" /> Coruscation: January 2010 Archives

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January 31, 2010

Details like apartment safes

Apart from that, there are details like apartment safes, which could matter to clubgoers who party in their own cribs.

"You may trust your friends and roommates, but you don't have to," said Jeffrey E. Levine, the chairman of Douglaston Development and its construction arm, Levine Builders. "And every medicine cabinet has a keyed lockbox for pharmaceuticals. Viagra, Vioxx, Vicodin -- nobody needs to know but you."

The smallest studio is just under 400 square feet and it's $1,850 a month and one month free rent. The smallest two-bedroom apartment is just under 900 square feet and it's $3,590 and one month free.

Douglaston Development recently began leasing apartments at Ohm, a 288-unit tower at 312 11th Avenue and 30th Street, just north of the heart of West Chelsea's nightlife. In a marketing approach called "untested" by other property marketers, Douglaston is using the area's nightclubs as inspiration for building amenities.

Real Estate
A Nightclub to Call Home
Published: January 28, 2010
Douglaston Development is marking Ohm, a 288-unit tower at 312 11th Avenue and 30th Street, using the neighborhood's nightclubs.

January 28, 2010

Bubbles as mania

a bubble is a form of psychological malfunction. And like mental illness there's a tricky gray area between being really sick and just having a few problems, Mr. Shiller said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The solution: a checklist like psychologists use to determine if someone is suffering from, say, depression. So here is Mr. Shiller's checklist.

  • Sharp increases in the price of an asset like real estate or dot-com shares
  • Great public excitement about said increases
  • An accompanying media frenzy
  • Stories of people earning a lot of money, causing envy among people who aren't
  • Growing interest in the asset class among the general public
  • "New era" theories to justify unprecedented price increases
  • A decline in lending standards

DealBook: Shiller's List: How to Diagnose the Next Bubble
Published: January 27, 2010
Robert J. Shiller, the Nobel-prize winning Yale economist, suggested Wednesday -- a bit whimsically -- that bubbles could be diagnosed using the same methodology psychologists use to diagnose mental illness.

January 24, 2010

Exercise: In Women, Training for a Sharper Mind

January 26, 2010
Vital Signs of Health:
Exercise: In Women, Training for a Sharper Mind
Older women who did an hour or two of strength training exercises each week had improved cognitive function a year later, scoring higher on tests of the brain processes responsible for planning and executing tasks, a new study has found.

Researchers in British Columbia randomly assigned 155 women ages 65 to 75 either to strength training with dumbbells and weight machines once or twice a week, or to a comparison group doing balance and toning exercises.

A year later, the women who did strength training had improved their performance on tests of so-called executive function by 10.9 percent to 12.6 percent, while those assigned to balance and toning exercises experienced a slight deterioration -- 0.5 percent. The improvements in the strength training group included an enhanced ability to make decisions, resolve conflicts and focus on subjects without being distracted by competing stimuli.
Older women are generally less likely than others to do strength training, even though it can promote bone health and counteract muscle loss, said Teresa Liu-Ambrose, a researcher at the Center for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver General Hospital and the lead author of the paper, which appears in the Jan. 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.


Vital Signs
Exercise: In Women, Training for a Sharper Mind
Published: January 26, 2010
Older women who did an hour or two of strength training exercises each week had improved cognitive function a year later, a study found.

January 13, 2010

To prevent fraud EU pays by planted rather than the tons produced.

Calabria, like other southern Italian regions rich in agriculture, has long benefited from hefty European Union agricultural subsidies. To prevent fraud in which small acreage yielded puzzlingly large harvests, in 2007 the European Union changed its rules to base subsidies on the number of hectares planted rather than the tons produced.

The result, some authorities hypothesize, is that it may be more lucrative for some Calabrian landowners to let their harvests rot on the tree and collect the subsidies than to pay pickers. In theory, the migrants may have become less useful and, possibly, less tolerated.

Still, the violence was dramatic. After immigrants struck residents and shops with sticks and burned and smashed cars, residents began responding with violence. By late Saturday night, most immigrants feared for their safety and voluntarily boarded buses and trains that took them to immigrant detention centers elsewhere in southern Italy, Rosarno authorities said.

International / Europe
Looking Past the Facade of Italian City After Riots
Published: January 13, 2010
In Rosarno, where the worst immigrant rioting ever seen in Italy took place over the weekend, the economy is so weak that locals and immigrants are competitors.

January 8, 2010

Unions oppose Obamacare tax on good health insurance

Labor leaders are fuming that President Obama has endorsed a tax on high-priced, employer-sponsored health insurance policies as a way to help cover the cost of health care reform. And as Senate and House leaders seek to negotiate a final health care bill, unions are pushing mightily to have that tax dropped from the legislation. Or at the very least, they want the price threshold raised so that the tax would affect fewer workers.

