MONDAY | 17 JUNE 2013

THE LABOR MARKET

FIXING THE DIGITAL FUTURE

Jaron Lanier | The New York Times

TWO big trends in the world appear to contradict each other.

On the one hand, computer networks are said to be disrupting centralized power of all kinds and giving it to the individual. Customers can bring corporations to their knees by tweeting complaints. A tiny organization like WikiLeaks can alarm the great powers with nothing but encryption and net access. Young Egyptians can organize a nearly instant revolution with their mobile phones and the Internet.

But then there’s the other trend. Inequality is soaring in rich countries around the world, not just the United States. Money from the top 1 percent has flooded our politics. The job market in America has been hollowed out; unpaid internships are common and “entry-level” jobs seem to last a lifetime, while technical and management posts become ever more lucrative. The individual appears to be powerless in the face of tough prospects.

ARE CODERS WORTH IT?

James Somers | Aeon

A web start-up today has almost no fixed capital costs. There’s no need to invest in broadband infrastructure, since it’s already there. There’s no need to buy TV ads to get market share, when you can grow organically via search (Google) and social networks (Facebook). ‘Cloud’ web servers, like nearly all other services a virtual company might need — such as credit-card processing, automated telephone support, mass email delivery — can be paid for on demand, at prices pegged to Moore’s Law.

Which means that these days the cost of finding out whether a start-up is actually going to succeed isn’t hundreds of millions of dollars — it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s the cost of a couple of laptops and the salary you pay the founders while they try stuff. A $100 million pool of venture capital, instead of seeding five or 10 start-ups, can now seed 1,000 small experiments, most of which will fail, one of which will become worth a billion dollars.

And so there is a frenzy on.

You can see why I’m in such good shape. In this particular gold rush the shovel is me.

THE ONCE (BUT NO LONGER) GOLDEN AGE OF HUMAN CAPITAL

Nancy Folbre | Economix | The New York Times

The evolution of the global human capital market has momentous political implications. Like many Democrats, President Obama is bullish on human capital. He favors increased public investment in education, ranging from early childhood to post-secondary programs. The assertion that such spending will generate a high individual and social rate of return is based on the optimistic expectation that demand for better-educated workers will remain strong.

On the other hand, many critics of public-education subsidies are bearish on human capital. The economist Richard Vedder, for instance, warns against both private and public overinvestment in education, pointing to the growing tendency for college graduates to land in jobs that don’t actually require the credential they hold.

If the bears are right, we may be moving toward a stage of capitalism less dependent on a growing supply of home-grown human capital. In that case, many of those bullish on higher education investments in the United States could end up as red meat.

ARE UNPAID INTERNSHIPS ILLEGAL?

Dylan Matthews | Wonkblog | The Washington Post

Unpaid internships* are increasingly a fact of life for college students. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 55 percent of the class of 2012 had an internship or co-op during their time in college. Almost half of those — 47 percent — were unpaid. A third of internships at for-profit companies were unpaid.

Depending on how you look at it, this is either massive exploitation of young people by powerful corporations which worsens inequality, or a valuable opportunity for on-the-job training at lower cost than a degree or certificate at a college or university.

But whatever your moral leanings, a judge on Tuesday confirmed what intern advocates have been alleging for years: a lot of these programs are illegal.

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ART

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VENICE: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE AT THE CENTRAL PAVILION

Contemporary Art Daily
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HEALTH

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DON’T TAKE YOUR VITAMINS?

Paul Offit | The New York Times

Nutrition experts argue that people need only the recommended daily allowance — the amount of vitamins found in a routine diet. Vitamin manufacturers argue that a regular diet doesn’t contain enough vitamins, and that more is better. Most people assume that, at the very least, excess vitamins can’t do any harm. It turns out, however, that scientists have known for years that large quantities of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful indeed.

In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1994, 29,000 Finnish men, all smokers, had been given daily vitamin E, beta carotene, both or a placebo. The study found that those who had taken beta carotene for five to eight years were more likely to die from lung cancer or heart disease.

Two years later the same journal published another study on vitamin supplements. In it, 18,000 people who were at an increased risk of lung cancer because of asbestos exposure or smoking received a combination of vitamin A and beta carotene, or a placebo. Investigators stopped the study when they found that the risk of death from lung cancer for those who took the vitamins was 46 percent higher.

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THE ECONOMY

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AMERICA OWES A LOT TO BERNANKE

Martin Wolf | The Financial Times

On the economic side, the financial crisis disrupted the creation of money, for which private institutions – the banks – are normally responsible. Huge attention has been paid to the expansion of the balance sheets of central banks. But far more important are the broader monetary aggregates, which measure money in the hands of the public. The growth of broad money depends on the willingness of banks to lend more. After the crisis, that vanished.

One can see this in the measure known as “divisia broad money” (see chart). The Center for Financial Stability in New York estimates that, on this measure, the money supply was just 0.7 per cent higher in April 2013 than it had been in October 2008 – despite the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet. This is a monetary famine, not a feast.

The second economic answer is that the financial crisis coincided with falling real house prices in the US and triggered deleveraging among financial institutions and households. It took strong monetary and fiscal action to offset these contractionary forces. Since fiscal support was, alas, withdrawn prematurely, the burden fell on the Fed. With short-term interest rates at the zero bound, it had to influence longer-term rates if monetary policy was to gain traction.

