Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology takes a low-key approach to a likely El Nino and higher world temperatures

There's one thng we can say about the Australian Burreau of Meteorology these days. When it comes to anything to do with global warming thry are very cautious forecasters,
This week the BOM updated its ENSO Wrap-Up on the current state of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and noted that all eight of the surveyed international climate models indicate the central Pacific Ocean will warm further during the coming months. That's as strong a pointer as you an get that an El Niño is on the way bringing with it higher than normal world emperatures.
(click to enlarge)

But there was no exagerrating from the BOM - a body that is well aware of the skepticism of its political masters about such global warmng matters. Just a note that "it is too early to determine with confidence how strong this potential El Niño could be. Model outlooks spanning February to May (the traditional ENSO transition period) have lower confidence than forecasts made at other times of year."
So the ENSO Tracker remains at El Niño ALERT. This means the likelihood of El Niño developing in 2015 is around 70%, which is three times the normal likelihood.


In praise of Alan Jones

Political speech for most people can be expensive rather than free. Australia's defamation laws make it so. And it's not even a matter of losing a court case at the end. Even for winners the costs of lawyers along the way are crippling. The system is stacked against any person trying to expose what they consider to be impropriety.
So thank goodness for public figures like broadcaster Alan Jones. Call him a shock-jock if you will but he is one of the few media commentators well paid enough to say what he thinks despite the attempts by politicians to silence him with legal actions.
Some times Jones pays a high price for his outspokenness. Damages payments can be expensive. But that does not stop him from keeping on speaking out. As he did during the last Queensland state election when he relentlessly kept pursuing Liberal National Premier Campbell Newman and state Treasurer Jeff Seeney by suggesting they “prostituted” themselves in support of an LNP donor’s controversial coal mine.
Jones ignored the legal stop writs and kept on campaigning. After receiving the legal notices he commented that it was “nice to hear from you, Mr Newman”.
“You remain a bit of a political novice if you think that’s the way to win an election or to silence people, you need to actually think again, but thanks for writing,”

So how good to read today that calling the bluff of Messrs Newman and Seeney worked. The pair of defeated politicians today withdrew their lawsuit. I can only hope that they will have to pay a sizeable amout to cover the broadcaster's legal costs

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Will Pope Francis make climate change an issue for Tony Abbott?

  • Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm  – Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far. But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cause they do not believe in.

  • Obama Finally Gets Angry At Climate Science Deniers And It’s Hilarious b- President Barack Obama just gave pitch-perfect delivery to one of the most brilliant pieces of writing on climate change you are ever going to see. At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night in DC, Obama used devastating humor to express rare passion and anger over climate science denial.
  • U.S., Japan unveil new defense guidelines for global Japanese role
  • Waiting for the fallout: Australia and return of the patrimonial society – So, Australians have no room for complacency. In an economy dominated by capital, and in the absence of estate taxation—briefly discussed, and quickly dismissed, in the recent Treasury tax discussion paper (Treasury 2015)—there is little to stop the current drift towards a more unequal society from continuing and even accelerating. On the other hand, Australia’s relative success in using the tax and welfare systems to spread the benefits of economic growth provides grounds for optimism. Australia’s experience belies the claim that any attempt to offset the growth of inequality must cripple economic growth.
  • Gay Liberal senator Dean Smith slams Tanya Plibersek over gay marriage move – Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has “wrecked” progress within the Liberal Party towards a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, the Liberal Party’s first openly gay federal parliamentarian says.
  • How Thatcher and Murdoch made their secret deal – In 1981, Mrs Thatcher needed a boost from the press. By supporting Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the Times and Sunday Times, she made sure she got it. Harold Evans, who led an unsuccessful staff takeover bid, recalls a historic carve-up.
  • Elections are now about digital loathing, not what the newspapers say – Wade through the digital comment at the bottom of so many election pieces and you stumble into web swamps heaving with hate. … Apparently today’s version of democratic freedom means avoiding reading something you don’t agree with.
  • “Smaller and simpler” mantra rings through banking boardrooms – Deutsche Bank’s plan to jettison much of its German retail bank and withdraw from one in ten countries sees it join a growing list of banks choosing to shrink and simplify to survive. The benefits of size and reach, for years considered the holy grail of global banking, are now viewed as being outweighed by the cost and complexity of running businesses across dozens of countries. Many bank bosses have given up on trying to offer everything to everyone. But as unwinding years of expansion proves difficult, pressure for action has intensified, from politicians who show little patience with institutions they consider too big and complex and investors wanting more return on equity
  • Could a Carbon Tax Finance Corporate Rate Cuts? – How about using revenue from a carbon tax to help pay for corporate tax rate cuts? That’s the idea proposed yesterday by Rep. John Delaney (D-MD). His political calculation: Democrats would back the bill as a way to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. Republicans would support the plan to cut corporate tax rates while retaining at least some popular business tax subsidies. Delaney would use revenues from a $30-per-ton carbon tax to cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Some of the cash would also provide a tax credit to reduce the burden of the energy tax on low- and moderate-income households. Still other dollars would help coal industry workers who would likely lose jobs as a result of such a tax.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The world-wide growth in house prices

