Links 4/2/13

Mobile Usability for Cats: Essential Design Principles for Felines Nielsen Norman Group (Lambert)

Multi-Toxin Biotech Crops Not Silver Bullets, Scientists Warn ScienceDaily (furzy mouse)

Michael Bagley transforms a Manhattan penthouse into a modern abode Cottages & Gardens (Lambert). Confirms my distaste for what passes for fashion these days. Contrived mixing of genres, and some busy ones at that.

Giving isn’t the secret mathbabe. OK, I am not nuts. Here is a post discussing other writers on “giving” and all are really about giving as strategies to get something. This is becoming a more visible meme, and I’m creeped out by it. Bad enough that networking (meeting people for the sole purpose of seeing what they can do for you, near or long term) is now treated as a desirable activity. We now have giving in the process of being morphed into a self-interested activity.

North Korea to restart Yongbyon nuclear reactor Guardian

Pollution drives expat workers out of Beijing Financial Times. A guy at my gym mentioned he had just been to Beijing and the air was so awful that everyone was coughing.

WikiLeaks names former Lib staffer to run campaign Canberra Times. Wikileaks is forming a party!

‘British solution’ saves Laiki UK deposits from Cyprus haircut Telegraph

Cypriot leader in bank transfer row Guardian

Bomb from Brussels: Cyprus Model May Guide Future Bank Bailouts Der Spiegel, despite this: Bail-In Blues: Luxembourg Warns of Investor Flight from Europe

Why the Euro Is Doomed in 4 Steps Atlantic (Carol B)

A Slice of London So Exclusive Even the Owners Are Visitors New York Times (furzy mouse). Mayfair has been this way since at least the 1980s, but it is still creepy to see this in Belgravia. And not just Belgravia, which (again, from my experience back in the early 1980s) was always awfully tame. It’s even more peculiar to see how dead Sloane Square (it used to be nicely bustling) and Kings Road just off Sloan Square are. When I was last there, on a sunny, temperate day at the end of the PM, there was no one on the street. And there were none of the amenities you’d see in normal neighborhoods, like a grocery store (there was a Tesco, IIRC, there a long time ago), pharmacies, little bakeries, and dry cleaners, even though there are residential buildings hard by. When I was there last April, it felt like a neutron bomb had been taken to the area.

The WTO “Papal” Conclave Triple Crisis

Exxon Mobil Oil Spill Turns Residential Roads into Rivers of Oil OilPrice

White House Trial-Balloons Medicare Cost Increases TomThumb, Firedoglake

Lawmaker Testifies NYPD Commissioner Wanted to ‘Instill Fear’ in Black and Brown Men with Stop and Frisk Gawker

The Methane Beneath Our Feet New York Review of Books

Tennessee Advances Legislation That Would Tie Welfare To Children’s Grades ThinkProgress. Taking the idea of the “deserving poor” to a new level. Hopefully someone will get this stopped for discrimination against dsylexics.

Creeping Privatization of Justice Jason Kilborn, Credit Slips

US has lost 2m clerical jobs since 2007 Financial Times

Judge Won’t Approve Huge Settlement Reuters. The Rakoff revolt is spreading.

Complete confusion over the trajectory of the US manufacturing sector Sober Look

10 best places to retire abroad The alternative to eating catfood in your old age is to become an expat. I am in no position to verify, but this article says it is possible to live on Social Security payments in Ecuador.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. skippy

    Pure Lulz…

    Speaking in Darwin today, Mr Murdoch expressed strong support for the role migration could take to meet labour requirements in developing Australia’s north.

    “I think the way they are talking about (457 visas) is pretty disgraceful and racist,” the media mogul told Sky News.

    “But I’m a big one for encouraging immigration. Just look at America, it’s just fantastic. You know, you have difficulties (with the) first generation of migrants, if there’s too many people from one area. But you know, they meld in a couple of generations. It leads to tremendous creativity in the community.” – snip

    Skippy… the great unwashed have an excuse… this nob has not…

  2. Can't Help It

    What’s weird about the lack of action over pollution in Beijing is that the leaders and rich people also live there. Shouldn’t they be concerned by now? In HK you can at least escape to the Peak (and rich people live there), but last time I was in Beijing (late last year), it appears to be a pretty flat city.

    1. wunsacon

      “Trees don’t grow to the sky. But, maybe we can extend our condo buildings to reach above the smog.”

  3. LucyLulu

    You can live on SS in Ecuador. It’s become a popular spot for US expatriates. You can buy a VERY nice 2 BR home with enough land for a decent sized garden with views to kill for running about $140K. Utilities will run you pocket change. And there is everything from warm beaches to tropical jungles to cool mountain elevations. They also use the US$. The downside is they change governments every four years. Uruguay is another S. American country. A bit pricier, but also more modern, better infrastructure, and very stable government.

    I can’t vouch for all of Europe but where I’ve traveled it’s expensive. Housing is high, food is high, everything is high. It should be a bit better with the current exchange rate but still…. You better have a whole lot more than SS. If they privatize Medicare, free healthcare may just tip the scales however.

