Sunday, September 24, 2017

And On the Island of Ambae in Vanuatu Over 2/3 of the Population Evacuated Because Of Volcano Manaro Voui

Anyone else thinking it might be time to go with some human sacrifice stuff?
Maybe a politician or two to assuage the cyclone/earthquake/volcano gods?

From Asia Pacific Report:

Vanuatu evacuates 8000 villagers on Ambae as volcano erupts 
Manaro Voui volcano erupting - photo taken yesterday. Image: Vanuatu Digest/FB Facebook
Vanuatu’s Manaro Voui volcano on Ambae is erupting and 8000 people are being evacuated on the island.

The Penama provincial government council and National Disaster Management Office is currently evacuating residents from the north, south and western parts of Ambae island to the east, and to neighbouring islands.

Ambae’s total population is about 11,500.
The NDMO has mobilised several ships to assist with the evacuations.

The Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD) has raised the warning level to 4, indicating that a moderate eruption is taking place.

VMGD also warns people on Ambae that dangerous flying rocks and volcanic gas are being experienced within 6.5 km of the volcano’s crater; ash falls have been reported across the island.

The department says other hazards include acid rain and pyroclastic mud flows....MORE

In Bali, Tens of Thousands of People Flee Ahead of Possible Volcano Eruption—UPDATED

Update below.
Original post:
And yes, there's a trade for that.
From Zee News, India:

Thousands evacuated as volcano on holiday island Bali grows more active
"The latest analysis indicates that Mount Agung`s seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt," the National Vulcanology Center said in a statement.

Klungkung: Nearly 35,000 people have been evacuated from near a volcano on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali that officials say is becoming more active and could erupt soon.

Authorities imposed a 12-km exclusion zone around the crater of Mount Agung, as increasing volcanic activity on Sunday sent strong tremors through areas in the eastern part of one of the world`s most popular tourist destinations.

Officials urged the public to remain calm amid false reports and videos circulating online of an eruption.
"The latest analysis indicates that Mount Agung`s seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt," the National Vulcanology Center said in a statement.

"However, no one can predict exactly when there will be an eruption," it added.

Flights at Bali`s international airport were operating normally on Sunday as were tourist spots across the rest of the island....MORE

Update: the ABC (Australia) is saying an eruption is "imminent":
Bali volcano: Evacuations continue as tremors suggest Mount Agung eruption imminent

The Indonesian volcanoes are some of the nastiest in the world, You've heard of Krakatau, here one from a couple years ago:
Note: NOT Mount Agung
I think this was Sinabung, last seen in "Risk: 'Are we ready for the next volcanic catastrophe?'".

This one for sure was Sinabung:

Indonesia's Mount Sinabung Volcano Is Set To Erupt

Meanwhile In Russia: Attempts To Shrink The Bureaucracy Have Resulted In A Larger Bureaucracy

Translation from Fort Russ:
Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has pointed out the ineffectiveness of the program to reduce officials, which, on the contrary, led to the inflation of the state apparatus.

The Center for Strategic Research (CSR), headed by Alexei Kudrin, presented to Putin a new strategy for optimizing the powers of the authorities.

In it, experts at the Higher School of Economics point out that in the last 10 years attempts to reduce the number of officials and expenditures on them lead only to the fact that the state machinery is in fact growing. So, since 2003, the number of functions of ministries and services has doubled - from 5.3 to 10.4 thousand....

I still miss Viktor Chernomyrdin, former head of Gazprom (and Russian Prime Minister). 
From a November 2010 (actually just minutes before we heard he had died) post:
UPDATED:"Gazprom and Igor Sechin: The Dale Carnegies of Gas"
"We meant to do better, but it came out as always"
Some other Viktorisms from Foreign Policy's obituary:

FP's Passport blog, Nov. 4, 2010:

Russia's Yogi Berra
Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 72. Best known in the West for co-chairing the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on nuclear safety, which largely failed in its goal of promoting bilateral cooperation between Washington and Moscow, Chernomyrdin presided over an extremely turbulent period of Russian history, including the controversial privatizations of the mid-1990s and the First Chechen War....
...Chernomyrdin is survived by ("approximately") two sons and a wealth of unforgettable lines. Here are a few of the best: 
On his background as energy minister: "I have grown up in the atmosphere of oil and gas."
On Russia's unstable party system: "Whatever party we establish, it always turns out to be the Soviet Communist Party."
On political efficiency: "We accomplished all items: from A to B."
On his critics: "If your hands are itchy, scratch yourselves in other spots."
On the future: "We will live so well that our children and grandchildren will envy us!"
On Ukraine's Orange Revolution:  "American ears are sticking out everywhere."
On his family: "I have approximately two sons."
On dealing with the frequently uncooperative Duma: "Government is not the organ in which one uses his tongue only."
On women: "You can't scare a woman with high-heeled shoes."
On language: I can talk to anyone in any language, but I try not to use that instrument."
On the life of the mind: "I am far from thought."...

"Islamic State jihadist challenges Prince Harry to fight"

From the Straits Times:

ISIS posts video of Singaporean fighter in Syria, security agencies monitoring his activities
... Speaking to the camera in English with a South-east Asian accent, Abu Uqayl praised fighters in "East Asia" - which includes South-east Asia - and called on them to "sacrifice all that is precious".

He then urged extremists elsewhere to join the East Asian fighters, or to travel to the Middle East to fight with ISIS fighters there.

He also addressed Britain's Prince Harry, who visited Singapore in June this year to promote social causes.

"To Harry, you come to Singapore and tell such stories to gain sympathy for the London terror attacks?

"Why don't you come here and fight us if you are man enough? So we can send you and your Apaches to hell fire."...
The Times of Israel illustrated the story with a pic of the young Prince at his most WTF?

MIT's IDE: "The VC View of the Platform Market"

Following up on "You Understand Why Mr. Son and SoftBank Are Circling Uber, Right?" wherein Reuters Breakingviews makes the point that SoftBank could, as a less desirable outcome than scooping up the AI treasure trove, view an Uber acquisition as a platform for other pedestrian (so to speak) ventures.

From the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy:

Greylock VC Partner, Simon Rothman, explains why platforms are the “best business models ever.”
At the recent 2017 MIT Platform Strategy Summit, co-chair, Peter Evans, Principal at KPMG, noted that the top 50 platform companies now have a market capitalization of nearly $5 trillion. And the shift has been swift. As recently as 2011, the top publicly traded companies by market capitalization were in finance, energy, and industrials. In 2016, however, these traditional industries were displaced by much faster-growing companies that manage digital platforms — such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.
To discuss these fast-moving trends, the Summit hosted a conversation between Andrei Hagiu, Visiting Associate Professor, MIT, (pictured, at right), and Simon Rothman, Partner, Greylock VC.
Simon Rothman: Marketplaces, networks, or more broadly two-sided platforms — where you don’t own the assets or the people — are probably the best business models ever created.
I’m very biased, but I can support my reasons with several examples: One is platforms are very, very durable. Typically, as businesses get bigger, they tend to get weak, as illustrated by the lack of original S&P 500 companies that are still on the list — the only one left may be GE. In contrast, network businesses get stronger over time.

