Note to Sheeran: Don't cancel last minute.
(Hat-tip to my sister-in-law via the emails)
Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican, said he was “resolute” in his opposition to the measure because it would betray party principles and amount to “a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan’s coffin.”
Amid China's tainted-milk scandal (the subject of this week's photo essay), parents are frightened of buying milk and formula off the shelf for their children. A Chinese entrepreneur was bound to find a way to provide parents an alternative, and one owner of a domestic services company has: the milk nanny.
The entrepreneur, Lin Zhimin, put an ad on the Internet offering the service of milk nannies -- lactating women who get paid for giving away their milk. Calls started pouring in.
The day began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.Am I reading that right? Paulson was on his knees begging? Please tell me he was just tying his shoe and it was misinterpreted. I've been relatively calm about this whole thing but for some reason that freaks me out.
“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.
. . . . .
The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling news conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.
In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.
“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”
Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”
Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations. In 1995, while assisting neighborhood children with a gardening project, Allen began developing the farming methods and educational programs that are now the hallmark of the non-profit organization Growing Power, which he directs and co-founded. Guiding all is his efforts is the recognition that the unhealthy diets of low-income, urban populations, and such related health problems as obesity and diabetes, largely are attributable to limited access to safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Rather than embracing the “back to the land” approach promoted by many within the sustainable agriculture movement, Allen’s holistic farming model incorporates both cultivating foodstuffs and designing food distribution networks in an urban setting. Through a novel synthesis of a variety of low-cost farming technologies – including use of raised beds, aquaculture, vermiculture, and heating greenhouses through composting – Growing Power produces vast amounts of food year-round at its main farming site, two acres of land located within Milwaukee’s city limits.
97 percent of teens play video games. There’s a slight gender divide: 99 percent of boys compared to 94 percent of girls.
50 percent of the teens in the report said they played a game “yesterday.”
The Millennium Development Goals were in one sense a big advance. Compare them with an earlier UN jamboree, the Copenhagen Social Summit of 1995. The Social Summit ended with a clarion call about how much should be spent on social priorities. The Millennium Development Goals encouraged people to shift their agenda from inputs to outcomes: halving poverty, getting children in school, and so forth. But despite this advance, the goals have two weaknesses, both involving a lack of focus.The first critical lack of focus is that the MDGs tack the progress of five billion of the six billion people on our planet. It is of course politically easier for the United Nations to include almost everyone. Plus the aid agencies prefer a wide definition of the development challenge because that justifies a near-global role for their staff. The price we pay is that our efforts are spread too thin, and the strategies that are appropriate only for the countries at the bottom get lost in the general babble. It is time to redefine the development problem as being about the countries of the bottom billion, the ones that are stuck in poverty. When I give this message to audiences in aid agencies people shuffle uncomfortably in their seats. Some of them may be thinking, "But what about my career?" for it would no longer be in Rio but in Bangui. And when I give the message to an NGO audience they get uneasy for a different reason. Many of them do not want to believe that for the majority of the developing world global capitalism is working. They hate capitalism and they do not want it to work. The news that it is not working for the billion at the bottom is not good enough: they want to believe that it does not work anywhere. But we cannot go on sacrificing the bottom billion to either of these self-serving aspirations.The other crucial lack of focus is on strategies to achieve the goals. Growth is not a cure-all, but the lack of growth is a kill-all. Over the past thirty years the bottom billion has missed out on global growth of unprecedented proportions. This failure of the growth process is the overwhelming problem that we have to crack. I have tried to show you how breaking the constraints upon growth will require a customized strategy. The same approach is not going to work everywhere, but neither is each country utterly distinctive. Governments in the countries of the bottom billion need to develop strategies appropriate for their circumstances. In principle, they do already--except that in practice their "strategies" are usually more like shopping lists presented to donors. This deformation of strategic thinking is in part a result of the overemphasis upon aid: the strategies turn into shopping lists because the objective is not growth but aid. The governments of the bottom billion need to become more ambitious. (pp. 189-190)
The Millennium Development Goals have been a major improvement on the unfocused agenda for poverty that preceded them, but the world has changed radically since they were announced in 2000. And the assumptions on which they are based need to be rethought.
