5/27/2016

Solitude









Not Saving Enough


Most Americans are filled with regrets — financial regrets.

Fully three in four, in fact, admit they harbor financial regrets, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults published Tuesday by Bankrate.com. 

Their biggest regret: not saving for retirement early enough (nearly one in five Americans put this in the No. 1 spot). 

What’s more, among those 65 and up, 27% said this was the biggest regret, compared with 17% of those aged 30 to 49. 

Indeed, it is costly to wait. A person who starts saving $300 a month for retirement at age 25 (assuming a 5% return on investment) will have about $450,000 saved by age 65, despite only contributing $144,000 into his retirement account. 

Meanwhile, if that person waits until 35 to save the same amount each month, he will contribute a total of $108,000 toward retirement but only have about $250,000 saved at age 65. 

“If you don’t start saving early enough, you will start to notice that later,” says Greg McBride, the chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. 

What’s more, waiting to save only exacerbates the problem of our already paltry nest eggs: According to 2015 data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, fully 28% of workers say they have less than $1,000 saved and 17% have between $1,000 and $9,999; meanwhile, just 14% of workers have $250,000 or more saved. 

That’s far too little, according to many financial advisers: Guidelines from Fidelity, for example, state that by the age of 30, you should have your entire salary saved; by 40, three times your salary saved; and, by 50, six times your salary saved.

Other financial regrets that Americans have include not having enough saved for emergencies (13%) and taking on too much student loan debt. 

Indeed, fully 62% of Americans have no emergency savings, according to a survey released last year by Bankrate.com; experts recommend that you have at least three months of living expenses in savings for emergencies. 

Furthermore, the amount of debt that students graduate with has risen rapidly: In 1993, it was less than $10,000 per student, in 2012, it was nearly $30,000, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.


5/26/2016

thurs pm

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if his criminal sex-assault case in suburban Philadelphia goes to trial.


Prosecutors had declined to charge Cosby over Andrea Constand's complaint in 2005, but arrested him in December after his explosive deposition in the woman's lawsuit became public.


In the testimony given in that deposition, Cosby is grilled about giving drugs and alcohol to women before sex; making secret payments to ex-lovers; and hosting Constand at his home. 

The two knew each other through Temple University, where he was a trustee and she managed the women's basketball team.


The following exchanges between Cosby and Constand lawyer Dolores Troiani took place in 2005 and 2006. They are excerpted for brevity and to delete legal squabbling and repetition.


Read all about it by clicking here... 

Oooooo boyyyyyy

Downfall For Males


PARIS — With its guffawing masculine hilarity, the National Assembly, France’s lower house of Parliament, would not be put to shame by the most boisterous American state legislature. 

The marble-and-velvet setting may be more elegant, but the rowdy laughter says the same thing: Men dominate.

Over the last week, that male world has been shaken. 

The Assembly’s vice president, Denis Baupin, was forced to resign after several women came forward publicly with accusations that he had sexually harassed numerous female colleagues for years.

One said Mr. Baupin had pushed her against a wall, grabbed one of her breasts and tried to force a kiss. 

Others said he had sent explicit text messages. Another said he had chased her around a desk. Still another, that he had pinched her buttocks.

The Paris prosecutor has announced a criminal investigation. 

Mr. Baupin, 53, a representative from Paris and a rising star of the Green Party, has complained about a “setup” and has threatened to sue the media outlets that broke the story.

Nonetheless, the charges have set off soul-searching over whether anything has changed in France since the downfall of a former International Monetary Fund boss, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, after a New York hotel housekeeper accused him of assault in 2011.

That, it seems, did nothing to stop Mr. Baupin. But in the country where even the word for “bawdy joke” — gauloiserie — recalls the ancestral homeland, Gaul, there are indications that this time some things may be different.

On the one hand, Mr. Baupin’s behavior was an open secret. Since the allegations have become public, ranking Green Party members have shamefacedly acknowledged knowing of Mr. Baupin’s bad behavior for years. 

Women knew never to get in an elevator alone with him or go to his office unaccompanied. They nicknamed him “the Octopus.”

The men were apparently unfazed, however. “Ah, so he’s started up again?” a male Green Party member said nonchalantly after a shocked woman recounted an assault against her in 2011, according to the news website Mediapart.

Yet at the time of his arrest in New York, Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who was widely seen as a contender for president, had plenty of defenders. “Nobody has been killed,” Jack Lang, a former Socialist culture minister, had said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, known as DSK, defended himself in a French court with claims that he was merely a “libertine” pursuing an alternative lifestyle. (He later settled out of court for what was reportedly a substantial sum.)