    Except Mexico perhaps, they’re all a lo-o-o-ong way from home though.

    1. Wat Tyler

      You can live on SS in North Carolina. My wife and I are doing very well thank you very much. We are not travelers so the biggest expenses are insurance and wine (really). No debt and enough savings to cover one time capital costs like a new roof/A/C,car etc. Will be getting harder as the new Republician legistature wants to replace state income tax with an expanded sales tax – a reverse Robin Hood. Our risk is being asset stripped by the Health “Care” system on the way out. I have told my doctor this is not going to happen but I don’t think he believes me. We shall see – a ways off hopefully.

      Jim on the coast

    2. jrs

      I’m sure some of those strategies work at present. But how can I even be sure that I will be able to live in those places in 3 decades or so when I can collect SS when they keep cutting SS and threatening to raise the age when you can collect all the time? How do I know that those places won’t get increasingly expensive also, or other development (climate change making certain places untenable etc.)? No it’s preserve SS or catfood all the way down the way I see it. SS OR catfood …

      1. subgenius

        You really think you will be able to claim ss in 3 decades?

        I advise you to re-evaluate your perspective…

        1. neo-realist

          Taking SS from the American People would cause literal storming of the gates in state capitals around the country and massives protests on the WH and Congress.

          I can see them giving us fewer crumbs to live on, but not the social and political timebomb of total withdrawal.

          1. Procopius

            I think the Democrats can destroy themselves utterly by agreeing to cut Social Security benefits. The way they are doing it, Republicans are making vague noises about how we need to “reform” social insurance programs, and Democrats are the ones coming out and saying, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea, let’s go to Chained CPI, and raise the co-pays on Medicare, and maybe raise the eligibility age for Medicare too and convert Medicaid to block grants.” Who do you think the public will see as “the Party that cut Social Security? Of course Obama doesn’t care, he’s already taking contributions for his Presidential Library. He’ll make more than Bill Clinton.

    3. Progressive Humanist

      Nepal also has a retirement visas, and a healthy expat community closely knit with UN people.

      Savings ac rates in Rs are ~4%.

  4. Skeptic

    A Slice of London So Exclusive Even the Owners Are Visitors

    One wonders how much of this is to establish “residency” for tax and other purposes. Many regimes today will give residency and even citizenship for the right amount of Loot.This cheapens Citizenship for existing citizens, a form of inflation, if you will.

    Here in the Canadian Maritimes, we have somewhat the same thing with a lot of very significant coastal homes being built by Europeans and Americans. One wonders how much of this may be money laundering or other means of tax avoidance in the home country. Of course, local governments don’t care where the $$$$ comes from as long as they get their cut via property taxes, construction activity, etc.Like Cyprus,Spain,Ireland,etc. folks don’t want to derail the Gravy Train.

    The West Indies also seems to be awash in running money.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘Many regimes today will give residency and even citizenship for the right amount of Loot. This cheapens Citizenship for existing citizens, a form of inflation, if you will.

      Governments certainly don’t see it that way. Retirees with external incomes represent capital inflow, just as tourism does. But in the Maritimes — Canada’s version of Appalachia — newcomers have to expect to encounter some insular ‘Little Canada’ attitudes: ‘You ain’t from around here, are ya, boy?’

      To buy U.S. residency, you need $500,000. Canada is even costlier, around $800,000 last I checked. By contrast, in most of LatAm, a pension ranging from $500 to $2,000 suffices to qualify for residency. In Costa Rica, for instance, you need a pension of $1,000 a month, or (if not retired) a documentable income of $2,500 a month for a Rentista resident visa.

      It’s dawning on many people that property (despite the headaches of maintenance, taxes and price bubbles) can be a more secure store of wealth than financial assets.

      The sorry example of Cyprus shows that even in rich countries, leveraged banksters will recapitalize themselves with customer funds …. and it’s ‘all legal.’ By contrast, as long as one avoids areas where large-scale land redistribution is a political issue (as in rural Colombia, for instance), property ownership can be quite secure even in developing economies, provided there is a secure deed registry.

      1. JEHR

        Maritimers are more likey to know all the generations that came to the area going back many decades and would know right away who the newcomers are without saying, ‘You ain’t from around here, are ya, boy?’

        More like, ‘You from away!’

    2. tongorad

      I rent a 2 bedroom house in Thailand for $175. But I don’t think there is a retiree visa available. I work here – I save more money on half the salary that I had back in the states.

      1. Procopius

        I live in Nakhorn Sawan, Thailand, and yes, there is a retiree visa available. You have to be over 55 years old and wither have THB 800,000 (currently about US$ 27,500) in a Thai bank or have a guaranteed monthly pension/income of THB 65,000 (currently about US$ 2,250). The visa is good for 1 year and can be renewed every year for a fee of THB 1,800. There’s also provision for permanent residence, but it’s difficult to get, they only announce the application window the morning of the day people can apply, there’s a quota of 100 people per country of origin. The first Interior Minister under Thaksin pretty much stopped issuing them, but I understand they have started again. There’s also a 1 year renewable visa for people whpporting (married to) a Thai citizen, which I believe has a requirement for THB 500,000 or monthly THB 25,000. I’m not really sure about that, so check with if you’re seriously interested. If you live in Bangkok you can get by without knowing the Thai language, but it’s harder up-country. It’s also more expensive, although if you buy in the fresh markets the food is actually cheaper in Bangkok, because all the farmers up-country send their produce there.

