The war for dominance in the Middle East, following the crushing of ISIS, appears about to commence in Syria – with NATO allies America and Turkey on opposing sides.
Turkey is moving armor and troops south to Syria’s border enclave of Afrin, occupied by Kurds, to drive them out, and then drive the Syrian Kurds out of Manbij further south as well.
Says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “We will destroy all terror nests, one by one, in Syria, starting from Afrin and Manbij.”
For Erdogan, the Kurdish YPG, the major U.S. ally in Syria, is an arm of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, which we and the Turks have designated as a terrorist organization.
While the Kurds were our most effective allies against ISIS in Syria, Turkey views them as a mortal peril and intends to deal with that threat.
If Erdogan is serious, a clash with the U.S. is coming, as our Kurdish allies occupy most of Syria’s border with Turkey.
Why do humans tend to behave in herds? It’s a fundamental question that only recently have researchers been able to better understand. On the one hand, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in some neurological science to see the basis behind it; survival for our ancestors often meant getting along with the crowd. There are times when that very trait applies still.
In 2009, neurologists in the UK conducted function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans on volunteers. The subjects were asked to rate the attractiveness of faces while being swayed by what they were told were the group’s overall assessments. What scientists found on those scans was that when one person’s rating conflicted with the group’s view that person’s brain gave off what was characterized as a “prediction error-like response.”
In other words, researchers believe that our brains rewire or retool themselves when our own opinions or beliefs fall outside those perceived of the group. It can help explain cults, Nazis, and maybe even Economists.
In the public opinion regarding the economy, what counts as the “norm” is harder to see and appreciate. We can’t observe the economy directly, so our views on it are shaped by a variety of outside factors. Figuring what everyone else thinks is left often to what “experts” believe. This top-down method becomes, I think, quite easily the case where everyone tends to think what those at the top do, especially when it is repeated so often.
For my work, that’s about the only way I can begin to explain the current economic boom. I don’t mean that this particular psychological study unleashed a torrent of similar ones, so much that there has been a burst of medical equipment spending sufficient to bring the global economy right out of its decade-long funk. (more…)
For Americans that live outside of New York and San Francisco (you know, the ignorant, racist, republican-voting masses living in ‘flyover states’ that elected Trump to the White House) the notion of dropping $50,000 on Kindergarten tuition for a 5 year old would be considered dumb…like, bigly.
But, for New Yorkers it’s actually more common than you might think…at least for the 5 year olds who can pass the rigorous entrance exams. Consider, for example, the premier private school of New York’s Upper East Side, The Dalton School, which charges $46,050 a year for Kindergarteners to nap, play with blocks and read an occasional book…
Meanwhile, Dalton is a ‘bargain’ relative to another private school just a hop, skip and a jump across Central Park, the Trinity School, which charges Kindergartners closer $50,000 a year (or roughly the median annual income of an entire household across most of America) for what we suspect is a nearly identical regimen of sleeping and block playing.
Of course, with tuitions that high one might expect these schools to have a student-teacher ratio of 3:1 and/or some sort of advanced technology that allows them to churn out Kindergartners that are already solving advanced Calculus problems.
Alas, as the Wall Street Journal notes today, the truth is that, much like public school across the country, a substantial portion of the exorbitant tuitions paid by New York’s “millionaire, billlionaire, private jet owners” to elite private schools goes toward funding the salaries of massively overpaid administrators.
Per the WSJ, at least nine private school heads received compensation totaling over $800,000 in 2015 and Trinity’s John Allman cleared a staggering $1.1 million (or roughly the tuition of 22 of his students).
The median base salary for heads of the city’s private schools is $493,478 this academic year among 44 city schools in a survey by the association. That compares to $275,000 nationwide. (more…)
Neither the United States nor China can afford a complete rupture, neither has a clear strategy to help Pakistan stabilize.
Thirty-six-year-old Chinese engineer Pingzhi Liu went missing almost a month ago. It took Pakistani authorities three weeks to classify Mr. Liu’s disappearance as a likely kidnapping that could have significant political and economic consequences.
