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by In Wales
Sun Apr 21st, 2013 at 03:12:49 AM EST
Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 02:29:37 PM EST
The stories I bring this time: a Spanish TGV in France (below), Jaén tram woes, Stuttgart S-Bahn extension success, LEDs light the Paris Metro, propaganda war in Italy, and a project suspension in Venezuela.
In RNB20, I reported on plans to finally launch direct connections between Barcelona and French cities using French and Spanish high-speed trains on 1 April. There was scepticism in the comments about the start date, which proved entirely justified, but at least tests have now been conducted with a Spanish train, too:
FRANCE: A RENFE Series 100 high speed trainset undertook trial running at 300 km/h on LGV Est between Paris and Lorraine-TGV station during the week of March 18.
That's a beautiful line-up of trains from three countries which probably never met before (click for large version): the RENFE S-100 train (an export version of the second-generation TGV) is on the left, in the middle a German Railways (DB) ICE3, and a French State Railways (SNCF) TGV POS (fourth-generation TGV) is on the right.
Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 05:57:05 AM EST
Encouraged by the massive success of the EU stability pact (just kidding), the G20 now wants to globalise this experiment, albeit with flexible numbers. Russia’s deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak said there was now agreement at working group level to set up target zones for deficits for specific groups of countries. The approach would be flexible, and distinguish between types of economies and between the long and the short run, Frankfurter Allgemeine quotes him saying in a presentation to the Peterson Institute in Washington. But Stochak said the US rejected proposals to cut the debt-to-GDP ratios to below 90%, while Germany wants 60%.
An article by the New York Times contains the following statistic about Greece: in 2012, 10% of elementary and middle school children suffered "food insecurity". The article also mentions a program by charity Prolepsis to distribute food to 6400 families, with children in 34 public schools, who had expo, where more than half the families had experienced "medium to serious hunger. The program only managed to reduce the hunger rate to 41%.
Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 09:34:42 AM EST
Comments from JakeS in a discussion of the Reinhart/Rogoff data:
A financialized economy cannot survive long-term, because a financialized economy depends for its wealth on colonial tribute
He goes on to qualify "the neoclassical international trade literature" as "utter contemptible, pseudoscientific cargo cult garbage".
The FT today publishes analysis of data on international trade in commodities, commenting on:
Commodities: Tougher times for trading titans - FT.com
...the formidable and growing role of obscure trading houses, whose names are relatively little-known outside a community of dealers specialising in energy, metals and agricultural commodities. Enriched by China’s voracious appetite for raw materials, the world’s top 20 trading houses have reached unparalleled levels of influence over the past decade.
...the documents reveal profit growth more redolent of the explosive development of Silicon Valley start-ups than the centuries-old business of trading. The world’s top 20 independent commodities traders posted a record net profit of $36.5bn in 2008, soaring about 1,600 per cent from $2.1bn in 2000. Over the past decade those 20 trading houses posted profits of $250bn – more than the world’s top five carmakers combined....Competitors are also daunted by the companies’ extensive intelligence networks. The traders monitor supply and demand worldwide – data that they then use for arbitrage trading. At its most basic level, they deploy people to count cocoa stocks in Ivory Coast or set up cameras to film coal stocks at Japanese power stations – all to determine the inventory fluctuations and price discrepancies through which they make their millions.
Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 02:20:08 AM EST
See comments for discussion of Reinhart/Rogoff [ed comment by afew]
An old, but interesting paper:
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False - Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine
There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.
front-paged by afew
by Jerome a Paris
Tue Apr 16th, 2013 at 02:14:26 AM EST
Nuclear power plants in Oswego County on heightened awareness after Boston explosions
OSWEGO COUNTY -- In response to the Boston Marathon explosions, the nuclear power plants at Nine Mile in Scriba in Oswego County have been put on a status called heightened awareness.
Although there are no additional security measures being put in place right now, nuclear power plants in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have increased security after the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Of course, we can't put a cost on this.