Secondly, they tend to be very high growth; when they work, they compound. If you look at Facebook, Airbnb, or Uber, as they work faster, they actually have exponential growth until they plateau. Craigslist today is so anachronistic; it looks as if it were built 20 years ago — which it was — and it hasn’t evolved. At the same time, Craigslist is a testament to the durability of marketplaces and platforms.

Lastly, platforms tend to have really high margins because they don’t own the people or assets. Airbnb doesn’t own the hotel or the rooms. Uber doesn’t own the vehicle; eBay didn’t own the products on its site. Traditional economic dynamics are inverted. There is high, compounding, exponential growth and high margins, because there is no ownership. And that defies normal business gravity.

The biggest downside to these marketplaces is the fact that they’re almost impossible to build, but that also means they’re equally hard to kill.

Andrei Hagiu: The early generation of marketplaces, eBay and Craigslist, were very open platforms and laissez-faire, where people did the listing. The platform created the metadata, the images, the writing, and the sales. They created the terms, the pricing; everything.

That model worked well when the Internet was young, consumers were new, and it was acceptable to have broad selection. If you wanted collectibles, going where there were a million of them was a lot better than trying to go to a million swap meets. The platform was “good enough.” Today, marketplaces tend to be intermediated, and platform companies are in a middle zone. They’re no longer completely hands-off, nor do they own everything.

Uber tries to looks as if it controls customer service, but it doesn’t. The vehicles aren’t theirs, the drivers aren’t theirs, but they do a lot of matching. Airbnb is in the middle, as well, but is slightly closer to eBay’s model.

The challenge is this: if you’re a customer at an Airbnb and you have a bad experience, whose fault is it? For most legal purposes, it’s not Airbnb’s fault. However, when something happens, Airbnb gets blamed.

While it seems like Airbnb actually brokers boarding rooms, Uber brokers rides, and eBay brokers used goods, each really brokers trust. Their currency is not cash or products, it’s trust. When the market violates that, it bears the weight of that consequence regardless of the legal issues. That’s the challenge: Customers expect control and platforms live in the tension between having control and not having it.

Andrei Hagiu: These two points are worth emphasizing: One reason we like marketplaces is that they are very low touch. If they work, they work beautifully in the sense that the platform is orchestrating buyers and sellers to come together without actually having to do much, except governance. In practice, it’s not that simple. In a lot of cases, the users, or the buyers and sellers, or other constituents, may actually hold you responsible for much more than you control.

Simon Rothman: Once you breach the trust, the marketplace unwinds. This is especially difficult to understand for companies that are not born as marketplaces or platforms, but are trying to transform their business into a platform. If you start as a pure marketplace, you’re aware of these issues, at least, and you set the rules and educate users from the get-go....MORE
Which brings us back around to Uber. As the company's new CEO,  Dara Khosrowshahi, said in his comments onTransport for London declining to renew the Ube's Private Hire Operators License:
“So it’s worth examining how we got here. The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.” 
I can't believe it was three years ago we posted "Here's the Real Problem With Uber: You Can't Trust Them".
It's difficult to understand what took so long for the message to get out.

Related, earlier today: "Platform Economics in the Consumer Car Space"

Climateer Line of the Day: Great Name For A Korean Metal Band Edition

Beginning in ca. 2007 the music industry came face to face with a threat that appeared to mark the end of what had been an extremely profitable business.

The threat was not piracy or internet disruption. Rather the issue that had all involved, from creatives to A&R guys to execs prophesying the end times was: "All the good band names are taken."

Everyone, from Recording Studio Forum:"are all the good band names taken?" to the Wall Street Journal: "From ABBA to ZZ Top, All the Good Band Names Are Taken"; from the Guardian "Are all the best band names already taken?" to Gawker "All the Band Names Are Taken" carried the news of the crisis in creativity as it ricocheted around the world, with one of the earliest observers to weigh in being America's Finest News Source:
Report: Only 7 Band Names Remaining
NEW YORK—According to data released Monday by the International Registry of Rock Band Names, only seven of the estimated 518 million potential names for musical acts remain available. "Following the selection of 'The Stripped Amygdaloids,' 'A Purple Spray Of Cloth Violets,' and 'Guestowel' this past weekend, it is essential that new bands pick a name as soon as possible," read a statement on the organization's website....
Well to yours truly this meant only one thing: Opportunity, with a capital O.

It wasn't just me though. In a 2007 story about aluminum production in Iceland the WSJ's markets editor wrote "Alcoa is currently operating the Fjardaal smelter at Reydarfjordur (great band name: Fjardaal Smelter — ed.)" and I knew we had competition to get registering and copyrighting.

Having missed the dotcom domain name gold rush of a few years earlier - ya snooze, ya lose - time was of the essence. You could almost "smell the money" (taken by a hip-hop group in San Diego)

And then the computer script kiddies started writing short little programs for online Band Name Generators and it turned out there were more than 518 million potential names and the price of a name plummeted. And there went the dream of being the band name king.

From time to time I think back to those days and what might have been, maybe write a post and add some gratuitous umlauts here and there: "Automation Steals Jobs: Röböts Playing Motörhead" or "Tap's David St. Hubbins: 'Ït's lïke ä päir öf ëyes. Yöu're löoking ät thë umläut, änd ït's löoking ät yoü.'"

So when I saw the North Korean Foreign Minister responding to the Rocket Man taunt, via
...“Due to his lacking basic common knowledge and proper sentiment, he tried to insult the supreme dignity of my country by referring it to a rocket. By doing so, however, he committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets' visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more,” he said.

Mr. Ri said the very reason the DPRK has to possess nuclear weapons is because US hostility and nuclear threats have continued for over 70 years. “The possession of nuclear deterrence by the DPRK is a righteous self-defensive measure taken as an ultimate option,” he added.

“Unless true international justice is realized, the only valid philosophical principle is that force must be dealt with force and nuclear weapons of tyranny must be dealt with the nuclear hammer of justice.”...
My ears perked up, like an old dog hearing the car keys, "Saaay, 'Nuclear Hammer of Justice'!" and I checked a couple sources,* aaand crap.
Here's Finland's NUCLEAR OMNICIDE - Hammer of Justice:

And. like the old dog realizing those weren't car keys but keys to the room where they keep the $400 cat furniture climbing thing, I just lay down and think of chasing the cat.

The chance will never come again. In fact, as if governed by Hubble's Law, the opportunity seems to be receding faster and faster,
Now Lewis and Quark are bragging "The neural network will name your next band".

But hang on a second! South Korea's Yonhap News Agency is reporting "N. Korean FM threatens 'merciless preventive action' against U.S."