  5. LucyLulu

    On the changes to Medicare:

    The rationale to combining part A and B: People who have private insurance don’t have one entity for hospitalizations with a deductible, another for outpatient treatment (with deductible), and a third for prescription coverage (also with possible deductible). There is one coverage, one deductible. This would simplify Medicare by combining two entities. The side effect is not cost-shifting onto consumers as a whole, but it would make it more expensive for those who only use outpatient services, while less expensive for those who require hospitalization.

    The problem with Medigap plans is that often they eliminate all but out-of-pocket expenses. As Time pointed out, seniors will make frequent trips to their physician, demand more expensive care, having no comprehension of the expenses they are incurring and no incentive to use prudence (like the medicaid patient who calls an ambulance rather than pay for a taxi). I don’t know that a premium surcharge is the best solution, perhaps a mandatory percentage or minimum co-pay per use of healthcare, even if token amount, would be a more effective option, maybe with an annual cap.

    INO, as one who has Medicare, even if they raise the deductible, it’s the best deal in town. The deductible is still under $200, and premiums are $100/month, for an 80/20 plan for a high-risk group. A private insurer would charge well over 10x that amount. Of course, universal Medicare (or Medicaid as coverage is more comprehensive and less out-of-pocket) would be even better.

    1. Expat

      “Overuse” of medical systems is a concept from economics, not medical care. And, like most economic “ideas,” it is based on notions, not empirical data. In the instance cited, for example, in many locations, people are required to take ambulences in order to get care. It’s not their decision. Popular literature is full of these stories, but like Reagan’s nonexistent “welfare queen,” the people themselves cannot be found.

      Neoliberals have been trying to ration healthcare on this basis for decades. However, the presumption that flesh and blood people would act like economists or corporations is simply absurd. That’s what comes from thinking in terms of undifferentiated “goods.”

      1. LucyLulu

        Working in healthcare, I heartily disagree, as would those who work in ER settings. Taking an ambulance isn’t related to getting care. However, lack of transportation is a problem for the poor. Taxis want to be paid, whereas ambulances will transport and bill later. We used to set up cab transportation for our planned admissions (of Medicaid patients) that didn’t require skilled services, esp. since often they would come from 3 hours away. Sometimes, like ER’s, we (or Medicaid) would pay for taxis for the ride home as well.

        Using ambulances for non-emergency transportation is a drain on the system, as is using the ER for ambulatory care, even more prevalent. There is a lot of inefficiency in our system.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You’ve got huge sample bias, and only see one side of the equation (the overusers) and not the others.

          My mother (who is well off) sees a doctor only 2x a year: her GP for a check and her pulmonologist. This is an overweight 85 year old woman with high blood pressure who has constrictive pulmonary disease.

          When she had a fall and injured her wrist and it was still swollen and hurting two days later, I had to raise holy hell for her to see the doctor. I was pretty convinced based on her symptoms that she had broken it and indeed she had.

          She also, when SHE KNEW she had a stroke based on her symptoms, insisted on getting a cab (my father who was still alive then had just had shoulder surgery and could not drive her). That was clearly batshit. It’s common for people to have strokes in succession and she could easily have had another one in the cab. What was the cab driver supposed to do with her? By contrast, an EMT in an ambulance could have acted. The only reason she came out OK was she took aspirin immediately upon realizing she’d had a stroke.

          I have multiple stories like that from her friends (also pretty well off) and my relatives.

          1. direction

            I think she is just responding to the claim in the previous comment: “Popular literature is full of these stories, but like Reagan’s nonexistent “welfare queen,” the people themselves cannot be found.”

            The people abusing the system can easily be found, and there are many of them. It is a big problem and it is a place where unnecesary costs could be cut from the system. I have a paramedic friend who drives the ambulence and it is the same in our town. The crackheads know that if they say “the pain is radiating down my arm” it guarantees them a free ride across town that would cost anyone else 900 dollars. the “taxi” abuse is not a myth.

    2. lambert strether

      I’ll never understand this “Overusing” medical care concept.

      “Hmm, I think I’ll go to the hospital. For fun!

      I mean, I don’t see a lot of people voluntarily entering prison, either, and that’s what most US hospitals feel like, to me.

      1. LucyLulu

        I don’t think it’s fun either, Lambert, but loneliness seems to be all too common in our elderly. Getting medical care is a way of connecting to other people and feeling cared about. Yes, it’s sad, and there are better solutions, but I’m not hopeful……….

