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Pew: Homicide Rates Cut in Half Over Past 20 Years (While New Gun Ownership Soared)

October 27, 2015 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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Pew: Homicide Rates Cut in Half Over Past 20 Years (While New Gun Ownership Soared)

October 27, 2015

Source: Firearms Commerce in the US, Annual Statistical Update.(From BATF)

According to the World Bank, here are the homicide rates in the US since 1995:

Here's the homicide rate graphed against total new firearms (manufactured plus imported) in US (indexed with 1995 =100):

Meanwhile, in Mexico, where the US Consulate counsels Americans to not even carry pocket knives in the face of “Mexico’s strict weapons laws.” There is exactly one gun store in Mexico. In short, the Mexican experience is a perfect example of the effect of prohibition. A lack of legal access to guns leads to a need for illegal access.

The murder rates in Mexico:

Mexican politicians complain that weapons are easily smuggled from the United States, and that is the source of their problem. But if access to guns is the problem, shouldn't murder rates be much higher in the United States? Moreover, if gun smuggling is such a problem in Mexico, this is just another piece of evidence showing the weakness of prohibition laws in preventing access to the intended target of prohibition.

Naturally, we can't blame everything on gun prohibition in Mexico, nor can we attribute the murder rate decline solely to more guns in the US. But we can say two things for sure: (1) Gun restriction in Mexico has not prevented enormous increases in the murder rate, and (2) increases in gun totals in the US have not led to a surge in the murder rate.

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Buckle Up: Scientists Warn of Dozens of Global Warming Tipping Points That Could Trigger Natural Disasters

October 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, AlterNet

Rising surface temperatures due to climate change could ultimately rearrange the planet's ecosystems.


Rising surface temperatures due to climate change could have grave consequences for human life. An international group of scientists has pinpointed 41 specific places around the globe where abrupt temperature changes could trigger natural disasters affecting ocean currents, sea ice, snow cover, tundra permafrost and terrestrial biosphere. The scientists cite environmental neglect and over-exploitation of the Earth's resources as the main contributing factors.

These “global warming tipping points” include regions that host critical elements of Earth's planetary system, such as the Amazon forest and the Tibetan plateau. While none of the areas implicated in the study are located near any major cities, the potential impact to the planet could still be grave, as they could cause a domino effect that would intensify the risk of climate change and have dramatic impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, which in turn could affect human civilization.

Published online earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study is the “first systematic screening of the massive climate model ensemble” that was presented in reports for the 5th Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that supports the ongoing efforts to establish an international treaty on climate change. The research team included meteorologists, oceanographers, climatologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

The researchers report evidence of “forced regional abrupt changes in the ocean, sea ice, snow cover, permafrost and terrestrial biosphere that arise after a certain global temperature increase.” Even more worrisome is the fact that their research casts some doubt on the generally accepted goal of keeping the increase of global surface temperature to a maximum of 2° Celsius, as they found that 18 of the potential disaster events occur at global warming levels below the 2° “safe limit” threshold.

These abrupt ecosystemic shifts, which are caused by an increasing global mean temperature change, suggest the “potential for a gradual trend of destabilization of the climate.”

RELATED: World's Biggest Economies Devise Plan That Spells …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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AlterNet Comics: Trey Gowdy's Version of the Salem Witch Trials

October 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Matt Bors, AlterNet

He's hunting for the truth, but Hillary doesn't seem impressed.


Trey Gowdy and Hillary Clinton.

Photo Credit: 
Matt Bors

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Source: ALTERNET

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Death of Middle Class: More than Half of Americans Make Less Than $30,000 a Year

October 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

The middle class is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.


A new report from the Social Security Administration gives further insight into what most Americans already know: the middle class is rapidly disappearing and a number of people are barely making ends meet. The study shows that in 2014, slightly more than 51 percent of Americans made less than $30,000, and nearly 63 percent made less than $40,000. At a time when the cost of living continues to rise across the country even as salaries have stagnated for years, it’s sobering—though not unexpected—news about the economic challenges facing a number of American families.

The numbers are particularly disturbing with a little more context. In 2013, the Economic Policy Institute determined income levels necessary for U.S. families – of two parents and two children – to have an “adequate but modest living standard.” At the lowest end was Marshall County, Mississippi, at $48,166; on the high end, New York City, at $94,676. These numbers far outpace what many Americans actually made last year.