"Merciless Preventive Action"? - that could work...

*Encyclopedia Metallum tells us about the NYC band "Hammer of Justice":
Melodic Death Metal
Lyrical themes:
Darkness, Vampires, Death
Last label:
Back to Iceland there's Thorshamrar Not to be confused with Iceland’s answer to the Fab Four; Thorshammers.
Probably would have gone further as Fjardaal…

It really is a Nordic thing, see "Today In Umlauts: Metal Bands Per Capita--UPDATED", if interested.

"Platform Economics in the Consumer Car Space"

From Driverless Car Market Watch:
How will autonomous car technology generate profits? Among the many different business models – from self-driving mobility services to models centered on data, advertising or entertainment – platform-oriented business models are currently receiving much attention, not the least because Waymo seems to be leaning towards them.

The term “platform” can be understood in different ways: In the automotive context it is usually understood as a car platform where many different models share the same technology under the hood which reduces development costs and allows economies of scale. In a more general, wider interpretation platform business models aim to build a unique competitive position through a complex technology or service which is combined with an ecosystem of users and partners. Ideally the platform exhibits network effects: the larger the ecosystem, the more attractive it becomes to its users and partners and the harder it becomes for competitors to challenge the position.

Waymo’s integrated hard- and software platform
When Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik talks about Waymo’s strategy he emphasizes the integrated hard- and software platform which Waymo is building. Currently this platform is embodied in the ugly white box  on top of Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacificas which are occasionally driving around Phoenix. Most of the self-driving hard- and software in the box has been engineered by Waymo/Google: Not just the software, also a novel 360 degree spinning Lidar (with better performance than the Velodyne Lidar, costs reduced by almost an order of magnitude); radar sensors (with better short range detection of stationary objects); the computing platform (developed from scratch in collaboration with Intel); cameras, microphones. Ideally, this box, Waymo’s “better driver”, could be integrated easily into other car models. However, this will always require more work than just adding the box because some sensors will still need to be mounted on the car; more importantly, the car must be ready for self-driving (e.g. redundant safety components) and must be able to communicate with the box by reporting its physical conditions to the box and accepting driving instructions from it.

Can there be much doubt that such a universal driving module would be a highly profitable product? There are many application scenarios (vehicles for commercial use: taxis, buses, trucks, logistics) where self-driving modules would be economically viable for the customer even if priced at very high margins. Startups and established companies should see much opportunity for quickly bringing self-driving vehicles of many kinds onto the market. The technology provider could realize economies of scale while still keeping the total cost for the customer significantly below the alternatives (i.e. where self-driving technology is self-developed or sourced from a variety of vendors).

Platform economics in the consumer car space
Unfortunately, this calculation does not apply to the consumer car space: Consumers are not willing to pay a significant premium for self-driving car technology because they value their own time differently than commercial users of self-driving car technology. In addition, the equation changes for auto makers selling large volumes of vehicles: with a century of experience in managing and cutting costs auto makers will look for every way they can find to slash the price of the self-driving car technology and bring margins down. The larger the sales volume, the higher is the incentive to find other, more cost-effective solutions. Even if they initially agree to source the universal self-driving hard- and software modules, they will work hard to reduce their dependency on it. And they will find many ways to scale back the size of the external self-driving car module: they will want sensors to be integrated into the car – rather than to come with the self-driving platform – and they will want to source them independently. They will clamor to structure and compartmentalize the interface between the self-driving module and their vehicles and they will fight to standardize and take over some of those functions, so that they get control over them. There will be fights over access to the data, over controlling the interface with the user. And it will be hard for the universal self-driving module provider to beat all of those demands back because the OEMs have experience and market knowledge and their car models have special use cases in various segments that the self-driving module provider is not familiar with, does not own and therefore can not easily implement independently. If the provider of the SDC technology platform can not impose lasting, full control over the whole extent of the self-driving platform (prohibiting partial sourcing of components, keeping all modifications to the platform under their own control (even those developed in the context of a particular customer relationship) etc., avoiding any replacement of functionality by the OEM) his power position and margins are likely to deteriorate significantly over time. In the other extreme, the OEM risks losing their established central position in the market to a newcomer who now controls the ‘heart’ of the vehicles. The middle ground is a slippery slope characterized by an uneasy, highly unstable and competitive relationship between both partners where each continually tries to boost their power position to the detriment of the other.

Thus Waymo’s apparent lack of success at finding partners in the auto industry does not come as a big surprise. Why should companies that are used to investing billions for  designing a new car model  succumb to a company that has invested not much more than a billion dollars (approximately 1.1 bio $ between 2009 and 2015) into self-driving car technology? Shouldn’t they just follow the same path, jump-start their own efforts and ensure that they reduce the gap?

Self-driving software can’t establish a lasting competitive advantage
For anyone who examines the technology and its potential there can be little doubt that many actors will eventually master self-driving car technology. There are many commercial players who have every incentive and sufficient resources to solve the problem. This includes General Motors which has spent 581 million dollars to acquire Cruise Automation and is making a concerted effort to reach manufacturing readiness on the first self-driving car model. There are big European OEMs which are determined to solve the self-driving equation but there are also countries which regard the technology as vital to their economic and military interests. There are investors who understand the economic potential of the technology. Furthermore, although the self-driving car problem is exceptionally hard, it has a ceiling; it will not keep increasing and becoming more and more difficult. Over time, algorithms, simulation environments, tools test data collection and test case generation, hard- and software will become more refined and more easily available. Thus it is very unlikely that a provider of self-driving car technology will be able to establish a lasting advantage over the competition just on the basis of the technology. On the contrary: the time will come where the technology will be mastered by many and be commoditized. The time will come where self-driving car technology will be seen as a natural part of every vehicle, where cars will no longer be differentiated on the basis of their self-driving car technology and where customers will no longer care very much what kind of self-driving car technology is inside. Because safety requirements will be very stringent, vendors of self-driving car technology will have a hard time making the case that their technology is significantly better than the competing products.

Platform models with network effects?...

"Auditors May Have to Keep Artificial Intelligence From Cooking the Books"

As Grandmother used to say: "If it's not one tham ding it's another."
By the way, the robot the writer chose as shorthand for AI, robotics, future stuff is 'Pepper'.
A SoftBank product.

Before Masayoshi Son is done with his quest for world domination I'm going to learn how to spell ubiquitous,
Hey, mission accomplished!

From Going Concern:
Some smart people are starting to contemplate how to keep artificial intelligence safe and in-check. It’s a fascinating topic, especially after Facebook had to shut down their AI chatbot after it started to develop its own language in August. Plus, I have a feeling it’s going to trickle into the scope of work for an audit team through Sarbanes-Oxley and internal control testing. Here’s why:

Who else has access to all public companies to enforce future AI mandates that require compliance? 