        1. Klassy!

          Or sometimes it’s the doctor– ordering tests that aren’t warranted or whose downside outweighs any benefits.
          I don’t think you’re blaming the victime by the way. I did not see anything that indicated you felt like the overuse of medical care is bankrupting the system.

      2. petridish


        “Overuse” is one of those blame-the-victim terms meant to convey the idea that it’s not the medical system that’s broken, it’s the greedy patient who knowingly consumes more medical care than he/she needs and far more than he/she can afford because it’s “free.” They’re not SICK, they’re just FREELOADING because the “healthcare” is, well, free.

        It’s kind of like those filthy Afghans who continue to live in Afghanistan even though they know that Osama lived there too. Sheesh, if you’d just move to another country, we wouldn’t have to drone you.

        1. jrs

          Yea, I really think so. The ideal soon is to have paid thousands every year of your life for medical care (really you will likely pay in a fortune, premiums, employer subsidy, medicare etc.) but heaven forbid you ever have the nerve to actually use any of it if you might benefit from it. Omg actually using medical care, that’s not what it’s for, it’s not meant to ever actually be used, it’s all just meant to be some giant ponzi, buying insurance to buy insurance, not to like actually get medical care! You’re actually using it!! Horrors!

          1. Klassy!

            Maybe we’re talking about two different things– but you don’t think there are medications that are overprescribed, procedures that are done too frequently, tests that are performed too much?
            Cripes, I got a robocall from my insurance company telling me to get one screening after another.

          2. jrs

            There are definitely medications that are overprescribed, how could they not be with doctors and pharma in incestuous relationship and many patients blindly trusting their doctors? Still though it could just as well be outweighted by people (and I mean even people with insurance etc.), who don’t get the diagnostics and so on they need. Hard to get the medical care you need when a doctor won’t spend more than 15 minutes with you. Basically the quality of care in the u.s. medical system is pretty bad, in all directions.

          3. Yves Smith Post author

            IMHO (and this is admittedly based on personal experience) the problem is VASLY more the doctors than the patients.

            I am actually (as readers know) constitutionally contrary, plus reasonably well informed medically and sorta cheap. I have a 20% copay on everything and don’t like overpaying.

            I have had doctors ROUTINELY overtest me. For instance, I never questioned the annual EKG. Turns out is is serious overkill for someone with my history. i’ve been actively harassed by radiologists for refusing to have mammograms. I had a gynocologist order all sorts of unwarranted extra tests (as in no symptoms or history to justify performing them). I had an MD do a supersensitive echocardiogram on me. I had an orthopedist pushing to do knee surgery when the MRI was (at best) ambiguous: “oh, I’ll just go in and have a look.” I’ve had God knows how many times doctors push antidepressants and Adderall when I told them I was fatigued.

            And I’m really healthy. God only knows what sick people get.

            The one thing I am pretty sure is overdone is people getting antibiotics when they have flus. But my impression is even that is somewhat MD driven (as in give them a pill to get them out of your office).

          4. Klassy!

            Well, that’s what I was talking about– and I think some people with less knowledge or more faith in the medical system are scared into stuff they don’t need.

        2. Bridget

          Maybe it’s not an issue of “greedy” patients, just patients who are largely spending other people’s money and who therefore have less incentive to question their doctors and seek value for their health care dollars. I have a high deductible plan and an HSA… can be sure that I don’t accept unnecessary treatment of any kind. And on the other hand, if I think some test is warranted, I don’t have to ask my insurance company or the government for an opinion on the matter. In this age of the Internet, I’m generally as good a diagnostician of my own body as most doctors.

  6. wunsacon

    >> We now have giving in the process of being morphed into a self-interested activity.

    It creeps me out, too. I think selfish people are looking to excuse themselves. If they can refer to “helping other people” as “selfish” and convince people to accept that, it’s one more powerful bit of propaganda for destroying any social contract.

    “You’re selfish, too. You do this because you like to do it. If you want to help the poor, donate to charity. If you want to pay hire taxes, go write a check to the IRS. I’m no more selfish if I don’t do these things. You’re free to be selfish in your own way.”

    They’re looking to shift away focus from the benevolent acts. Nature/evolution and nurture perhaps explain benevolent motivations, that lead to benevolent acts. The selfish prefer to refer to those benevolent motivations as selfish, too. Sounds like a bit of projection. Their implicit re-labeling of the acts probably reflects their political views.

    1. Expat

      Well put. And colouring all human behaviour as selfish allows the selfish people to overlook the oceans of cooperative behaviour of people everywhere that allows the selfish ones to live their self-centred lives.

    2. mk

      Maybe someday humans will figure out that there is a better way to organize, from Wikipedia:

      D.S. Wilson and his co-author E.O. Wilson (no relation) have become well known for the quote, “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.”

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ what if this theory is true?

      1. different clue

        Well then, a group based on reciprocal altruism strictly and reciprocally enforced would be the best adapted group.