As Michael Snyder at WashingtonsBlog points out, the “federal poverty level for a family of five is $28,410, and yet almost 40 percent of all American workers do not even bring in $20,000 a year.”

Snyder also notes that the figures only reflect the unemployed, which means millions of Americans are omitted:

“[T]he numbers above are only for those that are actually working. As I discussed just recently, there are 7.9 million working age Americans that are “officially unemployed” right now and another 94.7 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force.” When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102.6 million working-age Americans that do not have a job right now.”

The National Average Wage Index, in its entirety, can be viewed here

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There’s More to Money than Hyperinflation

October 27, 2015 in Economics

By Matt McCaffrey

German Hyperinflation
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There’s More to Money than Hyperinflation

October 27, 2015

Critics of Austrian macroeconomics often resort to strawmen when trying to challenge arguments against central banking, fiat money, and expansionary monetary policy. For example, it’s common to paint Austrians as doom-and-gloom prophets of economic collapse, with little to offer besides paranoid predictions of hyperinflations and monetary collapses lurking around every corner.

Unfortunately, even readers of Austrian economics fall into the trap of believing that the central problem with government money monopolies is that they’re always on the slippery slope to immediate catastrophe. This kind of thinking can be harmful because it encourages us to think only about obvious and extreme consequences of public policy, while ignoring more urgent, underlying issues.

The fear of hyperinflation is a good example. Hyperinflations do occur, and when they do, they give us a good look at the ultimate consequences of monetary central planning. However, hyperinflation is only one possible outcome of bad macroeconomic policy, and a rare one at that. Poor monetary institutions produce many other subtler and more pressing problems worthy of our attention.

For instance, the destruction wrought by monetary expansion is great even when inflation is slow, consistent, or numerically small. We should therefore be careful to see the damage caused by expansion for what it is: an ongoing and systemic problem that consistently produces distortions in the economy. However, as bad as it might be, it won’t necessarily result in complete economic collapse tomorrow.

As always, it’s vital to focus on the unseen effects of monetary policy, and that means considering how monetary expansion influences the price system and the behavior of entrepreneurs. The thing is, we don’t need Weimar-style money printing to redistribute wealth and encourage bubbles: even small credit expansions produce inequalities and malinvestments, whether hyperinflation eventually happens or not. Mises and other Austrians have been arguing this point for decades.

The problems run deeper than the threat of total disaster. In fact, that’s the whole point: if bad monetary policies always produced immediate catastrophe, people would long ago have seen the failings of central banks and done something to replace them. …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Proposal to Legalize Pot in Arkansas Rejected Due to Spelling Errors

October 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

“Fix your typos, then we'll talk,” Arkansas Attorney General suggests.


You’d better remember to cross your T’s and dot your I’s—and to use your spellcheck feature—before you attempt to submit a proposal to legalize marijuana in Arkansas. Otherwise, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will send it right back to you with a note suggesting you get your spelling game together.

That’s apparently what happened with a proposal submitted earlier this year intending to make it legal to cultivate, manufacture, sell, possess and distribute weed in the state. According to AG Leslie Rutledge, the proposal was confusing and had to be rejected “due to ambiguities in the text.” (One example cited: “The proposal equates the words 'three tenths of one percent' and the numeric expression .03%.” The two are not in fact equal, so your intent is impossible to determine.”)

Rutledge concludes her rejection thusly:

Finally, amending the Arkansas Constitution is a serious matter that merits greater attention to detail than evidenced by the proposal, which contains several errors of spelling and syntax that tend to obscure its meaning. I urge you to review the proposal carefully to locate and correct such errors in the event you redesign and resubmit the proposal.

There’s a joke about stoners drafting bills in here somewhere, but it’s too easy to make. The AG invited the proposal writers to check their work, make their fixes and resubmit “at [their] convenience.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Bill Gates: The Private Sector Is Inept

October 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

The world's richest man doubts that the private sector is up to the most important job.


Bill Gates, still the world's richest man after all these years, does not have a lot of faith in his fellow billionaires or even capitalism when it comes to doing the right thing. It turns out he thinks the private sector is too selfish and inept to tackle the dire climate change situation, and relying on it would be courting disaster. Better to take a quasi socialist approach and remove the profit motive altogether from this important work.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Atlantic recently, Gates tacked pretty hard to the left. “There's no fortune to be made,” he said, when it comes to developing clean energy sources and mitigating climate change. Besides, he pointed out, ”the private sector is in general inept. How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them.” 

