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St Louis Fed Chief : Does Low Inflation Justify ZIRP

November 14, 2014 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

President James Bullard dissects the nearly six years of Zero Interest Rate Policy and asks the question: does low inflation call for an earlier return to normal interest rate policy.

During his presentation, Bullard noted that the policy rate has remained near zero for almost six years and discussed whether current macroeconomic data can rationalize this exceptionally low setting for the policy rate. “Labor markets have shown steady improvement this year,” he said, adding, “Lower longer-term interest rates and lower oil prices in recent months should provide additional tailwinds for U.S. macroeconomic performance.”

Inflation, however, is currently running below the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC’s) target rate of 2 percent. In addition, he cited market-based measures of inflation expectations, which declined in recent months but have reversed course. “Global factors, including low inflation in Europe and lower oil prices, may be temporarily holding inflation down in the U.S.,” he said, adding that inflation is generally projected to rise toward the FOMC’s target.

“The FOMC has indicated that the policy rate is likely to rise next year, with the exact timing dependent on macroeconomic data in coming quarters,” Bullard noted. “Analysts sometimes cite the current low level of inflation as a reason why the FOMC may wish to remain at the zero lower bound for even longer. However, while a low inflation rate may suggest a somewhat lower-than-normal policy rate, that effect is not large enough to justify remaining at the zero lower bound.”

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Russell Brand: "There Are No Political Figures That Are Interested in Representing Ordinary People"

November 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

The British comedian talks about fighting inequality, addiction, militarized policing, and Noam Chomsky.


For years Russell Brand has been one of Britain’s most popular comedians, but over the past 12 months he has also emerged as a leading voice of Britain’s political left. He has taken part in anti-austerity protests, spoken at Occupy Wall Street protests and marched with the hacker collective Anonymous. A recovering addict himself, Brand has also become a leading critic of Britain’s drug laws. He has just come out with a new book expanding on his critique of the political system. It is simply titled “Revolution.”

Watch an interview with Brand, followed by a transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’re broadcasting from London, and we’re joined by Russell Brand. Up until last year, Russell Brand was best known for being one of the most popular comedians here in Britain. His résumé includes hosting the reality TV show Big Brother’s Big Mouth, a stint as a BBC radio host and starring roles in the films St. Trinian’s, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. He also hosted the MTV Movie Awards.

But in recent years, Russell Brand has emerged as one of the most prominent voices of the British left. He has taken part in anti-austerity protests, spoken at Occupy Wall Street and marched with the hacker collective Anonymous. A recovering addict himself, Russell Brand has also become a leading critic of Britain’s drug laws.

Last year, he guest-edited the New Statesman, a political and current affairs magazine here in Britain. The issue included cover art by Shepard Fairey and articles by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, among many others.

He then appeared on BBC Newsnight in an interview with the well-known BBC host Jeremy Paxman. The video became a YouTube sensation.

JEREMY PAXMAN: Is it true you don’t even vote?

RUSSELL BRAND: Yeah, no, I don’t vote.

JEREMY PAXMAN: Well, how do you have any authority to talk about politics then?

RUSSELL BRAND: Well, I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Cops Ditch Blind Man in Vacant Lot As Payback

November 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

Tannie Burke said he told officers he was blind, but they dropped him off in an area without streetlights or houses.


A visually impaired Florida man said police took him to an unfamiliar area and left him there in retaliation after his stepfather recorded cell phone video of a pot bust.

Four plainclothes officers from the Miami-Dade Police department pulled into a dead end street the evening of Aug. 27 and arrested three men they believed had been smoking marijuana, reported WFOR-TV.

The arrest report shows officers found a marijuana cigarette on the ground they approached the men.

Officers arrested all three of them as a fourth man recorded the incident on his cell phone.

They released two of the men after they signed tickets promising to appear in court, but the third man – Tannie “T-Man” Burke – was handcuffed and led to the back of an unmarked car, where he had trouble finding the door.

“He’s blind, dumb*ass,” says the man videotaping the arrest. “If you don’t tell him he’s walking to the car, how the hell is he going to know?”

The 21-year-old Burke has been legally blind since birth, the station reported, with no vision at all in his right eye and just a general sense of shapes and lights in his left eye.

He said he’s comfortable getting around his block in the daytime but does not venture far at night.

Burke said officers drove him around the neighborhood for about 20 minutes before dropping him off after dark in a vacant lot in South Dade – about a mile from his home.

Burke told the station that police complained throughout the drive about his stepfather.

“They said, ‘Your stepfather got a lot of mouth — you know we don’t like that,’” he said.

He said he told officers he was blind, but they didn’t seem to care and dropped him off in an area without streetlights or houses after making him sign an arrest form he couldn’t read.

Police had taken his cell phone, so Burke said he started walking home with one foot in the road and the other on the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How Cannabis Was Used to Shrink One of the Most Aggressive Brain Cancers

November 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Wai Lu, The Conversation

Combining radiotherapy with cannabinoid treatment had a big effect.


