monday | 22 april 2013



Michael Cohen | The Guardian

The actions allegedly committed by the Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, were heinous. Four people dead and more than 100 wounded, some with shredded and amputated limbs.

But Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They’re right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we’ve seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the “threat” of terrorism.

After all, it’s not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorised by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.

To be sure, public officials in Boston appeared to be acting out of an abundance of caution. And it’s appropriate for Boston residents to be asked to take precautions or keep their eyes open. But by letting one fugitive terrorist shut down a major American city, Boston not only bowed to outsize and irrational fears, but sent a dangerous message to every would-be terrorist – if you want to wreak havoc in the United States, intimidate its population and disrupt public order, here’s your instruction booklet.

. . . So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties. All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).

What makes US gun violence so particularly horrifying is how routine and mundane it has become. After the massacre of 20 kindergartners in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, millions of Americans began to take greater notice of the threat from gun violence. Yet since then, the daily carnage that guns produce has continued unabated and often unnoticed.

The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns. The pregnant Breshauna Jackson was killed in Dallas, allegedly by her boyfriend. In Richmond, California, James Tucker III was shot and killed while riding his bicycle – assailants unknown. Nigel Hardy, a 13-year-old boy in Palmdale, California, who was being bullied in school, took his own life. He used the gun that his father kept at home. And in Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty police officer used her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun to kill herself, her boyfriend and her one-year old child.


Walter Hickey | Business Insider

Other countries don’t have America’s gun problem.

Here, we take a look at the data that shows why America is so unlike the rest of the world when it comes to the popularity and the abuse of guns. We’ll look at the role that policy-makers play in the gun control debate, and we’ll look at what can be done.

SLIDE 4 OF 55: As the national rate of gun ownership declines

SLIDE 5 OF 55:
… so do both the violent crime and murder rate. Violence peaked when gun ownership peaked, in the 1970s and early 1980s.

SLIDE 9 OF 55:
The South has the most gun owners by far, followed by the Midwest and West. The Northeast has the fewest guns per capita.

SLIDE 10 OF 55: The South also has the highest rate of assault deaths by far, followed by the Midwest and West. The Northeast has the lowest rate of assault deaths.

SLIDE 14 OF 55:
America has far more assault deaths per capita than other industrialized nations.

SLIDE 17 0F 55:
It doesn’t help that the U.S. has more guns per capita than any other nation.

SLIDE 18 OF 55:
This chart of industrialized nations shows that the U.S. and Mexico — a nation currently engulfed in a widespread, anarchic drug cartel war — stand alone when it comes to gun ownership and gun homicide.

SLIDE 26 OF 55:
The U.S. has a gun homicide rate of 3 per 100,000 — six times as large as Canada, 23 times as large as Australia, 43 times as large as the U.K., and more than 300 times as large as Japan.

SLIDE 28 OF 55:
When it comes down to it, the gun debate is a one-sided argument in Washington. There isn’t even a token opposition to the juggernaut gun lobby.

SLIDE 37 OF 55:
It’s pretty clear that there’s no correlation between video game sales and the youth crime rate, despite what many will say.





Dan Colman | Open Culture

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, otherwise simply known as Ronaldinho, plays football/soccer for Atlético Mineiro and currently captains the Brazilian national team. And the artist ‘Etoilec1,’ whose real name remains obscure to us, creates some amazing flipbooks, including this one that animates Ronaldinho’s finest moments on the pitch. You can watch real highlights of Ronaldinho’s footwork here, and find more carefully wrought flipbooks by Etoilec1 here.





Leo Hickman | The Guardian

He does think there’s some cause for hope. For example, “the business mathematics of alternative energy are changing much faster [than many people] realise.” Looming carbon taxes (“hopefully, in the not-too-distant future”), coupled with the increasing affordability of alternative energy, will mean that coal and oil from tar sands run the “very substantial risk of being stranded assets”. There there’s the “amazing” fall in fertility rates across the world (“the absolute minimum hope of survival is a gracefully declining population”).

