Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saks and the City

Being a trophy babe isn't all it's cracked up to be:
Once it was seen as a blessing in certain circles to have a wealthy, powerful partner who would leave you alone with the credit card while he was busy brokering deals. Now, many Wall Street wives, girlfriends and, increasingly, exes, are living the curse of cutbacks in nanny hours and reservations at chic restaurants like Masa or Megu. And that credit card? Canceled.

Raoul Felder, the New York celebrity divorce lawyer, said that cases involving financiers always stack up as the economy starts to slip, because layoffs and shrinking bonuses place stress on relationships - and, he said, because "there aren't funds or time for mistresses any more."

....Harriet Pappenheim, a psychotherapist who wrote "For Richer or Poorer," a 2006 book on money in marriage, said that the repercussions could be acute for Wall Street wunderkinder who define their identities through their job titles and the size of their bonuses.

"It's a big blow to their egos and to their self-esteem," she said of the endless stream of economic bad news, "and they may take it out on their partners and children."

Ill Wind

The recent drop in oil prices is blowin' no good for the Brit's best laid plans:
The future of the world's biggest offshore wind farm has been thrown into doubt after its developers admitted that its economics are 'on a knife edge'.

Eon UK said plans for the massive London Array - a collection of up to 340 turbines off the Kent and Essex coasts - had been called into question by the falling price of gas, oil and carbon permits.

When finished, the £1.5billion farm should generate up to 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the needs of 750,000 homes.

The farm is crucial to the Government's target of generating 40 per cent of Britain's electricity from wind, solar, tide and wave power by 2020.

However, Eon and other power companies are worried about the cost of offshore wind power. Not only are offshore turbines twice as expensive to put up as onshore ones, the costs are soaring in comparison to that of traditional fuels.

Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon - which owns a 30 per cent stake in the London Array - said the company was still committed to the project.

But he warned: 'The economics are looking pretty difficult.' Developers of the Array are expected to ask the Government for more subsidies.

What's in a name

Extra dairy products, say the scientists:
Cows given names are happier and more productive, scientists claimed yesterday.

Be it Daisy, Buttercup or Ermintrude, such dairy cattle produce an extra pint and a half of milk a day, research showed. equates to an extra 6,800 gallons a year at an average-sized dairy farm.

The Newcastle University study found that naming cows encourages farmers to treat them as individuals, cutting stress levels and boosting milk yield.

Researcher Dr Catherine Douglas said: 'Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention.'

By Any Other Name

Would land you a discount:
[British] Holiday operator Travel Republic has criticised an adventure travel company for its decision to advertise "chav-free holidays".

Activities Abroad sent out an email earlier this week to 24,000 people on its database , containing two lists of names. The first list the names that it believed holidaymakers would be likely to encounter on one of its holidays – such as Sarah, Charles and Alice. The second was a list of names it believed people would be unlikely to find – including Dazza, Britney and Shannon.
Travel Republic has responded by offering a 10 per cent discount on holiday bookings for anyone possessing one of the "chav" names.

Paul Furner, managing director of Travel Republic, described the Activities Abroad's "anti-chav" stance as “offensive”.

“We actively encourage bookings from everyone, irrespective of their name and its perceived social standing,” he said.

“In fact we’re delighted to have 1600 Shannons, 1100 Courtneys, 600 Chantelles, 500 Kylies, 400 Tiffanys, 300 Candices and 200 Britneys on our database, and two Candices, a Chantelle and a Dazza among our staff.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Play to Pay

In Nevada, the brothentrepreneurs offer to pay protection money:
A lobbyist for the $50 million ... a year industry is asking state legislators to consider taxing brothels as a way to raise extra revenue for Nevada, which is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall, and to protect his industry from being criminalised.

George Flint, director of the Nevada Brothel Association, said that he saw the offer as "something of an insurance policy" against a possible future decision by the state to outlaw the industry, which was legalised in 1971.

Nevada is the only US state where prostitution is legal, although it is confined to counties with a population of under 400,000. Brothels are subject to local taxes but at present pay only $100 to the state for a business licence fee.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Juzgue no

and ye may get more bucks:
Judges in Madrid have voted by a wide majority in support of strike action, voting 103 votes to 19 to take the strike action which is to start on February 18. The decision in Madrid follows similar decisions to take action in Murcia, Extremadura, Zamora, Málaga and Sevilla on the same day.

The judges say they are short-staffed and need more resources so as to carry out their jobs. Despite some concessions from the Ministry, the protests for now remain in place with judges in Barcelona and Asturias also reported to be considering action.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It's not easy eating green when you have to import from Indonesia:
Statistics on imports and exports of frog legs are sparse as few countries keep track of the amount of meat harvested and consumed domestically.

According to UN figures, global trade has increased in the past 20 years. France - not surprisingly - and the US are the two largest importers; with France importing between 2500 and 4000 tonnes of frog meat each year since 1995.

....Even top French chefs may be unaware of where their frogs are coming from. Bruno Stril, teaching chef at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, France, is unsure where his suppliers source their frog legs. "I would like for them to come from France," he says. But he expects that most of the meat comes from other countries.

