Links 8/7/14

World’s Toughest Horse Race Retraces Genghis Khan’s Postal Route National Geographic

Bank of America Offers U.S. Biggest Settlement in History Times. It’s very important that no executive ever do time for accounting control fraud because confidence.

US banks warn on ‘excessive’ risk-taking FT

Oil Traders Flee Brent as Prices Signal Glut: Chart of the Day Bloomberg

Wall St steadies but nerves remain frayed FT

Intergenerational fairness improved by fiscal deficits Bill Mitchell

Part-time workers find full-time jobs elusive McClatchy

Ebola — A Growing Threat? NEJM. From May, but still current.

Why do two white Americans get the Ebola serum while hundreds of Africans die? WaPo. “[E]vidently struck some kind of deal.”

CDC ramps up its Ebola response effort as new cases are confirmed in Nigeria McClatchy

Obama says lacks sufficient data to fast-track Ebola drug Reuters (video)

Exclusive: U.S. to spend up to $550 million on African rapid response forces Reuters

Rising rates of hospice discharge in U.S. raise questions about quality of care WaPo


 Health Law Calls For Some Workers To Be Automatically Enrolled In Coverage KHN. Nudging.

Fewer Uninsured Face Fines as Health Law’s Exemptions Swell WSJ

2 First Ladies Share Tales of Budding Partnership and Life in the Spotlight Times. Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. Maybe Obama will take up painting, too.

After Chokehold Uproar, NYPD Oversight Group Wants Fewer Investigations Gothamist. No doubt!

WSU researchers see violent era in ancient Southwest WSU News. Note, however, that the author’s abstract gives a different slant with the title: “The Better Angels of Their Nature: Declining Violence through Time among Prehispanic Farmers of the Pueblo Southwest.” Of course, the violence declined from a peak.


Still (Barely) Here Power of Narrative 

Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system is an ironclad success Reuters

Watch an actual Hamas rocket launch, with #combatgazebo The Yorkshire Ranter

Another Anti-Zionist Professor Punished for His Views (Updated) Crooked Timber


40,000 Iraqis stranded on mountain as Isis jihadists threaten death Guardian

Kurds Flood Into Iraq From Turkey And Syria To Protect Kurdistan From ISIS Forces FDL


Putin Hits Tipping Point as Ukraine Tightens Rebel Noose Bloomberg

A third of Germans fear NATO-Russia war over Ukraine, poll finds Reuters

Russia bans all U.S. food, EU fruit and vegetables in sanctions response; NATO fears invasion Reuters

Irregular Forces in Ukraine Political Violence at a Glance

U.S. Sanctions Erode Its Foreign Influence Moon of Alabama. And the end of the dollar as a reserve currency.

Class Warfare

The 1% May Be Richer Than You Think, Research Shows Bloomberg. “[L]iterally rich beyond measure.”

The economics of a McDonalds franchise Mathbabe

Enron Mogul John Arnold Funds State Politics… And Now Journalism About Money in State Politics International Business Times

Who The Fck Is Campbell Brown? Esquire. Paul Singer’s good friend among other things.

Ten theses on the far right in Europe by Michael Löwy Verso

Role reversal: How the Penobscot Nation is suing Maine — and has the upper hand Bangor Daily News

Coming of age: YouTube stars now rate higher than Hollywood celebs among teen influence Pando Daily

James Brown: The Hardest Working @ssh*l3 in Show Business Black Agenda Report. Must read personal reminiscence by Glen Ford.

Antidote du jour:


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. MikeNY

    Re: Mickey D’s and franchises:

    Natch, the PE community has discovered the beauty of the franchising model: both Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others, have been owned by huge PE firms in the recent past. They love the business: little capex at the corporate level, huge cash flows from the franchise fees, which come straight off the top, and the ability to fire under-performing franchise managers. And to limitlessly squeeze all the little people in the name of ‘efficiency’ and maximizing profits.

    1. Carolinian

      Some interesting pushback to that article in Mathbabe’s comments. In fact the franchise model has been around since the 19th century. McDonalds did serve as the template for the modern version, but dubious that their motive was to isolate themselves from current controversies like minimum wage and health care. And while the franchise contract may seem exploitative of the franchisees, it’s likely that those franchisees–at McDonalds at least–aren’t complaining. On the other hand I know someone who franchised a Quiznos and ended up quite disillusioned. Here’s a history of franchising from an industry source. It says the contracts do have some regulation, both federally and, in some instances, on a state level.

      I’m not sure any of this really bears on the minimum wage question. If the federal minimum was raised then McD would just have to adjust their business model by raising prices or cutting their franchise fees. They are still behind the eight ball if the store owners go out of business since those store owners, and the supplies they buy, are the source of their profits.

      1. MikeNY

        “By cutting their franchise fees” — yes.

        I can’t speak to Mickey D’s directly, but I have looked at Dunkin’s and BK’s financials, and I can tell you there is plenty of room to cut those fees and pay workers a better, maybe even a decent, wage.

        1. Carolinian

          Of course when McDonalds took off in the 1960s the minimum wage was effectively much higher than it is now. And yet billions and billions were served. Also for much of its history their staff really did seem to be the high school students looking to make extra money, not the struggling adults that work there today.

        2. curlydan

          Yes, there is room for raising wages, but not without sacrificing the beloved net income and EPS.

          If you ever want the inside scoop on franchising by company, I’d recommend this website. Some real horror stories from franchisees about their franchisors.

        3. cwaltz

          I remember reading somewhere that McDs spent over 3 billion last year on new stores. There is absolutely no reason that money couldn’t have gone to helping its existing workers. No reason other than greed that is. They’d rather open new stores to increase market share and pull in more franchise fees(and then whine about how they can’t afford to pay these new workers they’re creating, wages that cover basics like housing, food and transport.)

