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European Union


Brexit vote proved UK citizens are more stupid than Americans. SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2016 v10n1p0626

The statement that voting to leave the European Union proves that UK citizens are more stupid than Americans came from an Australian commentator, Richard O'Brien. A lot of statements have been published since Jun 24, 2016 04:00am GMT when the results of the UK referendum was called for Brexit.

I read through the arguments about leaving, Brexit, or staying, Remain, and was most convinced by the Guardian video I posted below earlier in June, and published an essay about why remaining was a good idea. You can read it below.

Unfortunately, the nature of who I am and what I write about is likely only to be seen and read by highly educated folks, and they were not the folks who voted for Brexit. 

Folks in the north of England, which was once highly industrialized and humming, they voted to leave the EU, they voted for Brexit. These folks feel disenfranchised and left out of the honey pot that overflows in London where living quarters would cost them the wages of several lifetimes. For once in their life, these folks were given a chance to do more than press their noses against glass, they were given at a whack at a ball, and decided that all their misery was due to Europe. Because England, with its long history of hanging, transporting, colonizing, clapping into military service as many poor as possible, England could not be the cause of their lack of opportunity, their discontent. It had to be the foreigners.

I have difficulty believing that all those geniuses who went to wonderful universities could not make a convincing argument to convince the angry Brexit voters that Remain was in their best interest. 

What hit me forcefully is that altering rules, regulations, jobs, alliances could be subject to a 50:50 vote. In the US we require a majority of 60%, maybe more, for every region, to change the constitution. And this referendum was equivalent to that. 

I had forgotten how stupid most people are; willing to opt for the easier solution because it takes less energy. Biting off your nose to spite your face. My Dodgson ancestors who were foundations of the London financial system and hence railways, they are twirling in their graves. And they all spoke German and French.

But did the majority of voters really vote to leave the EU? From reports from voters in the UK, parts of London were flooded and public transport was shut down. Which suggests that horrible weather related to climate change affected the election, and no allowances were made for voters being unable to vote. 

But indeed is all lost? Is the UK splitting off from the EU (European Union) inevitable? Perhaps not.

On Friday Jun 24 2016 a petition was started for a debate in UK parliament over the referendum results. The petition calls for a second referendum on the grounds that under 75% of the electorate voted, and of these, under 60% voted for Brexit.

Another possible rescue could be from the UK parliament. To leave the EU, an act has to be passed in parliament that triggers the Lisbon Treaty Article 50, at which time the clock starts ticking and the would-be exiter has exactly 2 years to exit. 

The problem with this is first, that both sides of the aisle did not want to leave the EU, and members of parliament supporting Brexit may be too few to pass an act. Second, senior leadership in both the governing Conservative Party and the Opposition Labor Party have both collapsed in the wake of the referendum. 

I am hoping that indeed this whole business ends up not in severing ties with the European Union, but as a midsummer nightmare. A really bad scare that makes everyone try harder. Because 71 years without Germany trying to kill my relatives is a really good innings. I want them working together, making up rules. Not machine gunning down each other.
Brexit: or Remain? SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2016 v10n1p0602

I grew up in the shadow of World War II and heard nonstop about what Germany did and how they cannot be trusted. German prosperity in postwar years  sticks in the throats of the less fortunate: why are they doing better than us? 

Because, my child, if Germany did not do better than most of the rest of us, they would be trying to kill us. Get over it. And I know. I married a German, and when he became demented and handicapped, the German courts decided he had of his own free will decided to stop all contact with his only children and family. Whom he adored.

Germans have a very strong feeling that all the rest of us are not terribly human, and do not have the rights of Germans. Luckily, a whole lot of other countries make up the European Union, and slap Germany down when needed. We need to continue that.

Get over your disgust at the European Union, and see what a wonderful job they have been doing. They have streamlined pharmaceutical drug approvals, they have eliminated borders, they have created a single currency which started off being on par with the US dollar, and rapidly became worth more. I am a life scientist, and what made me fall in love with the European Union was the following guidance: "Open access for all publications of research funded by partially or fully public funding, EU initiative". Wow! Spectacular!!!!