          1. mk

            how to turn this theory into a practical application?

            create an app for signalling for altruistic types interested in recognizing each other and socializing

            who can plan to cooperate/compromise on ___________ (fill in the blank)

    3. jrs

      Giving for selfish reasons is fine whether it’s just for the ego boost and doing your small part to help the world, or much more powerfully and more selfishly if it’s mutual aid, which is the ultimate giving for selfish reasons, we’re all in this together (cept maybe the 1%).

      Giving used purely to justify an explotive economic system is an entirely different beast altogether and deserving only of obscenities.

    1. jrs

      It’s all good in a “the worse the better” sort of way. I mean of course it’s not actually good at all, people are driven out of the houses and property made toxic, but it is another wrench thrown in the gears of Keystone XL. And I will take any wrenches that can be spared in that fight, they want to burn enough carbon to fry the entire planet afterall.

      And if it gets to the point where even the people in the reddest of red states start to realize they are being used (asked to bend over for the global corporatists), then ….the worse the better? Of course that’s assuming that those red staters would get legitimately angry if they fully saw the outrage, the criminality, the disregard for individual human lives, the theft of all our futures (which is assuming that they are at least better people than the Obama liberals, who see *all* of this and … beg for more.).

  7. Mark

    On the “10 Best Places to Retire Abroad”

    What about medical care? The article and most others I’ve read ignore that reality. My understanding is that Medicare won’t reimburse outside US and that most countries won’t enroll foreign retirees in their healthcare system. Healthcare may be as good and cheaper than in US but that doesn’t make it affordable on typical retiree income.

    1. lakewoebegoner

      never understood retiring abroad as a means of saving money. there are lots of places in America that have really low housing prices, decent quality of living and are safe.

      whatever thousands you save by living in Latin America or Thailand can’t be worth the hassle of moving and being inconveniently away from friends/family and loss of Medicare.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Is retiring abroad a selfish act that benefits that person, but not the country?

      2. lambert strether

        If you expect to work ’til you drop, a large city in the second world might be preferable to cheap living in the rural US.

        @MLPTB Does my country want me anymore? It’s trying to cut my Social Security and Medicare. In Exit, Voice, and Loyalty terms, if I’ve got no voice, and do have an exit, should I show loyalty?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Indeed, we have come a long way from ‘what you can do for your country.’

    2. LucyLulu

      Ecuador touts excellent healthcare with state of the art technology in major cities, and doctors that will spend 30-45 mins with you and are often US trained. Typical costs for a primary care visit runs about $25, a specialist about $30, rotator cuff surgery with an overnight stay, $2900, if no insurance, and medications are obviously cheaper though not as many are available as in the US.

      Health insurance is a bargain in Ecuador. A review of comparable insurance policies for a 60-year-old man in the U.S. and Ecuador, tell the story. In the U.S., the man would pay a monthly premium of $1,200; in Ecuador he pays $66. A woman, age 50 to 60, would pay $67 for the same policy in Ecuador while coverage for a dependent child, between 2 and 17 years-of-age, costs $15.69 a month.

      The policy cited is offered by Salud, S.A., Latin America’s largest health insurance company and pays 80% of doctor’s visits, 60% of medications costs, and 100% of hospitalization. It also offers extra coverage for walk-in procedures and accidents.

      I thought about Ecuador, but chickened out. As Lakewoebegone pointed out, living so far away from friends and family, and not speaking Spanish (speak some French), would be too hard. And re: post a few above mine, I live in NC, and its much cheaper in Ecuador. If one is single and drawing typical SS pension of $1300/mo., life would be pretty meager. I’d have to sell the home I bought in 2007 and over-improved with countless hours of much of my own sweat (since the entire house was original 1985, roof, furnace, appliances, popcorn ceilings, all except paint and crappy carpet/badly laid DIY laminate floor, AND I’m never moving again) in a working class neighborhood, and similar unimproved 1300 s.f. $130K homes (with a small yard for dogs and a garden) rent for $1000/mo. or close to it. The homes in Ecuador that sell for $140K would sell for easily $240K here, with utilities of under $15/mo.

  8. dearieme

    The retiement piece mentions Ireland but omits to mention the water sports there. You know: walking, cycling, ……

    1. Yonatan

      Ah the rain. There is a bright side – it is actually one of the raw materials for Guiness.

  9. JGordon

    “Lawmaker Testifies NYPD Commissioner Wanted to ‘Instill Fear’…”

    I have also been entertaining ideas with regards to governing authority, or “legitimacy”, i.e, the belief that citizens have a moral duty to obey the government (“From Dictatorship to Democracy”, p.18), with regards to that situation going on in Texas now. But it also applies here.

    When the amount of criminality, corruption and cronyism becomes so extreme within a governing entity, then the people will naturally come to view the government as no more morally legitimate than any other well armed band of thugs, and will only obey because of the implicit or explicit threat of violece the government represents. Which is entirely reasonable. I mean, I am completely willing to obey someone who has a gun pointed at me–no problem there.

    The issue though is that when you have two armed gangs of thugs battling it out, as we do in Texas at the moment, it’s easy to stop caring which gang of thugs wins. And by the same token it’s equally threatening when representives of either of the gangs show up at your doorstep to disarm you of your ability to protect yourself, As Hitler did to the Jews and Stalin did the Russians for example.