    2. optimader

      “both Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others, have been owned by huge PE firms in the recent past…”
      Perhaps, but so what, even if that is the case. My limited exposure with franchise convenience food, are Dunkin Donuts Ioccasionally frequent for coffee when commuting w/o my own from home. In my experience almost exclusively owned by Indian franchisees. Small talking with them, as I do when I have an owner serving me the strategy is to employ extended family and in say 3years add a second store, when the third or fourth store is aggregated they may choose to acquire an offsite bakery operation that stocks the store or take advantage of an an opportunity sell to the next players in their ethnic community. You may call them PE firms if you want, but it tends to be ethnic families, at least in my geography. Don’t have any idea about BK.
      As for McD
      Does McDonald’s franchise to partnerships or investors?
      McDonald’s franchises restaurants to individuals who personally operate their restaurants and are involved in the day to day operation of their restaurants. We do not franchise to partnerships or allow investors

      And when did McDonalds stop being a burger joint?”
      Hardly need to take a step back to understand the franchise business model,. First McD franchise was in 1953, that’s when it ceased to be “a hamburger joint”.

      “Take a step back here. What is the business model of a franchise?..In order to contain your risks, you franchise.”
      By my understanding, geometrically scaling up a brand is the primary motivation of franchising. It allows external capital sources to more quickly build up a brand. The franchisors risk is not so much mitigated but shifted to different considerations having to do with brand growth.

      “By nature of the franchise contract, the money actually available to a franchise owner is whatever’s left over after they pay McDonalds for advertising, and buy all the equipment and food that McDonalds tells them to from the sources that they tell them to, and after they pay for insurance on everything and for rent on the property (which McDonalds typically owns).”
      And so is this a surprise??
      Apparently it is not so egregious an arrangement as their are people on waiting lists to acquire a McDonalds franchising opportunity. Haven’t checked, but I’d be surprised if anyone is holding a gun to their heads. McD also has a very deep training and support infrastructure, so I doubt at the end of the day there are any franchisees that have a misrepresented understanding of the arrangement.

      “In fact when franchise owners complain about the profit stream, McDonalds tells them to pay their workers less.”
      Or sell their franchise?

      Can you still get a McDonald’s franchise (in the United States) and how much does it cost?
      Yes, McDonald’s continually seeks qualified individuals to become franchisees. Since the total cost varies from restaurant to restaurant, the minimum amount for a down payment will vary. Generally, we require a minimum of $750,000 of non-borrowed personal resources to consider you for a franchise. For more information about purchasing and financing a McDonald’s Franchise, please see the U.S. Franchising Home Page.

      “That’s not to say, of course, that McDonalds as an enterprise is at risk of losing money. In fact the parent corporation is making good money ($1.4 billion per quarter if you include international revenue), by squeezing the franchises. If the franchise owners had more leverage to negotiate better contracts, they could siphon off more revenue and then – possibly – share it with workers.”
      Yes, possibly, or possibly buy a bigger boat, or whatever. Again, franchisees buy into a business model defined by a franchisor. Where is the list of stranded McDonalds franchisee investments owned by disillusioned franchisees?

      “McDonalds essentially controls everything except one variable, but since it’s a closed system of equations…”
      Its a “crap is a bag” convenience retail food model. McD controls everything except one variable!? How about traffic into the store to buy the product, do they control that?

      “but if they pay a living wage then they lose money on their business.”
      A link for this would be helpful to support the premise of the article. If the franchisee income is that incredibly thin, I am shocked that it is such a YonY successful franchising model.

      1. MikeNY


        1. I am talking about the franchisORs, not the franshisEES. The franchisORS of DD and BK were bought by PE firms in LBOs. That is not “perhaps”, that is a fact.

        2. The business model relies on sub-subsistence level wages paid to store employees, hence the high coincidence of eligibility for assistance programs with fast food employment. Meanwhile PE firms salivate to own the corporate “goodwill”, because they have shunted the burden of CAPEX to franchisees, and they pocket an annuity stream, first in line of payment. If store employees were paid a decent wage, either franchise fees would have to be materially reduced, or a Big Mac would cost something more like $8, which would have a deleterious effect on traffic I should think.

        The business model is emblematic of the massive transfer of wealth from workers to capital in the US over the last 30 years. It is a poster child for neo-feudalism and plutocracy. I agree that franchisees rank above hourly employees in the monetary pecking order; but they are both well behind the franchisors (PE firms and multinational corporations), and I strenuously object to the business model.

        That’s the “so what”.

        1. optimader

          1. rdgrthat, misinterpreted what you said.
          2. From a root cause perspective, some jobs utterly bereft of skills simply should not be considered full time jobs. To plan a societal living wage employment remedy around what are traditionally partime jobs will fail. There’s a more fundamental issue at hand and it wont be resolved by delusionally thinking people can work at a fastfood joint as a fulltime career..

          “The business model is emblematic of the massive transfer of wealth from workers to capital in the US over the last 30 years”
          The franchise food business model is essentially the same from when I was a kid, with the exception that it was staffed w/ a manager /assistant manager and a slew of parttime employees w/ pimples –not adults with the expectation of supporting themselves/and there families..

          The real “so what” is what happened to the job infrastructure that provided bonefide middleclass employment that vaporized and stovepiped a layer of skilled and semiskilled people into competition for jobs that were the domain of a ZERO skill parttime job labor pool.

          Thinking there is a viable solution to be derived by arbitrarily paying people more to flip burgers and press icons on a register at a fastfood joint is delusional IMO.

          1. skippy

            Did you say – “fastfood joint is delusional” Opti?

            Fast food giant McDonald’s has been criticized for trialling a home delivery service in an area already battling weight issues.

            The Australian Medical Association (AMA) Queensland has questioned a decision by McDonald’s to trial a seven-days-a-week home delivery service in Hervey Bay, in the state’s south-east.

            McDonald’s said population growth in the region was a key reason for its selection, but AMA Queensland president Dr Shaun Rudd said it was the population’s growth on the scales that had them most concerned.

            “The population is already extremely overweight,” he said.

            “It’s not a really good place to have easier access to junk food.”

            Last week, AMA Queensland launched its Lighten Your Load campaign to highlight the obesity crisis facing regional and rural Queenslanders.

            In Hervey Bay, two out of three adults are overweight or obese, and one in four children is overweight or obese.

            “It’s pretty sad. These large corporations have a look where they’re going to get the most bang for their buck and they choose places like that,” Dr Rudd said.


            skippy…. Our – health budget – for a smoothie blender or cold press juicer [!!!]. BTW don’t do a math workout, you’ll go mad if’n you do…

            1. optimader

              So, where to they get the discretionary funds to buy it, no less have it delivered? Personally, I am amazed at how much that stuff costs if you compare it in the context of real food.