The World Bank has just raised the bean count of global poverty to 1.4 billion people, from just under a billion. It had previously overestimated the level of Chinese and Indian per capita incomes, so the count now shows that the number of poor Chinese and Indians far exceeds the number of poor Africans. But this is misleading because Chinese and Indian incomes are rising far faster and more surely than African incomes. The big difference between a poor Asian household and an equally poor African one is hope, not necessarily for the present generation of adults but for their children.
Hope makes a difference in people’s ability to tolerate poverty; parents are willing to sacrifice as long as their children have a future. Our top priority should be to provide credible hope where it has been lacking. The African countries in the bottom billion have missed out on the prolonged period of global growth that the rest of the world has experienced. The United Nations’ goal should not be to help the poor in fast-growing and middle-income countries; it should do its utmost to help the bottom billion to catch up. Anti-poverty efforts should be focused on the 60 or so countries — most of them in Africa — that are both poor and persistently slow-growing.
A further weakness with the Millennium Development Goals is that they are devoid of strategy; their only remedy is more aid. I am not hostile to aid. I think we should increase it, though given the looming recession in Europe and North America, I doubt we will. But other policies on governance, agriculture, security and trade could be used to potent effect.
For many developing countries, the U.S. credit crisis will mean slower growth and rising inequality. The effects will be protracted, and not all will show up at the same time. And the nature and degree of impact will vary widely. Some countries, notably those with extensive foreign exchange reserves and strong fiscal positions, will be much better able to cope than others. But overall the crisis is very bad news for developing countries and especially for the poor.
Losing a job isn’t just a career setback, it can be a permanent blow to the community, a recent study finds. Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which tracked 4,000 high school graduates over 45 years, researchers at UCLA and the University of Michigan studied the community involvement of workers aged 35 to 53. Their finding: After being laid off, employees were 35% less likely than before to participate in community or church groups, charitable organizations—even bowling teams. And few returned once they got new jobs. Instead, they focused their energies on professional and political groups—in the belief, hypothesizes UCLA sociology professor Jennie Brand, that both could have an impact on finding and keeping work.
Following the resignation of Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, one of the most likely successors to the job is politician Taro Aso. As the photo above shows, he's quite popular in nerd central Akihabara for his love of manga.
Last year, when Aso occupied the post of Minister of Foriegn Affairs, he established the "International Manga Award" for non-Japanese comic artists who adopt the country's manga style.
There's even a shop in Akiba dedicated to Aso, who is currently the Secretary General of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The shop, called "Oretachi no Taro" (Our Taro), calls him a "cool old dude" and sells Aso-branded gifts like cakes.
Otaku have given Aso the nickname "Rozen Aso" for his love of the manga Rozen Maiden.
Last year, when Aso was first rumored to be next in line for the prime ministry, stocks in manga retailers rose.That's from Wired (via) and the pictures are definitely worth a look. I expect Obama and McCain are both pressing for a Naruto endorsement as we speak.
Entire 20,000-bottle shipments of burgundy sell out within hours in Tokyo if he so much as looks at a glass, South Korea's biggest film star is lined-up to play him in a TV drama and he has converted thousands of Asian women into the most discerning oenophiles.Watch your back Parker.
In the rarefied world of superstar sommeliers, there may be none greater than Shizuku Kanzaki. The only snag is that he is a cartoon.
Despite his two-dimensional limitations, the hero of Kami no Shizuku (The drops of the gods) has emerged as an extraordinarily potent mover of Asian wine markets — far more so, say some in the industry, than flesh-and-blood wine critics.
The sales records of Japan's largest wine merchants have been smashed because, in a single frame of comic, the hero has uttered a dreamy sigh over a 2006 New Zealand Riesling or closed his eyes in appreciation of a Saint-Aubin Premier Cru.
Enoteca, one of Japan's top-end importers, admitted that the comic character has even begun to influence its stock ordering decisions.
Shizuku's adventures are read by about 500,000 Japanese each week and book collections of the comics have sold millions of copies. Wines that feature in his weekly manga activities regularly become overnight hits, particularly for Japan's frenetic online wine markets.
In Taiwan a single reference to a relatively obscure French terroir shifted dozens of cases of the stuff within a few days.
He has sent the prices of some vintages soaring and, in some cases, tripled sales of particular wines. Some wine importers in Japan say they have never encountered such a powerful single influence on their business.