  10. TomDor

    Amazing to me how Yves Carrière maintains any credibility as “a professor of entomology in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who led the study.” By the unfounded and obviously shortsighted (or is it Monsanto induced stupidity) statement he makes – “Compared with typical insecticide sprays, the Bt toxins produced by genetically engineered crops are much safer for people and the environment”. What a twit….he says it without a single basis of fact….it is like he is shilling the way the Tobacco lobby did for so long. Utter trash in my opinion.

    Multi-Toxin Biotech Crops Not Silver Bullets, Scientists Warn ScienceDaily

    “Corn and cotton have been genetically modified to produce pest-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short. Compared with typical insecticide sprays, the Bt toxins produced by genetically engineered crops are much safer for people and the environment, explained Yves Carrière, a professor of entomology in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who led the study.”

  11. BigBadBank

    Of course there are supermarkets, dry cleaners, artisan bakers and chemists in King’s Road. Are you sure you weren’t in Sloane Street?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I know that ‘hood pretty well, I lived there for 4 months in 1984. And I know the difference between Sloane Street (which back in the day also had a food shop, admittedly very twee, not in my price range at all, prepared and gift foods,but wonderful to look at, IIRC called Partridges, and a chemist) and Kings Road. I walked about 7 minutes away from Sloan Square down Kings Road. Lots of little restaurants, I think maybe an upscale coffee shop with pasteries or two, but no grocers, chemists, or dry cleaners that entire stretch. By contrast, lots of frock shops.

  12. LucyLulu

    As public services continue to be cut, coming soon to a city near you…… the well regulated militia necessary for security.

    Council members in Nelson, a city of about 1,300 residents that’s located 50 miles north of Atlanta, voted unanimously to approve the Family Protection Ordinance. The measure requires every head of household to own a gun and ammunition to “provide for the emergency management of the city” and to “provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”

    1. Lambert Strether

      If ObamaCare can force you to enter the health insurance market, I don’t see why this city can’t force you to enter the gun market. The principle is exactly the same.

  13. Garrett Pace

    A slice of London so exclusive even the owners are visitors

    Reminds me of John Updike’s Slum Lords:

    The superrich make lousy neighbors—
    they buy a house and tear it down
    and build another, twice as big, and leave.
    They’re never there; they own so many
    other houses, each demands a visit.
    Entire neighborhoods called fashionable,
    bustling with servants and masters, such as
    Louisburg Square in Boston or Bel Air in L.A.,
    are districts now like Wall Street after dark
    or Tombstone once the silver boom went bust.
    The essence of superrich is absence.
    They like to demonstrate they can afford
    to be elsewhere. Don’t let them in.
    Their riches form a kind of poverty.

    1. auntienene

      Not just London. In the Scottish highlands there are what they call “dead” towns, where so many of the homes and former crofts are used only for occasional weekends by their owners.

      1. J Sterling

        Yves description of dead land-owned London squares reminded me of the Highland Clearances: “We own this place, you only live here. And now we don’t need you, you can go live somewhere else. Go on, now.”

  14. Garrett Pace

    Tying children’s grades to welfare

    “tie welfare assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to the educational performance of students who benefit from it”

    The logic here is baffling. If the kids aren’t smart enough then the welfare payment must not be helping and therefore can be reduced?

    Even if it were morally acceptable to let families with young children go hungry, I don’t know how well this will motivate parents. Around here, parents that take their kids out panhandling (rather than sending them to school) do pretty well. If it’s just an economics game, it will backfire. The state is taking away the carrot when there are other carrots available.

  15. Susan the other

    One quick comment about the antidote. The noble ancestor of the shaggy sheep dog, the immutable wolf, has had its problems. In fact it would be extinct were it not for our guilt trip. (Think capitalism.) Which does speak well for us. What’s not to love about a wolf? And what an amazing thing that the sheepdog evolved to look almost like a sheep.

    1. J Sterling

      Those sheep look like an April Fool’s prank, dyed and decorated to look like a breed that doesn’t exist. But they also look a bit menacing, like their bigger cousins, the mighty, misnamed musk “oxen”.

  16. Garrett Pace

    “Giving actually a strategy for getting”

    This has been a long and interesting discussion the past few days on this website.

    When I think about giving and service and reciprocal expectations, I come up with a few categories:

    1. Giving because of an expectation of getting back more – purely mercenary.
    2. Giving because of an expectation that others will benefit more than the giver sacrifices – generous and charitable, but with a utilitarian cast. It is still an “economic” decision, just including benefits external to the giver.
    3. Giving with an expectation that the service will benefit others only a little, or maybe not at all. This is safe from economics, and is an entirely different creature than the first two. Love without hope(helping a discouraged addict), or a long-term commitment with a very uncertain outcome (raising children, particularly in times and places of high infant mortality).

    We wonder why bother, for what effect can we possibly have? Like casting pearls before swine, or giving a mule a spinning wheel.