Sat Apr 13th, 2013 at 07:14:31 AM EST
[Hoisted from the Weekend Newsroom]
Europe's carbon market EU-ETS, as well as the UN's CDM, are currently hampered by low carbon prices due to an over-abundance of free carbon credits. However, in an op-ed in The Guardian, University of Essex professor Steffen Böhm argues that the market-fundamentalist approach to managing carbon emissions is doomed to fail even if carbon prices would be high.
Carbon markets have lost us more than 15 years in the battle against climate change yet we continue to plough forward with scaling them up. Why?
Some hope that this global expansion of carbon markets will revive their fortunes, helping to raise billions for investments in low-carbon and climate change mitigation technologies. Others, including myself, take a more evidence based approach, arguing that this hope of the pro-market lobby is unfounded, given the inefficient and even corrupt nature of carbon markets so far.
Böhm sees the following three systemic failures:
- You can earn money off the carbon market without actually reducing emissions. One way is to apply with a project that would have been built anyway, another is to build a plant to eliminate specific greenhouse gases and then produce that greenhouse gas just to be able to benefit from carbon credits (see HFC-23 scam).
- As in other recent bubble markets, there is lack of oversight and transparency.
- Carbon credits fuel unsustainable practices, primarily through the conflict between biofuels and food production.
Böhm give examples for each and points out that they are endemic, not the exception.
Mon Apr 8th, 2013 at 11:17:10 AM EST
The death of this great lady was a merciful release. Would that we had another Margaret Thatcher to lead us now! - Norman Tebbit - Telegraph Blogs
I have just heard the news of Lady Thatcher's death. It is a sadness that such an immense figure of the late 20th century should have gone – but perhaps a merciful release for her, from a life which must have been increasingly empty in recent years. She did indeed change Britain for the better – would that there was somebody like her to lead us again now!
Add your tributes to the glistening pile the MSM has already contributed, and remember this is going to go on for days...
Sat Apr 6th, 2013 at 05:46:13 AM EST
[Hoisted from the weekend Newsroom]
The title is from the sub-title of an op-ed by Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang in The Guardian, titled Company profits depend on the 'welfare payments' they get from society. Chang mentions the recent case when Indian courts rejected a drug patent lawsuit brought by Swiss pharmaceutical Novartis, and points out that the company's two predecessors grew big in the first place because for long, Switzerland didn't recognise chemical patents. After listing some other examples, he arrives at a conclusion picking apart the 'free-market' notion of the relationship between private profits and the state. This is nothing new for ET readers, but nice to read in a clear and concise form in a mainstream news source:
the point is that all businesses make what profits they make only because the government, and the electorate as the ultimate sovereign (at least in theory), helps them in all sorts of ways – free money (banks), free workers (Poundland), monopoly rights (pharmaceutical companies), implicit permission for substandard products (supermarkets).
Once we accept that the amounts of profit companies make are ultimately determined by these "welfare payments" society decides to confer upon them, we begin to see the problem with the free-market view that has dominated the world for the last few decades.
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Apr 3rd, 2013 at 02:17:46 AM EST
Paul Krugman keeps writing piece after piece lamenting how stupid politicians are to be heaping austerity policies onto already depressed economies and then wondering why the outcome is ever more depression. He heaps scorn on discredited theories of "expansionary austerity" or that excessive public borrowing might "crowd out" private investment pointing out that all the macro-economic evidence is to the contrary.
Absent from his analyses, however, is any theory as to why political leaders (and many of their economic advisers) might be following such counter-intuitive policies, other than the implied or explicit notion that these people must be really stupid. I want to begin the process of offering a more rigorous theory here, and it is in two parts:
Part 1 is a variant of our old friend competitive devaluations: In the days of floating currencies many countries sought to improve their short run competitive position by allowing or encouraging their currency to devalue relative to their trading partners. In the longer run of course, this resulted in inflation which tended to erode this advantage, and it only works in the short term if your country manages to devalue more than your trading partners.