          2. Binky Bear

            Except that people used to make decent livable wages at fast food restaurants until the 1980s. The condescension to food service workers in general is pretty typical of an arrogant and entitled attitude towards others which informs consideration of the rest of your arguments. The crushing of unions under Reagan saw the decline in wages and respect paid to those in non-unionized service and trades jobs. This marks the transition from workers who can support themselves and a family with modest room for occasional luxuries and the rise of what has become government assisted indentured servitude aided by a surveillance culture at the corporate and government level to prevent uprisings. Yay for democracy and capitalism if that’s what our national dream is these days.

            1. MikeNY

              ITA, Binky.

              IMO, we need to pay a living wage for the jobs our economy actually creates, not for the jobs we WISH it created. This is a matter of human dignity and economic justice.

            2. optimader

              “The condescension to food service workers in general is pretty typical of an arrogant and entitled attitude towards others which informs consideration of the rest of your arguments. ”
              That making a Big Mac in accordance to the laminated flipchart page constitutes a skill , no less should constitute a viable career path for someone to support themselves and a family perfectly illustrates how devolved the notion of what constitutes economically sustainable middleclass jobs. That is not condescension , it is simply recognizing the economic value of a job that ,at least in my geography, was the historical domain of parttime jobs for young people.

              For MikeNY,
              “we need to pay a living wage for the jobs our economy actually creates, not for the jobs we WISH it created. This is a matter of human dignity and economic justice.”

              No, we need to create the jobs that rationally support an economic middleclass, what you suggest is not sustainable, it merely perpetuates the status quo of serf class working parttime jobs.

                1. optimader

                  This is an economics blog, but a long as we are waving the “how it should be wand”, Ill offer just a couple job creation ideas, and how to fund them.

                  1.) An overhaul and creation of new intra and inter city electric light rail public transportation. Domestic manufacture of rolling stock, infrastructure installation and operation are new job opportunities (In Chicago at least , reintroduction of electric buses and/or at grade streetcars, N-S connection od all three E-W commuter rail lines.) Inter city connection electric rail for mixed pubic transportation and intermodal shipping.

                  2.) Reform of tax law that artificially incentivize offshore value added activities destined for use or consumption in the United States. (Is there a rational reason why chicken needs to be processed in China and reimported? A mere example of a long list of irrational and artificially incentivized value added activities.
                  2.) Dramatic defunding of non defense related military, On this theme, identify and tax energy resources in accordance with their reliance on military security. (For example, if it is deemed necessary to secure ME energy resources with *** aircraft carrier groups, these costs should be allocated against the resource.)
                  3.) Stop all energy production subsidization.

                  Just the capital reallocations in 2.) and 3.)would be fundamentally transformative.

                  “and how”
                  Public Will. And that will never have the critical mass to reconstitute a healthy middle class by incrementally calibrating the status quo that grows a demographic of perpetual serf workers in unskilled convenience service jobs.

                  1. MikeNY

                    FWIW, I have much sympathy for your proposals above, esp. scaling down defense, infrastructure investments, and curtailing subsidies for fossil fuels.

                    Where we differ is that I believe any job should pay a living wage. Waiters in European restaurants make a respectable living, as they should. So should, IMO, fast food workers and retail workers in the US. For me it as matter of economic justice. And if paying that wage renders a business model uneconomic, the problem is with the business model and our societal values, not with the skill set of the workers.

                    But this is not a disagreement we are likely to resolve today. Thanks for the response.

          3. cwaltz

            “bereft of skills”

            Last I saw Mcdonalds employees needed to be able to make the products McDonalds sells(how about you try walking into the place and assembling anything on the menu from frappes to a mcdouble), they are required to work their workplace sanitary(without food holding times you’re going to get sick), and they need a vast amount of patience and people skills to deal with the jerks who seem to think their job doesn’t require any skills. Then there’s the fact that most of these people are also the people responsible for training the new people as they come in.

            You can argue that it’s an entry level position(and I’d agree with that for the first 3 months) that does not require a large amount of training but it is ridiculous to argue that any job requires no skills whatsoever.

            1. optimader

              Well, fully rendered , walking is a skill as well. So in the sense that a McD line employee is trained to generate a consistently assembled product with a consistent presentation to the consumer, yes it is a skill.
              A huge aspect of McD success has been their effectiveness at removing human factors from the product they sell. That and apparently divining a “crap in a bag” product that (inexplicably to me) appeals to a huge population wordwide.

              1. cwaltz

                Walking IS a skill set and there ARE jobs out there that require that particular skill set believe it or not(the military springs to mind, long hikes out in the middle of nowhere are part of the job description and are why flat feet can be considered a disqualification. Not everyone is naturally inclined to walk and walk.) McDonalds is only half the equation and they wouldn’t nearly be as effective at “removing the human factor” if people didn’t act as the people that work at these establishments should be allowed to be treated like garbage because the job doesn’t require an ivy league education. If they work 40 hours they shouldn’t have to beg the government to help them pay for food, housing,or health care. A person making minimum wage would not be able to responsibly acquire housing on their $290 a week pay. I’m a pretty frugal person and I couldn’t make a $290 a week in income work. Housing and food(for a thrifty USDA plan of $42 a week) pretty much eat up 50% of your income in my region if you are a minimum wage earner. Once you add in transportation(we have cheaper housing but virtually no public transport) ,utilities and health care there is nothing left to cover a tooth extraction, new tires or even an education so you can make more than minimum. You leave these earners who are working hard in a pit they can’t get out of when you don’t give them any opportunity to save something.

                1. optimader

                  Too much hyperbole.
                  Root cause analysis. Should our society acquiesce to considering working at the McD counter a fulltime job? It’s a perpetual plantation.

                  I vote no

  2. dearieme

    “World’s Toughest Horse Race Retraces Genghis Khan’s Postal Route”: not known at this address.

  3. dearieme

    “today in three countries (France, United Kingdom, Denmark) is has already reached 25 to 30 percent”: wrong.