Goalball is a team sport designed for blind athletes. It was devised by Hanz Lorenzen (Austria), and Sepp Reindle (Germany), in 1946 in an effort to help in the rehabilitation of visually impaired World War II veterans. The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), responsible for fifteen sports for the blind and partially sighted in total, is the governing body for this sport.Here's a local news interview with a couple of US players competing this year:
The sport evolved into a competitive game over the next few decades and was a demonstration event at the 1976 Summer Paralympics in Toronto. The sport's first championship was held in 1978 and goalball became a full part of the Paralympics from the 1980 Summer Paralympics in Arnhem onwards.
Participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it, into the opponents' goal. They must use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball. Games consist of two 10 minute halves. Blindfolds allow partially sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind players.
International Blind Sports Federation rules require the field of play to be 18m long by 9m wide (about 19.7 yards by 9.8 yards). Goals span the width of the pitch. The ball weighs 1.25kg (about 2.76 pounds) and has eight holes and noise bells contained within. The ball's circumference is around 76cm (about 30 inches).
Football 5-a-side is an adaptation of football for athletes with visual impairments including blindness. The sport, governed by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), is played with modified FIFA rules. The field of play is smaller, and is surrounded by boards. Teams are reduced to five players, including the goalkeeper, per team. Teams may also use one guide, who is positioned off the field of play, to assist in directing players. The ball is equipped with a noise-making device to allow players to locate it by sound. Matches consist of two 25-minute halves, with a ten-minute break at half-time.Here's a BBC video on the 5-a-side Worldcup - it's amazing how fast and accurate the play looks:
Football 5-a-side players assigned to one of three sport classes based on their level of visual impairment:
B1 - Totally or almost totally blind; from no light perception up to light perception but inability to recognise the shape of a hand.
B2 - Partially sighted; able to recognise the shape of a hand up to a visual acuity of 2/60 or a visual field of less than 5 degrees.
B3 - Partially sighted; visual acuity from 2/60 to 6/60 or visual field from 5 to 20 degrees
Teams are permitted to use sighted athletes as goalkeepers and guides; sighted goalkeepers cannot have been registered with FIFA for at least five years.
Our 2008 election map colors each state according to the book-buying habits of its residents on Amazon.com during the past 60 days. You can also see how the map has changed over time by using the left and right arrows to choose other two-month periods during 2008, and by clicking the "2004" tab to find maps for the same periods during the last presidential election year.Not nearly as interesting as their old purchase circles data (which are still under perpetual renovation) but mildly amusing I suppose.
In recent years, thanks to the color-coded maps the networks use on election night, "red state" has come to represent a state favoring the Republican Party or more conservative beliefs, while "blue state" represents one that favors the Democratic Party or more liberal beliefs. We know that states are not all red or all blue, and readers aren't either. And books are often too complex to fit into such neat categories. But given the high interest we've seen in political books during election years, we thought our customers would like to see what general book buying patterns emerge across the country, and how they change over time.
To calculate each state's red and blue percentages for our map, we have classified books as red or blue if they have a political leaning made evident in book promotion material and customer classification such as tags. To compute our totals, we then use the 250 blue books that have sold the most during the time period and compare those sales against the 250 red books that have sold the most during the same time period. All orders during the period are given equal weighting in the calculation. These lists of red and blue books, along with the state percentages, are updated daily. States with higher percentages of red or blue purchases are colored more darkly, and states with an even 50-50 split are colored yellow. The featured "local favorite" books for each state are the red and blue books whose sales are strongest in that state compared to their sales in other states.
Since not every political book is a red or a blue book, we've also prepared a list of "purple" books that includes journalistic accounts that present themselves as nonpartisan (even though they might be more critical of one party or another), as well as books that cross the usual party lines (even if they might be written by a member of one party or another).
Ministers from developed and developing countries are gathered this week in Accra, Ghana’s capital, for the latest high-level forum on aid effectiveness. Learning from past successes and failures, reformers are pressing for more ownership by developing countries of aid relationships, more predictability of aid flows and less fragment ation of aid delivery. This agenda is important. If implemented, these reforms would give the taxpayers of rich countries better value for money and increase the benefits of aid to people in poor ones. Aid cannot on its own cause development, but if properly delivered and well used it can be enormously beneficial.
