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Dinyar Rabady
Works at CERN
Attends University of Vienna
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I have to give Microsoft credit here.

It appears that the company has agreed to accept, without a fight, the ending of a state tax exemption that will result in them paying an additional $57 million over the next two years alone.

Oh, and get this.  They are the only ones being excluded from this exemption.  They are being singled out.  No other company's taxes are going up because of this move.

Why is Microsoft going along with this?  It appears that they are concerned about state funding of education and infrastructure.  It turns out that businesses actually rely on having access to employees who are educated and who can travel to work.  Who knew?

What I love about this turn of events is how it flips the Republican mantra of "Cutting taxes solves ALL our problems" on its head.  Here is a huge corporation saying, "No, please, tax us.  Just use the money wisely!"

Kudos Microsoft - Kudos!
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Ranking outcomes
Greece and the creditors are in last last-ditch negotiations where the creditors aim to keep Greece in the Eurozone and avert default. Greece aims to secure a bankruptcy deal that’s friendly to the poor and which makes growth possible. In subtext, the creditors want Greece to surrender unconditionally to the institutions to discourage similar movements elsewhere, while Greece aims for sovereignty to carry out a democratic mandate.

Recently it looks like a deal might be reached. Would that be a good outcome? I don’t think so. In my opinion the situation has deteriorated enough that walking away is better. Also we must not lose sight of better outcomes that are currently closed, opportunities that are squandered. To keep everything in context, here’s my ranking of possible outcomes from best to worst.

1. A better model for the Eurozone
The best possible outcome would be to change the architecture of the Eurozone to one that suits all economies. Currently the Euro is architected like the Deutschmark, a strong currency with very tight monetary policy similar to the gold standard and strict fiscal discipline. That has been a German political demand, but such an architecture doesn’t suit the UK (who opted out), Latin countries, and least of all weak undisciplined economies like Ireland and Greece. If the Euro were changed to be a weaker and more volatile currency like the dollar, and the ECB pursued loose monetary policy at times of trouble like the US Federal Reserve, weak economies would be better performing in general and would get out of crises easily. I’m not sure how a weak Euro would hurt Germany except psychologically.

2. A Europe with social transfers
The next best thing, if loose monetary policy and moderate inflation are out of the question, is a Europe with social transfers. A hard currency and strict fiscal discipline for governments, but a European safety net to bail out people (rather than governments) when times are bad. These would be things like EU-wide basic pensions, unemployment, and poverty line income support. Really basic stuff. Right now this is anathema in Europe, as relatively well off taxpayers in relatively prosperous economies resent paying social benefits to poorly off taxpayers in weak economies. But this is exactly the system in the United States. Individual US states and large cities routinely go bankrupt, but federal programs like food stamps and Medicaid support their poorest citizens. Is Europe really unwilling to offer the meagre social benefits that the US does?

3. Positive reform for Greece (a good deal)
After several years of deceit and mismanagement, Greek voters managed to fire the corrupt political dynasties that took turns in power and bring in outsiders (SYRIZA) intent on serious reform. Inexplicably, the creditors decided that they’d rather deal with the old guard that committed financial fraud at their expense and proceeded to undermine SYRIZA at every step. This is a squandered opportunity. For the first time in decades Greece has a morally sound government with a strong mandate and a credible agenda for reform. The same reform that Europe wants: Modern public administration, effective tax collection, making it easy to start a business. If the creditors would take Greece’s proposals seriously and engage in good faith, rapid progress would be made. Except success would look bad and Podemos in Spain would want the same.

4. Leaving the Euro and staying in the EU (no deal)
The best outcome currently open, in my view, is for Greece to walk away from negotiations and leave the Eurozone while staying in the EU. Dropping the Euro and introducing a national currency does two things: It lets the state create and circulate money in the domestic economy, and it makes imports expensive relative to domestic goods. For Greece that means the domestic economy will quickly return to health and poverty will be quickly alleviated. Food, housing, and services will be cheaper as they’re domestic. Technology imports and foreign services such as studying abroad will be expensive. The standard of living, which is mainly supported by domestic goods, will rise but Greece will feel a little backward for lack of imports. People will be able to consume more tomatoes and fewer iPhones. Greeks won’t like that because they love their iPhones, but right now tomatoes are more important.