    Service to people who do not deserve it, or who may not chose to benefit from it, is a rare and special thing. It’s the mark of a healthy community.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not sure where guilty giving fits in….when I see homeless people and give them a buck or a few bucks. I feel bad for them. I know what I give won’t make much of a difference. It does not assuage my guilt but I don’t know what else to do. They are asking for money, so that’s clearly what they think will help, but even if they get a meal or get enough to get to a shelter that night (for those who want that, most don’t) it just tides them over a few hours.

      1. diptherio

        It is a reminder to them that they have not been entirely forsaken and written off. Maybe it’s different in the city, but ’round here I’ve found that homeless folks often value being treated and addressed as an equal at least as much as the dollar you give them.

        I think self-respect is probably one of the hardest things for people in that situation to maintain. Being treated like a human, and not like a pest or a pity-case, can mean a lot.

        We had a good number of transients at our Occupy camp (many who were quite helpful and behind the cause) and I think some of the coolest things that happened there were the personal, human interactions between the houseless folks and the yuppie activists and hippie college kids (I’m stereotyping, I know). Just simple conversation between people on very different levels of the social hierarchy, interacting like equals. I know for a fact that a number of the homeless guys were very moved by the experience, they said so directly. It was like watching a community re-discovering its humanity.

      2. diptherio

        Also, I heard this somewhere once upon a time:

        “It is not required of you to save the world, but it is expected that you will work toward that goal.”

        You’re working: no need to feel guilty, just do what you can and keep working (although taking the odd vacation is totally acceptable).

    2. squasha

      Since I can’t help extrapolating every damn thing I come across, I’d say if slicing motives is your thing why stop at the 3 general catagories you’ve listed? Why not slice off shavings thin enough to examine under a microscope? At this finer level you might add giving to get a little high off the sweet fumes of sanctimony, or that little lift the feeling of control a firm footing on the giving side of a dollar grants? What of those for whom each little gift is perhaps a down payment on a cozy afterlife, couldn’t hurt to hedge. Perhaps the giver is compelled by crippling low self-esteem to rid himself of his riches, thereby corroborating his father’s low opinion of him? Where precisely is the line between selfish and unselfish giving?

      Boss Ahole in the linked story sounds like a real wanker, and all this cheering over the delights & benefits of giving do seem suspiciously like a way to lead the herd far from the grazing commons.

      But the maxim that it’s not real giving if it doesn’t hurt is in my opinion a load of dubious poo.

      High time for another read of The Gift…

  17. different clue

    About bt GMOs and bt beFORE GMO . . .

    Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a species of bacteria. Scientists discovered that the bt bacteria produced a metabolic waste product which damaged and “paralyzed” the gut-system of moth/butterfly larvae causing those larvae to stop eating, starve to death, and die.
    This discovery was weaponised by growing vatloads of these bacteria and then making them form into spores and go dormant. The spores could then be dusted onto any particular crop which butterfly/moth family caterpillars were eating up. The caterpillars would eat the spores along with the crop-plants. The spores will germinate and grow into bt colonies inside the caterpillar guts and secrete enough of the bt toxin to kill the caterpillars and save the crop. Water ( rain or washing) washes any uneaten spores right off the crop. The bt spores as such are comPLETEly harmless to mammals, birds, etc. These weaponised spores were/are a major pest-management tool in Organic Agriculture.

    The GMO-tricksters learned which bt gene sequences coded for the toxin itSELF, and spliced THOSE sequences INto the genomes of certain crop plants. That means millions of GMO-bt plants have the bt-toxin itSELF in each of their millions of cells across millions of acres of land. If one in a million caterpillars are randomly luckily immune to bt-toxin, million-acre plantings of bt plants will FIND that caterpillar and select FOR that caterpillar in order to allow it to grow and reproduce bt-immune offspring. Eventually the whole targeted species of caterpillar will be bt-immune. But those caterpillars will also now be immune to the bt toxin produced by any bacteria growing from any bt spores applied to any orGANic plant by any orGANic farmer. So the organic pest management tool known as bt spores has now been destroyed for Organic Agriculture as well. I believe this was secondary goal of the GMO tricksters right from the start . . . to destroy an organic pest management tool in order to make Organic Agriculture less tenable against Petrochemical Agriculture.

  18. Chris-Engel

    President Barack Obama is considering two Wall Street executives, Raymond J. McGuire, the head of advisory business at Citigroup Inc., and Orin Kramer, a general partner at Boston Provident LP, for deputy Treasury secretary, according to a person familiar with the matter.


    My question is: what is the ideal balance between “having private sector experience necessary for the job” and “having a soul and the interest of the American people first”?

    I’m curious if any and all nominees for public policy positions should just be written off because of high-level banking positions being held in the private sector.

    My feeling is it’s probably different from person to person. Obviously Breuer was a disaster, but then there’s always the example of Joe P Kennedy who made a bundle in the market and then went into public service and really kicked ass.

    Any thoughts?

  19. Progressive Humanist

    Does anyone have shareholder or other influence at Dreamworks?

