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Facebook effect on poll turn-out: How significant?

by marco
Wed Sep 12th, 2012 at 09:05:15 PM EST

I need sharper analytical minds than mine to help assess the significance of some findings just published in Nature: A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization:

The results showed that those who got the informational message voted at the same rate as those who saw no message at all. But those who saw the social message were 2% more likely to click the 'I voted' button and 0.3% more likely to seek information about a polling place than those who received the informational message, and 0.4% more likely to head to the polls than either other group.

Facebook Experiment Found to Boost U.S. Voter Turnout, Scientific American

What I couldn't get was the "0.4% more likely to head to the polls than either other group":  how is that significant?

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Send your message to the UN Climate Talks delegates in Tianjin

by marco
Fri Oct 8th, 2010 at 05:38:45 AM EST

As some of you may know, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been holding a week-long intercessional meeting in Tianjin, China in preparation for the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico this November 29~December 10.

I am actually working at this conference in Tianjin as a volunteer with Greenpeace China, and we are organizing an event today which attempts to engage public interest and expression from online observers of the conference around the world.

It is this activity that I would like to describe in this diary and invite you to join, if you are interested.

[UPDATE 12:20 PM CEST ~ 2010.10.8 : Event has been concluded already]

promoted by afew

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Beautiful Beijing

by marco
Tue Aug 3rd, 2010 at 09:57:40 AM EST

I moved to Beijing this May, and this summer has been a descent into hell, in terms of temperature, humidity, and, as it turns out, air pollution.

The past few days have been god-awful bad.  Walk five minutes to the bus stop and you're drenched in your own sweat.

But what has been perhaps more disturbing is the thick, jet gray color of the sky/air/smog.  Ironically, I remember being surprised to see the full moon on Sunday night, a rare sight indeed in urban China.  But that was temporary respite.

front-paged by afew

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Algae Energy: Potential and Perils

by marco
Tue Jul 27th, 2010 at 11:31:11 PM EST

wonder what y'all's thoughts on algae as a source of fuel are:

Exploring Algae as Fuel -

Algae are attracting attention because the strains can potentially produce 10 or more times more fuel per acre than the corn used to make ethanol or the soybeans used to make biodiesel. Moreover, algae might be grown on arid land and brackish water, so that fuel production would not compete with food production. And algae are voracious consumers of carbon dioxide, potentially helping to keep some of this greenhouse gas from contributing to global warming1.

But efforts to genetically engineer algae, which usually means to splice in genes from other organisms, worry some experts because algae play a vital role in the environment. The single-celled photosynthetic organisms produce much of the oxygen on earth and are the base of the marine food chain.

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Plus de bonnes poires en Allemagne

by marco
Tue Apr 13th, 2010 at 05:42:33 AM EST

France and Germany traditionally have been the "motor" of the European Union, but relations between the two countries are badly strained over the Greek debt crisis, which is just the latest example of a new German willingness to resist the demands of Europe and assert its self-interest under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

All apparently is not well in the EU household, according to a New York Times article yesterday that describes the contrasting and conflicting outlooks and agendas of France and Germany with respect to how to deal with the Greek fiasco, among other things.

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China's 'Moral Sandstorms' and 'National Character Problem' by Yi Zhongtian

by marco
Tue Feb 23rd, 2010 at 08:22:47 AM EST

The following is an interview with Chinese historian and blogger 易中天  Yì Zhōngtiān in Guangdong news magazine 时代周报 The Time Weekly (2009 December 31).  I discovered it via 洪晃 Hóng Huǎng, another prominent Chinese blogger, who introduced the piece writing:


As much I've wanted to, I haven't managed to write recently. In the end, others have managed to write, and have done so incisively. Posting here to share with everybody.


It's probably more "incisive" in the original Chinese than in my translation, but I found it it intriguing nonetheless.

About 易中天  Yì Zhōngtiān:

易中天  Yì Zhōngtiān (born 1947) is a Chinese historian, author, scholar and TV personality. He is a professor at Xiamen University. ...