Even if few male French politicians have stepped up to denounce Mr. Baupin, nobody is defending him, either. 

The prominent right-leaning philosopher Alain Finkielkraut grumbled on the radio that “France is Americanizing itself in a hurry,” but added that he condemned “unseemly actions.”

5/25/2016

Hump Day Art


The Art of Samarel








Robots Create Useless Humans


It is hard to miss the warnings.

In the race to make computers more intelligent than us, humanity will summon a demon, bring forth the end of days, and code itself into oblivion. 

Instead of silicon assistants we’ll build silicon assassins. Artificial intelligence? 

It’s too clever for our own good.

The doomsday story of an evil AI has been told a thousand times. 

But behind the apocalyptic words of Stephen Hawking, the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, and Elon Musk – who compared AI to nukes even as he launched an AI company – lies a more numbing existential threat. 

Never mind death by clever clogs robot. Our fate is worse: to be eternally useless.

At least that is the future feared by Yuval Noah Harari. A lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Harari rose to prominence when his 2014 book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, became an international bestseller. 

Two years on the book is still being talked about. Bill Gates asked Melinda to read it on spring break. 

“It would spark great conversations around the dinner table,” he told her. 

We know because he said so on his blog this week.

When a book is a hit, the publisher wants more. 

And so Harari has been busy. His next title, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is not out until September, but early copies have begun to circulate. 

Its cover states simply: “What made us Sapiens will make us gods”. It follows on from where Sapiens ends, in a provocative, and certainly speculative, gallup through the hopes and dreams that will shape the future of the species.

And the nightmares, too. Because even as the book has humans gaining godlike powers, that is only one eventuality Harari explores. 

It might all go pear-shaped, of course: we sapiens have a knack for hashing things up.

Instead of morphing into omnipotent, all-knowing masters of the universe, the human mob might end up jobless and aimless, whiling away our days off our nuts on drugs, with VR headsets strapped to our faces. 

Welcome to the next revolution.

Harari calls it “the rise of the useless class” and ranks it one of the direst threats of the 21st century. 

In a nutshell, as artificial intelligence gets smarter and smarter, more and more humans are pushed out of the job market. 

No one knows what to study at college, because no one knows what skills learned at 20 will be relevant at 40. 

Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not through chance, but by definition.

5/24/2016

Transgender Debate Continues


Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow students to request on religious grounds that their public schools provide a bathroom or other facility that bars transgender people.

The bill appears to be one of the first state-level legislative actions to challenge the Obama administration’s directives, issued last week, that said students must be allowed to use the facilities that match the gender they identify as, even if that is different from their anatomical sex.

The Senate bill introduced on Thursday in Oklahoma defined “sex” as the “physical condition of being male or female, as identified at birth” by an individual’s anatomy.

It says any student can request a “religious accommodation” from a school for restrooms, athletic changing facilities or showers that are exclusively used by people with the anatomical sex at birth that is similar to their own.

This means that a male student could request that the school provide facilities only for use by other students who were male when they were born.

It said a student can do so based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The proposed legislation says single-occupancy facilities would not be considered an allowable accommodation.

The bill was authored by Senator Brian Bingman and Speaker Jeffrey Hickman, both Republicans, in response to what it described as an “emergency” and a need to preserve “public peace, health and safety.” It did not mention the Obama administration’s directive specifically.

The guidance letter published last Friday by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education said students must be allowed to use the facilities that match the gender they identify as, even if that is different from with their anatomical sex. 

For districts that refuse to comply, the directive carries the potential threat of legal action or of the withholding of federal funds.

Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counsel with the Human Rights Campaign, noted that the administration’s guidance letter reiterated a position that it had held and enforced in scattered cases around the country that involved state challenges.

Holy shit....


Cannot Receive Diploma


The “Student of the Year” at a Louisiana High School was not allowed to get his diploma at the graduation this week after running afoul of the district’s policy against student facial hair.

Senior Andrew Jones wore a beard all year at Amite High School and it never stopped him from earning As in all his classes, excelling in sports, or being awarded a college scholarship, Fox 8 New Orleans reports.

The commencement was Wednesday night and when Jones arrived beforehand he was stunned to learn that he wouldn’t be allowed to go up on the stage with the beard, according to the station.

