Weekly Round Up February 1st – 2012

The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies — socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor — and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food.” - John Pilger

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

Project to Pour Water Into Volcano to Make Power – “Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.

Male bowerbirds ‘benefit from optical illusions’ – “Either the pattern required to create forced perspective is an indicator of male quality [that attracts females]… or the illusion holds the female’s attention for longer, making mating more likely.

La Nina ‘linked’ to flu pandemics – “In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they say that flu-carrying birds may change migratory patterns during La Nina conditions. However, many other La Nina events have not seen novel flu strains spread around the world, they caution.

Killer flu doctors: US censorship is a danger to science – “America should not be allowed to dominate the debate over who controls sensitive scientific information that could be misused in biowarfare terrorism, say the scientists who created a highly dangerous form of bird-flu virus in a study that has been partially censored by the US government.

USDA Ignores Pesticide Ravaging Bee Population, Threatening Global Environment - “It has recently been reported that certain research was suppressed concerning the bee decline which has been occurring over the past few years. It seems that the large sum of money raked in by Bayer, a maker of pesticides, was enough to kick research under the carpet that linked the company’s pesticide to the massive bee decline.

Abortion Rates Are Higher In Countries Where Procedure Is Illegal – “Abortion rates were lowest in Western Europe – 12 per 1,000 – and highest in Eastern Europe – 43 per 1,000. The rate in North America was 19 per 1,000. Sedgh said she and colleagues found a link between higher abortion rates and regions with more restrictive legislation, such as in Latin America and Africa. They also found that 95 to 97 percent of abortions in those regions were unsafe.

Statisticians Uncover the Mathematics of a Serial Killer – “Stats can’t tell you who the perp is, but they’re getting better and better at figuring out where and when the next crime might happen,’ writes criminal lawyer Nathaniel Burney adding that ‘catching a serial killer by focusing resources based on when and where he’s likely to strike next is a hell of a lot better than relying on the junk science of behavioral profiling.’

World

China: A Country Where No One is Secure – “Imbalances in social rights, the reduction of social mobility and the hardening of the social structure will inevitably lead to the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, the strong permanently strong and the weak permanently weak. The stagnation of social mobility will inevitably bring about a series of consequences. The biggest harm may not be in the gap between rich and poor itself, but the deterioration of the overall societal ecosystem and the fall of civilization.

Le printemps arabe a révélé l’existence d’un islamisme hétérogène et composite – “[le printemps arabe] a marqué la fin de l’exceptionnalité arabe, le dépassement de ces régimes d’autocratie modernisatrice qu’on croyait faits sur mesure pour gérer de manière dérogatoire la vie politique dans cette partie du monde.

Spain’s “Indignados” and the Globalization of Dissent – “The Occupy Movement has taken much of its inspiration from Spain’s “Outraged” Movement: what lessons does Spain have for Occupy now?

Iraq: Under Worse Management – Does ‘shock therapy’ of the economy and the political process work ? If we look at either Russia or Iraq, we can say that it doesn’t. You can’t force democracy or so called ‘free market’ on people overnight, ruining their lives and exposing them to unfair competition. That’s the US legacy in both countries: a political and economical mess that will take years, if ever, to resolve.

The years of Stagnatino and the Poodles of PowerMust Read - Adam Curtis. “Everybody is always remarking about how stuck our society feels these days. The music doesn’t change, the political parties are all exactly the same, and films and TV dramas are almost always set in the past. We are also stuck with an economic system that is not delivering the paradise that it once promised – but is instead creating chaos and hardship. Yet no-one can imagine a better alternative, so we remain static – paralysed by a terrible political and cultural claustrophobia.

Finance & Economics

BBC: China’s 2011 GDP Numbers -  “If, in 2012, real estate construction were merely to level off at zero growth, and the rest of the economy was unaffected, that would bring overall GDP down from 9.2% to 6.6%.  That’s higher than the number I initially came up with, but still well into “hard landing” territory.

Further Thoughts on Real Estate’s Impact on GDP – “If real estate accounts for 10-13% of GDP, investment in fixed assets accounts for roughly half.  The health of the property sector is particularly important in China because of the pervasive role that land values play in underwriting lending, but the risks to China’s economy extend far beyond the market for homes and offices.

Communist China’s Capitalism – “This article explains the contemporary Chinese–American economic relationship as an ironic variant of the classical theory of capitalist imperialism. Communist China is the modern world’s great imperial power (exporter of surplus savings).

How Much of US Consumables Are Made in China? - “Goods and services from China accounted for only 2.7% of U.S. personal consumption expenditures in 2010, of which less than half reflected the actual costs of Chinese imports. The rest went to U.S. businesses and workers transporting, selling, and marketing goods carrying the “Made in China” label.

Number of the day: “One in three African-American boys born in 2001 stands a lifetime risk of going to jail, according to the American Leadership Forum. In 2007, one in every 15 black children had a parent in prison. According to Ohio State University law professor and author Michelle Alexander, there are more African-American men in prison, on probation or on parole in the US now than there were enslaved in 1850.

Picture of the day: Coal

About the author

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi

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