Monday, January 26, 2015

Replacing the sun

The Russian Federal Space Agency released a video that shows how earth could look in the light of other stars.

It's the end of the world

Almost every time a major storm is forecast, the media makes it sound like it never happened before. Today's examples:

NY Times - Likely to Be Among Largest Ever in New York City 
Washington Post - Potentially historic’ blizzard 
Boston Globe - Potentially catastrophic storm
BBC - historic blizzard 

And then there is the supermarket. After all, we need to have enough food to make it to the last day. Would you believe there were no bananas?

A commuter in China

Watermelon head

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Seeing your mother for the first time

Louise was born with albinism, which meant she could not see until, at the age of eight months, she was fitted with a pair of special eyeglasses. In the video below she sees her mother for the first time.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lessons to be learned

You should read Stephen Walt's latest column in Foreign Policy. He thinks that there are five lessons we can learn from our foreign policy experiences: 
The first lesson is that the United States lacks a detailed and sophisticated understanding of many societies, and especially those whose history, culture, social networks, and aspirations are radically different from our own.
A second lesson — and one that is constantly being forgotten — is that military power is a crude instrument that always produces unintended effects.
Third well-intentioned outside interference often reinforces the corruption that makes local governments unpopular and ineffective.
Fourth, politicians in foreign lands will tell us what we want to hear, whether it’s true or not.
The last lesson is actually a bit of good news: Our counterproductive interference in the greater Middle East is probably unnecessary.
And lastly:
Remember, we have a terrorism problem in part because the United States has been repeatedly interfering in the greater Middle East, and not always for the right reasons or with much skill or effectiveness.

Africa and America Compared

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Maybe low gas prices are not a totally good thing

It's good to pay only $35 when filling up my car with gas, rather than the $50 I've been paying for the past several months. While the fall in oil prices has lowered some of my daily costs, Wall Street on Parade doesn't think the oil price drop is a good thing for the economy.

Their reasoning is based on the fact that oil-related companies in the U.S. now account for between 35 to 40 percent of all capital spending. And these companies are cutting back capital spending, which translates into lost jobs. For example, Schlumberger is cutting 9,000 jobs; Baker Hughes, the oilfield services company, is cutting 7,000; BHP Billiton will cut 40 percent of its U.S. shale operations.

Of course, if the oil-related companies cut back, then their suppliers will have to. One instance: less steel piping is needed. Ergo U.S. Steel will lay off approximately 750 workers at two of its pipe plants.

And, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released its “Fourth Quarter Energy Survey.” The survey found: “The future capital spending index fell sharply, from 40 to -59, as contacts expected oil prices to keep falling. Access to credit also weakened compared to the third quarter and a year ago."

Time for some music

From a Duncaster correspondent

Another strange action from Iran

The top guy in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has written a letter to Western youth urging them to make an effort to understand Islam before condemning it. This is in response to the Charlie Hebdo situation. He also says, “I don’t insist that you accept my reading or any other reading of Islam. What I want to say is: Don’t allow this dynamic and effective reality in today’s world to be introduced to you through resentments and prejudices.” He attributes the hatred of Islam by the leaders in the West to their determination to make money while oppressing non-Western nations.

A Costly Mistake

With all the problems JPMorgan has, it now has to eat $1.5 billion. Because of a failure to catch an error by GM's lawyers, JP's loan to GM was transferred from secured to unsecured. This happened just before GM declared bankruptcy in which unsecured loans were terminated.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A different world

The annual salary of Xi Jinping, the president of China, about 5% of Obama's salary, $22,000 vs. $400,000. Note that this is below our median wage of $28,031. It is also less than that needed to rent an apartment in Beijing. While Obama gets housing, entertainment, travel, use of a vacation home as part of his compensation, Mr. Xi has to be satisfied living at a leadership compound in central Beijing, or he can spend the night at the Xi family home, a grand traditional walled compound in the fashionable Nanlouguxiang neighborhood. And he might find a better deal at the tasteful and leafy Guanyuan complex, considering his older sister and brother-in-law were the property owners.