  • Since 1900 house prices in advanced economies have increased threefole. The overwhelming hare of this increase occurred  in the second half of the 20th century.
    Since 1900 house prices in advanced economies have increased threefole. The overwhelming hare of this increase occurred in the second half of the 20th century.
    house prices australia
    No price like home: Global house prices 1870-2012 – How have house prices evolved over the long‐run? This paper presents annual house prices for 14 advanced economies since 1870. Based on extensive data collection, we show that real house prices stayed constant from the 19th to the mid‐20th century, but rose strongly during the second half of the 20th century. Land prices, not replacement costs, are the key to understanding the trajectory of house prices. Rising land prices explain about 80 percent of the global house price boom that has taken place since World War II. Higher land values have pushed up wealth‐to‐income ratios in recent decades.
  • Nobody Said That – Imagine yourself as a regular commentator on public affairs — maybe a paid pundit, maybe an supposed expert in some area, maybe just an opinionated billionaire. You weigh in on a major policy initiative that’s about to happen, making strong predictions of disaster. … But nothing you predicted actually comes to pass. What do you do? You might admit that you were wrong, and try to figure out why. But almost nobody does that; we live in an age of unacknowledged error. … Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.
  • 8 Obama Jokes That Stood Out From The White House Correspondents Dinner
poetry
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  • Poetry is going extinct, government data show
  • Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless
  • Can we predict happiness? – What makes us happy? Well-being researchers have identified many variables related to happiness, but we still don’t know exactly how the events of our daily lives combine to influence how we feel from moment to moment. People should get happier when good things happen, but clearly this is not the whole story. We designed a study to investigate the relationship between rewards and happiness. We brought people into the lab and asked them repeatedly about their happiness as they chose between safe and risky monetary options. Risky choices were gambles with equal probabilities (like a coin toss) of a better or worse outcome. If they chose to gamble on a given trial, they then found out whether they won or lost. Based on the data, we developed a mathematical equation to predict how self-reported happiness depends on past events. We found that happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going better or worse than expected.
    Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).
    Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).