    To calculate 25% for Britain he me must be pretending that UKIP is “far right”: that’s the sort of statement that Dr Goebbels would be proud of. Or Stalin’s agitprop men. Fine company he’s keeping.

    1. drexciya

      The whining about right-wing parties in Europe is becoming very annoying. There may be some outliers, but most of these parties would be considered moderate in the US. It’s all about trying to marginalize political parties that are not pro-Euro, pro-EU and pro-immigration. Well, lots of people have come to the conclusion that their interests are not being looked after by regular parties, which are nothing but sell-outs when it comes to the EU. That gives a lot of space to parties which are, rightly, critical of the EU, the Euro zone and immigration.

      Instead of trying to equate these parties with fascists, it might be a lot more reasonable to spot and criticize the EU politicians’ behavior, which shows way more fascistic tendencies. People like de Rompuy and Junckers have said things in the media, which clearly show they’re up to no good.

      If UKIP is already considered to be extreme right, where does it stop?

      1. kj1313

        Most of right wing parties in Europe outside of a few want a strong social safety net while the main neoliberal parties are trying to dismantle it.

  4. steviefinn

    It seems as though some Ukrainians are not very happy with the way things are going: Maidan demos are back but minus Nuland & Western media, & according to the rebels it is a tight situation but by no means one that they think is lost. Not much talk of MH17 now, it seems as though the talk is once again all about Russian invasion.

    1. Another Gordon

      I first saw reports of renewed trouble in Kiev just before going to bed last night (UK time); 18 hours later it’s still being studiously ignored by the BBC.

      But then, of course, it doesn’t quite fit with the approved narrative so perhaps it’s best not mentioned. (/sarc)

      1. steviefinn

        Thanks for that – I don’t follow the MSM as it just annoys me & is from an information perspective pretty pointless. The fact that major cities are being shelled in the East which is obviously resulting in civilian casualties is not even mentioned says it all. Meanwhile back at the asylum :

      2. Yonatan

        More than 400 Ukrainian military lacking ammunition, food and water, have surrendered their arms and crossed into Russia rather than die under bombardment from the militia. The soldiers were given the choice of going back to Ukraine or voluntarily remaining in Russia. Those going back signed a pledge they would not rejoin the Ukraine military. The Russians invited the western press to meet these soldiers. With the exception of Bloomberg Press, not one US news group sent a representative. I suspect this refusal to attend will be blamed on Putin should anyone query the US media about it.

    1. diptherio

      I about fell over laughing when I heard the “it’s experimental, that’s why we only gave it to the Americans” line. HA! I thought poor Africans were where all the pharm companies did their testing…You know the vaccine works because they gave it to the Americans and denied it to the Africans.

      1. trish

        that’s at the more experimental phase, for the secret kind…Africans, service men, old Black men, the mentally ill or labeled such, sometimes children…
        This level is OK for white people if necessary and looks heroic.

      2. optimader

        “Why do two white Americans get the Ebola serum while hundreds of Africans die”
        Gee, could it be a the consequential blowback from this?
        I would expect an American NGO is going to have more effective negotiating interaction with the FDA and CDC than a African population not represented by it’s agencies of government. Who’s fault is that actually. Withholding experimental drug treatment is HARDLY a new FDA development (see file :HIV treatment).

        But I have utter confidence as a consequence of the Chinese Communist Parties policy for turning the African continent into a commercial colony for resource exploitation, they will soon be unveiling an experimental Ebola vaccine ready for distribution? right? uhh , ahem ..yeah well.
        Those damn Americans!

        Wel, I am shocked, truly shocked that the C

        1. optimader

          Well, I am shocked, truly shocked that the Communists don’t have this in the bag already? Afterall, isn’t it all about the Proletariat?

          1. optimader

            From what I’ve read, the Ebola vaccine efficacy possibilities are dicey at best, compounded by the fact that it is a rather esoteric drug, numerically small treatment population, which is historically a bane for any big-pharma drug development exercise, Is it a open question who should be charged w/ fronting the development process and cost? Is this a responsibility of a US pharma company? If a US pharma company does drug pursue a vaccine development, is it unreasonable or unfair to do “volunteer” human trials that are expedited on “closely held” volunteers (ie American patients in a domestic facility set up for whatever level of contamination control is appropriate?

    2. diptherio

      Re: ACA Automatic Enrollments

      Nonetheless, a group of trade associations and large employers, including 7-Eleven, Lowe’s and Home Depot, earlier this month sent a letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., supporting his bill to repeal the overhaul’s automatic enrollment requirement.

      While it pains me to admit, I gotta go with the trade associations on this one. It just doesn’t seem right that your job at 7-Eleven should come with a monthly bill…

    3. craazyboy

      Ha! A new unit of temporal measurement. Days, weeks, months, years, and white people.

      We really shouldn’t laugh about these things. I’m starting to feel disconnected whenever I read the news too much.

      But at least the Onion can point out the gravity of the situation and maybe this won’t just fall into a black hole, forever.

      oops. sorry.

  5. abynormal

    Flash fire burns four people; methane contamination in water source possible cause
    Cody Murray, who was airlifted by helicopter to Parkland Burn Unit in Dallas, remained in fair condition at the hospital, according to hospital officials.
    Ashley Murray and her 4-year-old daughter, Alyssa, were airlifted to Cooks Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth; and James Murray was taken by ambulance to Palo Pinto General Hospital, O’Neil said.
    O’Neil said the family saw water running out of the well house and went to investigate and found the well casing engulfed in flames.

  6. YY

    Putin tipping point, may not be a tipping point at all. If you were the rebellion all you would do in the near future, when overwhelmed by the sheer scale of Ukrainian force, is to duck into Russia. If Russia is willing to accommodate Ukrainian troops who have disarmed, they would certainly allow the rebels complete with their arms. What would Kiev do at that point? Garrison themselves in an area where they will not be popular, because they’ve been shelling them until the day before, and then what? The rebels can take occasional sorties into the area and give the Ukrainian troops a hard time. Just like the false flag shoot down of a passenger jet and the coverup, these things have not been completely thought through. Who are the great minds working this game? Is it the Neo-cons or is it the CIA/Dept of State, or is it the right wing in Kiev or some combination thereof? Whatever the case, it is just sheer stupidity to declare war on a region of the country that happens to be adjacent to a greater power that happens to be culturally/historically more attuned to the very region into which you drive your tanks into. The only reason they have gotten away with it so far is that Western media is too lazy and willfully blind to common sense reality.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Exceptional! thinking.