Second in a series of attempts to translate essays by prominent Chinese bloggers into English, the first of which was 'China Must Lead the Emissions Reduction Century' by Xue Yong

front-paged by afew

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Losing Tibet in Translation

by marco
Sun Feb 21st, 2010 at 06:55:02 AM EST

These following two paragraphs are from what is left of Isaac Stone Fish's February 17 Newsweek article "Charity Case -- Whether they like it or not, China has been good for Tibet" [as it was translated into Chinese and published in 参考消息 Cānkǎo Xiāoxí, China's answer to Courrier International]:

对西藏来说,中国是合适的 | 美国《新闻周刊》 2月17日文章
艾萨克 斯通 菲什
China Has Been Good For Tibet | U.S. Newsweek (February 17)
Isaac Stone Fish
原题:慈善实例Original Title: Charity Case
奥巴马总统本周与达赖喇嘛的会面充满争议,这件事已经 激怒中国。中国表示,西藏是其领土的一部分,此次会晤 是对其内政的不必要干涉。但大多数美国人仍视达赖喇嘛 为一个受中国统治压迫的民族的代表。然而事实上,中国 已经在这个多山的地区建立起了繁荣的经济。看看经济增 长、生活水平、基础设施、国内生产总值,有一件事十分 明显:对于西藏来说,中国是合适的。President Obama's controversial meeting with the Dalai Lama will take place this week. But most Americans still see the Dalai Lama as the representative of a people oppressed by Chinese rule. Despite China's many blunders in Tibet, it has erected a booming economy there. Looking at growth, standard of living, infrastructure, and GDP, one thing is clear: China has been good for Tibet.
<...> <...>
美国凯斯--西部保留地大学西藏研究中心负责人梅尔文?戈尔茨坦说:"我为这些村子花的钱感到吃惊。"戈尔茨坦发现,"医疗保险计划变得更好了,银行贷款更容易拿到了,小学和中学教育免费,水电供应也在改善"。在改善后的学校,学生们学习汉语普通话,藏人因此可以到西藏政府办公室去工作,也有机会在全中国的公司工作。"I was amazed at the amount of money actually being spent in these villages," said Melvyn Goldstein, codirector of the Center for Research on Tibet at Case Western Reserve University. Goldstein found that "health-insurance plans are getting better, bank loans are now more accessible, schooling is free for primary school and middle school, and access to electricity and water is improving." At the improved schools, students learn Mandarin, which gives Tibetans access to work opportunities in government offices in Tibet and in companies throughout China.

Bruce Humes does a nice job of highlighting which parts of Fish's original article were censored [abridged] and which parts of the 参考消息 Cānkǎo Xiāoxí version were inserted by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda [conscientious editors].  For example, below you can see how the above two paragraphs were edited:

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To form a more perfect Euro Union

by marco
Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 05:16:23 AM EST

In his latest column, "The Making of a Euromess", Paul Krugman gets pretty harsh on Europe's "elites" --
specifically, the policy elites who pushed Europe into adopting a single currency well before the continent was ready for such an experiment
-- and concludes that now that they have gotten Europe into this mess (Greece, etc.), there is only one way out:

to move much further toward political union, so that European nations start to function more like American states.

(The alternative of breaking up the euro zone back into national currencies would be the "mother of financial crises", even if it were practically possible, which it isn't.)

[Update note: Originally posted as "The 'Euromess' as spur towards more political (European) union", but changed title to be shorter and more to the point that interests me.]

frontpaged - Nomad

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Babies are the best ally of male domination

by marco
Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 09:13:42 AM EST

and the belief that all mothers must breast-feed reduces women to the status of an animal species.*

Or so says philosopher and author Élisabeth Badinter in an interview in Libération last week. Sort of.

The French Wikipedia entry on her cites her profession as "femme de lettres et philosophe féministe".  But what is more relevant to me is that she has three children.  I am curious if they took her prisoner, too, when they were babies, or if being an old school "humaniste rationaliste", she was able to dodge that fate.

*A swedish kind of death in his comment below is correct: In hastily writing up this introduction, I was not fair to Badinter, so I added the phrase the belief that all mothers must breast-feed in the first sentence above.

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WTO Financial Services Agreement

by marco
Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 09:25:06 AM EST

In this morning's Salon, ARGeezer flagged a story about The OTHER Reason that the U.S. is Not Regulating Wall Street: In short, the U.S. (along with the European Union and about thirty other countries) has legally bound itself to WTO rules which make legislating certain key financial reforms impossible.

As "George Washington", the author of that article, puts it:

Even if some politicians tried to stand up to Wall Street - or even if we "throw out all of the bums" currently in political roles - the U.S. would still be locked into the WTO's scheme for helping the financial giants to grow ever bigger and to take ever-bigger and ever-riskier gambles.