Sunday, 26 April 2015

PJ O’Rourke tries to make sense of the UK election

o'rourke
  • "PJ O'Rourke on the UK Campaign Trail" - In this year’s British general election the traditional two party system looks set to be blown apart with up to seven parties having a say in the result. It could be most interesting campaign in decades but it could also be the weirdest. PJ O’Rourke travels across Britain trying to work out why party politics in the UK is being shaken up. From the Tory heartlands of the South that do not seem that keen on the Tories any more to Labour’s battle for Scotland, PJ meets politicians, pundits and the voters, to find out what it takes to get elected to the mother of Parliaments in 2015.
  • Republicans want a bumper sticker world - The case for Mr Obama is that in seeking to deploy economic and diplomatic power, and to leverage US influence through multinational coalitions, he has recognised the complexities of this new landscape. The case against is that he has sometimes gone too far in drawing the limits of US power. What has been missing is an overarching framework — a set of principles clear and practical enough to deter adversaries and to reassure allies. A grand strategy, in other words, that balances ambition and realism. Republicans used to have a reputation for such thinking. Now they prefer bumper stickers.
  • Humans aren’t the only ones to genetically modify crops. Nature does, too. - Now, as a new study shows, horizontal gene transfer in nature has likely modified some of the very crops we eat without any human input at all. Nearly 300 samples of human-grown sweet potatoes, as well as some wild ones, contain bits of DNA originally found in some of the very bacteria that inspired genetic modification, researchers reported this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their findings suggest we might rethink how “unnatural” GMOs really are.
  • Oklahomans Feel Way More Earthquakes Than Californians; Now They Know Why - A magnitude-3.0 earthquake is small, but most people can feel it. Historically, Oklahoma got less than two of those a year, but in 2013 it became two a week. It's only gotten more active since then — last year, the state had three times as many earthquakes as in the entire seismically active state of California. This morning, the U.S. Geological Survey will issue its first comprehensive assessment of the hazard posed by earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling. In the preliminary report, the survey details oil and gas-related quakes in eight states. The earthquake surge is strongest in Oklahoma, where the state government has formally acknowledged the link for the first time earlier this week.
  • The Fight Over Canada’s Patriot Act - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has introduced an ambitious and unpopular intelligence reform agenda. Can anyone stop it?
  • The United States Does Not Know Who It’s Killing - A remorseful acknowledgment of the drone deaths of American civilians is not an acceptable answer for a counterterrorism policy out of control.
  • Europe’s asylum seekers and the global refugee challenge - The human tragedy of thousands of asylum seekers floundering—and dying—in the Mediterranean highlights an unprecedented global challenge for the 21st century. ... We should by all means tackle this human tragedy and end the horrors being witnessed in the Mediterranean. But we should also recognize that the global problem is getting worse as the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere continue, and people are displaced, killed, and maimed every day. Closing doors and building fences work in very limited ways. Refugees can have an impact on whole societies and regions decades after the tragedies that led to their displacement. Just as we are doing with climate change and global epidemics, it’s time for a global response to the refugee crisis—before it further destabilizes an already fragile global order.
  • 'Eight officers stormed into my bedroom shouting Met Police': Reporter's three-year ordeal 'for writing story about a fox'
  • Can we finally stop worrying about the humpback whale? Not so fast, say experts - On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a proposal that would divide the whale into 14 distinct population segments, instead of one large population, and would remove federal protection from 10 of the segments. Of the remaining four population segments, two would keep their endangered status and two would be relisted as threatened.

Thoughts of a politician on the paleo diet

From the daily email news summary of The New York Times:

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Thoughts on the UK election and links to other interesting news and views

  • UK election: Who will run Britain? – The polls have been static for weeks, with the Conservative and Labour parties stuck on roughly 34 per cent each. So the real drama is likely to take place after 10pm on polling day, as David Cameron, the Tory prime minister, and Ed Miliband, his Labour rival, try to claw their way to power. The bookmakers name Mr Cameron favourite to win most seats in the House of Commons, but expect him to fall short of an outright majority. They reckon Mr Miliband is most likely to be Britain’s next prime minister.
  • Politics and the Australian language – Sexism, plain talking (when it suits them) and obfuscating euphemism: politicians down under abuse language, too
  • Republicans want a bumper sticker world – The case for Mr Obama is that in seeking to deploy economic and diplomatic power, and to leverage US influence through multinational coalitions, he has recognised the complexities of this new landscape. The case against is that he has sometimes gone too far in drawing the limits of US power. What has been missing is an overarching framework — a set of principles clear and practical enough to deter adversaries and to reassure allies. A grand strategy, in other words, that balances ambition and realism. Republicans used to have a reputation for such thinking. Now they prefer bumper stickers.
  • Oklahomans Feel Way More Earthquakes Than Californians; Now They Know Why – A magnitude-3.0 earthquake is small, but most people can feel it. Historically, Oklahoma got less than two of those a year, but in 2013 it became two a week. It’s only gotten more active since then — last year, the state had three times as many earthquakes as in the entire seismically active state of California. This morning, the U.S. Geological Survey will issue its first comprehensive assessment of the hazard posed by earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling. In the preliminary report, the survey details oil and gas-related quakes in eight states. The earthquake surge is strongest in Oklahoma, where the state government has formally acknowledged the link for the first time earlier this week.
  • Clinton Rules – So there’s a lot of buzz about alleged scandals involving the Clinton Foundation. Maybe there’s something to it. But you have to wonder: is this just the return of “Clinton rules”?

