Wednesday, 27 August 2014

El Niño development remains possible and other news and views for Wednesday 27 August

27-08-2014 elninowatch
  • Little change in the tropical Pacific Ocean – “Despite tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures remaining at neutral levels, models suggest El Niño development remains possible during the coming months.”
  • Regulation gets real for virtual currencies – “Both the EU and New York are looking to bring digital currencies under a full regulatory regime, but their approaches are rather different.” (The Banker – registration required)
  • France and the shadow of the euro – “The fear stalking the eurozone is of a jobless recovery; years of stagnation which will test social cohesion. What the French crisis has underlined is that the eurozone, despite all the claims of recovery, still has the potential to trouble governments, banks and the wider European economy.”
  • A New Reason to Question the Official Unemployment Rate - “Americans are less willing to respond to surveys than they used to be. A new academic paper suggests that the unemployment rate appears to have become less accurate over the last two decades, in part because of this rise in nonresponse.”
  • Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula?
  • News on social media suffers a ‘spiral of silence’: Pew study – “If social media users think their followers don’t share their opinion on the news, they are less likely to post those views on Facebook and Twitter, according to a new Pew Research Center report. … The authors connect these findings to the ‘spiral of silence,’ a phenomenon where people who think they hold a minority opinion don’t speak up for fear of social exclusion. “One of the possible theories [for this study] is that when people see diversity in opinion, they don’t want to challenge other people, or upset them, or risk losing a friendship,” said Keith Hampton of Rutgers University, one of the study’s authors, in a telephone interview. For the authors, the study implies that the long-documented suppression of minority opinion exists online just as in real life.”
  • We’re Living in a Golden Age of Investigative Journalism – “Newspapers in America may be closing up shop, but muckrakers around the world are holding corrupt officials and corporate cronies accountable like never before.”
27-08-2014 marriage
  • Couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence – “A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo finds a significantly lower incidence of domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot. “Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV [intimate partner violence] perpetration,” the study concludes.”

Superannuation ticket clippers

Instead of all that boring stuff about will the Senate or won’t it, this is the story that should be on page one this morning:
Australian Super chief executive Ian Silk raises an issue of importance to all Australians forced to contribute to compulsory superannuation schemes. Too many people working in financial services, Mr Silk points out, are using the compulsory retirement savings system to enrich themselves rather than look after members’ money.
This is an issue that Labor should be making central to its re-election policies.
NOTE: Find an assortment of other ticket clipping stories about the finance industry HERE.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Rave on to get a vote

Well, when you are lagging along with less thsn 3% in the opinion polls I suppose you have to try something different. So why not a a rave party to disguise a policy speech? That’s the campaign technique of the Manu Internet Party in New Zealand as the 30 September election day approaches.
Now under the New Zealand electoral system the Internet Mana have to get to 5% of the national vote to gain seats unless they can win one of the single member electorates so there is some way to go from the 2.5% that the latest Morgan Poll gave them. But the Mana part of their organisation currently has a seat that could be retained which would put them in the race for a few more and, who knows, even the kingmaker position.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning (behind a paywall) that the Internet Party’s flagship policy is to deliver ultrafast, cheaper web connections with greater freedom and privacy.
The combination has the potential to mobilise young people who wouldn’t normally vote, said former Labour Party president Mike Williams. ‘‘ It could change the outcome of the election.’’
Mr Dotcom* has named Laila Harre, a cabinet minister in a former Labour- led government, to head the Internet Party and is holding dance raves across the nation to capture the youth vote.
Internet Mana doubled its support to 4 per cent in a recent poll. Labour was on 26 per cent, the Greens 11 per cent and Mr Key’s National had 50 per cent. No party has won an outright majority since New Zealand introduced proportional representation in 1996.
Mr Dotcom is exploiting a quirk in the system to better his chances. Parties need 5 per cent of the vote to get into Parliament unless they win an electorate. In that scenario, their slice of the national vote determines how many seats they get.
*Wikipedia describes Mr Dotcom thus:
Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz; 21 January 1974), also known as Kimble and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, is a German-Finnish Internet entrepreneur, businessman, singer, and political party founder currently residing in New Zealand. He is the founder of file hosting service Mega as well as its now defunct predecessor Megaupload. In politics he is the founder, main funder, and “party visionary” of New Zealand’s Internet Party.
He rose to fame in Germany in the 1990s as an alleged hacker and internet entrepreneur. He was convicted of several crimes, and received a suspended prison sentence in 1994 for computer fraud and data espionage, and another suspended prison sentence in 2003 for insider trading and embezzlement.
In January 2012, the New Zealand Police placed him in custody in response to US charges of criminal copyright infringement in relation to his Megaupload website. Dotcom was accused of costing the entertainment industry $500 million through pirated content uploaded to his file-sharing site, which had 150 million registered users. Dotcom has vigorously denied the charges, and is fighting the attempt to extradite him to the United States. Despite legal action still pending over Megaupload, Mega launched in January 2013, opening to the public exactly one year after Megaupload was shut down. It is a cloud storageservice that uses encryption to prevent government or third-party “spies” from invading users’ privacy.