Some common misconceptions about the impact of Greece leaving the Euro:

- Greece’s debt is a separate matter from staying in the Euro. Greece owes more Euros than it can realistically pay, so in the end it’ll realistically pay less. If Greece stays in the Euro the creditors have more leverage to ruin Greece, making repayment harder. If it leaves, Greece has more prospects to recover and could decide to default with fewer consequences. Leaving the Euro is not the same thing as defaulting on debt.

- In economic textbooks, leaving a currency union and devaluing is good for competitiveness. That works for an industrial economy whose output can scale a lot with small differences in producer prices. Greece produces olive oil and tourism. Tourism is price-sensitive, but it already faces strong market discipline and it’s not that scalable. If Greece drops the Euro it’ll become cheaper, it’ll sell a few more more holidays and foods, and overall it’ll make a bit less in Euros. The competitiveness argument is moot.

- If Greece leaves the Euro the financial fallout will be small. The Anglo-Saxon investors already took their losses and generally acted businesslike in this drama. European governments bailed out their investors and are now holding the bulk of Greece’s debt. Because Greece’s economy imploded, this debt is worth less than face value. If Greece leaves European governments can realise this loss, they can continue to hide it, or they can reflate it with ECB money creation – the same choices they face now.

- On the other hand if Greece leaves the political fallout will be large. Being in the EU or EEA but outside the Euro is increasingly looking like the better option. It’s where the UK, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland chose to be. If Greece makes the transition relatively painlessly other countries will sooner or later follow and the Euro will either unravel or lose many of its members and become a new Deutschmark for countries west of the Rhine. For Germany, this will be a large political failure.

5. Parallel currencies
Various technical proposals are being floated about Greece issuing some currency in addition to the Euro. The idea is you’d have Euros and Drachmas in your wallet and you could use either, but Drachmas would be easier to come by and worth less. These proposals aim to quit the Euro in substance while retaining it for morale, for appearances, or for the convenience of travellers. Most view them as temporary measures. Parallel currencies are a risky proposition. They work well at small scale. At large scale they’ve been tried by Latin American countries in crisis, with mixed and hard to disentangle results. Overall, depending on the technical details, parallel currencies work out about the same as leaving the Euro or significantly worse. They’re a great plaything for economists, though.

6. Continued austerity (a bad deal)
If Greece accepts the creditor’s demands it will be a bad outcome for all sides. The creditors insist on austerity and prioritising debt repayments over growth, as they have for the past five years. Continuing on this path will keep Greece impoverished and heavily indebted for the foreseeable future, and will bring further suffering and extremism. The creditors appear less concerned with fostering growth or ending the crisis, and more intent to prevent any country from going bankrupt in the Eurozone and then recovering. It’s Europe of debt servitude. The only good thing about this outcome is that it’s pacified. The empire wins, the rebels are crushed, and there’s an unhappy stability. Greece will still be broke and recurrent debt crisis will be the new normal.

7. Capital controls (like Cyprus)
One officially sponsored outcome that’s worse than austerity is what happened to Cyprus. people in Cyprus use a currency that’s called Euro and looks like the Euro, but a Euro in a Cypriot bank or in your pocket is worth less than a Euro in France or Germany because you can’t take it out of Cyprus. What happened to Cyprus is a remarkably cynical way to fracture a currency union and punish a state (for accepting the money of rich Russians) while claiming your shiny currency union is intact. After seeing the kindness of Europe, Cypriots probably wish they’d stayed a British possession. 

8. Continued uncertainty
A marginally worse outcome is continuing the uncertainty that we’ve had since January. Since SYRIZA was elected, creditors have been refusing to roll over Greece’s debts and instead are asking Greece to pay them off as they come due. The ECB cut off one form of finance to Greek banks and is reviewing the other kind (ELA) on a regular basis, effectively inciting a bank run. It’s like the US Fed announcing that Michigan state banks could go belly-up any moment now. This strategy aims to damage Greece’s finances and banking system so that Greece will more easily pay its debts, presumably.

9. Leaving the EU
There’s much good in the EU besides an ill-conceived and damaging single currency system. For poor and troubled nations like Greece the EU brings stronger human rights, freedom to settle and work in any member state, and an open market which for ordinary people means freedom from profiteering of various sorts. The great achievement of the EU is that we can be in each other’s countries as citizens, not as barely tolerated guests. We put up with stupid bureaucratic rulings on bananas and cookies to retain this privilege. It is important not to throw the EU out with the Eurozone.