Friday, 24 April 2015

Dealing with picky eaters in the French way


Eat Up. You’ll Be Happier. - NYTimes.com:
"Our increasingly choosy food habits are the subject of a French collection of academic essays, “Selective Eating: The Rise, Meaning and Sense of Personal Dietary Requirements,” which will be published in English next week.
The editor, Claude Fischler, a social anthropologist, chose the topic after discovering that even anthropologists aren’t exempt: An Australian colleague said she had asked her Aboriginal subjects to accommodate her gluten-free diet, followed by choice, not by medical necessity.
Having lived in America and France, I’ve been on both sides of the picky-eating divide. I know it’s tiresome to hear about the paradoxically fabulous French eating habits. But it’s no accident that Unesco made the French gastronomic meal part of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It’s worth looking at how they cope with picky eaters."

'via Blog this'

Death penalty to follow departure of world leaders

The ending of a Jakarta conference attended by the leaders of 22 countries apparently removes the last major obstacle to the death by firing squad of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. In a front page story today The Jakarta Post reports Indonesian Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Wednesday that all preparations for the executions were in place. “We are prepared, so we can decide on a date any time,” he told the House of Representatives.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Murdoch loses his cool because The Sun not attacking Labour vigorously enough

murdoch loses his cook
  • Rupert Murdoch, fearing company’s future, told Sun journalists to get ‘act together’ on Labour coverage - The News Corp chairman –  who owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – visited London at the end of February, and reportedly warned journalists on his tabloid newspaper of the threat a Labour government would have on the company. Last week, in its manifesto, Labour pledged to ensure that no “one media owner should be able to exert undue influence on public opinion and policy makers”. It said: “No media company should have so much power that those who run it believe themselves above the rule of law.” This appears to be a reference to the News UK (the UK’s biggest national newspaper publisher) and the hacking scandal. The Independent reports this morning that the News Corp boss, who has made no secret of his dislike of the Labour leader, told the editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, that he expected the paper to be much sharper in its attacks on Labour.
    the asun n milliband k.itchensA hint of his frustration was evident on Twitter when the News Corp bosswrote: “Cameron’s Tories bash vulnerable Miliband for months with no effect on polls. Need new aspirational policies to have any hope of winning.”
    Two days after Mr Murdoch’s visit the paper devoted a two-page spread to the election – with the left-hand page containing a 10-point “pledge” to voters written by David Cameron. The right-hand side of the spread was an attack on Ed Balls under the headline: “I ruined your pensions, I sold off our gold, I helped wreck [the] economy, Now I’m going to put up your taxes.”
    It is understood that Mr Murdoch reminded executives that Labour would try to break up News UK, which owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. The party has suggested that no owner should be allowed to control more than 34 per cent of the UK media, a cap which would force News UK to sell one of the titles.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded

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  • New Report: March 2015 Easily Set The Record For Hottest March Ever Recorded - This was easily the hottest March — and hottest January-to-March — on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’slatest monthly report ... :
  • March 2015 was not only the hottest March in their 135-year of keeping records, it beat “the previous record of 2010 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).”
  • January-to-March was not only the hottest start to any year on record, it also beat “the previous record of 2002 by 0.09°F.”
    March was so warm that only two other months ever had a higher “departure from average” (i.e. temperature above the norm), February 1998 and January 2007, and they only beat March by “just 0.01°C (0.02°F).”
    Arctic sea ice hit its smallest March extent since records began in 1979.
    Last week, NASA also reported this was the hottest three-month start of any year on record. In NASA’s database, though, this was the third warmest March on record. It was the warmest in the dataset of the Japan Meteorological Agency. These three agencies use slightly different methods for tracking global temperature, so their monthly and yearly rankings differ slightly, even as they all show the same long-term trend driven by carbon pollution.
  • Up to 1m migrants waiting to enter Europe, warns Italian prosecutor
  • Conservative Election Manifesto by Robert Skidelsky - The Conservatives have continued to spin their familiar yarn of having rescued Britain from ‘Labour’s Great Recession’. This, as they must know, is the mother of all lies. The Great Recession was caused by the banks. Governments, the Labour government included, by bailing out the banks and continuing to spend, stopped the Great Recession from turning into a Great Depression. Yet practically everyone seems to believe that the Great Recession was manufactured by Gordon Brown.albrechtsen2
  • Fun times over for power-hungry ICAC - ICAC has unwittingly delivered a model case study of the perverted influence of power within a body charged with hunting down systemic corruption. After being told by Australia’s highest court that you have acted outside your jurisdiction, the normal response is to immediately acknowledge your error, accept it and learn from it. In ICAC’s case, that means returning to its legislative role of investigating serious and systemic public corruption. Instead, this star chamber seems to think it’s part of some kind of tin-pot dictatorship where it can expect government cronies to bolster its power. In its statement, ICAC demanded the NSW government retrospectively amend the ICAC Act to reflect the way ICAC has always operated. Even a first-year law student knows the most basic principle of the rule of law is that laws should be prospective, not retrospective.
  • France’s ‘Pathetic Reality Family Show - Marine Le Pen is betting that this is the far-right National Front's moment to triumph. But will a feud among the founding family tear the party apart?
  • Why are politicians still referring to marijuana as a gateway drug?

    With states legalizing marijuana by popular vote, some politicians, including Boston mayor Marty Walsh and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, are still calling marijuana a gateway drug.
    The gateway theory argues that because heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine users often used marijuana before graduating to harder drugs, it must be a “gateway” to harder drug use. The theory implies that there is a casual mechanism that biologically sensitizes drug users, making them more willing to try – and more desirous of – harder drugs.
    Yet the gateway hypothesis doesn’t make sense to those who use marijuana or have used in the past. Research shows that the vast majority of marijuana users do not go on to use hard drugs. Most stop using after entering the adult social world of family and work.
    So why is it still part of the rhetoric and controversy surrounding the drug? A closer look reveals the historical roots – and vested interests – that are keeping the myth alive.

    Explaining hard drug use

    When analyzing what acts as a “gateway” to hard drug use, there are a number of factors at play. None involve marijuana.
    With so much research challenging the gateway theory, it’s important to examine – and dispel – the research that proponents of the myth latch onto.

    But what about all that evidence?

    Most of the research linking marijuana to harder drug use comes from the correlation between the two. However, as any junior scientist can tell you, correlation does not mean causation.
    Correlation is a first step. A correlation can be positive or negative; it can be weak or strong. And it never means a cause unless a rational reason for causality is found.
    The brain disease model, which describes changes in the brain during the progression from drug use to addiction, currently gets a lot of attention as an potential causal link of the gateway theory. For example, in a 2014 article, neuroscientist Dr Jodi Gilman reported that even a little marijuana use was associated with “exposure-dependent alterations of the neural matrix of core reward systems” in the brains of young marijuana users. The reasoning goes that this would predispose them to use other drugs.
    But other researchers were quick to point out the flaws of the Gilman study, such as a lack of careful controls for alcohol and other drug use by those whose brains were studied. Nonetheless, Dr Gilman’s research continues to be cited in the news media, while its critics are ignored.
    In another study supporting the gateway theory, the authors admit to limitations in their study: that they excluded younger cocaine users from the analysis, as well as older cocaine users who had never used marijuana. This means that those cases that might provide evidence of no gateway effect were left out of the analysis.
    One the other hand, there’s a wealth of research showing the flaws in the gateway theory. Unfortunately, the common thread among these studies is that much of them come from outside the US or from grass-roots organizations within the US that are promoting marijuana legalization.

