I went to the NPR show's taping last night:
The show will be broadcast tomorrow. It's going to be hi-larious.
South Africa Airlines will no longer transport your trophies:
Shooting a marvel of nature and shipping its carcass home seems an odd practice to many. But business is roaring. An estimated 1,000 captive lions are shot dead by mostly American and European tourists on South African ranches annually. That's nearly double the number of wild lions felled across the entire continent. Killing beasts in fenced-off, private property is easier than gunning them down on their own turf. It's also much cheaper: tourists can pay $20,000 for a captive male, compared with $75,000 for a wild one. The expansion of the “canned hunting” industry—which breeds lions by isolating mothers from their cubs to jumpstart ovulation—has lifted African trophy hunting revenues to $200m a year.
For SAA, making money from this booming trade should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Tourists have few options but to load their spoils onto planes for one final journey, providing the flag-carrier with lucrative custom beneath the passenger deck as well as above it. Cargo can account for up to 10% of a passenger airline’s revenue. In an industry with average annual profit margins of 1-2% per cent, that is nothing to sniff at. Cargo is also one of the more trouble-free aspects of the business: freight doesn't complain when you push it around; and many of the fixed costs of getting a plane airborne apply regardless of how full the cargo hold happens to be. SAA, which is in financial straits, can ill-afford to turn away such easy money.
No matter how profitable and defensible, SAA has decided that trophy kill cargo is bad business.
Good on them. And maybe someday we'll give lions rifles and turn them loose on hunters. Or just skip the rifles.
Fortunately, I have a couple of long flights coming up in two weeks. Unfortunately, not all of this will be relevant then:
Tonight I'm taking a short break to go to the Wait! Wait! Don't tell me taping, which is conveniently located two blocks from my office. And tomorrow I might have some time to think.
After Moody's cut our credit rating this week, people are starting to compare Chicago with Detroit:
here are five reasons, now more than ever, that suggest Chicago is akin to Detroit—or, by some measures, even worse. Or, as Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner put it last month: “Chicago is in deep, deep yogurt.”
BIG, SCARY NUMBERS: Chicago's unfunded liability from four pension funds is $20 billion and growing, hitting every city resident with an obligation of about $7,400. Detroit's, whose population of about 689,000 is roughly a quarter of Chicago's, had a retirement funding gap of $3.5 billion, meaning each resident was liable for $5,100. A January 2014 report from Morningstar Municipal Credit Research showed that among the 25 largest cities and Puerto Rico, Chicago had the highest per-capita pension liability.
Yes, it's bad, but wow. Has the author ever been to Detroit?
But yeah, it's pretty bad.
It surprised no one at all that Moody's cut Chicago's credit rating to junk yesterday:
Chicago today became the first victim of the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling on pensions, as Moody's Investors Service reduced the city's credit rating to junk bond status.
In a statement that specifically cited the court's May 8 decision overturning cuts in state pensions, the credit rating agency said the city's options now “have narrowed considerably.”
The downgrade is a blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who during the mayoral campaign stressed his expertise to deal with the city's financial challenges. Emanuel labeled Moody's decision “irresponsible,” but did not deny its impact.
The downgrade also is a major blow to taxpayers because the city's cost of borrowing will rise, perhaps a lot, even if other bond ratings agencies do not follow Moody's lead.
If Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's Financial Services follow suit, the city's financial position could spiral downward—potentially forcing the city to come up with as much as $500 million quickly.
I wonder if it's possible that, now that the city's history of corruption and shady dealing is costing us real money, perhaps things will start to improve? I mean, could voters rise up and punish the self-dealing politicians who got us here?
Ah, ha ha. Ha.
Via reader SHL, the Beatles' Abbey Road "You Never Give Me Your Money" sequence vocal tracks only:
First, because NASA's reputation is such that climate-change deniers have difficulty refuting the agency, Republicans in Congress are trying to get NASA out of the discussion:
As has been widely reported, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee recently approved a bill that would cut at least $300 million from NASA's earth-science budget. This comes after the head of the Senate committee overseeing NASA claimed the agency should stop doing earth-science and focus only on space exploration.
Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA?
Then, closer to home, a group of residents in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood really don't want a Whole Foods Market in their back yards:
The grocery giant's current Lakeview store, at 3300 N. Ashland Ave. opened in 1996 and is 31,500 square-foot—a speck compared to the labyrinthine, 79,000 square-foot Whole Foods located near North Avenue. That is why the company plans on opening up a 75,000 square-foot store one block away, at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. The building will feature 300 parking spots on the first floor and the basement, and a full store on the second story.
Speaking for the Melrose Street Concerned Residents, Tricey Morelli summed up the fears of the locals:
"Subconsciously, you see a big building like this and there's no windows into the building, so it makes you think, like, 'Why aren't there windows on the main floor? Are they fearful that someone's going to bash the windows? Is there going to be crime?' It kind of almost makes it look a little bit like a mean street."
This woman is speaking about a Whole Foods store in Lakeview, which has us confused. Are there roving bands of recent college graduates and moms with strollers running around, smashing windows and defacing property? We certainly can't discount the possibility.
I really don't understand what it's like going through life afraid of fantasies...
The Chicago Tribune has a graphic this morning showing that tree pollen counts are the highest they've been in Chicago in 120 years of record keeping. Also, yesterday we hit 2,300 mold spores per cubic meter—a new record—breaking the previous record of 2,200 on...Friday.
Feeling congested much?
It's just past 9am on Monday and already I'm reduced to this kind of blog post. Tomorrow I may have some more time to read these things:
- Cranky Flier analyzes Malaysia Airlines' struggles.
- Microsoft is building subsea fibre cables between the U.S. and Europe and Asia.
- TPM explains exactly what Jade Helm 15 really is.
- Missed Microsoft Ignite this year? Here's the Channel 9 page.
- We're starting to set up JetBrains TeamCity to handle our continuous integration needs. Explain, however, why the user manual is all video? Guys. Seriously. I haven't got time for this.
- So now that Illinois actually has to pay the pensions we promised to pay, what now? (Hello, 9% income tax?)
Four-hour design review session is imminent. I may post later today...or I may lock myself in my office and stare at the wall.
Taking a moment to surf through the UK papers this morning in the aftermath of the Tory election win Thursday, I find that the usually Labour-friendly Independent has some unkind things to say about the both parties:
The next few months will see the Conservatives trying to figure out how to govern in the center, so expect lurches rightward every so often. And Labour will have to figure out how to run a campaign. But with an outright majority, it seems clear the Tories will be in power until May 2020, by which time, if history is any guide, the UK should be even more stratified and illiberal than it was at the end of Thatcher's rule.
Thanks ever so, Ed.