Of course in a currency union this is no longer possible relative to your fellow currency members, and so the only way to improve your relative competitive position is to deflate your economy more than your "partners". This leads to two problems: Deflation is much more economically damaging than external currency devaluation, and if every country in a currency Union deflates at the same time, they achieve no competitive advantage relative to each other, but manage to massively deflate the currency area as a whole. Indeed one country's deflationary policies exacerbates deflation in their neighbours. This is what is currently happening in the Eurozone with record unemployment and forward economic indicators sufficiently bad to strike terror into the hearts of anyone likely to be looking for a job in the future - itself a cause of further depression.
But part 2 of the explanation is perhaps more insidious still, and it is to Marx rather than Keynes that we have to look for inspiration: What if the current depression is also being caused by an inter-generational and class war - currently really only being effectively fought and won by the older and wealthier classes? Not all older people are wealthier, I know, but there are inter-generational as well as class aspects to this divide. Follow me below the fold if you feel this hypothesis merits further exploration and elucidation.
front-paged by afew
Mon Apr 1st, 2013 at 04:39:07 PM EST
[Hoisted from today's Newsroom]
Today's bit of conventional climate wisdom:
A glorious winter, but the Alps face a warmer world – bringing huge change | Environment | The Observer
From his office in the alpine ski resort of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, meteorologist Gilles Brunot is looking out at snow-capped peaks washed with spring sunshine, resplendent under a pale blue sky.
Much of northern Europe is pining for spring, but nobody here is complaining about the weather. Why would they? First, a surprisingly clement autumn brought the hikers and climbers in droves. Then, seamlessly, winter arrived with early snowfall in November that has been topped up regularly until last week, delighting the skiers.
Fabulous for the tourist industry, of course. And as the snow accumulates on the ski slopes, 2013 hardly seems to be adding to the body of evidence of global warming. Deep in the Alps, however, scientists are observing, monitoring and reporting the effects of changing climate patterns: there may not be many more golden years like this.
Brunot has only to click on his computer to generate the information that gives cause for concern. Up springs a graph that charts average temperatures in the alpine town of Annecy since the late 19th century. Since 1987 there has been no average annual temperature below 9.6C. Today the average is around 10.8C. A yellow line showing the rise in average temperatures rises as steeply as one of the Mont Blanc peaks outside the scientist's window.
But if that's so, how does this fit in:
Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 01:04:22 PM EST
[Hoisted from the weekend Newsroom]
In the Troika narrative about the crisis in Greece and other bail-out victims, all talk was about the responsibility of the state in paying its debts (including ones taken over from the provate sector). The same applied when Iceland was expected to adopt Icesave. In the Cyprus crisis however, they suddenly discovered investor responsibility. This could happen because (1) Cyprus was a tax haven, and (2) a lot of those investors weren't "ours", but included easily demonisable Russian investors.
However, once investor responsibility is on the table against a tax haven, it could be against other tax havens. So it's noteworthy that, according to the Cypriot government, the only fellow member state which spoke up in their favout at the Eurogroup meeting was Luxembourg (a country with even more Russian capital than Cyprus, according to the former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus). And when Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem threatened to use the Cyprus bail-in as model in future crises, it was his Luxembourgese counterpart who warned against an investor flight from Europe. Concerned?
Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 11:36:43 AM EST
I have an analysis piece up on Eurointelligence: thoughts on banking union and the Cyprus 'solution' (28.03.2013)
"The central bank defends the payment system every day, every hour, every minute." Scott Fullwiler calls this "the fundamental truth of central bank operations" and I will call it the essence of monetary union.
In sum, the case seems compelling for a Eurozone-wide clearing system, liquidity provision, deposit insurance, banking regulation and supervision, and a special resolution scheme for banks. The case is underpinned by the necessity to provide a unified and efficient payments system for the currency area, and the need to ensure its safety and defend its integrity. Arguments against joint supervision hinder the Central bank in distinguishing between illiquid and insolvent institutions. Polemics against joint deposit insurance actually foster cross-border deposit runs. And rhetoric against Target2 undermines the integrity of the payments and clearing system itself.