However, one can have too much of a good thing. Some developing countries, most of them in Africa, have had high levels of aid dependence – in excess of 10 per cent of gross domestic product, or half of government spending – for decades. It is questionable whether this has been helpful.
There are various reasons to be concerned about high aid dependence, but the most worrying is the undermining of good governance by distortion of political accountability. Governments that are highly dependent on aid pay too much attention to donors and too little to their citizens. This might not matter if the interests of citizens and donors were identical. But all donors have some non-developmental motives and, even when they seek to promote development, they have their own priorities. The result is confused and shifting policies, volatile aid and spending and, as a result, slower growth.
I therefore propose that donors collectively set an upper limit on the amount of aid they give to any developing country. This limit should be 50 per cent of the amount of tax revenue that the aid-receiving government raises from its own citizens, by non-coercive means and excluding revenue from oil and minerals.
This would keep the governments of non-mineral countries dependent for revenue mainly on their citizens, and thus give them incentives to pay attention mainly to what citizens want, not donors. It would also encourage governments to raise more taxes from their citizens, since every extra dollar of tax raised would attract a matching increase of 50 cents of aid.
"What's needed is an approach to aid that helps, indeed forces donors, to shift accountability of recipient governments away from donors and back to citizens -- allowing for the feedback governments need from their own taxpayers."
More than 16 million barrels of domestic beer were sold in the United States in July, and annual sales through that month are up 1.4 percent, the largest increase since 1990, when the economy was headed toward a recession, according to the Beer Institute. (Yes, such a thing exists. It's a trade group.)
The uptick is significant for a mature industry with roughly $50 billion in annual sales, particularly as consumers reduce spending on other discretionary purchases, such as venti lattes and designer jeans. Trade groups for the liquor and wine industries report consumption of those beverages has also increased. But beer is America's most popular alcoholic beverage, claiming more than half the market, and the go-to drink during these times of economic distress.
"The beer industry and the alcohol industry seem to be fairly recession-resistant," said Nick Lake, vice president of beverage and alcohol at the Nielsen Co., a market research firm. "Why would you want to cut out beer? You don't want to punish yourself just because the economy's bad."
"You can stay home and entertain and have a high-quality beer for a fraction of the price of going out with your friends," said Ben Sibley, manager of the company's store in Chantilly.
That's why Trevor Langrehr keeps a keg at home. Each keg usually lasts a few months, and his buddies can enjoy a fresh, ice cold beer when they visit his new house in Fredericktown, Va. He even converted an old fridge into a "kegerator."
On a recent afternoon, he returned an empty barrel of Dominion Lager to the Total Wine & More in Chantilly and picked out a keg of Sam Adams Oktoberfest for $149.99. His beer-buying habits haven't changed, though he cut his monthly gasoline bill from $500 to $250 by getting a Volkswagen that runs on diesel. If the economy got really bad, he knows he would have to cut back.
"I'd certainly chose food over beer," he said. "But I hope that never happens."
1. Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone.
2. It must be safe for everyone to offer ideas.
3. We must stay close to innovations happening in the academic community.
Food chemists have shown that making a pizza crust with whole wheat flour and cooking it longer releases more antioxidants. These chronic disease-fighting compounds increased by 82 percent when baked at a higher temperature, by 60 percent when baked twice as long and doubled when the dough was left to rise an extra day.
'Overhyped." That's how the Rev. Rick Warren describes the notion that the evangelical vote is "up for grabs" in this election. But what about the significance of the evangelical left, I asked the pastor of Saddleback Church after his forum with the presidential candidates last weekend. "This big," he says, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.
Another conspiracy theory around the high price of oil and gas.More on the report here.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau says it's noticed something fishy. The bureau says there's a striking correlation between the number of SUVs and trucks reported stolen and the rise in gas prices.
Six of the top ten vehicles on the list are gas guzzlers. Despite the fancy name, we're obliged to mention the bureau is funded by insurance companies.
Experts make the best victims because they jump to unwarranted conclusions. The savvier they are, the quicker they jump, because they see at a glance which way a story is heading. In 2002, for instance, a French wine researcher named Frédéric Brochet gave 54 experts an array of red wines to evaluate. Some of the glasses contained white wine that Mr. Brochet had doctored to look red, by adding a tasteless, odorless additive. Not a single taster noticed the switch.