Labor leaders say the tax would hit not only wealthy executives with expensive health benefits, but also many rank-and-file union members who have often settled for lower wage increases in exchange for more generous health benefits.

The tax would affect individual insurance policies with annual premiums above $8,500 and family policies above $23,000, which by one union survey would affect one in four union members.

In recent days, labor's strategy has become clear. Unions are urging their members to flood their representatives with e-mail messages and phone calls in the hope that the House will stand fast and reject the tax. The A.F.L.-C.I.O., a federation of nine million union members, has declared next Wednesday "National Call-In Day" asking workers to call their lawmakers to urge them not to tax health benefits. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is urging members to tell their representatives that "such a tax is simply a massive middle-class tax hike that this nation's working families should not be forced to endure."

Many Democrats fear that enacting the tax will hurt their re-election chances.

"This would really have a negative impact on the Democratic base," said Representative Joe Courtney, Democrat of Connecticut, who has enlisted 190 House Democrats to sign a letter opposing the tax. "As far as the message goes, it's a real toughie to defend."

While union leaders would prefer killing the tax, some say privately that they could live with it if the threshold is lifted to $27,000, say, or $30,000. They argue that many insurance policies above $23,000 are typical of the coverage in high-cost areas like New York or Boston, or policies that cover small businesses or employers with older workers.

According to a union survey, one in four members would be hit by a $23,000 threshold, but only one in 14 if the threshold were raised to $27,000.

White House officials, however, voice concern that raising the threshold that much would lose $50 billion of the $149 billion in revenue that the tax is expected to generate over 10 years.

Unions Rally to Oppose a Tax on Health Insurance
Published: January 9, 2010
Labor leaders say President Obama is betraying unions by supporting a tax on high-priced, employer-sponsored health insurance.

January 7, 2010

Healthcare individual mandate

Take the "individual mandate" bit: The rule that everybody must buy insurance or get fined. That's something both conservatives and liberals hate, though its inclusion may have been the price to pay to get the insurance industry to agree to any reform.

Now, the individual mandate made excellent sense at the beginning of this re-sewing process, because if people were allowed not to buy insurance at all then the low-risk young people would do exactly that. This would have had two bad consequences: First, they would still need charity care if they got sick or hurt in an accident. Second, the average price of insurance would be higher because the lower-risk people would not be contributing towards it.

Though this sounds backwards,

Ending with a compromise is like ending with a shirt which has humongous breast bags and too tight a waist. And that's why I'm not very happy with what we have so far.

-- echidneofthesnakes

Theorists and practitioners of intelligence

Then, as now, theorists and practitioners of intelligence sought a smoothly functioning, highly efficient and seamlessly integrated organization, or cluster of organizations. But they struggled at it, largely because the purposes to which intelligence were put were complex and at times contradictory.

In his book "Cloak and Gown," published in 1987, the Yale historian Robin Winks pointed out, "The 'intelligence debate' was framed in 1949." That was the year a classic text, Sherman Kent's "Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy," came out.

To Kent, the best intelligence-gathering was the work "of devoted specialists molded into a vigorous production unit," who prized the arts of data accumulation and nonideological analysis.

Kent's book was widely adopted by intelligence services around the world. But it also had critics, among them the political scientist Willmoore Kendall, a onetime adviser to the C.I.A. He wrote that Kent's approach, influenced by the Pearl Harbor attack, betrayed "a compulsive preoccupation with prediction, with the elimination of 'surprise' from foreign affairs."

This was a worthy goal in wartime, Mr. Kendall said, but in peacetime the most useful intelligence provided the big "pictures" of the world that decision makers needed for formulating broad policy. Intelligence experts therefore should not just acquire and analyze information; they should interpret it as well.

Week in Review
The DNA Problem in American Spying
Published: January 1, 2010
The why-can't-we-all-get-along issues have haunted American intelligence for six decades.

January 6, 2010

Tanning Tax ?

At least 31 states currently regulate indoor tanning for minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Just last month, the country's first local ban on indoor tanning for those under the age of 18 was passed in Howard County, Md. And in July, the World Health Organization broadcasted one of its most damning warnings yet about tanning beds, declaring them "carcinogenic," and placed them in the same category as cigarettes and arsenic.