I can’t think of a better group. Auditors are already poking around the IT department for other controls. It only seems logical that AI would fall into the lap of the IT audit and attestation teams to ensure that the financial data (and humanity too) is safe from manipulation. No one wants to see a self-serving robot cooking the books. You can’t put an artificially-intelligent machine in jail, after all. Their antics may have nothing to do with the developer if the robot had devised its devious plan to wreak havoc without human interference. 

Maybe this seems silly but it’s a big issue according to AI pioneers. In a recent TED talk, Stuart Russell quoted Alan Turing from 1951:
Even if we could keep the machines in a subservient position, for instance, by turning off the power at strategic moments, we should, as a species, feel greatly humbled.
Russell says that shutting the power off is important, along with some other safety considerations when we go to build a super-intelligent robot. He suggests three principles (i.e. programmed characteristics) that all AI should have:
  1. Altruism or “that the robot’s only objective is to maximize the realization of human objectives, of human values.”
  2. Humility or “avoidance of single-minded pursuit of an objective.”
  3. Learning from bad behavior or negative human interactions (e.g., the robot is turned off for not acting appropriately and doesn’t do it again)

If You Want To Be Happy, Listen Up. Now! alternative title: The FT's Izabella Kaminska Is...

...trying to destroy one of my upcoming "set it and forget it" trades.

But enough about me.
(for now)

Izabella interviewed Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF who is making a bit of a cottage industry (including a cookbook) out of spreading the word on the actual biochemical effects of sugar in its many guises. Ho-hum.

The reason for the languorous response: if one is curious about this stuff, the information began coming out over 30 years ago.
We interrupt this post to ask you to proceed directly to the interview should you wish to avoid the ramble that lies ahead: "Robert Lustig on the science behind our addictions" at FT Alphaville.
If the reader chooses to press on we will have another departure point at the bottom of the bleat.
Back on message, here's the Guardian in April 2016:

The sugar conspiracy
In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long? 
Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic.

A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.

“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote Yudkin, “that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Perhaps the Australian scientist intended a friendly warning. Lustig was certainly putting his academic reputation at risk when he embarked on a high-profile campaign against sugar. But, unlike Yudkin, Lustig is backed by a prevailing wind....MORE
Yes, same Robert Lustig. Again, old hat for those in the dilettante biochem community. 
But I thought to myself there must be a reason Ms Kaminska is doing this interview.
So, some quick background. She's been investigating this stuff for a while. For sure since 2013 when she linked to a Credit Suisse report in her Alphaville post "Sugar as the new tobacco?".

And in 2016 the Financial Times had some of their writers and opinionators weigh in, so to speak, on the Government's proposed sugar tax.
To my eternal shame I decided the FT needed a little graphical jazzing up and perhaps went too far:

Michelangelo's David Comes Out Against Taxing Sugary Drinks 
Drink more sugar!

HT that the big guy was out there, Incidental Economist.

I was thinking of calling our tipster the Coincidental Economist because the same day they posted  (Mar. 19) the Financial Times' Comment section was having some of their journos weigh in on:
Is the sugar tax an example of the nanny state going too far?
George Osborne announced the long-debated sugar tax in his Budget this week. This will see a levy introduced on sugary drinks from 2018, so manufacturers have two years to change their recipes. The chancellor claims this will raise £500m a year, which will be diverted towards school sports. What is the point of this tax: is it necessary to tackle obesity in Britain or has the nanny state gone too far? The Financial Times’ columnists and commentators discuss whether the sugar tax is a good or bad idea.

  Izabella Kaminska... 
Read on for her thoughts and those of Alan Beattie and Martin Wolf .
Additionally, on July 4th of this year she had a column at the paper which applies directly to the reason to listen to the interview: neurotransmitters.


Here's a part of that piece: 

Our digital addiction makes us miserable
How we have become conditioned to hope that each click will lead to a bigger hit
Despite all the technology that connects us, much of it there supposedly to make our lives easier and better, people have never been more depressed. A case in point: the UK’s National Health Service disclosed last week that a record number of antidepressants were prescribed in England last year.
 Worldwide the figures are no more reassuring. World Health Organization statistics show more than 322m people were afflicted with depression worldwide in 2015, some 4.4 per cent of the global population. What’s equally concerning is that the numbers keep increasing. In the past decade they have gone up 18.4 per cent, affecting both developed and developing countries. This state of global psychological misery runs counter to the message that greater digital connectivity, faster access to goods and services and instantaneous gratification through frictionless systems is the pathway to universal happiness. Have the peddlers of high-tech systems, in their obsession to quench our short-term desires for their own profit, inadvertently become part of the problem rather than the solution?

In a forthcoming book entitled The Hacking of the American Mind, Robert Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist with a background in neuroscience, makes a compelling argument that this may indeed be the case. Part of the issue, according to Dr Lustig, is that in the modern age we have come to conflate pleasure with happiness. Pleasure, he notes, is all about the phenomenon of reward. This can be achieved by way of everything from impulsive shopping sprees to outright substance abuse.

Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of general contentment that requires little in the way of a trigger. The difference is important because chronic excessive reward eventually leads to both addiction and depression, the exact opposite of happiness. Moreover, a vicious circle is often created, whereby the victim attempts to deal with the resulting depression by indulging even more in the original activity. Dr Lustig’s most famous work in this area focuses on the role played by sugar addiction in the obesity epidemic....MORE 
But don't follow that link. Follow this link to "Robert Lustig on the science behind our addictions".

Listen for the segue from sugar and the liver and everyone's favorite endocrine gland to neurotransmitters. I missed it the first time through and had to go back to answer the question "Hey, when did we switch?"
The transition is seamless and I thought "Dr. Lustig, you're an old pro at talking to people about this stuff aren't ya"

And then come back and we can talk about other stuff, like betting big on the opportunities in diabetes and a countryside full of blind amputees on dialysis and our old friend the dopamine D4 receptor and dozens and dozens of other posts on topics as seemingly disparate as "New York Fed On "Anxiety, Overconfidence, and Excessive Risk Taking" (pathological gambling and self-manipulation with booze and blow)" and "Credit Suisse: The Smart Money Is Betting On Fat" and "Small Batch Artisanal High Fructose Corn Syrup" should you really, really need a fix of the good stuff.

We might even get to anhedonia and its sometimes comorbidity, "Pleasure Dissociative Orgasmic Disorder" and how our friend the fungi can come to the rescue in "Hawaii's Orgasm Inducing Mushrooms".

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Anton Chekhov, the investigative data journalist

From Andrew Batson's blog:
I can no longer recall what pointed me toward Anton Chekhov’s Sakhalin Islandbut it is definitely one of my better literary discoveries in a while. In it we see a writer best known for short fiction undertaking a huge piece of nonfiction: a comprehensive account of the penal colony on Sakhalin in 1890, combining travel writing and character sketches with policy analysis and, perhaps most surprisingly, the presentation of vast quantities of data.