    A myth ingrained in politics, perpetuated through policy

    So why is it that most of the funded research pointing out flaws in the gateway theory comes from overseas?


    Harry Anslinger, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
    Wikimedia Commons
    As Nathan Greenslit explained in an Atlantic article last year, US drug policy began with racist fear-mongering by Federal Bureau of Narcotics director Harry Anslinger in 1937.
    The Nixon administration strengthened drug control with the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, against the advice of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse.
    Because marijuana is still officially classified in the US as a Schedule I drug with no medical value, carefully controlled research using marijuana must receive approval from several federal departments. On the rare occasions that researchers do get approval, local politics can thwart the study.
    Meanwhile, in the United States, addiction researchers and addiction treatment professionals are heavily invested in the weakly supported claim that marijuana is a gateway to hard drugs. For decades, scientists who study addiction have received millions in government and pharmaceutical funding to perpetuate the gateway hypothesis. Many would lose their respected reputations (or continued funding) if a gateway mechanism is not a legitimate research goal.
    Those who work in the vast addiction treatment profession are especially invested in keeping the gateway theory believable, since the majority of their treatment patients are marijuana users. Their jobs depend on a belief in addiction as a disease and on marijuana being an addictive drug.

    Scare tactics

    Today, what started as scare tactics under Anslinger has been “modernizied” (and mystified) by scientific jargon.
    Sociologists Craig Reinarman and Harry G Levine described how the media and politicians manufacture drug scares to influence policy. One fear perpetuated is that marijuana use will increase if decriminalized.
    But a 2004 study compared Amsterdam, where marijuana was decriminalized, to San Francisco, where cannabis was, at the time, still criminalized. The authors found that criminalization of marijuana didn’t reduce use, while decriminalization didn’t increase use.
    The gateway fear has focused mostly on youth. For example, newly-elected Maryland governor Larry Hogan announced that he is against legalization partly out of concern that “marijuana use would increase among young people.” Meanwhile, parents are concerned by recent research showing marijuana’s effect on the brain.
    These studies showed structural changes and loss of white matter in marijuana users, although the limitations of these studies and implications were questioned by other research.
    But fears of decriminalization resulting in increased use among youth haven’t been supported byresearch from countries where drugs were decriminalized. Nor has this trend been noted in studiesof US states that legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. For example, in an article published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the authors found no evidence that young people had increased marijuana use in states that had legalized medical or recreational marijuana.
    The worst impact on kids, according to these authors, was the potential for criminal prosecution.

    A gateway to jail

    Studies consistently find that the traumatic experience of being arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession is the most harmful aspect of marijuana among young people. Arrest for possession can result in devastating – often permanent – legal and social problems, especially for minority youth and low-income families.


    Getting arrested can be a traumatic experience for young people.
    ‘Cuffs’ via www.shutterstock.com
    According to studies by the ACLU, nearly half of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession, and the majority of those arrested were African American. In some states, African Americans were more than eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.
    Unfortunately, marijuana legalization has not changed arrests and incarceration disparities for minorities. While African Americans have always been over-represented for drug arrests and incarceration, new research shows African Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession after marijuana reform than all other races were before marijuana policy reform. Although in some states, decriminalization makes possession a “noncriminal” offense, it can still be illegal and can result in an arrest, court appearance and stiff fines.