In conclusion, even if an immediate bank run due to Cyprus is avoided in the rest of the Eurozone, will all of Draghi's horses and all of Draghi's men be able to put together the broken egg of public confidence in deposit insurance, and more generally in the Eurozone's commitment to the integrity of its payments system?
You can read the full article over there, and comments are enabled on the site.
front-paged by afew
Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 03:01:23 AM EST
BBC News - Cyprus banks to reopen under tight security
Cyprus waits for its 'giant leap back into the dark' | World news | guardian.co.uk
Security is tight in Cyprus as banks prepare to reopen nearly two weeks after closing while a controversial bailout was negotiated.
Armed police were on guard as lorries said to be loaded with cash arrived at the central bank on Wednesday night.
Small countries feel the onset of poverty quickly. In Cyprus, now poised to become one of the biggest experiments in global financial history, people know that penury is just around the corner.
Waiting for poverty to strike is no game. It makes ordinary men and women helpless, desperate and scared. "If you look at it mathematically, there is no way out: we will just never be able to repay our bills to the EU and IMF," said Haris Christou, one young Cypriot speaking for his compatriots. "Am I afraid? Of course I am afraid. Everybody knows everything in Cyprus is going to get bad, really bad. And nobody knows where exactly we are headed."
(...) "Countries don't normally go backwards," said Leda Georgiadou, a woman in her 50s. "With this rescue we have taken a giant leap back into the dark."
Wed Mar 27th, 2013 at 06:35:16 AM EST
Over the past several months we have had the [UK] press complaining bitterly about the introduction of new regulation. This is both unnecessary and unwanted in their eyes. Depending on the argument deployed, either an outrageous attack on investigative journalism to hide the crimes and misdemeanours of the rich and powerful (which several investigative journalists have said is untrue); or, if you follow their other line of reasoning, entirely unnecessary because due to the loss of readership, there will be no papers in ten years. So any legislation will be a waste of time, and we may as well not bother.
This second argument has a particular, painful moral flaw. As the readership numbers have been falling, the tabloid press has slowly shifted its story-generated attack from those with cash and and expensive publicity machine to those without. Simply put it is easier and cheaper to train their sights on those unable, unwilling, or too far out of their depth to fight back.
Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 09:54:09 AM EST
Concluding the round-up of news since December, this time, the themes are financing, new rolling stock with technological novelties, the use of renewables, and various conflicts and problems.
Let's start with financing. London is currently building Crossrail, a new rapid transit system with an east-west tunnelled central artery which shall create a faster connection between suburban networks into various terminus stations and relieve parallel Underground lines (comparable to Paris's RER but integrated with existing services with less consequence). Crossrail services are to be operated with new trains, altogether 600 cars. The sizeable price tag of £1 billion was seen as an opportunity to launch another experiment into the involvement of private capital: last year the UK government initiated a procurement scheme in which train manufacturers were to finance the trains themselves and then let operator Transport for London lease them. But, as was often the case with PPP infrastructure projects, private investors faced risk premiums and had greater difficulty gathering capital on financial markets, leading to delays. Then on 1 March, amazingly, the government pulled the plug on the idea and reverted to procurement from public sources only, openly admitting that this method ensures speedier delivery (my emphasis):
The Government, the Mayor of London and Transport for London have today announced a move to a fully publicly funded procurement for the delivery of the new fleet of trains and maintenance facilities for Crossrail thereby helping to ensure that passenger services can open as scheduled in late 2018. This change was proposed by the Mayor of London and agreed by the Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin.
Sometimes Boris Johnson makes sense.
by Jerome a Paris
Mon Mar 25th, 2013 at 10:12:17 AM EST
A lot of strange things have been happening in the power sector lately, from negative prices, to utilities closing down brand new power plants and, naturally, action in various places to cut support for renewable energy (done in Spain and even mooted in Germany).
