ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 13

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Bad as Hurricane Irma was, it could have been even worse

Homeowners’ preparations and evacuations meant relatively few deaths.

As for the physical damage, it is huge but still smaller than feared. One way to see that is to look at insurance company stocks.

Today, they are UP. Chicago Tribune headline: Stocks jump as relieved investors buy banks, insurers, tech

Small insurers, especially ones that do a lot of business in Florida, climbed. … Larger insurers also rallied. … Travel-related companies rose as investors felt their businesses won’t take such a big hit.  –Associated Press via Chicago Tribune

The most immediate problem now: restoring electric power to millions of homes.

 Apple makes a big noise with its rollout. $1k for new phones. Market is unimpressed (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

Comment: Students at elite universities will use the new phones to send selfies at demonstrations against inequality.

 Study: Over 90% of MSM reports on Trump are negative, same as previous studies (Washington Times)

Comment: To be fair, they do actually hate him.

 Trump’s travel bans finally made it to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the President (Washington Times)

The ruling, which stays a decision from the 9th Circuit, keeps some 24,000 refugees from entering the US, at least temporarily.=

Good economic news: Middle-class incomes in US for 2016 were highest in history (in real terms)  (Washington Post)

These figures from the Census Bureau cover the final year of Pres. Obama’s tenure.

Median household income rose to $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year and the second consecutive year of healthy gains, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The nation’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, returning nearly to what it was in 2007 before a financial crisis and deep recession walloped workers in ways that were still felt years later. –Washington Post

Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, resigns after fifth person comes forward accusing him of child-sex abuse (Seattle Times)

The latest accuser: Murray’s cousin. He had been a teenager, like the others.

The computer scandal engulfing House Democrats continues to widen. Latest news: the IT contractor used a secret server, tried to hide it, and then falsified what was on it (Daily Caller)

Imran Awan, the Pakistani IT aide who worked closely with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also used Dropbox to back up data, which is illegal for Congressional data.

Awan had access to all emails and office computer files of 45 members of Congress who are listed below. Fear among members that Awan could release embarrassing information if they cooperated with prosecutors could explain why the Democrats have refused to acknowledge the cybersecurity breach publicly or criticize the suspects. –Daily Caller

Comment: This scandal receives almost no coverage. That’s a scandal, too.

 

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ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, February 22

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

 Two fascinating articles by Paul Roderick Gregory investigating Russian hacking (Forbes.com)

The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.”  …

That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. –Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes

Gregory is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, specializing in Russia, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution

 “Actually, Sweden is having big trouble with Mideast refugees,” writes Rich Lowry, who focuses on economic issues rather than crime  (New York Post)

By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought-out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge.

Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. …

There’s a stark gap in the labor-force-participation rate between the native-born (82 percent) and the foreign-born (57 percent). As the Migration Policy Institute points out, Sweden is an advanced economy with relatively few low-skills jobs to begin with. …

The fiscal cost is high. According to Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, the country spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on the asylum-seekers, more than on its defense budget. Sweden is spending twice the entire budget of the United Nations high commissioner responsible for refugees worldwide. Pressed for housing, Sweden spends as much on sheltering 3,000 people in tents as it would cost to care for 100,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. –Rich Lowry for New York Post

◆ There is better news from Sweden: “Confused Randy Elk Mounts Wooden Elk in Swede’s Garden” (The Local, Sweden)

Actual quote from the article:

“I shouted at him ‘get lost’, but he didn’t give a toss,” [79-year-old Ove] Lindqvist said, explaining that the elk only left once it was content. –The Local

Apple iPhones working for real-time facial recognition to log in  (Fox Tech)

Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface’s software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication. –Fox Tech 

The Times of Israel story on the buy-out is here.

Israel is a high-tech powerhouse, and Apple has moved to capitalize on those capabilities, purchasing four Israeli high-tech firms in recent years.

 Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize economist and a true great, has died, aged 95  N (New York Times)

When Professor Arrow received the award in 1972, [Paul] Samuelson wrote, “The economics of insurance, medical care, prescription drug testing — to say nothing of bingo and the stock market — will never be the same after Arrow.”

Professor Arrow — a member of an extended family of distinguished economists, including Professor Samuelson and Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and adviser to President Barack Obama — generated work that was technically forbidding even to mathematically oriented colleagues.

But over the decades, economists have learned to apply his ideas to the modern design of insurance products, financial securities, employment contracts and much more. –New York Times

The extended obituary concludes with a wonderful story about his prodigious, wide-ranging learning:

Eric Maskin, a Harvard economist and fellow Nobel winner, told of a good-natured conspiracy waged by junior faculty to get the better of Professor Arrow, even if artificially. They all agreed to study the breeding habits of gray whales — a suitably abstruse topic — and gathered at an appointed date at a place where Professor Arrow would be sure to visit.

When, as expected, he showed up, they were talking out loud about the theory by a marine biologist — last name, Turner — which purported to explain how gray whales found the same breeding spot year after year. As Professor Maskin recounted the story, “Ken was silent,” and his junior colleagues amused themselves that they had for once bested their formidable professor.

Well, not so fast.

Before leaving, Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.” –New York Times

 

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