Do they need to be more democratic, more accountable? Definitely. The huge costs of maintaining itself could certainly be reduced and democratic representation needs to be improved. The European Union is trying hard to maintain peace and stability, with some success. Their mission is constantly sabotaged by France insisting on monthly 4-day sessions in Strasbourg which is a long drive from Brussels, fishing quotas in Scottish waters that make Scots apoplectic, unbearable cruelty to Greece. However, Germany has not shot at or bombed any of my relatives since 1945. Let us make sure that continues. L'Chaim!
Scotland click here
Wales click here
England click here
Ireland click here
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Latest Top (10) News


British Airways’ franchisee in South Africa throws off two black passengers

IN THE latest—and possibly most alarming—in a recent string of allegations of racism against airlines, two black musicians claim they were downgraded from business class on a British Airways-branded flight in South Africa to make room for a white woman. Thabo Mabogwane and Bongani Mohosana, a South African musical duo known as Black Motion, purchased business-class tickets for a flight on December 4th from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the South African-based Comair, branded in British Airways’ colours. They wrote on Instagram, a social-media website, that a white woman in business class complained that her seat was broken, and they “happened to be the only two young black men in the British airline business class.” They were asked to move to economy class, and when they complained they were told to leave the plane, both claim.

The airline denied to the Continue reading

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 11:03:31 +0000



Putting a price on Bitcoin

SCENE: A pet shop with a bored looking proprietor. A customer approaches

CUSTOMER: I’d like to buy a parrot.

OWNER: Certainly, sir. How about this one? It’s a Norwegian Blue. Beautiful plumage.

CUSTOMER: It’s not moving much

OWNER: It is tired and shagged out after a long squawk

CUSTOMER: Fair enough. How much is it?

OWNER: $20,000

CUSTOMER: I’ll pay with this Bitcoin

OWNER: Sorry, sir. On WavesDEX, the Bitcoin is only worth $13,500

CUSTOMER: But on LocalBitcoins, it is over $21,500! Look at the news headlines. 

OWNER: Sorry, sir, but I can’t afford the risk. My rent, heat and light are all payable in dollars.

CUSTOMER: But the dollar has ceased to be, it has shuffled off this mortal coil, it is an ex-currency

OWNER: So you say, sir. But at least it's a reliable means of exchange. It doesn’t move much from minute to minute

CUSTOMER: Like this parrot

If ever Bitcoin were widely adopted as a trading currency, this scene would be played...Continue reading

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 14:09:57 +0000



A full-scale Venezuelan default could push up oil prices

Who believes in Nicolás?

ON NOVEMBER 30th, as oil tsars from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia met in Vienna, Venezuela’s former oil minister, Eulogio del Pino, once one of their number, was seized by armed guards at dawn in Caracas, and taken to jail. His arrest was not publicly acknowledged in Vienna. His replacement, Manuel Quevedo, a general in the national guard, attended OPEC and was received with the usual deference.

Also unmentioned was how Venezuela, embroiled in a massive, messy debt default, is doing plenty of OPEC’s dirty work. Since November 2016, when OPEC first agreed with Russia to cut output to push up oil prices, Venezuela’s has fallen by 203,000 barrels a day (b/d), to 1.86m b/d in October. That is more than twice the cut it agreed with OPEC of 95,000 b/d.

If its production continues to fall—some analysts say it could be down to 1.6m b/d in 2018—it could either drive up...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



African countries are building a giant free-trade area

“AFRICA must unite,” wrote Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, in 1963, lamenting that African countries sold raw materials to their former colonisers rather than trading among themselves. His pan-African dream never became reality. Even today, African countries still trade twice as much with Europe as they do with each other (see chart). But that spirit of unity now animates a push for a Continental Free-Trade Area (CFTA), involving all 55 countries in the region. Negotiations began in 2015, aimed at forming the CFTA by the end of this year. In contrast to the WTO, African trade talks are making progress.

At a meeting on December 1st and 2nd in Niamey, the capital of Niger, African trade ministers agreed on final tweaks to the text. Heads of state will probably sign it in March, once an accompanying protocol on goods has been concluded (agreement on services has already been reached). But trade barriers will not tumble overnight. The CFTA will come into force only when 15 countries...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



Europe is seeing more collective lawsuits from shareholders

LIKE the ghosts that haunted Ebenezer Scrooge, the scandals of years past—summoned up by angry shareholders—will not let companies rest. In Britain this year, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) paid £900m ($1.2bn) to settle a long-running investor lawsuit related to the bank’s behaviour at the time of the financial crisis of 2007-08. Also in Britain, Lloyds Banking Group faces litigation. And it is not just banks. Investors in Britain sued Tesco, a supermarket chain, for losses caused by an accounting scandal in 2014. In Germany and the Netherlands investors are seeking compensation from Volkswagen (VW), a carmaker, for failing to disclose its manipulation of diesel-emissions tests.