      VietnamVet has previously spoken about the unlikeliness of Ukraine’s overcoming the Separatists.

      H O P

      1. steviefinn

        The Vet is right – The rebels are unlike the majority of the Ukies very well motivated, they are mobile, they know the country & due to outrage due to civilian casualties their forces are growing by the day. They are also fighting a defensive war which tends to even up the odds, have eliminated the Ukies air force’s capability & due to the Ukies tactics of shelling urban areas, will as happened in Stalingrad, result in an environment that will prove very difficult to dislodge forces from, even by a much superior force, which increasingly the Ukie forces are not.

        The West as events show from Kiev is not exactly stable & as the body bag count & the International Misery Fund’s austerity measures increase it will not get any better. I would be very surprised if this were to end quickly.

    2. curlydan

      What?!? Those Ukrainian rebels will use Russians as a human shield? It’s all coming together now.

    3. Murky

      Comrades! Your analysis is correct. Military defeat of the rebels in East Ukraine won’t make Putin budge. Nor will Western sanctions. Putin has an approval rating within Russia at well over 80%. He can do what he wants. The alternative to Putin could be much worse:

      The Western imperialist strategy in Ukraine is clearly outlined by Michael McFaul in today’s New York Times:

      Obama team in action:

        1. EmilianoZ

          There’s something I dont understand.The Saker seems to think the Russian sanctions are for at least 1 year no matter what. But that’s not how it is reported in the French newspaper Le Monde:

          Cette interdiction pourra toutefois être levée si « nos partenaires font preuve d’une approche constructive », a déclaré M. Medvedev dans une intervention télévisée.

          Google translation: However, this restriction may be waived if “our partners show a constructive approach,” Medvedev said in a televised speech.

          So, the sanctions could be lifted any time if the EU lift theirs. The uncertainty is not gonna help Russian farmers invest for the long term.

          1. hunkerdown

            One growing season is not “long-term”. Perhaps you also think the Russians too backward and ignorant to create a foreign food aid program and usefully dispose of surplus by feeding people who aren’t eating because they’ve nothing to eat?

            If I wanted to hear from cargo-cult capitalists shilling for TINA I’d be reading Bloomberg right now, wouldn’t I?

    4. craazyboy

      If there ever was a time in history when the UN would send in a “peacekeeping force” purely on humanitarian or moral grounds, they would have done so in this case. The Uks are the ugly aggressors. The Seps are the simple hobbit-like farmers picking up pitchforks and perhaps whatever weapons Russia did finally dribble in there to defend their hovels, pastures and livestock from land and air attack by a decidedly superior military force.

      But that didn’t happen, and now we are surprised Russia may step in officially?

      Not that I’m unconditionally awarding Putin the White Hat Seal of Approval. The Uks want to frack the Seps’ lands, the EU is a hungry customer for the gas, and Putin would prefer his stranglehold on the EU, I’m sure. So econ currents always everywhere. But weighing the balance, with no intervention on the Seps side, the Western Uks will bury all the Seps in the ground, then frack them in their graves.

      The Seps can totally capitulate as an option, of course. But they would need to change their voting behavior to something more acceptable to the Uks.

      1. Yonatan

        “The Seps can totally capitulate as an option, of course. But they would need to change their voting behavior to something more acceptable to the Uks.”

        This is the only acceptable behavior the ‘Moskals’ can show as far as the Ukrainian Nazis are concerned. The placard reads ‘Moskals in space’. Caution: reality can offend delicate sensibilities.

  7. Ulysses

    From the linked IBT article: “In one Arnold-funded segment about California’s pension system, the station failed to disclose that the prospective pension-slashing ballot initiative it was covering was partially financed by Arnold. When Arnold’s financing was exposed, other PBS member stations complained, ultimately leading WNET to return the money on the grounds that it violated PBS’s conflict of interest standards.”

    Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg of how WNET has become totally an organ for kleptocrats. They simply refuse to air anything that might embarrass Citizen Koch, tell the truth about fracking, or perform anything like their supposed function of providing “independent, non-commercial” broadcasting.

  8. trish

    re Who the fck is Campbell Brown.

    barely into this and, “Brown who is funding her new Partnership for Educational Justice…”

    Partnership for Educational Justice.

    god, these corporate profiteers are so cunningly adept at coming up with these kinds of (contradictory…that’s too mild) names.

    Right to Work. Americans for Prosperity, there’s so many more, just can’t think of them right now…

    They’d be laughable if not so insidiously effective with many of the ignorant public.

    I hated it when (way back) SUV companies were naming many of their guzzlers outdoorsy names (tundra, tahoe, impala, denali, etc) but this is way beyond that.

  9. financial matters

    A lot of new treatments coming on the market in this molecular age are very expensive. This brings up at least 2 questions? Why are they so expensive? (patents, etc). Why don’t we have the money to afford them? (similar to the question as why we don’t have the money to put people to work when we have unemployed labor and unemployed resources)

    Potential Vaccines and Post-Exposure Treatments for Filovirus Infections

    5. Conclusions
    Development of medical countermeasures for EBOV and MARV remain a high priority and substantial progress has been made over the past decade. We have moved from the inability to protect from infection in various animal models of disease to a realm of medical countermeasures that protect prophylactically and more recently successful treatments that can be employed following known exposure to the viruses. Initial efforts, focused on preventing the disease with vaccination strategies, ranged from subunit vaccines to VLPs, vectored systems, DNA vaccines, and live-attenuated virus systems that express the EBOV or MARV glycoproteins. To that aim, vaccine efficacy has been achieved by multiple vaccines against parenteral and aerosol routes of exposure. With the success of these new vaccine platforms, the attention of the past 5 years has focused on the ability to treat infected patients. In the animal models, success has been demonstrated with traditional small molecules and antibodies directed against the virus or critical host proteins or pathways associated with pathogenesis. The ability to utilize various RNA silencing technologies has been a focus for therapeutics that could be beneficial for filovirus infection, other infectious diseases and cancer therapy. Despite these successes, there is much work to do to adequately prepare for this infectious threat. The ability to provide a beneficial therapeutic impact at a point when patients experience clinical symptoms and seek relief from caregivers remains a hurdle for the medical countermeasure development. Moreover, the quality of life of patients following infection and treatment may require additional development efforts or the combination of multiple therapeutic approaches. As seen in outbreaks, the clinical sequelae observed in patients that survive infection are severe and life changing. These observations emphasize the need for medical countermeasures that not only provide survival but also decrease morbidity and long-term pathological outcomes following infection. Lastly, the funding resources fortitude and the ability to navigate regulatory pathways will be essential to reaching either emergency use authorization (EUA) status or licensed drug status for therapeutics and vaccines. However, the field remains optimistic that medical countermeasure solutions for human use are possible.