Over the years, such health warnings have gone heard but unheeded by many. But that may have been because, up until quite recently, tan seekers saw no worthy alternative to fake baking. Increasingly, they have another option on the table--or in the booth, that is. Spray-on tanning--when the face and body are misted with nontoxic colored chemicals--is the bright spot for the future of the tanning industry. Even though the service can cost more than three times as much as baking under bulbs, it's considered much safer and, thus, guilt-free. "Growing awareness about the high cancer risk associated with UV tanning beds will invariably diminish market share," George Van Horn, an IBISWorld senior analyst, said in a recent press release. He estimates that sunless tanning accounted for roughly 11 percent of tanning-salon revenues two years ago and may reach as high as 17 percent for 2009. And as technology improves for the spray tan (read: customers exit looking less orange), most industry insiders predict that it will continue to lure customers away from traditional tanning beds.

(See alse Sunscreen SPF.)

Should Your Fake Tan Be Taxed?
Congress thinks it can extract billions from indoor tanning, but it's using sunny math.
By Caitlin McDevitt
Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - 10:40am

January 5, 2010

Keeping experience consumption and cutting back on others

"It's a different kind of recession," said Richard Florida, the author of several best-selling books about the economics of cities. "It's not like in the '30s when people stopped going to concerts. Now people seem to be keeping up with experience consumption and cutting back on other necessities."

Psychologists have been saying for years that shared experiences like vacations lead to more long-term happiness than the latest bauble. And perhaps the change was inevitable -- to be expected when a shopping-spree nation trades a glut of credit for layoffs and furloughs.

There are, of course, potential problems as the United States drops old habits of consumption. On the macro level, economists worry that it could undermine a recovery. And the shift may be temporary: holiday shopping appears to have increased a little in 2009.

But in many homes today, experiences have become a more valued element of life. Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody's Economy.com, said that the behavioral changes were likely to be less transformative than what followed the Depression but that after three decades when consumer spending outpaced gross domestic product, the end of a spendthrift era may be here.

Business / Economy
In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less
Published: January 3, 2010
After decades of living on credit, Americans are rearranging their lives to elevate experiences over things

January 3, 2010

Twitter: more Toastmasters than mosh pit

The expressive limits of a kind of narrative developed from text messages, with less space to digress or explain than this sentence, has significant upsides. The best people on Twitter communicate with economy and precision, with each element -- links, hash tags and comments -- freighted with meaning. Professional acquaintances whom I find insufferable on every other platform suddenly become interesting within the confines of Twitter.

Week in Review
Why Twitter Will Endure
Published: January 1, 2010
So you're drowning in a sea of information. Perhaps the answer is more information

January 2, 2010

Growth vs Value, year-over-year

Let's slice the market another way. Growth stocks outperformed value stocks last year. Investment newsletters often argue that this means growth stocks are likely to do so in 2010 as well. Though not every adviser agrees on how to define these two types of stocks, researchers generally rely on the ratio of price to book value per share. Stocks with the highest ratios are deemed growth stocks, while those with the lowest ratios are considered value stocks.

Using these definitions, the finance professors Eugene F. Fama of the University of Chicago and Kenneth R. French of Dartmouth have calculated the returns of both categories back to 1926. But their database shows no correlation in performance from one year to the next for either class. That means that, while growth stocks this year may very well continue to lead the market, whether they do so won't be determined by their 2009 performance.

There are good reasons for these findings, according to Lawrence G. Tint, chairman of Quantal International, a firm that conducts risk modeling for institutional investors. Mr. Tint said that if the market's return in one year were a predictor of its return the next year, "investors would rush in on Jan. 1 to buy or sell, depending on the direction of the anticipated movement."

"We can be comforted by the fact that reasonably efficient markets always base their level on anticipated future returns," he added, "and do not include history in the calculation."

What the Past Can't Tell Investors
Published: January 3, 2010
Investors would love to see a market surge continue into 2010. But how the stock market performs in one year says nothing about the next, according to historical data.

January 1, 2010

Port Authority bus terminal 42nd Street

7 P.M. Assuming you passed on the beer towers, check out Port 41, 355 West 41st Street, (212) 947-1188, a bona fide dive bar with a life-size hippopotamus head -- missing one eye and sporting a hard hat -- that adorns one wall. Other perks: the bartenders wear bikinis, sometimes accessorized with fishnet stockings, and the regulars -- working stiffs, construction crews and, one recent afternoon, a guy passed out by the pool table in the back room -- put the salty in "salt of the earth." Beers start at $4, $3 during happy hour, and well drinks are $5. For those women who like to disappear to the bathroom in pairs, the restroom is one stall with two toilets, side by side, separated by nothing.

Posted to eat, transit, NY.

Local Stop | Port Authority
In the Shadows of a Commuter Hub
Published: January 3, 2010
Nestled around the hulking and bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal are cafes and bars that recall the wilder days of Hell's Kitchen.