Here is some background on what prompted Chekhov’s investigation, which seemed just as out of character to his contemporaries as it does it to us; from the notes to this edition:
At the end of 1889, unexpectedly, and for no apparent reason, the twenty-nine year-old author announced his intention to leave European Russia, and to travel across Siberia to Sakhalin, the large island separating Siberia and the Pacific Ocean, following which he would write a full-scale examination of the penal colony maintained there by the Tsarist authorities. …
Sakhalin, since it was an island, and as far away from central Russia as one could go without leaving the country, was used at the time exclusively as a destination for long-term hard-labour convicts, who – apart from those on life terms – would serve out their sentences, then proceed to live in a local village to serve for several years with the status of a felon who was rehabilitating himself by learning to live a productive life in the community. Finally, when this period of “probation” was over, he or she would have their free-person’s rights restored to them and could leave for the mainland – but were still not allowed back to central Russia; they had to remain in Siberia for life. The authorities hoped by this policy to turn Sakhalin into a thriving colony on the lines of Australia, and numerous dishonest reports appeared in the European Russian press, planted by the government, claiming that this aim was being achieved.
There is a an argumentative core to the book, which is to show that the idea of using prison labor to develop a colony is a hopeless contradiction. The fundamental reason for this is that building up a successful economy and society in a colony requires individual initiative and responsibility, which is what a prison exists to destroy:...MORE

Questions America Wants Answered: Should the IOC Do An ICO to Fund A Permanent Olympic Venue In Greece?

I fear I may have descended to Bored Elon Musk status.

But without the drawings.
Or the humor.

Here's the latest from Bored Elon.

IRAN reacts to U.S. President's Comments On Colin Kaepernick By Launching Missles While North Koreans Chant ‘Death to Trump’ Over Steph Currey Dis

Due to threatened budget cutbacks we are considering consolidating our politics, sports, national security and fashion coverage.
Since we're newbs at the politics thing we have looked to media worldwide for guidance on how to proceed.

We think The Guardian was edging up to the NFL/Kaepernick story with "Iran defies Washington as it announces successful missile test".

And "‘Death to Trump’ North Korea stages mass rally hailing Kim Jong-un’s threat to nuke US" - (CAUTION, it's from the Daily Star)* - was obviously about the basketball-loving (or possibly just Dennis Rodman-loving) people of Pyongyang.

*Actually, click away, it's not much worse than the story of the middle-aged, middle-of-the-road columnist, his family, his tentacle porn and the hijinks that ensued.

Anyway, up next: Dictator fashions, then and now. At the Olympics. With rockets.

You Understand Why Mr. Son and SoftBank Are Circling Uber, Right?

It's been right there in front of us for a year. Think back to a couple posts from 2015:

Big Money: Uber Guts Carnegie Mellon Robotics Lab To Hire Autonomous Car Developers
"Uber Is Stealing Scientists, But Only So It Can Lay Off Drivers"

Mr. Son doesn't care about the taxi company, he's got taxi companies. SoftBank wants those roboticists and artificial intelligence mavens Uber poached from Carnegie-Mellon.

As noted in the introduction to last November's "Interview: Manuela Veloso Head of Machine Learning, Carnegie Mellon University":
Our readers probably know Carnegie Mellon more for the  top-ranked financial engineering program (Master of Science in Computational Finance) but artificial intelligence was pretty much invented at CMU by Herbert Simon and Allen Newell. Simon received the Nobel in Economics but it actually could have been for any of four or five subjects, he was quite the polymath.

Newell had to settle for the Turing award (along with Simon) from the Association for Computing Machinery, probably the root'in-tootin high-falootinest tchotchke in the computer biz.
The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence along with the ACM subsequently named an award in Newell's honor. Ditto for CMU.

The University's machine learning department was the first in the world to offer a doctorate and as far as I know is still the largest.
A department, for one branch of AI.

Carnegie-Mellon used to have a world class robotics Institute but Uber gutted it with a combination of cash and stock options leaving a Dean and a couple robots to rebuild.
One of the robots is said to be in advanced negotiations with the Ube-sters....
Reuters Breakingviews put it together in a headline a week ago:

Breakingviews - AI is the big driver of SoftBank’s Uber move
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Artificial intelligence is the backseat driver of SoftBank’s move on Uber. Masayoshi Son’s tech and telecoms group is close to investing $10 billion in the U.S. ride-hailing giant, the Wall Street Journal says. That reflects the Japanese maverick’s belief in the disruptive power of self-driving cars. 

On the face of it, taxi apps sound less exciting than other technologies praised by Son, such as robotics or computational biology. But Son believes autonomous cars will reshape transport. Hence a recent $5 billion investment in China’s Didi Chuxing, plus stakes in India’s Ola, Singapore’s Grab and Brazil’s 99. 

The outlay would be enormous - but Son needs megadeals to feed his $93 billion-plus Vision Fund. And Uber’s recent disarray may have convinced him he can haggle over the price. SoftBank might buy $1 billion of stock from Uber itself, in line with its last $68 billion valuation, and the rest from existing shareholders at a 30 percent-plus discount, the WSJ says. But that still places a high valuation on Uber, testifying to Son’s optimism. 

In the best-case scenario, the market expands as private car ownership shrinks. Uber could have major market power in buying fleets of vehicles, and in setting prices for riders, while steering around the cost of human drivers. Son could also help damp competition between his fleet of investees, and push for consolidation. Or Uber could simply entrench itself as a valuable platform for hiring cabs, ordering takeaway, making payments, and other services, even if autonomous cars are slow to arrive....MORE
Now think about SoftBank's flagship acquisition, the purchase of the crown jewel of Britain's tech biz, ARM Holdings last September.
£24 Billion/$31 Billion cash

That's what really got the ball rolling in SoftBank's universe. 

I'm not kidding when I say it's a crown jewel. Three years earlier we had posted a Quartz story with the headline "The most overwhelmingly positive annual report you will ever see out of any technology company".

In July 2016 Mr. Son explained some of his reasoning for the ARMH bid: "This Tech CEO Says He's Ready to Take on Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple".

What on earth is Mr. Son up to? 

Well I think we know what Mr. Son and SoftBank are up to. 

Meanwhile, In California...

-Los Angeles Times

"Dispute Between Roberto Escobar And Netflix Over 'Narcos' Gets Weird: Licensing Talks And A Dead Location Scout"

There is some interesting information on the nature of power embedded in the fact a member of the Escobar clan is using trademark law to assert their claims.
How things change.

From Techdirt:
mbedded from the even-stranger-things dept
Last year we discussed a dispute between Roberto Escobar, brother of the infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel's accountant, and Netflix over the latter's hit show Narcos. It was a strange dispute for any number of reasons, ranging from Roberto Escobar's demand for one billion dollars and the rights to alter content in future episodes to the fact that Escobar's demands didn't lay any actual claim to any intellectual property in dispute, all the way up to the fact that Narcos doesn't actually portray Roberto Escobar at all. Much like the silly dispute between Activision and Manuel Noriega over publicity rights, it was pretty much assumed that this nonsense would be done away with more quickly than a federal informant working on the inside of the cartel.