    1. abynormal

      ” the quality of life of patients following infection and treatment may require additional development efforts or the combination of multiple therapeutic approaches.”
      …today’s viruses could be a catalyst to revamp our health industry, if it weren’t already a zero end sum.

      “America’s health care system is second only to Japan, Canada, Sweden, Great Britain, well … all of Europe. But you can thank your lucky starts we don’t live in Paraguay!”
      Matt Groening

  10. abynormal

    from McClatchy’s piece in links: On Tuesday, the CDC issued an Alert Level 2 Travel Notice for Americans visiting Nigeria. Travelers to Nigeria are being asked to practice careful hygiene and avoid contact with blood and body fluids of people ill with Ebola.
    A Warning Level 3 Travel Notice is also in effect for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The CDC is advising Americans to avoid nonessential travel to these countries.
    from (translated at yahoo)
    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday issued its highest alert for an all-hands on deck response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
    “Ops Center moved to Level 1 response to given the extension to Nigeria & potential to affect many lives,” CDC chief Tom Frieden said on Twitter.
    Level 1 is the highest on a 1-6 scale and signals that increased staff and resources will be devoted to the outbreak.

    hmmm “It’s in the misery of some unnamed slum that the next killer virus will emerge.”
    Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

  11. Tatanya

    The events unfolding in Ukraine are extremely dangerous because the West is recklessly gambling that Putin will back down in the face of pressures from his base. This calculus dismisses the fact that Putin has pointedly made it known that a NATOised Ukraine represents an existential threat. The high stakes players driving this game in Washington are nothing less than psychopaths, and for that reason we should all be very afraid. The way the ebola crisis is being managed is a hint of just what awaits the sheeple should a conflict with Russia rapidly go from bad to worse. This could get ugly very fast when the cyber warriors in Moscow get creative strategically crippling their targets.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yep, the Penobscot River Restoration Project, very successful. And just in time for the state to site landfills right next to the river! Honestly, there are times when I think we should just give the whole country back.

  12. diptherio

    Re: Bank of America Settlement

    Moral of the story: Jamie Dimon is better buddies with Holder than what’s-his-name at BoA. Getting your own firm off light while increasing the fines of your competitors for practices you both engaged in is pretty cut-throat business practice, but effective. That meeting with Holder awhile back must have gone better than we thought.

  13. Doug Terpstra

    Related to the Russian ban on US/EU ag is an Onion worthy report that the EU intends to file claims against Russia with the WTO for having the temerity to retaliate against its sanctions on Russia. Even “funnier” the WTO would likely rule un the instigators’ favor. What a world.

    1. hunkerdown

      If the gavel falls in a WTO tribunal, and nobody bothers to show up to hear it, does it make a sound?

  14. Jill

    Horse Race: Two films that relate to this story are: “Xiu Xiu” (The sent down girl)–this is a very painful film to watch and “Mongol”.

  15. Jim Haygood

    ‘From Somalia to the Sahel, the United States has been increasingly backing African-led military efforts to counter Islamist militants, while avoiding direct involvement in those conflicts.’ — Reuters

    As seen on TV [Walter Kronkite, et al]. We’ve got this ‘American advisors’ model so down, it oughta be franchised …

  16. Jim Haygood

    Usgov’s answer to subprime car loans: subprime educational loans.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Education is trying to make it easier for students with troubled credit histories to get college loans.

    New rules would ease restrictions on college students seeking loans from the government’s direct loan program. he change would let people get loans more easily even if they have about $2,000 in bad debt, and it would shorten the length of time their history of bad debt is scrutinized.


    ‘Study here, pay here’ … bwa ha ha ha … three weeks ago, I couldn’t even spell ‘scholar.’ Now i are one!

    1. MLS

      Yes of course.

      The solution to rising college costs is to allow more people to finance it.


    2. craazyboy

      You do have to take a test

      Which of these things is not like the other?
      a) A(n) 8% student loan
      b) A 22%, 30% down, subprime 72 month used car loan
      d) An insured home mortgage, wid sum upfront fees
      f) A non-recourse credit card (test fairness hint – this is not the same as your boy friend’s credit card)
      g) Your post graduation income
      I) A paycheck loan

    3. hunkerdown

      I suppose we should have seen this coming when student debt was no longer subject to discharge in bankruptcy.

  17. Carolinian

    Portland: May not be ideal AGW getaway

    It’s not all roses here. Per capita, Portlanders ingest more anti-depressants than residents of any other American city. They also commit suicides at a much brisker rate than the national average. Last year, five people jumped off Vista Bridge alone, and in 1998, a homeless, heroin-addicted young couple hanged themselves from the Steel Bridge. For almost an hour, they dangled in full view of thousands of downtown office workers, motorists and train passengers.

  18. David Lentini

    Ebloa Serum De-Mystified
    The Los Angeles Times demonstrates again the general lack of knowledge of the patent system amongst the major newspapers. Basic patent principles are not that complicated, but we the patent community need to reach out and explain more.
    Case in point – LA Times on Wednesday has an article:

    Mystery Ebola virus serum manufactured by San Diego firm

    Which includes the following information: “An experimental serum … deadly Ebola virus … manufactured … using plants … San Diego firm … Mapp Biopharmaceutical”.