He also references a Democracy Now interview with Lori Wallach, founder of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, excerpts of which are below the fold.  This interview took place during the during the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh last September.

I don't know how accurate "George Washington"'s and Wallach's descriptions of this issue are, nor how consequential it is to begin with, but after reading through her interview, I was alarmed enough to be very skeptical (if admiring) of Wallach's hopeful words that:

... we need to make such a ruckus about it that basically a huge spotlight is shined on the issue, because there are a lot of very powerful financial service interests.


So it's not just a matter of what we need domestically, though it's critical. You don't want Granny's pension robbed, your mortgage gone. But on top of that, for the other countries, we've got to fix these WTO rules and stop the Doha round.

front-paged by afew

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'China Must Lead the Emissions Reduction Century' by Xue Yong

by marco
Fri Feb 5th, 2010 at 05:33:04 AM EST

As a way to practice Mandarin, I had the idea to translate interesting essays by prominent Chinese language bloggers who comment on current affairs and contemporary issues.  One such blogger is 薛涌 Xuē Yǒng, whom I discovered a couple of weeks ago listening to an episode of On Point with Tom Ashbrook about "Google vs. China".

Last week Xuē Yǒng wrote 中国要领导"减排世纪" Zhōngguó yào lǐngdǎo "Jiǎnpái Shìjì" ('China Must Lead the "Emissions Reduction Century"'), which he posted on his blog, 反智的书生 Fǎnzhì de Shūshēng (An Anti-Intellectual Scholar), but which I have found reproduced on several other news websites (e.g. 南都周刊 Nándū Zhōukān Southern Metropolis Weekly).

Below is my translation alongside the original Chinese with permission from the author.  I opted in favor of sticking close to the meaning of the original even at the cost of fluency in English, so if some points are not easily understandable, please let me know and I will try to clarify.  (For some reason, some Chinese characters get corrupted when they are displayed here.)

Mandarin, not spam - afew

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The real 'Avatar': Dongria Kondh vs. Vedanta

by marco
Fri Jan 29th, 2010 at 10:05:38 AM EST

Vedanta does not have any right to touch our Niyamgiri mountain.  Even if you cut our throats, even if you behead us, we are not going to allow this.  We'll see how they are going to take over our mountains.

Maybe Cameron can work this into the sequel.

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French healthcare costs

by marco
Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 05:23:40 AM EST

An article in yesterday's Le Monde, Mutuelles : les cotisations en hausse de 5 % en 2010, caught my attention, as over the last six months I have been researching various health coverage options for myself and my younger brother, who are both French nationals but do not reside in France and thus are not altogether familiar with the French system.

The article, quoting Jean-Pierre Davant, the head of the association of health mutuals (non-profit supplementary health insurance providers), links to an article in Le Parisien which I read with interest and started translating before realizing that the Le Monde article should have linked to another article in Le Parisien in which Mr. Davant is interviewed. Googling around turned up another interview with Mr. Davant from January 2009, which is interesting as it describes the trend in retrospect.

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Show of Arms

by marco
Tue Jul 14th, 2009 at 01:12:57 PM EST

This morning I went to see my first serious "parade" since childhood.  I have never been into parades, but when you are in Paris on July 14 with nothing else to do, Paris vaut un défilé.  What's more, I'm not into militaryish stuff, but by golly, militaryish parades can be very beau indeed, bordering on moving.  Seeing the planes soar past overhead, the young (and not so young) men and women marching in unison in a panoply of uniforms, often singing in very nice voices, one could not help wonder why these shows of military, tribal pomp and circumstance made such an impression.  One also wondered why uniforms which on their own are so singularly ridiculous should look so stylish and dashing in the context of such a parade.  Is it the lockstep coordination of the marchers that evokes a feeling of community and solidarity, of hard work, training, and excellence and competencies thereby achieved?  Are we touched on some deep genetic level by these sorts of displays, as female peacocks are to their male courtiers' plumage?

I don't know, but i did enjoy the show, despite having to watch it with limited view on the Rue Royale (i.e. the end and backwater of the parade).

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Excerpts from Michael Moore's 'Sicko'

by marco
Thu May 14th, 2009 at 01:48:03 AM EST

I was living in China when Michael Moore's Sicko came out in 2007, so I hardly heard anything about it or how it was received when it came out.

I just watched it on cable TV, and was pretty struck by it -- even as I expected over-the-top sensationalism and bias.

The US really comes out looking like a quasi-barbaric society, an also-ran in the community of civilized countries.

