Weekly Round Up August 7 – 2013

What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either.” – Sextus the Pythagorean

Our Weekly Round Up are just what its title says: a round up of links that we found interesting during the week. In fact, anyone can do it if they read news at some point in their day -usually in the morning, while drinking coffee. This patchwork of links may actually seem quite unrelated, almost incoherent, but it some ways it make sense: these are snapshots of the world we live in. You can’t get a feeling of the place by just looking at one picture, you need a collection of them for your brain to make stories and create some sense of understanding out of it.

One of things that I (Carlito) have come to realize while posting regularly over the last 3 years, is the power that comes with the selection of information. You’ve probably heard many times over that the media controls us, more specifically, what we think. By selecting, organising or omitting information, they can shape our perception of events happening both near and far. In my posts, I have faced with the same issues: which articles are worth publishing and which ones are not. So in some ways, this Weekly Round Up is a reflection of my ideas, which in turn influence (or may not) your ideas.

In the Western world, we have been taught the immutability and impartiality of political ideas, economic systems and scientific research. But in fact, hidden behind the theories are very, very powerful political ideas. Conveniently using methods that are supposed to be impartial, these theories have come to be accepted by a majority of us, unconsciously or not. In turn, we as societies have forgotten how to formulate political solutions to our problems, abandoning our critical faculties to well-sounding ideas derived from mathematical models which only work in theory, or at best in controlled environment.

One of the consequence of this capitulation is the rise of a culture dominated by material wealth and appearances, where moral and ethics are secondary matters. Mass consumption societies, and even more so with the advent of customization, have made us oblivious to other people’s situations, feelings and ideas. We are losing the ability to put ourselves in each others’ shoes. This applies from drone strikes to financial markets to austerity measures to geopolitical situations. Legal matters have overcome ethical stances. What’s possible is now more important that what is reasonable.

But we are not ‘rational’, we are not machines, and we are no ‘markets’ but societies and countries. This means that we have the power to do something about the challenges that surround us (from climate change to economics to political issues). Not doing something is as much a statement as doing something.

For all the knowledge our ‘modern’ societies are producing, accumulating and researching, we are steadily forgetting the Golden Rule, that all philosophical and theological teachings from Ancient History around the world have emphasized. It can be summarized in a simple sentence: ‘do not do unto others what you don’t want others do to you.

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

Alpine glaciers ‘protect mountain peaks from erosion’ – “Instead of wearing mountains down, evidence from Europe’s high Alps shows that glaciers shield summits from erosion, acting as a protective lid.

Dolphins gain unprecedented protection in India – “Her work has shown that dolphins have a level of self-awareness similar to that of human beings. Dolphins can recognize their own reflection, use tools and understand abstract concepts. They develop unique signature whistles allowing friends and family members to recognize them, similar to the way human beings use names.

Archaeology: The milk revolution – “Taken together, the data help to resolve the origins of the first European farmers. “For a long time, the mainstream of continental European archaeology said Mesolithic hunter-gatherers developed into Neolithic farmers,” says Burger. “We basically showed they were completely different.”

The right kind of happy – “Nevertheless, if these molecular results do translate into bodily health in the way that might be predicted, it suggest Socrates was right, and that selfless, public-spirited individuals and selfish pleasure-seekers alike will receive their rewards and punishments here on Earth, without the need for the threat or promise of an afterlife.

Christian Schmidt: Neuroéconomie et neurofinance – [Xerfi Video] – “…comment effectuons-nous nos choix ? Comment évaluons-nous les risques de nos décisions ? Comment interagissons-nous avec les autres ? Hasard, surprise, regret, ambiguïté trouvent ainsi leur place dans l’analyse économique, grâce à cette rencontre avec les neurosciences.

WIFI et cresson: ne maltraitons pas la science – Hat tip PE, suite à l’article posté la semaine dernière -”J’ai justement écrit un article sur les antennes relais rappelant la différence entre ondes ionisantes et non ionisantes ainsi que le clair consensus scientifique qui règne en la matière: non, en l’état actuel de nos connaissances, les ondes wifi/portables ne sont pas dangereuses pour la santé.