A debate ends and the voting in Scotland begins

The media consensus and the instant finding of the pollsters was that the Yes case for Scottish independence had the best of the debate last night which preceded the beginning of pre-poll voting for the referendum. But will it actually mean anything?
26-08-2014 scottishpapersondebateNot if the Owl’s election indicator is any guide. The No vote is a firmer favourite today than it was a week ago.
Voting day proper for the referendum is Thursday 18 September.
Note: The Owl backed the No vote at $1.23 and then again at $1.30. You will find details of all his political bets at the political speculator’s diary.

Mixed messages to welcome the August budget

Everything old is new again. It has taken 20 years but federal Parliament is back for an August budget session. It’s as if Ralph Willis had never started that funny May business. And this time we don’t need one of those ridiculous budget lockups to keep us in suspense about what’s in-store. This time the negotiations about what’s in and what’s out are being played out in public and we are still none the wiser about the economic outcome.
What fun it is to have a proper minority government. Not like that last one where Labor, the Greens and a couple of independents stitched things up in private before hand. This Liberal-National coalition is letting us see the legislative sausage machine at work with all the crude ingredients that a Palmer United Party can throw in. Parliament, or at least the Senate half of it, is really relevant again.
The government is doing its best to spice things up as well. We go from a looming budget crisis to being relaxed and comfortable about the inevitable outcome. The Education Minister Christopher Pyne threatens one day to cut research funding for universities so the Prime Minister can assure us the next about the vital importance of university based research to the nation’s future.
And as if that mixed message was  not enough for the start of  a budget session, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann this morning was still preaching his fears of having to raise taxes while Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that his government would be reducing taxes not putting them up.
You wouldn’t miss this budget for quids.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The political disappearance of the garden gnomes and other news and views for Monday 25 August

  • Soon, Europe Might Not Need Any Power Plants –  “Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe. That’s the word from investment bank UBS, which just released a new report anticipating a three pronged assault from solar power, battery technology, and electric vehicles that will render obsolete traditional power generation by large utilities that rely on coal or natural gas.”
  • TV Habits? Medical History? Tests for Jury Duty Get Personal – “Jury questionnaires have become a familiar presence in courtrooms across the United States, with some lawyers routinely requesting them in major cases — transforming the standard voir dire procedure into a written test.”
  • Inside Clive Palmer’s inner circle – “Palmer does have a string of close associates who he uses as sounding boards for his ­political and business strategies. Of course, whether he takes their advice on board is an entirely ­different matter.”
  • The Irish Redhead Convention takes place in County Cork
  • Austrian party rues disappearance of 400 garden gnomes – “Four hundred garden gnomes have gone missing in Vorarlberg in west Austria. The gnomes, known as “Coolmen”, are the property of the left wing Social Democrat Party. They were being used as political campaign advertisements in the run up to provincial elections in Vorarlberg on 21 September.”
  • Andrew Forrest, the founder of Fortescue Metals Group - The Financial Times’ Monday interview – “No one can accuse Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest of lacking big ideas or being slow to bring them to fruition.”

Would you like your rat roasted or stewed?

BBC News - Cambodian rat meat: A growing export market:
"A unique harvest is under way in the rice fields of Cambodia where tens of thousands of wild rats are being trapped alive each day to feed a growing export market for the meat of rural rodents.
 Popularly considered a disease-carrying nuisance in many societies, the rice field rats, Rattus argentiventer, of this small South-East Asian nation are considered a healthy delicacy due to their free-range lifestyle and largely organic diet.
 Rat-catching season reaches its height after the rice harvest in June and July when rats have little to eat in this part of rural Kompong Cham province, some 60km from the capital Phnom Penh. "
'via Blog this'