Widely proscribed around the world for its recreational uses, cannabis is being used in a number of different therapeutic ways to bring relief for severe medical conditions. Products using cannabinoids, the active components of the cannabis plant, have been licensed for medical use. Sativex, for example, which contains an equal mixture of the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), is already licenced as a mouth spray for multiple sclerosis and in the US, dronabinol and nabilone are commercially available for treating cancer-related side effects.

Now, in a study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, we’ve also shown that cannabinoids could play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults.

There are more than 85 cannabinoids, which are known to bind to unique receptors in cells and which receive outside chemical signals. These receptors feed into signalling pathways, telling cells what to do. Recent studies have shown that some cannabinoids have potent anti-cancer action. For example, both THC and CBD have been shown in a number of laboratory studies to effectively induce cell death in tumour cells by modifying the faulty signalling pathways inside these cells. Depending on the cell type this can disrupt tumour growth or start to kill it.

The psychoactivity associated with some cannabinoids, principally THC (which gives people a cannabis high), is also mediated via the same receptors. Because these receptors are found in the highest abundances in brain cells, it follows that brain tumours also rich in these receptors may respond best to cannabinoids.

We wanted to investigate the anti-cancer effects of Sativex in glioma cells. High-grade glioma is an aggressive cancer, with very low long-term survival rates. Statistics show that just over a third (36%) of adult patients in the UK with glioma live for at least a year, while the five-year survival rate is 10%.

Depending on the individual, treatment can consist of surgery, radiotherapy, and/or chemotherapy with the drug temozolomide. However, due primarily to the intricate localisation of the tumour in the brain and its invasive behaviour, these treatments …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Oh Good, Another World Bank

November 14, 2014 in Economics

By Carmen Elena Dorobăț

Obama’s recent trip to Beijing revealed that China is ready to begin the operations of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)—another international financial institution in the dazzling panoply of development banks—as early as next year. The AIIB is supposed to finance infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region, in the ballpark of $8 trillion over the next decade. Plans for the multilateral bank have been developing since October 2013, when, tired of waiting for Western philanthropy, China began to gather the support of 21 partner countries. In fact, Beijing has been complaining for a long time that the tight purses of the World Bank and the IMF are not satisfying the financial needs of its growing economy, or those of its neighbors. The US has voiced concern about China’s project over the past year, claiming that the standards and procedures of the AIIB are not transparent enough, and thus, its activity might end up crowding out the good work of the two Bretton Woods institutions.

At least, that’s the official story. But if you read between the lines, the narrative unfolds somewhat differently.

First, China and other Asian economies need these reserve pools in the first place because of their growing budget deficits (naturally, spending cuts are out of the question). As some have explained, the $50 billion lent to all countries every year by the World Bank only covers Indonesia’s infrastructure spending plans by 2019. Thus, with the WB and IMF controlled by the US, and the Asian Development Bank under Japan’s foot, China and others feel they aren’t getting their share of the pie. Second, the US is not really worried about transparency at AIIB—the Fed has written the book on how to keep your dealings secret—but about China’s plan to use a part of its dollar reserves to fund these development projects. If the plan is carried through, the AIIB will become China’s own inflation subsidiary, with power to decide who gets flooded with credit in US currency. In the meantime, the United States has no share in the vote, and can only look forward to some price increases.

The rationale for both China’s decision and US’s reaction lies, in fact, with the workings of the current international monetary system. Mises (2010, 81-82) explained the underlying political problem of global fiat inflation:

…the question is who gets the additional money? Everybody, every country, would say the same …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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These Very Smart Teens Are Protesting to Get Comprehensive Sex Education

November 14, 2014 in Blogs

By Katie McDonough, Salon

“We need to talk healthy relationships and how to prevent rape and sexual assault, along with contraception.”


A school district in Nevada is currently holding open hearings to debate what kind of sex ed will be taught in its schools. And a group of students have been turning out to advocate for evidence-based, comprehensive sex ed because that’s exactly what they want taught in their classrooms.

The hearings are in response to an uproar from parents over a comprehensive sex ed curriculum that included age-appropriate information about sexual health, relationships, domestic violence, birth control, masturbation and gender identity. The resource was developed by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, an organization that has been working with schools for 50 years.

Here are some of the incredibly controversial things this curriculum offers (just kidding these things are not controversial at all):

Sexuality education seeks to provide an opportunity for young people to question, explore, and assess their own and their community’s attitudes about society, gender, and sexuality. This can help young people understand their family’s values, develop their own values, improve critical-thinking skills, increase self-esteem and self-efficacy, and develop insights concerning relationships with family members, individuals of all genders, sexual partners, and society at large. Sexuality education can help young people understand their obligations and responsibilities to their families and society.

And then there’s this extreme nonsense (just kidding this is not extreme nonsense):

Sexuality education seeks to help young people develop interpersonal skills, including communication, decision-making, assertiveness, and peer refusal skills, as well as the ability to create reciprocal and satisfying relationships. Sexuality education programs should prepare students to understand sexuality effectively and creatively in adult roles. This includes helping young people develop the capacity for caring, supportive, non-coercive, and mutually pleasurable intimate and sexual relationships.