But “China is my secret weapon,” he says enthusiastically. His eyes widen with excitement, and he talks quicker and quicker. “The Chinese cavalry riding to the rescue. I have very high hopes for China because they have embedded high scientific capabilities in their leadership class. They know this is serious. And they are acting much faster now than we are. They have it within their capabilities to come back in 30 years with the guarantee of complete energy independence – all alternative and sustainable for ever. They have an embarrassment of capital. We have an embarrassment of debt. So they can set a stunning pace, which they are doing. And they could crank it up. To hell with their five-year plans, they should move up to 25-year plans. They would have such low-cost energy at the end of it they’d be the terror of the capitalist system. Low energy and low labour, that’s the ball game.”


Bill McKibben | Grist

This year, however, the holiday really resonates, because there are two heroes reminding us of the sacrifices they’ve made to move the fight forward, and the way the rest of us need to step up our game.

One is Tim DeChristopher, who will be out of federal custody today after serving 18 months for an inspired act of civil disobedience. He participated in an auction for federal leases to drill for gas and oil even though he … wasn’t a rich oilman. The federal government was unamused—instead of charging him as an activist who’d pulled off a creative stunt, they treated him as a financial criminal whose intent had been to defraud. (This was the same Department of Justice that didn’t manage to find anyone to prosecute for bringing down our financial system with their greed.) And so he’s given up a year and a half of his life.

. . . As Tim got out of custody, Sandra Steingraber went in. She’s been a great leader of the fight in New York state to keep the frackers at bay. A scientist by training but a great leader by force of will, she has spearheaded the so-far successful battle to keep Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) from letting the oil and gas companies do to the Empire State what they’re doing to the Keystone State just across the border to the south.

Steingraber sat down in a driveway to block access to a storage site for fracked gas, then refused to pay $375 in bail, so she’s spending 15 days in jail. She wrote to me just before she went in, with, characteristically, a list of the tasks she hoped to accomplish while behind bars, mostly writing projects that will spread her penetrating analysis yet further afield.





Daniel Klein | The Perennial Plate

In Sri Lanka, the coconut is, in a sense, a source of life. Not only it is the main ingredient in most Sri Lankan dishes, but the entire coconut tree — From the roots to the coconut itself to the tips of the leaves — plays a major role in the non-culinary ways of life. Without the coconut, things in Sri Lanka would be very different. We spent the day with a family of 8 on their coconut plantation outside of Negombo, where they showed us all this fruit (nut?) has to offer.





Dean Baker | Beat the Press | The Center for Economic and Policy Research

“But few experts here believe that Denmark can long afford the current perks. So Denmark is retooling itself, tinkering with corporate tax rates, considering new public sector investments and, for the long term, trying to wean more people — the young and the old — off government benefits.”

Hmmm, it would be interesting to know what data the experts are looking at. According to the IMF, Denmark had a ratio of net debt to GDP at the end of 2012 of 7.6 percent. This compared to 87.8 percent in the United States. Its deficit in 2012 was 4.3 percent of GDP, but almost all of this was due to the downturn. The IMF estimated its structural deficit (the deficit the country would face if the economy was at full employment) at just 1.1 percent of GDP. Furthermore, the country had a huge current account surplus of 5.3 percent of GDP in 2012, more than $800 billion in the U.S. economy. This means that Denmark is buying up foreign assets at a rapid rate. By contrast, the United States has a large current account deficit.

. . . “In 2012, a little over 2.6 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 were working in Denmark, 47 percent of the total population and 73 percent of the 15- to 64-year-olds.

“While only about 65 percent of working age adults are employed in the United States, comparisons are misleading, since many Danes work short hours and all enjoy perks like long vacations and lengthy paid maternity leaves, not to speak of a de facto minimum wage approaching $20 an hour. Danes would rank much lower in terms of hours worked per year.”

So in spite of the generous Danish welfare state a higher percentage of its working age population works than in the United States. (Actually Denmark ranks near the top of the world in employment to population ratios.) Yet, somehow this doesn’t really count because people in Denmark get vacations, work shorter hours, and have a higher effective minimum wage.