“About 2 or 3 percent of people detect the white wine flavor,” Mr. Brochet said, “but invariably they have little experience of wine culture. Connoisseurs tend to fail to do so. The more training they have, the more mistakes they make because they are influenced by the color of the wine.”
For the experts, the term “red wine” carries countless associations. Each one points to further questions; each question leads them further off the trail. By contrast, the amateurs’ ignorance keeps them from exploring subtle byways. Seeing only one question — “what do you think of this wine?” — they can’t wander far.
The catch is that, when it comes to food, we all think of ourselves as experts. But we taste with both our tongues and our minds, and it’s easy to lead minds astray. Brownies taste better, for example, when served on china rather than on paper plates, research has shown. And we prefer wine with a pedigree, even if it’s a phony one. Sometimes all it takes is an alluring name. Until a few decades ago, Patagonian toothfish was a trash fish not worth trying to give away. Renamed Chilean sea bass, it sold so fast that it nearly disappeared from the sea.
Frédéric Brochet, a cognitive neuroscience researcher at the University of Bordeaux, decided to find out. In 1998, he invited 54 specialists to taste wines and write down their impressions.
First, he served a red and a white. The tasters made notes. Next, he served a different red and white. Again, they jotted down comments. To describe the two reds they used terms such as plump, deep, dark, blackcurrant and spice. The two white wines evoked descriptions such as golden, floral, pale, honey, straw and lively.
Unbeknownst to the specialists, the second set of wines they tasted, the red and the white, were identical. Brochet had simply added flavourless food colouring to some of the white wine to create a faux red. Not a single person wrote down that the second pair of wines tasted similar, nor that the "red" tasted like a white. Their descriptions of the dyed white read exactly like descriptions of a red wine. The inescapable conclusion was that the specialists had all been fooled.
Brochet didn't design his studies to knock wine connoisseurs down a peg. His experiments demonstrate the power of perceptive expectation: "The subject perceives, in reality, what he or she has pre-perceived and finds it difficult to back away."
What this means is that the brain does not treat taste as a discrete sensation. Instead, it constructs the experience of flavour by taking into consideration information from all the senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Paradoxically, it places the greatest emphasis on sight – almost 20 times more emphasis, according to Brochet, than on any other sense. So if our eyes tell us there's red wine in the glass, our brain places more faith in that data than in the information from the taste buds.
The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was "agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded," while the vin du table was "weak, short, light, flat and faulty". Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.
What these wine experiments illuminate is the omnipresence of subjectivity. When we take a sip of wine, we don't taste the wine first, and the cheapness or redness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisred, or thiswineisexpensive. As a result, the wine "experts" sincerely believed that the white wine was red, and that the cheap wine was expensive. And while they were pitifully mistaken, their mistakes weren't entirely their fault. Our brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that our prejudices feel like facts, our opinions indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a grand cru, then we will taste a grand cru. Our senses are vague in their instructions, and we parse their suggestions based upon whatever other knowledge we can summon to the surface. As Brochet himself notes, our expectations of what the wine will taste like "can be much more powerful in determining how you taste a wine than the actual physical qualities of the wine itself."
“Come on,” I ask Brochet, during a lengthy phone call. “Are you saying that most of us can’t tell the difference between a Chardonnay and a Zinfandel? We can’t tell good wine from bad?”
“No, no, no,” he says. “I’m not saying that. I’m saying that expectations have an enormous impact. People can, in fact, tell the difference between wines. But their expectations—based on the label, or whether you tell them it’s expensive, or good, or based on what kind of wine you tell them it is, the color—all these factors can be much more powerful in determining how you taste a wine than the actual physical qualities of the wine itself.”
And now we’re getting to the moral of the story.
Look, Brochet says, he’s never studied wineglasses himself, so he can’t prove what he’s about to say. But the research that he and others have done on the science of expectation convinces him that they’ve found the key: Riedel and other high-end glasses can make wine taste better. Because they’re pretty. Because they’re delicate. Because they’re expensive. Because you expect them to make the wine taste better.
And that, says Brochet, can make all the difference.