Sep 202012
 

Editor’s Note: In the interests of logic and rationality, the editors have changed the structure of the NC OMENS page. The new OMENS list starts above. All the older OMENS are shown below. Nothing is lost (except my mind). The motto of the page remains: A STATISTIC IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS.

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TOLERANCE — In 2005, Parliament passed legislation to make Canada the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Last year, there were 64,575 same-sex couple families, up 42.4 per cent from 2006. Of these couples, 43,560 were common-law couples, while 21,015 were married. By comparison, in 2006 there were 37,900 common-law couples and just 7,500 same-sex married couples. That growth shift – from 7,500 to 21,015 married same sex-couples – is a significant increase over just five years. But Statistics Canada also reveals that despite the change, same-sex married couples represent just 0.3 per cent of all Canadian couples. (National Post)

I KNEW THERE HAD TO BE A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING — Still, mass deaths of humans, as during the Black Plague or the European-induced epidemics that killed off most of the Native Americans, probably caused colder temperatures for a while in the aftermath. (Informed Comment)

HARD TIMES — Since median inflation-adjusted family income peaked in 2000 at $64,232, it has fallen roughly 6 percent. You won’t find another 12-year period with an income decline since the aftermath of the Depression. (NY Times)

NOTHING TO WHAT I HAVE HIDDEN AWAY IN MY PENNY JAR — A global super-rich elite had at least $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in secret tax havens by the end of 2010, according to a major study. The figure is equivalent to the size of the US and Japanese economies combined. (BBC)

SCHADENFREUDE — Over the past five years, the average net worth of Canadian households has exceeded that of American households.  So for the the first time in history, Canadians are wealthier than Americans — by more than $40,000, on average. In 2011, the average net worth of a Canadian household was $363,202, compared to $319,970 in the U.S. (‘Average net worth’ measures the total combined value of a household’s liquid and real estate assets, minus debt.) (Time)

DIFFICULT TO STOP THEM ONCE THEY HAVE TASTED HUMAN MEAT— A drunken bus driver left a woman needing plastic surgery after leaping on her and chewing her face, in the latest in a string of worldwide ‘cannibal’ attacks. The entire incident, which took place last Tuesday in the city of Wenzhou in south eastern China, was caught on camera and posted on YouTube. The bus driver, named locally as Dong, had apparently been drinking heavily during a lunch with friends before running out into a busy street and stopping traffic. The attack is the latest in a string of ‘face chewing’ incidents around the world. (UK Independent)

THE ENEMY WITHIN — The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan — about 50% more — according to Pentagon statistics obtained by the Associated Press. (USA Today)

FOLLOW THE MONEY — The Fed’s survey of consumer finances between 2007 and 2010, which is adjusted for inflation, showed median income fell 7.7% from $49,600 in 2007 to $45,800 in 2010 and that median net worth fell 38.8% from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010, approximately the level recorded in 1992. The drop was concentrated in middle-class families. Those in the 60th to 79.9th percentile of income saw the biggest drop in wealth, of 40.4%. The second-steepest drop came from those in the 20th to 39.9th percentile of income, of 35%. The top 10% actually saw an increase of 1.8%. The top 10% of earners had a median net worth of $1.19 million, or 192 times as much as the median wealth of $6,200 of those in the bottom 20%. In 2007, the top 10% had 138 times as much wealth as the bottom 20%. In 2001, it was 106 times as much. (Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch)

RICH & POOR — Norway, the world’s richest country, is 496 times richer than Burundi, the world’s poorest country (average per capita incomes $84,290 and $170 respectively, according to the World Bank). (NY Review of Books)

ON BEING WHITE — Arabs are an interesting case. I’d argue that Lebanese Christians became ‘white.’ Arab Muslims were on the verge of becoming white before 9/11 but may have been at least temporarily demoted. (They are white in the census categories, but social acceptance has fallen). My guess is that demotion is a temporary blip, since they are typically well educated and well off, and over time economic eliteness tends to produce racial eliteness in the US.

And, the old prejudices against the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox ‘Slavs’ has completely collapsed, so no one thinks Poles or other Eastern Europeans are not ‘white.’