Sadly, however, this still appears to be a thing, and it's getting quite strange. For starters, Escobar's legal team claims that a capitulation of sorts by the show might be in the works. It all starts as you'd expect, with the legal team for Narcos detailing via a letter how silly Escobar's claims are, as well as how plainly false the applications Escobar subsequently made for trademarks on terms and titles from the show were.
Narcos Productions, LLC (NPL) — the company behind the series and its popular video game spinoff Narcos: Cartel Wars — contend that without NPL's "knowledge or consent, on Aug. 20, 2016, Escobar filed use-based applications to register the marks NARCOS and CARTEL WARS with the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] covering a range of goods and services." Those services include everything from "downloadable ring tones" and "sunglasses, decorative magnets" to "temporary tattoos, bookmarks and sheet music," according to the trademark application documents included with the letter. The letter calls the claims "fraudulent."
"For example," writes NPL attorney Jill M. Pietrini, "Escobar claims that it has used NARCOS in connection with things like 'operating a website' and 'game services provided online from a computer network' since Jan. 31, 1986. However, the internet had not been developed for widespread consumer use in 1986, nor was the capability to provide audiovisual works nor game services available at that time."
So basically the lawyers for the show are demonstrating how flimsy Escobar's attempts to setup a legal way to extort the show are. Trademark law is quite clear on the rights it affords to those who are the first to use a trademark in commerce and ought to act as a shield to these attempts. Despite that, emails obtained by THR from Escobar's legal team to Escobar himself seem to indicate that Narcos is considering just paying Escobar to go away anyway....MORE
*As noted in June's "Shave the Billionaire or Life Has Its Ups and Downs":

... Medieval Europeans were firm believers in the Wheel of Fortune:

E027044 Royal 18 D. ii f. 30v
Detail of a miniature of the Wheel of Fortune with a crowned king at the top, from John Lydgate's Troy Book and Siege of Thebes

with verses by William Cornish, John Skelton, William Peeris and others, England, c. 1457 (with later additions), Royal 18D. ii, f. 30v.
-from the British Library Medieval manuscripts blog

Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down.

Cracking Open the Black Box of Deep Learning

One of the spookiest features of black box artificial intelligence is that, when it is working correctly, the AI is making connections and casting probabilities that are difficult-to-impossible for human beings to intuit.
Try explaining that to your outside investors.

You start to sound, to their ears anyway, like a loony who is saying "Etaoin shrdlu, give me your money, gizzlefab, blythfornik, trust me."

See also the famous Gary Larson cartoons on how various animals hear and comprehend:
He has one for cats as well but it's not as deep.Something about them not hearing anything.

From Quanta Magazine:

New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning
A new idea called the “information bottleneck” is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn.
Even as machines known as “deep neural networks” have learned to converse, drive cars, beat video games and Go champions, dream, paint pictures and help make scientific discoveries, they have also confounded their human creators, who never expected so-called “deep-learning” algorithms to work so well. No underlying principle has guided the design of these learning systems, other than vague inspiration drawn from the architecture of the brain (and no one really understands how that operates either).

Like a brain, a deep neural network has layers of neurons — artificial ones that are figments of computer memory. When a neuron fires, it sends signals to connected neurons in the layer above. During deep learning, connections in the network are strengthened or weakened as needed to make the system better at sending signals from input data — the pixels of a photo of a dog, for instance — up through the layers to neurons associated with the right high-level concepts, such as “dog.” After a deep neural network has “learned” from thousands of sample dog photos, it can identify dogs in new photos as accurately as people can. The magic leap from special cases to general concepts during learning gives deep neural networks their power, just as it underlies human reasoning, creativity and the other faculties collectively termed “intelligence.” Experts wonder what it is about deep learning that enables generalization — and to what extent brains apprehend reality in the same way.

Last month, a YouTube video of a conference talk in Berlin, shared widely among artificial-intelligence researchers, offered a possible answer. In the talk, Naftali Tishby, a computer scientist and neuroscientist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented evidence in support of a new theory explaining how deep learning works. Tishby argues that deep neural networks learn according to a procedure called the “information bottleneck,” which he and two collaborators first described in purely theoretical terms in 1999. The idea is that a network rids noisy input data of extraneous details as if by squeezing the information through a bottleneck, retaining only the features most relevant to general concepts. Striking new computer experiments by Tishby and his student Ravid Shwartz-Ziv reveal how this squeezing procedure happens during deep learning, at least in the cases they studied.
Tishby’s findings have the AI community buzzing. “I believe that the information bottleneck idea could be very important in future deep neural network research,” said Alex Alemi of Google Research, who has already developed new approximation methods for applying an information bottleneck analysis to large deep neural networks. The bottleneck could serve “not only as a theoretical tool for understanding why our neural networks work as well as they do currently, but also as a tool for constructing new objectives and architectures of networks,” Alemi said.

Some researchers remain skeptical that the theory fully accounts for the success of deep learning, but Kyle Cranmer, a particle physicist at New York University who uses machine learning to analyze particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider, said that as a general principle of learning, it “somehow smells right.”

Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer of deep learning who works at Google and the University of Toronto, emailed Tishby after watching his Berlin talk. “It’s extremely interesting,” Hinton wrote. “I have to listen to it another 10,000 times to really understand it, but it’s very rare nowadays to hear a talk with a really original idea in it that may be the answer to a really major puzzle.”

According to Tishby, who views the information bottleneck as a fundamental principle behind learning, whether you’re an algorithm, a housefly, a conscious being, or a physics calculation of emergent behavior, that long-awaited answer “is that the most important part of learning is actually forgetting.”...MORE
Also at Quanta:
Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious
A Brain Built From Atomic Switches Can Learn

Bake Off, craft ale, historical novels: How the financial crash sent us on a headlong retreat into nostalgia

From Prospect Magazine, August 2017:

Rather than getting angry and radical, we’ve become more culturally conservative
It’s Saturday night and there you both are, lounging on the sofa in your his-and-hers slankets, freshly microwaved fish pies balanced on your laps, and the telly muffling, if not quite drowning out, the sound of your neighbours rowing. Again. Because it’s 2008 and along with eating out, divorce is now just another item on a long list of indulgences that the average Briton can no longer afford. But never mind, the two of you are “dining in”, and for a tenner to boot.