One of my favorite parts was the interview with British Labourite former member of Parliament Tony Benn, which you can see and part of which is transcribed below the fold.

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How important is neodymium?

by marco
Tue May 5th, 2009 at 07:54:56 AM EST

[This was originally written to be a comment under Jérôme's diary The cost of wind, the price of wind, the value of wind, but due to its length, I am posting it as a diary.]

An article in the May issue of The Atlantic makes the case that the mineral neodymium -- "necessary for the lightweight permanent magnets that make Prius motors zoom and for the generators that give wind turbines their electrical buzz" -- may become a bottleneck on wind turbine production. And since "in 2006, nearly all of the world's roughly 137,000-ton supply of rare-earth oxides came from China", according to Irving Mintzer, "a senior adviser to the Potomac Energy Fund who sees shortages stifling clean-tech industry":

"If we don't think this through, we could be trading a troubling dependence on Middle Eastern oil for a troubling dependence on Chinese neodymium."

But I haven't been able to find much about this issue on the web.

Promoted by Nomad

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"Why should a 35-year old banker get a $1M bonus?!"

by marco
Wed Apr 8th, 2009 at 03:13:50 AM EST

It had been an unusually long string of days since my father's last outburst while reading the morning newspaper.  (Perhaps that is because the markets had been going up last week, providing a momentary reprieve to seeing his 401k drop 35% over the last six months.)  But an article titled Attacking rich hurts us all in our local paper, the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune, brought the inevitable end to these idyllic mornings.  (In fact, this article was a re-print of the April 2nd Economist's article The rich under attack.)

My father's first reaction was: "I didn't understand it."

"Yes," I replied, knowingly, "it was hard to follow.  But then again, maybe that's because the thesis was wrong to start out with."

Then he started getting up to get ready for work.  But rather than go upstairs, he milled around aimlessly for a few minutes.

"Putting it very simply," he finally said, "a 35-year old banker making a bonus of one million dollars is aberrant."

Oh, shit, I thought.  When he throws out "aberrant", that's when I know he's very perturbed, and teetering on full-on pissed.

Promoted by afew

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LQD: Daughter of U.S.

by marco
Fri Mar 6th, 2009 at 11:35:49 PM EST

A friend of mine is letting me re-post her latest blog entry, which upon reading I wanted to share here.

Daughter of U.S.

my number is (xxx)600-xxxx, its been raining here so ill probably wait inside the store, but if you give me a call ill come out and meet you.

i have a backpack and turquoise hair :D

- Ari

It wasn't raining anymore when I met Ariel in the parking lot of Trader Joe's. She was wearing a plaid skirt, a worn pair of Doc Martins and slung a banjo across her shoulder. It wasn't hard to recognize her because she was the only person with turquoise hair.

I smiled and waved, she climbed into my car.

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After Democracy

by marco
Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:11:14 AM EST

This diary is basically putting two reviews of the same book, Emmanuel Todd's Après la démocratie, side by side, to see how they are similar and how they are different.

I have not read the book, but based on what is described in the two reviews -- a first one in Le Monde followed by one in the Financial Times -- it is a rather surprisingly pessimistic -- and surprisingly (to my mind) reactionary -- assessment of the state of politics and society in Europe.  In particular, Todd apparently emphasizes the socially stabilizing value of religion and calls for protectionist trade barriers.

The superscripted numbers in parentheses in each column indicate phrases that I thought paralleled each other in the two reviews.  Not that you guys had to have these pointed out.  What was perhaps more interesting than the common points was what each review left out from what the other covered.

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Social welfare spending to help the economy

by marco
Wed Nov 26th, 2008 at 05:16:39 AM EST

Can government sustain and/or improve the health of the economy by investing in the social welfare of its population such that people will feel secure and confident enough to drive the economy through (a reasonable level of) consumption?

If so, is this a principle that should be applied in general, or only when certain particular economic conditions hold (e.g. when the savings rate is high, when there is current account surplus)?

Recently there have been calls for the Chinese government to make significant investments in social welfare so that Chinese consumers will worry less about hoarding money for education, old age, medical emergencies, and so on, and feel less inhibited to spend their money on unproductive gratification, which will in turn shift the burden for keeping the Chinese economy float from the export sector to domestic consumption.

While there is reason to believe that this formula may help the Chinese economy, does it follow that it would work in the U.S., where investment in social welfare, while not as lacking as in China, could also use some significant shoring up?

promoted by afew

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