History & Geopolitics

The Charitable-Industrial Complex – Hat tip Bunbun. “Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’ – “William Binney, a former NSA mathematician, said last year that the agency had “assembled on the order of 20tn transactions about US citizens with other US citizens”, an estimate, he said, that “only was involving phone calls and emails”. A 2010 Washington Post article reported that “every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7bn emails, phone calls and other type of communications.“”

Militarized vision – “My intention is to work towards an extended essay on ‘Militarized vision‘ that will, I hope, take critiques of the politics of vision beyond the full motion video feeds from drones. I’m working my way through transcripts of both incidents, the video clip of the Baghdad attack released by Wikileaks, and the military’s own investigations of both incidents.”

Bin Laden’s insights and the Egyptian Coup – “Bin Laden believed that, in the current circumstance, you could not do that.  Revolution at home was close to impossible because of the far enemy, because of the United States.  Even if you did, by some miracle succeed, as long as the US was the global hegemon, your success would be undermined and destroyed by the US by crippling your economy, escalating, if necessary, to economic sanctions backed by force.

Signs of Economic Reform in North Korea – [Video] – “As the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War approaches, Analyst Rodger Baker examines the attempts by North Korea’s leaders to gradually strengthen the country’s economy.

A great China reckoning might not happen in quite the way you’d expect – “What Chinese top leaders really fear is the impact of a slowing economy on elite unity. In China’s investment-driven economy, slow growth means less investment, which in turn means fewer spoils to be divided among the ruling elites.

What’s Behind the New Chinese Crackdown? – “It is impossible to end corruption, he said, in a system in which all the power is controlled by one political party—including the press, the courts, the schools, and the economy. Party leaders today no doubt see Xu’s point. But in a sense they are trapped. Truly ending corruption would require scrapping one-party rule, and they cannot do that.

Finance & Economics

‘The most dishonest bankers walk away with the most money’ – “I do wonder why there seem to be so many somewhat dishonest people in the bank, and why the most dishonest are often the ones to walk away with the most money. I suppose that on the way to the top there’s negative selection and most normal decent people conclude: this is not worth it or I am not doing this for money.

The global economy is now distinctly Victorian – Hat tip Dad - Must read. “But as was the case from the 1840s until the first world war, today’s convergence and competition – and the volatility that results – can and I believe will persist for a long time without globalisation breaking down. It held up for a long time then because, even as there were arms races and conflicts, France and Germany, let alone the UK and the US, had an interest in maintaining the status quo.

European Pundits Starting to Give Up on the Eurozone – “Before the Euro, the Greeks & Co. and the Germans & Co. had a rather good time together. It is the Euro which has put the people of the Eurozone against each other. So, I admit defeat in my belief that ‘European policy-makers would come to grips with fundamental economics’. They seem incapable of that.

Europe’s good news, bad news – “So we are broadly still seeing the story of “core” strength against continuing periphery weakness. Good news is slowly starting to appear in some nations, but there are still major caveats to be found everywhere you look.

China is going to slow down but it can handle it – M.Pettis. “For China successfully to rebalance towards a healthier and more sustainable model without unrest, the growth rate that really matters, as a number of prominent Chinese economists have already noted, is that of median household income. Ordinary Chinese, like people everywhere, do not care about their per capita share of GDP. They care about their income.

Phat Dragon: Likonomics revealed – “To summarise, Phat Dragon argues that the new policy reaction function has the following abstract and practical features. Li is prepared to defend the downside with “interim measures”; he will persist with market oriented reforms throughout; and counter-cyclical efforts will be designed in a fashion that doesn’t obstruct such reform.

China needs to let the business cycle run – “Smead argues that a sharp deceleration in the Chinese economy is inevitable owing to the fact that 50% to 60% of growth comes from fixed asset investment (FAI), much of which does not generate an economic return (“rents”) above the cost of capital. Accordingly, the Chinese banks that lent to such projects are trapped continually rolling-over non-performing loans, which is hammering bank capital and stifling new growth.

PBoC tightening by stealth? – “The market mistakenly believed that the PBoC injected liquidity in July by letting central bank bills expire and through open market operations, which led to an overall net liquidity injection of RMB291bn. But if we properly include this covert “reissuance” of central bank bills, the net injection would total only RMB107bn.

The Last Stampede: Capital Now Exiting China – Hqt tip Maverick – “China Daily, for instance, notes that Nomura’s Zhang Zhiwei foresees money leaving China “in the second half of this year and the first half of 2014 as growth slows and investors worry about a potential hard landing in China.”

Picture of the day: National Geographic: 2013 Travel Photo Contest winners

MYM Water Collection

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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