    Storyline thus: Koch Bros succeeds to pay-off obstinants and push through Keystone XL, take over LA Times, (and remainder of the Supreme Court), as “game over for the environment” floods out the off-shore tax havens, leading to a scramble for new landed trustfund/gentrified states (access after paying Koch-tolls).

    Re: Keystone and Exxon Mobil Oil Spill Turns Residential Roads into Rivers of Oil OilPrice

    Remember the movie with Chris Rock, Head of State?

    Our public perhaps can’t be bothered with esoteric XL fall-out models, but graphic Hollywood infomercials maybe would break in even on MSM “news” or Coast to Coast AM radio.

  20. skippy

    GAS LEAK! ABC – (Australia) mental barf bag alert!

    The coal seam gas industry promotes itself as a cleaner carbon-fuel alternative; but how do we know this is true? Until now much of the information used to back this claim has come from the industry itself.

    The problem is this “cleaner-greener” claim doesn’t always square with experience on the ground. Next on Four Corners reporter Matthew Carney talks to farmers who’ve seen rivers bubble with methane, their bore water polluted with chemicals, while the reserves of ground water on their property have dropped alarmingly.

    He also looks at the latest research that suggests the coal seam gas industry might be a much bigger greenhouse gas emitter than previously thought.

    But why weren’t these problems picked up in the development approval process? The answer is simple: according to one insider, the approval process is significantly flawed. Four Corners reveals what really happened when two major companies applied to develop thousands of square kilometres of southern Queensland for coal seam gas. Using hundreds of pages of confidential documents, the program reveals that the companies didn’t supply enough basic information for an informed decision to be made about environmental impacts. Despite this, various government agencies permitted the developments to go ahead, allowing the companies to submit key information at a later date. A decision which shocked some who were involved:

    “It was quite frightening that they would consider approving such a project without the basic information that a normal mining project would have been asked to submit, given that this was like six hundred times the size of your standard, large mine.”

    This same insider claims pressure was applied to the bureaucracy to fast track approval for coal seam gas development. This allegation would deeply concern many farmers who have seen their land used for coal seam gas sites and raises significant concerns about the future expansion of the industry across Australia.

    Skippy… one of my favorite observations by a Monash University Prof pointing out a CSG operators statement that its activity’s are low risk… yet they have zero data to make such a claim, having not conducted water tests for 10 years., no data, no conclusion…. either way. Yet they publicly make such assertions, with zero accountability… FFS[!!!]

    PS bonus video… DBL mental bagger

    He was a Labor powerbroker, a kingmaker with an uncanny ability to bend people to his will. At the height of his power, Eddie Obeid could make and break Premiers. Now he finds himself at the centre of explosive corruption allegations that threaten his future, his family and the party that delivered him power.

    Next on Four Corners, reporter Marian Wilkinson charts Eddie Obeid’s rise inside Labor’s most powerful faction, the New South Wales right. How did a Lebanese immigrant move from owning an ethnic newspaper business to become the most influential politician in the State?

    Talking to Labor Party insiders – including senior political figures, staffers and public servants – Wilkinson examines the allegations made against Obeid and another former Labor minister, Ian Macdonald. With forensic detail, Four Corners lays out the details and timeline of alleged corrupt behaviour, setting it against the political events of the same period. The story reveals a party and a government being destroyed from within. It also makes it plain, as one former insider explains, that with Eddie Obeid flexing his power, the process of governing the State could be subverted for the benefit of a few.

    “I formed the view when I left, that the Government was no longer acting in the public interest, it was acting in private interests, and if the public interest got a look-in it was purely by coincidence.”

    Skip here… that last statement is quite cogent around the world these days imo~ BTW this Obeid character is a Randian cultist and has been on national broadcasting saying… Of course everyone works in self interest… maximizing one personal advantage… Barf~

  21. AbyNormal

    35 Atlanta Teachers from the Nations largest cheating scandal have an HOUR left to turn themselves in…Beverly Hall get your wig on straight.

    Testing coordinator Theresia Copeland is also facing a $1million bond, which her attorney, Warren Fortson, said was excessive for a 56-year-old grandmother.

    “Hurl Taylor says the $1 million bond set for his client, test coordinator Donald Bullock, amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.”

    The state’s report, released in July 2011, described a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers, covered up improprieties, and robbed tens of thousands of children of an honest appraisal of their abilities. Bonuses for Hall and top administrators were the rewards for improved test scores.

    don’t stop with those pretenders

  22. down2long

    Now this is an interesting take on non-revolving door Mary Schapiro (I only went through once in order to levitate my street cred with The Street) from Reuters: “Mary Schapiro will join Promontory Financial Group LLC as a managing director following a tumultuous four years rehabilitating the agency’s battered reputation.”

    SHE DID THAT? I had no idea. I have got to get out more. The GE money laundering gig should help her too _ Maybe Dear Leader can put her on a board with Imelt to teach us dumb Americans how to offshore jobs and steal from taxpayers. It’s a growth industry!!

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