Monday, 28 January 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Friday, 25th January, 2008


The reader's suggestions included "Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco"; "One Mighty Empire, Slightly Used"; "We Apologize for the Inconvenience"; and - the choice favoured by 20.9 percent of the readers - "No Motto, Please, We're British."

Taking a significant step toward the creation of synthetic forms of life, researchers reported that they had manufactured the entire genome of a bacterium by stictching together its chemical components...
Some activist groups said that Venter was goingtoo far, too fast, this time and that synthetic biology needed outside regulation to prevent the introduction of dangerous organisms, created by evil intent or by innocent error.

"It's totally unsafe here," said Peter Geche, a taxi driver in Nakuru on Friday afternoon. "So many people have been killed by arrows."

Eric Kastner, believed to have been Germany's last World War I veteran, died Jan. 1 in a nursing home in Cologne at the age of 107, his son, Peter Kastner, said.
Kastner had just graduated from high school in 1918 when he entered the army, his son said. He was sent to the Western Front to fight in France, but was never sent to the front lines.
Kastner rejoined the military in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II. At the end of the war, he became a judge.

GRAND FORKS, North Dakota
In 23 of the 27 DC-10 airplanes destroyed in accidents, 90 percent of the passengers have survived. In one 1989 crash in Sioux City, Iowa - a crash so violent that the plane broke into multiple sections and a fireball erupted - 185 of the 296 passengers and crew members survived, including a baby placed on the floor (as instructed).

The Greed Narrative goes something like this: The financial markets are dominated by absurdly overpaid zillionaires. They invent complex financial instruments, like globally securitized subprime mortgages that few really understand. They dump these things onto the unsuspecting, sending destabilizing waves of money sloshing around the globe. Economies melt down. Regular people lose jobs and savings. Meanwhile, the financial insiders still get their obscene bonuses, rain or shine.
The morality of the Greed Narrative is straightforward. A small number of predators destabilize the economy and reap big bonuses. The financial system is fundamentally broken. Government should step in and control the malefactors of great wealth.
The Ecology Narrative is different. It starts with the premise that investors and borrowers cooperate and compete in a complex ecosystem. Everyone seeks wealth while minimizing risk. As Jim Manzi, a software entrepreneur who specializes in applied artificial intelligence, has noted, the chief tension in this ecosystem is between innovation and uncertainty. We could live in a safer world, but we'd have to forswear creativity.
The United States has generally opted for financial innovation. This has worked out pretty well. America has enjoyed 25 years of strong economic growth, in part because capital has been efficiently allocated to companies that can use it well.
Financial instruments like adjustable-rate and subprime mortgages have allowed millions of people to get homes they could not otherwise purchase, and research shows that most of these tools have been used intelligently.
Hedge funds have proliferated to help investors manage risk. These things exist precisely because investors want to smooth out volatility. In the old days, a blow to, say, the Texas economy could have dried up lending in Texas, but now funds flow globally, and money from one part of the world can shore up weakness in another.

Federal agents raided the Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, the Bowers Museum in Santa Anna and Mingei International Museum in San Diego as part of a five-year investigation into the smuggling of looted antiquities from Thailand, Myanmar, China and Native American sites.

Back at the bar, the handsome, white jacketed, slightly craggy bartender is chatting and gesturing to Paulistan regulars in Portuguese, Spanish, English and Italian... It's his friendly , highly personal exchange that also reveals a pair of Brazil's secret weapons in its arsenal of boom economy assets - warmth and multilingulism.

Leading gold and platinum mines stopped production Friday as the South African government declared a national electricity emergency in the face of power outages have caused chaos and threatened to choke economic growth. The government said there was no forseeable end to the electricity shortages. The mines were shut so that workes would not be trapped underground.

The art market and the broader economy dramatically diverged this week. As the world bourses nose-dived, auctions in unrelated areas of the art market demonstrated that art buyers are as bullish as ever.

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