10. Political meltdown
The worst possible outcome for Greece is a disorderly collapse of SYRIZA and the rise of the nazi Golden Dawn party as “national savours”. Greece is closest to the abyss, but throughout Europe the social damage of the new order of austerity is fuelling far-right parties. In France, Le Pen is on the rise. In the UK, UKIP. It would be a sad legacy for Ms. Merkel, our de-facto European president to bring about the rise of fascism everywhere but in Germany.

As said, I think the best outcome currently within reach is number 4, leaving the Eurozone. Taking a bad deal, such as the creditors insist, is currently a worse outcome, and there are many worse ones. There are also better outcomes that would be possible. Currently, the three best outcomes for Europe are politically blocked by Germany.
 
#greece   #eurozone   #eu  
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Randvoll mit Fett ist das Wollschwein. Wer einmal selbst eins getötet hat, ändert seine Haltung zum Fleischessen.
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Taxes are a really awesome invention, probably the best ever.

Prior to taxation, the following schemes dominated the Earth:

~Raiding: people would show up bearing arms and quite literally take all your stuff on pain of death. There's no "resist hard enough", it was "resist at all" and "maybe we'll kill you anyway". Worse, you might just end up enslaved as payment. Better hope you have the goats and grain! You may notice that, in the absence of taxes, the state has been turning to this through civil asset forfeiture and "offender pays" schemes like what dominated in Ferguson. Not a fun time.

~Corvée: labor provided to the state, for free, over some period of time. This is the taxation scheme which very literally built early civilization. It definitely built the pyramids and probably every ziggurat as well. This actually seems to have been well-received historically, which is odd to us, but it was probably a really great advance. One of its defining features was "payment" in daily rations which were actually pretty good, adding to its popularity. This system exists deep into the modern era as a general form of payment and, IIRC, still happens in some countries. The last US state to outlaw it, Alabama, did so in 1910.

~Feudalism: ultimately, feudalism is a way of extracting value from workers in a money-less society. Much like corvée, labor is involved. It's not technically coerced, however: your liege-lord is such because you swore that oath. Now, it's not like you had much choice since, because your father swore that oath, you don't actually have property of your own and don't have any reasonable places to exit to. But you did swear it and now, by god, you'll sharecrop for life and like it. Also not fun.

~Oligarchical collectivism: while the term belongs to Orwell, it's a pretty good descriptor of the system which, for millennia, operated alongside all of these. Ancient societies were profoundly collectivized with agricultural workers under the command of government figures like official priesthoods. Corvée built the pyramids, but oligarchical collectivism, complete with personality cult of the pharaoh and daily hate rituals against Set, fed Egypt. When I say that corvée was popular, it mostly seems so vis-a-vis this system.

~Capitation: this is actually a form of tax, but it has a distinct flavor of oppression. Often escaping the corvée was merely a matter of paying a flat tax of some amount levied on each person or household. Rich and poor alike owed however many drachmae or goods in trade, such was the magnificent equality of the law. If you couldn't pay, see corvée or raiding above.

So now we have taxation. You send in a check that's some percentage of your income. No matter what, you can pay it and, unlike in earlier years, the burden falls primarily on people who can afford it rather than on the poorest (and therefore least armed) people. You can spend your time doing what you want because, after all, you can always afford your taxes and you don't need to show up for tomb-building periodically. Sure there are some legitimate gripes about it, but the alternatives are all much worse and, as I pointed out, have been making a reappearance in places committed to ever lower taxes.

Taxes.

Greatest. Invention. Ever.
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When you get a virus, your immune system develops a response to it. This response goes away over decades, or never, and it's why you're generally immune to any virus you've survived. (There are two important exceptions. "The flu" keeps coming back because it isn't actually a single virus at all: it's an entire family of related viruses. Each year's flu tends to be 1-3 separate epidemics. Colds and other "recurring illnesses" are like that, too: a single name for a huge bestiary of different illnesses. And a few viruses like HIV are so hard to treat because they can rapidly edit themselves, changing their outer structure until your immune system can't recognize them.)

This means that your immune system ought to contain a record in it of every virus you've ever had. And that's exactly what this research team showed. Not only did they show it, but they figured out a way to build a test which, from just a small sample of your blood, can produce a list of every virus you've ever had -- whether you showed symptoms or not. 

