in the fall.
State elections officials have been counting all the absentee and provisional ballots from last week's primary, and the nine counties in the district had until Tuesday to report their official canvass of votes. Toni Morris, a licensed professional counselor, was running a distant third to Aiken and Crisco.'
'I Pledge To Allah - Imam Abubakar Shekau
My brethren in Islam, I am greeting you in the name of Allah like he instructed we should among Muslims. Allah is great and has given us privilege and temerity above all people.
If we meet infidels, if we meet those that become infidels according to Allah, there is no any talk except hitting of the neck; I hope you chosen people of Allah are hearing. This is an instruction from Allah. It is not a distorted interpretation it is from Allah himself. This is from Allah on the need for us to break down infidels, practitioners of democracy, and constitutionalism, voodoo and those that are doing western education, in which they are practicing paganism…
We will die killing and slaughtering them, if you meet infidels in battle field brethren, just harvest their necks; Allah said it and not Shekau. Harvest Jonathan's neck, harvest Kashim's neck, Allah said cut out Burabura's neck, even in Ka'aba if some is doing Salat for so long as he is deviating from what Allah said, he is infidel. Cut out their necks until the time that you will get majority over infidels of the world. And you will get it, Allah said it, time will come that you will form majority over infidels, face to face.
We will hold you as slaves, who told you there is no slave? They said human rights, stupid liars, when did you know human rights? You just come and lying in the name of Allah, Allah who created human doesn't know rights until you stupid?'
'One of them was a humane political realism, including helping conservatives make their own inner peace with the New Deal. In 1976 Kristol wrote:
Neo-conservatism is not at all hostile to the idea of a welfare state, but it is critical of the Great Society version of this welfare state. In general, it approves of those social reforms that, while providing needed security and comfort to the individual in our dynamic, urbanized society, do so with a minimum of bureaucratic intrusion in the individual's affairs… while being for the welfare state, it is opposed to the paternalistic state. It also believes that this welfare state will best promote the common good if it is conceived in such a way, as not to go bankrupt.'
'Netflix Now Comprises A Full 1/3rd Of The Internet Traffic In North America
If there was any doubt about Netflix's huge popularity in North America, consider that according to a new report from Sandvine, the streaming video service accounts for more than one-third of all Internet traffic.
Netflix was responsible for 31.6% of traffic, but with a bump to Super HD (4K) content for users, it's already boosted that number to 34.2%.
Perhaps of even greater significance is the fact that "cord cutter" types who rely on services like Netflix as opposed to traditional pay TV are responsible for a whopping 54% of all monthly network traffic. These folks consume an average of 212GB of data every month and watch the equivalent of 100 hours of content every month.
How does that compare to average users? It's roughly seven times more than the 29GB per month than a typical user.'
'A pregnant 27-year-old Sudanese woman was sentenced to death by hanging Thursday for apostasy after marrying a Christian man and refusing to convert to Islam. Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag also faces charges of adultery.
Ibrahim, who was born to a Muslim father but raised Orthodox Christian by her mother, was first sentenced on Sunday, but she was given until Thursday to change her mind and convert. She refused to do so, Al Jazeera reports.
"I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy," Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim was found guilty of apostasy — the abandonment of one's religious faith – because she was born to a Muslim father and married a Christian man. The adultery charge came as Islamic law prohibits Muslim women from marrying outside of their religion, a rule which effectively voided the marriage.
The death sentence will reportedly be carried out after Ibrahim gives birth.'
'In a closed-door meeting in February 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged his French counterpart not to proceed with the sale of two amphibious assault ships to Russia because it "would send the wrong message to Russia and to our allies in Central and East Europe."
The French official, Hervé Morin, acknowledged that each of the ships — so-called Mistral-class vessels built for the French Navy to carry troops, landing craft, and helicopters — was "indeed a warship for power projection," according to a confidential diplomatic cable on the meeting, which was made public by WikiLeaks. But Mr. Morin "asked rhetorically how we can tell Russia we desire partnership but then not trust them," the cable added.
With Russia's annexation of Crimea and some 40,000 Russian troops deployed near Ukraine, Western officials are no longer putting their trust in Russia's intentions. But despite American objections, the sale is still on track, and the first ship is scheduled for delivery late this year.
During a visit here on Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said his government would decide in October whether to proceed with the delivery of two of the ships, and asserted that France had struck the right balance between "dialogue and firmness" in its dealings with Moscow. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated in his meeting with Mr. Fabius that the sale was not helpful, seeking a way to prevent it, according to a State Department official. But Mr. Fabius later asserted to reporters that Mr. Kerry had not demanded that France cancel the sale.