So given the history of ‘whiteness,’ likely the new wave of Latinos will be awarded the category over time. My guess is that Asians will be, as well. Remember, it isn’t about ‘race,’ it is about a weird kind of social status. By the way, Apartheid South Africa declared Japanese to be ‘white.’ (Juan Cole on Informed Comment)

A MAJORITY OF MINORITIES — The US Census Bureau recorded 2.02m babies born to minorities in the year to July 2011, just over half of all births, compared with 37% in 1990. US birth rates have been declining, but the drop has been larger for white people. The number of white births has fallen by 11.4% since 2008, compared with 3.2% for minorities, according to Kenneth Johnson, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire. (BBC)

CONSUMPTION MAKES A COMEBACK — Extreme drug-resistant strains of TB have now been found in 70 countries, and doctors in India reported four patients this year who did not respond to any drugs at all. Doctors in Iran and Italy have also found patients who are apparently resistant to all drugs. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB campaign, said: “What we are seeing worldwide is the emergence of strains of the bacillus causing tuberculosis that are resistant to most of the drugs we have available.” (The UK Independent)

THE DECLINE OF THE EAST — Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, and there were rashes of Internet-enabled group suicides in the last decade. Rental “relatives” are available for sparsely attended wedding parties; so-called “babyloids” — furry dolls that mimic infant sounds — are being developed for lonely seniors; and Japanese researchers are at the forefront of efforts to build robots that resemble human babies. The younger generation includes millions of so-called “parasite singles” who still live with (and off) their parents, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of the “hikikomori” — “young adults,” Eberstadt writes, “who shut themselves off almost entirely by retreating into a friendless life of video games, the Internet and manga (comics) in their parents’ home.” (NY Times)

THE DECLINE OF THE WEST — And we have had five years of average $1.3-trillion federal budget deficits that have the effect of annual 100% increases in the country’s 2008 money supply, and there are fewer people working in the United States than when these mountainous deficits began. The political system is gridlocked and contemptible, and the commentariat is infested with shrieking imbeciles.

The entire public service, at all levels, has unsustainable deferred benefit levels. The state school systems are an uncompetitive shambles. Medical care, per capita, costs almost 2.5 times what it does in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan, yet 30% of Americans have inadequate health care. And the U.S. has, on average, 10 times as many incarcerated people as those countries, and the legal cartel is strangling the country. The prison industry is a $150-billion annual money-spinner; the organ transplant business generates $20-billion a year. Presidential elections cost each party a billion dollars, and the current and recent candidates are almost wholly implausible. Most of the legislators spend two thirds of their time raising money, and the rest serving their financial backers. The United States, always garish and overly pecuniary, has become a chronically corrupt country.

Only twice before have there been three consecutive presidential terms as dangerously mistaken in policy terms as these last three: Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan (1850-1861), and Harding, Coolidge, Hoover (1921-1933), and they brought on the Civil War and the Great Depression. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt were required to put the country back together. — Conrad Black, a Canadian former newspaper magnate and British Lord, now serving time in a Florida prison, thus, an expert commentator on the current scene (National Post)

FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE (OR, THIS EXPLAINS WHY CONGRESS DOESN’T WORK) — 78-81 Democrats are members of the Communist Party, according to Allen West (R-FL). (Talking Points Memo)

WHO PAYS TAXES? — In 1952 the highest marginal income tax rate (for people making very high incomes) in the U.S. was 92%. Today the highest marginal tax rate is 35%. (Brookings Institution)

FAT CITY — During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more. (Center for Disease Control)

TRAVEL ADVISORY — As of 28 May 2010, 31 states had some form of Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground law. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming have adopted Castle Doctrine statutes, and other states (Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington) are currently considering “Stand Your Ground” laws of their own. (Wikipedia)

SURPRISING CONTRACEPTION EFFECTS — In Brazil, television was introduced sequentially province by province, and in each new region the boob tube reached, birth rates plummeted soon after. (Discuss among yourselves whether this was because of what’s on Brazilian television — mostly soap operas depicting rich people living the high life — or simply because a television was now on at night in many more bedrooms.) (Foreign Policy)

DEA(R)TH OF SEX — The sudden popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey portends the death of America’s libido. I cannot speak from personal experience, but the paradox of damnation as explained by comedian Jim Jeffries surely applies to the ritualistic cruelty described in this silly book and its sequels. After the initial frisson has passed, repetition of the same handcuffs-and-riding-crop routine must become unspeakably boring over time. One doubts that many dom-and-sub couples live happily ever after: “Slave, get on your knees and put your wrists together!” “Sorry, honey. I have a headache.” Spengler (Asia Times)