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REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

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WHAT HAPPENS TO WOMEN WHO ARE DENIED ABORTIONS?

Joshua Lang | The New York Times Magazine

“The unstated assumption of most new abortion restrictions — mandatory ultrasound viewing, waiting periods, mandated state ‘information,’ ” Foster says, “is that women don’t know what they are doing when they try to terminate a pregnancy. Or they can’t make a decision they won’t regret.” Lost in the controversy, however, is the flip side of the question. What, Foster wondered, could the women who did not have the abortions they sought tell us about the women who did?

Most studies on the effects of abortion compare women who have abortions with those who choose to carry their pregnancies to term. It is like comparing people who are divorced with people who stay married, instead of people who get the divorce they want with the people who don’t.

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ART

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VENICE: RUDOLF STINGEL AT PALAZZO GRA

Contemporary Art Daily

Press Release:
From April 7, 2013, Palazzo Grassi presents the exhibition Rudolf Stingel, curated by the artist himself in collaboration with Elena Geuna. The project, conceived expressly for Palazzo Grassi, unfolds over the atrium and both upper floors, a space of over 5.000 square meters. For the first time, the museum devotes the whole exhibition area to the work of a single artist.The exhibition includes previously unseen paintings as well as creations from the past years and a site-specific installation. This is Stingel’s largest ever monographic presentation in Europe.

The exhibition presents a selection of over thirty paintings from collections around the world, including the artist’s collection and that of François Pinault. Many of these works were created in the studios of Merano and New York specifically for this project, which spreads over all the rooms of Palazzo Grassi, where carpeting based on an oriental rug covers the entire surface of the walls and floors.

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MARRIAGE

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THE DECLINING DEMAND FOR HUSBANDS

Nancy Folbre | Economix | The New York Times

Women are willing to pay a higher price for marriage than men if they have few alternatives, as when their opportunities for economic independence are restricted. An increase in the supply of women who want to marry drives the price of marriage down for men.

In these circumstances, as the economist Shoshana Grossbard puts it, husbands can pay a low “quasi-wage” for domestic services.

If the supply of women who want to marry decreases, the terms of marriage move in favor of women. They are likely to receive a larger share of joint income and leisure time. Husbands become more likely to relinquish some decision-making power and do more housework and child care.

Marriage market dynamics mean that a bride’s bargaining power is partly determined by the number of other choices her groom has (and vice versa). The changing terms of marriage complicate the effects of women’s improved economic position. On the one hand, men should like the prospect of sharing income with a high-earning woman. On the other hand, they may find it difficult to adjust to a new social role.

Considerable research suggests that gender roles are, in fact, pretty sticky. In a recent article, Marianne Bertrand, Jessica Pan and Emir Kamenica offer evidence that wives often try to enact traditional gender roles in an apparent effort to reassure their husbands that they are not a threat.

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ARCHITECTURE

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THE WORLD’S MOST SUSTAINABLE BUILDING IN THE WORLD CAN NOW BE FOUND IN DUBAI

Janice Ponce de Leon | GulfNews.com

Only one year old, TCI doesn’t only provide environmentally-friendly solutions. It practises what it preaches by incorporating all aspects of green building on its 4,000-square-metre structure from its roofing to energy-efficient lighting to its water system.

TCI has 26 technologies, including solar panels and heat-reflective paint, on its roof that provides 40 per cent of the building’s energy requirements. Its outer structure has insulation three times more than that of a normal building; all its windows have heat-reflective films; water in the building is re-used and recycled; and most of the materials used for the building’s interiors are recycled.


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CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

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THROWING CHILDREN INTO PRISON TURNS OUT TO BE A REALLY BAD IDEA

Brad Plummer | Wonkblog | The Washington Post

to figure this out, Aizer and Doyle took a look at the juvenile court system in Chicago, Illinois. The researchers found that certain judges in the system were more likely to recommend detention than others — even for similar crimes. That is, it’s possible to identify stricter and more lenient judges. And, since youths were assigned to judges at random, this created a randomized trial of sorts.

What the researchers found was striking. The kids who ended up incarcerated were 13 percentage points less likely to graduate high school and 22 percentage points more likely to end up back in prison as adults than the kids who went to court but were placed under, say, home monitoring instead. (This was after controlling for family background and so forth.) Juvenile detention appeared to be creating criminals, not stopping them.

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GRAFFITI

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SOFLES

Jeff Hamada | Booooooom!

This graffiti video wins the award for best filming/editing. Sofles covers an area in Melbourne with all kinds of work, captured in a series of continuous moving time-lapses.


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LANGUAGE

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TXTNG IS KILLING LANGUAGE. JK!!!

John McWhorter | TEDtalksDirector | YouTube

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MUSIC | ANIMATION

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JOHN MAYER ‘SUBMARINE TEST 1967’ – VIDEOCLIP by VIRGILIO VILLORESI

Virgilio Villoresi | Vimeo

This is the music video to the song “Submarine Test January 1967” by John Mayer. I used a pre-cinema technique called ombro cinema to animate the drawings made by Virginia Mori. Everything was filmed in live-action, no post production effects were employed.

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MUSIC

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ZAZ

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