At least, that's the short version that the press seems to have gotten. If you read the article itself (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6239/aaa0698), you'll see that it's a bit more subtle. What they actually do is set up a collection of known viruses -- 206 different viruses and over 1,000 different strains -- and can automatically scan a tiny (1µL) blood sample against all of them, seeing which ones its immune system responds to. So this won't detect any viruses or strains which they didn't put into the test; it won't pop up and say "oh hey, there's some completely unknown virus in here, too." 

This is one of those discoveries that could really change the way we do many kinds of science -- it's a big enough change that it's hard to predict what it might mean. For example, imagine if we got a viral history of a million people. We might discover that some particular pattern of viruses was connected with something seemingly unrelated: a kind of heart disease, perhaps, or Alzheimer's. It's quite likely that there are many connections like this; for example, the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer is the reason so much effort went in to making an HPV vaccine. Prior to that discovery, thousands of people were dying every year and nobody knew why.

One important question is whether a very broad survey of people's viral histories ("viromes") is a good idea, or whether it might have dangerous consequences for the people involved -- in much the same way that people have reason to fear widespread genetic testing.

I suspect that it will prove safe, because a person's virome doesn't appear to be strongly personally identifying: if you had certain strains of the flu, and a certain strain of chicken pox, then someone could probably guess which general area of the world you grew up in, but not much more.

On the other hand, viruses such as herpes-2 and HIV carry strong social stigma, and this would be reason for people not to want to broadly publicize their personal viromes. So some care will have to be taken with large-scale studies. However, the potential health benefits to this are enormous; enough that we should find a way to do it.
The test, which is still experimental, can be performed for as little as $25 and could become an important research tool for tracking patterns of disease in various populations.
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Google now continues to make me feel like I'm living in the future..
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This story has got to be the best use of tungsten carbide ever. 

(However, I must offer a correction to the story: Nobody would ever mistake that for Uranium. That would very clearly be mistaken for spheres of Plutonium, which for numerous reasons are even more alarming.)

It reminds me a bit of some things I did to mess with my students, back when I was a physicist. Once, I was teaching the advanced freshman lab, and since we were soon going to be doing radiation experiments, I started drilling them on radiation safety a few weeks in advance, because you have to know this stuff when you're a physicist. The core point of that training was all "the stuff we're working with here is all quite safe, so long as you don't do anything radically stupid."

Now, on the day of the first lab, I showed up in the room pushing our biggest source on a cart -- a big blue barrel full of paraffin shielding around a neutron source.

And, as it happened, I knew someone who owned an NBC suit -- the full-body rubber bunny-suit-with-visor sort of thing. An NBC suit I could borrow.

So I walk into a roomful of freshmen, casually wheeling in the source and talking to them, while wearing a full-body radiation suit.

"Um... you said this stuff was safe, right?"
"Oh, yeah, certainly."
"So why are you wearing that?"
"Oh, this? Just for safety's sake, you know."
"No... I mean, why are you wearing that?"
"Ah. Well you see, there's one of me, and there are twenty of you. And there's one bunny suit."

Just to make it worse, I was getting ready to do this to another class, and just as I had finally gotten in to that damned suit, the fire alarm went off.

I decided to take the time to remove the suit before evacuating the building, on the theory that a fire alarm in the physics building followed by someone leaving quickly while wearing an NBC suit was likely to alarm people a little bit.

h/t to +Amber Yust for finding the lovely story linked...
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In the comments +Andreas Schou​ writes:

"The misery level in Greece is already redlined, and Tsipras presently has zero degrees of freedom. In the state Germany demands, there is zero chance of meaningful recovery.

Tsipras with additional degrees of freedom is, at best, a roll of the dice. Things will probably be worse after Grexit. But the Greek electorate already knew that, and pinned their hopes on the only alternative to an unreasonable option.

(Note that this is precisely what empirical results on the ultimatum game would predict: at some point, the nondominant player says fuck you, no and flips the table just to screw an unfair dominant player, even at substantial cost to himself.)"
 
Greece does not have the negotiation leverage they probably thought. Interestingly, +Vox​ just put up a bullet point writeup the other day on the Greek financial crisis, and noted that a Greek overplay was more than likely.
Lender says its negotiating team are going home to Washington due to a lack of progress in narrowing key differences with Athens
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Before law school, I worked at a DV/SA center.