Stril is on the right track. Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of frog meat, exporting more than 5000 tonnes of frog meat each year, mostly to France, Belgium and Luxemburg.

...European kitchens initially found their own supplies in the surrounding countryside, but the fact that they are now importing from Asia suggests local populations were over-harvested.

This...could be a sign that frog populations, like many fish populations, will be harvested to near extinction.

It's an Obama Nation

In which we can stimulate the economy by going about our business eating salted caramels...or not:
Fran Bigelow learned through a newspaper article that Barack Obama loves her salted caramels.

More news outlets picked it up, sending demand so high that Fran's Chocolates on East Pike Street [in Seattle] has scaled back production of pre-Valentine's truffles and chocolate hearts to make room for more caramels.

This month, salted-caramel production is up 50 percent to more than 18,000 pieces a day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Save your Confederate money...

The Irish may be rising (and leaving) again:
A leading Irish economist has called on Dublin to threaten withdrawal from the euro unless Europe's big powers do more to rescue Ireland's economy.

"This is war: countries have to defend themselves," said David McWilliams, a former official at the Irish central bank.

"It is essential that we go to Europe and say we have a serious problem. We say, either we default or we pull out of Europe," he told RTE radio.

"If Ireland continues hurtling down this road, which is close to default, the whole of Europe will be badly affected. The credibility of the euro will be badly affected. Then Spain might default, Italy and Greece," he said.

Mr McWilliams, a former UBS director and now prominent broadcaster, has broken the ultimate taboo by evoking threats to precipitate an EMU crisis, which would risk a chain reaction across the eurozone's southern belt, where yield spreads on state bonds are already flashing warning signals. The comments reflect growing bitterness in Dublin over the way the country has been treated after voting against the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

Which was predicted by none other than Milton Friedman:
The euro is going to be a big source of problems, not a source of help. The euro has no precedent. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a monetary union, putting out a fiat currency, composed of independent states.

There have been unions based on gold or silver, but not on fiat money—money tempted to inflate—put out by politically independent entities.

The race is not to the swift...

...neither bread to the wise...but time and chance and $600 lunches can make even French chefs appreciate fast food:
Upmarket French chefs used to serving meals costing as much as £300-a-head are having to open fast-food extensions because of the worsening economic situation.

....As the credit crunch bites, some of the biggest names are even offering sandwiches to previous big spenders.

....Paul Bocuse, the celebrity chef known as the "pope" of French cuisine, is among those who have introduced a fast food joint to his chain of restaurants which include the world famous l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon.

Ouest Express offers entire express meals from £10, and ham sandwiches and hamburgers at just over £4 and £5 respectfully.

Stimulus Watch

John Lott must be laughing:
Gun sales have skyrocketed around the inland [Pacific] Northwest since the November general election, according to The [Spokane, WA] Spokesman Review newspaper.

Gun-shop owners cite fears that a Democratic president and Congress will tighten gun controls.
Store owners said the most sought-after items are semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity handguns.

Police records for Spokane County show gun sales at pawnshops more than doubled from November and December 2007 to November and December 2008. Applications for concealed-pistol licenses in Spokane County rose 40 percent in the last two months of 2008 compared with the same months a year earlier, according to police records.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Smiley...David Smiley

He seems to have had a license to thrill:
Colonel David Smiley, who died on Thursday aged 92, was one of the most celebrated cloak-and-dagger agents of the Second World War, serving behind enemy lines in Albania, Greece, Abyssinia and Japanese-controlled eastern Thailand.

After the war he organised secret operations against the Russians and their allies in Albania and Poland, among other places. Later, as Britain's era of domination in the Arabian peninsula drew to a close, he commanded the Sultan of Oman's armed forces in a highly successful counter-insurgency.

After his assignment in Oman, he organised – with the British intelligence service, MI6 – royalist guerrilla resistance against a Soviet-backed Nasserite regime in Yemen. Smiley's efforts helped force the eventual withdrawal of the Egyptians and their Soviet mentors, paved the way for the emergence of a less anti-Western Yemeni government, and confirmed his reputation as one of Britain's leading post-war military Arabists.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Can We Dance

Barack Obama in his speech on the economy today:
This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle, and we won't get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come, or relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past. We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, DC. For years, too many Wall Street executives made imprudent and dangerous decisions, seeking profits with too little regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little accountability. Banks made loans without concern for whether borrowers could repay them, and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to take on debt they couldn't afford. Politicians spent taxpayer money without wisdom or discipline, and too often focused on scoring political points instead of the problems they were sent here to solve. The result has been a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets, and our government.

Funny he didn't mention anyone by name. But, Karl Rove can supply some of them:
When Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed for comprehensive GSE reform in 2005, Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut successfully threatened a filibuster. Later, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed, Mr. Dodd asked, "Why weren't we doing more?" He then voted for the Bush reforms that he once called "ill-advised."