Students have been attending the hearings, letting their parents, teachers and administrators know that they want this kind of education for themselves and their peers.

“I think we need to talk about identity formation; we need to talk healthy relationships and how to prevent rape and sexual assault, along with contraception,” Caitlyn Caruso, a junior in the Clark County School District, told KLAS-TV. “I’m invested in this …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Stupidity of the American Voter

November 14, 2014 in Economics

By Jim Harper

Jim Harper

Conservatives and libertarians were scandalized this week to see video of MIT economist and Obamacare “architect” Jonathan Gruber describing how a lack of transparency allowed the president’s signature health care regulation to pass. The real scandal would be if Republicans, now in control of both the House and Senate, allowed the conditions that produced Obamacare to persist.

Pro-transparency changes in the 114th Congress could create a bulwark against legislation of any stripe being rammed through with insufficient public oversight, debate, and consensus. The Obama administration is already committed to greater transparency in executive branch spending, as it implements a bill passed last spring called the DATA Act.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” academic economist Gruber said at a conference last year, singing like a canary about the Obamacare debate. “And basically — y’know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever — but basically that was really, really critical to get the thing to pass.”

Debates about future legislation and programs should be won or lost on something closer to the merits, not on non-transparent shenanigans.”

Obamacare’s backers may see Gruber’s words as a little too transparent themselves, but he was almost certainly right. Greater public knowledge of both the process and Obamacare’s inner workings, which are clearly deficient, would have produced a better debate and a better outcome.

If there’s “stupidity” among American voters, it’s the product of all the information they’re not given. Congress gave a nod to the Internet and transparency when it established the Thomas web site at the beginning of the 104th Congress in 1995. And Congress.gov is a recent user-friendly improvement. But documents and records in HTML and PDF hardly meet the public’s need for information. Twenty years on, the most recent Republican-landslide Congress should advance the ball on transparency again, by producing information about its activities as computer-readable data, in real time.

It would be impossible to catalog all the data Congress should share with the public. The House has been making slow and steady advances, including the creation of document-and-data repository docs.house.gov. But one area that is particularly ripe for improvement is legislation.

The bills introduced in Congress are published in a technical format called XML that readies them for printing and web display. That same format can be used to make bills at least partially computer-readable. The Cato Institute’s “Deepbills” project does exactly that. Supported by the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Deposing Liberty for Democracy

November 14, 2014 in Economics

By Gary Galles

One of the central tenets of progressivism has been that more democracy is the solution to “what is wrong with politics.” That is why progressives have aimed at circumventing limitations on popular opinion’s power over legislation and regulation, as if in response to Woodrow Wilson’s lament that “something intervenes between the people and the government…there must be some arm direct enough and strong enough to thrust aside the something that comes in the way,” and Theodore Roosevelt’s declaration that “I have scant patience with this talk of the tyranny of the majority.”

A century of the resultant “democracy is good” drumbeat has led “democratic” to be used for whatever is approved of politically (e.g., “our democratic way of life”), and “undemocratic” to be used for something being condemned (e.g., proposals to override the Electoral College because it is undemocratic). And the words that have lost the most rhetorical market share are liberty and tyranny. It has even led many to treat liberty and democracy as essentially the same thing. That is highly unfortunate for the “good government” idea that became America, because democracy can at least as easily decimate liberty as serve it.

Majority determination is entirely consistent with choices that destroy liberty. And there are many ways to recognize that. America’s founders said so plainly. It is also reflected in our founding documents. Many insightful observers, foreign and domestic, have understood it since then. The many endorsements clear enemies to liberty have given democracy make the same point from the opposite direction. The contractions of liberty that have accompanied “progressive” expansions of democracy reinforce that lesson to any willing to pay attention. And even a few simple questions can reveal the inconsistencies between democracy and liberty.

The American Revolution and the documents it produced are replete with praise for liberty, but far from complimentary about democracy.

John Adams asserted that Americans’ natural rights “cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws.” James Madison noted that under democracy, “There is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.” Alexander Hamilton wrote that “Real Liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.” Benjamin Rush said “A simple democracy is the devil’s own government.” Thomas Jefferson wrote that “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine,” but “elective despotism was not …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Photos From the Costa Mesa Mises Circle

November 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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Hundreds of great photos from our sold out Mises Circle event in Southern California can be found here, including photos of Ron Paul, David Gordon, Lew Rockwell, and Judge Andrew Napolitano. Over 300 attendees participated in our energetic discussion of Society Without the State. Be sure to make plans now to join us in Houston in January!

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…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Jeff Deist: The Case for Optimism

November 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

This episode features an abridged audio version of Jeff Deist’s talk from the Mises Circle event in Southern California on 8 November 2014. He argues that the state is losing its primary asset — namely, legitimacy in the eyes of those it would govern — due to its own huge failures. He also argues that we do ourselves, our ancestors, and our progeny a disservice if we give in to despair.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE