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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From China Gambles:

The Atlantic
Magazine Subscription
Postcards from Tomorrow Square
By James Fallows
December, 2006




Quote:
... Despite a memorization-and-exam system as onerous as any country's, South Korea is enjoying a vogue right now as a source of creativity. Its cartoons, its televised soap operas, its clothing, even its Samsung mobile phones are popular in both China and Japan. South Korea's recent pizzazz, however it has been achieved, has only intensified long-standing and often-voiced dismay in China and Japan over how to make their students not just technically competent but also "imaginative" and "creative". The distress is particularly acute in China, because, contrary to what most Americans would assume, the Chinese government spends so little on education, and so much of what it spends is concentrated on a handful of elite schools. Overall, China spends just over 3 percent of its gross domestic product on education at all levels, about half as much as the average for developed countries. "Most of the money goes to the top ten schools, and what goes to the top ten mainly goes to the top few," a professor at one of the favored schools told me. This makes getting into the "best" name-brand schools - like Tsinghua and Peking universities in Beijing, and Fudan and Jiao Tong in Shanghai - all the more important, which in turn increases the need for students to cram for tests and the advantage for those who go to high-fee private high schools.

... If I were China's economic czar, I would recycle as many of the country's dollar holdings as possible on grad-school fees in the United States. And if I were America's immigration czar, I would issue visas to Chinese applicants as fast as I could, recognizing that they will create more jobs, opportunities and friends for America than the United States could produce any other way for such modest cost. (-- pgs. 106-107)


Quote:
... A less attractive side of China's social bargain comes in public encounters. Life on the sidewalk or subway may have been what Thomas Hobbes had in mind with his "war of every man against every man." As technology, Shanghai's subway is marvelous; as sociology, it makes you despair. Every person getting on a subway understands that there will be more room if people inside can get off. Yet the more crowded the station, the more certain that there will be a line-of-scrimmage standoff as the people trying to surge in block those trying to escape. In a perverse way, I was relieved when I read that China's traffic-death rate per mile driven was nearly ten times as high as America's: I wasn't crazy in thinking that the streets were a reckless free-for-all. The writer Gwynne Dyer recently explained that such carnage is typical of cultures where virtually everyone behind the wheel is a "first-generation driver," raised with no exposure to traffic laws, defensive driving, or the damage cars can do. As more Chinese travel abroad as tourists, and China prepares to welcome more foreign travelers when the Olympics begin, the government has launched a "mind your manners" campaign urging people to stop "hawking" (noisily clearing their throats) and spitting on the street, to stop cutting to the front of lines, and to stop yelling at each other and into their mobile phones. Good luck! (-- pg. 109)


Quote:
... A flashy Shanghainese woman in her twenties says, "I almost feel sorry for men these days. If they don't have an apartment, no chance of getting married. With no car - forget it!" Her bargaining position is strengthened by the ghoulish combination of China's one-child policy and its strong cultural preference that the lone child be a boy. Six boy babies are born and survive in China for every five girls. The imbalance is obvious among children on the street and even for young people now in their twenties, who were born after the one-child policy took hold.) (-- p. 112)


China driving update - be very afraid:

National Geographic Traveler
Magazine Subscription
My CHINA
Annual Photography Issue
January/February, 2008




Quote:
FERRARIS FOR THE PEOPLE
Beijing


Ferraris on display before the Great Hall of the People catch the attention of Chinese soldiers. Likewise, the clashing symbols of capitalist excess and implacable communism catch the eye of Chien-min chung, a Taiwan-born photographer who visited mainland China for the first time in the 1990s. "The picture shows how far China has advanced," he says, "with pricey Italian sports cars parked outside the halls that Mao once walked." The Great Hall, meeting place for China's congress and Communist Party, sits on Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 tragedy in which hundreds of protestors were killed and courageous, unarmed civilians stood up against a column of army tanks. Four years later, Ferrari sold its first car in China. When this photo was taken in 2003, the company was hosting an auto show to celebrate a decade of doing business in the Middle Kingdom. By 2006, Ferrari had established showrooms in ten cities in China, and total Chinese sales of its cars - costing up to $530,000 each - reached 283. In a land where the per capital annual income is still below $1,900, "it's amazing how fast people have embraced car cultur," Chung says. "And cars are just one symbol of the new economy that you see every day. Remember, modern China is less than 60 years old, and we're experiencing change on a scale never before seen. I have high hopes for China." Beyond the weighty symbolism, there is a more playful reason that this picture is one of Chung's favorites. "Here I am taking a photo of someone taking a photo. Maybe someone else was taking my photo at the same time, too. ... (Caption under photograph, p. 61)


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the Big Apple:

The New Yorker
Magazine Subscription
The Talk of the Town
Comment
Gothamitis
By Adam Gopnik
Jan. 8/07




Quote:
What makes the idea of ascending from City Hall to the White House possible is the transformation of New York in the past 20 years - one of the largest civic transformations in American history, and certainly the most expected. (Theories credit everything from bright new waves of immigrants to grim forced marches of incarceration, and the sociology can't decide which is right.) Just a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg went out to the site of the 1964 World's Fair and made a peppy speech to introduce a new plan for the city, and what it ought to be like in 2030. He recited the roster of accomplishments that are by now as familiar as the stops on the No. 6 train: unemployment is the lowest it has been in years, the streets have never been cleaner, crime has never, or rarely, been rarer, and the city, which was shrinking, is growing - there will be about nine million New Yorkers a quarter century from now. More kids are graduating high school, affordable housing is being built - not enough, but more than anywhere else in the country. The city's bond rating is up, and the money we get from it is going down into a new subway.

It is hard for people who don't know what the city was like in the seventies or the early eighties to understand not only how different it seemed then but how tragically insoluable its problems were believed to be. (Lindsay's biography was called "The Ungovernable City.") As Bloomberg said in his speech, New York's decline and fall was for a long time taken for granted, as a fact of nature - and it is a useful reminder to pious liberals of the limits of liberal pieties that the unobtainable cure turned out to be a lot less hard to find than those pieties claimed. A series of booms, better policing, an insistence that the city's problems were things to be solved rather than fled: all this helped the transformation. Despite even 9/11 - which turned out to change almost nothing in the city's interplay of money and manners - New York is in good shape, and getting better. (-- pg. 21)


The Ungovernable City
John Lindsay and His Struggle
to Save New York

Hardcover
By Vincent Cannato




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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yours, Plum
The Letters of P.G. Wodehouse
Hardcover
Edited by Frances Donaldson,
pal of Plummie's stepdaughter,
'Snorkles'


Quote:
More photos of jolly Plum at the Russian Wodehouse Society.





Quote:
Remsenberg
Long Island
New York

To Denis Mackail
7 January 1960

I got quite a shock the other day when my New York publisher told me he was going to do a huge anthology of my stuff next September, to be called Eighty Years of Wodehouse. I suppose, being a mathematician, I had known that anyone born in 1881 has to be eighty in 1961, but having my octogenarianism hurled at me like that shook me a bit. I consoled myself with the thought that I can still touch my toes fifty times every morning without a suspicion of bending knees, which I'll bet not many octogenarians can.

(From Chapter 18, The End, at p. 245)


Yes, and even better:

Quote:
To Ethel Wodehouse
30 September 1973

My precious angel Bunny, whom I love so dear.

Another anniversary! Isn't it wonderful to think we have been married for 59 years and still love each other as much as ever except when I spill my tobacco on the floor, which I'll never do again.

It was a miracle finding one another. I know I could never have been happy with anyone else. What a lucky day for me when you agreed with me when I say "Let's get married!"

The only thing that makes me sad is your health. How I wish there was something I could do. What is so extraordinary is that you come to me in pain and not having slept, and you look just as beautiful as you did fifty-nine years ago. But how I wish that you could get a good sleep. I wish I could say all the things I would like to say, but really they can all be said in one sentence. I LOVE YOU.

Bless you
Your Plummie

(From Part III, 4 Ethel, p. 123)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vermeer's Light
Poems from 1996 - 2000
Hardcover
By Poet Laureate 2002 George Bowering


Quote:
More of the PokerPulse Gambler's Guide to Poetry.





Quote:
Q & A

Where are the snows of yesteryear?

Don't bother looking around.
Either they have long melted into the air
that fish glide through,
or they are heaped behind your heart
where no one will ever see them.

Who killed Cock Robin?

I'd guess someone with snow
heaped behind his heart. Robin
offered love and wisdom, two things
people with a frozen chest cannot
abide. Forget yesteryear, remember
last night.

What is the meaning of life?

The condition or attribute of living
or being alive; animate existence.
Opposed to death. Whoever killed
Cock Robin holds the key to that
mystery. You do not, no more than
do those fish below the pier.

Why do we have to die?

That is not even a mystery,
we say at first, until someone
asks us to define all our terms, such as
heart-beat. Some people say we die
to make room for strangers, does that
answer your question, stranger?

Is it nothing to you?

Nothing, I agree, is sacred, zero
is to be worshipped, there is nothing
in the heart, next to nothing in the
imperfect life. Caring is another thing,
there is nothing behind true caring.

Are you kidding?

Our subject here is death. That and life.
Do you think I would kid you about that?
You who do not even know the whereabouts
of the snows of yesteryear? You innocent!
When I am kidding about death and life
you will be the first to know. Make that
the last.

What's the difference?

When I took on the job of answerman,
I planned to reply:
Wouldn't you like to know?
How should I know?
That's for me to know and you to find out.
Search me.
If I told you, we'd both know.

What's the score?

All I can tell you, little fish,
is that you are not winning. Your chance of winning
is zero
. Follow your heart if you like --
it's not going anywhere. The game, if that's
what it is, is as good as over. You don't want
to know the score.

What's for dinner?

It all depends. If a certain guest shows up,
you are for dinner. If not, we are serving heart.

Why me?

Do you believe in a Supreme Deity?
He hates you like the dickens.
He hates you so much that whenever you are around
he likes to kid about death and life.
If you weren't so tied up with meaning of life
you might have learned something. Where's
your sense of humour?

How -- ?

Whoops, I asked a question there.
I'm not supposed to ask the questions around here.
I don't give a shit where the snows of yesteryear
might be. Sorry, you were saying --?
Whoops, that was a question mark, eh?
Whoops!

Are you finished?

Ask your heart. Look behind your heart
where the cold is, ask the dinner guest,
ask your Supreme Deity. You don't even
know who I am. Whay are you asking me
all these questions? Whoops, there I go again.

Where are you going?

If I knew, I wouldn't tell you, stranger.
Ask around, somebody ought to know,
don't you think?

(-- pgs. 147-150)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gentlemen, Scholars and Scoundrels
A Treasury of the Best of Harper's Magazine from 1850 to the Present (1972, in our case)
Hardcover
Edited by Horace Knowles


Quote:
* More on America's shameful education gamble.





Quote:
He (Henry Shelby), today, is forty-one years old, but looks at least five years younger. He is five feet, eleven and one-half inches tall, weighs 162 pounds. His hair is black but thinning, and his eyes are a deep blue. He has no disfugurements, and his bearing is good. The key to his personality lies in his eyes which express the depth of his feeling, or a quiet humor, depending upon his mood. When he is deep in thought, or troubled, he is apt to trace patterns on the floor, or in the dirt, with the toe of his shoe. At other times he moves briskly, and with some of the grace and sureness of an athlete.

He is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a master's degree in economics. He also holds a life teacher's certificate in the state of Michigan and was, at one time, * a teacher in the public schools of Lansing. His naster's degree studies were concentrated in the field of accounting procedure, and for four years after World War II, he was an accountant with the Post Office Department in Washington. His associates there consider him an excellent man in this field, and at least two of them say that he could probably qualify as a certified public accountant. In addition to these qualifications, he is experienced and capable in the field of public relations, where his approach has been described as "fresh" and "honest."

The city of New York has long been noted for the number and variety of its vagrants. Estimates as to the number of homeless and penniless men and women run from a conservative ten thousand to somewhere around half a million. Vagrants in other parts of the United States are a migratory lot, usually moving with the weather, but the New York variety stay put, occupying park benches, flophouses, gutters, and doorways in all seasons. There are many who possess qualifications as rich as Henry Shelby's. There are many who are literally human derelicts living out their days in a drunken stupor, waiting for an obscure death in the river or a ward at Bellevue. Inbetween there are as many gradations as there are strata in normal society. Almost the only things all vagrants have are a hard luck story and an air of bewilderment. Not all of them have lost hope. (From Subways Are for Sleeping by Edmund G. Love, March, 1956, at pgs. 58-59)


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vanity Fair
Magazine Subscription
Blood Oil
Could a bunch of Nigerian militants in speedboats bring about a U.S. recession? Blowing up facilities and taking hostages, they are wreaking havoc on the oil production of America's fifth-largest supplier. Deep in the Niger-delta swamps, the author meets the nightmarish result of four decades of corruption.
By Sebastian Junger
February, 2007


Quote:
View a slide show of Michael Kamber's photos.





Quote:
This is why oil is so valuable: one tank of gas from a typical SUV has the energy equivalent of more than 60,000 man-hours of work - roughly 100 men working around the clock for nearly a month. That is the power that the American consumer can access for about $60 at the gasoline pump. * If gasoline were a person we would be paying 10 cents an hour for his labor. Easily accessible reserves are running dry, though, which means that the industry must develop increasingly ingenious - and costly - techniques for getting at the oil. Deepwater drilling, for example, now happens so far offshore that rigs can no longer be anchored to the seabed; they must be held in place by an array of propellers, each the size of a two-car garage. The cost of deepwater drilling is close to twice that in shallow water.

...Added to these technological problems is the fact that - as if by some divine prank - most of the world's oil reserves happen to be in politically unstable parts of the world. (The alternative theory is that oil exploitation tends to de-stabilize underdeveloped countries.) Because of the financial risks involved, oil reserves in politically stable countries have more value, per barrel, than oil in politically unstable countries. As we speak, the value of Nigerian oil - as a function of the capital investment that must be risked to produce it - is in steady decline.

That is MEND's trump card. It has several times threatened to shut down all Nigerian oil production, but it's possible MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta) doesn't quite dare, because of the chance it will provoke a military retaliation it wouldn't survive. By the same token, the Nigerian military has threatened to sweep the delta with overwhelming force, but it doesn't know whether that might force MEND to carry out one devastating counterstrike - taking out the Bonny Island Liquefied Natural Gas facility with a shoulder-fired rocket, for example. An act of sabotage on this scale could drive Shell and the other oil companies from Nigeria for good, completely wiping out the national (U.S.) economy. One major company, Willbros, has already discontinued operations in Nigeria because of the security threat.

...Short-term market predictions are a fool's game."

The Oil Shock Wave panel wasn't so sure. It found that a complete shut-in that coincided with another event - a terrorist attack in the Persian Gulf or even an exceptionally harsh winter, for example - could trigger a major recession. Furthermore, there seemed to be no good options for dealing with it. Opening up the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve - some 700 million barrels of oil in underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast - would lower oil prices for the whole world without providing a long-term solution. Begging Saudi Arabia for more oil could compromise the United States politically and damage our long-term interests in the region. And sending the U.S. military into the Niger delta would be politically risky and possibly unfeasible, given American commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That did not stop the U.S. government from authorizing a joint training exercise with the Nigerian military in 2004. It was reported to have been focused on "water combat." (-- pgs. 121-122)


* Compare the figures above with the following:

Quote:
...The Nigerian constitution stipulates that just under 50 per cent of national oil revenue must be distributed to state and local governments and that additional 13 per cent must go to the nine oil-producing states of the Niger delta. Last year that amounted to almost $6 billion for the nine delta states - plenty, it would seem, to take care of basic social services. The problem, however, is that the money goes to the governors' officers and then simply disappears...

(Ijaw priest, President) Owei lives in the great, seething slum of Bundu-Waterside, on the outskirts of Port Harcourt. Bundu-Waterside is a community built literally atop garbage and mud. High tide and raw sewage continually threaten to rise up over the thresholds of its thousand of plank-and-corrugated-iron shacks. People are packed into Bundu-Waterside with such desperate ingenuity that almost every human activity - cooking, fighting, eating, sleeping, defecating - seems to be observable from almost everywhere at any given moment. (-- p. 118-119)


Quote:
...The costs of fully protecting the delicate delta ecology are almost incalculable. Once the militants participate in illegalities, however, the Nigerian government can dismiss the entire movement...Further complicating the issue is that much of the oil pollution in the creeks is from sloppy bunkering operations - which villagers then use as a basis for further claims of environmental damage to the delta. Shell recently appealed a decision by the Nigerian courts that ordered it to pay $1.5 billion to the Ijaw people in compensation for environmental damage to the delta. Under the current system, everyone involved in the oil business - from corrupt government officials to the militants themselves - makes vastly more money than he would in a transparent economy. And the bunkered oil isn't lost to the market; it simply becomes an additional tax borne by the oil companies for doing business in Nigeria. (-- p. 120)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forbes Life
Magazine Subscription
Asked & Answered
A Highest Calling
By Patrick Cooke
March, 2007




Quote:
Hugh Hildesley began his career at Sotheby's (nyse: BID - news - people ) in London more than 40 years ago, eventually rising to head of the Old Masters Paintings department. In 1983 he took an unusual professional sidetrack, becoming an Episcopal rector at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue in New York. Twelve years later he returned the few blocks east to Sotheby's, where today he is an executive vice president, senior auctioneer and author of The Complete Guide to Buying and Selling at Auction (W.W. Norton), regarded as the, ahem, bible of the industry. He spoke with ForbesLife executive editor Patrick Cooke.

...I once saw you work a fund-raising auction in a hall full of restless, semi-inebriated fly fishermen. You calmed them like sheep.

The benefit auctioneer must a) gain control of the room b) entertain the 90 percent of people who don't want to buy anything and then c) conduct the sale to the other 10 percent quickly. If you take more than two minutes per item, you'll lose the room. (-- p. 124)


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wrong Way
The Fall of Conrad Black
Hardcover
By Jacquie McNish and Sinclair Stewart
.

Quote:
More on highroller Black.





Quote:
Black was yanked out of his Roosevelt reverie in early March, when he met with one of Hollinger International's shareholders, Leon "Lee" Cooperman. The fifty-nine-year-old was a legendary Wall Street stock picker who in 1991, after two decades as a stock strategist at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., had formed his own hedge fund, Omega Advisors, Inc. Cooperman's track record was impressive. Omega's funds consistently bested the market, even through the crash of 2000 and 2001, but by 2002 Omega was dragged into the bear market's maw. Pulling the fund down was a big bet on troubled conglomerate Tyco International Ltd., which was being rocked by a scandal about the spending excesses of its top executives. Another hot spot in Omega's portfolio was Hollinger.

Two years earlier, in 2000, Cooperman had first visited Black in London to get a better measure of Hollinger's CEO. Like Tweedy's partners, Cooperman is a no-nonsense long-time value investor who loves placing bets on unfashionable stocks trading at deep discounts. Curious that fellow value investors were buying Hollinger International, Cooperman considered the advice of one of his analysts who believed Hollinger International's stock was hugely undervalued. Less certain were the ambitions of its controlling shareholder and CEO Conrad Black. Was he committed to unlocking Hollinger International's buried value? Cooperman decided to check for himself and he arranged to visit Black at his London home.

... Cooperman, a self-made multi-millionaire who started life as the son of a plumber in New York's South Bronx (see Mel Rosenthal: Photographs from In the South Bronx of America), was not impressed. He thought, I'm worth a lot more than Conrad Black and I don't need a butler. (From Chapter Six, Epidemic of Shareholder Idiocy, pgs. 75-76)


Columbia Business School on Cooperman in 2006:

Quote:
Leon G. Cooperman: After 25 years of service, Lee retired from his positions as a General Partner of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs Asset Management at the end of 1991 in order to organize a private investment partnership, under the direction of Omega Advisors, Inc. At Goldman Sachs, Lee spent 15 years as Partner and from 1990 to 1991, and as Counsel to the Management Committee. In 1989, he became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and was Chief Investment Officer of the equity product line including managing the GS Capital Growth Fund, an open-end mutual fund, for one and one-half years. Prior to those appointments, Lee spent 22 years in the Investment Research Department as Partner-in-charge, Co-Chairman of the Investment Policy Committee and Chairman of the Stock Selection Committee. For nine consecutive years, Lee was voted the number one portfolio strategist in the Institutional Investor All-America Research Team survey.

As a designated Chartered Financial Analyst, Lee is a senior member and past President of the New York Society of Security Analysts. Lee is a member of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, a member of the Board of Directors of Automatic Data Processing, Inc., a Trustee of Saint Barnabas Hospital, and Chairman of the Saint Barnabas Development Foundation, serves on the National Board of Trustees of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, Inc., a member of the Board of Directors of the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, and a member of the Investment Committee of the Museum of Modern Art. Lee received his MBA from Columbia University and his undergraduate degree from Hunter College.


Quote:
... Southeastern (Asset Management) was yet another value investor that had been attracted to Hollinger International in the late 1990s. Significantly larger than Hollinger's other value investors, with $18 billion worth of assets under its administration, Southeastern liked to place larger bets on a smaller portfolio of companies that it believed were underpriced. It had placed a huge wager on Hollinger, buying 17 million, or 18 per cent, of its shares outstanding, making it Hollinger's largest shareholder after Black. (Ibid., pgs. 93-94)


Quote:
Southeastern's president (G.l) Staley Cates felt ill when he saw the news on his computer in his Memphis office. He and his boss Mason Hawkins had been wrong about Black and they had been wrong about the impossible odds they had said Tweedy would face if it opposed the press lord. Thanks to Tweedy's demand for a special investigation, Black had been exposed as a CEO who allegedly helped himself to millions of dollars without board approval. (From Chapter 12, Gotcha, p. 181)


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Conde Nast Traveler
Magazine Subscription
Inside Job
My life as an Airport Screener
By Barbara S. Peterson
March, 2007


Quote:
STILL MORE good reasons to avoid air travel.

More of the Poker Pulse Gambler's Guide to Climate Change.





Quote:
A woman on crutches hobbles through the portal and hands me her boarding pass, which bears the dreaded code. "Ma'am," I stammer, "you've been selected for, uh...additional screening." Behind her wait her four children toting bulging backpacks, each with a boarding pass that indicates they too will need to be inspected.

...I wasn't taught why certain passengers are chosen for additional screening, but I know from my years covering aviation security as a reporter that some are picked at random and others are selected because of certain red flags. Chances are that whatever computer reviewed this family's data when they checked in saw only a group of five people traveling together on a one-way, last-minute booking. In other words, the M.O. of a terrorist cell on 9/11. I learn the real story when the woman angrily relates that her mother has just died and they are flying to the funeral. They didn't book a return flight because they weren't sure how long they would be staying.

I am struck by the fact that at this major urban airport, five years after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, we are still relying on the same rudimentary tools that have been used for decades to detect who is a true threat: physical pat-downs and basic X-ray technology along with the out-of-date passenger pre-screening that continues to bedevil people such as the woman before me. (-- p. 126)


Quote:
...I soon learn from current screeners that management has been on edge lately: The TSA's much feared Red Team recently made an appearance, and it seems the results were less than stellar. The Red Team is a cadre of undercover inspectors who test screeners' mettle by attempting to smuggle weapons and other illicit items past checkpoints; those who fail to spot the contraband get sent back to class for remedial training. Test results are supposed to be confidential, but dismal scores from several airports, including Newark and Orlando, were leaked to the media last year: More than half the screeners tested reportedly flunked one of the exercises. (-- p. 184)


Quote:
...Most of us are ready: We have mastered the arcana of how to screen all manner of carry-on gear - everything from crematory urns to the service monkeys that some disabled passengers are allowed to take through security. We're also instructed on how to spot bomb components in X-ray images, but some of the information we're force-fed during our training is already out of date: We're repeatedly told, "You'll have to unlearn this when you get to the airport," because procedures have changed. We spend hours being taught how to operate explosives-detection machines, including models that we'll never see because our airport hasn't acquired them. The training materials, I learn, are from another giant government contractor, Lockheed Martin. While the TSA obviously dictates the content of the materials, procedural updates apparently take a long time to move through the pipeline. (-- p. 185)


Quote:
...Apparently fed up with the checkpoint protocol, the woman threw her shoes, which landed in the screener's face like two fastballs. Although questioned by police, the passenger was ultimately released; the airline even delayed the flight for her as a courtesy.

This incident perfectly illustrates how the abuse and hostility that screeners face every day, combined with lack of support from the TSA and law enforcement, leads to flagging morale and perhaps even poor performance. Part of the problem stems from the fact that screeners are beholden to three masters: the TSA, the public, and - unknown to most passengers - the airlines, which still manage the pre-screening process and, at many airports, control the entrance to the checkpoint where I.D.s are scrutinized. (-- pgs. 190-191)


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Vancouver Sun
The quality of justice and the right sentence
Critics complain when judges don't appear to apply the law,
and complain louder when they do

By Peter McKnight
April 14/07


Quote:
More on the legal risk undertaken by Canadian Mohawks playing host to remote Internet gambling sites.