Though I mostly worked with DV clients, I had about 40 clients who were victims of sexual assault, almost all of whom were university students. Not one of them ever expressed any desire to talk to the press. Not one of them ever did. Not even the horrific, unpunished, multi-perpetrator case which made me angry enough to go to law school.

Believe the victims, activists tell you. Aggressive questions are traumatic. False reports are rare.

This is all true.

One of my clients was expelled from her sorority house because leadership didn't want to deal with the rupture in relations with the athletes who raped her. A prosecutor, in a private moment while my client was out of the room, once asked me, "Why do these girls keep getting themselves in these situations?", and then expected me to keep that comment in confidence. A religious family cut off their daughter's college funding because she shouldn't have been alone with the perpetrator.

Unsupportive family, friends who feel the need to pick sides, a disbelieving legal system, a social framework which treats rape like an inhuman force where the only real agency is imputed to the victim? These are all real; all tremendously harmful. If you can't think of any good reason to act otherwise, don't pretend that you're some sort of universal finder-of-fact.

Journalists have conflicting professional responsibilities, and should ignore my advice.

Driven by perfectly well-meaning respect for rape survivors, perfectly well-meaning journalists keep publishing stories that can't hold up under even trivial pressure. But journalists are not therapists -- and insofar as journalists are activists, their primary allegiance needs to be to the truth, not to the source, not to the story.

Journalists need to recognize that by the time a source has agreed to make herself the centerpiece of a story about rape, something is already extraordinary: she has decided to make her entire life, for the foreseeable future, about the worst thing that has ever happened to her. That can be because she's unusually brave, unusually angry, unusually reckless, or unusually willing to change the focus of her life. But however typical it is for a journalist, it's an unusual, momentous, life-changing decision for the source.

Paying attention to the details and checking facts can be extraordinarily hard for survivors in the short run. I've never had to face up to that: confidentiality has always given me a license to believe unconditionally. But if the story (or even irrelevant facts within the story! ) won't hold up under pressure, it will ruin the source's life. No question, however pointed, however hostile, can compare to the wreckage left behind by a journalist's failure to ask.
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that's an insane level of skill. this is the hardest climb any woman has ever done. at 5.15a, there is only one grade that is harder which was only sent in 2008 by Chris Sharma: Jumbo Love
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Pretending to work

In Europe, long-term unemployment is such a big problem that people are starting to work at fake companies, without pay — just to keep up their skills! 

There are over 100 such companies.  This article focuses on one called Candelia:

Ms. de Buyzer did not care that Candelia was a phantom operation. She lost her job as a secretary two years ago and has been unable to find steady work. Since January, though, she had woken up early every weekday, put on makeup and gotten ready to go the office. By 9 a.m. she arrives at the small office in a low-income neighborhood of Lille, where joblessness is among the highest in the country.

While she doesn’t earn a paycheck, Ms. de Buyzer, 41, welcomes the regular routine. She hopes Candelia will lead to a real job, after countless searches and interviews that have gone nowhere.

“It’s been very difficult to find a job,” said Ms. de Buyzer, who like most of the trainees has been collecting unemployment benefits. “When you look for a long time and don’t find anything, it’s so hard. You can get depressed,” she said. “You question your abilities. After a while, you no longer see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

She paused to sign a fake check for a virtual furniture supplier, then instructed Candelia’s marketing department — a group of four unemployed women sitting a few desks away — to update the company’s mock online catalog. “Since I’ve been coming here, I have had a lot more confidence,” Ms. de Buyzer said. “I just want to work.”

In Europe, 53% of job seekers have been unemployed for over a year.  In Italy, the numbers is 61%.   In Greece, it's 73%.

All this makes me wonder — yet again — what will happen if robots and computers push people out of many kinds of jobs, creating a lot of long-term unemployment.  If we don't adapt wisely, what should be a good thing could be a source of misery.
Training at pretend companies is being used to fight long-term unemployment, one of the most pressing problems to emerge from Europe’s long economic crisis.
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Dinyar Rabady's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
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We very much enjoyed our stay at Glen Oaks. We stayed in the Queen Room which was very nicely furnished. The prices are steep, but this was expected for the region.
Public - 4 months ago
reviewed 4 months ago
I had the red beef curry which was very good. The service was friendly and prompt.
Public - 4 months ago
reviewed 4 months ago