October 20, 2014

Nobody Wants To Host The 2022 Olympics.

The bidding process for the 2022 Olympics was a disaster for the International Olympic Committee.
Democratic nations are no longer buying the argument that hosting the games is a wise investment. Every potential 2022 host city with a democratic government eventually pulled out of the bidding, many over economic concerns, leaving Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, as the IOC's only two options.
Academics have been saying for years that hosting the Olympics doesn't make economic sense. The costs are typically larger than expected, the infrastructure needed for a big sporting event isn't the same as the infrastructure needed for daily life, and the economic benefits are typically overstated.
The latter point was addressed by Holy Cross professor Victor Matheson in a 2004 paper called "Economic Multipliers and Mega-Event Analysis."
The paper examines a major problem with pre-event economic-impact studies, which Matheson says have a tendency to overestimate how much a one-time attraction like the Olympics will contribute to the local economy.
Olympic organizers consistently cite such studies as a justification for the astronomical costs of building and staging the games.
Matheson argues these studies are inaccurate, and he presents a hypothetical example about hotels that demonstrates why.
Before we get to his example, here's his explanation for why these studies overestimate how much money the Olympics will bring in:
In estimating economic impacts from mega-events, analysts frequently use multipliers derived from input-output tables based on the normal state of the economy even though the presence of a large temporary tourist attraction such as a World’s Fair, the Olympics, or the World Cup indicates a departure from this normal state. Mega-events are characterized by high utilization rates and increased prices for tourism related industries. While labor may benefit to some extent through increases in hours worked or higher tips, the main recipient of this windfall is likely to be business owners.
Basically, there's a difference between the way money ordinarily flows through the economy and the way money flows through the economy during the Olympics. Local workers don't benefit from the Olympics as much as business owners do. Because the industries that typically capitalize off the Olympics are dominated by national or multinational corporations, much of the new money coming in during the games will not stay in the host city, Matheson says.
Matheson uses the hotel industry ("an industry that accounts for up to half of all visitor spending during mega-events") as an example. 
The hotels built for the Sochi Olympics weren't ready in time, and probably helped the economy less than you think. The Hotel Example
He starts with a hypothetical:
  • A hotel sells 75 rooms per night at $150 per room and employs 75 workers at $100 per night.
  • The city collects a 10% tax.
  • Workers spend 50% of their wages locally, with a 2x multiplier for "subsequent rounds of spending."
If we assume the owner of the hotel is outside the city, the economic multiplier on a normal night at this hotel is 1.7 (meaning every dollar spent has a total economic benefit of $1.70 once it flows through the economy).
Matheson then presents three different scenarios that mimic what this hotel would do during the Olympics:
1. Hotel increases the number of rooms it sells by 25% and the number of nightly workers by 25%.
2. Hotel increases the number of rooms it sells by 25%, leaving the number of workers the same.
3. Hotel doubles the price of its rooms, leaving the number of rooms sold and workers the same.
In each of those scenarios, much of the additional revenue generated because of the special circumstances of the Olympics flows to the owners. As a result, the economic multiplier for the local economy is different (and smaller) than the "normal night."
Whereas every dollar spent on a normal night has a total economic benefit of $1.70, scenario No. 2 has a benefit of $1.50, and scenario No. 3 has a benefit of $1.39.

When assessing how much money the Olympics are going to make for a city, Matheson argues, economic-impact studies get it wrong because they use normal economic circumstances to assess what will be a non-normal economic event.

America Can Nearly Quadruple Its Renewable Electricity By 2030- would cost the average household only about 18 cents per month

A recent Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) study found that America can nearly quadruple its renewable electricity in the next 15 years, reaching 23% by 2030. This comes in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal that America set a modest goal of 12% renewable energy by 2030. Rachel Cleetus, Senior Climate Economist of UCS, referred to the EPA’s goal as just a fraction above “business as usual.” The UCS found raising this target, to +23% of the nation’s electricity from non-hydro renewable sources by 2030, would cost the average household only about 18 cents per month. Cleetus described this as a realistic and affordable goal: “Looking at the way renewable energy is ramping up and costs are falling dramatically, there is a real opportunity to go farther.” 
Seven states are already exceeding their proposed goals set by EPA for 2030 and another 17 have existing laws that require more renewable electricity than what the EPA requires. Nine states already report electricity from wind and/or solar in two figures. Iowa and South Dakota are at the top of this list, having both achieved 24%. Oregon has also joined this group, with 10%.
UCS started by using what states have accomplished during the past five years as a benchmark. They found that the national average annual growth rate in renewables has been 1% over the period 2009-2013. The UCS study assumes that, by 2020, every US state will at least meet the national benchmark of 1%. Some leading states that are already at or above that level would continue to grow at their current rate, subject to maximum growth rate of 1.5% a year. 
Their plan has lower proposed targets than the EPA for four states. Unlike the EPA approach, which used regionally averaged targets from state Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), the UCS used a more ambitious state-by-state approach based on demonstrated experience. The lower UCS targets arose in states like New Hampshire, which is in a region with high RES targets and therefore has a comparatively high EPA target. The UCS approach would also reduce power sector CO2 emissions by an additional 10 percent by 2030 above EPA’s draft plan, bringing them 40% below 2005 levels.
“I know that there are other groups working on strengthening other provisions of the Clean Power Plan, for example increasing the level of energy efficiency, so it may be possible to reduce emissions even more,” Cleetus said.