    Marijuana as a gateway – out of hard drugs

    On the periphery of the marijuana-as-gateway-drug debates are studies showing marijuana asbeneficial for the treatment of opiate addicts.
    These have been largely ignored. However, now that marijuana has become legal for medical purposes in some states, new research offers substantial findings that can’t be dismissed.
    Crime has not increased in states that have legalized marijuana; it’s actually gone down. Surprisingly, opiate overdose deaths have gone down as well.
    As I’ve written previously for The Conversation, anyone who actually talks with problem drug users (and doesn’t simply talk about them) knows that marijuana can help drug users prevent, control – even stop – hard drug use.
    If anything, marijuana can work as a gateway out of hard drug use – an exit strategy that needs to be studied and, possibly, implemented at the policy level.
    It’s time to move beyond marijuana as a gateway drug and start to study its use as treatment for the deadly, addictive and socially devastating drugs.
    The Conversation
    This article was originally published on The Conversation.
    Read the original article.

    Monday, 20 April 2015

    Assaults on Jews rose in 2014

    cartoons
    • Tel Aviv University says violent anti-Semitic attacks spiked in 2014 – An annual report from Tel Aviv University researchers reveals that anti-Semitic incidents rose dramatically worldwide in 2014, with violent attacks on Jews ranging from armed assaults to vandalism against synagogues, schools, and cemeteries.
    • The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State – An Iraqi officer planned Islamic State’s takeover in Syria and SPIEGEL has been given exclusive access to his papers. They portray an organization that, while seemingly driven by religious fanaticism, is actually coldly calculating.
    • Greece Flashes Warning Signals About Its Debt – That Athens might still be exploring ways to restructure its debt underscores how close the country is to defaulting.
    • Greece short-term bond yields hit another high
    • KFC’s new ad sees the peddler of peppered poultry sink to new lows – Few would have thought it possible for KFC to come up with something even more monstrously unspeakable than popcorn chicken, but it’s managed it. The chain is now using orphans to flog its food.
    • The marriage calculus – Women with money and education tend to get and stay married in America. Why don’t working-class women do the same?
    • Why Kill Charlie? – [Slain editor, Stéphane Charbonnier – “Charb”] Charb’s choice of symbolism and rhetoric marked him out as a distinctly old-fashioned leftist – of the kind which has no hang-ups about hurting other people’s feelings and whose instinctive reaction to fascism is to oppose it without equivocation. It also shows that he too had a sense of being embroiled in a “grande bataille” – one that transcended the everyday mediocrity which he scorned in his weekly column entitled “Charb n’aime pas les gens” (Charb doesn’t like people). For Charb the freedom to ridicule was a higher value, beyond normal practical considerations. It was a quasi-religious cause for which he was overtly prepared to sacrifice himself – a show of defiance that is at once inspiring and unnerving. Did he overdo it? Of course he overdid it. Did they have to publish the caricatures? Of course they did not have to publish them. They chose to do so. That is the whole point. Freedom of speech only becomes an issue when others decide to shut you up.
    • Abe breaking arms taboo with Japan’s first defense trade show – Japan will host its first international defense trade show next month, underscoring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bid to loosen the shackles of its postwar pacifist Constitution amid territorial tensions with an increasingly assertive China. … The lifting of the ban on arms exports allows Japan to take part in joint development projects, as well as potentially exporting finished products to bring down unit costs for its military. While talks are underway about a sale of its Soryu submarines to Australia, doubts remain as to the level of success Japan will have in boosting overseas shipments.