To critics, the 1.2 billion euro, or more than $1.6 billion, deal that France struck with Russia has emerged as a classic instance in which a European nation has elevated its business dealings with Moscow over exhortations by the United States to take a firm line on Russian meddling in Ukraine.
But the cables obtained by WikiLeaks show that the United States had concerns about the way Russia was obtaining the ships since 2009. In an appearance before Congress last week, Victoria Nuland, the senior State Department official for European Affairs, said that the Obama administration had "consistently expressed our concerns about this sale."
Yet the security relationship between the United States and France in recent years has generally been strong. As Mr. Fabius hastened to remind reporters this week, France was poised to participate in an American-led military strike on Syria last year in response to the Assad government's use of chemical weapons, until Mr. Obama halted the military option in return for an agreement that Syria destroy its chemical arsenal.
The ships were on the back burner in discussions with the French government. But with Russia's annexation of Crimea, they re-emerged as a major issue.
If they are delivered, the ships would augment the Russian military's capabilities against the very nations that now appear to be most vulnerable to the Kremlin's pressure — namely the Black Sea states of Ukraine and Georgia and the Baltic states that belong to NATO.
"The technology and capability represented by the Mistral should not be passed to a Russian Federation that continues to threaten its neighbors," said James G. Stavridis, the retired admiral who served as NATO's top commander from 2009 to 2013.
"Russia has nothing like it, and without French help could not build it anytime soon," said Stephen J. Blank, an expert on the Russian military at the American Foreign Policy Council.
"Since helicopters can also be armed with missiles, it can be a platform for a heliborne missile attack as well as what we in the States call an air assault or heliborne landings or amphibious landings," Mr. Blank added.
The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has played down the significance of the pending sale, saying that France would only be delivering unarmed "civilian hulls."
But Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and three other lawmakers said in a recent letter to President Obama that each of the ships would be able to carry 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 60 armored vehicles, 13 tanks and up to 700 soldiers.
The Kremlin has joined the debate as well. Dmitri O. Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, recently suggested that a decision to derail the deal would hurt France more than Russia. "France is starting to undermine trust in itself as a reliable supplier," he said on his Twitter account. "Probably our colleague is not aware of the number of jobs created in France thanks to our partnership."
French officials first informed their Western counterparts in 2009 that Nicolas Sarkozy, who was president at the time, was interested in selling the warships to Russia. That December, a cable from the American Embassy in Paris outlined the economic logic behind the deal. The Russians, an embassy economic officer wrote, had little confidence in their own shipyards, and Mr. Sarkozy was interested in lining up new clients for France's ailing shipbuilding industry.
Georgia, whose breakaway regions were occupied by Russian troops in 2008, was worried by the potential sale, especially after a Russian naval commander was quoted as saying Russia's Black Sea Fleet could have carried out its mission during that conflict "in 40 minutes" if it had possessed a ship like the Mistral.
In a November 2009 cable, John R. Bass, the American ambassador to Georgia, described the deal as "the wrong ship from the wrong country at the wrong time."'
We should probably buy these two ships from France for the same price they were going to be sold for.
Friday, May 16, 2014
'Trying to find out the price of a medical service is a headache for consumers. When researchers called hospitals around the country to find out the cost of a hip replacement, only 10 percent were able to provide an answer. About 332,000 total hip replacements were performed in the U.S. in 2010. Shouldn't it be simple to find out the price of something that's bought and sold 900 times a day?
Three of the U.S.'s largest health insurers plan to make what they pay for medical care more transparent to consumers. Aetna (AET), Humana (HUM), and UnitedHealthcare (UNH) are joining with a nonprofit called the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) to turn their databases of medical claims into a useful online tool for consumers.
When the yet-to-be-named website goes live next year, anyone will be able to type in a medical service and search for prices, says David Newman, executive director of the HCCI. The site will show the average price paid by insurers in a given Zip Code (or wider areas if not enough data are available). It will also show a range of high- and low-end prices to indicate how much variation there is for a given service. He likens the information to car-buying site Edmunds.com.'
'Support for the death penalty in 1994 was the highest ever recorded (80%), according to Gallup. But consider instead all the 43 surveys from 1936 to 2012. Those surveys showed that an average of 63.8 percent of Americans supported the death penalty. Sixty percent in 2013 is down slightly from the average over the preceding 76 years….
And why has support dropped? Probably because crime has fallen. In 1994, the murder rate was 9.0 per 100,000 people. By 2012, it had fallen to almost half that, 4.7…
In murder cases, whites are executed much more frequently. Nationally, from 1977, when the death penalty was reinstituted, to 2011, the last year for which the FBI has compiled data, 64.7 percent of those executed were whites, but whites committed only 47 percent of the murders.