John P. Hussman | Hussman Funds Weekly Market Comment | via Joe Weisenthal

“The stock market isn’t the only thing that has set records this spring. Barron’s semiannual Big Money poll of professional investors also is setting a record — for bullishness, that is. In our latest survey, 74% of money managers identify themselves as bullish or very bullish about the prospects for U.S. stocks — an all-time high for Big Money, going back more than 20 years.”

“Dow 16000!” – Barron’s Magazine Big Money Poll 4/20/2013

A few reminders…
“Still Bullish! (Dow 13000)” – Barron’s Magazine Big Money Poll, May 1, 2000

The May 2000 Big Money Poll was published with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 10733.91. The Dow had already peaked nearly a thousand points higher in January of 2000, and would go on to lose about 40% of its value in the 2000-2002 bear market, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq faring far worse.

“Dow 14000?” – Barron’s Magazine Big Money Poll, May 2, 2007

The May 2007 Big Money Poll was published with the Dow at 13264.62. The Dow did advance another 6% to reach 14000 by October 2007. By November (the poll is semi-annual), bulls were outnumbering bears by 2-to-1, and the headline ran “The Party’s Not Over.” In fact, the market had already peaked, and proceeded to lose over half its value in the 2007-2009 bear market.

The Barron’s Big Money Poll is typically bullish, on balance. This is Wall Street, after all. But variations in the tone and extent of that bullishness can be informative, especially when the consensus is extremely optimistic at new highs of mature bull markets, and defensive at new lows of mature bear markets.





Danielle Paquette | The Tampa Bay Times | via

TARPON SPRINGS — Tisa Berset stares at her new hand, willing it to open. “Concentrate,” the doctor says, watching over her shoulder. “Like we practiced.” A year ago, all of Tisa’s fingers were amputated at the knuckles. What remains of her right hand is now strapped inside a silicone glove. It’s a prosthetic device billed as the best on the planet, with bionic fingers dexterous enough to pluck a feather or tickle a baby. To open or close or pinch or point, Tisa must wiggle the tiny muscles between her middle and ring knuckles as though she’s spreading phantom fingers into a “V” shape. She groans. “It’s harder than you think.”

bionic hand


Rodrigo | designboom

Fujitsu Laboratories has developed an augmented reality user interface which can accurately detect the users finger and what it is selecting, creating an interactive touchscreen-like system using off-the-shelf cameras and projectors. from the technology, real-world information such as text from books or printed images can be imported from a document. the function enables a user to trace a finger across a document on a table, copy it as digital data, and display it virtually.





Kelly Chan | Architzer

“At Blaxland,” the firm explained in a project description, “play equipment is secondary to the space and experience itself. Imagination is encouraged, play is challenging, and the perception of risk is reintroduced.” Instead of planting the familiar prefabricated concourse on flat land, JMD Design chose to reshape the topography of the play space, creating a series of large, inverted cones with sloping, 45-degree walls and unique play equipment such as tubular slides, climbing wall rocks, and cargo nets.

The firm also wanted to eliminate the segregation between adults and children established by the conventional playground, where they observed “bored parents linger[ing] around the edges.” A 12-meter tree house, a “water plaza” with 156 water jets, a cul-de-sac of swings, and a kiosk with enormous, protruding eaves designed by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects create distinctive spaces for visitors of any age to explore. At Blaxland, “[t]he scale of the spaces and the elements within promotes interaction between different age groups, making the playground as much for the parents as it is for their kids.”







Gerrit Feenstra | KEXP | amazon

German DJ and producer DJ Koze has waited 8 years to release a fresh LP. Sure, he’s given us plenty of singles between now and 2005′s Kosi Comes Around, but to wait that long before offering a fully new vision to the world and still maintain relevancy and progression is a hard thing to do. But against all odds, DJ Koze has created a modern masterpiece of the genre. With a strapping cast of collaborators that help to take an accurate snapshot of the scene today, Koze creates an album that fits cleanly into his portfolio and will no doubt ripen and age sweetly. Amygdala is the biggest and best electronic record of the year so far, and you should waste no time in letting it blow your mind.

DJ Koze - Amygdala


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