But Mr. Dodd wasn't the only Democrat to heap abuse on the Bush reforms. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts defended Fannie and Freddie as "fundamentally sound" and labeled the president's proposals as "inane." He later voted for the reforms.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York dismissed Mr. Bush's "safety and soundness concerns" as "a straw man." "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," was the helpful advice of both Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York berated a Bush official at a hearing, saying, "I am just pissed off" at the administration for raising the issue.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ol' Man Winter

He justs keeps snowin' along:
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - More than 6 feet of snow in the past three weeks has left Spokane residents frustrated. Tempers are so frayed that a man was arrested for shooting at a snow plow operator.

This unusually harsh winter has disrupted schools, traffic, garbage pickup and mail service in the city of 200,000.

Roofs are collapsing, streets are clogged with ice and slush and locals are starting to refer to this as Sno-maggedon.

....Spokane has received more than 78 inches of snow...since mid-December. That's far above its average of less than 50 inches for an entire winter. Normally about 16 inches would have fallen at this point.

The local record for an entire winter is 93.5 inches set in 1949-50. That is likely to be shattered soon.

....Weight on roofs is a major problem. The National Weather Service has estimated that the existing snow is placing a load of about 25 pounds per square foot roof on roofs designed to hold 30 to 40 pounds. Rain forecast to follow the snow this week will add significant new weight, the agency said.

That has created a brisk market for day laborers willing to go up on roofs and shovel snow off for at least $15 per hour.

And, in the really unbelievable, Gonzaga's men's basketball team has lost 4 of it's last 5 basketball games.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Got the time?

Ask a French protestor:
Looters ransacked a Paris watchmaker and grabbed more than EUR 200,000 worth of stock in the wake of a protest against Israel's Gaza offensive, the shop said Monday.

A manager of the Louis Pion boutique in central Paris' Opera district said "40 vandals came in, in three successive waves at three-minute intervals," on Saturday. Police confirmed they had opened an inquiry.

More than 20,000 demonstrators marched in Paris on Saturday to protest Israel's assault on Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and, while most dispersed peacefully, between 200 and 300 went on the rampage.

Following the protest, mobs that peeled off from the main march overturned around a dozen cars, burning several of them, and smashed the windows of several shops on Paris's iconic shopping street, the Boulevard Haussmann.

When the going gets tough

The French go skiing:
Buoyed by major snowfalls and French families seeking to spend their euros closer to home, France's ski resorts are reporting a boom in business.

Hotels and chalets in the French Alps, the Pyrenees and other mountain resorts were almost fully booked over the holiday season, according to the Protourisme market analysis group.

"We are having an excellent start to the season," said Didier Arino, manager of Protourisme.

"Since the end of November, there has been a double-digit jump in the number of bookings."

....Arino said ski resorts are drawing many French families who have dropped plans for more expensive vacations in the sun.

"The economic crisis is helping French vacation spots. The French are not going abroad as much," said Arino.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Now Hear This

Driving While Titanium may be hazardous to your health:
Doctors in the United Kingdom say modern titanium clubs create a "sonic boom" when they connect with the ball, which is so loud it could shatter golfers' eardrums.

Some believe the risk of going deaf is so great they have advised golfers to wear earplugs to tee off. Experts have identified at least one case of a golfer they believe has hearing damage as a result of using a titanium driver.

....When tested, the titanium drivers made a much louder sound than the steel-headed clubs.

The doctors' report, published in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal, concluded "caution should be exercised by golfers who play regularly with thin-faced titanium drivers".

Would you buy...

...a used house from this man:
RESIDENTS of a model housing estate bankrolled by Hollywood celebrities and hand-built by Jimmy Carter, the former US president, are complaining that it is falling apart.

Fairway Oaks was built on northern Florida wasteland by 10,000 volunteers, including Carter, in a record 17-day “blitz” organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Eight years later it is better known for cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes.

A forthcoming legal battle over Fairway Oaks threatens the reputation of a charity envied for the calibre of its celebrity supporters, who range from Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt to Colin Firth, Christian Bale and Helena Bonham Carter.

The case could challenge the bedrock philosophy behind Habitat for Humanity, claiming that using volunteers, rather than professional builders, is causing as many problems as it solves.

Good fences make good neighbors

And Newark NJ finds the reverse is also true:
Some business owners in this crime-plagued city say recent enforcement of a decades-old ordinance banning some types of barbed and razor wire is making Newark more attractive to thieves.

Burglaries are up 17 percent from 2007 through November in Newark....

John DeSantis, owner of a lot used by an auto-repair business, says his property has had more than a dozen burglaries since the summer, when the city forced him to remove razor wire on top of the 7-foot-tall fence that surrounds the lot.

"The bottom line was, they said, 'It doesn't look good and we want to create a new image for the city of Newark,' " DeSantis said.

....DeSantis said he was surprised when a city official told him the ordinance was being enforced to prevent passers-by or anyone climbing the fence from being injured by the barbed wire.

"I said that maybe if a few of these thieves were injured, the word would get around that 'Hey, we can't do this anymore,' " he said.