The tech magnate, who has pledged $2 billion of his own money for R&D (which seems like a lot until you consider that he is worth $79.2 billion, according to Forbes), said he was pleasantly surprised when he dug into the history of government research into big scientific questions.

“Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area,” Gates told the Atlantic. “When I first got into this I thought, ‘How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget?’ And I was worried: ‘Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that? But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these ‘Centers of Excellence.’ They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

Gates is doing a solo world tour to convince the world's richest nations to commit to innovating their way out of catastrophic climate change, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Watching the Watchmen: Best Practices for Police Body Cameras

October 27, 2015 in Economics

Coverage of recent police killings has prompted a much-needed debate on law enforcement reform, and proposals for police body cameras have featured heavily in these discussions.  A new paper from Cato scholar Matthew Feeney outlines a number of best practices designed to help law enforcement agencies at all levels address the privacy and fiscal issues associated with body cameras.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES

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If Sweden and Germany Became US States, They Would be Among the Poorest States

October 26, 2015 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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If Sweden and Germany Became US States, They Would be Among the Poorest States

October 26, 2015

The nationwide median income for the US is in red. To the left of the red column are other OECD countries, and to the right of the red bar are individual US states. These national-level comparisons take into account taxes, and include social benefits (e.g., “welfare” and state-subsidized health care) as income. Purchasing power is adjusted to take differences in the cost of living in different countries into account.

Since Sweden is held up as a sort of promised land by American socialists, let's compare it first. We find that, if it were to join the US as a state, Sweden would be poorer than all but 12 states, with a median income of $27,167.
Median residents in states like Colorado ($35,830), Massachusetts ($37,626), Virginia ($39,291), Washington ($36,343), and Utah ($36,036) have considerably higher incomes than Sweden.
With the exception of Luxembourg ($38,502), Norway ($35,528), and Switzerland ($35,083), all countries shown would fail to rank as high-income states were they to become part of the United States. In fact, most would fare worse than Mississippi, the poorest state.
For example, Mississippi has a higher median income ($23,017) than 18 countries measured here. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom all have median income levels below $23,000 and are thus below every single US state. Not surprisingly, the poorest OECD members (Chile, Mexico, and Turkey) have median incomes far below Mississippi.
Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse, has a median income ($25,528) level below all but 9 US states. Finland ranks with Germany in this regard ($25,730), and France's median income ($24,233) is lower than both Germany and Finland. Denmark fares better and has a median income ($27,304) below all but 13 US states.

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Hiker Discovers 1,200-Year-Old Viking Sword in Norway

October 26, 2015 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

vikings

While hiking across the mountain plateau that runs between western and eastern Norway, Goran Olsen sat down to take a break. That’s when he spotted a rusty sword blade lying under some rocks on the well-traveled mountain path. Archaeologists have identified Olsen’s find as a type of Viking sword made circa A.D. 750. That makes it some 1,265 years old, though the scientists have warned this is not an exact date.

Double-edged and made of wrought iron, the sword measures just over 30 inches long (77 centimeters). Though covered in rust, and lacking a handle, it is otherwise in excellent condition. The Haukeli mountains are covered in snow and frost at least six months out of the year, and experience little humidity in summer, conditions that may explain why the sword is so well preserved. As County Conservator Per Morten Ekerhovd told CNN: “It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking Age that are so well-preserved…[the sword] might be used today if you sharpened the edge.”

Beginning in the 8th century, many Vikings left their native homes in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, using advanced navigational technology to spread out across Europe and beyond. Famous—and feared—for their violent attacks on coastal cities and towns, they were also skilled traders and daring explorers who founded the first colony in Greenland and reached North America some 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The Viking Age endured until the late 11th century, leaving a lasting impact on Western society and the world.

Credit: Hordaland County Council

Viking law mandated that all free men were required to carry weapons and be prepared to wage war at all times. Of the most common weapons—swords, spears and battle-axes—swords were the most expensive to make. With their decorated hilts of silver, bronze or copper, Viking swords functioned as status symbols. According to the pagan beliefs of many Vikings, a sword was a sacred object that could help its bearer enter heaven. After attaining the highest honor of dying in battle, the heroic Viking warrior, with his sword in hand, would feast with the gods in a special place known as Valhalla.

Many later Viking sword blades were emblazoned with specific markings, believed to be the names of their creators. Of the thousands of Viking swords that have been discovered across Scandinavia and northern Europe—most excavated from burial sites or found in rivers—some 170 have been marked …read more

Source: HISTORY