Furthermore, DNA evidence has improved its accuracy in trials over the past couple of decades, as it has become more commonly used.
Finally, all this ignores one extremely important point: There is overwhelming evidence that the death penalty deters murder and saves lives. Combine that with the fact that errors, few to begin with, are becoming ever less common, and objections to the death penalty are basically eviscerated.'
'At least 21 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in Vietnam on Thursday during violent protests against China in one of the deadliest confrontations between the two neighbours since 1979.
Crowds set fire to industrial parks and factories, hunted down Chinese workers and attacked police during the riots, which have spread from the south to the central part of the country following the start of the protests on Tuesday.
The violence has been sparked by the dispute concerning China stationing an oil rig in an area of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam. The two nations have been fighting out a maritime battle over sovereignty and that battle has now seemingly come ashore.
Early Thursday morning a 1,000-strong mob stormed a giant Taiwanese steel mill in Ha Tinh province, central Vietnam, where they set buildings ablaze and chased out Chinese employees…
"There were about 100 people sent to the hospital last night. Many were Chinese. More are being sent to the hospital this morning," the doctor said.'
'More than 600 Chinese business people and tourists have crossed Vietnamese border into Cambodia to escape anti-China riots in Vietnam, Cambodian National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith confirmed Thursday.'
'Smoldering nationalist anger in Vietnam exploded into frenzied violence in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City this week as thousands of rioters swept through industrial parks north of the city's commercial hub, razing any factory believed to be Chinese owned. After more than two decades of peace, Beijing and Hanoi are at odds again.
Anti-China Riots in Vietnam Leave at Least 21 DeadVietnamese Protesters Torch Factories in Anti-China UnrestVA Docs Defied Opiate Rules in Treating Vets, Audit Finds NBC NewsMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostComet Outlives Predictions Weather.com
China's decision earlier this month to deploy a colossal, state-owned oil rig in fiercely contested waters off the Vietnamese coast appears to have succeeded in derailing the delicate relations between the countries.
The Chinese state press lashed out publicly at its southern neighbor on the heels of several maritime skirmishes last week, with one hawkish editorial calling on Beijing to teach Vietnam the "lesson it deserves." The language closely resembled Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping's 1978 vow to teach Hanoi a "lesson" — and the echo is most unfortunate, because on that occasion the result was tens of thousands of deaths…
In the winter of 1978, when Deng Xiaoping made his threat of a "lesson," more than 80,000 Chinese troops were sent across the border into Vietnam. Chinese Deputy Defense Minister Su Yu boasted of being able to take Hanoi in a week, but the untested and under-equipped People's Liberation Army (PLA) met fierce resistance from battle hardened Vietnamese forces deployed across the frontier's limestone karsts. The Chinese were slaughtered by local militia from positions that had been utilized for centuries against invaders from the north.
"More Chinese soldiers were getting killed because they were fighting like it was the old times," says Vietnamese veteran Nguyen Huu Hung, who witnessed the PLA's human waves being mown down near the city of Lang Son. "They were in lines and just keep moving ahead … they didn't run away."
It would take just six weeks for Beijing to call off its "self-defensive counteroffensive." Teaching the Vietnamese a lesson turned out to be a costly affair. Official casualty statistics have never been released by either Beijing or Hanoi; however, analysts have estimate that as many as 50,000 soldiers died during the confrontation.'
'Buried on the military's secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called "CONOP 8888." It's a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead -- from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even "evil magic zombies" -- and destroy them.
"This plan fulfills fictional contingency planning guidance tasking for U.S. Strategic Command to develop a comprehensive [plan] to undertake military operations to preserve 'non-zombie' humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde," CONOP 8888's plan summary reads. "Because zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, [Strategic Command] will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population -- including traditional adversaries."
CONOP 8888, otherwise known as "Counter-Zombie Dominance" and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document's "disclaimer section," "this plan was not actually designed as a joke."
Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse…
CONOP 8888 is designed to "establish and maintain a vigilant defensive condition aimed at protecting humankind from zombies," according to the plan's purpose, and, "if necessary, conduct operations that will, if directed, eradicate zombie threats to human safety." Finally, the plan provides guidance to "aid civil authorities in maintaining law and order and restoring basic services during and after a zombie attack."
The "worst case threat scenario," according to the plan, suggests a rather dark situation: a zombie attack in which there would be high "transmissibility," lots of zombies eating lots of people, zombies infecting humans at a rapid rate, and little or no immunity and few effective countermeasures.
Under "Zombie Threat Summary," the plan highlights the different kinds of zombie adversaries one might find in such an attack.'