ADDICTION — My iPad is more addictive than anything I’ve ever owned. It gives me everything I need except for sex and chocolate bars. Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail)

OUR PEACEFUL TIMES — Today, wars tend to be low-intensity conflicts that, on average, kill about 90 percent fewer people than did violent struggles in the 1950s. Indeed, the first decade of this century witnessed fewer deaths from war than any decade in the last century. Michael Cohen and Micah Zenko in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs. (AlterNet)

INFORMATION VICTIMS — “One of the defining bifurcations of the future will be the conflict between information masters and information victims” the US officer assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Intelligence), charged with defining the future of warfare, wrote in the US Army War College Quarterly in 1997.

“But fear not”, he writes later in the article, for “we are already masters of information warfare … Hollywood is ‘preparing the battlefield’ … Information destroys traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable. How can you [possibly] counterattack the information [warfare] others have turned upon you?

“Our sophistication in handling it will enable us to outlast and outperform all hierarchical cultures … Societies that fear or otherwise cannot manage the flow of information simply will not be competitive. They might master the technological wherewithal to watch the videos, but we will be writing the scripts, producing them, and collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating.” (Asia Times)

ON GENIUS — “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.” — Joe Theismann, sportscaster and former NFL quarterback. (Ottawa Citizen)

THE SAFETY NET — Almost half of all Americans lived in households that received government benefits in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The share climbed from 37.7 percent in 1998 to 44.5 percent in 2006, before the recession, to 48.5 percent in 2010. (NY Times)

OR WE COULD BUY EVERY AMERICAN A LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO — U.S. officials insist they have not changed their plans to develop and buy 2,443 F-35 jets at a cost of $382 billion over the next few decades. (Reuters)

MURDER & SUICIDE (US) — In 2007, the most recent for figures, there were 34,598 suicides and 18,361 homicides. As it happens, men accounted for precisely 79 percent of both groups of victims. However, relative to their numbers, whites were almost three times as likely as blacks to take their own lives, while blacks had an eight times greater chance of being killed by someone else. Altogether, 56 percent of the men used firearms to end their lives; so did 30 percent of the women. (New York Review of Books)

CANADA CENSUS — Canada’s population of 33.5 million people is growing faster than that of any other G8 nation…Up from 31.6 million at the time of the previous census in 2006, the Canadian population remains the smallest among the G8 but by far the fastest growing, with a 5.9 per cent growth rate in the past five years exceeds the 4.4 per cent rise in the U.S. (National Post)

FB — Facebook has 845 million monthly active users. There are 483 million daily active users. In other words, more than half of Facebook’s users are on the website in any given day. The key point here is that while active monthly users have climbed by 39% over the past year, daily active users have increased by 48%. There are 100 billion — yes, billion – friendship connections on the website. Facebook’s revenue last year was $3.7 billion. (WalletPopCanada)

CARS — Studies suggest nearly one-third of downtown traffic consists of drivers seeking parking spots. (Wheels.ca)

US MILITARY: MY QUESTION IS WHAT ARE THEY TRAINING FOR? — Estimates suggest that more than 36,000 gay men and lesbians are serving in active duty, representing 2.5 percent of active duty personnel. When the guard and reserve are included, nearly 65,000 men and women in uniform are likely gay or lesbian, accounting for 2.8 percent of military personnel. (Urban Institute)

KIDS ON SPEED — In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder… Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams. But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems.  To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve. (NY Times)

BOOKSTORES: THE GREAT EXTINCTION — Since 2002, the United States has lost roughly 500 independent bookstores — nearly one out of five. About 650 bookstores vanished when Borders went out of business last year.  (NY Times)

CAR STEREO — From 1956 to 1959, you could order your Chrysler with a record player. You got six discs with the car and could buy more from the dealer, but your choices were limited to artists signed with Columbia, which made the unique records that worked with the player. They tended to skip over bumps and didn’t work very well, and disappeared for 1962. (Wheels)

BABIES — Total Fertility Rate is the number of babies born per woman. A rate of two babies per woman is considered the replacement rate for a population. Total Fertility Rate (2011, est.): Niger, 7.61; Canada, 1.58; United States, 2.06; Japan, 1.21. (CIA World Factbook)

TAXES — The top U.S. marginal tax rate — 35 percent — is low by the standards of developed countries. It’s about 51 percent in Britain, 47.5 percent in Germany, and 40 percent in France. Until recently, Denmark’s highest tax rate was a whopping 63 percent, but that’s been recently cut down to about 51 percent — good news for billionaires like Lego tycoon Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. Not all rich countries tax heavily however. At 29 percent, Canada’s top rate is actually lower than the United States. (Foreign Policy)

MILITARY — Spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product: United States, 4.06 (2005, est.); Canada, 1.1 (2005, est.); Haiti, 0.4 (2006); Iceland, 0.0 (2005, est.) (CIA World Factbook)

LUXURY IN AMERICA — The luxury category has posted 10 consecutive months of sales increases compared with the year earlier….Tiffany’s first-quarter sales were up 20 percent to $761 million. Last week LVMH, which owns expensive brands like Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, reported sales growth in the first half of 2011 of 13 percent to 10.3 billion euros, or $14.9 billion. Also last week, PPR, home to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other brands, said its luxury segment’s sales gained 23 percent in the first half. Profits are also up by double digits for many of these companies. BMW this week said it more than doubled its quarterly profit from a year ago as sales rose 16.5 percent; Porsche said its first-half profit rose 59 percent; and Mercedes-Benz said July sales of its high-end S-Class sedans — some of which cost more than $200,000 — jumped nearly 14 percent in the United States. (NY Times)

LANGUAGE — Of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists say, nearly half are in danger of extinction and are likely to disappear in this century. In fact, they are now falling out of use at a rate of about one every two weeks. (NY Times)

BOOKS — With a particularly light week after Christmas (perhaps because of those post-holiday ebook downloads), unit sales of print books as measured by Nielsen Bookscan declined 9.25 percent for 2011. At 651 million units, the total was 66.3 million units lower than the total for 2010. (Nielsen Bookscan at Publishers Lunch)

HEALTH CARE — Per capita expenditure on health care in 2007: Canada, $3,173; United States, $6,096; Haiti, $82. (UN Human Development Report, 2007, at Infoplease)

INFANT MORTALITY — In 2011 (est.): Haiti, 54.01 (per 1,000 live births); United States, 6.06; Canada, 4.92. (CIA World Factbook)

APPLE — Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas. (NY Times)

TEEN PREGNANCY — The teen pregnancy rate in the United States remains the highest of any developed country, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with about 400,000 teens ages 15 to 19 giving birth each year between 2004 and 2008. (Nurse.com)

ENGINEERS — Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States. In China, it took 15 days. (NY Times)

BOOKS IN AMERICA — According to the latest Association of American Publishers (AAP) net sales revenue report, the adult mass paperback category declined nearly 38 percent (to $37.2 million) in October compared to the same period last year. At the same time, adult hardcover sales dropped 17 percent (to $213.3 million) while eBook sales increased 81 percent (to $72.8 million). (Galleycat)

MARRIAGE IN AMERICA — In 1960, 72% of all American adults were married; in 2010 just 51% were, according to the Pew Centre. The number dropped sharply by 5% in the most recent year, 2009-10. (BBC News)

LIFE EXPECTANCY — Japan’s average life expectancy at birth grew by 4.2 years — to 83 years from 78.8 years — between 1989 and 2009. This means the Japanese now typically live 4.8 years longer than Americans. The progress, moreover, was achieved in spite of, rather than because of, diet. The Japanese people are eating more Western food than ever. The key driver has been better health care. (NY Times)

LIFE EXPECTANCY — 2011 (est.): Japan, 82.25; Canada, 81.38; Haiti, 60.78; United States, 78.3. (CIA World Factbook via Wikipedia)

SPEED — In a recent survey by Akamai Technologies, of the 50 cities in the world with the fastest Internet service, 38 were in Japan, compared to only 3 in the United States. (NY Times)

LANGUAGE — At the current rate of decline, experts estimate that by the end of this century, at least half of the world’s languages will have disappeared-a linguistic extinction rate that works out to one language death, on average, every two weeks. And that’s the low-end estimate; some experts predict that the losses could run as high as 90 percent. Michael Krauss, a linguist at the Alaskan Native Language Center and an authority on global language loss, estimates that just 600 of the world’s languages are “safe” from extinction, meaning they are still being learned by children. (World Watch)

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