    Side note: while the R&D is in the biotech hub of San Diego, it is being manufactured by Kentucky Bioprocessing in Owensboro, Kentucky, which is supplying the serum to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, where the two U.S. Ebola victims are being treated. I am not sure the wisdom of manufacturing vaccines in bourbon country :-)

    So what’s the “mystery”, with those clues? You know that biopharma companies want to make tons of money, the need for patents to make tons of money, the need for patents in multiple companies to make even more money, and that these public uses and mentions triggering on-sale bars. So you have to assume: “Ten bucks to one, Mapp has some patent applications filed, probably more than 18 months ago, so that at least one of their PCTs has been published.”

    So doing a quick PCT search finds:

    Monoclonal antibodies with altered affinities for human FCyRI, FCyRIIIa and CIq proteins
    Andrew Hiatt and Larry Zeitlin

    Mapp Biopharmaceutical (US) and Icon Genetics (Germany)

    PCT WO 2013/095738

    Filed September 2011

    which has also been published as US2013/149300

    (Zeitlin is president of Mapp). I ask, did no one at the LA Times know enough about the patent system to find the above information to eliminate the “mystery”? Geesh.

    The abstract is:
    Disclosed herein are GNGN and G1/G2 antibodies that recognize and bind various FcRs and C1q. Also disclosed herein are glycan-optimized antibodies, predominantly of the GNGN or G1/G2 glycoform, with enhanced Fc.gamma. receptor binding achieved through CHO, Nicotiana benthamiana and yeast manufacturing systems. Nucleic acids encoding these antibodies, as well as expression vectors and host cells including these nucleic acids are also disclosed herein. Methods and pharmaceutical compositions including the monoclonal antibodies are provided herein for the prevention and/or therapeutic treatment of viral infections, cancers and inflammatory diseases.

    And to be clear, one of the viral infections to be treated is ” … Ebola virus …”. Indeed, forget about patents – the LA Times could have used PubMed for a quickee search, to find:

    Rapid high yield production of different glycoforms of Ebola virus monoclonal antibody

    L. Zeitlin et al., PLoS One, October 2011 epub

    which safely for Mapp’s sake, was published one month after the PCT was filed. Which is odd, because an article in China Weekly news:
    Experimental Ebola drug in spotlight but effectiveness unknown

    states: “Mapp Biophamaceutical said earlier that Zmapp, a mixture of three monoclonal antibodies, was first identified as a drug candidate in January [2014] …” which could be inconsistent with the PCT filing and PloS One paper published in 2011.

    In this case, there is a paper published in 2009:
    Improved virus neutralization by plant-produced anti-HIV antibodies
    with a homogeneous beta-1,4-galactosylated N-glycan profile
    R. Strasser et al., Journal of Biological Chemistry, May 2009

    Fc-Glycosylation influences FcY receptor binding and cell-mediated
    anti-HIV activity of monoclonal antibody 2G12

    R. Strasser et al., Journal of Immunology, December 2010

    So had the LA Times reporter did a bit of investigative research (beyond phone calls), there was a wealth of information to find and consider to resolve the “mystery”. As patent issues become more important, we need a better-educated press.

    Greg Aharonian

    Internet Patent News Service

    1. craazyboy

      You don’t really expect us to believe the patent office really understands all that stuff they are rubber stamping?

      1. hunkerdown

        It’s not that they don’t understand it, so much as that the USPTO provides very little time, resources and leeway to examiners to actively seek out prior art, and that in general the USPTO is run as if a for-profit enterprise, where the “customer” is always right and doesn’t have to pay if they don’t like the outcome.

        1. craazyboy

          I’m still a little doubtfull we have an office of people that understand the bleeding edge of all science and technology, but this makes for lots of courtroom fodder later which the well heeled win. In the mean time I fear prelim searches may discourage some bonafide researchers from pursuing promising avenues of research because a patent my stand in their way, even tangentially.

          Just my gut feel, and I’ve got no experience to base it on, other than in large companies they have a cadre of lawyers that patent anything and everything. I just think things got so complicated nowadays the whole concept needs revamping somehow. From what little I’ve read about the process, there is supposed to be some measure of “basicness” (my word – forgot how they describe it) used to define something as un-patentable. For instance, Newton couldn’t patent gravity. I think there needs to be some kind of mechanism like that there for our micro-nano-bio world.

          1. hunkerdown

            Gravity, being a phenomenon of physics, can’t be patented. The use of gravity to move material, or a machine which produces useful amounts of gravity, could, if the item described by the application is novel, non-obvious, adequately described so that a person having ordinary skill in the art can successfully make and use the invention, precisely claimed in the patent application, and actually works. Molecules, being phenomena of physics, can’t be patented. Likewise, molecules used to perform some process, or a process by which molecules might be created, could. The list of unpatentable items in the US includes: “Laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas, Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, and inventions which are not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or offensive to public morality”

            You don’t really need an office of people who understand every little in and out of science or the useful arts to examine patents critically. A basic understanding of the laws of physics and not being subordinate to a government that actively encourages rent-seeking would increase patent quality greatly and probably eliminate inappropriate categories of patents that exist only to prevent consumers from producing above their station (e.g. software patents, plant patents, business method patents). Abolishing the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit would also help increase patent quality.

  19. nony mouse

    anecdotal info on hospice article, to contextualize what some of these discharges may represent–

    my grandmother is in her end-stage of life, but it is at an indeterminate pace. she is bedridden and has various other issues which a home health nurse was attending to. after the nurse’s stint was over, it was recommended that my family set Gran up with hospice care, in order to receive valuable supplies and for her family caregivers to obtain vital assistance in doing their job.

    ultimately, my Gran balked at this even though the benefits were clear, because she did not approve of the non-resuscitation agreements that hospice requires you to sign.

    there are various other complicating layers to the story. suffice to say that my mother, who has been providing the in-home daily (round the clock) care, really needed the help hospice would have provided. I have been in contact with Adult Protective Services in my grandmother’s home county, and relayed this info to the caseworker. The caseworker’s response to me was this: people go in and out of hospice care all of the time. those non-resuscitation forms are not binding in any way, and if a person needs medical care they go to the hospital and obtain it, thus temporarily ceasing their hospice care. they later, after the medical issue is stabilized, re-enter hospice care. many people are in hospice care (although not necessarily IN a hospice) for many years this way, and if my Gran’s caregivers need the help, they should consider approaching hospice care in this manner.