I've long described renewable energy producers as a price takers (i.e., they don't influence market prices in the short term and have to "take" market prices as set by other factors), but we are getting to the point, in a number of places, where the penetration of renewable energy is such that it has a real macroeconomic impact on the prices of electricity, and thus on the way power markets run. There's also been a big political battle brewing, as renewables "subsidies" are targeted by governments at a time of austerity in Europe, egged on by hardly disinterested utilities.
It is worth deconstructing what's been happening.
Mon Mar 25th, 2013 at 04:51:31 AM EST
Last-minute Cyprus deal to close bank, force losses | Reuters
(Reuters) - Cyprus clinched a last-ditch deal with international lenders to shut down its second-largest bank and inflict heavy losses on uninsured depositors, including wealthy Russians, in return for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout.
The agreement came hours before a deadline to avert a collapse of the banking system in fraught negotiations between President Nicos Anastasiades and heads of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Does anyone expect the banks to really open again
soon (my bad)?
Fri Mar 22nd, 2013 at 04:59:57 PM EST
[Hoisted from the weekend Newsroom]
As regular ET readers will remember, last year, independent Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested for publishing a list of tax dodgers which the Greek government got from IMF boss Lagarde but hid. The journalist was acquitted in the outrageous trial for telling the truth, but the higher instance ordered a re-trial. The verdict in this is due in a few months. Vaxevanis now has an op-ed in The Guardian, in which he emphasizes that Greece's mainstream media is not functioning as a check on the powers-that-be while those who publish actual facts are persecuted. He closes with a bold announcement regarding his trial:
On 6 June I will stand trial again for the disclosure of the Lagarde list. I don't know what the outcome of the trial will be. I want to state that if I am going to be convicted I will not appeal but I will ask to be put in jail. I want to be a journalist in a country that is not afraid of the truth. I care for the truth of the people not that of a caste of corrupted politicians and businessmen. I do not want the people of my country to read foreign newspapers to learn what happened in their own country, as it was happening during the junta. I don't want myself or any other journalist to [be] in danger, because of what I reveal. I don't want to be in danger of being presented as a "suspicious" journalist, just for stating self-evident facts, by the very propagandists of the power structure that brought my country on the edge. I want to be able to say what I think without the risk of my physical or psychological damage.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the EU, in the UK, where a sizeable segment of the mainstream press was caught red-handed in employing criminal information-gathering methods, a Conservative MEP blogging for The Daily Telegraph is moaning about planned press regulation supposedly killing the freedom to incite hatred against immigrants and Europe and taxes on the rich – by comparison to French media. A French journalist hit back also on the pages of The Guardian.
Fri Mar 22nd, 2013 at 06:02:39 AM EST
eKathimerini: Merkel rejects use of pension funds for Cyprus solidarity fund (March 22, 2013)
Merkel was also quoted by two MPs from her centre-right coalition as saying that debt sustainability and the restructuring of its banks must be core elements of any new Cyprus deal, which she called a matter of «credibility», Reuters reported.The credibility of NATO
Noam Chomsky interviewed by Mary Lou Finlay (April 16, 1999)
The point that they reiterate over and over is that it is necessary to establish the credibility of NATO. Now, all we have to do is translate from Newspeak. What does "credibility of NATO" mean? Are they concerned with the credibility of Italy or the credibility of Belgium? Obviously not. They are concerned with the credibility of the United States. Now, what does the "credibility of the United States" mean? Well, you can ask any Mafia don, and he'll explain it. So, suppose some Mafia don is running some area in Chicago, what does he mean by "credibility"? He means that you have got to show people that they better be obedient or else. That's credibility.
FX Briefs: Merkel: Cyprus must now act quickly
(March 22, 2013)
- Annoyed Cyprus has not contacted Troika for days
- It’s not acceptable Cyprus testing Europe
by DoDo - May 20
by Nomad - May 10
by JakeS - May 15
by gmoke - May 17
by DoDo - May 12
by Migeru - May 6