Other First Nations Gambles.


Quote:
In the early 19th century, preacher Lorenzo Dow condemned his fellow ministers for giving their followers contradictory messages. "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," Dow said of the no-win no man's land into which some preachers cast their flocks.

Were Down's sermon delivered two centuries later, he could well have been referring to the unfortunate situation of modern courts. Critics routinely accuse the courts of judicial activism, of usurping the role of elected officials, and finger-waving politicians and the public regularly admonish the courts not to make law, but to apply it.

Yet when the courts do apply the law, rather than acting like elected officials by responding to the desires of the public, they face an even greater barrage of insults and invective. Witness the outrage that greeted the recent British Columbia Court of Appeal decision reducing the sentence of Darnell Pratt, the aboriginal youth who pled guilty to manslaughter in the "gas and dash" death of gas station attendant Grant de Patie. (See DePatie family outraged over reduction of Darnell Pratt's sentence at News1130 April 3/07).

... The court did discuss provisions of the Criminal Code and the YCJA (Youth Criminal Justice Act) that require judges to pay "particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders," and "respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons," but those provisions had little effect on the trial judge's sentence (of nine years) or the Court of Appeal decision (to reduce sentence by two years).

The wording of the Code and the YCJA can result in an oboriginal offender receiving a more lenient sentence than a non-aboriginal offender, which strikes many people as two-tiered justice...

Now, in interpreting the law, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that in cases involving serious and violent offences, the sentencing principles of denunciation and deterrence will predominate, so there will be no difference in the sentences handled to aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders. (-- p. C10)


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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2007 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From Gambling American Presidents:

Harper's
Magazine Subscription
Undoing Bush
How to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect
June, 2007




Quote:
The other major economic disaster under Bush has been the unchecked growth of the housing bubble, and although this, too, was inherited from his predecessor, Bush in this case deserves an even greater share of the blame. By the start of the Bush Administration, housing (which over the prior 40 years had just kept even with the overall rate of inflation) had on average, and after adjusting for inflation, risen approximately 23 per cent over their mid-'90s levels - a substantial but still containable surge. In 2001, however, when the stock bubble collapsed, Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Board chairman, seized on the expanding housing bubble as the best tool for boosting the economy out of the recession. He pushed the short-term interest rate down to 1.0 per cent - the lowest level in almost 50 years - and, more important, assured investors of the safety of the housing market, telling Congress in the summer of 2002 that "recent sizable increases in home prices...reflect the effects on demand of low mortgage rates, immigration, and shortages of buildable land in some areas." By 2006, prices were 73 per cent higher than their pre-bubble values, for a total of more than $8 trillion in unsustainable wealth.

What should Bush's successor do to reverse the damage? Unfortunately, once financial bubbles are allowed to develop, there are no easy solutions available. Even if a "soft landing" is possible, the notion that such a thing is somehow desirable does not really make sense. In the case of the housing market, if the bubble is allowed to deflate slowly, then the more than 140,000 people who buy homes every week are still purchasing them at bubble-inflated prices. These are the people who will take the greatest hit when the prices eventually adjust to a sustainable level. (emphasis added) A slow adjustment may well be more harmful for existing homeowners as well. Americans have been borrowing at a record pace against their home equity, pulling out close to $600 billion in the peak year of 2005. They have been willing to draw against their equity because they assumed that prices would stay high and likely move higher. If house prices only adjust slowly, then more homeowners will have drawn down equity based on incorrect expectations about the path of the housing market. (From 6. The Economy by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington, D.C., at p. 53)


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Women of Mythology
Hardcover
By Kay Retzkoff




Quote:
At long last, the several gods who had advised the emperor revealed themselves to her (the empress): "We told him of the land to the west," said the first god.

"We revealed to him that it contained gold
, silver, and gems that sparkle in the sunlight," said the second god.

"We promised him this country," said the third god.

"But he answered us haughtily," said the first god. "He said, 'There is no land to the west. One only has to climb a mountaintop to see that there is only ocean.'"

"He claimed that were deceivers," said the second god.