    It would necessitate being out of and into hospice care, thus ‘live check out.’ it’s not a problem, it is a reality that those who are dying at an indeterminate pace are faced with.

    1. Oregoncharles

      My mother, 95, put herself on hospice when she was diagnosed with heart failure, mainly, I think, to enforce her end-of-life instructions. They eventually threw her off because she got better – her medications were corrected.
      2 years later, she’s still doing very well.
      I do have experience with hospice locally; they’re wonderful.

  20. Oregoncharles

    About Ebola, from the NEJM article:
    ” the only identified Asian species, Reston ebolavirus, seems to cause asymptomatic infection in humans.” Yes, I read about that years ago.
    ISN’T THAT A VACCINE? Or does it not protect against the African ones?
    This seems awfully obvious, and I’m certainly not an expert, but this sounds just like cowpox – the vaccine for smallpox.

    1. financial matters

      It’s possible but DNA viruses like smallpox tend to be more stable so if you find something that works it tends to work for a long time. RNA viruses like influenza, HIV, ebola tend to be ‘sloppier’ reproducers and make more ‘mistakes’ leading to changing targets for therapy. I tend to see some useful method to this madness (from the virus’s standpoint) rather than sloppiness but at any rate the targets keep changing. Similar to how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics.

  21. financial matters

    This looks like an interesting new book by Gar Alperovitz which emphasizes various types of co-ops and worker owned businesses…

    ‘What Then Must We Do?, Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, Democratizing wealth and building a community-sustaining economy from the ground up’ by Gar Alperovitz (2013)

    “By emphasizing social as well as financial outcomes, democratizing ownership solves problems that can’t be solved in other ways — especially gentrification pressures.”

      1. craazyboy

        So far a Pentagon spokesman has denied the bombing, but it wouldn’t be news if nobody denied it. [That makes no sense] However, in an unusual twist, our allies, the Kurds, support the bombing story. Furthermore, ISIS seems to be trying to exterminate 50,000 seemingly innocent Kurds on a mountaintop, which is a nasty thing to do.

        So the Pentagon seems to be denying they are bombing bad guys.

        Earlier today Obama said to the press he was considering dropping food on the mountaintop, OR bombing ISIS.

        Surely this story will develop as we go along.

        1. MtnLife

          Maybe taking the Mosul Dam was crossing our invisible, unspoken, dotted red line in the sand that would trigger a response by *someone*. If no one is taking credit does that mean it was the Israelis?

          1. craazyboy

            I’m still putting together my Q Cards for this one. If I were an important person someone would have given me an aid or two and she woulda had all this all typed up already.

            So far I got:

            ISIS = Sunni = Sadam’s Republican Guard = NOT Arab Sunni
            Islamic State = North Iraq = Some Kurd Territory
            Calephate = New World Order = Could Be Anywhere

            So, yes, the Kurds ran from ISIS up the mountaintop while ISIS took over the dam.

            It’s above my security clearance to know about redlines, whom maintains them, and what Israel is doing.

            To be on the safe side, I’d say the Palestinians are shooting rockets at the Caliphate in support of their Kurdish brethren, if brethren has some meaningful translation to whatever they talk over there.

            But don’t quote me on that. I don’t want to start any irresponsible rumors.

    1. hunkerdown

      Is it payback for Feinstein (and her real-estate magnate husband) having the temerity to question the deep state, or is there actually an engine in the people’s soapbox racer this time?

        1. hunkerdown

          Of course that’s why GS was involved. But the timing of the bombshell seems a little coincidental. Is it organic or factory-farmed? Not that DiFi resigning in disgrace and/or handcuffs would be the worst possible outcome, by whatever means that comes to pass.

  22. ewmayer

    Re. Intergenerational fairness improved by fiscal deficits – more “deficits don’t matter” claptrap, featuring howlers like this:

    “Every generation chooses its own tax rates.”

    No mention of whether there might be any practical constraints whatsoever on those choices, based on debt loads, or whether fiat-issuing governments really can print as much as they like without adverse consequences, in perpetuity.

    Note that unlike the author, I believe the total public+private debt is the truly crucial measure here – look at 1929 (sky-high private debts, “which msde the 1920s such a roaring decade”, but low govt debt) and post-WW2 (high govt debt, but low private debt as a result of 15 years of private-sector deleveraging and savings-oriented austerity) for 2 classic examples of this. That sum went down little or not at all in the wake of the GFC, and has been climbing ever aince.

    Lastly, the author makes no connection between the most anemic recovery ever and whether ongoing sky-high private debt loads might have anything to do with that. The insolvent TBTF banks got to transfer much of their unpayable debt to the government’s balance sheet, alas no such ‘luck’ for the hoi polloi.

      1. ewmayer

        True, but in common usage when the phrase is imported into another language it is often treated as a kind of single “grouped loanword”.

        If you’ve ever used, e.g., “the alcohol” — you have no right to complain about definitive articles here. :)

        I’ll go with modern english usage of foreign-language loanwords for $1000, Alex:

        Some linguistic prescriptivists and students of ancient Greek argue that, given that hoi is a definite article, the phrase “the hoi polloi” is redundant, akin to saying “the the masses”. Others argue that this is inconsistent with other English loanwords. The word “alcohol”, for instance, derives from the Arabic al-kuhl, al being an article, yet “the alcohol” is universally accepted as good grammar; relevant differences, however, are that a) hoi polloi is transliterated but otherwise unmodified, whereas alcohol is altered in both pronunciation and associated spelling to form an independent word, and b) hoi polloi is left standing as a multiple-word phrase, with one word devoted exclusively to the function of the definite article, whereas in alcohol the grammatical particle serving as an article is assimilated into the (heavily modified) word.[10]

        Even though hoi polloi is written in original 2-word fashion, my personal convention is to treat it as a “grouped loanword.” Your convention clearly differs, but just as clearly this is not a settled issue of grammar.

        A better example of Arabic “al” used both in non-contracted form and with a redundant “the” would be a phrase like the Al Qaeda splinter cell or the Al Arabiya offices.

  23. optimader

    “TEPCO: Nearly all nuclear fuel melted at Fukushima No. 3 reactor”

    Breaking news direct from the Tepco pony express station.

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