    Global military spending decline, a note on Crowding In and the Paradox of Thrift and other interesting bits and pieces

    military spending
    • Snapshots of Global Military Spending – Since the Great Recession hit, global military spending has dropped a bit (as measured in inflation-adjusted dollars).
    • Crowding In and the Paradox of Thrift – From Paul Krugman’s blog: … these days you can pretty much count on the semiannual World Economic Outlook to offer some dramatic new insight into how the world works. And the latest edition is no exception. The big intellectual news here is Chapter 4, on business investment. As the report notes, weak business investment has been a major reason for global economic weakness. But why is business investment weak? … it manages in passing both to refute a very widely held but false belief about deficits and to confirm a highly controversial Keynesian proposition. The false belief is that government deficits necessarily “crowd out” investment, so that reducing deficits should free up funds that lead to higher investment. Not so, says the IMF: when governments introduce deficit-reduction measures, investment falls instead of rising. This says that the deficits were crowding investment in, not out. And there’s another way to look at it: when governments introduce austerity measures, they are trying to reduce their net borrowing – in effect, they are raising their savings rate. What the IMF tells us is that such attempts to increase saving actually lead to lower, not higher, investment – and since saving equals investment, actual savings fall. So what we have here is an empirical confirmation of the existence of the paradox of thrift! Remarkable stuff.
    bouvier's monkey
    • Critically Endangered Monkey Photographed In Congo’s Newest National Park, Ntokou-Pikounda – Two primatologists working in the forests of the Republic of Congo have returned from the field with a noteworthy prize: the first-ever photograph of the Bouvier’s red colobus monkey, a rare primate not seen for more than half a century and suspected to be extinct by some, according to WCS (the Wildlife Conservation Society).
    • Deal Reached on Fast-Track Authority for Obama on Trade Accord – Key congressional leaders agreed on Thursday on legislation to give President Obama special authority to finish negotiating one of the world’s largest trade accords, opening a rare battle that aligns the president with Republicans against a broad coalition of Democrats. In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.
    • Marco Rubio: the 2016 presidential campaign’s $40 million man – “Marco Rubio will have the resources necessary to run a first-class campaign, that’s already been determined,” said billionaire Florida auto dealer Norman Braman, a former Jeb Bush supporter who is now one of Rubio’s highest-silhouette donors.
    • Gazing Into Those Puppy-Dog Eyes May Actually Be Good For You – Gazing into your dog’s eyes apparently triggers happy feelings in both parties – suggesting that dogs really may love us back. … If you’re a dog owner, this question may have crossed your mind. Does she really love me, or is she just looking at me that way to get a treat? New research out this week in the journal Science may provide some clues.
    • What in the world does China own?

    Friday, 17 April 2015

    A renewable energy nightmare

    • American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare – With climate change already contributing to the frequency and intensity of forest fires and associated loss of forest, the addition of a profitable, extensive, and poorly overseen biomass industry could push the forests further into disrepair.
    • Renewable energy – Not a toy – Plummeting prices are boosting renewables, even as subsidies fall
    • Abbott government’s energy white paper fails to face reality – By failing to take global warming seriously, the white paper discourages solar power, encourages doomed coal investment, hobbles the RET, and misses the chance to raise petrol taxes.
    • Bali tourist areas exempt from beer ban – The Trade Ministry’s new regulation on alcoholic beverages, scheduled to take full effect on Thursday, will not be enforced on Bali as the ministry has decided that tourism areas would be exempted from the ban.On Thursday minimarkets, small vendors and beachside beverage vendors across the country were to stop selling beer. Bali administrations, retail associations and vendors had expressed opposition against the beer ban
    • The Jakarta Post | Editorial – Stop drinking? – Simple solutions are appealing, a fact that politicians here and everywhere know well. As such, it has not only been moralists pushing for legal instruments to regulate behavior at the local and national levels. The latest evidence is a bill that seeks to ban liquor, which has received backing from almost all political parties that control the House of Representatives. It is appealing to millions of citizens concerned over violent drunks and long-term excessive consumption of liquor. Though we share the concerns, which, along with smoking, contribute to the ruin of poor families, we oppose the bill, which is driven not only by the Islamist political parties.
    • The Westminster museum of artless bullshit: a look inside the post-debate spin room – Spin doctors scurry around trying to parrot the same scripted observations to as many hacks as possible – frankly, the whole thing is crying out for infiltration by a telly satirist
    choice on anz