Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

What you eat makes a huge difference in how optimally your body operates. And what you spend time reading and learning equally affects how effectively your mind operates.
Increasingly, we're filling our heads with soundbites, the mental equivalent of junk. Over a day or even a week, the changes, like those to our belly, are barely noticeable. However, if we extend the timeline to months and years, we face a worrying reality and may find ourselves looking down at the pot-belly of ignorance.
If you think of your mind as a library, three things should concern you.
1. The information you store in there  --  its accuracy and relevance;
2. Your ability to find/retrieve that information on demand; and
3. Finally your ability to put that information to use when you need it  --  that is, you want to apply it. read more

Asia has reportedly produced a new billionaire every week.

Well, it turns out to be much faster than that.

A new report by UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that one billionaire pops up in Asia every three days, outpacing all other regions in the world.

China accounted for 71% of Asia's new billionaires in 2015, up from 35% in 2009, according to the report, which has analyzed data covering more than 1,300 billionaires over the past two decades. read more

And they haven't for a long time.
In a seminar room in Oxford, one of the reporters who worked on the Panama Papers is describing the main conclusion he drew from his months of delving into millions of leaked documents about tax evasion. "Basically, we're the dupes in this story," he says. "Previously, we thought that the offshore world was a shadowy, but minor, part of our economic system. What we learned from the Panama Papers is that it is the economic system."
Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, was in Oxford to talk about his work as one of four hundred–odd journalists around the world who had access to the 2.6 terabytes of information about tax havens -- the so-called Panama Papers -- that were revealed to the world in simultaneous publication in eighty countries this spring. read more

Thursday, October 06, 2016

You've probably heard of MacArthur genius grants, and maybe wondered if you could get your hands on one of those. You're smart, right? So what does it take to get one of these grants? For one thing, these aren't something you apply for -- the MacArthur Foundation finds you. Second, the foundation doesn't actually call them "genius" grants. They're officially called "MacArthur Fellowships." But one look at the recipients and, yup, we're talking geniuses. read more

Thursday, September 29, 2016

ICHMOND, Va. -- The FBI and local police are investigating how at least 19 dead Virginians were recently re-registered to vote in this critical swing state.
One case came to light after relatives of a deceased man received a note congratulating him for registering, Rockingham County Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst said Thursday.
All 19 were initially registered as voters in the Shenandoah Valley city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, which is roughly 130 miles from Washington, D.C., although a clerk double-checking the entries later raised questions about one. She recognized the name of Richard Allen Claybrook Sr., who died in 2014 at age 87, because his son is a well-known local judge. She happened to recall that the judge's father had died. read more


Interesting as the individual characters are -- and the dryness of tax avoidance schemes certainly needs a bad-guy narrative to keep the reader reading -- the mechanisms of how money that should be taxed is instead routinely kept offshore are just as gripping. Harding was fascinated by the pristine respectability of the London offshore enablers: "I think the kind of big reveal for me was the role played by the West, and law firms, and banks, and so on," he told his Oxford seminar. "It's easy to think kleptocracy is a problem of faraway, nasty countries, about which we don't want to inquire too deeply, but it turned out that we're the biggest crooks of all, actually, in that we facilitate this." His "we" refers to the British:
By the end of 1959 about $200 million was on deposit abroad. By 1961 the total had hit $3 billion, by which time offshore financial engineering "was spreading to Zurich, the Caribbean, and beyond" as jurisdiction after jurisdiction got in on the game. Today, the economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that there is $7.6 trillion of household wealth in tax havens globally -- around 8 percent of the world's wealth.
Ronen Palan, professor of international politics at City University London, describes the birth of tax havens in a similar way in his The Offshore World (2003), a process that took about ten years. "These satellites of the City were simply booking offices: semifictional way stations on secretive pathways through the accountants' workbooks," writes Shaxson. "But these fast-growing, freewheeling hide-holes helped the world's wealthiest individuals and corporations, especially the banks, to grow faster than their more heavily regulated onshore counterparts."
Thus began a race to the deregulatory bottom. Each time one haven changes its laws to attract more funds, the rival havens have to respond. "This race has an unforgiving internal logic," writes Shaxson.
You deregulate -- then when someone else catches up with you, you must deregulate some more, to stop the money from running away.
He describes how the US eventually found it impossible to resist the lure of hot money, with a gradual blurring of the onshore and offshore escape routes from financial regulation. The end result is as described by Harding: the offshore world becomes inextricably embedded in the global political economy.

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