Securities litigation is on the rise in Europe for two main reasons. The first is that America is less hospitable than it was to such cases. Until 2010 harm suffered by foreign investors could be included in American lawsuits. That changed with a Supreme Court ruling on Morrison v...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



Hedge funds embrace machine learning—up to a point

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) has already changed some activities, including parts of finance like fraud prevention, but not yet fund management and stock-picking. That seems odd: machine learning, a subset of AI that excels at finding patterns and making predictions using reams of data, looks like an ideal tool for the business. Yet well-established “quant” hedge funds in London or New York are often sniffy about its potential. In San Francisco, however, where machine learning is so much part of the furniture the term features unexplained on roadside billboards, a cluster of upstart hedge funds has sprung up in order to exploit these techniques.

These new hedgies are modest enough to concede some of their competitors’ points. Babak Hodjat, co-founder of Sentient Technologies, an AI startup with a hedge-fund arm, says that, left to their own devices, machine-learning techniques are prone to “overfit”, ie, to finding peculiar patterns in the specific data they are trained on that...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



Rio Tinto puts its faith in driverless trucks, trains and drilling rigs

Data-mine ore

FOR millennia, man has broken rocks. Whether with pickaxe or dynamite, their own or animal muscle, in a digger or a diesel truck, thick-necked miners have been at the centre of an industry that supplies the raw materials for almost all industrial activity. Making mining more profitable has long involved squeezing out more tonnes of metal per ounce of brawn. Now robots, not man, are settling themselves into the driving seat.

Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining firms, is leading that transformation in its vast iron-ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is putting its faith in driverless trucks and unmanned drilling rigs and trains, overseeing them from the office equivalent of armchairs about 1,000km (625 miles) south, in Perth. Jean-Sébastien Jacques, Rio’s chief executive, says it is ten years ahead of mining rivals in autonomous technology. For him and for Simon Thompson, a new chairman appointed on December...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



The beast of Bentonville battles Amazon, the king of the e-commerce jungle

A BOA constrictor swallowing capitalism. A cyclone dragging the economy into its vortex. If you look back at how people described Walmart a decade ago, it is eerily similar to how Amazon is viewed now. The supermarket chain has “a scale of economic power we haven’t encountered before”, warned “The Walmart Effect”, a best selling book in 2006. But capitalism never stands still. The world’s largest company by sales is now the perceived underdog in an escalating grocery war with Amazon to fill 320m American bellies. The struggle will probably end in a messy stalemate. That will mean mediocre returns for investors—and happy days for consumers.

Just when Walmart’s aura was at its most intimidating, in 2006, stagnation beckoned. Its reputation for bullying its suppliers and staff became toxic. Over the next decade it hit saturation point. About 95% of Americans shop at Walmart at least once a year. It has three square feet of shop space for every adult in the country and has sunk...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



The markets believe in Goldilocks

ANOTHER week, another record. The repeated surge of share prices on Wall Street is getting monotonous. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has passed another milestone—24,000—and the more statistically robust S&P 500 index is up by 17% so far this year. Emerging markets have performed even better, as have European shares in dollar terms (see chart).

Political worries about trade disputes, the potential for war with North Korea and the repeated upheavals in President Donald Trump’s White House: all have caused only temporary setbacks to investors’ confidence. No wonder the latest quarterly report of the Bank for International Settlements asked whether markets are complacent, noting that “according to traditional valuation gauges that take a long-term view, some stockmarkets did look frothy”, and pointing out that “some froth was also present in corporate-credit markets”.

The authors of the BIS report are not the only ones to worry that markets look expensive. The...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000



Video games could fall foul of anti-gambling laws

Four-sided bandit

A DECADE ago the idea of paying real money for virtual items was strange and exotic. These days many video-game publishers build their business models around it. Some of the world’s biggest games, such as “League of Legends”, cost nothing to buy. Instead they rely for their revenue on players buying things for use in the game, such as new characters to play with or costumes to put them in.

A new twist on that model has been attracting the attention of regulators in recent weeks. “Loot boxes” are yet another type of “in-game” item that gamers buy with currency. Unlike the usual sort of purchase, however, players do not know in advance what they are buying, for the contents of a loot box are generated randomly. Sometimes they might be desirable, and therefore valuable; prized items include new gestures or “emotes” for a character, or a pearl handle for an automatic weapon. If less alluring, well, players can pay a bit more money...Continue reading

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:57:42 +0000