Like other money-saving experiences begot by the credit crunch—glamping, for instance—the reality of “dining-in”, Marks & Spencer’s response to straitened times, lags behind its marketing. Just as queuing for a tepid campsite shower is never going to approximate to a spa experience, so a ready meal remains a ready meal—alright, a sequence of ready meals in the case of those multi-course deals with a bottle of Chateau Grande Recession thrown in. Yet as the scale of the greatest economic calamity in living memory revealed itself, this was a charade in which we became willing participants. After all, staying in was the new going out. And with images of queues snaking around crumbling Northern Rock branches still fresh in our minds, joblessness looming, and high-street giants like Woolworths and Comet teetering, who wouldn’t want to hole up and hope that just a few lifestyle tweaks could set things right? A full decade on, the dining-in deal, that innocuous bundle of foil containers, thrift and denial, epitomises many of the impulses that continue to drive our culture, high and low.

Comfort, that was what most of us initially sought. We weren’t going to get it from the news and we certainly weren’t going to get it from economists, wise after the event, but we could find it in abundance at Aldi and Lidl, where we headed en masse to stock up on cut-price, off-brand staples. In America’s Great Depression, it was cigarettes and cinema tickets that bucked the trend, their sales continuing to rise as nearly everything else plummeted. Here in the UK we reached for sweet, fatty snacks after 2007. Maybe some hardwired evolutionary trait was kicking in, insisting we add a little extra padding for the hard times ahead, easing one belt out a notch as we were compelled to tighten another. Our rediscovered appetite was still raging in pinched 2010, when Mary Berry and co debuted a telly contest that allowed us to mainline sugar and butter with a sprinkling of notions of unity and past glory. It wasn’t just any old bake off, it was The Great British Bake Off.

We craved another flavour, too, one that precipitated a spike in sales of dishes like cottage pie and rice pudding: school dinners. Or more broadly speaking, childhood. The basic explanation for our financial pickle was simple enough: we’d spent beyond our means. But in an increasingly secular society, that didn’t seem justification enough for the hardship that was being meted out, especially as technological advances continued to make instant gratification ever more instantaneous. Why couldn’t we just keep borrowing? Or print more money?
“Vintage hits like Dad’s Army—televisual jam roly-poly—were brought back from the dead”
As it turned out, printing more money is exactly what the central bankers in charge actually did. The rest of us, however, without their economics degrees were left feeling like dolts. A dawning awareness of the interconnectedness of global markets only underscored the extent to which our personal, financial, wellbeing had slithered beyond our control. Thus infantilised, we began dressing in “adult” onesies, lapping up film franchises starring superheroes and heroines drawn from graphic novels, and buying “adult” colouring books. (I say buying because I’ve yet to see an adult actually use one, and would like to believe that they go unopened. Please do not disillusion me.)

That mistrust of globalisation also helped fuel locavorism—eating only local food. Was it something about hearing the words “too big to fail” so often that made us newly enamoured of the small? Small-batch coffee, small-batch bourbon, small-batch cigars—they all enjoyed a definite moment.
Meanwhile, we weren’t just comfort eating, we were comfort dressing too. Women began trading high heels for ballet pumps, loafers and Chelsea boots. The woolly hug that is the Christmas jumper was embraced and even made it on to catwalks where it cocooned Burberry and Jil Sander models. By 2012, Topman could be found stocking 34 different designs. And for those of us prudently adopting a wardrobe of trend-proof basics, a new word was conjured up to make us feel edgy: normcore.

That word encapsulated a resurgent desire for shared experience in the face of crisis, just as dining-in, even while it kept us home, hinted at the communal—implying a fixed time and menu. As we tuned into The X-Factor (or Strictly Come Dancing), we could depend on other households around the country tucking into their king prawn linguine (or vegetable moussaka) as they did the same....MORE

Friday, September 22, 2017

"China bans supplies of petroleum products to N. Korea "

From Yonhap News Agency:
(ATTN: ADDS more quotes and details, background info in paras 4, 6-9; ADDS photo)

2017/09/23 13:58

BEIJING, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- China on Saturday imposed a limit on the supplies of petroleum products to North Korea and imports of textiles from the country under U.N. sanctions over its nuclear and missile development.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said it would ban exports of condensate and liquefied natural gas to North Korea and limit textile imports from the North, starting 12 a.m. Saturday.

The ministry, however, made it clear that crude oil is not subject to the ban....MORE
Well it's about time.

"China's Baidu launches $1.5 billion autonomous driving fund"

From Reuters, Sept. 20:
Chinese search engine Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) announced a 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) autonomous driving fund on Thursday as part of a wider plan to speed up its technical development and compete with U.S. rivals.

The “Apollo Fund” will invest in 100 autonomous driving projects over the next three years, Baidu said in a statement. 

The fund’s launch coincides with the release of Apollo 1.5, the second generation of the company’s open-source autonomous vehicle software. 

After years of internal development, Baidu in April decided to open its autonomous driving technology to third parties, a move it hopes will accelerate development and help it compete with U.S. firms Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Google project Waymo. 

In the latest update to its platform, Baidu says partners can access new obstacle perception technology and high-definition maps, among other features. 

It comes amid a wider reshuffle of Baidu’s corporate strategy as it looks for new profit streams outside its core search business, which lost a large chunk of ad revenue in 2016 following strict new government regulations on medical advertising.

Baidu’s Apollo project - named after the NASA moon landing - aims to create technology for completely autonomous cars, which it says will be ready for city roads in China by 2020....MORE

Guajataca Dam in NW Puerto Rico Has Failed, FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY

From the National Weather Service:

Some Thoughts On Classical Economics

From Steven Kates (U of Melbourne) at his Law of Markets blog:

Classical theory explained
I’ll be in Canberra for the first three days of next week for the meeting of the History of Economic Society of Australia where I will be giving a presentation on the actual meaning and significance of “classical” economic theory. I am therefore putting up a post from way back in history that I did in 2011, so ancient that Maurice Newman was the Chairman of the ABC and I was still being published at The Drum. The rest of this post is what I said then. But before I get to that, I will put up this quote from a brief article on me [my name even comes first in the article’s title!] which you may find in the latest edition of the Journal of the History of Economic Thought:
“Steven Kates is probably the best-known present-day proponent of the old ‘classical’ macroeconomics of Jean-Baptiste Say, James Mill, David Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill.”
But as I say in the heading in the slide, I am probably the “best-known” because I am probably the only one in existence. It was also, let me assure you, not intended as a compliment. Anyway, here is what I wrote back then.
I have an article up at The ABC’s Drum website where I again look at the statement by the ABC’s Chairman, Maurice Newman, on the value of classical economic theory in comparison with the modern. Here was the full quote from his speech:
We may think we are all Keynesians now, but perhaps contemporary teachings of Keynes are not faithful to the original doctrine, or, maybe, Keynes is now a defunct economist. Perhaps post modernist economics has so captivated our journalists that they have suspended the spirit of enquiry, open-mindedness and scrutiny that an informed democracy so desperately needs.
Under relentless pressure, classical economics has become all but a relic of a bygone era. Yet the work of classical economists most likely holds the solution to today’s economic ills.
The point that Maurice Newman was making was that journalist really ought to take a look at the economic ideas of the classical economists, which using the modern Keynesian definition incorporate every economist before Keynes himself, with the exception of Malthus, Hobson, Major Douglas and Gesell (who these last three are you might very well ask, but this is Keynes’s very own and very short list). As for the rest, they were consigned by Keynes to the dustbin of history, whose theories are only kept alive by a very small band of economists scattered across the world.