The Weirdest Foods From All Over The World

October 19, 2014

Grandmother starves herself to death after UK's assisted suicide laws left her with 'no alternative'

An elderly woman has starved herself to death to get around the UK’s tight and restrictive laws on assisted suicide.

Octogenarian Jean Davies, who is also a right-to-die campaigner, spent five weeks attempting to end her life and succeeded in doing so on 1 October.
The former maths teacher, 86, did not have a terminal illness, but suffered a range of conditions that made her life uncomfortable including chronic back pain and fainting episodes.

She told the Sunday Times: “It is hell. I can’t tell you how hard it is. You wouldn’t decide this unless you thought your life was going to be so bad. It is intolerable.”
It is understood that she stopped drinking water on 16 September and was frustrated that her death wasn’t days after, but two weeks.  

Ms Davies’ four children and two grandchildren were reportedly supportive of her decision.
She told the paper that she had no alternative as the other methods are “either illegal or I would need to go to [the Dignitas clinic in] Switzerland – and I want to die in my own bed”.
Earlier this month Australian doctor Philip Nitschke opened a clinic in the UK to help advise people on how to end their lives.

He told The Independent at the time: “It is easier to prepare [for death] now. That is the message Exit International has been promoting and why it is so important to have an office in London.

US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said that she was "greatly concerned" about rising inequality in the US. "I think it is appropriate to ask whether [growing inequality] is compatible with values rooted in our nation's history,"

US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said that she was "greatly concerned" about rising inequality in the US.
"I think it is appropriate to ask whether [growing inequality] is compatible with values rooted in our nation's history," she said in a speech in Boston on Friday.
Some worried the speech politicised the Fed in favour of Democrats.
President Barack Obama has highlighted inequality in recent speeches on the state of the US economy.
Ms Yellen has made efforts since taking over as head of the central bank in January to focus more on issues beyond the basic rate-setting role of the Fed.
'Great Gatsby Curve'
"The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression," she said, noting that while some degree of inequality is to be expected, the recent widening concerns her.
Ms Yellen cited the "Great Gatsby Curve", which has found that "among advanced economies, greater income inequality is associated with diminished intergenerational mobility".
To combat this trend, Ms Yellen advised focusing on four issues: affordable higher education, inheritance policy, business ownership and help for children.

Comcast Robocalls Lawsuit: Cell Phone User Sues Over ‘Harassing And Excessive’ Telemarketing

If you’re worried about robots taking over the world, don’t despair just yet. They’re probably too busy working in a Comcast call center.
A California man is suing Comcast Corporation after the company allegedly blasted his cell phone with robocalls at an “excessive and harassing rate,” despite his explicit request to stop calling. In a federallawsuit filed Thursday, Trevor Thomas of Sacramento County claims that he received numerous automated calls from the Philadelphia cable giant soliciting him for services. When he answered the phone, he was met with a prerecorded message instructing him to “wait for the next available agent,” the lawsuit states.
Thomas claims he eventually instructed a Comcast agent to cease all further calls, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the lawsuit alleges, Comcast’s robocall invasion persisted even “after knowing that there was no consent to continue the calls.”
Thomas’ attorney claims the calls violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, TCPA, which restricts telemarketing activities and, in particular, limits the legality of automated dialing systems. The legal complaint was filed by Trinette Kent of Lemberg Law LLC.
“Robocalls are a scourge in our society,” the law firm said in a statement to International Business Times. “This case shows why Congress and the FCC have been trying to eliminate unconsented Robocalls. We look forward to vindicating our client’s rights.”

Fidel Castro Offers Cuba’s Cooperation with USA to fight Ebola

Fidel Castro has expressed Cuba’s readiness to cooperate with the US in the global fight against Ebola. Cuba has been on the frontline of international response to the worst outbreak in the disease's history.
In his article “Time of Duty,” which was published on Saturday, the retired Cuban leader said that medical staff trying to save lives are the best example of human solidarity. Fighting together against the epidemic can protect the people of Cuba, Latin America, and the US from the deadly virus, he added.
“We will gladly cooperate with American [medical] personnel in this task – not for the sake of peace between the two states which have been adversaries for many years, but for the sake of peace in the world,” wrote Castro.
As the Ebola death toll currently stands at more than 4,400, the United Nations is urging the global community to help tackle the outbreak. Even to simply slow down the virus' spreading pace, international aid would have to increase 20-fold, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“We need at least a 20-fold surge in assistance – mobile laboratories, vehicles, helicopters, protective equipment, trained medical personnel, and medevac capacities,” he said.
Cuba was one of the first countries to send medical staff to the West African nations fighting the epidemic. A group of 165 health workers arrived in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, and several more groups are expected there. The Cuban team consists of 100 nurses, 50 doctors, three epidemiologists, three intensive care specialists, three infection control specialist nurses, and five social mobilization officers.
 Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.(Reuters / Revolution Studios)

This is the largest foreign medical team from a single country to take up the call since the beginning of the outbreak.
“Cuba is the only one that I know is responding with human resources in terms of health doctors and nurses,” said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman for the African Union.
Although Cuba is far from being a prospering economy, it boasts one of the best medical systems in the world, and often lends a helping hand in the aftermath of natural disasters and epidemics.
Cuba provided care to about 40 percent of the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and almost 50,000 Cuba-trained health employees work in many countries across the globe.
On Monday, Havana will host a summit of leaders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), aimed at ramping up Ebola response support.