"For that sacrilege," said the third god, "we took his life."

"How can I undo the curse upon the land that my husband's sacrilege has brought about?" the empress asked.

"The land to the west is to be ruled by the child in your womb," said the first god.

"What child is in my womb?" asked the empress.

"If you go to seek the land to the west, you must make offerings to all the heavenly deities and all the earthly deities, to all the gods of the mountains, rivers and seas," said the first god.

"You must create a shrine at the top of the ship for us and put wood ashes into a gourd," said the second god.

"You must make many chopsticks and plates and cast them onto the ocean waves," said the third god.

"Then may you cross the waves to the land of the west," said the first god. (From the chapter, The Empress Jingo Kogo Conquers the Western Kingdom, at pgs. 152-153)


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Midnight Verdict
Paperback
By Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney


Quote:
More of the PokerPulse Gambler's Guide to Poetry.





Quote:
As Orpheus played and pleaded, the bodiless
Hordes of the dead wept for him. Tantalus
Was so bewitched he let the next wave fill
And fall without reaching. Ixion's wheel
Stood spellbound. The vultures' beaks held off
Above Tityos's liver. The obsessive
Water-riddlers heard and did not move.
And Sisyphus, you dozed upon your rock
Which stood dazed also. A tear then wet the cheek
Of each of the Eumenides, the one
And only time: song had made them human
And made the lord of Hades and his lady
Relent as well. They called Eurydice
Who limped out from among the newly dead
As eager as the day when she'd been wed
To Orpheus. But there was one term set:
Until he left Avernus, he was not
To look back, or the gift would be in vain
.

(Opening stanzas from Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book X at p. 17)


Master paintings depicting Orpheus and Eurydice.

Orphée et Eurydice
Complete opera by Christoph Gluck
Our favorite is a 1956 recording featuring Frostbacks Léopold Simoneau (Tenor); Pierrette Alarie (Soprano);
Suzanne Danco (Soprano); the Roger Blanchard Vocal Ensemble Choir and the wonderful
L'Orchestre Lamoureux.
CD Audio




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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harper's
Magazine Subscription
The Discreet Charm of M. Sarkozy
From an interview with Nicolas Sarkozy by the philosopher Michel Onfray, published this spring in issue 8 of Philosophie Magazine. Sarkozy was elected president of France on May 6. Onfray is the author of thirty-two books, including Atheist Manifesto. Translated from the French by Tobias Grey.
July, 2007




Quote:
SARKOZY: Take Céline , for example, who was capable of writing a phrase like "Love is a poodle's chance of attaining the infinite." Everything rings true in this phrase: love will make a poodle out of you, and yet it's an absolute infinity.

ONFRAY: Céline was a novelist who found an impassable, inimitable style, and at the same time could be read by everyone. It's not intellectualism on the Joyce scale, it's slap-bang in the people's tongue. He represents French genius - what is worst, too, like anti-Semitism. But he brings a language and a vision of the world that is at one with an era of mobs and crowds. (-- p. 24)


Atheist Manifesto:
The Case Against Christianity, Judaism,
and Islam
Hardcover
By Michel Onfray




Journey to the End of the Night
Paperback
Classic novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline




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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BBC
BBC's Alan Johnston is released
Mr Johnston said his time in captivity was the worst of his life
July 4/07


Quote:
BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been released by kidnappers in the Gaza Strip after 114 days in captivity. Mr Johnston, 45, was handed over to armed men in Gaza City. He said his ordeal was like "being buried alive" but it was "fantastic" to be free. Speaking live from Jerusalem later, he thanked those who had supported him, and vowed to return to "obscurity".

Rallies worldwide had called for Mr Johnston's release. An online petition was signed by some 200,000 people.

Mr Johnston's father Graham said he and his wife were "overjoyed" at their son's release. "It's been 114 days of a living nightmare," he said.

Gordon Brown, in his first prime minister's questions session in the UK parliament, said: "The whole country will welcome the news that Alan Johnston, a fearless journalist whose voice was silenced for too long, is now free."

Mr Brown acknowledged the "crucial" role played by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in securing Mr Johnston's release. But a spokesman for Mr Brown said Britain's policy towards Hamas had not changed, and the movement was still expected to recognise Israel and show a commitment to non-violence.


Send Al a cold one courtesy of the BBC!

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