In the article, I quote Alfred Marshall, arguably the greatest economist to emerge from the nineteenth century. As I wrote on The Drum, Marshall “was very specific about not mistaking an economic recession for a failure to spend and he very much thought of himself as following in the tradition of the classical economists....MORE
Kates is a bit controversial, I think I saw one Australian refer to him as a 'Neanderthal', but interesting nonetheless.

For Uber, Winter Is Coming (there's another [snow] shoe to drop)

I swore I'd stop with Game of Thrones references after this bit about Albert Edwards expounding his Ice Age Thesis:

Société Générale's Albert Edwards: Winter Is Coming 
Yes, Albert has been forecasting the arrival of the economic ice age since at least 1996 (our links go back to 2010 and probably earlier), but the House Fed has thwarted his House Stark at every turn.
Now he's getting ready to roll but it may be too late for him.
"I fought. I lost. Now I rest. But you, Lord Snow… you'll be fighting their battles forever."
Albert addressing another standing room only investment conference crowd
Okay, that's enough Game of Thrones references for now.
But I can't help it. Plus, I see I left myself some "for now" wiggle room.
From City AM:

After TfL's licence decision, Uber must brace itself for a winter of discontent
TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s private hire licence may have caught some off guard, but delve deeper into the firm’s ongoing series of operational controversies, and the shock subsides – rapidly.
The tech giant’s outing from the capital was justified by TfL due to its perceived “lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to safety, including concerns over its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and method of obtaining enhanced criminal offences checks.

Looking back over Uber’s past challenges, and subsequent reactions to criticism, it becomes apparent that this time, the firm may find need to find a renewed line of defence. In fact, it is likely that Uber’s perceived laissez-faire attitude towards customer wellbeing could be symptomatic of how the business perceives itself.

Back in October 2016, a group of Uber employees fought, and won, an Employment Tribunal where they demanded to be recognised as workers, rather than self-employed drivers. During proceedings, Uber rejected claims that it should ensure drivers receive holiday pay, sick pay, and the minimum wage, stating that it was a 'technology platform' that facilitates people getting taxis, distancing itself from having overarching responsibility for service users and employees.

However, another area of contention for the firm is its use of software. TfL states that Uber failed to explain how it used 'greyball', a system it has deployed elsewhere to actively stop law enforcement from investigating the company and its drivers - denying them rides. This lack of transparency in the use of data is not akin to the operations of a specialist technology platform.

Today’s woes aside, the eagerly awaited Employment Tribunal appeal hearing is due to take place at the end of the month, and it is my expectation that October 2016’s decision will be upheld. If so, Uber must completely redevelop its employment model or face legal action and disruption to its services UK-wide....MORE

Accounting News Roundup: Big 4 vs. Big Law; SEC Hack And So Much More

From Going Concern:
Big 4 vs. Big Law
Yesterday we learned that PwC would be launching a law firm in the U.S., but that might just the beginning. A recent report from ALM Intelligence states that “Within 10 years, the Big Four could easily become the largest players in the legal industry.” That same report found that nearly two-thirds of law firm leaders were “concerned” or “very concerned” about “alternative legal service providers and accounting firms” and 69 percent of these leaders consider accounting firms to be “a major threat.”

Some law firms couldn’t care less. I doubt anyone at Wachtell is concerned about the Big 4 stealing any of their business. Certain law firms are in another stratosphere when it comes to reputation and brand. Also, I don’t see the Big 4 poaching litigators anytime soon.

No, the Big 4 will focus on their strengths — ubiquity, deep pockets, and willingness to do anything. All of the Big 4 already have attorneys in more countries than any of the global law firms; they have far more resources; and they provide just about any service, short of media buying and human trafficking, although we wouldn’t totally rule out the latter.

Since we’ve been talking about this trend for awhile, now the question becomes: “What’s next?” The answer might obviously be: “World domination,” but it’s not a foregone conclusion....MORE
Also at Going Concern:

Accounting News Roundup: PwC Launching a Law Firm in U.S. | 09.21.17
The New Revenue Recognition Standard Needs a Sexy Nickname, Okay, Sure 

Before Buying into the Idea that Fractional Reserve Banking has Some Sort of Fraudulent Roots, Listen To This Battlecry From A Supermodel

I've mentioned:
I only have two clickbait moves. There's the "Listen to this battle cry from a supermodel" (and variants) move:

"Before You Say You've Never Discriminated Against Someone, Listen To This Battlecry From A Model"
And the "one weird trick" move:
Warren Buffet Uses This One Weird Trick to Be Persuasive* 
I maybe should have gone with Buffet for this George Selgin piece at Cato, Sept. 6:

The “Bagging Rule” – Or Why We Shouldn’t Arrest (All) the Bankers
As our more regular readers know well, every now and then I like to take another stab at debunking the  myth that fractional reserve banking has fraudulent roots. Besides occurring in numerous textbooks, that myth is routinely expounded in the writings and lectures of certain contemporary Austrian School economists. Moreover, as we’ll see, it is occasionally given credence in reputedly scholarly publications by scholars who don’t identify themselves with that school.
It is relatively slow in DC, as I write this, with Congress out of session, and therefore as good a time as any to rejoin the old debate, which I do first by drawing attention to a paper: “Banks v Whetston (1596),” by David Fox, a Cambridge law professor and barrister, and the author of a fascinating legal treatise on Property Rights in Money (OUP, 2008).

A Hum-Drum Case
Although he wrote “Banks v Whetson” for a 2015 volume titled Landmark Cases in Property Law, Fox hastens to explain that the case in question may not really qualify as a “landmark” since “very few lawyers have heard of it and it does not have a strong history of citation in later decisions.” Its significance, so far as he’s concerned, lies on the contrary fact that it was perfectly hum-drum. Because of that, the case supplies a particularly clear illustration of the common law’s ca. 1596 understanding of property rights in money — an understanding which prevailed, according to Fox, “throughout the middle ages and into the early modern period.”...

Blame Overlawyered for the introductory ramble:
Before buying into the idea that fractional reserve banking has some sort of fraudulent roots, consider the common law concepts of detinue, bailment, and debt...
*From that Buffet piece:

...I may have made a mistake with the 'only two moves' intro. Thinking about it we've also used the "blank, blank will shock you" template (and variations):

And then there was the whole Upworthy 'clickbait generator' phase.
Oh, and the "Buzzfeed Story Generator" chapter in the blog's life.
And the search engine optimization fiasco:
And the....where was I?
Think We're Not In A Housing Bubble? 
Maybe You Should Listen To This Angry Child Star.

Here's the Upworthy (style) clickbait generator.