Identifying the mysterious disappearance as a kidnapping is not only embarrassing because Mr. Liu was one of thousands of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan that are guarded by a specially created 15,000-man Pakistani military unit.
It is also awkward because it coincides with apparent Chinese questioning of aspects of the $56-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of China’s Belt and Road initiative, and increasingly strained relations between Pakistan and the United States.
Mr. Liu was accorded military protection even though his project, the Karot Hydropower Plant, located near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is not part of CPEC. Karot was the first project financed by China’s state-owned $40 billion Silk Road Fund, established in 2014 by President Xi Jinping to foster increased investment in Eurasia.
Global holdings in gold exchange-traded funds soared to the highest level since 2013 as investors got behind a rally in the metal.
As Bloomberg reports, most of the inflows were into SPDR Gold Shares, a U.S.-based ETF favored by money managers with a short-term view for its relatively high liquidity and narrow bid-offer spread. Gold has jumped 2.4 percent this year, touching the highest price in four months, as the dollar fell, Chinese consumers stocked up for the Lunar New Year and signs of global inflation picked up.
“I’m always a bit nervous when gold prices rise this much, this fast,” said Mark O’Byrne, marketing director of bullion dealer GoldCore Ltd. “But there certainly is healthy demand from China and the futures market — I think we should break highs above $1,400 later in the year.”
Options traders are betting on at least another month of rising prices. They’re charging more for benchmark call contracts than for similar puts, and by the biggest premium since November. The bias, measured in implied volatility, has increased to about 0.6 percentage points.
Furthermore, gold tends to do well in January and February. That’s when demand spikes in the biggest consuming nation, China. (more…)
Pope Francis is now attacking the credibility of child sex abuse victims in a shocking move made at the end of a trip to Chile in which he had hoped to “heal” the wounds of said abuse.
That’s right, Pope Francis ended his trip by publicly defending a bishop who victims have accused of covering up widespread pedophilia in the country.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Francis made the shocking comments in a discussion about Rev. Fernando Karadima who has been found guilty of sexually abusing a slew of minors as a member of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.
Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”
The pope’s remarks drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn’t lacking.
The Karadima scandal dominated Francis’ visit to Chile and the overall issue of sex abuse and church cover-up was likely to factor into his three-day trip to Peru that began late Thursday.
Karadima’s victims reported to church authorities as early as 2002 that he would kiss and fondle them in the swank Santiago parish he ran, but officials refused to believe them. Only when the victims went public with their accusations in 2010 did the Vatican launch an investigation that led to Karadima being removed from ministry.
The emeritus archbishop of Santiago subsequently apologized for having refused to believe the victims from the start.
One of the victims made clear his disgust at Pope Francis for essentially covering up for a man who watched as another bishop sexually abused him.
“As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” tweeted Juan Carlos Cruz. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”
This obviously does not look good for the Pope or the Catholic Church as they are now apparently engaging in attacking the victims instead of actually going after the abusers.
A blast over Honolulu would be catastrophic. That doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t help the public prepare for one.
Minutes after the people of Hawaii received an emergency alert on their phones last week, they began calling loved ones to issue tearful goodbyes and putting their children in storm drains. This tells you that the government has a long way to go to better educate people about the realities of nuclear attack.
Hawaii, for all its beauty, is a relatively poor location to experience a nuclear strike. Its isolation offers little chance for swift evacuation and would likely complicate government efforts to provide medicine and food relief. Its prevailing high winds could have an unpredictable effect on the dispersal of radiation.
Yet there is much that government officials could do that might reduce panic before a strike and hardship afterwards.
First, how big of a warhead would it be? Jeffrey Lewis, Middlebury professor and noted arms control watcher, says the North Koreans would probably use the largest warhead that they’ve tested, “which exploded with a force equivalent to a few hundred kilotons of TNT. Basically an order of magnitude bigger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”