The Tangipahoa Parish School System has a policy ban on facial hair on students, according to the station.

Jones and other graduating seniors with facial hair were given an ultimatum: if they didn't shave, they couldn't receive their diplomas up on the stage, the station reported.

Jones shaved the hair covering his cheeks but refused to shave his goatee. He had to turn in his cap and gown, Fox 8 reported.

“I feel they should have let me march,” Jones told the station. “The hair on my face has nothing to do with school. I wasn’t distracting anybody.”

WWL-TV reported that 13 in Jones' class agreed to shave. He was the only one who refused. 

“What was the real issue that he couldn’t walk with his class?” his aunt Sabrine Davis wanted to know. 

“He was top of his class, you know. That moment was the most important of his life.”

Tangipahoa Superintendent Mark Kolwe told WWL that Amite's principal had gone up to Jones to ask him to shave.

He defended the policy but said he would make sure administrators know that it has to be enforced starting on the first day of school.

5/23/2016

Stop Destroying Forest


WARSAW, Poland — It is the last remaining relic of an ancient forest that stretched across the lowlands of Europe and Russia, a shadowy, mossy woodland where bison and lynx roam beneath towering oak trees up to 600 years old.

Conservationists believe the fate of the Bialowieza Forest, which straddles Poland and Belarus, is more threatened than at any time since the communist era due to a new Polish government plan for extensive logging in parts of the forest. The plan has pitted the government against environmentalists and many scientists, who are fighting to save the UNESCO world heritage site.

Seven environmental groups, including Greenpeace and WWF, have lodged a complaint with the European Commission hoping to prevent the large-scale felling of trees, which is due to begin within days.

Bialowieza has been declared a Natura 2000 site, meaning it is a protected area under European law. 

EU officials say they are working with the Polish authorities to ensure that any new interventions in the forest are in line with their regulations, but it’s not yet clear what the result will be.

The preservation of Bialowieza is such a sensitive matter that IKEA, which relies on Polish timber for 25 percent of its global furniture production, vowed years ago not to buy any wood from Bialowieza.

“This forest is a Polish treasure but it is also the world’s treasure, and we could lose it,” said Katarzyna Kosciesza from ClientEarth, one of the groups that filed the complaint. 

“The logging would really threaten it.”

The forest plan is one of many controversial changes that have come with the election last year of a conservative populist party, Law and Justice. 

The new authorities have been accused by the European Union and human rights groups of eroding democracy and the rule of law.

In the case of Bialowieza, government officials are blaming their predecessors for financial losses from the strict limits on logging. 

The environment minister, Jan Szyszko, also faulted them for getting the UNESCO world heritage designation, which brings some international oversight.

I'm freeeeeeee...


Drug Dealer to US Jail


MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's Foreign Relations Department ruled Friday that the extradition of convicted drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States can go forward.

The process can still be appealed, meaning it could be weeks or months before the Sinaloa cartel leader may be sent to the U.S., where he is wanted in multiple jurisdictions on charges related to drug trafficking and organized crime.

Guzman's lawyers now have 30 days to appeal the decision, and they have said they will.

The department said Friday in a statement that the United States has provided "adequate guarantees" that Guzman would not face the death penalty. 

Mexico has abolished capital punishment and does not extradite its citizens if they face possible execution.

Friday's ruling covered an extradition request from a Texas federal court related to charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, money-laundering, arms possession and murder, and another extradition request from a federal court in California.

In all, Guzman faces charges from seven U.S. federal prosecutors including in Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego.

Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Guzman's lawyers, said Friday the legal team planned to appeal the decision all the way to Mexico's Supreme Court, and possibly to international tribunals. 

Rodriguez told the Milenio television station that any extradition would take "at least one to three years."

"We expected it," Rodriguez said of the foreign relations department decision. 

"It is no surprise."

Rodriguez said Guzman knew about the ruling and said he was "calm."

"He knows and is conscious that the real battle against extradition is going to be waged through the constitutional appeals process," Rodriguez said.

Guzman was arrested in January after almost six months on the run following his escape from a maximum-security prison through a mile-long tunnel that opened to the floor of his shower.

He had already escaped once before in 2001 and spent more than a decade as one of the world's most wanted fugitives until he was recaptured in 2014.

Guzman's lawyers have so far waged a public-relations offensive, speaking to the press and even organizing protests; but as extradition draws nearer, the battle could turn violent, like the one Colombian drug lords waged extradition in the 1980s, said Mike Vigil, a former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.