Aug 052013

My hometown — Port Clinton, Ohio, population 6,050 — was in the 1950s a passable embodiment of the American dream, a place that offered decent opportunity for the children of bankers and factory workers alike.

But a half-century later, wealthy kids park BMW convertibles in the Port Clinton High School lot next to decrepit “junkers” in which homeless classmates live. The American dream has morphed into a split-screen American nightmare. And the story of this small town, and the divergent destinies of its children, turns out to be sadly representative of America.

via Crumbling American Dreams –

Jul 302013

New studies clearly indicate that intra- and extra- marital sex is safer than getting mad. NC’s health desk medico suggests that if you feel like you’re going to lose your temper, channel that emotion into passion for the nearest available partner. Actually, this is not the NC health desk medico. I am an intern in charge of filing and photocopying. But my advice is as good as anyone’s.

The data consistently show that “men are the major victims” of sudden deaths occurring during extramarital intercourse, and that any underlying heart condition further raises a man’s risk of an early death, according to the authors.

The stress of illicit sex may increase blood pressure and heart rate significantly, they warned, “resulting in sudden death or cardiovascular events.” Even so, the risks appear to be very low, they added — “far less than that associated with anger and unaccustomed physical exercise.”

via Sex after a heart attack: New guidelines provide first formal ‘how to’ on resuming sex after heart disease | National Post.

Jul 262013

And my dog, Lucy, is definitely from another planet (not the same one I came from).

No matter how conservative or optimistic we are, the statistics tell us that something like an astonishing one out of every seven stars must harbor a planet similar in size to the Earth, and at roughly the right orbital distance to allow for the possibility of a temperate surface environment. In other words, roughly 15 percent of all suns could, in principle, be hosting a place suitable for life as we know it.

Since our galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars, this implies a vast arena for the universe’s ubiquitous carbon chemistry to play in — a process that, as here on Earth, might lead to the complex machinery of life. Indeed, there is a 95-percent confidence — give or take a few percent — that one of these worlds could be within a mere 16 light years of us. That’s a stone’s throw, practically our galactic backyard.

via A Universe Full of Planets –

Jul 252013

OTTAWA—Canada’s police services are once again reporting fewer crimes, a continuing trend that has cut the national crime rate to its lowest level since 1972.

Statistics Canada says the police-reported crime rate fell by three per cent in 2012 compared with the previous year.

The severity of crimes committed was also down by three per cent in 2012, according to StatsCan’s Crime Severity Index (CSI).

via Canada’s crime rates drop to lowest since 1972 | Toronto Star.

Jul 242013

And, for that matter, what retirement phase? Was I taking a nap when they called that group?

One of the largest transfers of wealth between generations is starting to occur in the U.S. As baby boomers enter the retirement phase, the next generation of workers, Gen Y or the Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s), are now entering the workforce and beginning their prime earnings phase.

According to research firm Iconoculture, Gen Y comprises over 76 million people with almost $900 billion in spending power. In contrast the baby boomers, also numbering 76 million, have $2.5 trillion in spending power.

via Why Generation Y fears the stock market – J.J. Zhang’s Winner Take All – MarketWatch.

Jul 222013

A study published in Nature Geoscience by researchers, from Imperial College London and their academic partners shows that 5-3 million years ago in the Pliocene, the last time it was as hot as it is going to be in this century, antarctic ice shelf melting caused a sea level rise of as much as 20 meters (65 feet).

At 65 feet sea level rise, we basically lose Louisiana and most of Florida, according to this useful intractive map:

via Bye, Bye Florida: Scientists find the last time it was this hot, Seas rose 65 feet | Informed Comment.

Jul 212013

While the overall homicide rate in the U.S. is declining, “homicides in self-defense nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, driven by states with ‘stand your ground’ laws.” After Florida enacted its SYG law, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) used the Florida statute as a model for states across our nation.

via Daily Kos: Stand Your Ground Laws Implemented As Privatized Vigilantism & Legalized Hate Crime Murders.

Jul 152013

What about the universal human capacity to screw things up? That’s what I wonder in all this.

We are now dealing with a vast intelligence-industrial complex that is largely unaccountable to its citizens. This alarming, unchecked growth of the intelligence sector and the increasingly heavy reliance on subcontractors to carry out core intelligence tasks – now estimated to account for approximately 60% of the intelligence budget – have intensified since the 9/11 attacks and what was, arguably, our regrettable over-reaction to them.

via The NSA’s metastasised intelligence-industrial complex is ripe for abuse | Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson | Comment is free |

Jul 142013

I love the phrase “10 percent less likely to have died.” It’s the sort of thing I often say: I am 10 percent less likely to have died since I my mocha latte the morning.

But men who reported drinking two or three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to have died than those who didn’t drink coffee, while women drinking the same amount had 13 percent less risk of dying during the study.

via This Is Your Brain on Coffee –

Jul 122013

Apparently, Taiwanese “tradition” dictates that pregnant women can “share their luck” – increasing another’s chances of bearing children – by passing on unused towels or tampons. And the capital’s civil affairs department hopes the scheme will boost its birth-rate, reports the Taipei Times. “We hope that Taipei residents who want to get pregnant will be blessed by the lucky pads and that their wishes will come true,” it quotes department commissioner Huang Lu Ching-ju as saying.

via BBC News – Taiwan: Sanitary pad scheme ‘to help women conceive’.

Jul 112013

Nothing new here. I stopped working years ago and took up book-writing, which is not gainful employment in anyone’s judgement. My guess is that men in America are all turning from the assembly lines and blast furnaces to poetry, choreography and modern art.

[T]he male employment ratio reached its peak in the early 1950s-and then commenced an almost relentless descent. Today’s level is the lowest thus far-but this decline of work for men has been unfolding for decades, indeed generations. Over the past 60 years, the employment ratio for adult men has plummeted by about 20 percentage points. Which is to say: if America’s male employment ratios were back at their Eisenhower-era levels, well over 20 million more men would be at work today. At the moment, roughly 76 million men are counted as working.

How is this collapse of work to be explained? In purely arithmetic terms, the great bulk of the change is due to an exodus out of the labor force-that is to say, to a massive long-term rise in the number of adult men who are neither working nor seeking work. Over the past 60 years, the labor force participation rate for adult men has fallen by about 16 percentage points. In 1953, about 14 percent of adult men were out of the labor force-around one in seven. Today 30 percent are neither working nor seeking work-nearly one in three.

Of course population aging has something to do with this gradual but cumulatively immense male flight out of the workforce. But we should not exaggerate this effect. In the early 1950s, senior citizens 65 and older accounted for almost 12 percent of adult men, as against 16 percent today. Aging on this scale cannot explain most of the 16 percentage point shift out of the workforce that has been registered by adult men over these decades. Indeed, it cannot even explain all that much of it.

The plain fact is that men in what are generally regarded as conventional working ages have been increasingly opting out of the workforce altogether.

via RealClearMarkets – The Astonishing Collapse of Work In America.

Jul 102013

Francis Fukuyama, who once famously and incorrectly predicted the End of History, is now writing about the Middle-Class Revolution and the end of authoritarian regimes around the world. Because he was so wrong before, we should be careful about jumping on Francis’s train. He has a tendency to speak the speak of the classical liberal economist and right of centre politician (monetarist, puritannical, ever hopeful that liberal democracy will eventually rule the world and bring about the End of History).  Still, he writes a good, authoritative story that only begins to fray when it’s held up against reality. Just because you own a cell phone and can tweet doesn’t mean you’re middle-class.

[In China], as in other parts of the developing world, the rise of a new middle class underlies the phenomenon described by Moises Naím of the Carnegie Endowment as the “end of power.” The middle classes have been on the front lines of opposition to abuses of power, whether by authoritarian or democratic regimes. The challenge for them is to turn their protest movements into durable political change, expressed in the form of new institutions and policies. In Latin America, Chile has been a star performer with regard to economic growth and the effectiveness of its democratic political system. Nonetheless, recent years have seen an explosion of protests by high-school students who have pointed to the failings of the country’s public education system.

The new middle class is not just a challenge for authoritarian regimes or new democracies. No established democracy should believe it can rest on its laurels, simply because it holds elections and has leaders who do well in opinion polls. The technologically empowered middle class will be highly demanding of their politicians across the board.

The U.S. and Europe are experiencing sluggish growth and persistently high unemployment, which for young people in countries like Spain reaches 50%. In the rich world, the older generation also has failed the young by bequeathing them crushing debts. No politician in the U.S. or Europe should look down complacently on the events unfolding in the streets of Istanbul and São Paulo. It would be a grave mistake to think, “It can’t happen here.”

via Francis Fukuyama The Middle-Class Revolution –

Jul 102013

What I can’t figure out is why, if we’re not having more kids, there is still any real estate market at all. Surely we have enough houses by now.

On Tuesday, the agency reported that the total fertility rate in Canada has declined for a third year in a row, falling to just 1.61 children per woman in 2011. And while that represents an increase over a decade prior, when the rate plummeted to a historic low of 1.51, it’s nonetheless consistent with the long-term trend of multiple children becoming a rarer phenomenon.

In fact, Statistics Canada shows we haven’t met the population replacement level of roughly 2.1 children per woman since 1971.

via ‘Domestic dream’ of 2.5 children per woman long gone as fertility rate declines for third year in row | Canada | News | National Post.